June 4th, 2007
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Categories: Failed Adoption

Painting of Tree (c) Lynda Bernhardt

A sad reality of adoption is that some hopeful adoptive parents experience failed adoptions. Failed adoptions can happen in a number of ways, including —

  • Child’s country halts international adoptions
  • Legal red tape halts a foster adoption
  • Placing mother chooses to parent her baby

Failed adoptions can be devastating to a hopeful adoptive couple. Even though the hopeful adoptive parents know that they have no legal right to parent the child, the child has grown in their hearts, and they already love the child deeply. A failed adoption is a very real loss that needs to be grieved. The article Coping with a Failed Adoption offers some good tips for recovering from a failed adoption. Be very gentle with yourself and allow yourself time to grieve your loss.


I was fortunate enough to avoid experiencing a failed adoption myself. I did not even want to meet my baby until I knew that his birthparents’ parental rights had legally terminated. I did not know if I could recover from the blow of a failed adoption, so I wanted to protect myself from the possible pain.

However, when we were matched with my son’s then-placing mother, we were told that taking custody straight from the hospital was a “deal breaker” for her. The placing mother did not want her baby going into a foster home; she wanted her baby placed with the people who would raise him. We chose to take the risk, and I parented and loved this little baby for the 10 days in which his placing mother had the legal right to choose to parent.

I honestly don’t know how I would have recovered if she had chosen to parent. Ten days is a long time to bond with a baby, only to have to say goodbye and never see him again. I am not saying that this time period is a “bad” thing – I only wanted to adopt a baby from a woman who wanted me to parent her child. I am just saying that, no matter how right, moral, and ethical this law is, I would have experienced a very deep and real loss if I had not been able to parent this precious baby.

I know several adoptive mothers who have survived failed adoptions. Without exception, they say the experience was extremely hard. All of these women are mothers to other children through adoption, so they now view the failed adoption as part of what led them to their children.

In one case, the adoptive mother wound up adopting the same child who was involved in the failed adoption. The placing mother chose to parent but then realized that an adoption plan was a better choice for her circumstances.

Some of these families adopted children who were born exactly nine months after the failed adoption occurred. They find comfort in knowing that, as they were grieving their losses, their forever children were coming into existence and would soon bless their lives.

There is no way to ensure that you will not experience a failed adoption, unless you choose not to try to adopt at all. From what my friends have told me, a failed adoption is an extremely painful experience, but it is survivable. When you hold your forever child in your arms, you will know that the pain of the failed adoption was worth the joy of meeting your forever child.

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2 Responses to “Failed Adoption”

  1. ralspaug says:

    My family survived a failed international adoption of two Colombian siblings. Yes, international adoptions do fail before they ever come to be. You just don’t hear about them often. My family met and fell in love with these two children, pursued their adoption for a year and a half, completed every step of the process and raised every penny necessary–only to receive a denial from Colombia at the very last turn. We were absolutely devastated. So were the kids. We couldn’t make any sense out of what had happened, nor do we really understand to this day why we really were denied and not given the opportunity to give our children a loving family and a home. They ended up being split, and the younger one got adopted, the older one did not. Now he is too old. However, as we grieved for an entire year, we began hearing from their older sibling, who was almost 18. We began to grow very close via e-mail and established a very beautiful, touching relationship with him. He kept us in the loop regarding his siblings and how they were doing, and when he turned eighteen, we flew to Colombia to meet him. We spent two absolutely beautiful weeks with him, and we unofficially became a family. He now calls us Mom and Dad, and he is our son. We love and adore him, and now he knows he does not have to face the future alone. We are still in separate countries, but we remain very, very close. It is an honor to be a support to him, and I am so glad I did not miss out on him. If I had given up when the adoption failed, I would have missed the whole purpose, and I would have missed out on my son. You can read our entire journey in my book, From the Mountain…to the Valley…and Back!, by Rachelle D. It is available on Amazon or any book retailer website. Grieving a failed adoption is a very lonely process because there is so little out there, but I hope our story will help the next family in our shoes to find comfort that they are not alone. I also hope they find hope that there must be a purpose for what they are going through.

  2. mindful training…

    Failed Adoption – Hoping to Adopt…

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