By the time that you are matched with an expectant woman who has chosen you to adopt her child, you want it to work. Oh boy, do you ever want it to work. You want this relationship to work more than any other relationship in your life, other than your marriage (maybe). But thinking back to your dating days, we know that not all relationships are meant to work out. (Which, considering some of the guys I dated, is a darn good thing.)
We all know that the prospective birthmother has every right to change her mind. It is illegal in all states for a woman to relinquish her parental rights until after birth, and up until that point, she can decide to parent or can choose another set of adoptive parents. Although we might know that it is true, it sure would be nice to have a little preparation or warning that she might change her mind. We offer you twelve signs that we’ve seen over the years:
Twelve Red Flags That an Adoption Match May Fail
- An on again off again relationship with the prospective birthfather of her child. She may make the adoption decision during an “off” period, but change her mind when they are back “on”.
- Birth grandmother (especially the expectant woman’s mother) is not in favor of adoption.
- Has not shared her adoption plans with her family or the birth father.
- Does not take advantage of counseling or has not had it offered. (I feel strongly that it is always in the best interest of the expectant woman and ultimately for the child and adoptive parents, for her to receive good quality unbiased counseling while making this decision.)
- Young in age. May not be clued in to the reality of single parenting.
- Is a high school dropout or has no interest in post-secondary education or training.
- The match is made early in the pregnancy.
- Not prompt in her responses to the adoption agency or adoption attorney’s request for information.
- Conversations with the adoption agency or adoption attorney are focused more on “What can I get” rather than “How can I find the best family for my child.”
- Has not made plans for getting on with her life after the adoption. If she is not making plans for going on with her life without her child after the adoption, she may not be sure she is going through with the adoption.
- The baby is due between Thanksgiving and the end of December. The holiday season is an emotional and family centered time of year, and thus it is tempting for a woman to be swayed to parent her child rather than place for adoption if the child is born during this time.
- Seems too sure and confident of her decision. If she sounds rehearsed or scripted, she likely is.
Often adoptive parents will tell me that when they look back they can now see some signs that might have tipped them off that this particular match with a prospective birth mother may not work out. If you’ve had a failed match, were there any signs you recognize in hindsight?
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Insights from a Birth Mother Who Remains Happy & Confident in Her Decision (Yes, we do exist!):
EARLY ADOPTION MATCHES
Last week in church, the theme of the sermon was National Adoption Day. I didn’t even know there was such a thing as National Adoption Day. My favorite way to contribute to the adoption cause is to promote greater understanding between the many different sides of adoption, from birth parents, to adoptive parents, to adopted children, to friends and family. So here is one piece I’ve shared on adoption forums, written by me to that end:
I have seen far too many one-sided, negative portrayals of early matching in adoption. Articles on adoption forums keep holding it up as a red flag, a warning that a birth mother is somehow shady and trying to con you, or else immature and indecisive and going to back out and break your heart.
Sure, many adoptive parents would consider it ideal for themselves to get a surprise phone call saying, “There is a baby waiting for you in the hospital RIGHT NOW! The birth parents have already signed the papers, and they’ve chosen you from your Prospective Parents profile. It’s a done deal!” All the waiting, hoping, and worrying about the possibility of having your dream dangled before you with the promise of a match, only fall through – all of that suddenly, irrevocably over. But that is not necessarily ideal for the birth parents. The myriad of different possible circumstances that can lead to the choice for adoption mean there will be different needs.
Many commenters wonder why any birth mother would desire an early match, except to wheedle financial assistance and other benefits from the adoptive parents. They honestly can’t seem to put themselves in a birth parent’s shoes and think of ANY other reason. It saddens me greatly that so many people are either too jaded or too lacking in the imagination required to empathize.
First, as to the portrayal of the money-hungry birth mother: Adoption agencies list themselves as not-for-profit organizations and accept charitable donations as such. They ought to be able to provide needed assistance for birth mothers without laying the cost of that birth mother’s needs on the adoptive couple, so there should be no risk that an early match will lead to adoptive parents being conned into providing direct financial support for a birth mother and not getting a baby, nor should a birth mother be at risk of feeling coerced or pressured into the adoption because of direct financial support a couple has provided. An agency that makes the flow of money so direct during the pregnancy is unconscionable. If it feels sketchy, run! Beyond that, there are laws that prohibit the acceptance of money by a birth mother for anything but specific, proven expenses. A birth mother cannot profit from the placement of her baby. She can only get help with things like food, shelter, maternity clothes, psychological counseling, legal counseling, and medical expenses. Financial reimbursement of any kind requires receipts to be submitted through a court of law.
