Adopting an infant frequently feels like a giant game of “hurry up and wait.” Your excited hopefulness pushes you to hurry up with the paper chase and your part of the home study. Then you wait while your backgrounds get cleared, letters of recommendation are vetted, and your profile is shown. Waiting is hard. The wait gets even more complicated when you hear other prospective parents get an adoption match to an expectant mother quickly, or at least faster than you.

Your mind spins with questions about what made them more matchable, how they got so lucky, and what you can do to move things along. How do you get out of this hoping-longing-check-my-phone-every-ten-minutes stage? Why is it taking so long for your adoption match?

Waiting for the Right Adoption Match

First, let’s talk about the goal of an adoption match. You already know that adopting a child is a life-long commitment. Your plan – and your agency’s or attorney’s – is to find a match that you will best be able to parent for the duration of this child’s life. This child will need your commitment and resources for many years to come, so you should carefully consider what you can handle.

The expectant parents typically share this goal from the other side of things. They want to find the best parents for their baby, knowing they cannot be that for this child.

So, pursuing adoption and accepting a match isn’t a race to adopt as quickly as possible. The goal is to get the right match for the baby and the parents.

The Top 5 Reasons You Aren’t Getting a Match

Now we can offer the five most common reasons prospective parents are getting matched more slowly than they would prefer. believes that knowledge and self-education are empowering, so we’ve included resources to help you learn more about each reason.

1. Reluctance about Prenatal Substance Exposure

Prenatal substance exposure causes brain damage in the developing fetus. While the damage can exist on a wide-ranging continuum, it is not an issue to overlook or minimize just because you are tired of waiting. Prospective adoptive parents open to infants exposed to alcohol or drugs during pregnancy usually experience shorter wait times in matching.

However, it is worth educating yourself about the short- and long-term impacts to help you determine how comfortable you are with the risk factors of prenatal exposure.

Educating yourself.

Check out these resources to help you make an informed decision about raising a child who has a history of prenatal substance exposure:

2. Concerns About the Heritability or History of Mental Illness

Often, prospective adoptive parents waiting for an infant match will wait longer because they have limited openness to matching with an expectant mother with a history of mental illness. It’s understandably scary to consider because many mental illnesses can have devastating impacts on the person and their friends and family, too.

Educating yourself.

It will help you to understand more about the risks of inheriting mental illness. Here are a few resources to help you assess the risks and understand the genetic connections in mental health.

3. Added Layers Inherent in Transracial Adoption

We live in challenging times, as racial tensions dominate the news, sometimes for weeks. The air feels charged with information on institutional and systemic racism and violence aimed at people of color. It’s normal to feel inadequate raising a child of color to develop a strong, healthy racial identity. While transracial adoption is becoming more common, we still have much to learn as a culture. For example, it’s still more complicated for adoption professionals to place full Black baby boys. Bi-racial and Latinx babies are not far behind in terms of difficulty.

Transracial adoption is not for everyone. When you adopt a child of color (as a white family), you will become what we call a “conspicuous family.” You might get stared at in public. You might get nosey or even rude questions.

Educating yourself.

To help you decide if your family can handle the added layers of raising a child of another color, race, or ethnicity, check out these resources:

4. Disparity in Financial Resources

It’s a cold, hard truth, but we get it: money matters. Many factors influence why some adoptions cost more than others, including agency or attorney fees, the expectant mother’s financial needs, her insurance coverage (or lack thereof), where the pregnant woman lives, and what birth mother expenses the state will allow to be paid.

Some adoption agencies will charge the same for all adoptions and share the cost of the more expensive adoptions amongst all the families they serve. Others ask the matched prospective adoptive parents to cover these costs. Agencies often have fewer prospective families that can afford the higher price. The families that can handle those costs will often have a shorter wait for matching.

Additionally, hopeful adoptive parents with more financial resources often can afford to apply to more than one agency. They could also afford to work with a consultant or facilitator that can do more outreach or advertising with the family to connect with expectant mothers looking to place a baby. Some prospective parents can afford to keep trying even when they’ve lost money on a failed adoption match.

Educating yourself.

While many factors about the expense of your adoption path might feel like they are out of your control, there are things you can learn to help you manage the cost. Here are a few resources that you will find helpful:

5. Sometimes It’s Just Luck

In many cases, we know that a pregnant woman (or couple) chooses the prospective parents that she wants to raise her baby. Connecting with that expectant woman often happens through connections and word-of-mouth. Some prospective parents do a great job of getting the word out that they hope to adopt. Those parents often get matched sooner than prospective parents who don’t know how to or cannot get the word out to their network.

It’s hard to know what will catch the ear of a friend of a friend who will connect you to a woman making her adoption plan. It’s even harder to predict what will draw the attention of the woman trying to decide to place a child for adoption. Your mother might have mentioned it to a friend at the gym. It could be that you live on a farm or because you live in a city. You might draw an expectant mom’s attention because you have a dog like the one she had as a child or that you don’t have any dogs. After all, she hates dogs. It could be that you have no other children, or she may love the idea that her child will have an older brother.

Educating yourself.

In other words, some of it is just plain luck of being at the right place at the right time. However, you can do a few things to improve your chances of connecting with an expectant woman, including learning what birth mothers have to say about infant adoption.

Free Guide: Strengthening and Supporting Your Transracial Adoptee

Be Patient and Hopeful

Look for hope where you can find it. It’s hard to be patient in the wait when you are so anxious to build your family. Try to engage in regular self-care that will fuel your hope and sustain your patience in the up-and-down emotions of this process. Many of our online community members have offered helpful advice for waiting parents. If you are not a member there, we’d love to have you join us!

Which of these reasons might be true for your long wait? Tell us in the comments about how you worked through it!

Image Credits: Pixabay; Ron Lach; William Fortunato; Yan Krukau