Reasons a Child Adoption May Be Denied

By Tess Miller

Updated April 18, 2017

baby image by Diane Stamatelatos from

Approximately 130,000 U.S. children are adopted each year, but that doesn't mean the adoption process is easy 1. Private adoption agencies are allowed to set their own criteria for prospective parents, while public agencies are governed by state laws that can put adoption out of reach for certain individuals. No matter what type of agency you work with, there are a number of reasons an adoption petition may be denied.


Your physical health may become an issue when seeking to adopt a child. If you or your partner are significantly overweight or have an illness or chronic condition that may interfere with your ability to raise a child, your adoption may be denied.

Marital Status

Most agencies, public or private, prefer to place children in a two-parent home, says Brette McWhorter Sember, author of "The Adoption Answer Book: Your Complete Guide to a Successful Adoption." If you are single, it's possible for your adoption petition to be rejected because you either live in a state does not allow single people to adopt or because the birth mother wants her child placed in a two-parent home 3. Additionally, if you have been married for less than three years, or if the agency determines your marriage is not stable, your adoption application can be rejected.

Financial or Employment Problems

Financial stability is an important factor in granting an adoption. Agencies want to ensure you have the financial wherewithal to care for a child, and will give preference to those demonstrating a history of financial stability. If you have either declared bankruptcy or have a high debt-to-income ratio, an agency may reject your application. An agency may reject your petition based on your job or employment history as well. Unemployment can place a lot of strain on a family, and agencies want to place children with parents who have a high degree of job security.

Substance-Abuse Issues

If an agency suspects you currently use drugs, or you acknowledge using or abusing drugs in the past, your adoption application can be denied. While occasional alcohol use may not be an issue in a public adoption, some private agencies may choose not to place a child in your home if you consume alcohol, even in moderate amounts.


An adoption agency may reject your application if you are a smoker. This is not only because smoking can severely compromise your own health, but because exposure to second-hand smoke is dangerous for children.

Living Situation

While it should not matter whether you live in a city apartment or a house with a yard, your living situation is a factor when adopting a child. A home that is unclean, unsafe or located in or near a crime-ridden neighborhood could result in rejection, as can living in a home that is too small or in any way ill-equipped to accommodate a child.