ABSTRACT

Adoption workers, parents, researchers, administrators, and policymakers all know and respect the complexity of adoption. Few are naive enough to believe that adoption outcomes hinge on single characteristics or practices, no matter how significant they may seem. Years of placing older children for adoption tell us that there are exceptions to every rule and almost every reader will be able to think of a placement that prevailed in the face of many poor practice decisions or in which the odds for a successful placement seemed unforgivingly slim. We had in our own study a successful placement of a 12-year-old boy with three prior adoption disruptions, 19 prior placements, no preplacement visit, and in which the family rejected the bulk of postplacement services; that placement is intact 6 years later. Whereas we reported single relationships between family, child, and service characteristics and disruption, we are more comfortable with the analyses that include information combined from multiple factors. We also encourage adoption workers to assume this position. We listened to too many social workers who had drawn fast conclusions based on a single disruption and a sole characteristic (e.g., “I’ll never place another sibling pair with a single mother” or “I’ll never place another child across county lines”). Such conclusions are a disservice to children. Our use of discriminant analysis and our discussion of the path to disruption respect adoption’s complexity.