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That “rare” word again…

23 Sep

By TAO

Words can be used to exaggerate when you want to blow things out of proportion, or used to dismiss, or soothe, to minimize concern.  One of the favorite terms used to minimize is rare.  It makes the reader feel so much better to know something rarely happens vs. saying some, or sometimes happens.  People dismiss concerns when something rarely happens, you can almost hear someone exhale when they hear that term used.

I was reading this post (and no, I’m not even going to get started on everything else, I don’t have that much time), but when I read the word rare, it  made me sit up and question the use of the term because it noted in one paragraph that:

This is why when some countries hear about rare instances of adoptive family abuse: that is what they are used to seeing in their own culture.”

Trying to get any statistics on child abuse by adoptive parents in the US is hard.  You can’t get a complete picture using incomplete stats, but you can get a rough idea if you look at the stats from HSS.  The figures in this post are from the report below and would include adoptive parents from all types of adoption.  It’s an imperfect snapshot at best, as it only reports the number of adoptive parents perpetrators (duplicated count), not the number of children, and not all states broke out adoptive parent parental type.

This report is for the year 2012, some snippets to understand…

“Using a duplicated count of perpetrators, meaning a perpetrator is counted each time the same perpetrator is associated with maltreated a child, the total duplicated count of perpetrators was 893,659.  For 2012: Four-fifths (80.3%) of duplicated perpetrators were parents.” (pg. Summary xii)

Child population of reporting states in 2012: 74,150,798.  Unique victims: 678,810. (pg. 30) Per 1,000 children in the population: 9.2  (pg. 31)”

“Duplicated count of perpetrators:  Counting a perpetrator each time the perpetrator is associated with maltreating a child.  This is known as a report-child-perpetrator triad.  For example, the same perpetrator would be counted twice in all of the following situations (1) one child in two separate reports, (2) two children in a single report, and (3) two children in two separate reports.” (pg. 61)  “Total duplicated perpetrators 893,659”  (pg. 62)

“Table 5-6 Perpetrators by Parental Type, 2012 (duplicated count).  States were excluded from this analysis if more than 95 percent of perpetrators were reported with unknown relationships.  This table displays the breakdown by parental type of the total number of parent perpetrators from table 5-5 Perpetrators by Relationship to their Victims.  Some states were able to report that the perpetrator was a parent, but did not report a further breakdown of the type of parent.” (pg. 64) (see pg. 73 for actual table)

Reviewing the report shows Table 5-6 Perpetrators by Parental Type, 2012 (duplicated count) of the 49 states reporting (Puerto Rico is included so out of 51 states, Idaho and Louisiana are not reported).  One state, Connecticut only uses the Unknown Parental Type for all types of parents.  In all, 21 of the 49 states put numbers in the Unknown Parental Type, that category accounts for 7.0 percent of the total.

Only 41 of the 49 reporting states list Adoptive Parents as a Parental Type.  States included in the report that do not report Adoptive Parent status (or there was no abuse by an AP) are: Connecticut, Indiana, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Puerto Rico, South Dakota, and Washington.

Overall all the breakdown by percent is as follows: Adoptive Parents 0.7, Biological Parents 88.5, Step Parent 3.9, Unknown Parental Type 7.0.

From the Table 5-6, there were 4,725 Adoptive Parent Perpetrators (duplicated count) in 2012.  A total of 0.7 percent of all Perpetrators identified by Parental Type including Unknown Parental Type (duplicated count).

That number is only for 41 states, and one of the states not reporting by Adoptive Parent type is Washington, and we know that they identified a problem just a couple of years ago, that resulted in a study by the state on the severe abuse of adopted children (see this post).

Having said that, and taking into consideration that while the 0.7 percentage compared to all other Parental types is miniscule, the percentage of children under 18 in the US who were adopted is estimated at 2.4 percent of all children (per the 2010 Census).  That 0.7 percent isn’t as reassuring when combined with the knowledge it applies only to 2.4 percent of all children under 18, and only 41 states reported adoptive parents as a type.

So is abuse by Adoptive Parent rare?  I believe most do NOT abuse their children, but I don’t think the percentage that do abuse should ever be considered rare, some do and it’s not just the odd one, or an anomaly.  I also don’t think most biological parents abuse their children, but some do as well.

What I can say is that it is disingenuous to use words like rare, when speaking about real, live, hurt children who have been abused by parents who jumped through hoops to be screened, and intentionally chose to become their parents.  I doubt it is any comfort to the adoptees who were abused to be told it is rare for an adoptive parent to abuse their child.  No child who was abused by their parents would be comforted to know their abuse was rare, they were still abused, and no one should ever minimize, or discount that.

