Many adoptive parents who are matched with a birth mother get anxious about whether their adoption might fail. They wonder, “what if she changes her mind about adoption?” When a birth mother changes her mind before signing legal paperwork, it’s known in the adoption world as a “fall-through.”
I encourage you to remember that this risk in adoption is so worth it. After all, taking the chance is how you’ll be led to your child. At Lifetime, our goal is to see you adopt successfully, not just get matched.
If adoptive parents experience a fall-through, Lifetime’s adoption professionals will continue to help them to find a successful match. While failed adoptions are not common at Lifetime, because of how our program supports each side of the adoption match, it’s good to understand why a birth mother might change her mind and what happens if she does.
Birth Mother Education
Many assume that the majority of birth mothers are going to come back and try to prevent the adoption from happening. However, here at Lifetime, we know that if we’ve provided a birth mother with the counseling and adoption education she needs beforehand, reclaims and fall-throughs are less likely to happen.
Plus, with open adoption, your relationship with a child’s birth mother will be based on trust and an understanding that you both want the best for the baby.
Birth Mother Rights
In an open adoption, every birth mother has the right to change her mind before she signs the paperwork relinquishing her parental rights. That’s because, until the moment of signing, it’s impossible for her to know what it’ll be like to place her baby for adoption.
We know it’s difficult for you to let go of the dream you created with this specific baby, but try to see it from her point of view. If women didn’t have the option to change their minds, it’s entirely possible that fewer would choose adoption. Many times, we’ve found that a birth mother who goes through with adoption feels comforted knowing that she could’ve changed her mind and that it was really up to her to place her baby for adoption.
Why Causes a Birth Mother to Change Her Mind?
Hearing that the birth mother who selected you has changed her mind can be devastating. You may feel many different emotions, from grief to anger, when the birth mother decides to raise her child. Most hopeful adoptive parents will wonder, “Why? Was it something we did or said?”
Depending on the situation, birth parents change their minds about adoption for various reasons. However, in most cases, it’s very rare that a birth mother would change her mind because she feels you’re not the right choice for her child. Instead, she will feel guilty for disappointing you because she knows this isn’t what you had expected.
A birth mother may now be able to parent her baby (whereas before, she didn’t have the means to do so) because her situation has improved. Maybe her baby’s father or a family member has stepped up to support her, or she recently qualified for financial assistance to help with raising her children.
She has to make a decision for HER child, which might mean she changes her mind about adoption. Be encouraged by the knowledge that she felt inspired by the parent you would have become for her baby. Through this experience with you, she may be motivated to make positive choices for herself and her baby. So while a failed adoption may be a negative situation for the adoptive parents, it is often a time of relief and joy for the birth family.
Adoption in the Media
The media often presents negative images of adoption through highly publicized cases without revealing the entire truth. These high-profile cases tend to be filled with mistakes made throughout the adoption. Media fabrication makes it seem like birth parents could take their child back anytime, without cause. However, that’s simply not the case.
Over a million successful adoptions have happened in the last decade, but only a few disrupted placements in which the adoptive parents had to return the baby to his birth parents. In many cases, unqualified attorneys or judges made serious mistakes during the adoption process, contributing to the failure.
Legal and Professional Assistance for Your Adoption
With thousands of successful adoptions during Lifetime Adoption’s history, our professionals have the knowledge and experience to guide you through the process. Lifetime’s adoption professionals will provide you with lots of guidance on what you can and cannot say or do during the adoption process. For example, hopeful adoptive parents should avoid doing or saying anything that could manipulate a birth mother to place her child with them. Doing so is unethical and may cause the adoption to fail in the long run.
We commit to providing you with a secure adoption and referrals to reputable adoption attorneys who are registered with The Academy of Adoption and Assisted Reproduction Attorneys (AAAA). These attorneys are a highly-vetted group who have extensive experience in the practice of adoption law. Some adoptions fall through due to incorrect paperwork or documents not being processed. However, this won’t happen with an AAAA attorney working for you on your adoption.
Your adoption attorney will give you information on what is legally allowed in your state and the birth parents’ state regarding any gifts or exchanges of money. Nationwide, it is illegal to pay a woman to adopt her child. However, helping a birth mother out with her expenses may be allowable with the intent to help the expectant mother get through her pregnancy.
“Hopeful adoptive parents should avoid doing or saying anything that could manipulate a birth mother to place her child with them. Doing so is unethical and may cause the adoption to fail.”
Encouragement for the Future
At Lifetime when a family experiences a match that fell through, we continue working to find them another match at no additional fee. So while you became attached to the idea of that specific child, you know that you still hope to adopt. Take time to grieve the loss if you need to, and then refocus on your goal.
If you were honest, kind, sincere, and showed this birth mother that you would provide for her child the best way you could, but it didn’t work out, take comfort by knowing you may have blessed that mother and child in a way no one else could. You gave her availability, openness, and listened to her, which are things that many birth moms may not see in their everyday lives. You might be one of the few people praying for her and her child. The birth mother might even refer a friend to you in the future because you treated her with compassion and understanding.
Know that you will adopt, and a failed adoption can become a step along the path to the child you do add to your family. You may remember this time and that baby, but you’ll also appreciate the journey when you’re holding the child you eventually welcome to your family forever.
Editor’s Note: This article was originally published on May 30, 2018, and has since been updated.
Founder of Lifetime Adoption, adoptive mom, adoption expert, and Certified Open Adoption Practitioner (C.O.A.P).
Since 1986, adoption expert Mardie Caldwell has been dedicated to bringing couples and birth parents together in order to fulfill their dreams.
“Many years ago, I was also searching for a child to adopt. We didn’t know where or how to get started. Through research, determination, and a prayer, our dream of a family became reality. I started with a plan, a notebook, assistance from a caring adoption consultant and a lot of hard work; this was my family I was building. We had a few heartaches along the way, but the pain of not having children was worse!
Within weeks we had three different birth mothers choose us. We were overwhelmed and delighted. Many unsettling events would take place before our adoption would be finalized, many months later. Little did I know that God was training and aligning me for the adoption work I now do today. It is my goal to share with our families the methods and plans which succeed and do not succeed. I believe adoption should be affordable and can be a wonderful “pregnancy” for the adoptive couple.
I have also been on both sides of infertility with the loss of seven pregnancies and then conceiving by new technology, giving birth to a healthy daughter. I have experienced first-hand the emotional pain of infertility and believe my experience allows me to serve your needs better.
It is my hope that for you, the prospective parents, your desire for a child will be fulfilled soon.”