Experts push disclosure of failed foster adoptions
In this July 10, 2011 photo, Deb Carlson, left, and her husband Doug, right, have lunch with their adopted sons in Valrico, Fla. The Carlsons' adopted sons have trashed bedrooms, stolen credit cards and threatened to kill them, one drew a disturbing pictures of throwing a party after beheading the southwest Florida couple. While the overwhelming majority of adoptions end happily, some families like the Carlsons say they weren’t told about their new child’s psychological problems and can’t get help from the government agencies that recruited them. (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara)
MIAMI, Florida (AP) — Deb and Doug Carlsons' adopted sons have trashed bedrooms, stolen credit cards and threatened to kill them. One drew a disturbing picture of beheading the southwest Florida couple and throwing a party.
When the Carlsons adopted the now teenage boys from foster care in 2007, they were handed a slim file with few details except the two suffered from attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. No one told the empty nesters the boys had severe mental health issues and had bounced among foster homes. Now teenagers, the boys are living in separate therapeutic group homes.
Therapists say one son needs to be in a supervised residential facility, which the state government no longer will pay for unless the Carlsons restore custody to the state.
"We love him and he's part of our family. To have to make such a difficult decision to get him the care he needs is ludicrous. It sends a horrible message to him," said 55-year-old Deb Carlson. "You really feel like once you sign on the dotted line you're on your own. You're totally abandoned by the state."
While the overwhelming majority of adoptions end happily, some families like the Carlsons say they were not told about their new child's psychological problems and cannot get help from government agencies that recruited them.
The Carlsons' complaints come amid a nationwide push to find homes for older foster care children and those with serious behavioral and mental health problems, which can emotionally and financially drain adoptive families. Most states focus money on recruiting parents but once a child is adopted little money is directed to supporting the new families, some experts say. About 50,000 foster children are adopted annually in the U.S., almost double the number in the 1990s.
"We place them in an adoptive home, and we don't support or train the parents ... we sometimes set families up to fail and then those children are placed back in the system," said Rita Soronen, president of The Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption. The Ohio nonprofit estimates more than 20 percent of the nearly 6,300 foster children it has served came from failed adoptions.
There is no national data to show how many adoptions fail or track how many children need additional help, and states are not required to track or report the figures. Florida is among the few states tracking so-called disrupted and dissolved adoptions, which happens when adoptive families return children to foster care while in the process or after completing an adoption. Florida had nearly 200 dissolved or disrupted adoptions in 2008-2009, a year when the state had 3,777 adoptions. Most of the dissolved adoptions each year actually dissolve adoptions that occurred in previous years.