Monday, November 24, 2014

When Adoptions Fail: What You Should Know about “Rehoming”

Q:       What is “rehoming?”
A:        Rehoming is the term currently being used to describe a privately arranged second placement for an adopted child when the first adoptive placement fails. Such a failure is called a “disruption.” Usually, it is the initial adoptive family that arranges the “rehoming” of a child to another adoptive family.

Q:       Why would a child be moved from an initial adoptive home? 
A:        Sometimes, children and their adoptive families do not bond effectively. In particular, difficulties may arise when children are adopted from other countries, or when children are older (school age) when placed. Or, an adoptive family may have received inaccurate information about important facts about the adopted child, such as age or health status. Also, many children have been victims of physical or sexual abuse, which prevents them from bonding in their initial placement. Adoption disruption rates may range from 9 to 25 percent. 

Q:       I read a newspaper article that criticized rehoming. What, exactly, are the concerns?
A:        Concerns stem from the fact that these replacement efforts frequently bypass social work safeguards such as home studies, child abuse clearances, criminal record checks and Interstate Compact clearances that are designed to protect the child. Failure to follow the safeguards may expose the child to possible abuse or neglect. In addition, bypassing these safeguards when proceeding with a private rehoming for an adopted child may well be a violation of the law. Therefore, a family trying to place its adopted child with another family must find competent legal representation and comply with child welfare laws. Such families face possible financial and criminal liability if the process is not well managed.
            It is also unclear whether all of these secondary placement families are fully aware of the child’s needs or have the resources appropriate for the child’s care and nurturance. Sometimes, after the child has been moved to another home, no one takes responsibility for providing oversight and for ensuring that the child is doing well in the new home. A second adoption that is done properly would provide such oversight. However, when “rehoming” is handled privately, there may be no home study, so no assessor or social worker would be assigned to oversee the adoption, as would happen in an agency adoption. So, it may be difficult to find the right entity qualified to oversee the adoption and make sure the child is making a successful transition. If the replacement effort is private, these costs may be covered by the placing or receiving parents.

Q:       My husband and I adopted a six-year-old boy last year, but we didn’t realize how difficult it would be. Is there anything we can do short of placing him with another family?
A:        If you adopted the child from a domestic agency, that agency may offer post-adoption services, including counseling, respite care and mental health services. The local children’s services agency also may offer services to avoid disruption, particularly if the child’s actions are a danger to himself or others. You also may opt to privately place the child in a treatment or educational facility while maintaining ties with him. Adoption subsidies are sometimes available to assist with the cost of placement. National adoption advocacy groups recommend that more and better post-adoptive services be put in place to support families such as yours. Ohio law makes special provisions as to child support for adoption children placed in out of the home care with county agencies. Support may be waived if the court decides this is appropriate.
            If these options fail, and you decide the child should be placed in another home, then you must be careful to do so in a responsible and ethical manner with the standard social work safeguards.

Q:       What are some of the reasons for adoption failures?
A:        Sometimes the child’s needs are too overwhelming for the adoptive family to handle, or the family’s expectations are unreasonable. Sometimes the family lacks appropriate training and resources to support the adoption or the family does not receive appropriate social work support. 
            Also, in the last 20 years, there has been a concerted effort to place special needs children in adoptive homes. While such adoptions can work very well, they present additional challenges that many adoptive families cannot manage successfully.
            While enforcement of current laws can curtail some unethical rehoming, such enforcement may also adversely affect situations where rehoming is a good option for a child, such as when a child is moved to a grandparent’s home.

This “Law You Can Use” consumer legal information article was provided by the Ohio State Bar Association. It was prepared by Columbus attorney Susan Garner Eisenman, chair of Ohio’s Adoption Law Roundtable and fellow of the American Academy of Assisted Reproductive Technology Attorneys and the American Academy of Adoption Attorneys. Articles appearing in this column are intended to provide broad, general information about the law. Before applying this information to a specific legal problem, readers are urged to seek advice from an attorney.

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