Consequences of a Lost Referral


adoption lostA referral or match with a child in international adoption can be lost or withdrawn for a number of reasons. Some reasons for a lost referral could be that a family member decided to parent the child, the child cannot be deemed legally abandoned, or the child is too ill to travel. As families begin to explore the risks in international adoption, many families are concerned that if a referral is lost, they would need to start the entire adoption process over again from the beginning. This is not the case for most families; however, there are consequences for a lost or withdrawn referral. Three of more common consequences of a lost or withdrawn to prospective adoptive parents are discussed below.

Emotional Consequence: A lost or withdrawn referral can be emotionally difficult to process. In discussing how we can limit the risks in adoption, sometimes we talk to families in terms of “guarding your heart,” meaning to remain cognizant that the referred child is not yet your child until they are home. Even as I have said this to families in the past, I am not sure this outlook is realistic or even healthy. In truth, there is no way that we can fully “guard our hearts” from falling in love with a beautiful child that we hope will soon call us “Mommy” or “Daddy.” Even if you have never met your referred child, but you have accepted that referral, it’s natural to fall in love with the child through their photo and information received. It’s also natural to feel disconnected from the child for fear that the referral could be lost. Regardless of your outlook, if you receive news that a referral has been lost, that news is devastating. Some families need time to process this, some families decide to continue on as quickly as possible and some families may decide that the loss was too difficult to continue on. Each family must reflect and determine what is best for them, should this risk become a reality.

Delay in Process: Once a referral is lost or withdrawn and a family decides that they would like to continue on and receive a referral of a different child, it may take some time to receive that referral. The amount of time that is may take will depend on both the child’s country of origin and the characteristics of the child that a family is seeking to adopt. In most countries, and in all Hague Convention countries, the match of the child with a family is completed by the government in that child’s country of origin. In MLJ Adoptions’ international programs, the government issues the referral in Bulgaria, Haiti, Honduras, Nicaragua, Mexico and Ukraine. The foreign government’s Central Authority will have discretion on when and if the family is issued another referral or match. In some non-Hague countries, like the Democratic Republic of Congo and Samoa, where the Adoption Service Provider (ASP) assists in the initial match, the ASP may have more control over when the referral is issued. It is likely that a family who lost a referral would be matched with the first child in need of a family that meets the characteristics of a child that the family was requesting. While the ASP may have more control over the process of issuing referrals in such countries, there is a higher risk of losing a referral in these countries.

Risk of Additional Cost: There is a risk of lost fees when a referral is lost in the adoption process. The amount of financial loss may depend on how far along the child is in their adoption process and whether or not there is a cost associated with the care of the child. If a referral is lost very soon after it is issued, it is unlikely that the family will incur much, if any, financial loss. If the abandonment process and/or adoption process has begun or has been completed in the country, the fees associated with those completed services will be a financial risk. If the country program from which you are adopting requires a monthly fee for the care of the child, any fees paid towards the care of that child with have been used to care for the child and, therefore, those fees would be lost.

The risk of a lost or withdrawn referral, unfortunately, is a risk that must be understood and accepted by families seeking to adopt a child from another country. At MLJ Adoptions, if a referral is lost, we are able to offer the support of our social services department to help families manage the loss, if needed, and we will work closely with the family in determining the next steps in moving forward.

For more information about MLJ Adoptions’ international adoption programs, please click here.

Nicole Skellenger works as MLJ Adoptions’ Chief Executive Officer and Adoption Attorney. Nicole has spent time in orphanages with children who have nothing and are desperate for affection and has committed herself to using her skills to create better futures for these deserving children.