In response to those who support returning adopted kids

Because yes, there are people excusing this behavior

In less than one week after I shared Dear White Woman Who Returned Her Adopted Children (and anyone else who thinks this is okay), I’ve been accused of

  • Harboring “white hate”
  • Being judgmental
  • Not knowing how hard/traumatic adoption is (?!)
  • Hating adoptive parents

I’ve also been told

  • My “adoptee perspective” limits my ability to see clearly
  • The adoption agency didn’t adequately prepare the parents
  • The children “dodged a bullet” by possibly finding a new, loving home
  • The parents likely realized they didn’t have it in them to parent, so they wanted to cut their losses early

I’ll be addressing each excuse, but collectively I hear

I gave up.

I shouldn’t have to say this, but I’m aware not all adoptive parents return their kids. Many of them are amazing, struggling through parenting their children just like the rest of us — only with an adoptee. They learn, they speak, they advocate. They fight for adoptee rights. They push for birth family reunification. So I’m well-versed in adoption, beyond the adoptee perspective, and I am always learning. I have excellent mentors, educating me on laws, loopholes, and other issues.

I haven’t taken a hard stand on adoption, being neither anti- nor pro-adoption. Extremes leave no room for anyone falling in between those hard lines. I have wonderful friends who fall in those camps. I respect them. They respect me.

But nothing will convince me returning a kid is ever okay.

While writing this response-to-a-response piece, I found a Facebook page dedicated to advertising children for adoption. According to their mission, returned adoptees

have experienced adjustment problems, and their parents want to help find a new family to adopt them.

In other words: The parents don’t want to parent.

If adoption is a family-building option where parents are hoping to build a real family, you work through your children’s “adjustment problems.”

If your biological child is born with a physical defect, mental handicap, or other need, where do you put them (outside of completely justifiable medical treatment centers)?

But according to them, they say

[a] disruption of an adoption is often the result of unknown issues the children bring with them from whatever situation they came from, whether from a foreign country or foster care. Families are often not prepared for the extreme behaviors these children exhibit.

But are biological parents prepared for what their children exhibit?

According to another pro-giving-kids-back site, they want

to help parents who are in an incomprehensible position with an adopted child in your home, feeling that life has turned into a nightmare, and that you need help asap. We want you to know, above all, that there is healing available for your family and for your dear adopted child.

Healing for the parents, sure, but simply finding a kid another home? That seems potentially more devastating.

Before I get too far, let me address each explanation thrown at me.

Harboring White Hate

I described the woman as a “white woman.”

Anyone with a deep understanding of adoption has a grasp on the “white saviour” myth surrounding the practice, as well as the disproportionate amount of white adoptive parents. Historically, people of color were excluded from even same-race adoptions, due to adoption’s (ongoing) economic, religious, and financial requirements.

But all that means nothing because:

Apparently, calling someone “white” is triggering and somehow “inflammatory.”

According to another responder, I harbor white hate and I’m writing a book about that very subject:

She also helpfully points out that it was “whites who fought and won the war for freedom of black slaves.” (I’ll just leave that one there for you.)

White is not a slur. Just like Asian and Black and Indian and the host of other ethnic identifier terms are not insulting, being described as white shouldn’t inflame anything but what POC face every day: Acknowledgement of your color. It’s uncomfortable for some, isn’t it?

Also, what if a person of color was caught returning their adopted kids? Black mothers are already vilified in this country. Why is a white woman allowed this privilege?

I shouldn’t have to explain, but I’m married to a white man. My family is white. My son is half-White. My friends are white. Simply saying someone is white is not hateful, but being offended by the term certainly reveals the true state of racial discourse in our country.

My Adoptee Perspective/Judgment on this “Mother”

It doesn’t take an adoptee to believe returning children isn’t okay, but the fact I can’t be seen as having a perspective colored by anything other than my adoptee status shows how objectified adoptees remain.

So here we go: I’ll take off my “adoptee hat” and view this situation as a mother because I am a mother, a woman, and a human being.

Returning kids because they didn’t work out is not okay.

Returning kids because you weren’t prepared is not okay.

I was not prepared to be a mother. I have little support and wasn’t expecting it. Anything could have happened.

But you know what?

I do it.

I was prepared to do it no matter what happened because there is no other option.

I am a mother.

That a white woman (ha) has the privilege to return her children is unthinkable.

I’ve grappled for a long time trying to compassionately see it from this woman’s point of view. Perhaps I am limited by my motherly perspective, but I’ve read accounts where the adoptee is disrupting the biological siblings too much, so the adoptee was returned.

But then I ask myself: What if I had a second child who was disabled or emotionally disturbed, upsetting my son and causing him distress?

Do I send my second kid away?


I find help.

Some asked me: What if the mother realized she didn’t have what it takes to parent a traumatized child?

You do what any other mother does.

You parent.

Which leads me to the next excuse…

Not Enough Post-Adoption Resources

Unless you’ve crowdsourced your adoption (yes, this happens), adoption costs upwards of $40,000 per child (and this is race-dependent: see article on how much less black babies cost to adopt than white) so finding resources, though admittedly scarce and expensive, is possible.

One untapped resource for adoptive parents are adoptees, yet many adoptees find themselves curiously glossed over as potential helpers along the “adoption journey.”

To be fair, post-adoption support from the adoption agencies is lacking. It should be improved for the child’s sake to ensure they’re not being returned or abused or otherwise destroyed emotionally or physically.

But after I gave birth to my son and filled out the “do you promise not to shake your baby?” form and got education on breastfeeding and formula and spit up, they sent me home with my husband.

To take care of a tiny, living being.

And that was it.

Yes, moms’ groups existed and I had a few friends and whatnot, but I didn’t call the hospital looking for instructions.

And if I needed them, I’d call my counselor or find another way. Because if you’re smart enough to research adoption, you’re savvy enough to find what you need to make it work.

This excuse ties nicely with this next one…

Maybe She Wasn’t Prepared

I said it earlier and I’ll say it again:

You’re a mother. You. Don’t. Give. Up.

Prepared or not, they’re your kids now.

Being Returned Saved the Kids

Perhaps. But a new family won’t replace the memory of the multiple times adults implied they weren’t good enough and that they weren’t worth helping. Instead, they became someone else’s problem.

A new family won’t erase hurt. It will be forever burned into their psyches, regardless of their future success (and I wish them all the best).

The Bottom Line

The children are what matter, yet all I hear are adults unable to adequately respond to seriously traumatized (or even just normal, but not expectation-fulfilling) kids.

I won’t stop talking about this; in fact, stay tuned because myself and several members of Plan A Magazine will be recording a podcast about this very subject. I’ll also be diving into the adoption industry’s role in permitting and facilitating returns, as they have a significant reason for allowing this to happen (hint: it’s about money). Also, follow @StopRehoming for more news about returning adoptees.

And for those of you looking for legitimate resources, talk to adoptees. Don’t just read success stories and adoptive parent blogs. Don’t rely only on the agency’s literature. And for the sake of the kids, don’t blame them for their issues.

Oh, and let’s stop softening the “I returned my kids” situation by calling it “adoption disruption” or “secondary adoption.” Just acknowledge the reality and we can work together to find a solution.

Sunny J. Reed is a New Jersey-based writer. Her main body of work focuses on transracial adoption, race relations, and the American family. In addition to contributing to InterCountry Adoptee Voices and Dear Adoption, Sunny uses creative nonfiction as a way to reach a wider audience. Her first flash memoir (‘the lucky ones’) was published in Tilde: A Literary Journal. Her second piece (‘playground ghost’) is featured in Parhelion Literary Magazine. She is currently at work on a literary memoir.