Disruption & Dissolution

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What is Disruption?

The term disruption is used to describe an adoption which does not continue, resulting in the child returning to foster care and/or to another set of adoptive parent(s).

What is Dissolution?

The term dissolution is used to describe an adoption that fails after finalization, resulting in the child returning to foster care and/or another set of adoptive parent(s).

How Many Adoptions Disrupt?

  • Most adoptions do not disrupt before legalization; over 80% remain intact. (Groza and Rosenberg, 1998)
  • Most adoptions do not dissolve; over 98% are not terminated after legalization. (Groza and Rosenberg, 1998)
  • Very few adoptions are contested: less than .1% each year. (Groza and Rosenthal, 1998)
  • Adoption disruption and dissolution rates have remained relatively consistent over the past 15 years, ranging between 10 and 20 percent, depending on the type of adoption. (Barth and Berry, 1988)
  • Disruption can range as widely as 3% to 53%, depending on group being studied and the calculating techniques being used. (Stolley, 1993)

What Kinds of Adoptions Disrupt?

  • Less than 1% of infant adoptions disrupt. (Barth and Berry, 1988)
  • 10% to 12% of adoptions of children aged three and older disrupt. (Barth and Berry, 1990)
  • Of children placed for adoption at ages 6 to 12, the disruption rate is 9.7%. (Barth, 1988)
  • Of children placed for adoption at ages 12 to 18, the disruption rate is 13.5%. (Barth, 1988)
  • Of children of any age with special needs placed for adoption, the disruption rate is 14.3%. (Groze, 1986)
  • Placements of older children and children with histories of previous placements and longer stays in the foster care system are more likely to disrupt (Stolley, 1993)
  • The disruption rate increases as the age of the child at the time of adoption increases. (Boyne et al., 1984; Barth and Berry, 1988)
  • The overall decrease in disruption percentages in 1988 from 1984 can be traced to the introduction of post-adoption services, an important factor in containing the number of adoption disruptions. (Barth and Berry, 1988)


Barth, R.P. and Berry, M. (1988). Adoption and disruption: rates, risks, and responses. Hawthorne, NY: Adline de Gruyter.

Boyne, J., Denby, L., Kettenring, J.R., and Wheeler, W. (1984). The shadow of success: A statistical analysis of outcomes of adoptions of hard-to-place children. Westfield, NJ: Spaulding for Children.

Groza, V. and Rosenberg, K. (1998). Clinical and practice issues in adoption: bridging the gap between adoptees placed as infants and as older children. Westport, Connecticut: Praeger.

Groze, V. (1986). Special needs adoption. Child and Youth Services Review, 8(4), 363-373.

Stolley, K.S. (1993). Statistics on adoption in the United States. The Future of Children: Adoption, 3(1), 26-42.

Credits: Child Welfare Information Gateway (http://www.childwelfare.gov)

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