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Adoption Doesn't Work Out

Adoption can be a wonderful experience that gives potential adopters the chance to share their love with a child in need. The adopted child can also have the chance to grow up in a caring home, with family support and more opportunities. As great as adoption can be, the adoption journey is expensive once you pay adoption fees and other expenses. Even after clearing the financial hurdles, the process is, unfortunately, not always smooth. Some adoptions do not work out, even if the parents and the child want it to happen and despite the best efforts of adoption counselors, attorneys, and other adoption professionals.

This page gives a broad overview of why an adoption may not go through. It also links to more detailed articles that can help you answer specific questions. Adoption laws vary by state. So, you should consult an adoption attorney in a city near you to give you the best advice about your circumstances.

Why Adoptions Don’t Work Out

The adoption journey is long and complex, creating many opportunities where an adoption can be reversed, overturned, or cancelled.

Anyone involved in the adoption process can change their mind before the final adoption order is signed, including:

  • The child to be adopted
  • Adoptive parents
  • Adoption agency
  • State child welfare agency
  • Foreign country officials
  • Birth mother or biological parents

Adoption disruptions are more common for teenagers and older children. Adoption disruptions are also more common for disabled children and children with special needs such as children with childhood trauma or behavior disorders. Disruptions can occur any time during the adoption process, and even after the adoption is finalized.

Some parents choose to adopt through the foster care system. But even a long-standing relationship between foster children and foster parents can change after adoption.

Before Placement of the Child

There is generally a preference for a child to live with the biological family. Even in cases where a child has been taken out of the family home because of neglect or abuse, the birth parents can have the child placed back into the home if they can show that they have made the changes necessary to care for the child. It is generally a long process to terminate parental rights and an adoption cannot be finalized until then.

The birth parents can change their minds despite having an adoption plan and adoption agreement in place. Even if the birth mother and father agree to put their biological children up for adoption they may be able to change their minds and end the adoption before the adoption is completed. Some birth mothers may agree to the adoption while pregnant only to have a change of heart after the child is born. Birthparents may also be pressured by family members to give their child up for adoption and change their minds after missing their birth child for days, weeks, or months.

After the Child Is Placed With the Adoptive Family

Until the biological parents have their parental rights terminated and the adoption order is finalized, the adoption is not complete. A change in circumstances during the probationary period or during the post-placement investigation could result in having the adoption process terminated. This can generally be done by the adoptive family, birth family, or the state.

After placement with the family, welfare workers may visit the adoptive family’s home to do an inspection, observe the child’s interaction with the family, talk to the parents, and talk to the child. If the state agency has any concerns about the child’s wellbeing, they can further investigate or require the family to make changes. If they are worried about the safety of the child, the child can be taken into custody and the adoption can be terminated.

After a Final Adoption Order by the Court

After filling out the adoption application, paying all the fees, and finalizing all the adoption paperwork, the adoption can still not work out. Some parents have a difficult time raising an adopted child with behavioral problems, destructive behavior, mental health concerns, a medical condition, or special needs. Some of these children grew up traumatized by physical abuse, sexual abuse, or without basic needs or support. 

This can be difficult for adoptive parents, especially when the family has other young children that may be at risk. It can be a difficult decision to make but some families only realized they cannot provide what the adopted child needs.

Reversing the adoption is sometimes called vacating the adoption or an annulment. Adoptive parents cannot just go back to the adoption agency and tell them they no longer want the child. After a final adoption order is entered by the court, the family may need to return to family court to change the parental status. When an adoption is reversed, the parents may need to show that the adoptive relationship is not in the child’s best interests. Talk to an adoption attorney about how to reverse an adoption.

Can I Use the Adoption Tax Credit if the Adoption Didn’t Go Through?

The adoption tax credit and income exclusion are available to defer the costs of adoption. Qualified adoption expenses include adoption fees, attorney fees, adoption agency fees, court costs, and travel expenses when traveling away from home. Generally, qualifying adoption tax credits are available for adoption expenses even if the adoption didn’t work out. The income exclusion for employer-provided benefits for adoption expenses may also be available for an adoption disruption.

International Adoption Fraud

Some adoptive parents choose to not do a domestic adoption and choose instead to go through international adoptions. But adoption practices in a foreign country can be hard to understand. There are several domestic adoption and international adoption agencies that can arrange foreign adoption, usually for a hefty fee.

Unfortunately, adoption scams are real. Some of these adoption agencies can be engaging in fraud. International adoption fraud can involve requiring payment for a child that does not exist or is not really available for adoption. An adoptive family can spend tens of thousands of dollars in fees before they discover they are the victims of an adoption scam. An adoption attorney can help you avoid adoption fraud.

Gaining a child through adoption is a rewarding experience. But it is also complex and expensive. It can frustrate potential parents to go through the time and expense only to have the adoption fail. An adoption attorney can guide you through the adoption roller coaster and help you avoid some problems.

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