A “Match” Is Not The Same As An Adoption

You see it just about everywhere on social media today:

  • “It’s A Match!”
  • “Congratulations F. Family on your match!”
  • “Chosen!”
  • “8 Matches in 8 months!”
  • “P. has been matched. Expectant mom is due any day now!”

If you’ve just started to look for a match yourself through independent or self-matching adoption, announcements like that likely trigger some of the following thoughts:

  • Wow! Look how many people are adopting!
  • Sounds like finding a match is easier than I thought
  • If I keep going, one day I’ll get matched too

But if you’re been waiting a long time to connect with an expectant mother, another series of thoughts may come to mind:

  • Why is everyone else finding a match but not me?
  • What are they doing that I’m not?
  • Is there something wrong with me?

Announcements about adoption matches are strange things. Even though we see them all the time we really don’t know what’s going on behind the scenes are or what’s behind them at all.

If you’re like most people starting out in private domestic adoption, you probably equate a “match” with a finalized adoption.

But they’re not the same.

A match is when an adopting parent and expectant parent connect and decide to create an adoption plan together.

A finalized adoption, on the other hand, is one where a birthmother terminates her parental rights and the adoptive parents become the child’s legal parents.

In some cases, a match will lead seamlessly to a finalized adoption. But that only happens after the baby is born and the birthparents have signed the adoption papers following the completion of all of their counseling and legal work.

In many cases, matches don’t go the distance. At some point in the relationship an expectant mother will change her mind and decide that she wants to parent rather than place her baby for adoption.

Match Announcements Can Inspire Other Hopeful Adoptive Parents

Or the adoptive parents will decide for their own reasons that they don’t want to move forward with it.

And sometimes the match isn’t a match at all. It’s a scam. The “expectant mother” isn’t expecting or has no adoption plan.

Generally speaking, there’s nothing wrong with an adoption specialist announcing an adoption match. Many do it to inspire their clients and other hopeful parents.

It also shows that the service is successful: If all of my clients are finding matches, I must be doing something right. And if you join my service, you too can find one!

But it can also be misleading if you don’t know all of the details behind a situation. Which, of course, you don’t.

Where things get tricky is what happens after the match is announced. Does it lead to a placement and a finalized adoption? Or does it fall apart?

Nobody is getting track. But judging by all of the noise on social media you could be forgiven if you thought adoptions were taking place left, right and center.

Usually there’s an interval between a match and a placement. It all depends on what stage the expectant mother is in her pregnancy or in her adoption plan.

Sometimes an expectant mother will choose adoptive parents for her baby early in her pregnancy either because she’s sure of her adoption plan or she wants to use the time to bond with the adoptive parents. Finding parents may also make her feel more comfortable with her decision, especially if others closed to her—the baby’s father or her family–are opposed to it.

Matches Can Fall Apart At Any Time During The Expectant Mother’s Pregnancy

But a lot can happen over the next five or six months. She may not have carefully thought through her decision. Or she may have initially chose adoption because she’s no longer with the baby’s father . But then one day out of the blue he comes back into the picture and she decides she wants to parent with him.

Or her family may not support her financially or emotionally at the early stages of her pregnancy. But then, as they get closer to her delivery day, they change their mind, take her in, and they all decide to raise the baby together.

Many matches unravel early in an expectant parent’s pregnancy when she is still exploring her options and not ready to make a commitment. But most happen closer to the placement date, or just afterwards, once the baby is born and the situation becomes more real.

It’s hard to say what percentage of matches fall through but I’ve seen figures as high as 40 percent or more.

Whatever the statistic is, the key takeaway from all of this is matches are unpredictable. They involve relationships and relationships are volatile. Everything might seem like it’s going great one day, and then something happens and the situation changes.

We’ve heard of adopting and expecting parents getting along like a house on fire to the point where the expectant mother will introduce the adoptive parents to her family and invite them to be by her side during the delivery.  Then the baby arrives and from one moment to the next her adoption plans go out the window.

Adoptive parents also change their mind, although it happens less often. Still, if you’re involved in a situation with an expectant mother and suddenly some unforeseen medical or legal complications pop up or the expectant parents start making unreasonable demands, you may think twice about moving forward with it.

A Failed Match Can Be Devastating For Prospective Parents

Many times adoptive parents will blame themselves when a match falls through, but usually it has nothing to do with them or unravels through no fault of their own.

That’s why it’s important to go into a situation with your eyes open and do all of your due diligence early in the relationship before you get too financially or emotionally involved.

Although you hear a lot about matches when they’re made, you don’t hear anything about them when they go south. Adopting parents are usually so shocked and devastated that they can’t even talk about it, especially if they made a big deal about it earlier. And adoption specialists don’t want their names attached to it.

“Five matches in 5 months” sounds a lot better than “5 Matches in 5 months but only one resulted in an approved adoption.”

The other thing you may not be aware of is that sometimes you’ll read numerous announcements about a match without realizing that they all involve the same one. As the say goes, “Success has many fathers, but failure is an orphan.”

For instance, prospective parents might be working with different adoption specialists when they find a match on their own through word of mouth. The next thing they know the advisor they were working with announces their match. Then the self-matching website where they posted their online profile announces their match. Then the company that created their adoption book announces their match.

To the rest of the world it sounds like three couples with three different matches when, in fact, it’s one match and none of these other adoption specialists had anything to do with it.

Matches Are Sometimes Announced Strictly For Marketing Purposes

There’s nothing inherently wrong in sharing news about other people’s successes. Everybody does it. We all like good news. But if it’s deliberately deceptive, done strictly for marketing purposes, that’s different and potentially harmful.

The problem is that it paints an unrealistic picture of what’s really happening in the independent adoption world and creates false expectations in the minds of hopeful parents who are looking for a match. It adds to their anxiety and stress.

If you keep reading announcements about everyone else’s matches eventually you’re going to wonder why aren’t you finding one of your own and whether there’s something seriously wrong with you and or the way you’re conducting your adoption journey.

The truth is, adoptions take time. They take work. They take patience. And sometimes they take a bit of plain old blind luck.

So next time you read an announcement about a match, keep in mind it might not be what you think it is.

By all means, be joyful for the parties involved and hopeful for yourself. But realize that the match still has a long way to go to get approved and that anything could happen between now and then.

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