When families un-adopt a child

As of this writing, 15 children were available for second-chance adoptions on the agency’s website. The majority of them were children of color, in keeping with the demographics of adoptions generally. Accurate statistics are not available for how commonplace second adoptions are, due to a wide variety of factors that include the closed nature of some adoptions, changed names on Social Security cards and birth certificates, and other paperwork issues. But the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services estimates that of the approximately 135,000 adoptions finalized every year in the U.S., between 1 and 5 percent of them end up being legally dissolved.

Legally speaking, adopted children are recognized as no different from biological children. And for this reason, parents who opt to put a child up for re-adoption are doing nothing more legally complicated than any parent who puts a child up for adoption. But children who end up in need of adoption a second time will have their lives deeply disrupted, and the experience could leave them with lifelong doubts about their worth. What is society to do with children whose adoptive parents no longer want them? Another adoption, coupled with hopes for a better outcome, is often the unfortunate best option.

Unsurprisingly, experts say that an adoption dissolution carries a significant risk of trauma to the child.