In the adoption world, the term disruption is used to describe a situation where a child is placed with an adoptive family and due to the child’s birthparents changing their mind, within the legally allotted time frame, the adoption does not take place. The specific time frame set aside for birthparents to change their mind after signing the paperwork differs from state to state.
At Adoptions From The Heart, we use another term “disappointment” to describe the situations in which the change of heart happens before any relinquishment paperwork is signed by the child’s mother. An adoptive family may have been selected and matched with this baby however no relinquishment or termination paperwork was yet completed.
What causes adoption disruptions? There are several common reasons for disruptions. It can often be due to a lack of counseling which is more often an occurrence when not working with an agency. Another common reason for a disruption is that additional support systems step forward, such as a women’s mother or siblings, and are able to offer the financial and emotional support needed to parent. Third, a reason that is harder to explain is as simple as a change of heart. Once a baby is born, things become more real. The emotions and feelings are much more raw after the child’s birth, especially when a birthmother leaves the hospital without her baby, which may lead some women to decide that she cannot go through with her adoption plan and to parent instead.
Adoption disruptions in the U.S. are estimated to happen about 10%-25% of the time. Keep in mind, this percentage includes identified situations where adoptive and birth parents locate each other as well as adoptions through facilitators and attorneys and not just those through full-service licensed adoption agencies.
While there is no way to totally eliminate the possibility of a disruption happening to you, there are some things that can be done to reduce your risk. Your best bet is to work with a licensed adoption agency. Licensed agencies make counseling a woman considering adoption a priority. Women considering adoption should not make this big decision without counseling, and the best way to get counseling is through an agency because social workers are educated on proper and ethical ways to provide counseling. Counseling for expecting parents allows them to sort through their emotions and prepare for any future emotions that could happen after placement. Social workers will also be able to identify any red flags when working with an expecting parent.
If a disruption does happen, families working with agencies find there is an extra level of support during that challenging time. Agencies are able to counsel adoptive families and be there for support during this setback. Adoptions From The Heart has resources for families who have experienced disruptions and there are other families that have been through it to connect with.
If a disruption does happen, the number one tip we can give you is to allow yourself to grieve it as a loss. By allowing yourself the time to grieve this event, you will be able to move forward. No words will help take your pain away that you are feeling. It is helpful to remember that birthmothers certainly do not intend to harm you when they decide to parent. They are not making the decision based on negative feelings towards you or the life you would have given their child. Choosing to place a child for adoption is one of the most difficult decisions someone may face and it is not to be taken lightly. No matter the outcome, one side of the adoption process is feeling a great loss during the same moment the other side if feeling elation and joy.
Common advice from families who have experience a disruption is to know that everything happened for a reason and you will be placed with the child that was intended for your family!