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Disruption – A Failed Mom’s Look Back

I’ve chickened out on this post for over two weeks. I even posted that I was going to post it in an attempt to dare myself into hitting publish and still it sat in my drafts list, taunting me. I’ve rewritten and deleted these introductory paragraphs endlessly. I’ve tried to explain or justify some of the things I wrote, to soften them, to give background, out of fear that some one reading who is unfamiliar with ‘attachment related behaviors’ will not understand and will label me cruel. Fear that some one will think she didn’t love enough, she was too strict, too soft, too whatever, they should have known what they were getting into, they should have (fill in the blank). I’ve heard it all. Maybe it doesn’t matter what you know about the subject, maybe I am cruel, strict, soft, naive, cold, take your pick.

This is actually an essay that I submitted to my favorite parenting magazine, Brain, Child. They didn’t reject it and asked if they could hold it for a while, but I haven’t heard from them in months. My carefully controlled excitement (wild joy) has dissolved into mild disappointment (I’m crushed). Yes, I would have liked to become a published author, especially in a medium that I respect so much. What I really would have loved is to reach out to such a large audience on the issue of adoption disruption because I know that there are other mothers out there struggling with this decision or the emotional aftermath and I know how alone and judged they feel.

Do you know what happened yesterday? A mother wrote to me. She is in pain. She can’t get out of bed and all she does is cry. Her child, her precious child that she adopted to love, to make a part of her family, to cherish and raise and nurture, has pulled her family apart with her rage and her negative behaviors. She’s at the very end of her rope, the child is in respite care, she has heard it all and been judged eight ways to Sunday and she doesn’t know what to do. She loves her daughter with all of her heart. Of course you do, darling, I know that, I don’t know your situation, I’m not a therapist or counselor, I can’t tell you what to do for you and your family, but I do know that and I do know that love isn’t always enough.

So, screw it. This is for you.


I know when it started. The beginning came on a suffocating airplane sitting on the tarmac in Port Au Prince, Haiti. What I wonder some days is when it will end. That day, over three years ago, I sweated with five hundred other passengers waiting to deplane with butterflies in my stomach. I had arranged to spend three weeks volunteering at a missionary orphanage in the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere. If you don’t think that sentence is weird, it is because you have never met me. I am not a Christian and at that point in my life any close friend would have said I was not a “baby person.”

Over eight years of marriage, my husband Matt and I often fielded the hints or outright queries about our nonexistent bundles of joy. The honest answers never worked. We were having fun. I was not sure if I wanted to bear kids. We might adopt someday. And then, life changes you. We decided to have a biological baby before adopting and had a miscarriage. Some where in that experience, I lost my nonchalant attitude and found myself counting days, crying and longing to be pregnant again. Focusing on our long-time interest in adoption came naturally. Here was something I could control, unlike the open question of whether we would conceive and I would carry a baby to term.

And, so, there I sat, after months of research, nervously waiting to experience Haiti. There were things I knew that day; that attachment in adoption can be hard, especially with adoption from Haiti where kids have to spend a year or more in an orphanage while adoptions are processed; that Matt was not ready; that the orphanage might not accept our application. There were also things I did not know; just how hard ‘hard’ can be; how insecure and vulnerable a mother is; that I was two days pregnant with our first son.

Clichés like eye-opening or life-changing can not touch that three week span. In Haiti, babies die on the street, children starve to death and clean water is more precious than gold. Sanitation and safety, the foundations of our orderly world, are not provided by the government. The orphanage housed seventy infants in three smallish rooms and thirty older children in another house. For three short weeks, I strove to give the eight children assigned to me the individual attention that they craved. I met people who lived a life a service and faith that I had difficulty understanding. From within the protected orphanage compound, with electricity, safe water and an armed guard, I glimpsed and tried to internalize the horrible struggle of life and death in a third world country. I watched parents beg the director to take their starving babies and I witnessed the staff’s pain at their inability to accept them all. I went home inextricably bound to the idea of adopting one of those children.

My husband and I talked to the point of insanity about our adoption decision. Adoption needs to be a selfish thing. When we announced our adoptions, people often responded that we were wonderful and the children were lucky. We are no more wonderful than any other parents and, like all children, ours will doubt their luck at times. We wanted to adopt because we wanted children, because we wanted a bigger family, and because we liked the idea that our family would be diverse. We wanted to adopt two children because we felt strongly that if our family was to be black and white, every one should have someone else who looked like them.

International adoption is expensive and it takes a long time. We were not sure we had the heart to go through the process twice. We decided to adopt a baby girl and an older boy – four years old or younger. We read about ‘older child adoption.’ We talked to our social worker. We thought we understood the challenges and pitfalls. We heard words like reactive attachment disorder and post traumatic stress disorder and post-institutionalized behaviors and we thought, naively, optimistically, tragically, that we could handle it. The deep truth, though, is that, like birth defects, like miscarriage, like fatal accidents, we never considered that these lurking horrors would apply to us. We had a dream and a plan for our family – a large, diverse, happy blend of big, easy-going, red-headed boys like the one that was born to us in a gush of screams and tears on an early October morning, and small, dark beauties with impish smiles like the pictures of our son, dressed in sunny yellow with a huge smile, sent to us from the orphanage with our referral package.

On another October day, exactly a year after our biological son was born and fourteen months after we had first fallen for their pictures, almost two years after my first trip to Haiti, we stood in blinding sunlight inside the orphanage compound and held our fourteen month old daughter and five year old son in our arms for the first time. Joy and disbelief at our sudden family mixed with anguish and despair over the crucial time we had missed in our children’s lives.

For a few months, months filled with highs and lows, lessons, missteps and small triumphs, we lived our dream as a family of five. Our honeymoon ended abruptly in their third month home. Our son’s terrible anger surfaced. He lashed out at me and at our toddlers. Our parenting style provided a consequence for misbehavior. If he ignored a request to stop hitting, he sat on the couch for five minutes. Simple moments of discipline caused screaming tantrums that lasted for hours – incoherent rages in which our son clearly lost all ability to function. He felt a desperate need to be in control at all times in order to protect himself. Despite all of our preparation, despite everything we thought we knew, that need was painfully at odds with my picture of a parent-child relationship.

I read and read about attachment disorders and control issues in older adopted children. The best advice was in my head. Do not show anger, do not react, instead respond from love, keep him close. Yet, our relationship spiraled downward. He acted out, I struggled to remain calm. My downfall was our babies. I simply could not control my reaction when he targeted them. My fears, of failing to protect them, failing to give them a safe and happy childhood, failing to create the large, happy family that I wanted to raise, triggered my own stress reaction and I lost control. I snapped at him and sent him to his room. He raged and beat the wall and drooled. Just when he most needed me to pull him closer, I would send him away from me, physically, because I needed the space to avoid yelling and screaming at him, but more damaging, emotionally, because I could not deal with my anger and fear. I failed him as a mother again and again.

Our family shut down. We did not go out because we were ashamed of our inability to parent our son and insecure about his insatiable need for attention from other adults. We felt trapped and at the same time horrible guilt. We had ruined our family. We had made life a living hell for our eighteen month old daughter and son. Worst of all, we were failing to reach our oldest child and help him through his pain.

Friends tried to reassure us. All older siblings target their younger brothers and sisters. Pinching is normal. He is just five. I tried to believe it, but I knew that it was far deeper and more troublesome than that. We did not love or trust each other, this little boy and I. I felt compassion for him. Objectively, I understood that his anger and jealousy came from a hurt and fear of abandonment so great that it shut down his brain. But when he pinched my year old daughter or pushed my year old son, I saw only malice, not sibling rivalry. And I admit that when I sent him to his room, he saw only barely controlled fury without the foundation of unconditional love. I struggled to approach him with the appearance of love, a soft voice and kind eyes. In the end though, I reacted to him the way I reacted to another woman’s child pushing my children on the playground instead of as my own beloved child. I just happened to be responsible for his care.

Researching attachment therapies on-line brought a desperate word to my attention. A word I had never heard in all of my adoption research. Disruption – the technical term for the act of dissolving an adoption and placing an adopted child in a second adoptive family. Prior to attempting to parent our son, I might have harshly judged someone who adopted a child and then ‘gave them up’ or maybe ‘gave up on them.’ Sitting at my computer, the word rang like a perfectly pitched note through my whole body. That was it. That was us. We were disrupted. Our lives were disrupted. Our children were disrupted. As an adjective and a verb, it perfectly described our family.

