What Happens If My Birth Parent Match Fails?

One of the most difficult things to think about for prospective adoptive parents is the thought of having a match with a birth parent only to not have it proceed to fruition. My research and experience over the years leads me to analogize this feeling to miscarriage, still birth, and even the death of a child. I don’t believe that anything can ever prepare you for this pain.

Yet, with the decline of United States adoption placements, and in upswing in broken matches, this is something that you must consider when you decide to expand your family through adoption.

So, what can you do if you find yourself at the end of the telephone line with your agency or attorney letting you know that your match has ended?

Coping With a Failed Birth Parent Match

It can feel like the first thing that you may want to do is to lash out at someone. You are hurt and you are angry, and that makes sense. You may have prepared the baby’s room, you may have told your friends, family and co-workers, and perhaps there is another child at home waiting to meet their new sibling. Someone must be to blame for all of this pain. Is it the agency, the birth family, the lawyer?

The first thing you may need to do is to get all the facts. Call your agency or attorney and find out when, where and why the birth parent(s) changed their mind. Was it because their circumstances changed; did family pressure not to place for adoption deter them, or was it just the moment when they saw their baby that changed their hearts?

Of course, there may not be anything to tell. Sometimes, you do not get an explanation and this can be so hurtful and frustrating especially if you have had contact with the birth family. Adoptive Parents may often feel powerless at these times since they do not have input into this part of the decision-making process. Adoption is a leap of faith for both sides. Birth Parents choose to trust that the family whom they have chosen will raise their child with love and opportunity for a wonderful life. Adoptive Parents take their “leap” by opening up their lives to birth families who may not be able to move forward with the adoption placement.

Take the time to grieve your loss- whatever that looks like for you. You and your partner may want to privately support each other. Others decide to seek professional counseling in order to move forward. Some families confide in family and friends or their religious leaders. Remember that there is no timeline for grief and you will know when you are ready to move forward again.

You may wish to make a trusted family member or friend your point person to get the news out to those that you are grieving a loss. This way, you will not constantly be needing to re-tell this difficult story.

Moving Forward After a Failed Match

The most difficult thing is to try to make sense about what happened and why?

Some gracious adoptive families have shared with me that they way that they could move past this loss was to realize their purpose in this baby’s life. They helped to create a physically and emotionally safe place for this baby to develop. They may have assisted with the birth mother’s housing and food to ensure that the pregnancy was healthy and safe. Did the fact that the birth mother had chosen them a safe, wonderful family give her the mental strength to proceed in a more positive way during the pregnancy? Studies show that an anxious or depressed pregnant mother can have negative effects on the baby-to be.

Some families have shared that they have looked back on their disrupted adoption placement as part of the journey. They met and learned about a birth family whose background and lives were so very different than their own and grew to find more similarities than differences. They grew to love and care about people that they may have never met. Many have said it led to much spiritual growth and development.

The relationship with a birth family often gives first-hand knowledge about the struggles that so many birth families face such as poor housing, lack of stable employment, few supportive friends and family members and lack of educational opportunity in addition to possible drug abuse, mental health issues and domestic violence at times. These factors are what led many to explore adoption for their babies to be.

Finally, it will be time to decide if you are ready to try again. After all, you want to be a parent. You will need to update your home study to address the loss and I would strongly suggest a telephone call or meeting with your agency or attorney to discuss parameter before moving forward again.


What I have realized is that I not only work with incredibly strong women and men who place for adoption, but I also am lucky enough to work with graceful, resilient strong adoptive parents. You will get through this and you will be a parent if you want to be. It truly is a journey and ultimately your son or daughter will make it home to you. A Higher Power always leads the way.