Please let me know if you see anything wrong with what I have written here as this was hard to put into words that made sense – I like things to be done the right way and will fix anything I have said that is incorrect.  I would also ask that comments remain civil.  No system is ever going to be perfect, but discussing hard topics like this must happen in the adoptive community, and adoptees who were abused should be heard and believed. If the community refuses to acknowledge that it happens more often that one would believe, or hope, that it isn’t just an anomaly, then continual process improvements both pre and post adoption won’t evolve to be better able to weed out those who would abuse adopted children.

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15 Comments

Posted by on September 23, 2014 in Adoption, adoptive parents

 

Tags: , ,

15 responses to “That “rare” word again…

  1. Tiffany

    September 23, 2014 at 9:13 pm

    Abuse is wrong and horrible and heartbreaking, whether it happens to an adopted child or a biological child. I want us to work towards finding a way to end it all.

    But like you said, the kicker with adoption is that the abuse occurs “by parents who jumped through hoops to be screened, and intentionally chose to become their parents.”

    I have often heard people facetiously say that we should have tests for people before they get pregnant to make sure they can actually take care of their child. Now, this won’t happen in a free society, and we all know that, but the sentiment is coming from a place of questioning how and why these people went through the trouble to have and keep their baby only to abuse that child, and is there a way we as a society could have prevented that from happening. When you actually have people who went through those very type of screenings you only half-jokingly proposed, it’s difficult to come to terms with it.

    Here’s the real kicker, though. I’ve been through the homestudy process. The idea that this would catch potential abusers is laughable, really. My husband and I were unnerved by how simplistic and surfacy it was. We believe it may have been because we already had a child who was interviewed herself by the social worker, so that may have been part of it. But we didn’t take any kind of psychological test or parenting tests. I really think we should have had to.

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    • TAO

      September 24, 2014 at 3:33 pm

      Good points Tiffany – the argument re biological parents being screened also seems to prop up how superior adoptive parents are to biological parents, it’s this mindset that needs to be debunked because it doesn’t matter what type of parent they are – there will always be *some* who abuse.

      What bothers me most though – is the different reactions to knowledge that the children were abused. In biological parenting the blame is squarely applied to the parent (as it should be). In adoption parenting – the rush to ask questions about the child before *placing blame* on the adoptive parents is the first reaction. I don’t care if the child had problems – children in biological homes have problems too – the opposite reactions based solely on the type of parent is wrong. No child ever deserves to be abused.

      I know there are more hoops than when mom and dad adopted – but – what they found in Washington was lack of required education levels, etc., in licensing requirements of those who conducted homestudies, They also found that there was no way to track if someone was shopping for a homestudy provider to pass them – or if they had been turned down or withdrawn at some point in the process. How many states have not looked at and updated what is required to be a homestudy provider, what is required to pass. I’m guessing it’s an overlooked area for many states.

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      • cb

        September 25, 2014 at 2:24 pm

        “What bothers me most though – is the different reactions to knowledge that the children were abused. In biological parenting the blame is squarely applied to the parent (as it should be). In adoption parenting – the rush to ask questions about the child before *placing blame* on the adoptive parents is the first reaction. I don’t care if the child had problems – children in biological homes have problems too – the opposite reactions based solely on the type of parent is wrong. No child ever deserves to be abused. ”

        I remember a thread on a forum a long time ago which was about a murder of a 5 year old by her father. At the time the thread started, everyone assumed that it was a biological family and the blame, quite rightly, was blamed on her father. However, it came out that the child was adopted and the tone of the thread started to change – the assumption was made that the child must have had RAD and the majority of posters started to express sympathy for the father I noticed a similar pattern with the rehoming stories – the automatic assumption was made that the child had RAD and the sympathy was for the aparents. As an adoptee reading those sort of comments, one feels that if one had been murdered by one’s parents, society might have considered one’s death more “acceptable”.

        “Here’s the real kicker, though. I’ve been through the homestudy process. The idea that this would catch potential abusers is laughable, really. My husband and I were unnerved by how simplistic and surfacy it was. We believe it may have been because we already had a child who was interviewed herself by the social worker, so that may have been part of it. But we didn’t take any kind of psychological test or parenting tests. I really think we should have had to.”

        I always thought all home study tests involved education and psychology testing. I remember on another general topic forum asking a certain PAP/moderator whether she had had to under a psychological evaluation as a matter of course and she said that it wasn’t considered necessary. As for education, judging by posts of various mixed adoption forums, I am appalled at how little some PAPs know about adoption at all. In fact, many PAPs acknowledge that they learn more on forums than they did from their agency.