The literature called it a last resort after all other options were exhausted. Unable to sleep at 3:00 a.m., Matt and I wondered if that should be true. We had already learned, through research and counseling, some hard facts about the difficulties of bonding with an attachment-disordered child. Children who lack the critical building blocks of trust needed to be regressed and treated as babies. They often struggled in families where they were not the youngest or only child. Should we wait to see if things improved? If we tried therapy first, should we try for months or years? Were we putting our son’s needs first or was selfishness driving us to look for an easy way to ease our situation? Shouldn’t our son have the best chance to move on and love another family that better met his needs? Shouldn’t our little ones grow in an environment free of this horrible stress and anger? Shouldn’t he get to be the baby he needed to be? Were we wise or cruel? Failures or champions? Did love mean letting go or showing him that we would be with him no matter what?

A wise counselor cut through the emotional red tape and pointed out some simple truths. He needed time and undivided attention. I was stretched to the limit. He needed to be babied. I already had babies. I was unable to prioritize his needs over the needs of our younger children. She reiterated and cemented some facts in our minds. There is a reason that most adoption specialists recommend against adopting out of birth order. Children with attachment-related negative behaviors often thrive as the youngest or only child. Second placements succeed at a very high percentage rate because the second family is prepared for the behavioral challenges and the situation is tailored to the child’s needs. She provided a little balsam for our raw emotions. Some children, she told us, just need a transitional family. Some families and kids are a poor fit. They usually succeed in their second home, sometimes without ever demonstrating the same negative behaviors. As much as I hated being a ‘poor fit’ for my child, I knew that it was true.

Dreams end. Hearts break. On another beautiful, sunny day in June, just a little over eight months after we brought him home, our son left our lives as simply as he had entered them. He waited for his ‘new parents’ on our front porch with the same eager anticipation that we had seen in his eyes when we walked into the orphanage and met him for the first time. My brain desperately repeated the attachment facts, but my heart broke for the millionth time when he walked away with them without looking back.

I still cry. There is so much guilt. I still lie awake at night and relive those months. What could I have done differently? With more patience, could I have broken through and begun bonding? I still wish he was ours, but happily so. Selfishly, but honestly, a lot of the pain involves my self image. I still wonder if I am a terrible mother. The answer hurts because it is not simple. The answer is no. And yes. I am a wonderful, dedicated and determined, well-read, usually-patient, often-hurried, sometimes quick-tempered, incredibly loving mother to our three babies. I was a terrible mother for him.

113 Responses to Disruption – A Failed Mom’s Look Back
  1. phulmaya
    July 10, 2008 | 5:56 pm

    S, you’re right – there are no easy answers to any of this. There are, however, a few things that seem clear to me and they are:
    (1) that you are a superb mom and an amazing person and
    (2) that this post will probably change the lives of others who are facing similar situations.
    I love you!

  2. Marinka
    July 10, 2008 | 6:03 pm

    This was hard to read, so I can only imagine how difficult it was to write, to say nothing of actually to live through. I am so sorry for your pain.

    I have a shifting definition of what makes a good parent, but I think the one constant thing is giving our children what they need–even if we are not the ones who are ultimately able to give it.

    Thanks for sharing your story. I really do think it will save someone’s life.

  3. Awake
    July 10, 2008 | 6:08 pm

    Oh Stacey – hugs to you. I hope you are published someday, just as I hope you keep writing on this subject – it will help people…and yourself.

  4. Pam
    July 10, 2008 | 6:53 pm

    Stacey, Thank you for sharing your story. I pray that you find peace with what happened. It is hard. I’ve been there too. I mentioned it one other time to you in a comment. I haven’t mentioned it on my blog. The family that took the son I couldn’t keep is a better fit than we ever were. He is now the youngest child. Like you, I had my two babies and couldn’t give him what he needed either. I don’t know if I would have stuck it out or how long if, my x-dh had not left us in the midst of the adoption. It was over a year after he had been placed with us and the adoption was not yet final, so it isn’t techically a disrution, but a disruption of the heart. When my x left it all became more than I could take. When people began suggesting he go somewhere else, I was devestated! I had lost so much, he had lost so much! God had given him to us!! Why? Why? Why?

    I have watched the new adoptive family deal with the attachment issues that were just beginning to surface as all hell was breaking lose in our home with my husband. I know that they were more equipped to handle it than I ever would have been. I am sad, like you, that he is not mine and that I could not be who he needed me to be, but I have peace now. I hope you do too.

    Thanks for being brave today!

    Love you blog!!


  5. Insta-mom
    July 10, 2008 | 7:47 pm

    You are a wonderful mother because of everything you tried to be, could be, and could not be for that child. I think it is often in the ways we think we fail our children that we truly reveal the grace of motherhood.

  6. PsychMamma
    July 10, 2008 | 8:18 pm

    I love reading all your posts, but this one especially moved me. I can hear your heartache through your words and admire your courage in posting something that had to be difficult, but will hopefully help someone else. I love Brain, Child too, and think they missed out by not publishing your words. There definitely aren’t easy answers, but here’s my take: Your decision to place him with someone who could provide the care and attention he needed was not an indication of a failure of motherhood, but, in fact, just the opposite. Just like those moms in Haiti who made the heart-wrenching decision to give up their children so that they could receive the care that they needed, you made a difficult decision based on what would be best for the little boy you loved enough to let go of. That has to be one of the hardest things ever to do.

  7. Amy in Ohio
    July 10, 2008 | 8:26 pm

    What a powerful post. I can only imagine how hard it was to write this, much less live it.

    You are the furthest thing from a failure. You are an amazing Mother – it is so obvious just from your words here. A terrible mother would have continued in these awful circumstances and destroyed all your lives in the process. You gave him a chance to find happiness and be whole.

    Do you hear how he is doing from time to time?

  8. Paige Mann
    July 10, 2008 | 8:27 pm

    Wow……wow to your heartache which I cannot possibly understand….wow to the wow of Haiti which I DO understand as we are adopting from there now….and WOW to the lessons that the universe teaches us in sometimes the most unconventional ways. Yet at the beginning of each day I try to say what a great day to be alive and wide awaks.


  9. reneedesigns
    July 10, 2008 | 8:44 pm

    Stacey I was crying as I read this. I feel for you and for your son.

    You are a good mom because you did what was right for your child. You couldn’t give him what he needed but you were able to give him a family that could.

  10. Casey
    July 10, 2008 | 9:12 pm

    Reading that just broke my heart, I can’t even imagine going through that kind of pain. but, you really did do the right thing as painful as it was, you are a good mom

  11. Minivan Mom
    July 10, 2008 | 9:31 pm

    I wonder, and hope, if in time, you can turn the same compassion and wisdom that you surely have for mothers who give their children up for adoption, the birth mothers, on yourself.

    Because surely you do not think of the birth mothers as “terrible mothers”? Don’t most people (I hope) think of birth mothers who give up their children as doing a selfLESS deed, giving their children the life and opportunities that they could not give them?

    I see your situation as no different. You could not give your son what he needed, and so you made the heart-wrenching decision to do what is best for HIM…turn him over to a family that could give him the environment that he needed to thrive.

    That is not being a terrible mother.

    That is making an incredibly brave and selfless decision.

  12. anymommy
    July 10, 2008 | 10:19 pm

    I just want to say thank you so much to each of you for reading and for your thoughts. I have good days and bad days as a mom as I think (hope?) we all do. Mostly, I feel like I’m doing all right.

    It’s a process, but I have found peace about this. At times I lose it and then I find it again. The family that is this little boy’s forever family is amazing. (We did hear from them at first.) They have parented other children with attachment issues to healing and they feel that he is a perfect match for their family.

    I’m not traditionally religious, but I do believe that there is a certain inherent pull in the universe towards order and happiness, if you work for it. I can say that we worked our butts off for it in this case, we so wanted to do the right thing. I do see that order and rightness when I am able to look at this experience objectively. That this family was out there in the world and that he is happy with them makes me believe in fate, or a higher power in the universe, or something.

    I think opening up here and trying to reach out to anyone else dealing with this pain is my way of trying to pay it forward.

