The Post I Never Expected To Write About Adoption {Our Disrupted Adoption}

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Well, it’s time I peel back the curtains a little bit and tell you about our adoption journey the past 8 months. I’ve hinted on more than one occasion that things were rough and there was a guest blog post I wrote on We Are That Family where I gave some cryptic details, BUT very few people knew the extent of our heartache. Even now, I’m ashamed to share it, but I know that speaking truth is the beginning to healing. Giving words to sorrow has always been the door to which I find comfort, and I must walk through the door before me.

Our girl experienced extreme trauma in her life before coming to our home. I won’t share details of her trauma publicly because it is her story, but it was extreme and affected her deeply. Trauma literally rewires the brain and causes all sorts of things in children as young as she was at the time of the traumatic events. As we peeled back the layers, we began to see more clearly that we were not the right fit for her. Her trauma reactive behaviors were severe, multi-faceted, and so very, very scary. We hunted down every resource available to us locally to help her, but it was “too little, too late.” Her needs are extreme and the level of therapeutic parenting that she requires is beyond what we can provide for her with other small children in the home. We cannot compromise the well-being of our biological sons for the sake of “saving” her.

frozen hat

While she looked healthy and happy to outsiders and in pictures, we saw a very dark side of things within the walls of our home. Our happy home had become more of a prison with alarms on doors, surveillance cameras, extreme safety protocols, and more. She is, to put it very mildly, mentally ill. As I type this, she is in her 2nd psych hospital stay and has been there for over a month. The first time was the day after Christmas and she celebrated her 6th birthday there. During her 8 months with us, we went through 3 forensic investigations with CPS, an interview with a detective, 2 psych hospital stays, an ER visit for self-harm, death threats with a viable plan (we later found out she was attempting it one night, but backed out), suicide watch, countless hours of therapy…and it wasn’t enough. It wasn’t enough to keep her safe from hurting herself or to keep others safe from her. Our love wasn’t gloves

We have agonized over what is best for our family and for our beautiful girl. We truly love her and are heartbroken for the road we have walked with her. We are even more heartbroken for her past experiences that, essentially, made it impossible for her to receive and reciprocate our love. Ultimately, we have had to be very honest with ourselves about what we can handle and what cannot continue to happen in our house. We have made the decision to disrupt her adoption placement with us and not finalize the adoption. She will not return to our house when she is released from the psych hospital and has been moved into the residential treament portion of the hospital.


We know this may come as a shock. It is to us, too. I remember reading about adoption disruptions when we first started our adoption journey and judging what I couldn’t understand–and here I sit in the very same rocking boat after being pulled out from the waves of this storm. We know we have loved her the best we knew how. We take comfort in the fact that we gave her a safe place to share her story, sought justice for her, pinpointed her specific therapeutic needs, showed her what a loving family looks like, and most importantly, exposed her to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. He is the only one that can truly heal her anyway.

water shed

We are now trying to piece our lives back together and heal from the second-hand trauma that we have experienced. Our boys have suffered. My husband has suffered. As the primary caregiver and target of most of the aggression, I have suffered immensely. Not one of us is walking out of this unscathed. Our entire family has been touched by this, but we are clinging together for comfort at the feet of the cross. We know our Savior isn’t surprised by our circumstances, and for some reason, we were asked to walk through this for His glory. We know that if we hadn’t taken her when her emergency placement was presented to us, she would still be in a hopeless situation with her abusers. I have to believe that, while this is terribly difficult, there is purpose for the pain. God will rebuild our lives just as He has done so many times before.

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  1. {HUGS} Oh Sara, I’m so sorry. I have a friend who adopted a 9yr. old boy from Guatemala who had been through similar horrible trauma and turn around and perpetrated against their two daughters. They also went through therapies and alarms and interventions and finally had to make the same hard decision that you did. It’s rough and I’m sure there will be people that have horrible things to say about the decision you made which they couldn’t possibly understand. Only you can make that decision to save your family. Let Jesus heal the rest, and try not to let negative comments get under your skin. I’m praying for you!

    • Thank you, Dawn. Unfortunately, she got to our boys before we knew the depths of the hole we were in with her. Let the mud sling–the safety of my boys is worth it. I’m very serious when I say that I’m happy to be alive. Our months with her were filled with things that I’ve only seen in scary movies or tv shows.

