Ask AF: Telling Children About a Change of Heart

How do you tell your child when a hoped-for adoption falls through?

Q: Our 5-year-old son (also adopted) was very excited for the arrival of a newborn sister, but we recently found out that the expectant mother changed her mind and decided to parent. How can we break the news to our son?


A: This is a great opportunity to explain another aspect of adoption to your son. Explain that, in order for your family to adopt a baby, the expectant mother has to decide that she isn’t able or ready to be a mommy. Tell him that his birth mother felt that way, and that’s why you’re his forever family, but this baby’s mother decided that she was ready to be a mommy. Your family will just wait for another baby.

Many states require expectant mothers to wait 30 to 45 days after giving birth before relinquishing parental rights. Thus, I always advise parents to tell their children that they will be taking care of the baby for a little while to give the birth mother time to decide what’s best. This way, you’ve prepared the child for the possibility that you will not adopt that baby.