  13. iMommy
    July 10, 2008 | 11:28 pm

    First of all, thank you for allowing comments on such an emotional and heartbreaking post. I don’t know that I could be that brave. In fact, I don’t know that I could be brave enough to go to Haiti, adopt two children, and recognize and accept that I should do the right thing by the oldest.

    I can tell from your writing that this hurts you deeply, and I am sorry — because you are a wonderful mother. And because you’re a wonderful mother, I’m sure that you will never forget or stop feeling guilty.

    I hope that through it all, you remember that you did what was you feel is right for your family, for your son, for yourself. Keep on Keeping On, AnyMommy — your blog is a joy to read, even a post as heartwrenching as this one.

  14. tz
    July 10, 2008 | 11:55 pm

    Let’s see if I can comment through the haze of tears…this post broke my heart, for you, for the little one, for the new family for your children still in your home…everyone is so effected by this

    I think this story is so important to hear..I hope it does get published.

  15. The Fritz Facts
    July 11, 2008 | 2:25 am

    I am so honored that you shared this story, as hard as it was for you to do.

    I can only imagine the pain and turmoil that you go through in this situation.

    I can only hope that someone reading your story, can realize that they are doing everything that they can. You are one strong woman, and a wonderful mother.

    Thank you

  16. Monkeys' Mom
    July 11, 2008 | 2:27 am

    I am sending such huge prayers and thoughts your way for your heartbreak but also that SOMEONE would publish your story. It is so very brave of you to share and I KNOW that moms everywhere would really benefit from hearing it.
    And truly, I believe that you made an enormous and tremendously selfless sacrifice by giving your son the opportunity to have what you couldn’t give him. If that isn’t love, I don’t know what is.

  17. Jessi
    July 11, 2008 | 3:00 am

    Stacey…thank you so much for sharing this with us. I have tears in my eyes from reading this post.

    From everything I’ve read here you are an amazing mother. I hope your story will help others going through a similar situation

  18. Mama Ginger Tree
    July 11, 2008 | 3:05 am

    How very brave of you. This post is a perfect example of how powerful blogs can be. Exposing your pain will no doubt change someone’s life.

    Thank you for telling your story.

  19. Mandy
    July 11, 2008 | 4:10 am

    Wow. Yes, very brave. But very heartfelt. I really feel for you, but agree that you made a right decision. Don’t ever worry about those who might judge you harshly. They’ve never walked those steps that you walked, nor had to deal with the amazing task that was yours. I really do feel that this deserves publishing. Great, great, great.
    And, I was glad to see in your comments that you did get to see him, and have some contact with his new family.

  20. katy
    July 11, 2008 | 1:52 pm

    It’s killing me that I don’t have time to read this right now, ’cause we’re running out the door. But I wanted to tell you quick-like that I’ve had a hard post that I’ve been sitting on and you’ve just inspired me. So thanks. And later, I’m going to get my kleenex (which I’m sure I’ll need) and sit down for a great big dose of Any. Love!!

  21. nissa
    July 11, 2008 | 2:27 pm

    Beautiful post, Stacey. Tears, tears, tears here. Love, love, love out to you and others in similar situations. Wow.

  22. Tina
    July 11, 2008 | 2:55 pm

    Thank you for sharing your story. I am continually amazed at the depth and honesty I find in this wonderful blogging world. You will never even know how many people you post may reach and help as they deal with similar situations. Wow.

  23. Marcia Erickson
    July 11, 2008 | 3:56 pm

    Hi Stacey,

    This is my first time reading your blog. Thank you for this vulnerable post.

    Disruptions are a real thing and I’m sorry this was true for your family. Chin up girl…it looks to me like you’re a great mom!

    marcia erickson

  24. Kate
    July 11, 2008 | 6:08 pm

    What can I say that hasn’t already been said in other comments? But how can I read that and NOT comment? I admire your courage – both to make hard decisions and to write about them. I will forward this to a couple of people that I think need to hear what you have to say.

  25. Whitney
    July 11, 2008 | 7:07 pm

    I’m new to your blog (love it!), but had to de-lurk to comment on this. My family adopted a little boy when I was in my early teens. My parents were so excited – all the usual emotions that come with adoption. He was from South Korea and had some SERIOUS handicaps. But we didn’t care – they were so thrilled for him to be a part of our life.

    He was the youngest (there was already 6 of us), but life with him began to get VERY difficult. It wasn’t because there were so many kids – we got along just fine. He was absolutely miserable for whatever reason. We learned later that a lot of it was serious medical/sensory issues my parents were not aware of at the time. They were not prepared to deal with it.

    Finally, they came to the same decision your family did. He was meant to be with us for a time, but that time was over. I didn’t know the term disruption, but that’s what it was. As long as I live, I’ll NEVER forget what it was like to pack all his clothes, to say goodbye, and to stand on my front porch and see my little brother being driven away to be with a new family. Later on, I discovered that I had forgotten to pack his one pair of shorts – and it just crushed me.

    But you know what? Life “snapped” back. I was really shook up by the whole thing, but it was so obvious that it was the right thing to do. We were a family again and everything seemed so peaceful. I know my mother dealt with this for years, but I know they have peace about it too.

    Just a sibling’s perspective. :-)

  26. 'That Girl'
    July 11, 2008 | 7:20 pm

    Oh, this is so heavy. Bless your heart for carrying this around for so long. You’ve got to let it go. All the guilt and worry. You’re a good mama.

    And you’re doing a great thing by honestly sharing like you are. I had no idea of all the factors involved in adoptions.

  27. merideth
    July 11, 2008 | 9:13 pm

    can i just ditto everything phylmaya said? this may have been the most moving thing i’ve read anywhere. i cannot imagine why the magazine would deprive others in similar situations of the experience. thank you.

  28. wfbdoglover
    July 11, 2008 | 9:53 pm

    You are a brilliant mother. You did your best, which was important. You did not fail, your act was a selfless act. Selfless because you gave him a chance to be happy and that is more important than keeping him in your family because you adopted him.

    You are a selfless person and some day you will be blessed for it.

    Everything happens for a reason. Something good, will come out of this situation.

    Always remember – for every cause there is a reaction. I believe it is a science theory and I believe the same applies to children. So when my son does something and acts out of character, I have learned to simply ask “What really is the problem”. He will say and the problem is worked out.

    Hug to you. Please release this guilt. You do not deserve to carry it with you.

  29. Tracey
    July 11, 2008 | 11:55 pm

    I am so sorry for the pain you had to go through. Please don’t call yourself a Failed Mom, though.

    I’m glad to hear that he’s doing well in his family. Disruption is definitely something that is hushed over more than is advisable. People need to realize that not ALL fits are good ones.

  30. Christine
    July 12, 2008 | 2:29 am

    Wow. You are amazing for sharing this (and many other reasons as well!).

    There’s an ad for adoption that plays on a radio station I listen to…it says, in the words of a woman who gave her child up for adoption, “I didn’t give my child up. I gave him a chance.”

    That’s what you did. Kudos to you for being brave enough to do so, despite the pain it brought you personally.

  31. Michelle
    July 12, 2008 | 2:51 am

    All I want to do is give you a huge hug. And yes, you brought tears to my eyes, too.

    You’ve made some comments about an older boy that hinted at this, and I’ll admit that I was curious. This was not what I expected, and I can’t even begin to imagine the pain you were and are still going through.

  32. Maura
    July 12, 2008 | 6:11 am

    Incredible post. That magazine’s loss is our gain; I’m not a parent and I would never have been exposed to reading your story otherwise. Thanks you for sharing it with us and all the people who’ve been where you’ve been and need to know that they’re not alone.

  33. anymommy
    July 12, 2008 | 6:25 am

    I worried a lot about this post and I am overwhelmed by the kindness and understanding that has found it’s way here. Thank you.

    Whitney – I’m not able to find you through the blogger link, but I wanted to say thank you for sharing your story. My kids are little and probably won’t remember their older brother, but you reminded me that there was more than one childhood at stake.

  34. katy (aka funny girl)
    July 12, 2008 | 1:40 pm

    Good Morning sweet friend. I think Minivan Mom said it best:
    “I wonder, and hope, if in time, you can turn the same compassion and wisdom that you surely have for mothers who give their children up for adoption, the birth mothers, on yourself.”

