This is one of those delicate and uncomfortable subjects to address: a failed placement. Those of us who are adoptive parents know – the light at the end of the tunnel is totally worth it – parenthood! But the journey is filled with twists and turns, and, possibly, a major detour. The bad news: sometimes a family is matched with a birthmother who decides not to place her baby with them – or even not at all. The good news: almost every prospective parent who faces such challenges goes on to adopt. And these parents say they ended up with the child who was “meant to be” theirs. Here are a few ideas about what you might expect and how you might lessen your risk of an unsuccessful adoption and how to move toward your ultimate goal – parenthood.
When a prospective adoptive family starts the adoption process, you begin with paperwork – lots of it – and then the home study and subseqent approval process. Once this is complete, your profile is shown to prospective birthmother(s) and then ….you’re matched with a birthmother, not with a child. Many pregnant women explore adoption options, and many change their minds along the way—choosing to parent or selecting a different family to adopt the child. Thus, some adoptive parents may begin working with an birthmother who later changes her mind. Most of these “false starts” happen soon after the match is made, before it’s progressed beyond a single, casual conversation. And at Heart to Heart, we minimize the risk of this by requiring birthmothers to participate in regular educational counseling, both individual and group therapy sessions.
Unfortunately, there are no surefire ways to avoid a false start, but at Heart to Heart we are able to mitigate the risk because you, as an adoptive family, will be working with our experienced professionals. There are also ‘red flags’ that sometimes occur when a birthother is unsure of her decision, and the counselors at Heart to Heart are very aware of this, and are able to address those as they arise. Again, there are no surefire ways to avoid a birthmother changing her mind, but at Heart, we put those risks at a minimum.
Good communication between all the parties is a must. As one of our adoptive mothers stated, “I’d much rather know the risks up front and along the way than turn a blind eye and hope that everything just turns out fine…” The open communication we encourage at Heart, as well as the appropriate counseling we offer, helps the birthmother feel sure about the decision she makes as well as keep the family ‘in the loop’ and aware of what’s going on along the way.
Acceptance of a setback is not easy. Our adoptive family workers help parents understand that what happened was specific to their individual situation. It does not happen every time, and there will be a successful placement in the future. If you stick with the process, you will adopt. We encourage parents to work through the loss, accept what is not to be, and then keep going down the path. The way you process the loss is a matter of personal preference. Some families jump right back in, seeing no advantage in pulling their name off the list. Most believe they’d heal best by believing they’d be a family before too long. A few families, on the other hand, prefer to take some time after a false start. The decision is very personal and our experienced counselors and adoptive family workers will help you work through the decision that is best for you.
When a prospective placement doesn’t end in adoption, do not see it as a failure. In the end, the bumps in the road to adoption build great resiliency – something that is very helpful during parenthood! In fact, the feeling of finally adopting the child who was so clearly “meant to be” is shared by nearly every parent who has gone through such difficult challenges. As difficult as it is to hear “maybe it just wasn’t meant to be,” it’s the truth! Another adoptive mother shared the following: “I’d always wanted a good relationship with our birthmom – and I do. I cannot fathom having this relationship with the other birthmom we were matched with. And, of course, I cannot fathom having any other baby! If our previous match had been successful, I wouldn’t have my Elizabeth.”
Bottom line? Hang in there! Although the heartbreak of a failed placement can be great, the desire to be a parent will far outweigh the heartbreak of a placement that wasn’t meant to be.