  2. I am so sorry to hear this but I think that you are right in that talking about it is the first step in the healing process. I will pray for you and send you a cyber hug.

  3. april f. says:


  4. So, so very sorry to hear this, Sara. I can only imagine the heartbreak. We have just completed an adoption journey, and we were very aware of the possibility of reactive attachment disorder and other traumatic issues. Our thoughts and prayers are with you and your family as you begin to heal. May God’s peace and comfort surround you all. Love and hugs to you!

    • Thank you, Sara. We always knew it was a possibility with an older child, and trust me, if we could’ve helped her longer we would have. We love her, and want healing for her, it just wasn’t possible for her to heal while traumatizing the rest of the children. We were the ones to discover her trauma and we hope that our heartache can send her to the place she needs to be to receive the help she so desperately needs.

  5. Krysten T says:

    My biological parents were foster parents for a number of years. They had a child much like the one you describe that they had to ask CPS to find a new home. I applaud you for making the right decision for your family and for embracing this little girl while she was with you. I hope for quick healing for your family.

  6. Sara, thank you for sharing your story. I want to commend you for the courageous decision you and your husband made. Unfortunately, we didn’t make the same decision and are now suffering the consequences. When our daughter came to live with us at age six, we had no idea the extent of her trauma and neither did she. She has always reacted to most things in an abnormal way, but it wasn’t until she began to hit puberty that her trauma began to catch up with her. With that trauma came serious problems which have become almost too much for our family to withstand. Now that she is thirteen and so much bigger and more dangerous, we look back and sometimes wish we had taken a different path. We love our daughter, but we wonder sometimes if we’ll be able to continue being her parents.

    • Thank you, Lisa. Your words mean so much coming from another trauma mama. It was a terribly hard decision and I’ve worried about how it would be received, especially in the adoption community we have grown to love. I will be praying for your and your family. I commend you for sticking it out day in and day out. It is SO hard. Hugs.

  7. i just read the two very sad posts about this poor little girl:( how sad…for all of you! i know this must have been a very difficult decision for you and your husband, but it sounds like a wise one. now your emotions will have to catch up with the wisdom of your decision:(

    for sure, GOD brought her into your lives for a reason if for no other reason than that you will be able to pray for her in ways no one else will be able to. but His ways are so much bigger than ours…you may never understand all of what He is doing.

    This Easter season is one to celebrate His work of redemption isn’t it? How He graciously reached down and saved each of us. What a picture of His grace and mercy. May He minister that grace to all of you as you heal from this experience.

    i know you don’t feel brave, but you have been. GOD used you in the life of this little girl. you planted some seeds that GOD may still bring to fruit. blessings.

  8. Hugs to you dear friend. I know it was not an easy decision. May God continue to be with you all as you heal.

  9. Praying for your family, and prayers going up for that sweet girl. I’m praying for healing and strength for your family, as well as the right home for L, as she fights the demons of abuse.

  10. your family has often been on my mind and heart. having children and trying to adopt them has certainly been a painful process hasn’t it? brings new meaning to that Scripture, “Surely He has born our griefs and carried our sorrows.” doesn’t it? my heart aches for all of you.

  11. Krissanna says:

    Oh my goodness Sara, I cannot thank you enough for writing this so candidly and honestly. Our adoption story hasn’t been nearly as dangerous physically, but emotionally yes! There are days when I don’t want to say yes anymore. You are absolutely right when you say only Jesus can truly heal these children. Ours has found Him and in the midst of it all, I think I see a little light. Is it ever going to be easy? No, I don’t think so. Someone asked me the other day what I thought she will be like as a teen. I pondered only for a split second and answered, “I honestly can’t think about her past today.” One day at a time sweet Jesus…

    I will be in prayer for the healing of your family, for this precious girl and for the judging of those who cannot understand.

    • Thank you, Krissanna. Your words mean so much. I’m a grownup, so I can handle things a little better. It’s the suffering and abuse of my boys that has taken the biggest toll on my broken mama heart. Thankful for good therapists that love Jesus!

  12. Big, big, virtual hugs.

  13. Praying for you, your family, and this precious little girl.

  14. Sara, I also have experienced the horrific effects of unbelievable trauma on a child. Our adopted son was in our home for two years before his past surfaced fully. He has spent time in a level 4 facility, and now resides in therapeutic foster care, unable to have contact with his biological sister and preferred victim. It has been traumatic for our entire family but God heals. We will be praying for your precious family. We are grateful to God that you and your husband were willing to answer His call. Our experience has taught us that sometimes we are called to do a part that is less than what we anticipated. Our prayers will be that you continue to find peace in that.