My situation was thankfully uncomplicated by issues like homelessness or lack of medical insurance, but I did need an early match. It was non-negotiable. I was told by multiple agencies that I could not match before the 3rd trimester, or the 20th week, or the 30th week, or some such number arbitrarily set “to protect the adoptive parents.” They came off as pushy and manipulative, telling me, “that’s not how things are done,” as if I were being naïve and totally unrealistic asking for such a thing. I immediately rejected all of those agencies, and eventually, through perseverance, found one that worked for me.
So, here are 6 good reasons why a birth mother might want an early match. I’m sure they are not the only reasons. They’re just the ones off the top of my head.
1 …because her worry for this child’s uncertain future is stressing the hell out of her, raising her blood pressure, jeopardizing the pregnancy, and making her feel lost and miserable, and she wants to know that she has a plan she can feel confident about, not a vague idea of adoption, but a concrete plan with names and faces.
2 …because she wants time to get to know the parents she tentatively chooses and make sure they are who they seem before entrusting you with her baby’s life.
3 …because she doesn’t want to feel like she’s fighting a battle alone, with everyone around her treating her pregnancy like a tragedy, as though she has failed as a human being because she is in such a situation. Having someone to go with her to doctors’ appointments, or with whom to just share the news and updates, having someone rejoice in the miracle of the baby’s new life is a great source of strength and comfort in the face of all the criticism and negativity coming at her. It helps her to stay positive. It reminds her what is important.
4 …because she knows it will take some time to iron out the details of a post-adoption contact agreement and make that sure everyone is on the same page and that expectations are clear. The time to do this is most definitely before the baby has been placed.
5 …because she has other children, and she wants this decision to cause them as little heartache as possible. There is a world of difference between, “I’m going to have a baby brother, but my mom is giving him away. I won’t know where he is or what he looks like. I won’t even know his name. I will probably never see him again,” and “I’m going to have a baby brother, but he’s not going to live with us. He’s going to live with Sally and Ted. They have a big yellow dog and a room all decorated in blue for the baby. They are going to name him Sam, and they will send me a card with a picture every Christmas.” Whatever the details are, however little or much information he is given, a child needs something concrete to wrap his head around, to be able to picture the baby somewhere safe and loved. It’s the uncertainty of not knowing that’s most traumatizing.
6 …because the possibility that your feelings might be crushed if it doesn’t work out doesn’t mean a damn thing to her. Her sole focus is providing for the welfare of her child. A heartbroken stranger might be a sad thought, but it is nothing compared to the safety and happiness of her child. She is doing this KNOWING that her own heart will break and believing it is worth the sacrifice, for the sake of her child’s best interest. Why on Earth would it affect her choice to know that yours may break, too? If something feels off about the match, if it doesn’t feel like the right thing to do, of course she will back out. Time to be certain about the specific placement, with full knowledge of the details, is a precious commodity. No one should be forced to rush a decision that determines the course of her child’s life.
This is such a great comment which shows yet once again why it is hard to make generalizations in adoption. Thank you!
hi from iclw!
i loved this post! it really sets off some good things in your mind to think about.
im sure ill be referring to it someday!
Sarah, glad it’s helpful.
Thank you Dawn!
I know you asked for signs adoption may fail. I’m sorry but I’m seeking advice. We’ve been matched with a 14 yr old birthmom. Parents are involved. And in agreement with adoption. However, they are not responsive to the agency. They have no desire to meet us. The agency had to send our profile twice. After Several calls to get their feedback on our profile the response was “oh, we thought everything was all set”. The agency said, what do you think of the family. Response – “oh their fine.” She came to the agency at about 6 1/2months. She wants no support/counseling from the agency. Want tell who the father is. Should I be worried? Should I push to meet her to try and get a gut feeling? Should we move on?
Cheryl, I’ll post your question to the Creating a Family Facebook Support Group (https://www.facebook.com/groups/40688106167/) to see what others have to say. I’ll chime in as well after I’ve given others a chance.
We had a failed adoption after our daughter was placed with us for 3 months (in Wisconsin, a BM has 30 days). Our birthmother postponed her court date twice, making the placement eventually get to 90 days. Some major warning signs for us, now looking back: 1) She never called our daughter by the name we chose, only the one she chose 2)Last minute decision and no couseling. Chose adoption and us just after giving birth 3)Major emotional issues during the time of placement…depression, crying for the child, anger that we were not communicating enough even though we did daily 3) wanting more and more assistance; more than the state would legally allow.
