close menu

What Happens When an Adoption Falls Through?

4 Steps to Move on After an Adoption Disruption

When a hopeful adoptive family chooses the life-changing path of adoption, they do risk the chance of experiencing an adoption disruption. It’s an undeniable reality of the adoption process: sometimes, an adoption opportunity just doesn’t work out.

Although rare, a prospective birth parent who has already made an adoption plan may change their mind and decide not to move forward with the placement. When an adoption falls through like this, that disruption can leave you feeling a world of emotions such as:

  • Shock

  • Anger

  • Hurt

  • Disappointment

  • And more

But, with the right adoption professional like American Adoptions, this doesn’t need to be the end of your adoption journey — if you don’t want it to be. It’s a difficult obstacle to overcome, but on the other side is your life as a new family. This guide will help you plan for uncertainty and determine what to do when an adoption falls through.

When an adoption placement falls through, it’s best to be financially and emotionally prepared. You can contact American Adoptions today at 1-800-ADOPTION to speak with a trusted adoption specialist now.

What to Do When an Adoption Falls Through [In 4 Steps]

At American Adoptions, we do everything we can to prevent adoption disruptions from happening.

Prospective birth parents considering adoption receive personal and attentive counseling to help them be sure that adoption is the right choice for them.

Additionally, our adoption specialists are available 24/7 to address expectant parents’ concerns in moments of doubt. We also carefully pre-screen prospective birth parents to gauge their commitment to adoption before we connect them with an adoptive family.

But, ultimately, it is the prospective birth parent’s choice to discontinue the process, and it can happen at a moment’s notice. If you find yourself dealing with an adoption disruption, here are four steps you can take as you look ahead:

Step 1: Understand Why Some Adoption Plans Fail

As cliché as it sounds, it really is not you. In fact, most often it’s actually a lack of counseling for the birth parents that causes a failed adoption match. The following may be reasons why they decide to stop the process:

  • No provided emotional support or counseling aside from legal counsel. A woman navigating her unplanned pregnancy options can be under a great deal of stress, and having someone to work with her and help her to understand all of her options can be invaluable, both for her sake and for yours when it comes to an adoption disruption.

  • Counseling was provided to the pregnant woman, but not by an expert. If a staff member is not a licensed social worker or some other licensed counselor, then they should not be counseling.

  • Counseling is not mandatory with that specific adoption professional. Maybe the prospective birth parent thought they didn’t need it, or maybe they fell through a hole in the staff’s system.

If this is the case, please contact American Adoptions so that we can walk you through exactly what sort of counseling potential birth parents should always receive. It may be time to consider a new professional.

But, a lack of counseling is not the only reason why some prospective birth parents change their minds about adoption.

While American Adoptions provides excellent counseling from licensed social workers to birth parents considering adoption, it is possible that an adoption disruption will just happen.

When an adoption falls through, it may be because potential birth parents are going through a lot. They have a legal right to change their minds about a placement for their child. And, they may end up deciding not to commit to the placement for any number of reasons, such as:

  • A lack of support in their adoption decision from the child’s father

  • A change in their personal situation

  • Many other possible factors in their life

Step 2: Give Yourself and Your Partner Time to Grieve

An adoption disruption is a loss, and like any other loss, you will need to cope with your feelings.

Everybody grieves in a different way and at their own pace, so let yourself move through the process and acknowledge your emotions. It’s going to take time. You may have even gone through a similar grieving process after failed infertility treatments. If that’s the case, you’ll already know you cannot rush the process.

Your partner will also grieve in their own way. Some people may share their emotions freely, while others may not want to communicate much at all. Before moving forward, you and your partner should be on the same page and want the same things. 

Step 3: Seek Closure

It’s all right to think about what you have lost. You can ask your adoptive family specialist to answer any questions you may have about the birth parent and their reasons for choosing to discontinue their adoption plan.

Your adoption specialist can also provide support as you work through your feelings regarding the disruption.

At American Adoptions, you do not have to go “active” again immediately after a failed match. There is no rush to begin the process again. Do whatever you need to do so that you can first be okay with what has happened.

When an adoption placement falls through, support is crucial. Friends and family can be a great source of comfort during this time. Do not be afraid to reach out to loved ones with whom you can share your feelings.

Step 4: Decide When You’re Ready to Try Again

Sometimes when an adoption falls through, the most effective way to heal is to give yourself time. The heartbreak of an adoption disruption may not heal quickly, but as it begins to fade, you can look forward and think about your next steps.

Some hopeful parents are ready to become active again right away. Others may choose to take a break before looking for another adoption opportunity. When you work with American Adoptions, you have the power to decide how and when — or even if — you want to move forward with adoption. But that isn’t always the case with other professionals.

How Financial Protection Can Help You Move Forward

When you accept an adoption opportunity, you invest a great deal into that potential placement, such as:

  • Time

  • Energy

  • Emotion

  • Money

  • And more

Your adoption dreams finally start to feel like they’re within reach. That’s why it can be emotionally challenging when adoption fails. That emotional investment in the process is necessary, and there’s no way to fully protect yourself from the pain that can come from an adoption disruption.

However, by working with the right adoption agency, you can protect yourself financially.

During your adoption journey, you’ll pay for things like medical fees and living expenses for the prospective birth parent. But what happens if she changes her mind?

With most professionals, those funds are lost. Sometimes, this hit can devastate a family financially — and prevent them from ever being able to afford a successful adoption. At best, those funds might be “rolled over” into the next adoption opportunity, but that means the money remains tied up with that adoption professional.

Our agency does things differently. As a large national adoption agency, we developed a financial protection program that has saved families more than $4.6 million since 2009. That means you can feel confident and safe as you pursue your dreams of starting a family.


Our adoption specialists will be there when you are ready to resume your adoption journey.

If you feel that you are ready to go active again, or if you’re wondering what to do when an adoption falls through with another adoption professional, you can get more free information online or when you call 1-800-ADOPTION now.

Information available through these links is the sole property of the companies and organizations listed therein. American Adoptions provides this information as a courtesy and is in no way responsible for its content or accuracy.

Request Free Information