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.