Adoption Disruption and Dissolution: Understanding the Risks

adoptive family

If you are a prospective adoptive parent who is actively going through the adoption process or considering adoption as a way to grow your family, you may have wondered about adoption disruption and dissolution. While many connections are successfully finalized, there are situations in which an adoption plan is disrupted. As a prospective adoptive parent, it is important for you to have all of the information you need about all aspects of the adoption process, even uncomfortable aspects like this. 

What is adoption dissolution? 

An adoption dissolution occurs when an adoption that has already been finalized is legally terminated. This results in the child’s entry into the foster care system or the placement with new adoptive parents. An adoption dissolution can occur if there are behavioral or health problems that the adoptive family is unable to handle and they have made the tough decision to find an alternative situation for the child where they would be better positioned to thrive. It could also happen if for some reason the family was deemed by child safety officials to be unfit parents. It is important to note that this situation is rare when it comes to domestic infant adoption, and there are actions that can be taken to keep the established family together.

What is adoption disruption? 

An adoption disruption is when a planned adoption is not finalized and can occur for a variety of reasons. Here are just a few of the more common reasons that domestic infant adoption plans disrupt: 

  • The birthmother decided to parent her child.
  • The birthmother became unresponsive to communication from the adoption professional.
  • The birthmother decided to go with another family she felt was a better fit.
  • The family decided to walk away from the birthmother for some reason.
  • The birthfather refused to sign the required legal documents.
  • The birthmother decided to work with another adoption professional.
  • The birthmother decided to place her child with a family member.
  • The birthmother had a miscarriage.
  • The birthmother decided to get an abortion.

What are the differences between adoption dissolution and disruption? 

There is a clear distinction between adoption dissolution and disruption. A dissolution is the act of ending an adoption after it has been legally finalized, and a disruption occurs before the adoption has been finalized. As stated above, dissolution does not happen often in domestic infant adoption. It is more common for adoption plans to be disrupted due to any of the reasons stated above or some other reason. In a dissolution or disruption, tough choices are made and  can be heartbreaking for any or all parties involved.

How do prospective adoptive parents deal with an adoption disruption? 

An adoption disruption can cause feelings of anxiety, grief, loss, and doubt. At Angel Adoption, we recognize that it is difficult to face the reality of a disrupted adoption while experiencing this rollercoaster of emotions. 

If an adoption plan you were involved in was disrupted due to the birthmother’s choice, you must keep in mind that the birthmother is completely within her rights to retract her consent to the adoption at any time before the adoption is legally finalized. While it hurts, given the sensitive nature of adoption, it is deeply important for birthmothers to understand their legal parental rights and feel free to exercise them throughout the process.

At the end of the day, what birthmothers and prospective adoptive families have in common is the desire to do the best possible thing for the child at the center of the adoption plan. It is this desire that should drive every party in the process, including the adoption professional who acts as a support and resource for both the birthmother and prospective adoptive family when tough situations arise. 

When we help prospective adoptive parents overcome the pain of a disrupted adoption, we like to emphasize how the experience afforded you some practice communicating with a prospective birthmother and navigating that relationship. That experience can be of help to you when working with future expectant mothers. If you provided the expectant mother with any level of financial support before the disruption, shift your focus to the fact that you were able to help someone who was in a difficult situation.

We also recommend holding space for the emotions you are feeling and give yourself any time you feel you need before jumping back into the process. Taking a break allows you to properly handle the complicated feelings you are experiencing and gives you the strength to be open to a potential connection with a new birthmother.

Preparing for adoption can mitigate adoption disruption.

The ultimate goal of adoption is to create strong, lifelong family bonds. Because of this, there are certain things that are done at an institutional level to help mitigate the risk of adoption disruption and dissolution. 

Adoption professionals are ethically bound to provide the tools and resources for prospective parents to fully understand what adoption entails. Every state has mandatory pre-adoption courses that cover topics such as supporting developmental and emotional needs, ensuring the safety and welfare of the child, and the reality of caring for a child for a lifetime. 

It is also important for prospective adoptive parents to do their own research about the adoption process, issues surrounding adoption, and the discourse surrounding current issues related to adoption.

Tips for prospective adoptive parents to better handle adoption disruptions: 

  1. Be realistic about your expectations with the understanding that the adoption process doesn’t happen on a predetermined timeline and there is a possibility you could experience a disruption that is out of your control.
  2. Seek out resources and parenting tools that can best prepare you to face the potential challenges of the adoption process. Being armed with a robust amount of information can allow you to approach the adoption process with a well-rounded, realistic perspective.
  3. Before going through the adoption process, understand the financial risks involved. If your adoption is disrupted and you have already provided financial support to the birthmother, you cannot get that money back. Obviously, that is not ideal, but it is a reality you must be prepared for.
  4. Consider an adoption provider like Angel Adoption that offers 24/7 counseling and support to birthmothers. Working with an adoption professional who understands the nuances of adoption and puts a particular emphasis on birthmother support can increase your chances of a successfully finalized adoption.
  5. Respect the birthmother. If she feels like she’s being used, judged, or unappreciated by you, it can foster fear and doubt in her mind and may ultimately deter her from her adoption plan entirely. 

A disrupted adoption is not a failure. 

Something we want to emphasize to all prospective adoption parents is that a disrupted adoption is not a failure. That’s not to say that it is not a deeply upsetting and distressing event. At the core of it, a disrupted adoption is not necessarily a failure of your character or family. Sometimes, things happen that are out of our control. The best thing you can do is give yourself the time and space to grieve this situation and keep your heart open for the child you were meant to parent.

Often, when we are in situations where something that we were hoping for beyond all hope doesn’t work out the way we planned, hindsight is 20/20. Eventually, it becomes clear why it didn’t work out the way we originally wanted. For prospective adoptive parents, it is helpful to keep in mind that an adoption disruption could mean that your dream family is not so far away and you could connect with a birthmother who is a good fit. No matter what happens throughout the adoption process, always know that Angel Adoption will be here with you through every step of the way. 

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Angel Adoption, Inc. provides marketing and advertising services that assist biological parents considering adoption and prospective adoptive parents to connect with each other, and provides support and referral services throughout the process. Angel Adoption, Inc. is an independent contractor and provides services under the supervision of Lutheran Child and Family Services of Illinois, License #012998, One Oakbrook Terrace, #501, Oakbrook Terrace, IL 60181; 708-771-7180.