  15. I had this forwarded from a good friend of mine. I am not an adoptive parent but have 4 children of my own. I also babysit 5 other children daily while their parents work. My good friend is an adoptive mother and for a year I saw her almost everyday. She adopted 6 kids, I think. 3 of those kids put their family through hell. As a mother, I applaud you and others who have dealt with it. I believe everything happens for a reason. God has a plan. We just have to follow with faith. It is ok if it doesn’t work out, at least you tried. That is what matters most. Love on your other kids and know you made the best decision you could with what you were given. God bless!

  16. DIANA HAFNER says:

    Thank you for sharing your story. After 7 years in my home I am asking CPS to remove my 12 year old daughter for all our sake. This year she has really opened up about the extent and horror of the abuse she suffered before she was removed from her biological parents. While it makes her behaviors and diagnosis more understandable, I also have to protect her younger sister and myself. I feel like I failed. I am afraid her younger sister will one day forget what our lives have been like and hate me for sending her big sister away. Still, I cling to my faith and pray that my daughters will both cling to it as well as we go through the most painful process of our lives. I am so thankful for finding this blog tonight. Diana

    • Diana, I am so sorry that you are in the position to have to make the choice of saving one child or all. It’s a pretty stinky place to be in. I’m thankful that this post did something for you. It’s a long road to recovery and my faith has definitely been rocked, but I know we made the right decision. I’ll be praying for you and your family. There are so many of us out there hiding our stories. Blessings!

    • Imhererightnow says:

      Thank you so much for this post. It was very hard to search for to start with. AD will be 4 this month and came to us last August with a half-sibling that we never saw leaving. Well his dad picked him up in October. It’s been downhill since. I feel so done. We’ve learned her situation is more than just neglect. We’ve learned she hurts deep and it changes everything about her brain and how she views things. She’s been in therapy since she came here. I’m now medicated. She’s an angel around my husband. But with me I can’t deal. My oldest son who is 8 wants to kill himself or run away. How has your family healed thus far after disrupting? All I feel is disappointed in myself and I fee my husband is also disappointed in me. It was an agency adoption and cost us nearly $20k and he’s so angry about that leaving too. Idk what I’m looking for other than hope.

  17. Thank you for your post and honesty! Walking this road now… :(. It’s horrible! There are no words…

    • Keisha, I am so sorry you are walking this road right now. It’s a horrible place to be. The guilt, the grief, the PTSD from the behaviors, and the aftermath of disrupting an adoption isn’t easy. It is taking me a long time to heal from this. I’m available if you ever need to talk about it. Feel free to contact me if you need to.

  18. I too went through this for 2 years and 8 months. The violence, alarms, the constant threats and abuse. Sadly we just could not give her what was needed but now they have removed the sister who she is very violent against because child welfare believes it is our reactions that caused her to act this way. She is under evaluation but it could take months before she acts this way to someone new. I take solice in knowing that I’m not alone. My heart is broken for the sister who was happy here and had to be removed.

    • So sorry to here you went through this, too. It’s a horrible place to be in–the violence, alarms, constant threats, and abuse were all things we dealt with, too. The system is so very broken.

  19. Stephanie says:

    I randomly found this post through a Google search. Im so sorry for your loss but I am thankful to know in not alone. My husband and I made the decision to disrupt our preadoptive placement of our daughter after only 8 weeks. She was 13 and it was so clear we were not equipped to handle her trauma. We pray for her daily and 6 weeks later are still putting our lives back together. Thank you for sharing. Your words were what I needed tonight.

    • Stephanie, I’m so sorry that you had to go through the same thing. I’m still trying to put my life back together after 2 years. It is a long road. (Well, it has been for me anyway.) You definitely aren’t alone. Praying you find some peace soon.

