Youth who experience disruption and dissolution (Josh’s Story)

I want to begin this post by acknowledging Joshua, as today would have been his 27th birthday. Joshua was statistically a part of something that is not uncommon among older youths who are adopted. His adoption would be considered dissolute. Joshua experienced this as an 8th grader who was 12 years old and lacked a strong support system, forcing him to join many more youths who have been taken out of adoptive placements and thrown back into complex systems.

According to the child welfare information gateway (2012), the term disruption, “describes an adoption process that ends after a child has been placed in an adoptive home before the adoption is legalized, which results in the return of the child to the foster care system or placement with new adoptive parents.” The child welfare information gateway (2012) describes the term dissolution as, “an adoption in which the legal relationship between the adoptive parents and adoptive child is severed, either voluntarily or involuntarily, after the adoption is legally finalized.”

I will never forget the day that my little brother Joshua was separated from me and started his journey to dissolution within our adoptive placement. We were over our cousin’s house, and I waited for Joshua to return to the house so we could go. As Josh came around the corner at his own pace (and for those who knew Josh knew that he walked extremely slow and liked to be on his own time), our adoptive mother called out, “Josh hurry up!” multiple times, and Josh continued to move at his own pace. After repeatedly calling his name, Josh became frustrated and yelled out, “I’m coming B****.” Although Josh’s actions were inappropriate, he had suffered severe trauma, as he was only 12 years old at the time, full of frustration and going through a lot of changes. Our adoptive father jumped on Josh and started attacking him. I attempted to get him off of my little brother, who was much smaller than our adoptive father. The police were called, and my adoptive father reported that Josh had attacked him and his wife. As I sat there and cried, I pleaded for the police not to arrest my brother, but everything at that point was out of my hands. As I watched my little brother get carried away from me, I was helpless, and I went into the bathroom at my cousin’s house and cried on the floor. After this incident, I didn’t see my brother for years.

After asking about my brother, I was told by my adoptive parents that he was doing well and that he had gone to an all boys school. I asked to send letters and to talk to my little brother on the phone, but nothing came from it. It was not until my little brother laid in the ICU fighting for his life after a self-inflicted gunshot wound that, I found out the truth to about what actually happened to my brother. My biological uncle recounted the story of Josh's dissolution experience. I learned that once Josh entered the juvenile justice system, he continued to get into trouble (as most youths do), leading to him being caught in the revolving door of institutionalization. My uncle found out that Josh was in a juvenile detention facility and went to see if he could get him out. Once he located Josh, my uncle spoke with Josh’s case manager and was told that Josh could have been released years ago, but there was nobody that would take Josh because he had no family. What my uncle said next was chilling. He stated that my adoptive parents gave up their rights once Josh was incarcerated, and they would not answer phone calls, send money or provide any resources to Josh while he was locked up.

This news devastated me, and as I sat here with tears in my eye, I realized that my adoptive family had thrown Josh’s life away by forcing him back into a complex foster care system after being adopted. The foster care system had let Joshua down, and so did the people who had taken responsibility for him.

Unfortunately, Joshua is one of many older youths who experience disruption or dissolution. There has not been much research on this topic, and the studies that have been conducted include historical data. One of my goals is to propel myself into a position where I can perform more research on disruption and dissolution to decrease the occurrence of situations such as Josh’s. Disruption and dissolution are not only a domestic issue but an international issue as many children are adopted outside of the United States that often face similar challenges.