    You weren’t a terrible mom to him. You got him out of the hell that is Haiti. And you found a home for him that would meet his very particular, very difficult needs.

    And I truly believe that I’ll read this in Brain, Child someday. Maybe they’re saving it for the “adoption” issue. But it’s too good not to publish.

    Chin up, woman. You rock!!

  35. Andrea's Sweet Life
    July 12, 2008 | 11:19 pm

    I am so proud of you for doing what was best for ALL your children, even if it meant letting go.

    It’s not the same, but my sister in law abandoned her baby girl several years ago, when she was about 18 months old. She is 6 months older than my oldest daughter. There was a lot of pressure for us to take her in, but I hesitated.

    There was something about her that brought out the worst parent in me, especially when she targeted my daughter (over, and over, and over again). She is being raised by my in-law’s, and we do see her regularly. Every time I send her home, I am thankful that I stuck with my guns and did not adopt her. I love her in some ways, but our home would never have been a safe haven for our other children with her in it… She displays many of the attachment issues you mention, and my heart breaks for her that I couldn’t have been a good enough person to take her in and love her. I just… couldn’t. I still can’t.

    Thank you so much for talking about this, and for your bravery!

  36. chris
    July 13, 2008 | 12:04 am

    Hi. My wife read your post. She has a blog of her own the and I generally dont pay too much attention to it as i live the stories she writes. But to be honest, she told me to read your story. I have to tell you that what you did was right. That is what a person who cares would have done. Sorry this is rambling but I am upset. I told kate that I didnt read it and took a break outside after I did. Being a mom is much harder than it is all made out to be and you decided that you are a mom and made the best decision for the child. Cheers.

  37. j
    July 13, 2008 | 12:44 am

    This post really moved me – I found myself at times feeling pain for him and at others feeling compassion in how torn you must have felt in trying to protect your other two little ones from someone you envisioned would be their loving brother and your loving son. I’m glad you have found peace – thank you for sharing your story.

  38. A Mom Two Boys
    July 13, 2008 | 4:04 am

    Beautiful post, my dear. You absolutely did the right thing for him, and for you, your husband and your remaining children.

    You’ll always have a part of him and he will always have a part of you.

    It takes a lot to do what’s right for our children, especially when what’s right is the hardest option.

    Mwah. Hugs.

  39. raisingtheboys
    July 13, 2008 | 5:07 pm

    This was an amazing post. I hope it is published. Thanks for sharing it with us.

  40. anymommy
    July 13, 2008 | 5:55 pm

    Whew. I have to say that this post and the sweet, thoughtful comments have worn me out in a good way. I’ve been emotional all weekend and your supportive words bring tears to my eyes. Again, thank you.

    Andrea – thank you for sharing that story. I know exactly what you mean when you write that she brought out the worst parent in you. You said it so well and I am very grateful to find common experiences.

    Chris – thanks for taking the time to read and respond.

  41. DysFUNctional Mom
    July 13, 2008 | 7:10 pm

    I can’t imagine how hard that was, and even how hard it was to write about. I am totally moved. It’s so hard when your biological children hurt each other, and I had a hard time when my stepson came in and hurt my children, so in a small way, I understand a little bit of what you went through.
    I hope you’re able to let go of the guilt of your decision.

  42. Jane Somers
    July 13, 2008 | 8:08 pm

    My heart aches for you and your family – you know you did the best thing but…
    I hope they publish this story – you’ve reached many this way but in the magazine you could help so many more that face this situation.

  43. Robin
    July 14, 2008 | 11:49 am

    Your words, and your incredible compassion and bravery in choosing to share them, moved me to tears.

    I hope that you and he both and keep find the peace you need, and that your words hear reach the ears of others who need to hear them.

  44. AnastasiaSpeaks
    July 15, 2008 | 3:12 am

    Stacey – I admire you for your courage. Thank you for sharing this with us. I hope that it has helped you release some of the pain and guilt that you have been holding.

  45. Melanie
    July 16, 2008 | 12:51 am

    Thank you for this post. What a hard topic. I hope the magazine picks it up, but I’m glad you shared with cyberspace without waiting. I can’t imagine what you went through and I praise you for looking at what’s best for your son and finding him a new place. By doing so, you did not fail in your role as mother, even though you are no longer his mommy.

  46. Beth from the Funny Farm
    July 22, 2008 | 1:49 am

    We have older children, almost ten, 12, and 15 and have been considering adoption. Thanks for sharing your story.

    Your awesome for having the strength, intelligence and courage to know when to say “When.”

  47. Anonymous
    July 23, 2008 | 4:57 am

    Been there too… thank you for sharing your story. It reconfirmed for me that the decision my family made to do the same in our situation was the right one. We were “legal guardians” which does not make it less painful to let go of something you anitcipated for almost 2-years. The only things I read on the internet before your story was condemnation for adoptive parents. This was also the case with our caseworker at first. As the process went through, we did get more support since there was a “divine” connection with another family who seemed to be a perfect match for our child. Attitudes did change once again after the transfer was legal. After I inquired if we could wait on another referral, I was told that our time in the adoption arena was “over”. So much for being “honest” and “brave”, as we were told, in order to give our child the “right” home. All the blame rested on my husband and I not on the agency- who admitted that parents were not prepared properly for the adjustment when the children arrived home. It was reiterated that adoption was a “unselfish” act. I guess that means it does not matter if your family is torn apart along with the adopted child as long as you don’t give up, right?

  48. Jill
    July 25, 2008 | 4:22 am

    I’m new here – but had to leave a note to say what a heartfelt and touching post. Wow.

    I have a close girlfriend who always wanted to adopt – and after 2 years of going through the process, picked up her little boy from Guatemala this past February.

    After 5 months she’s struggling.

    I can’t imagine how you must feel. It sounds like you did the right thing, regardless of how difficult the decision may be.

  49. luna
    July 28, 2008 | 7:42 pm

    this must have been so heartbreaking and devastating. thank you for sharing your story. you don’t sound like a failure at all to me. as someone else said, perhaps you gave him just what he needed.

  50. mam
    July 29, 2008 | 4:52 pm

    What a difficult post to write and make public; I’m so glad you did. I love what Minivan Mom wrote and can’t say it better than she did.

  51. Sissy
    August 24, 2008 | 11:52 am

    I feel great guilt over returning a rescue dog who bit both my son and my husband, I cannot imagine your guilt. Although I know you’ll always feel that way, I hope you know you probably did the very best thing for both him and your family. What courage you have to write about that for strangers. No doubt it will help someone else make a difficult decision.

    • Carlos
      December 24, 2012 | 9:16 am

      Thanks to you both for sharing your joureny and your heart. We will be keeping your family in our prayers as we see how God works in your lives! Love and hugs to you all!Ginger & Jim

  52. Anonymous
    August 28, 2008 | 5:21 pm

    You made the hardest decision a mother has to make–which child(ren) to save? Which to protect? You could not save them all. Releasing your guilt will heal you. You are not to blame for the horror that breaks these children.
    As far as your article, why don’t you submit to Mothering? They often have very thought-provoking articles outside of the mainstream. While more of a long shot, American Baby and Babytalk seem more open to reality. -Kyla

  53. Luanne
    August 30, 2008 | 6:16 pm

    Think of it this way….maybe it was never your destiny to be his permanent mother. Maybe you were just the bridge he needed to be removed from that poor country and orphanage. And if that was the case…you being a bridge for his escape to a better life…you did your job…PERFECTLY!! You gave him an avenue to a better country and life where he could be healed and thrive. And you helped a family here, who was ready for his challenges, to execute on their plan to help a child. Well done!! You are a wonderful mother who has done her job perfectly. Be proud!

  54. Anonymous
    September 7, 2008 | 12:08 am

    We were in a very similar situation. We disrupted two years ago and it was the most heartbreaking decision I have ever been faced with–and the best thing we could have done. The child whose adoption we disrupted is doing well–the second adoptive family is a much better fit with extremely experienced parents. Our other children are once again happy, healthy, and safe. Our family feels like a family again. Thank you for writing about it, I hope it is published. So many families and children continue to suffer because of the stigma attached to disruption, it often really is the best (not the easiest by any means, but the best) choice.

