Jaimie Dorn still can’t believe it.
“Sometimes when I tell the story myself, I can’t even believe that it’s real and that he’s really here,” she said.
“He” is Christian, the baby boy she and her husband recently adopted after finding a match through Instagram.
For years, adoption agencies have traditionally been the go-to place for waiting adoptive parents to find an adoption match. But the Dorns decided that wasn’t the route for them.
So, on the advice of a friend, the Long Island, New York couple turned their attention to independent adoption, hoping to expand their family by connecting with expectant parents on their own.
Although the couple knew they had a wonderful family, including two children from previous marriages, “we just never felt that we were complete,” Jaimie recently told “Good Morning America.”
Describing themselves as “private” Jaimie was initially hesitant about taking their adoption search to the web.
“We had a lot to accept if we wanted to put ourselves out there and find our child,” she said.
But eventually, they realized that the benefits of creating a social media account and linking to their parent profile outweighed the risks and so they went full steam ahead.
In fact, after a while, her husband, Brian, said, “it almost became fun.”
Through a combination of fun family pics and using hashtags such as #hopetoadopt, #waitingtoadopt and #adoptionrocks, they shared their story.
A year later, their perseverance paid off when a woman in her first trimester spotted their profile online and contacted them.
“It got to a point where we were talking almost every day,” Jaimie said of the birth mom.
Months later, with the assistance of their attorneys. Christian joined their family.
In an interview with Good Morning America, Faith Rousso, an adoption attorney and America Adopts guest blogger, explained how social media gives expectant parents a unique vantage point to view adoptive families.
“With the internet, the expectant parents could be a fly on the wall in the prospective adoptive parents’ lives,” she said. “They could see how they’re living, they could see how their child will live.”
She and other adoption specialists predict that with the rise of social media and the mounting costs of working with an agency, more and more waiting adoptive parents will try their hand at independent adoptions—forging connections with expectant parents on their own, through social media, adoption outreach services and other online marketing tools.
Although the Dorns found a match after a year, not every waiting parent will have the same luck — or the same experience.
Every placement is different, as is the means by which that placement comes about.
But if you’re looking to get your story out there and willing to invest the time and money to build your feed, Instagram is a great place to park your profile and increase your visibility.
To find an adoption match, you need to be in a place where expectant parents can find you. And expectant parents aren’t any different that other people. They’re on social media, especially millennials, and the more people you can send to your online profile the better your chances are of making a connection.
Sounds pretty straightforward. Nevertheless, it won’t happen overnight or easily.
Here are some quick tips to help you maximize your success of connecting with expectant parents on Instagram:
Post Great Photos
The aim of your adoption profile is to tell your story and give expectant parents a glimpse into your life. Make sure that your photos do that. After all, Instagram is a visual media so your photos need to be top-notch.
That doesn’t mean they have to be professional. In fact, they should’t be. Expectant parents are looking for potential parents who are real and authentic—people they can relate to and trust.
So ditch the staged studio shots and any preconceptions you may have about perfection. Birthparents aren’t interested in that. Instead, post natural, casual shots of you doing what you like to do, whether it’s hanging out around the house, sharing a meal, visiting family members, playing with kids or your pet, or just having fun.
Use A Variety Of Shots
It’s tempting to post vacation photos of the two of you or with your family looking at the camera and smiling. And that’s ok. Just don’t get carried away and overdo it. If that’s all you post, your feed is going to get very stale very fast.
Try to mix it up. Yes, post your vacation pics. That’s when you’re the most rested and happy. But be sure to include some action shots of you cooking something up in the kitchen or hanging around in the backyard or your local park as well. In other words, realistic, everyday, day-to-earth pics. Nothing fancy.
Inspirational messages are also effective and are easy to find and post. So keep them in mind too when you’re looking for new ways to liven up your messaging.
Update Your Feed Regularly
One of the biggest mistakes that waiting parents make when they join a social media channel like Instagram is that they upload a million posts at once, at the very beginning, and then let their account go dormant, because either they don’t receive the response they were hoping for or they lose interest.
Put yourself in the shoes of someone who’s following you. Think about what you would find interesting and how you would like to consume it.
Rather than post your photos in bunches, try to space them out over time. That way you’ll find new followers and you won’t overwhelm the ones that you already have. There’s nothing worse than signing on to a feed that has a ton of back-to-back posts and then…nothing.
And in addition to updating your feed, be sure to spend some time on other feeds by liking, sharing and commenting on their posts. There’s a reason Instagram is a social media platform. So be social! This will help you make connections with other likeminded people and it will give your own outreach efforts an extra boost by letting others know that you’re out there.
Use Relevant Hashtags
Cutting through the noise is one of the biggest challenges of posting on Instagram or any social media network, for that matter. Just like you, there are thousands of other waiting parents who are trying to get discovered and they’re all doing the same thing you are: posting their photos in the hopes of building their family through adoption.
As we mentioned, one way to stand out from the crowd is to post interesting updates. Another tried-and-true way is through hashtags. Hashtags are a great way to target people who may be looking for you.
Just make sure that the hashtags are relevant — in other words, ones that expectant parents may type into the search tool. Once again, put yourself in the shoes of someone who is looking for adoptive parents for her baby. What keywords would you use?
Some of the ones we use include #waitingtoadopt #hopingtoadopt #hopetoadopt #openadoption and different variations on them, but you’re free to find your own.
Before you do, consider this: the more generic the hashtag the less likely people will find you. And that goes for the more obscure ones as well.
So instead of #adoption try #openadoption. Instead of #waitingtofindababythroughadoption try #waitingtoadopt. The idea is to strike a balance between super-specific targeted hashtags and ones that expectant parents would intuitively gravitate to in their keyword searches. If you’re not sure which ones to use, check out what other waiting parents are doing.
Keep in mind that a match won’t happen over night. It’s not just about creating an account and then sitting back and waiting until you find a connection.
Expectant parents have to find you. And in order for to do that, you need to help them. That means making sure that you’re active and that your posts are interesting. There’s no point in just going through the motions and posting things that nobody cares about. Go with your gut: If you don’t think your update is interesting, it’s likely that others won’t either.
And be sure to monitor the results. If you’re not getting the results you want, try something new. Experiment. And see what works. Keep track through your analytics. If you really want to increase your reach, try advertising. Because they’re both owned by the same person, you can post and promote your posts on Facebook at the same time.
Watch Out for Scammers
The internet is a great place to get your story out there. But it’s only as good as they people on it. And unfortunately, not everyone who will be responding to your posts will be doing so in good faith.
Some will be scammers, and others will just be pesky or looking for attention. So as with anything you do online, approach it with caution. Use common sense. If something seems too good to be true, it probably is.
When it comes to responding, the usual warning signs apply: if someone demands money or makes unusual requests or puts pressure on you, be careful. Or better yet, head for the hills.
We always recommend getting an adoption professional involved as soon as you find a match. You don’t want to get scammed but you don’t want to lose out on a potential opportunity either. Adoption specialists have experience in sniffing out scams and spotting warning signs that you lack. So don’t be afraid to get them involved.
Although Instagram and other social media channels can be a fast, effective and economical way to get your story out and connect with expectant parents with an adoption plan, there are risks involved.
And remember that finding a match is only one stage in the placement process. It really does take a village to adopt a child.
You still need to hire attorneys and other professionals to make sure that the expectant parents get the counselling and information they need to make an informed decision, to process the paperwork, and ultimately to finalize the adoption.
And once you do that, we know just the place where you can post your announcement. That’s right: Instagram! Good luck!
Looking for ways to increase your outreach? We can help. Learn more about our adoption profiles.
Read the full Good Morning America story here.