disruption: 3 things for parents to consider

March 26, 2015 by nohandsbutours 1 Comments

Today we finish out our month-long series on disruption with a post by Amy Eldridge of Love Without Boundaries Foundation. We are so grateful to include her voice of experience here, as she has spent years working on behalf of orphans in China and has witnessed the wake of disruption on families and children – her insight on this subject is invaluable.

If you haven’t read the previous posts in this series, we hope you will. Disruption is a heartbreaking reality, but with education, support and preparation, it is our hope that even one disruption might be averted. We featured an introductory post with disruption facts, and followed with posts from three mothers: a mother who adopted a child from a disruption, a mother who disrupted during the harmonious period while in China and a mother who, despite significant, undisclosed issues discovered while in China, chose to complete the adoption. Thank you to each of these moms for sharing their very personal story.


I’ve had the honor of working with orphaned children for the last 12 years and have said many times that nothing can change their lives in a more profound way than adoption. Having a permanent family not only allows a child to belong and be loved, but it also gives many children, especially those with special needs, access to education and continued medical care.

When a child in one of our programs is chosen by a family, whether domestically or internationally, I am always so happy to know they’re getting a chance to be someone’s treasured son or daughter.


I wish I could say that is always the outcome, but there have been many times over the last decade that children have been returned to the orphanage when the adoption process was disrupted. And then a shocked adoption community almost always reacts by asking how anyone could change their minds and send a child back to institutional care. It seemed so black and white to me as well in the past. If you made a commitment to adopt, then you had a moral duty to bring that child home, no matter what.

But once orphan care and adoption became my daily life, I began to see that it’s much more complicated than that. Rushing to judge the family or the child during a time of high emotions is rarely productive. Now when a child in our programs is disrupted, I feel only sorrow for everyone involved, but I then remind myself that perhaps it means the particular family isn’t the right one for that child. I learned that lesson in the most awful way possible.


Many years ago, I was called by a family adopting a little girl I had met many times in China. She was very serious when you first met her, but once she warmed up she had a great smile and a gentle personality. The orphanage nannies liked her very much, and she had many friends in her preschool room.

I had no reason to think her adoption would go any way but positive, but then the adoptive father called me from China and told me quite bluntly that they didn’t like this child. That she was sullen and withdrawn. I encouraged them the best way I could and told them to give it more time as her whole world had been turned upside down. A few days later the mom called me – to complain that the little girl smelled terrible and seemed more like a boy in the way she carried herself than the dainty girl they were expecting. I was truly taken aback by the tone of the call, but assured them she was a kind little girl and to give it more time.

The last call I received was the day before they left China. The father told me tersely that they still didn’t like her, but they were going to bring her home because legally “they had to.” I hung up from that call heartbroken – and extremely worried. I never heard from the parents again.

A few years later, I received a phone call from a social worker who was trying to piece together this little girl’s story. The parents had never bonded with her, and in fact had emotionally and verbally abused her for years, addressing her as “Monster” and not letting her eat with the rest of the family. She had finally been removed from their home and was placed into state care.

I cried so hard that day after hanging up the phone, knowing I had played a part in convincing the family to bring her home. I will carry that regret with me the rest of my life. How I wish they had disrupted in China, as the gentle little girl I knew could have gone back to her known life in the orphanage and waited for the right family to choose her, a family who would love her for exactly who she was. Instead she had come home with parents who had decided they didn’t like her while still in her birth country, and she paid the terrible price of being told for years that she wasn’t good enough to be their daughter.


I have heard countless reasons from families and orphanage directors on why adoptions have ended in disruption. Some are a bit bewildering, like the family who disrupted a baby with cleft because milk kept coming out of her nose or the family who disrupted a child because she struggled with walking, even though her adoption file clearly stated that she had lower limb issues.

The majority of disruptions are due to behavior, of course (too wild, too withdrawn, too clingy, too angry). These can be agonizing times for parents trying to decide if a child’s behavioral responses are due to the stress of being handed over to complete strangers, or if they are seeing behavior they fear could throw their lives into complete turmoil. Some disruptions I have seen stem from a parent’s own personal belief on things, such as masturbation, a known self-stimulation behavior for older kids not touched or hugged growing up, but a behavior that different people view in very different ways. Then there are really complex and difficult disruptions, involving non-disclosed conditions such as autism, mental illness, or sexual abuse, which are definitely topics that are rarely black and white.


Few people go into adoption thinking it could end in disruption, just as few people plan a wedding while contemplating their divorce. I don’t believe anyone makes the decision to adopt from a foreign country thinking they will fly across the ocean and then change their minds, but the reality is that it happens every single month.

In working so many times with disruption, there are three key things I wish more people would consider:

1. It is essential to talk through every possible scenario you can think of with your family, so you aren’t surprised when you get to China.

