The Tennessean published a sad story earlier this week: four-year-old Kairissa XingJing Mark came to the US from China just three months ago; according to journalist Jennifer Brooks, now her adoptive mother, Dr. Deborah Wen Yee Mark, a pediatrician, stands accused of beating her to death.
Last week, a Wilson County grand jury indicted Mark on one count of first-degree murder and eight counts of child abuse. It also indicted her husband, Steven Joshua Mark, a stay-at-home dad, on multiple counts of aggravated child abuse, child abuse, failure to protect and of being an accessory after the fact. The couple's 8-year-old biological daughter is in foster care. Police say she told them she witnessed some of the attacks on her little sister...
In April, news broke that an adoptive mother from Tennessee had put her 6-year-old son on a plane back to Russia, with a note saying she no longer wanted him. The incident sparked an international uproar and threats of a moratorium on further adoptions from Russia.
"We do expect changes to happen," said Chuck Johnson, CEO of the National Council for Adoption, who has been in contact with the Chinese government about the case. Overall, rates of abuse of adopted children tend to be lower than among biological children, he said, but "every tragedy is one too many.
I think it's time for the adoption community to stop labeling these tragedies as anomalies and instead take a long, hard look at the demands of parenting an older adopted child. As I read the sad story of Kairissa XingJing Mark, I couldn't help but think that everyone responsible for this placement, including the parents themselves, probably thought the Marks well well-prepared to bring an adopted child into their home: they were already raising a daughter. Mother was a pediatrician devoted to caring for children with a well-developed understanding of any potential medical needs. Mother apparently of Chinese ancestry. Stay at-home dad available to give the new child extra attention. No doubt everything looked good on paper -- but was the family truly prepared to meet the needs of an adopted older child? Did they receive appropriate counseling and support form their agency after Kairissa came home? This story doesn't offer many details, but these are questions that the adoption community needs to answer to prevent more tragedies.