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April 2013Vol. 14, No. 3Study Explores Broken Adoptions

While there are no reliable statistics, a new study suggests that a significant number of children who have been adopted from foster care later reenter out-of-home care. In a recent journal article, "The Revolving Door of Family Court: Confronting Broken Adoptions," authors Dawn Post and Brian Zimmerman of the Children's Law Center New York (CLCNY) examine case data collected from attorneys who work with the New York City family court to determine the causes of broken adoptions and whether such disruptions were preventable.

The authors reviewed 6 months' worth of cases of broken adoptions and guardianship cases in which the children returned to family court, in addition to surveying the New York City Family Court bench and several attorney groups. Of the survey responses, 70 percent said they had seen cases return to family court, and one-third of the respondents indicated that between 5 and 25 percent of cases that returned to the family court involved adopted children.

Adopted children can return to the court system in a number of ways, including through allegations of abuse or neglect in the adoptive home, requests by the parent for voluntary placement of the child, or charges of juvenile delinquency. Although each family's situation is unique, a common theme throughout these cases was the adoptive family's realization that they lacked the resources to adequately address the adopted child's needs.
The authors suggest that many broken adoptions could be prevented by better preparing the adoptive family before placement and expanding the availability of targeted postadoption services.

Originally published in the Capital University Law Review, the article is available from the CLCNY website: (508 KB)