Inside National Adoption Awareness Month

November is such a fun month. We’re all hyped up from eating our kid’s Halloween candy and Christmas music has been playing 24/7 since November 1st. Everyone is gearing up for Christmas shopping and Target is shoving a holiday catalog into your hands every time you shop. Fun times! November is also National Adoption Awareness Month. It was created to honor those families touched by adoption as well as make society aware (obviously) of adoption, in general.

For the most part, adoption is a happy event. However, the road that leads to adoption can be difficult on both sides. On one hand you have a pregnant woman or girl who feels she is unable to successfully parent the child she is carrying, chooses to create a plan–known as a birth plan–to choose a family more suitable to successfully parenting a child than she. Then, you have a parent or parents who are choosing to adopt a child. Often times the choice is chosen by infertility and we are all becoming more aware of how costly that can be not only financially but physically, mentally and emotionally as well. However, more families are choosing to adopt simply to grow their family and open their home to someone who may need it.

There is a very hard side to adoption, however, and not every adoption has a happy ending. The adoption process can be cut short or ended altogether.

Some adoptions are known as disrupted adoptions. This means that before the adoption is legally finalized, the birth parent has changed her mind and would like to try to parent the child herself. There is a period of time, it varies from state to state, in which the adoptive parents are at-risk legally. This means that they bring the baby home from the hospital and care for him or her until the court finalization. Here in Oakland County it is typically a few weeks but can be up to four months or longer in other areas of Michigan and various states around the country. A birth mother can change her mind during that time regardless of what she has verbally committed to.

Other adoptions are considered dissolved adoptions. This is when an adoption is ended after court finalization. Dissolved adoptions are more likely to occur with older children due to unexpected behavioral problems, family incompatibility and a host of other reasons. Unfortunately, these are also more common among international adoptions.

No matter how or when during the process the adoption ended, it is still incredibly hard for the adoptive family. It is very similar to a miscarriage because the adoptive parents have hopes and dreams for their adoptive child that were not realized. No, a literal death has not occurred but a very final event has happened that significantly ends the adoption journey between the adoptive parents their child. It is a very dark, difficult thing to work through especially since so many of us cannot understand because we have not walked that path.

Do you know someone who has experienced a disrupted or failed adoption? Here are ways to reach out and help:

  1. Acknowledge the event occurred – send a card, give a hug, make a phone call. Don’t ask about it in public.
  2. Allow time and space for grieving – when a family chooses to adopt, they are choosing to love someone who doesn’t exist in their family yet. They create ideas and dreams of this person. Adoptive parents need the time and space to grieve for the death of those ideas.
  3. Offer to store baby items – You can offer to store items purchased or borrowed for the prospective adopted child. If these items need to be returned to a store or taken apart then offer to do that work. An adoptive parent suffering from a disrupted or dissolved adoption may not have the energy or emotional stability to deal with those items yet but it can cause significant pain to see these reminders.
  4. Don’t give any reasons for why it may have happened.
  5. Don’t give reasons why it’s different or easier than a miscarriage or loss of a biological child.
  6. Don’t say things like, “At least you have your other kids.”
  7. Understand that some families who choose to adopt have struggled with infertility and could still be emotionally, physically and financially spent from that experience. They are left feeling vulnerable and rejected on many levels and a disrupted adoption only compounds the pain.
  8. Help with physical needs: cleaning the house, babysitting children, providing meals, etc.
  9. Be available. Engage with a movie, going out to eat or other fun activities. Make an effort to cheer them up.
  10. Suggest, but don’t force, a closure ceremony – Offer to help a write a letter filled with dreams for the child and then hosting a ceremony to let go of the dreams. You can tie the letter to a balloon and send the balloon off into the sky. I love the idea of rolling the letter up and attaching it a grouping of flowers then sending it off down a river or stream. These closure ceremonies create a turning point and help parents to be able to say goodbye to the dreams they had for the child.
  11. Remind adoptive parents they aren’t alone and that adoptions do fail. Help them find a support group or connect them with others who have been through this experience. Encourage them to call their adoption agency to be put in touch with others who have been in a similar situation.

Many families choose to adopt for a variety of reasons. Whatever the reason, a disrupted adoption can be very hard because the child is still alive somewhere. Someone else is loving them, hugging them, teaching them and caring for them with no hope of the prospective adoptive parents ever learning what happened in the child’s life and if he or she is doing okay. Reach out, help out and be available. This is tough stuff and while there can never be 100% closure, those of us who are friends and family can help the healing process begin by offering support and love.




About Meghan Zeile

Mom-in-the-know and local writer for Rochester Media. Always looking for tips with kids, family life, and fun local adventures. Contact at

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