By Amy S. Cohen, LICSW
The adoption process has changed greatly over the last 30 years. In the past, the majority of adoptions were closed. Birth parents had no say in where their child would be placed. They could not choose an adoptive family, meet prospective parents, or share their desires about the cultural, spiritual, and familial influences they hoped would be present in their child’s life. Adoption has taken great strides since then, and I have experienced the positive experience of open adoptions firsthand. Today, many adoptions (and nearly all that take place through our agency) directly involve both the expectant/birth parents and the adoptive parents. Each family has the opportunity to get to know one another through emails, phone conversations, or in person if they wish. This contact allows them to decide whether or not there is a match before an adoption is pursued.
At the beginning of their journey, adoptive families create adoption profiles to help expectant/birth parents get a sense of who they are. Expectant/birth parents will look through adoptive parent profiles before determining who will be the best fit for their child. It is this adoption profile that truly makes the first impression. As a result, prospective parents should consider it carefully. For the expectant/birth mother, these profiles serve as a very first look into the life of the family that will soon raise her baby. It paints a picture of what kind of home her child will have: Will her child have siblings? Will he or she enjoy the close community of a small town, or have countless opportunities in the city? Are the adoptive parents religious, educated, outdoorsy? Mostly, the expectant/birthparent may be looking for some type of connection to you. The more you put in, the better.
If you are a prospective parent in the beginning stages of creating an adoptive family profile, I recommend considering the following five questions:
- What do you want your profile to “say”?
As an adoptive family, you have a story to tell: how you got here, what you have been doing, and where you want to go. Why are you in the adoption process? The goal of an adoption profile is not to connect with everyexpectant parent out there, but to connect with the right one for you. Through your profile, you should show the birthmother how you are the best match for her child, and that you can give her child something no one else can. You will be chosen for something that sets you apart from other adoptive families, not for your similarities.
- How will a birthmother remember you?
The most successful adoptions occur when adoptive parents and birth parents make a strong connection before the birth of the baby. This connection can be anything from a common love for dogs, to a shared career path in nursing, to a mutual interest in hiking. It is some sort of common ground that makes an expectant/birth parent feel more at ease about the adoption process. It establishes some ground for trust, and the foundation in which a relationship can evolve. The most important thing to keep in mind when beginning your profile is to be yourself. Be honest and genuine about who you are and your values in life. The more authentic you are in communicating your true personality, lifestyle, and parenting philosophies, the more real you will become to the birthparents.
- Why are you here?Expectant/birth mothers are often curious of why prospective families want to adopt in the first place. Most expectant/birth parents want to place their child with a family who is unable to have a child. In this way, they feel that they are giving this child the best opportunity in life and doing something good for a family that is unable to have a child on their own. Sharing your journey to adoption with the expectant parents is a vital part of this process, but it is very important to remain positive as you tell your story. You may mention a struggle with infertility, and the positive lessons you have learned from that struggle. Express your hopes and dreams of parenthood, and your plan for raising a child in the future. Expectant/birth parents are often looking for a solution—a home bigger than theirs, a larger income to provide for their child, a solid support system that they cannot offer. Explain how you can give all of these, and more, if you were to raise their child.
- Are you engaging your reader? You do not have to be a creative writer to let your true personality shine through your adoptive family profile. Try to be consistent in staying true to your own voice. Be humorous, and use anecdotes if you would normally. Use the tone you are most comfortable with to tell your story.
- Are you engaging your viewer? Show more than tell. In creating a profile, it is important for an adoptive family to use pictures to visually engage the expectant parents. Consider carefully what photos say “you” the most. A photo of your immediate family smiling makes a great cover photo for your album, while the content photos inside should tell a more personal story. Use wedding photos, to show how much love the child will have. If you are athletic, choose a photo of you playing or coaching sports. If you love an adventure, use a picture of the family enjoying a hike. In many cases, a picture can be greater than words. Your profile should be colorful, active, funny and show love.
Creating an adoption profile can be intimidating at first for prospective adoptive families. They require a lot of thought, dedication, and time. These profiles serve as the main tool in helping expectant/birth parents learn more about you as an adoptive parent. It will be beneficial for you to get support from others as you put your adoption profile together, including your loved ones, your adoption agency or others you know that have adopted before. An adoption profile promoted by a licensed agency will be better received than a family profile posted on the internet, because the agency is committed to you and your desire to have a child to love and cherish.
Amy Cohen is the Executive Director of Adoptions With Love (AWL) (link to website). She has been working at AWL since 1986 and became the Executive Director in October 2001. Amy’s responsibilities include overseeing the day-to-day operations of the office and formulating and implementing plans for AWL’s future. Amy works extensively with expectant birth parents over the phone and in person. She also conducts home studies and provides post placement services for adoptive families. Amy has a Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology and a Master’s degree in Social Work. Amy is married and has two young adult children.