        Back to the psychological testing, one problem is that different members of the triad might have different ideas as to what makes “good” adoptive parents. One poster on another forum commented that during her last home study (planning on adopting an older child (her 2nd)), the SW expressed disappointment that she hadn’t said that she had been called by God to adopt.

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        • eagoodlife

          September 25, 2014 at 10:43 pm

          Yet another example of why home studies need to be undertaken by an independent government agency not intimately involved with god or any other deity.

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        • Tiffany

          September 26, 2014 at 12:33 am

          Well, I guess we would have failed that homestudy!

          It made me really anxious that the study was so lacking. And the report had a lot of inaccuracies I had to correct them on when they first issued it. I expected more in depth questions on our parenting philosophies, how we disciplined, and probing questions meant to reveal how we really would view an adopted child. That there is no psychological test is really bothersome. I have taken three psych tests for work now, with the purpose being to help us be better aware of our strengths and weaknesses and be better employees. But I never took any to become an adoptive parent. I agree that there needs to be stricter oversight and ensure that people are not homestudy shopping, that SWs are adequately trained, and remove ties to the agency to ensure people are not being passed just to get money.

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  2. eagoodlife

    September 24, 2014 at 3:28 am

    My belief, and I come from a place where I once carried out adoption assessments, is that most are not stringent enough and never will be while there is a vested interest in adoption for profit. Most of the problems could be sorted and the abuse drastically reduced by adequate screening and assessment and a process which is not too short or lacks intensity. It’s tough to go through but you have to prove yourself able to adequately undertake the care of the children of others through adoption. It is not like biological parenting and never has been. The emphasis should be on finding the best parents for children. Abuse, torture, murder should not be happening to adoptees who are already traumatised by mother-loss and adoption. If it is the processes of your country are slack, careless, inadequate and most likely profitable.

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    • TAO

      September 24, 2014 at 3:34 pm

      I think you are right Von…

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  3. eagoodlife

    September 24, 2014 at 3:28 am

    Reblogged this on The Life Of Von and commented:
    Is abuse of adoptees rare?

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  4. Cassi

    September 24, 2014 at 3:47 am

    Another factor in that equation is the abuse that is not reported or discovered. I know, from experience, there are adoptees who have suffered abuse from their adoptive parents that may have been known by family members but was never reported or even taken seriously enough to try and remove the adoptee from the abusive environment.

    I also know, and have been absolutely heart-broken to see, the knee-jerk reaction to justify or try and sweep away the abuse when it is the adoptive parents initiating it. To the point where the effort is put into silencing the adoptees voice who speaks out about what happened to them. Something I don’t see often, or at all, when a biological child has the courage to share their own horrors of abuse.

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    • TAO

      September 24, 2014 at 3:38 pm

      True enough Cassi – why are people willing to turn a blind eye to abuse of a child. Silencing is shaming the person abused and telling they were the problem, I think that’s one of reasons I keep circling back to talk about it – it has to be something acknowledged as real in adoption. The difference between the response to biological parental abuse and adoptive parental abuse is sad.

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  5. Dannie

    September 24, 2014 at 6:20 pm

    In order to get a conversation going, I’m going to suggest that if society is serious about limiting abuse in adoptive homes, then the degree/career of social work needs an added degree/dimension of psychology/counseling more than basic psychology 101 that everyone takes. Abuse often happens by charismatic personalities or if really studied by generation of abused kids without the proper mental health help. Without knowing these factors how can an avg social worker really assess the warning signs or red flags?

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    • TAO

      September 24, 2014 at 6:23 pm

      You really are the best! Hopefully others with knowledge like this add to the comments. I’d do a post with ideas thrown out and ask for feedback…

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    • eagoodlife

      September 25, 2014 at 12:06 am

      SW training has never been adequate when it comes to adoption, trauma, grief and loss and abuse. There is always more to know, to learn and discover.

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  6. Lara/Trace

    September 24, 2014 at 11:00 pm

    Of the Native American adoptees I know personally, who have told me, most admitted abuse, almost ALL. Abuse ranged from sexual, physical and emotional. Even in the two adoption books I published, the women did not say they were sexually abused – yet they were. I agree with Cassi that most cases were not reported to police or social workers. I loved this post. We are getting to the heart of it – how can a social worker do a home study without psych training? The adoption industry was never about the child, it was about money, jobs and making forever families.

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  7. Beth

    September 26, 2014 at 1:32 pm

    I heard this one the other day:
    “Adoption is rare, our politicians and lawmakers spend the majority of their time on things that affect the majority”
    So I requested a minority of their time, which I did not really get, my cause is rare.

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