What I learned from my failed adoption

After waiting over a year for my adoption to finalize, I’ve accepted that I will never become a mother through my current adoption program. I’ve learned a lot of hard lessons along the way. The only redeeming feature of my failed adoption? The chance to tell others how to avoid a similar fate. If you are considering adoption, here is what I’ve learned:

submitted by Valerie

1. Adoptions fail. This may seem self-evident, given the title of this article, but too often we can get overly optimistic that everything will go “right.” In private domestic adoption, about half of birth mothers decide not to relinquish the rights to the child. And for the prospective parent, most fees are non-refundable.

2. Remember the saying “don’t put all your eggs in one basket?” Don’t assume your first adoption will be your last. Save some resources and have a plan if your first adoption fails.

3. You can do things right and still fail. I read all the books, listened to every podcast and even had two consults with an adoption adviser. And I still chose a program that was adoption’s equivalent of the Titanic. My paperwork was hardly complete before it began to sink. There are so many factors in any adoption that there is no possible way to control the outcome. Don’t waste time blaming yourself for making a “poor choice.” You didn’t. When it becomes evident that the agency is re-arranging deck chairs, it’s time to head for the life boats.

4. Your adoption is as stable as the country (or agency) you are adopting from. At one time I knew the politics of the country where I adopting better than I knew the local news. If I had a dime for every coup attempt in that country, I could pay for ten adoptions. A country that is collapsing is not focused on your adoption. Although this advice may seem to pertain only to international adoption, it applies domestically as well. Over 100 U.S. adoption agencies have gone out of business during the recession. When your agency goes bankrupt your adoption ceases to exist. Stability is king. Or more poetically, stability is the mother of every successful adoption. Ask for the financial statements of the agency and study the political situation of the country you’re adopting from. It’s one of the better investments you can make.

5. Your best source of information is adoptive parents. Agencies are not objective. This is not to say that they knowingly prejudice, but look at it from their perspective. They know these kids. They’ve seen the conditions in which these kids live. They are desperate to move these kids into loving families. At least the good ones are. Adoptive parents, however, have lived the process and they will tell you the real deal. Join yahoo groups, go to adoption seminars, and ask your agency for references from their clients. Adoptive parents don’t lie. In fact most are eager to help others avoid adoption heartbreak.

6. Adoption is hard. Our society has romantic ideas about adoption. Early in the process I imagined a quick referral and boarding a plane within months to meet my child in some distant land while foreign but wonderful music played in the background. The reality was miserable. Costly, frustrating, tear-filled. Sometimes you have to fight for your family even before you have one. Don’t expect handholding, understanding, or anything to go as scheduled. Expect a battle. If you are one of the lucky ones whose adoption goes smoothly, you’ll be elated.

7. There is a saying in adoption, “adopting one child will not change the world, but for that child, the world will change.” Adoption is a wonderful choice for building a family. Not because it’s easy or romantic, but because it’s a chance to create a family where there once was only a single woman and a child without a parent. But it also requires great strength and a tremendous leap of faith. Be prepared….and then gather all your hope and jump in.

I’m not giving up! I’m exploring other options to become a Mom.

— Valerie


  3 comments for “What I learned from my failed adoption

  1. Shanna
    February 3, 2014 at 4:13 pm

    Hi Valerie,
    Thank you for your heartfelt comments. I was curious if you were ever given feedback as to why you weren’t able to adopt. I’m considering it and would like to avoid paying $30K prior to learning it won’t work for me.
    Thank you again,

    • February 5, 2014 at 1:52 pm


      I was in fact able to adopt (finally) and when everything came together it was both beautiful and unexpected. I thought that I would never have a chance to adopt a newborn domestically but when I finally submitted my profile, I was picked by the first birthmother it was shown too. I would never claim that this is typical but it does happen – my family is living proof.

      I choose international adoption initially because the prevailing wisedom was that for singles this was the best path but unfortunately international changed dramatically during the two years I tried to adopt by that method. This was another lesson for me – adoption changes constantly.

      And yes, there are ways to go about it that doesn’t cost $30K. The first is foster to adopt. Domestic adoptions also vary incredibly in their cost.

      Best of luck to you!

      • Shanna
        February 9, 2014 at 1:36 pm

        Thank you Valerie! I’m so glad to hear it ultimately worked out for you. Appreciate, again, your time and thoughts.

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