When Adoption Isn't Easy

Article excerpt

Byline: Josephine A. Ruggiero

When I heard about the adoptive family who sent their 7-year-old boy back to Russia, I was saddened, but I wasn't surprised. They made a drastic decision, but I'm sure other adoptive parents in distress have thought about doing the very same thing.

My husband and I adopted three biological siblings from Russia in 1994--a boy and two girls, all under the age of 5. We saw pictures and were assured they were healthy, but we had to make a quick decision, based on very little information. I'm trained in sociology, but nothing could have prepared me for the challenges we've encountered. The kids had serious medical and emotional issues. Both girls had some level of fetal alcohol syndrome. The youngest needed immediate surgery to repair a traumatic brain injury, and she's had seizures ever since. From the start, they all exhibited defiant behavior. Admittedly, all kids go through that phase, but we didn't expect it to happen so young. Within a week of bringing them home, we contacted our adoption agency and told them our experience was very different from what we had expected. They said something like, "We're sorry to hear that."

My husband and I spent several months with the children at home before I went back to teaching. We played with them and found Russian speakers to talk with them and read stories in Russian. The kids all suffered from posttraumatic stress disorder resulting, we believe, from neglect and both mental and physical abuse. None ever tried to hurt us, but they were unable to control their anger. It was as if they operated solely on a level of basic survival, which never seemed to be replaced by rational thinking. We had to put locks on doors inside the house, because they would take anything they wanted, including money. I'm always trying to teach them--"We don't do this in our family"--but there's no reciprocity. We once found ourselves even charged with neglect--an unsubstantiated charge that was never pursued--when our teenage son decided to live elsewhere. …