  20. We are in a similar situation. We are considering disrupting. We adopted two sibling’s (that have 4 other sibs in care). 9 and 61/2. The boy was interfering with his younger sister – we discovered this a few months in to adoption probation. We disrupted his adoption with us right away when we found this out. Both presented with ADHD, low cognition – but the reports said they had ‘healthy attachment’ with the foster family and were ‘trending upwards”. Our daughter has recently been diagnosed as having disorganized attachment, my understanding is that this is the worst kind of attachment disorder. She has not developed empathy, she can simulate it in certain circumstances – but its ingenuine. She is very cute and charming, but very defiant. She doesn’t internalize anything that we have tried to teach her – so we always have to expect that she won’t remember and acts out of instinct instead. She pursues hedonistic type pleasures, very superficial (treats, movies, constant attention). She is seeing an analyst twice a week (child psychiastrist with psychoanalytic approach), but her analyst has said that she has not seen evidence that she (our daughtar) actually is capable of thinking internally – all her thinking is reactive and in the moment.

    We are now faced with feeling that we can’t attach to her – as she doesn’t really have anything to attach to.

    This sucks.

  21. I know this is an old post but… thank you. We went through something somewhat similar… although she never had a plan to kill us, she began physically attacking me. We didn’t even have other kids, just us but… we couldn’t do it. Many months later, my husband said to me, “I could take anything she would throw at us. But I couldn’t take her trying to hurt you.” And that was it. Regular people, even trained as foster parents, are not up to the task of helping a child with such deep deep mental illness caused by trauma. It hurt so much. We’re still healing from the disruption. I admire that, no matter what other people thought, you recognized that you could not help her. It was better for everyone that way. I hope, years later, that your family feels more healed and that things are good for you. It helps to know that you’re not the only one. And believe me, you aren’t. We never ever thought we’d disrupt, and we spent seven months in a nightmare trying and trying… but we saw that God had a different plan for her. And we tell ourselves too that at least she got to experience what a loving family really looks like! No matter what, that’s something we gave them.

    • Jeni~Thank you for your kind words. My family has healed, but I have not. I am still struggling. So sorry that you had to go through something similar. Praying for you as you work to heal.

  22. Hi Sara – I hope it isn’t too painful to receive a comment after this much time has past. It’s balm for me to find people who have walked this road. It isn’t easy to find these stories and we are walking the immensely painful road of disrupting a foster to adopt placement of a child we felt so incredibly called to adopt. Very long story short, we knew “J”’s bio was troubling but still felt like the Lord wanted him with us. We read every book on trauma we could find and drove 5 hours every weekend for 5 months to see him before he was placed in our home. After so much prayer and support and therapy and all the things… after 8 months of being in our home (along with 2 biological children) and trudging through each very hard and difficult day… we awoke one morning to find he had brutally killed one of our pets. It was the worst day of my life to say the least. He immediately went to inpatient treatment at our local children’s hospital and from there was placed in residential care. His mental illness obviously runs deeper than we could ever be equipped to deal with, especially having 2 other children in the home. We’ve had them in therapy to deal with the entire process of how long and difficult this was on the entire family. While I know God had him with us for a season for a purpose and even if that purpose was to have him placed in a facility where he can’t hurt himself or others if still feels like I failed. This has all transpired in the last two months so it is very raw still. Lysa Turkhurst’s book Its not Supposed To Be This Way has been really good for this season. I hope you are finding ways to heal. Your honest post is helping those of us who are experiencing this know that we aren’t alone and this is indeed “a thing”. I have no idea what the future holds or how/when/if our story will ever help others but I thank you truly for making me feel less crazy in this exact moment. You aren’t alone. Much love from one sister in Christ to another.

    • Oh, Sarah. I am so sorry to hear that you have walked this road and had to make the same gut-wrenching decision. Our daughter stood over me in my sleep with a knife, so I can relate to the fear you probably had after he killed your pet. I know you’re in the raw stage, but I promise it will get better. While I haven’t completely gotten over the grief, guilt, and depression that I went into after the disruption, it has gotten better. I still feel like I failed. We felt so very called to our adoption as well. It’s hard not to question “why” when things like this happen. The simple fact that you found this post and feel less alone in the craziness helps me remember that there is a purpose for my own pain. I’m glad I could be of some help to another mom going through this. Know you aren’t alone and I’m praying for you.

  23. Stephanie says:

    Your story sounds like mine. We disrupted two years ago. In all the ways I’ve healed, some parts of my heart will always be changed. She was 13. Boy was I self righteous. God only knows what it was all for, but I trust him. He has her today as he always has. Thank you for sharing.


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