How to Cope with a Disrupted Adoption

For hopeful waiting parents, facing an adoption disruption is a common concern — and, when it does happen, a heartbreaking experience.

While most adoption professionals do everything they can to prevent and protect families from experiencing a disruption, there is always the possibility that an adoption opportunity won’t work out. Because prospective birth parents can choose to discontinue the adoption process at any time until their rights are legally terminated, adoption disruptions inevitably happen from time to time.

When a disruption happens, it can feel like a devastating loss for hopeful adoptive parents. If you find yourself facing this situation, here are some things you can do to cope:

  • Take time to grieve. An adoption disruption is a very real loss, and it’s important to take some time to process your emotions. Acknowledge your feelings of shock, sadness, anger, pain and disappointment. Many hopeful parents try to ignore these feelings, but that often only complicates the healing process — which can lead to challenges in your adoption journey later on.
  • Have empathy. When a prospective birth mother changes her mind about her adoption plan and decides to parent, it’s all too easy to assign blame. You may be angry, and it’s possible that you may misdirect that anger at the baby’s mother. Put yourself in her shoes, and remember the difficult position she was in and the decision she was making.

    As one adoptive mom put it, “The birth mom and I had developed a strong connection over the past two months, and I just wanted her to know that we weren’t mad and we weren’t upset with her [when the adoption disrupted]. She fell in love with her child and wanted to be the mom… and we can’t blame her for that.”

  • Be kind to yourself. Similarly, it’s all too easy for adoptive parents to misdirect their anger inward and blame themselves. You might find yourself thinking: Could I have changed this outcome? Why didn’t I do things differently? This is my fault.

    Avoid this negative self-talk, and remember that in most cases, an adoption disruption is no one’s fault. Disruptions can be difficult to predict and often aren’t preventable. Be kind to yourself.

  • Seek support. You never have to face the challenges of adoption alone. Lean on friends and family members and accept any support that is offered to you. Remember that you can always reach out to your adoption specialist for counseling, and you may also find comfort in adoptive family support groups.
  • Give your partner time. Everyone experiences loss differently. You and your partner may have different ways of handling your emotions, and you may not always move through the grieving process at the same pace or in the same order.

    This is completely normal, and it’s okay if both partners aren’t immediately on the same page after an adoption disruption. Give each other time and space to process this experience in your own way. Keep communication open, and make sure you are both ready to take the next step before moving forward with your family-building process.

  • Determine your next move. This may be a bump in the road, but it’s not the end of your journey. Once you have had time to fully grieve your disrupted adoption, it’s time to decide how you want to move forward. Determine when and whether you want to continue with the adoption process, or you may want to consider other family-building alternatives, instead.

    Some adoption agencies offer disruption insurance that returns any lost funds to you, so you can take as much time as you need to decide when and whether to search for another adoption opportunity. Other agencies may immediately “roll over” any lost funds to another adoption opportunity. Talk to your adoption professional about your options.

  • Have faith. As difficult as this may be right now, trust in the process. Try to remember that, eventually, you will end up with the child that was always meant to be a part of your family.

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