Dawn: Thanks for the great post. You’ve inspired me to write this post about the signs that a surrogacy match might fail. http://fertilitylawmatters.com/twelve-signs-that-a-surrogacy-match-might-fail/.
Great idea! Mane sure you post it on the Creating a Family Facebook page Or Group So I’ll see it.
Alabama and Hawaii are the only two that allow pre-birth consent from expectant mothers. Alabama has a revocation period. Hawaii apparently doesn’t. I can totally see some agencies, lawyers, and even adoptive parents taking advantage of that.
My understanding is that even though some states allow a woman to agree to an adoption before birth she has to reaffirm that decision in writing after birth. Can’t imagine a state trying to enforce a relinquishment signed before the baby is born.
In every state, a birth mother has a period of time to change her mind after birth. In other words, the adoptive parents cannot hang out at her vaginal opening and grab the baby away the minute it emerges against the birth mom’s wishes. The exact rules and procedure will vary from state to state, and in states that permit a consent to happen before birth, the birth mom must reaffirm her consent after birth. So, no, a consent before birth is not irrevocable.
Not in Hawaii. I looked it up. If the baby is placed with a family at birth, consent is irrevocable. 🙁
Robyn, Some states allow the paperwork to be signed before birth, but the woman still has an opportunity to change her mind after the birth.
Strange things can and do happen! When I work with families I tell them really no matter what the birth mother says and does in the months, days, or hours leading up to the birth and delivery of the baby- she can change her mind either way. I’ve seen it happen both way- birth mother is involving the adoptive parents in sonograms, saying it is their baby they are just birthing the baby for them, etc and then baby is born and they can’t place the child. Or the birth mother is inconsistent, doesn’t respond to phone calls or show up at meetings and then adoptive family gets the call from the hospital to come get their baby! And the birth mother can and does change the adoption plan in international adoptions- this has been the case and possibility for many years with South Korea. It was very rare and still not an everyday happening but does take place – before the placement of the child with the adoptive family.
Yep 7 out of 12 signs for our failed adoption in October…
I’m not sure I agree with #12, but the rest of them are pretty good. DD’s birthmom hid her pregnancy from almost everyone. DS’s birthmom was very confident in her decision, and she was young. But I think if more than one sign is present, that would be a clearer indication of red flags.
Re: the 3rd paragraph: Did Alabama and Hawaii change their laws? Because they did allow moms to sign TPR before birth.
Tiffany, not all adoption agencies require the prospective adoptive parents to bear the full weight of the expectant woman’s expenses. Some group the cost and spread it out over all their adoptive families as part of their fee. How many of you have used agencies that handle expectant woman expenses that way?
We decided on International adoption t because my husband and I did not know if we can handle the pain of losing another child due to the birth mother changing her mind.
This was the appeal of international adoption for us. There was for sure an orphaned boy… and we paid the bulk of the $$ after we were SURE he was going to be OURS… and his birth mother is unknown.. not saying that makes it *easier* because it doesn’t. Sure, it’s nice to know she can’t renege, but it’s also hard when my beautiful boy (adopted on his 14th birthday from China) asks in his limited English, “why did Mama throw me away like a girl?” FWIW… My $.02 after “breaking up” with a shady domestic agency in 2009… YMMV. =)
I think this list can be helpful, but we had four of those warning signs in our first adoption and it worked out. Our daughters birthmom didn’t share her adoption plan with family. We suspect that she hid the pregnancy, but don’t know for sure. She didn’t have or want counseling, she didn’t respond to our agency with info and the baby was born on December 12 (the day after the birthmom’s birthday). She chose us about a month before the birth, but then disappeared and we had given up on the situation. Then we got a call from the agency the day after our daughter was born to come and get her. Our situation was very unusual (in fact our agency uses it as an example of how strange things can happen).
You compared the adoption relationship to a dating relationship (sorta)….the difference with some of us is this might be a one shot deal. I don’t like to bring money up but with birth mother expenses, if a BM backs out, the expenses go with her. Some of us are saving ever little bit and might have one shot. I have NO problem helping a BM out but this is a reality in my sihttps://creatingafamily.org/blog/wp-admin/edit-comments.php?comment_status=moderated#comments-formtuation.
Jennifer, your story is proof that there is always hope. Glad it worked out for you.