The Adoption Exit
“When I first started working in adoption, I was so overwhelmed by all the deep emotions I was witnessing, I used to dream I was running through a hospital, searching desperately for the adoption exit,” recalls Elizabeth Jurenovich, Abrazo’s founder. “I can only imagine how parents who are placing or adopting must feel, as they struggle to balance the anticipation of welcoming a new baby to the world and the agony of not knowing how things will ultimately turn out.”
Whether an adoption “works out” or not is a subjective judgement, of course.
Not every unplanned pregnancy or placement plan is meant to result in an adoptive placement, however, so sometimes, the disruption or dismantling of an adoption plan, however difficult, is what is best for the people involved– even if they cannot see why at the time.
Whether you are the person giving birth or the person hoping to adopt, you are already in a vulnerable position and if your adoption plan is ending unexpectedly, you will need to surround yourself with support and seek out appropriate outlets for all the emotions you are experiencing.
How to weather the adoption exit
Typically, when an adoption plan is ending, there nay have been subtle (or not so subtle) signs along the way that a change was pending, but you can make yourself crazy trying to figure out when it happened or why. It’s human nature to want answers, but remember: this won’t always feel like it does right now. Things will make sense down the road in a way that it can’t in the present. You may experience all the stages of grief (like anger or sadness or wanting to bargain or denial or acceptance) in quick order, but try to be gentle with yourself and with the other party, to whatever extent you can.
First of all: avoid knee-jerk reactions. This is easier said than done, we know, but do not go on the attack, for any reason. And do not seek to talk the other party out of their decision, but rather, simply clarify what has changed and why. Take the high road, always. No matter what “side” of the equation you’re on, a change in plans can feel upsetting or even devastating, but try to remind yourself that this simply means you’re meant to pursue another destiny and that everything will turn out as it should.
Melanee was stunned when the baby girl she was expecting turned out to be a boy, and she was even more surprised when the prospective adopters, who had two boys already, informed her they could not move forward with the planned adoption. “I wanted to scream at them, but we were in the hospital, so instead, I just said I wished they would have told me ahead of time that they weren’t really there for me and my baby if things didn’t go according to plan. I was mad. I was hurt. And I still am, to tell you the truth.”
For Nathan and Debbie, learning that the baby they’d just seen born was not going to be coming home with them was much harder because they were the last to know. “All that time that we were visiting in the hospital, nobody ever told us she was changing her mind. We saw all her friends coming in with baby gifts and we thought they didn’t know what her plan was. In the end, it hurt worse to find out we were the only ones that didn’t know.”
Through it all, keep in mind that the child is present (whether in utero or after birth) and it is his or her welfare that is most crucial. No matter who the baby is going to end up with, please take steps to ensure that he or she is going to be adequately provided for and that no adoption exit drama transpires in that child’s presence, for any reason whatsoever. Think twice about what you’re posting online, because any adoption exit involves a child, and every child should entitled to his or her privacy.
What not to do
Over the years, Abrazo’s staff has seen it all (good and bad.) We’ve seen loving would-be adopters embrace the mother who has decided to parent and we’ve stood by in tears as they generously handed over their own diaper bag and car seat to ensure that she has what she needs to leave the hospital with her new baby. We’ve had to support grieving mothers who just learned their chosen adoptive couples have elected to abandon a match when sonogram results were not what was expected. We’ve had to deliver the news by which hopeful adopters first learn that the expectant mom they’d been talking with was discovered to be a prolific con artist with no intentions of placing. And we’ve seen the tragedy of mothers exiting their adoption plans in hopes of reuniting with the baby’s father, only to lose their children to the State or to child abuse later on.
If you are the party that is taking the adoption exit, for whatever reason, know this: you have every right to change your mind and to make other plans. However, you do owe the other party the courtesy of informing them personally that your plans have changed and why, and to do so as soon as you know that you cannot move forward. A “personal” explanation does not require face-to-face contact; in some cases, an ethical adoption provider will recommend that the parties instead seek closure via a written exchange, to protect whichever party is more emotionally-vulnerable.
It is never, ever appropriate for a disappointed hopeful adoptive couple to file a CPS report simply out of vengeance on a mother who elects to parent. (False reporting can have serious consequences.) We cringe at the thought that this would ever happen, and yet, it clearly does occur on occasion. Likewise, it is not appropriate for a birthparent who has elected to place and later regretted it to accuse an innocent adoptive couple of having “stolen” her child from her; this, too, happens when parents want to deny their own responsibility for their own decision. And if your adoption exit means voluntarily disrupting your child’s placement for his or her best interests, please be reminded that “rehoming” is now (thankfully) illegal in most states, so be certain to seek the assistance of a qualified adoption professional to guarantee that your child will be in good hands (if not yours.)
None of this is easy, we know. Not every adoption plan results in a successful placement. Not every match is meant to culminate with adoption. Yet know this: every experience in life potentially bears gifts, if only we’ll trust the process and work through the challenges to see what lessons can be gleaned from it.
If you find yourself having to take the adoption exit, take heart, and know that there are other roads ahead which can still bring you to a happier destination, despite any detours.