4 Responses To A Failed Adoption

Author of 5 books, podcaster, parent trainer, husband and father.

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A failed adoption hurts as much as a miscarriage. It's painful, embarrassing, frustrating and defeating! When an adoption falls through and all of the plans you made diminish like dust in the wind, where do you go? What do you do? How will you ever find hope in the midst of tragedy?

We were ecstatic when the call came in. The adoption agency we were working with had matched us with a birth mom and the outlook was very good. We were even invited to meet her, along with one of the agency’s social workers, at a local restaurant for lunch. We were nervous, but, we accepted.

In short, our time with her was beyond what we could have imagined or dreamed. We fell in love with her and she walked away from us feeling confident and ready to proceed. That was February. In early April, just a week before the baby was due, she changed her mind and disappeared, leaving us with nothing. If the plans we had made, and the dreams we were dreaming, were a building built with precision and ingenuity, we were watching it crumble floor by floor, right before our eyes, and we were devastated.

The adoption process brings with it the risk of failure. As much as I hate it, and wish I could make it not so, it’s the honest truth. Your birth mother may change her mind, even at the last second. The country you’re adopting from may close their gates and forbid adoptions at the drop of a hat. The child you’ve loved through trauma and pain, and planned to adopt once parental rights were terminated in foster care, may be swooped away and placed with an aunt in another state!

We’ve felt the crushing blow of this and we have many friends who have too. We’ve asked ourselves why? We’ve stood alone in anger and frustration, shaken our fists at the heavens and demanded an answer. We’ve sat with, and grieved with, families who have been rendered helpless by a birth mother’s change of heart, a judge’s ruling, or a country’s closure at the last second. Here’s what we’ve learned to do…

  1. Grieve.You’ve lost something. And that “something” was real. This was your child, your dream, your future. Never let anyone downplay a failed adoption because it wasn’t a biological child. Miscarriages are devastating, no question. We’ve dealt with that too. But the same loss, the same emotion, and the same pain exists with failed adoptions. It’s okay to grieve. It’s okay to feel the loss. And, it’s okay to go through this for a while if need be.
  2. Wait. Wait before you immediately jump back into the adoption process. I really can’t tell you how long you should wait, because every situation is different. But, you need to give yourself some time to heal. You never want adoption to be driven by a deep loss, like a failed adoption. The time you wait should be a time for processing, searching, healing, and restoration.
  3. Lean. Find someone you can lean on through dark days. You want this person to be someone who gets it and won’t try to fix things with clever sayings or Bible verses. One of the healthiest things you can do through the adoption process, but especially if things fall apart, is find a support system. These are people who know what you’re going through as a pre-adoptive or adoptive parent. Stay away from people who don’t have a healthy understanding of adoption, or do not get why you’re doing it. Trust the folks who are in the same trench, dreaming the same dreams, or perhaps have felt the same loss as you have.
  4. Hope. When the time is right, after you’ve grieved for a while or waited for some time, find hope again. Why? Because there is hope. The failed adoption is not your last hope, nor is it your last chance. Trust me. We have walked through this and we found hope. Our family is a story of hope. While we grieved the loss of the adoptions that fell through, we couldn’t imagine, nor picture, our family any different or any better. God knew exactly what He was doing when He brought the children we are raising, into our home.

A story unfolding.

I’ve often told foster and adoptive parents that they have no idea what story their family will tell the world. I believe this with all of my heart because I believe in foster care and adoption. There were times we almost gave up, ended our license, and threw in the towel. I’m glad we didn’t. We would’ve missed out on some amazing blessings.

On that fateful April day, when the agency called to tell us our birth mother had changed her mind, we were devastated. We almost quit on the spot. All we could see was desperation and loss. After all, in our finite minds, we usually can only see our immediate surroundings, especially in tragedy. What we didn’t realize, however, was that just north of where we lived a little boy had been born just 2 weeks before everything fell apart on us.

One year later, we picked him up from his current foster home and brought him home. He would become our forever son in the years that followed. In the middle of our failed adoption, another, much bigger story was unfolding. We couldn’t see it at the time! Today, 7 years later, I couldn’t imagine life without my son. I share this for one reason: You have no idea what your family’s story will be a year from now, 2 years from now, or 5 years from now. Hang on. Wait. Find hope!

Have you ever been through a failed adoption? Share your story with us.


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Mike and Kristin Berry are the Co-Founders of The Honestly Adoption Company and have been parents for nearly two decades. They are the authors of six books, and the host of The Honestly Adoption Podcast.

Sarah Gray

Sarah Gray is the executive assistant to Mike and Kristin Berry. And she is the best in the land. In addition to providing a warm and friendly response to the many emails our company receives on a weekly basis, she also manages Mike and Kristin’s speaking and meeting schedules, and makes sure that team events go off without a hitch.

Nicole Goerges

Nicole Goerges is a Content Contributor & Special Consultant for The Honestly Adoption Company. She works with Mike and Kristin as a recurring co-host for the Honestly Adoption Podcast, and co-host of Kitchen Table Talks, exclusive video content for Oasis Community, along with Kristin. She is a fellow adoptive mom, and former foster parent.

Matt McCarrick

Matt McCarrick is the Content Production Specialist for The Honestly Adoption Company. If you’ve loved listening to our podcast, or enjoyed any of the videos trainings we’ve published, you have Matt to thank. He oversees all of our content production, from video edits, to making sure the tags are correct on YouTube, to uploading new videos to Oasis, to hitting publish on a podcast episode, he’s a content wonder!

Karen Anderson

Karen Anderson is the Community Engagement Specialist for The Honestly Adoption Company. She spends the bulk of her time interacting with, and helping, people through our various social media channels, as well as providing support for Oasis Community members through chat support or Zoom calls. In the same spirit as Beaver, Karen is also passionate about connecting with parents and making them feel loved and supported. Karen is also an FASD trainer and travels often, equipping and encouraging parents.

Beaver Trumble

Beaver Trumble is the Customer Care Specialist for The Honestly Adoption Company. Chances are, if you have been in need of technical support, or forgotten your password to one of our courses, you have interacted with Beaver. He is an absolute pro at customer care. In fact, he single-handedly revolutionized our customer care department last year. Beaver is passionate about connecting with parents and making them feel loved and encouraged.

Kristin Berry

Kristin Berry is the co-founder of, and Chief Content Specialist for, The Honestly Adoption Company. She spends most of her time researching and connecting with guests for our podcast, as well as direction, designing and publishing a lot of the content for our social media channels, blog and podcast. She loves to connect with fellow parents around the world, and share the message of hope with them.

Mike Berry

Mike Berry is the co-founder of, and Chief Marketing Specialist for, The Honestly Adoption Company. He spends the bulk of his time and energy designing and building many of the resources you see within our company, as well as social media and email campaigns. His goal is to use media as a means to encourage and equip parents around the world. He is also the co-host of The Honestly Adoption Podcast.