  55. anymommy
    September 7, 2008 | 12:34 am

    I continued to be in awe of the support and genuinely compassionate response to our story. I appreciate each and every comment. Disruption sometimes the very best option for everyone in a family. The stigam attached to it helps no one, least of all the children in the center of the storm. I feel like even this small conversation is making a difference.

    Anon 9/6 – I identify with every word you wrote. Our stories are so similar. Thank you for sharing. I can’t contact you, but my email is on this blog, if you’d like to talk some more.

  56. Manic Mommy
    October 22, 2008 | 9:46 pm

    God, Stacey. I can’t imagine having to make that choice. I can only imagine the intensity of the guilt and second guessing that goes along with it. You may not have been his forever mommy but what you did was courageous none the less. Do you know how he did? Would you want to?

  57. Lori
    October 23, 2008 | 4:58 pm

    My cousin pointed me to this post. I can’t add anything to the wonderfully supportive comments already given.

    It seems as though you searched your heart for the best possible answer to a very difficult situation and found the least-worst solution.

    Any word how the boy is doing? I wonder if it would soothe or hurt to maintain awareness of him.

    Wishing for you healing and wholeness, Stacey.

  58. Anonymous
    November 2, 2008 | 10:18 pm

    I have three adopted children and my oldest has some significant behavior and attachment issues. I was the foster parent to the three kids for 2 years and when they became available for adoption, the agency asked if I wanted to adopt. I told the case work that I wanted to adopt the 2 younger children, but that the oldest child had so many issues, and that I did not think my home was the best for him. I told them that he would benefit from being an only child or the youngest in the family, and that a family with 2 parents would be best (I am a single parent). Unfortunately, the agency told me that they would only allow the children to be adopted as a group and I received a great deal of pressure from the case worker and the agency to adopt all three. I even had pressure in my own family to adopt all three. I received statements like “how can you do that to him?” or “how can you abandon this child you have had in your home for two years?”

    Unfortunately for all of us, I gave in to the pressure and adopted all three children. It is now four years later and the situation has not gotten any better. My son was exposed prenatally to drugs and alcohol, he was severly developmentally delayed (at age 30 months, functioning at 11 months) and I believe (based upon bahaviors he had when he came to me) that he was also sexually abused. My son is receiving special educaiton services at school and working with a school social worker. He is medicated for severe ADHD, and is seeing a child psychologist on a weekly basis. He has no remorse for the things he does, and no consequence or punishment works for him.

    I know about disruptive adoptions, but I have been too afraid to actually pursue it, even though I know it would be the best for my son. I already feel like such a failure as a parent when it comes to this child. I have struggled with bonding with him from the moment he was first placed in my home and I foolishly allowed myself to believe that all it takes is a little time. But, how long is a little time?

    My sister told me to read this entry on your blog and I am so glad that she did. I don’t know what I will do, but it is nice to know that there are other people out there who agonize over the adoption of their child just as I have.

    I am very grateful to you for sharing your difficult and heart-wrenching story.


  59. annacyclopedia
    November 10, 2008 | 2:30 pm

    I came over from Bridges, and just want to thank you for writing about this. You have a lot of courage to be so honest about something so painful.

  60. Wordgirl
    November 11, 2008 | 2:56 am

    I’ve arrived here from Bridges as well — this is such a powerful, amazingly honest piece of writing– I have no doubt that writing it has changed people’s lives.

    Much love to you,


  61. anymommy
    November 11, 2008 | 9:37 am

    Wendy – I am so glad you found your way here and so sorry to read about the difficulties you face in your family. You are not failing, although I know exactly how you feel, reaching a child with these issues, while still being a parent to your other children is an almost impossible task. I hope you know in your heart how hard it is and how wonderful you are to parent through it the best you can.

    I hope you have support and professional help in finding solutions for your family. I can’t contact you directly from your comment, but please email me anytime, even if you just need to vent. It’s not you. I hear from mothers struggling with these issues often. You’re not alone.

    Lori, MM, Anna and Wordgirl, thank you for your supportive comments. We heard from his forever family at first and he transitioned very well. They felt he was a great fit for their family. We have the ability to contact them still and probably will in the future, but for now, we need to let him be theirs for a while.

  62. Anonymous
    November 19, 2008 | 10:12 am

    This brings back memories for us! The only difference is that our son was adopted. The country where we adopted from finalizes there not in the US. Our lives for the first 4 years of his life were a living nightmare! Then we found out about attachment/bonding which was a Godsend. We are still dealing with it now and he still has an anger problem.

  63. K.Line
    January 1, 2009 | 8:37 pm

    I am so enjoying reading through these archives AM – what experiences you have had! I can’t even imagine what a difficult decision this would have been. I have one child (biological) and I have struggled, to be honest, with attachment to her. (There’s a long story to go with this, but I’m saving it for when I can put it into words…) It’s a very hard thing to handle. And I don’t have 3 other children whose needs I need to consider while evaluating and strengthening my relationship with my daughter. I have felt tremendous guilt – and I judge myself – about ambivalent parenting. How wonderful to read this outpouring of support for you. You totally deserve it!

  64. Susie
    February 28, 2009 | 4:59 pm

    thank you. honesty is so good to read. this world is so broken, and it shows most in the lives of children. motherhood is rich and dirty and heartbreaking and just makes me want to scream for emotion. seriously, thanks for sharing your story.

  65. jacklyn
    June 17, 2009 | 3:41 am

    Hi. I read your essay on and followed the link to your blog. I thought you penned your experience very well, and I thought it was very brave of you to write about your experience. We don't talk about disrupted adoptions very much in the adoption community and I think we should be more open about the fact that it does happen.

    My husband and I adopted, transracially, a beautiful biracial baby girl who is the light of our lives. She has been with us since her birth. We are getting ready to adopt a second time, another transracial, domestic newborn adoption. But, down the road, we'd like to adopt an older child or two or three from Haiti of our fostercare system.

    A disrupted adoption does seem like something that happens to OTHER people, and I appreciate your bravery in sharing your experience. It reminds me to keep our eyes wide open when we travel down that older child adoption path. Thank you for sharing…

  66. shasta
    September 10, 2009 | 1:37 am

    You have been brave, honest and loving. You gave your son a step out of the hell he was living in and into a new world of opportunity. You are modelling integrity and wisdom for your children. You have exposed your pain to counsel others. Forgive yourself. Your children deserve a forgiven mother.

  67. shasta
    September 10, 2009 | 1:40 am

    You have been brave, wise and honest. You dared to offer yourself to a broken child and you gave him a step out of the hell that surrounded him. You have offered your story to others, to heal, inform and counsel them. Forgive yourself. Your children deserve a forgiven mother.

  68. Mary Freaking Poppins
    October 5, 2009 | 5:39 pm

    Wow. Amazing.I have spent my life working with children like your son. They are wonderful and different and special and broken and require so much. Know that even though it may not seem like it at this point, and that he may not ever be able to attach (or may) the way we require, you DID do something for him. You provided him with safety and love for eight months of his life. And though he probably does not have the skills to express that, his heart and soul are aware. While I adore these 'broken babies', it is easier to adore them in a classroom. I could not do it in my home with my little ones. Thank you for helping him. You did. Good for you- your honesty and bravery is admirable. And you are a good mother. You met all of your children's needs in the best way possible with the best choice you could make. Thanks for sharing -K

  69. Caroline
    October 31, 2009 | 1:28 am

    Thank you for sharing this part of your story with us.

  70. Anonymous
    February 18, 2010 | 9:16 pm

    Thank you so much for having the courage to share this. Not many people are willing to share about this topic. I too am facing disruption, and feel extremely similar. Thanks again.

  71. Nobody
    February 28, 2010 | 10:46 pm

    I really found the part about your son eagerly waiting on the porch to be so heartbreaking. I wrote of our similar experience here.

  72. Anonymous
    March 19, 2010 | 1:06 am

    I, too, experienced a disruption several years ago. I didn't have the support to keep going and complete the adoption as my other children (and even my own mother) didn't want this child in our lives. So I cried for a year, part of every day, finally went on an antidepressant, and am moving on with adding a new little one after 4 years of grieving. Thank you for saying what is in many of our hearts.

