It has not been a good week for trans-racial adoptive parents. First there was the case of the Dutch diplomat and his wife, which I wrote about earlier this week, who dumped their adopted Korean daughter on Hong Kong officials after 7 years. Now, a woman in Indianapolis has been charged with killing her adopted Korean 13 month old. Rebecca Kyrie is facing the charges of murder, battery resulting in death, neglect resulting in death, and aggravated battery in the Sept. 4th death of Hei Min Chung. Autopsy results show the baby died from blunt cranio-cerebal injuries associated with shaken baby syndrome. Rebecca and her husband adopted Hei Min Chung less than 6 months ago.
After my initial reaction of horror, sadness, and anger upon hearing of these stories, I began to wonder about the comparative rates of infanticide and homicide of children living with non-genetic caregivers vs. those with genetic parents. Does a lack of a genetic bond increase a child’s risk of being killed by their caregiver? And if so, what are the implications for adopted children and the whole adoption process – particularly cross-border adoptions. Unfortunately, research from the late 1990’s shows that stepparents are 100 times more likely to fatally abuse their children than genetic parents – the rates are even higher when just looking at stepfathers.
On a positive note (if there is such a thing when examining this topic), there was no variation in fatal abuse rates between adopted parents and genetic parents. The researchers believe the lack of variance is due in part to 1) the fact that adoptive parents are highly motivated and undergo greater scrutiny during the adoption process, and 2) adopted parents tend to return children to adoption agencies more frequently than appreciated. Current rates of adoption dissolution or disruption (unsuccessful adoptions) are about 10 – 20%.
Two thoughts popped into my head when applying these rationales to cross-border adoptions. First, don’t people turn to international adoptions b/c the process is easier and faster and there is less scrutiny? Therefore, wouldn’t it be logical to conclude that adoptive parents entering into the international adoption market are less likely to be vetted and there is greater risk for unfit parents to adopt a foreign child. Secondly, while disruption and dissolution might be viable options to end an adoption that hasn’t bonded well, isn’t it a lot harder for parents of cross-border adoptions to return their child to the home agency? It’s not like a family can just purchase a one way plane ticket to China and stick their 13 month old adopted child in the seat. The logistical complexity of dissolving a cross-border adoption may be enough to convince the parents that it is not an option for them.
All this to say…the world of cross-border adoption and trans-racial adoption is not a simple one to tread. I salute the loving parents who are raising healthy, well-adjusted (relatively speaking) adopted children, and also the children and adults growing up in multi-ethnic adoptive homes. I’m now going to go and read something happy and get all these negative adoption stories out of my head.