How to Handle a Failed Adoption

There are many common fears among couples seeking to create or expand their family through adoption. One of the biggest fears is “failed” adoptions – an adoption that starts but, for one reason or another, doesn’t finish. Failed adoptions happen for many reasons, but they’re never easy to deal with. That said, there are a few ways to make a failed adoption hurt a little bit less.

What To Do if Your Adoption Fails

It can happen at any point in the process. The phone rings, and the last message you wanted to hear comes through: The mother changed her mind and wants to parent her baby. Suddenly all the planning, all the waiting, and all the anticipation is swept out from under you. A failed adoption can be a huge blow to your spirit and your family. But you can still handle this situation with grace. Here are a few of the best things to do in the event of a lost adoption:

  • Take Time to Grieve – No matter how far along you are in the adoption process, a failed adoption hurts. Recognizing that pain is part of the healing process. You and your partner should take the time you need to grieve the loss of your awaited adopted child. However, it is also important not to let the loss consume you. One failure – or even several – doesn’t mean adoption isn’t still part of your journey.
  • Take time to Heal – In addition to mourning the loss of your child through adoption, you should also take some time away from the process to heal and come back strong. Now might be a good time for a vacation, a trip to the spa, or even a project you’ve been meaning to finish. Many people find comfort in exercise or group activities. The important thing is to find something that will fulfill you mentally and spiritually.
  • Send a Gift to the Baby – If the birth family chose to parent the baby, it can help to send a small gift or card to them. Remember, their decision didn’t only affect you. Showing kindness is a great way to move past any pent up feelings of frustration or loss. It can also help you journey through the “grieving” process and move on to find another adoption opportunity.
  • Seek Out Support – You aren’t the first expectant adoptive parents to suffer through a failed adoption. There are lots of groups, both in person and online, that offer support. This is where an adoption agency can be very helpful. Unlike facilitators and lawyers, agencies often have extensive support networks for these situations. They may even offer their own counseling and group sessions.
  • Remember that Adoptions can Change – The anticipation and excitement of being matched with a birth mother can be overwhelming. It’s common for parents to forget – or at least ignore – that adoptions aren’t final until all the legal paperwork is signed. Until then, things can and do change. It’s easy to get your heart set on a certain child, but don’t let your excitement take over reality.
  • Broaden Your Search – Finally, if you do experience a failed adoption, it’s sometimes helpful to go back to the start of the process and think about expanding your search network. Broader match parameters can help you get matched again more quickly.

How Not to Handle a Failed Adoption

Unfortunately, the above advice isn’t easy to follow. Many adoptive parents end up doing damaging actions after their adoption disrupts. Grief, anger and frustration can cause people to do many things they wouldn’t normally do. However, if you know what to avoid, you’re less likely to go down that same path.

  • Don’t Vent Online – One of the most popular and unproductive behaviors after an adoption fails is to take it out on social media. Many adoptive parents give regular online updates on Facebook, Twitter, or personal blogs. If their adoption fails, they end up writing vindictive and critical posts to friends and followers. This can do a lot of harm to your future adoption chances. Birth parents and agency representatives might be less willing to match with you if you can’t show emotional restraint online.
  • Don’t Contact the Birth Family Directly – Another big mistake many adoptive parents make is trying to contact or see the birth family after the fact. Some parents try to change the birth mother’s mind, others ask prying or difficult questions, and some just criticize. In any case, these actions do far more harm than good. Remember that the birth mother isn’t making her decision lightly. It’s likely causing her as much pain and confusion as it causes you. Contacting her only makes the decision more painful.
  • Don’t Give Up – The last thing you should do when an adoption fails is stop trying. Just because one adoption doesn’t work out doesn’t mean adoption isn’t for you. Adoptions fail for many reasons, but they all boil down to the same one: it wasn’t meant to be. But that doesn’t mean there’s not another birth mother or child out there waiting for you. Keep trying and never lose the hope to find the right child for your family.

Deaconess Pregnancy and Adoptions helps pair birth families and adoptive parents every day. We know how hard it can be to go through a failed adoption. But you should know you aren’t alone. We offer support, guidance and other services to families seeking to adopt in Oklahoma and beyond. Call (405) 949-4200 today to learn how we can help your family grow, or visit our Facebook page to learn about some of our created families and other events and services.