  73. SQ
    July 28, 2010 | 4:38 am

    Could it be that you are me? Or maybe I am you? How could it be that you would so eloquently put my heart, thoughts, fears and failures in writing. I have wrote this blog post over and over again in my head but never put pen to paper. It's as if the story was already written in time to tell me Emma you are not alone, you are not alone in your emotion and decisions. Thank you Thank You

  74. Anonymous
    July 29, 2010 | 2:04 am

    Thank you for your post. My family is in the middle of disrupting an adoption. I felt as i read your story as though you were putting my thoughts in writting. I want to tell every one of my friends to read this because this is exactly how our daughter acted and exactly how I feel. I feel as though I have to be strong for my family so they can see that this is going to be ok, but my heart is in pieces.

  75. julie
    October 18, 2010 | 3:02 am

    just found your blog. be encouraged that even 2+ years later your words have an impact. I am parent to a son much like yours. his rage has never turned on our other children. had it, i even fear in writing this, our outcome would've been similar to yours. many days are such a struggle. i cried for your pain while reading, for my own pain and the pain of so many others of us who struggle with RAD. there is nothing like it.

  76. Anonymous
    October 20, 2010 | 9:06 pm

    You are not a failed Mom.

    Thank you for sharing this. There is little info on disruption. Nobody seems to want to talk about but it does happen.

  77. Mama Cas
    November 17, 2010 | 3:28 pm

    I've read about your disruption many many times and it never fails to take my breath away. We moms feel tremendous guilt over the smallest things every day….I can only BEGIN to imagine how twisted with guilt you must have been. I hope, with all of my heart, that your boy is thriving with his current family. You gave him a priceless gift….you brought him here AND helped find him a family that would best serve his needs, even though it caused you so much pain. You are a fantastic, selfless, giving mother and I'm confident that he'll be forever thankful to you.

  78. Jessica & Kevin Perberg
    February 24, 2011 | 5:42 pm

    Powerful! Thank you for having the courage to write this!

  79. Jessica & Kevin Perberg
    February 24, 2011 | 5:42 pm

    Powerful! Thank you for having the courage to write this!

  80. Anonymous
    March 3, 2011 | 4:15 am

    You say that "again and again" you "failed him as a mother." I am here to tell you that no matter what you did, or how many ways you tried to do it, it wouldn't have changed a thing.

    My daughter came into our family at the age of 16 months. She is now 14, nearly 15, years old. Her secondary diagnoses keep her from being able to bond after all this time. She is a danger to me and her siblings. There is virtually no help available to us. I am considering relinquishing my parental rights – and right now, I have no guilt about it. I have done everything I possibly could… and I fear that this child will try to kill me in the very near future.

    You did the right thing, keeping your other children safe. I relate to all your pain and heartache – thank your lucky stars that you are not living in pure survival mode.

  81. Anonymous
    May 9, 2011 | 3:38 am

    We have a strange situation. We adopted an eight year old girl from Russia a year ago. We have a biological boy that is eight also. We told the agency that we worked with that we wanted a younger child because of our boy, but the agency told us that she was an exception because she had only been in the orphanage for 6 months and her only
    issue was grief over recently losing her mom.Well this turned out to be big lie. She had been in the orphanage for 7 years. It's been a rough year. She has anger issues, attachment disorder and is very manipulative, aggressive, etc.. My wife receives the most abuse and is over it. Its not that she is a bad kid, but this is a very bad fit. She is in therapy and we are now going to have to put our son in therapy due to stress. She has turned our house upside down. Here is where it gets weird. A girl she had been in the orphanage with since she was nine months old got adopted to a family in puerto Rico. We contacted them and the girls got to see each other again. They have a home in Orlando so our girl spent a few days with them last month. When she came back from visiting, she was very depressed and wouldn't even speak to us. As it turns out, this family had told our girl that they would come back to Russia and get her, but before they could, we adopted her. Now they have written us a letter saying that if anything should happen they would want to adopt her.
    I want to backup and say that this adoption was very strange. All of our flights were cancelled due to weather yet we pressed on, someone then died on our plane and we missed our connection and pressed on. Then we were stranded by the volcanos and again found our way around them. Its like God was sending us messages not to go and we didn't heed the warnings. Now a family that adopted this girl that she considered her sister wants to adopt her. We know she would be happier with them and we know that our lives would be easier. She continually resents us for not being them. Constantly comparing everything we have with what they have. Size of house, clothes, vacations, etc… I suggested that her friend come visit us and she said our house was too small.
    She drives our son crazy, but he is at the same time very attached to her. We are very confused. We aren't even sure that these people could legally adopt her anyway.

  82. Angela
    January 12, 2012 | 10:36 pm

    Thank you posting about this. I’m another “failed mom”. It’s been almost a year since we placed our almost-daughter (the adoption was never finalized so legally we were only ever her guardians) I still go back and forth between guild that we failed her and feeling we did what was best for her when we placed her with a new family. Maybe it’s both.

    Anyways, it’s comforting to know we’re not the only ones.

    • anymommy
      March 15, 2012 | 9:28 pm

      Hi Angela, I’m sorry I missed this, for some reason I don’t get emails about comments on older posts. I wanted to say that I have come to peace with both; I know I failed in some ways, but we did do the best thing for him. Much love to you.

  83. Mom of 2
    February 17, 2012 | 10:46 am

    THANK YOU. Disruption is rarely discussed, and I am currently in the same situation as you and some of the others have described. It has been nearly 2 years, and I also feel like a failed Mom. I often feel that my family and my younger is in danger. As I write this, my angry child is Baker Acted for the second time, this time attacking my husband and I. I am comforted to know that you share the same feelings, and that I am not the only one. Can anyone suggest additional resources? Thanks.

    • anymommy
      March 15, 2012 | 9:30 pm

      There is something to knowing that you’re not alone. I hope that you can find a solution that keeps everyone safe.

  84. Beth Pilkinton
    February 25, 2012 | 5:41 am

    Stacey, I love you as a fellow momma whose life was disrupted. We also adopted siblings because we wanted there to be two of “them”. Ours are from Eastern Europe, so they looked just like us, but we wanted them to have blood kin. Our bio son was 13 at the time, and we adopted an 11-year-old boy and a 3 year-old girl. When the boy hit puberty, he was insistent that raping the other children was acceptable. We finally got ONE “professional” to believe us and were awarded an 8-hour-interview with 2 highly regarded therapists. They documented everything he said and did, giving us the proof we needed. The judge read just one page (out of 25) and ordered that he live with no other children. That was almost 2 years ago now. He’s in a loving home with no other children. I do believe in “seasons” for certain events in our lives. He was with us for a season. Since that time, we’ve had another bio son and now have the three children. I have the guilt too. But I would have had a LOT more guilt if I allowed the molestation to occur without stopping it!
    P.S. You should really check into becoming a Christian. You sound like you’d be a great one. ;-)

    • anymommy
      March 15, 2012 | 9:32 pm

      What a long road you walked. There is nothing harder as a parent than making a choice to protect one child and wondering if you did the right thing for the other. Like you, we know that our son is thriving in his second home and it’s healing.

  85. Jill Samter Photography
    February 25, 2012 | 4:34 pm

    Stacey –

    First, know I’m beyond blessed that you shared what you did today. Second, you are beyond brave for putting yourself out there like this.

    I will be praying for you to find peace, comfort, strength, joy, and a deeper understanding of true love. It isn’t found in the world or in religion. It is found in the very One who created you and each child that you love.

    My heart breaks for every family who struggles through adoption with “hard” children and their lives that have nothing to do with where they are today. I am raising 7 adopted children – several still after being in our lives for over 5 yrs suffer from a life I never knew. I take each day – one at a time – learning to forgive, let go of their weaknesses and choices, and doing my best to do it better today than I did yesterday. There were months, even years where loving a certain child was impossible. I walked out each day being a caregiver and that had to be enough. I still regret how I did those days, weeks, months, etc. Yet, God, has poured His love and grace so deeply into my heart and this family that we are able to keep taking it day by day. Is that easy – NO way. But it continues to teach me that love is a sacrifice. Sometimes greater than we ever imagined or believed we could give.


    • anymommy
      March 15, 2012 | 9:33 pm

      Thank you. What an amazing family you have!

  86. Laurel
    November 15, 2012 | 7:01 pm


    Somehow, I don’t think I ever knew this. I found your blog after you disrupted, but found this link on the Livesay’s blog today.

