The federal government has cut its inter-country adoption agreement with Ethiopia, one of the most popular programs for Australians and the only one to allow single women to adopt.
Prospective parents who have been waiting up to five years for a child were told of the closure yesterday.
Some will be able to join another program although they will have to go to the end of the queue, adding years to their wait while some will now be too old to adopt a child from any country.
Diane Harapin from National Adoption Awareness Week says the prospective parents are devastated. Many have spent years and thousands of dollars learning the language and visiting the country.
"It's not just the loss of the child, it's the loss of the whole dream," she says. "It's five years of counselling and commitment. It's not like buying a puppy you can't just go and get another one. It's very sad.
"Those children that have every right to live in this amazing country will never make it here. They'll either stay in an orphanage or live in another country."
In a statement, the Attorney-General's Department said the Ethiopia program has become increasingly unpredictable, complex and uncertain. Applicants will get their money back, it said.
Meanwhile, the adoption program with South Korea has also slowed, with the Korean government announcing it will reduce number of inter-country adoptions.
Video: Deborra Lee Furness's adoption battle