Research the worst complications for your child’s special need, even if they aren’t noted in their adoption file. If you’re adopting a child with spina bifida, for example, learn about tethered cords. If you’re adopting a child whose file clearly states “developmental delays,” don’t just research physical delays but intellectual ones as well. Have open discussions about the behavioral possibilities you might face. What happens if your child lashes out with anger at being taken from all he knows and even physically fights you to get away? What happens if your child starts self-stimulating at night in your hotel room? What happens if your child seems off the charts wild, or is physically over-affectionate, or completely shuts down?

And definitely ask yourself what you will do if you get to China and don’t immediately feel a connection to your new child. I’ve talked to many parents who say disruption could never happen for them because they want the adoption more than anything in the world or because God placed it on their hearts, but I’ve seen plenty of people who were 100% committed to a child before travel still end up stopping the adoption in-country.

2. Don’t ever leave for China without a list of at least three trusted people you can call and be totally honest with after receiving your child.

With one recent disruption, the family felt completely isolated while in China and couldn’t reach their agency. They had so many questions and concerns about what they should do, but they weren’t able to connect with someone they trusted. The only person they could talk with was a Chinese guide who was hired through the travel service, and he had no idea about orphanage behaviors or whether what they were experiencing was in the realm of normal.

There is of course a lot of shame surrounding disruption, and I think some people are afraid to openly admit things aren’t going well. Don’t leave for China without at least a few “lifelines,” even if you think you will never be faced with such a decision.


Yes, that one needs all capital letters. I know in the age of social media that it’s a terribly embarrassing thing to disrupt, especially if you have a whole host of people following your journey online. I understand that families feel a need to justify their decision, especially since there is a tendency to vilify people who end a child’s adoption.

However, if everyone was honest with themselves, the very WORST time to try and explain a disruption is when you are in the middle of such emotional chaos. Parents are often exhausted and jetlagged; they have just made a decision that will impact their lives in a major way, and they are dealing with the pain and grief of having their adoption dreams shattered. That is never the time to blame the child, and the key word in that sentence for everyone to remember is that we are talking about a CHILD.

I wish so much that parents in the middle of disruption wouldn’t diagnose children online with labels like RAD, mental retardation, or sexual predator. While any of those labels could end up being true, few of us are probably equipped to make those definitive diagnoses on our own after spending just a few hours or even days with a child. I have seen those labels stick for years post-disruption, and in many cases they simply weren’t true.

I honestly wish it was an agency rule that parents who disrupt are prohibited from posting anything about the child online. Especially not until the agency, the orphanage staff, and medical experts can review everything that happened once emotions are calmer.


Thankfully, the vast majority of children I know who were disrupted in-country have gone on to be chosen by the exact right families for them the second time around. But therein lies one of the biggest questions – how can we ensure that as many children as possible are placed permanently in families the very first time?

I know that is far easier said than done, since every child and every family comes to the adoption with their own unique histories. Without a doubt, disruption is a topic that brings out very heated opinions, but it is a reality that we in the adoption community shouldn’t ignore. If more families and agencies are open and honest in discussing the “what if” possibilities, perhaps the number of children being returned to orphanage care will grow smaller every year.






In her work at Love Without Boundaries Foundation, Amy has written a blog series to help parents as they prepare to meet their new child.

Please consider reading through this excellent series, it will be such a wise investment of your time on behalf of your growing family and, most of all, your new child.



You can read all of Amy’s Realistic Expectations posts here:

Realistic Expectations: Cleanliness
Realistic Expectations: Potty Training
Realistic Expectations: Clothing
Realistic Expectations: Child Preparation
Realistic Expectations: Food Issues
Realistic Expectations: Attachment
Realistic Expectations: Parasites
Realistic Expectations: Post-Adoption Struggles

find my family: William

March 26, 2015 by nohandsbutours 0 Comments

Adorable 6.5 year old William is newly listed with Madison Adoption Associates. William is diagnosed as having hydrocephalus and spina bifida- tethered cord syndrome. He had surgery for both conditions. William is outgoing and active. He is talkative and quick to laugh. He gets along well with his friends when playing games. He is energetic and smart. William loves playing games, playing with toys, and listening to music.


William has been selected to participate in MAA 2015 Summer Hosting Program if he is not matched to a family in the next couple of months. The Summer Hosting Program is open to approved families who live in Illinois or Missouri. Please contact Michelle for more information about becoming a host family. William has a $2,000 agency grant with Madison Adoption Associates for being a special focus boy. During the month of March, new applications will receive an additional $1,000 grant/agency fee reduction and all waiting children on Madison’s list, including William, will have a $500 grant/agency fee reduction. Other grants may be available based on the adoptive family circumstances. Grants are awarded as agency fee reductions.

To review William’s file, please go here.

If you are interested in hosting or adopting William, please fill out a free PAP Waiting Child Review Form, which can be found here.

