The Impact of Divorce on an Adoptee

The impact of divorce on an adopteeI’ve been sitting all week with a question I received from a reader, I’m going to call her Leilani. She was asking for my opinion as a woman, and as an adoptive mom. I’ve been mulling it over and I’ve decided I have a more valuable perspective to offer Leilani – that of an adoptee.

Her story is not mine to tell, so you’ll have to excuse the vague-blogging.

Leilani has been married for over 5 years and has no biological children. Sometime ago, she and her husband made the decision to pursue adoption and are now very close to having a child placed with them. In the time since they began this journey, Leilani and her husband have realized they don’t want to be married anymore. They are, however, still committed to the adoption process, and have discussed and agreed upon plans for co-parenting. While Leilani is confident that their current plan is for the best of all concerned, she isn’t sure how much of their plans they should share with their agency. She isn’t comfortable with the idea of withholding information, but worries that full disclosure will lead to unnecessary delays in a process that has already been painfully slow and drawn-out.

Well, Leilani, you aren’t going to like my answer. I don’t think full disclosure to your agency is enough. Until your relationship situation has been comfortably settled, it is irresponsible and callous for you to bring a child into the uncertainty.

When I was in the 8th grade, I came home from a junior high football game to learn that my mom had asked my dad to move out. If I close my eyes, I can still relive the way my world lurched when I heard this. They didn’t actually separate. Dad spent a few nights in his van in the driveway, and Mom eventually let him come home. But my sense of security, which had never been terribly strong to begin with, has never recovered from that moment.

The Impact of Divorce on an Adoptee

As an adoptive parent, one of my jobs is to convince my children that my promise of forever is true. Some would say this is an impossible task since my children have already learned that mommies don’t always come back.

SuperDad and I have been together for over 15 years, and we’ve had at least our fair share of ups and downs. We’ve each asked the other to leave, begged the other to stay, and promised to do better, to be better. No one ever starts a marriage okay with the idea of divorce, but once we committed to adopting our boys, we agreed that divorce is forever, and irrevocably, off the table.

The Impact of Divorce on an AdopteeNot only do I have a responsibility to not cause my children additional trauma beyond what they’ve already suffered, I volunteered to be the one to convince them that they are safe and secure and loved – FOREVER and EVER (amen). With the deck already stacked against them ever believing that, I can’t allow them to witness me breaking the promise of forever that I made to their father.

So, no, Leilani, it’s not okay to adopt a child into your current situation. Perhaps you and your husband can and will be great co-parents who don’t happen to be married to each other, but it’s completely unfair and inhumane to knowingly, willingly bring a child into that experiment.

My heartfelt, emphatic advice is for you and your husband to resolve your relationship status – either deciding to work it out or to not be married – and then consider revisiting your adoption plans.

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  1. Michelle D

    I 1000% agree with this answer. These children come from enough brokenness, it would not be fair to bring them into a crumbling situation, setting them up for more hurt.

    But once she gets her relationship issues settled, I think it would be a wonderful thing for her to foster or adopt as a single parent. I know she has a lot of love to give a child and she should!!!
    Michelle D recently posted…When will you stop making your mommy carry you?My Profile

    1. Jamie Nestrick (Post author)

      Thanks so much for commenting! And thanks for mentioning single parenting. Some of best friends are single foster/adoptive moms!

  2. Kim White

    So yes 100% yes. Its absolutely not fair to bring a child into a crumbling relationship, in fact its selfish. They should persue adoption seperately and make seperate families if they infact seperate.

    1. Jamie Nestrick (Post author)

      I could even get on board with them co-parenting somehow, IF they still want to do that after all the dust settles and the emotional baggage has been unpacked. {Thanks for reading & commenting :)}

  3. Rachel Garlinghouse

    I totally agree with the advice you gave. I think entering into adoption with 100% transparency and authenticity is crucial to the well-being of the couple’s future child. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with being a single parent; however, navigating a divorce/separation AND an adoption at the same time simply isn’t ok.
    Rachel Garlinghouse recently posted…National Adoption Month + Adoption Talk Linkup: No, I’m Not Angie’s BFF (among other things)My Profile

  4. Anna

    I think that I partially disagree with such a blanket analysis. Facts: 1. prospective mom & dad will begin adoptive relationship as a divorced couple. There will be no ‘crumbling relationship’. 2. Leilani & mister earnestly wants to be a mother/father as they have gone through the process, classes, etc. The unknown variables are whether or not Leilani & mister are amicable. Another variable is the child’s current situation. Anybody who has loved/adopted children is aware of the horrors of abuse, even within the system. I hate that I am lumped into that stereotype but I can’t complain too much because those horror stories are very real. If one of my adopted children went from the placement she was at into Leilani’s situation it would be a blessing, provided that Leilani was stable and had an amicable separation from mister. The child would not be party to a change in status because they would already be co-parenting divorcees. The child comes into a kind of single parent situation with a guaranteed support/co-parent system from mister.


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