Abuse in Adoptive Families

In the U.S., approximately four to seven children die each day as a result of child abuse or neglect. The abuse of children is horrific in any instance but takes on added scrutiny when it is at the hands of adoptive parents. High-profile cases of child abuse by adoptive parents, such as the death of Hana Williams or Madoc O’Callaghan, raise questions of the responsibility of adoption agencies in safeguarding children, particularly the role of in-depth background checks of potential parents.

Child abuse can cause long-term health effects to the victim’s life expectancy, mental health and stability, and physical well-being. These effects may be further compounded among adoptees, who also have the added trauma of separation from their first family and, in the case of transnational adoptees, birth culture. Comprehensive post-adoption services are needed to help adoptees’ process the trauma associated with adoption, however these services are not readily available and are often cost-prohibitive. Similarly, the services needed to address child abuse and neglect are often limited.

While it is unclear if there are differences in the rate of child abuse within adoptive families compared to families overall, it is important to be aware of the signs of child abuse. To learn more about child abuse statistics and how to identify it and intervene for child safety, see:




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