    It is so powerful for me to read another mother’s thoughts about the journey that we, too, walked. Even 3 years after our disruption, I still feel the “bad mother” guilt, brought on primarily by the words and actions of those that use to be our closest friends . . . the ones who deserted us in our deepest time of need. The judgment and condemnation still brings raw pain to my heart.

    Now . . . 3 years after disrupting the adoption of our son, we are walking through the pain of placing his younger sister into a Residential Care Facility. Much of her trauma-based R.A.D. brought on by the abusive actions of this same older brother.

    Even though she is still our daughter, the pain of it “not working out” . . . the guilt of being a “bad mother” . . . the questions of “maybe if we had ____” , always on my mind.

    Adoption can be a beautiful thing . . . but it can also be the most difficult challenge of your life. It nearly destroyed our Big Happy Family, and I truly don’t know if we will ever recover the loving bond that we had with all of our bio. kids prior to the adoption of their 3 siblings.

    Thanks for sharing your heart . . . even if it was 4 years ago.

    Laurel :)

    You might like my new blog:

  87. Peter
    January 8, 2013 | 7:51 pm

    My partner and I had a disrupted adoption in September. Our six year old son had been with us for a little over nine months. But, we couldn’t give him what he needed. Thanks for writing this. It is good to know we are not the only one.

  88. Janie McMahan
    January 21, 2013 | 2:46 pm

    Thank you for sharing your story. You are very courageous. Adoption disruption is the story of adoption that doesn’t get much coverage. I think it’s an important story for all to hear and understand. I am an adoptive parent and also a counselor. I know other adoptive parents who have disrupted their adoptions and it’s a difficult journey. I feel a great deal of compassion for those of you who have made this decision. I also know first-hand as an adoptive mother how very difficult it is to parent older adopted children with attachment disoreders, fetal alcohol syndrome, etc. I’ve been there. I would love to hear your stories around the issue of adoption disruption if you care to share them. I am collecting stories of how lives are changed by adoption. The positive and negative experiences. Anonymity will be maintained in my writing. Please visit my website at or email me directly at Thank you for opening your hearts.

  89. Aimee
    February 23, 2013 | 11:58 pm

    I just came across your story…searching for help…6 years after adopting our 7 year old daughter from another country…I am watching my family slowly drown…one by one. I am sad, confused, ashamed, afraid, but I love her so.

  90. Pete
    March 13, 2013 | 3:52 pm

    Four and a half years after adopting from a large East Asian country at age 7, we finally had to place her with others at age 11. She was our only child. But she actively sought physical abuse, and got it. She triggered us so much, we literally became other people, monsters we never imagined becoming.

    To save her, and save us, we had to give her up. And although we have peace in our home again, it is so, so empty without her. The pain is nearly unbearable.

    Lord, I pray you help both of us through this hardest of times, and I pray your divine forgiveness.

    For those of you drowning, know that others are/were drowning too. Sometimes, EVERYTHING you do, just isn’t enough. Therapy, love, money, activities, whatever, just ISN’T enough.

    Disruption/Dissolution solves the problem…but creates another. The grief is just so, so intense. As impossible as it was to live with our little one, we both still miss her so. The pain of the loss hurts SO much.

  91. Clarissa
    August 13, 2013 | 7:18 pm

    I am currently in the pre-adoptive phase with a 9 year old girl with sever emotional disturbances due to RAD. We’ve had her in our home for 14 months and I am nearly at the end of my rope. My husband and I have been considering a disruption.

    She makes every moment of our lives a misery. I purposely work late sometimes so I don’t have to come home and deal with her. I never thought I could be this person! The very few times that she wants a hug or a kiss I am usually in such emotional turmoil over her behaviors that I don’t want her to touch me…I am starting to hate her and what she has done to my family. She even tells me that she does things on purpose to me because it makes her happy and feel good to cause me pain.

    What child will physically attack their parent and get joy out of the experience? As I walk past her, she will elbow me in the side or throw food at me at dinner all because she says she likes to see me flinch. She has threatened to kill me more than once with either knives or setting my bed on fire in the middle of the night. We’ve had to lock up all knives, scissors and lighters for fear of safety and lock our bedroom door at night.

    I had every adoption training class, I’ve read countless books on RAD. They all tell you what causes RAD, what behaviors you will see…but what do you DO about it!?

    How do you create an attachment with a child who doesn’t want to let you in? Who is so protective of themselves that when you put your hand on their back they cry out in pain and tell others that you are hurting and hitting them?

    After 14 months of trying to find any kind of connection with this child, she still fights every attempt. I am looked at as a bad mother because I cannot handle my child. The caseworkers and counselors dismiss my complaints as “oh, that is just typical of RAD kids”…but how do you live with it? Is this what my life will be for the next 9 years? Being miserable and tortured on a daily basis by my child? Is this what a family should be? I should sacrifice all happiness for my family and myself to help this child through her grief and pain?

    I’ve been told that she may never attach, that this may be as good as it gets and possibly get worse.

    But the guilt of “sending her back” is so overwhelming I feel as though I can’t breathe sometimes. How could I do that to another person, to a child? The turmoil is all consuming and the pain at just considering it beyond compare.
    I’ve appreciated reading comments from others who have been in similar situations…perhaps there is a family out there who would be a better match for my daughter…maybe this just isn’t where she was meant to be…

    • Anymommy
      December 17, 2013 | 12:53 am

      Hi Clarissa, I want to apologize because my blog does not notify my consistently of comments on my older posts. I usually respond to people who comment on this issue because I know how devastating and isolating these behaviors are. If you’d like to talk, or even give me an update on how you’re doing, please email me at

  92. K
    December 8, 2013 | 3:52 pm

    How little outsiders (friends & family) can understand what it is like to find yourself existing and coping, day in and day out, week in and week out in an “environment of horrible stress and anger”…

    Like you, we also found that it is not possible to hold up when there is no change year after year.

    We adopted a group of 3 children from the Foster Care System, only to find that they had been horrifically abused in Foster Care AFTER being terribly abused in their bio home. They were trained by older children to target the adults in their lives in retaliation and rage, and to always swear to target them on a daily basis…

    We came to see that each one needed to have a dedicated Mommy and Daddy if they were to have a chance to heal…

    It cost us both sides of our families and our church to do what the children needed for a chance at recovery, versus what outsiders (friends and family) were comfortable with.

    If you have friends going through this, love and support THEM. It is a life of horror and grief to find yourself unable to be a loving parent, rejected despite your best continued efforts… the target of rage in a child that lives to oppose you, until ‘disruption’ is the only viable answer for the sake of the child and your own emotional well being.

    We would urge you outsiders to bless and support those who find themselves at the end of their rope in this kind of adoption situation.

    • Anymommy
      December 17, 2013 | 12:56 am

      You speak so eloquently on this issue and I know it comes from first hand experience and excruciating pain. Thank you for being an advocate for families who are barely holding on. I hope you’ve found peace and joy with your decision. I know we feel sadness every day, but also confidence that we did the right thing.

  93. Heather
    December 17, 2013 | 8:34 pm

    It is a sad thing to admit, but I was happy to read this article and realize that I am not alone in my feelings. For four years, I have struggled with the decision my husband and I made regarding the adoption of our daughter. To say that the last four years have been hellish is a gross understatement. We only have brief breaks of “good and normal” behavior.

    We brought our daughter into our home a month before her 12th birthday. Outsiders would have thought that we had given birth.

    Three months into the fostering process, I knew that something wasn’t right. I didn’t listen to myself. I allowed her caseworker to pressure my husband and I into making a decision. I also allowed my fear of my husband’s feelings and other people’s feelings and opinions to weigh into to my decision. There is not a day that goes by that I wish that I had not signed the adoption paperwork.

    To say that it was difficult to admit that I wished that I had not finalized the adoption. There is always a sense of guilt that “I did this to my family”.

    My husband and I live in a state that does not have dissolution laws so we have to remain locked in a nightmare of our own making until our daughter reaches the age of majority.

    She is now 15 and has been hospitalized in behavioral health hospitals twice. She rarely participates in counseling and has zero interest in working on the behaviors that cause severe problems. She has labels a mile long following her and all the medications in the world to go along with it.

    My husband and I watch her daily and see the woman that she could become if she were healthy, and we live with the reality of what will probably become of her because she has no interest in becoming healthy.

