Grieving the Inability to Adopt

Some couples, though fertile, are unable to adopt even though they've wished to their whole lives.

Sonia Billadeau August 18, 2014
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Many people understand the need for infertile couples to grieve the loss of their fertility, especially those who are unable to resolve their infertility with a mutually genetic child. But to grieve the ability to adopt? To understand this, one must first appreciate that adoption is not a go-to plan b for infertile couples, but rather an endeavor in its own right, with many people having a strong passion for adopting regardless if they are able to conceive genetic children or not. Once adoption is understood in this context, one can relate to the fact that when someone truly desires something but is prevented from reaching their goal for whatever reason, there is a legitimate need for some to have to grieve a future they once envisioned but cannot bring to fruition.

Some people claim to have had a heart for adoption from a young age. They may have always assumed they’d adopt. Many of these people have had their hearts set on a particular type of adoption, usually international, foster care, and/or special needs. With so many children in need of forever families, it may be hard to imagine that someone who wants to adopt cannot.

Sometimes, the reason one can’t adopt is because one’s spouse is not on board with the idea. Perhaps the couple failed to broach the subject before tying the knot. Perhaps they did discuss it, but the spouse changed his or her mind for whatever reason after the wedding.

Other times, extended family may present a problem. If a couple are very close with their parents and siblings, but none of them would accept an adopted child as part of the family, it may give the couple pause. Is it fair to bring a child into a family where none of the grandparents, aunts, or uncles would treat the child as a grandchild, niece, or nephew? Is the couple willing to distance itself from one’s families of origin for the sake of adopting a child? It is better for all involved, including the child to be adopted, that there be an entire support system in place for the adoptive family.

Many people cite finances as an obstacle to adoption. The common retort to this is that adopting from foster care can be free, yet this is an oversimplified response. While there may not be program fees associated with adopting from foster care, there are certain requirements that the family must pass in order to be approved to adopt. If a couple is living in an efficiency apartment, for instance, they will not be approved to adopt even one child since the child must have her or his own bedroom in the family home. What may pass as a tight but doable living arrangement for a biological family often doesn’t pass when Social Services are involved.

There are also various background considerations that come into play. People make mistakes, but there are certain legal mistakes that Social Services is not willing to overlook when it comes to placing a child into someone’s home. There could be countless explanations for the negative record: a one-time lapse in judgment, a false accusation that the person was unable to be exonerated from, a spouse’s past that the other was unaware of until the home study process brought it to the surface.

And while private adoption (also known as independent adoption, which is legal in various states) may bypass many adoption agencies’ age requirements, it becomes much more difficult, if not impossible, to adopt past a certain age. Some people are willing to adopt as a single parent, while others always envisioned adopting only into a marriage. For these folks, not finding a marriage partner by a certain age acts as a disqualifier to their hopes of adopting.

Just like telling infertile couples to “just adopt,” telling someone who had hoped to adopt to “just conceive” is equally ignorant and unhelpful. But there is no real outlet for those who hoped to adopt–even pursued it, sometimes for years–but never did. They don’t fit into the larger adoption community because they are not a member of the adoption triad. And many don’t fit into an infertility community either, as their hopes to adopt may have had nothing to do with their ability to conceive on their own.

Are you in this boat? If so, drop a line and know that you are not alone.

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Sonia Billadeau


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