Caring for her heart

March 25, 2015 by nohandsbutours 6 Comments

I rarely seem to get the significant conversations when I try to start them. But, I try anyway. I don’t try everyday; neither of us need it everyday. In fact, there have been weeks that go by with no real attempts on my part to open those doors. But, every once in a while, when I see an opportunity, I gently push those cracked doors of her heart open, just to keep them open. It’s part of my job as her mother, as much a part of my job as making her lunch, brushing her teeth at night, and making sure she does her homework. Heart care is what I signed up for when we put our thumbs in red ink. And, even though it isn’t always pretty, I’m in.

Lydia March 3

On her brother’s birthday, after we talk about his birth story, she may hear something like this…

“You didn’t grow in my belly like your brother did, did you? Some kids may feel a little sad or mad about that at times. I wonder if you ever feel sad or mad about it. Well, if you ever do, you can tell me.”

When someone asks her where she’s from or if she speaks English, she may hear something like this…

“I love that you’re Chinese. It’s part of who you are, and I love who you are. Some kids may like the extra attention that being special gives them. Maybe you do. But, some kids may feel a little sad or mad when people don’t understand who they really are and single them out. I wonder how you feel about it. Well, either way, you can tell me.”

A pause. That’s the most I receive from her in response typically. She stops, she hears me, she may smile, she may give me an okay, and then she’s off again. It could feel like my efforts aren’t all that helpful, that she’s too young to get it, that there’s really no need for it. In those moments, I just shrug my shoulders and tell myself that it’s good practice for me even if it’s not so much sinking in for her. But, there are other moments sprinkled in that tell me, yes, all my efforts are worthwhile.

I don’t remember what I was doing when she came to me. It was ordinary, insignificant. She came up real close.



“My China mommy misses me, but I don’t miss her.”

“Oh, honey, that’s hard. It’s hard to miss someone you don’t remember.”

I hugged her. I held her for a few seconds, just long enough to assure her, I hope, that I was a safe place for her to share her brokenness as well as all the good, fun stuff — and there’s plenty of that to share. She heard me, she smiled, she gave me an okay, and then she was off again.

Lydia March 2

It’s been my intended message all along, every time I tried walking through those open doors: Feelings are part of being alive. You’ll have good feelings and bad feelings — sometimes even at the same exact time. I’m here to process all of them with you. I’m safe. I’m able. I’m willing.

Every time I try, I firmly believe that I’m getting better at loving her well. And, every time I try, I firmly believe she’s getting better at taking it in.


March 24, 2015 by nohandsbutours 12 Comments


We say yes.  We say yes to adoption.  Not because we are ready, gutsy, extra loving, secure, or financially capable. We say yes to adopting children with special needs.  Not because we are strong, capable, patient, knowledgeable, or prepared. We say yes to adopting children with developmental delays. Not because we are competent, gentle, even …Read More

four families found

March 24, 2015 by nohandsbutours 0 Comments


Advocating for Children Who Wait is an important part of what we do here on No Hands But Ours. We celebrate with great joy every time we learn that there is a Family Found for one of these children. Today we would like to share four children who were highlighted on NHBO who now have …Read More

Adopting a Child with Vision Impairment: 8 Things to Consider

March 23, 2015 by nohandsbutours 5 Comments


December 11, 2011 in Fujian was cool, damp and grey. We were waiting in a conference room at the hotel with another couple from the US. This wasn’t the first time we’d done this. We had waited in similar rooms four times prior to this; however, this time was very different. Long after, we would …Read More

Aging Out Child: Summer

March 22, 2015 by nohandsbutours 1 Comments


Summer will age out and no longer be available for adoption on her 14th birthday which is less than 2 months away on May 15th. She needs a family already in process who is motivated to expedite her adoption before this day. Summer has Cerebral Palsy and her gait is slightly affected. She is described …Read More

World Down Syndrome Day 2015

March 21, 2015 by nohandsbutours 0 Comments


March 21st. The 21st day of the 3rd month of the year. A day picked specifically to celebrate those with a 3rd copy of their 21st chromosome. And this day specifically to increase awareness of the global blessing of Down syndrome! There is no firm data on how many beautiful people there are world wide …Read More

Urgent Heart Waiting Child: Tanner

March 20, 2015 by nohandsbutours 0 Comments


Meet Tanner! This little guy is in urgent need of a family. He has waited way too long with a serious Congenital Heart Defect. Tanner was born in June of 2005. He is now 9 years old. Tanner was found at the age of 10 months old in a park in the province where he …Read More

with open arms: adopting from disruption

March 19, 2015 by nohandsbutours 6 Comments


We stood shivering on a strange doorstep sixteen long hours from home. It was nerves mixed with excitement that churned inside me as we raised our hand to knock on the door. A stack of boxes and suitcases greeted us in the foyer when the door opened. We stepped inside and a little boy with …Read More