    We are constantly told how sweet and helpful she is. We smile and say thank you while thinking in our heads, you don’t live with her. No one really knows the nightmare that we live in.

    If you had asked me five to fifteen years ago about my feelings regarding parents wishing to dissolve adoption, my feelings would have probably been different. Never judge someone unless you have been in their shoes.

    I have wondered endlessly is she would have had a different experience if I had been different. The answer is most likely not since I was her second adoptive mother. If she were adopted by someone else, the result would most likely be the same.

    I thank you so much for giving of yourself to write this because it helped me tremendously with my guilt.

  94. Julia
    December 18, 2013 | 2:43 pm

    I am sitting here in my classroom in London after the children have gone home , researching RAD to try and help an adopted child in my class who is proving a huge challenge. Somehow I ended up here and I am so glad I read your story . It made me cry but it was so revealing to view things from the other side of the fence. You were brave , kind ,resourceful and did your very best which is all any of us can ever do ! I hope the passing of a few years has eased your pain a little. Big hug from across the Atlantic x

  95. Donovan I. Faller
    December 21, 2013 | 4:41 am

    Thank you for some other excellent article. The place else could anyone get that kind of info in such
    a perfect way of writing? I have a presentation subsequent week, and I’m on the look for such information.

  96. Pam
    January 24, 2014 | 2:53 am

    Wow. I read a shorter piece you wrote on this in Mamalode (I think) but this was really intense. It was brave of you to write it but like you said, the power of story telling is immeasurable. I am blown away, scrolling through the comments of others who are experiencing/have been in similar situations. Imagine all the other people who read but did not comment. You are doing something amazing but putting this out there and I wish you all the best with the upcoming Good Housekeeping article.

  97. General Post Adoption Resources
    March 19, 2014 | 2:48 pm

    […] Disrupting our Adoption – A Failed Mom Looks Back » A Failed Mom Looks Back […]

  98. Another Momma
    March 20, 2014 | 11:30 pm

    Thank you for being brave enough to share. A year later, after our own disruption and I still struggle to openly talk about it. It is hard, it is raw.

    We tried for a year to make it work & it almost destroyed our family. She is now in a loving home that has the resources to meet her extensive needs.

    It helps so much to have families willing to share the good and the hard times that happen in adoption. Thank you for sharing with all of us & letting us know we are not alone.

  99. patricia
    March 21, 2014 | 9:36 am

    i just read your article on yahoo and its disappointing that you gave up on a child that thought he had finally found a family.

    Can you imagine how the little girl feels “if i’m not honest, mummy will give me away, just like she gave away my brother.” once a child is adopted, that is your baby for better or worse. would you give away any of your own biological children? kids beat each other, they misbehave. that’s life. i cut my sister with a knife, intentionally. my mother didnt give me away: she handled it.

    What’s done is done, but i think your attitude is giving people the wrong message. its not okay for someone to give up on their child.

    • Been There Done That
      January 29, 2015 | 2:13 am

      Dear Patricia,
      How many children with prenatal drug and alcohol exposure coupled with RAD and a host of other genetic and behavioral disturbances have you adopted and reared?

      I have adopted 2 such children – my babies have been in my home for 10 distressing years now, and as they approach adolescence our home is regularly fraught with hostility and turmoil.
      My son, the eldest by 8 months, has been exhibiting increasingly disturbing behaviors with no regard for the rest of the family to such an extent that my husband and i are prayerfully considering disruption because of the risk that his defiance places upon the safety and well-being of the rest of our family.
      I KNOW what Anymommy is talking about because i have been surviving this near-daily nightmare for years, only by the grace of God. It feels as if our family is under terrorist attack day and night.

      I cannot tell you how frequently we depend upon the prayers of faithful saints on our family’s behalf just so we can all make it through another day.

      Surely, we do not wish to give up our son, because God has done so much for us, but it might be good to consider that even our perfect, all-powerful, ever-loving heavenly Father “repented that He had made man because the thoughts of their hearts were evil continually.”

      Patricia, there is a reason that Deuteronomy 21:18-21 exists: “If any man has a stubborn and rebellious son who will not obey his father or his mother, and even when they chastise him he will not listen to them, then his father and mother shall seize him and bring him to the elders at the gate of his town… then all the men of his city shall stone him to death, so you shall remove the evil from your midst, and all Isreal will hear of it and fear.”
      There is a reason that “there no longer remains a sacrifice for those who go on sinning willfully… (Hebrews 10:26)”
      If you care to read Romans 1:26-32 you will find that God absolutely does – at some point stop striving with those who choose to be dishonorable and wayward.

      Even God All Mighty, whose “love NEVER fails”, whose “mercies are new every morning” does not abide continual willful malice from His children – why on earth would you expect us as frail human beings to do so?

      Although our family continues to press on toward the goal, I tell you the truth, our capacity to keep hope alive is truly an act of faith one day at a time.

      I would kindly ask that you consider whether or not you are in any position to judge a person until you have walked a mile (or ten) in her shoes.

  100. Doug Brown
    March 22, 2014 | 7:00 pm

    It sounds like you did what you needed to be done, and there is bravery in that. I adopted three girls with a woman who walked out on all of us seven months later; it was at once an act of cowardice and an act of bravery. The four of us pulled through, and the girls were often braver than their dad.

    I hope that your readers see the potential pitfalls in your adoption story. Mixing up birth order, adopting multiple non-sibling children, and having two (!) babies so close to the date of adoption are all warned against in the adoption literature. Many countries even frown upon visiting their orphanages before adoption; it may make you more likely to try and pull off more than you can.

    There’s a silly adage that says, “sometimes your purpose in life is to serve as a warning to others.” It’s not a bad calling, actually. I hope that your post assuages you of some of your guilt, but I also hope that it encourages others to treat the adoptive process with extreme care.

  101. Pete
    May 1, 2014 | 7:22 pm


    You appear to be speaking in idealistic terms rather then realistic ones. Of course no one should ever HAVE to give up on their child.

    But sometimes the family dynamic gets SO VIOLENT that all in the family are at severe legal risk and out-placement is the only healing solution for all concerned.

    This is what forced us to place our beloved yet severely troubled adopted only child with another family.

  102. S
    November 17, 2014 | 1:52 am

    Thank you for your open heart that brings peace to many in similar heartwrenching situations

  103. jkzki
    April 4, 2015 | 2:45 am

    Your poignant story brought me reassurance that I am not alone; we disrupted an adoption 13 days into bonding (before adoption legally took place) and now, 1.5 years later, I still feel guilt,loss, hurt and shame, you name it. I have not yet been able to come to a sense of peace since I packed the children’s things the night before we took them back to the orphanage – – – I mean, who does that? Who returns children? But, then I read posts like yours and realize that others have gone through similar (and frankly much worse) situations number one and secondly, that sometimes the most courageous decision is to humbly admit that one cannot handle a situation and to put the children back into the hands of people who have the expertise to be able to meet their needs. I am slowly coming to terms with this now. Thank you for your post. It has helped my healing process.

  104. Shecki @ Greatly Blessed
    July 14, 2015 | 4:50 am

    Thank you for sharing your story. We lived through a disruption recently, as well, although the circumstances were different. It’s encouraging to see so many positive comments here. I’m glad this is being more openly discussed in the adoption commnunity. It seems like before we adopted all we heard about were the rainbows and unicorns happily ever after stories.

  105. ThisIs
    September 3, 2015 | 3:29 am

    Despite post=adopt counseling, I hadn’t heard of disruption. We fostered and adopted our daughter as a five-week old, however the RAD still exists, and along with prenatal cocaine exposure. We thought it was good that she wanted to talk about the adoption questions when she was little, but that’s turned into angry rages on a daily basis, especially anger towards mom (really towards birth mom?) There has always been regular anger, but now we’re getting dangerously close (she’s age 14) to feeling physically threatened. That’s not even the worst of it, I am exhausted by the daily tirades, can’t sleep, cry a lot. Our older child is out of the house, so we don’t have another child in danger, but I have daily fantasies of packing up and leaving, and tremendous guilt that I can’t work it out. I don’t believe I can parent this child any longer, but I’m not sure disruption would be the solution, just another self-fulfilling prophecy. I’ve been told that adoption can be damaging, even in a non-foster situation. All the therapy and activities and love in the world aren’t making a dent in all the anger.

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