In the 13 years that I’ve helped hopeful adoptive parents parents write and network their adoption profile, I’ve been asked all kinds of questions. But there’s one question that pops up again and again: What should I put in it?
As someone who once asked it myself, I understand where they’re coming from. For many waiting adoptive parents, adoption networking is a new concept, and writing a profile is one of the most important — and challenging — parts of it.
Knowing what to put in your profile, and what to leave out, will not only save you time and effort down the road. It will also increase your chances of getting chosen by prospective birthparents.
And while every adoptive parent profile is different and the details will vary from one hopeful family to the next, there are some basic things that need to go into it.
Here’s a list of the things that I recommend you put into it — and leave out — based on my experiences with families who have been matched with prospective birthparents.
Snapshots of your life and family
If you want expecting parents to choose you as parents for their baby, they need to know who you are. What are you like? What do you like to do? What’s special about you? What’s your family like? What kind of future can you offer a baby?
Remember, most expectant parents will go through anywhere from 3 to 23 (or more) profiles before they make their decision. As a result, you’ll need to find ways to set yours apart. In writing your parent profile, describe what you enjoy doing as individuals, as a couple and as potential parents. Don’t include everything. Instead, pick and choose the details carefully and make sure they’re relevant to your goal. The sooner you get to your story and tell it in your own distinctive way, the more likely you’ll stand out from the crowd and get noticed.
One of the things that your profile needs to do is create a portrait of yourself. A full portrait rather than a sketch. Not sure where to start? Talking about what you’re passionate about and like to do for fun is a great way to get into your story and introduce yourself to prospective birthparents. Draw them in with concrete details and examples rather than a laundry list of things you like to do. Stories are memorable and appeal to our senses, lists don’t.
For instance, if you like to go camping, don’t just mention it and move on. Talk about a recent trip you went on. Describe what it was like to sleep under the stars, roast marshmallows around the campfire, paddle down the river, wake up to the smell of the pine trees or whatever other details come to mind.
Why you’re adopting
Some expecting parents may be curious what led you to choose adoption. Most will assume it’s because of infertility. If it isn’t — for instance, if you always planned to adopt — mention it in your profile. It will differentiate you from other hopeful parents and give prospective birthparents a window into your character and values.
If infertility is part of your story, that’s ok, too. There’s nothing wrong with referring to it in a sentence or two in your profile. But only in a sentence or two. Because it’s such a personal, sensitive topic, some adoptive parents tend to get carried away and go into way more detail than necessary. The result: they often come off sounding bitter, desperate or entitled. Acknowledging your infertility struggle, especially in a positive way — for instance, what it taught you or how it brought you and your partner closer together — is important. But because it’s an easy topic to fumble, the less you say about it in your profile the better. If expecting parents want to know more about it, they can ask their adoption worker.
Your experience with children
One of the things that prospective birthparents want to know is what kind of parent will you be. Your profile is your perfect opportunity to show them. Using illustrations and examples, tie your stories back to children as much as possible. For instance, if you have children, describe the things you like to do together, whether it be throwing around a baseball, having fun with arts and crafts, or strolling through an outdoor market. Even better, tell them with pictures.
If you don’t have children, talk about some of the child-related groups or activities you’re involved such as coaching peewee soccer, babysitting your nephews or goofing around with your friends’ kids at the park. Or talk about how you can’t wait to see your child splash around at the community pool or join you on your morning walks with your dog in the neighborhood ravine. Every story you tell in your profile should say something about you that will help and influence prospective birthparents with their decision-making.
Your home and neighborhood
One of the goals of your profile is to show expecting parents that you can provide a safe and loving home for their child. So what better way to do it than to include a description and photos of our home and neighborhood?
Once again, your goal is to paint a picture of the kind of life their child will have with you. If you have a room picked out for the baby, show it. If you have a backyard where children can run around in or climb trees, show it. If there’s a park down the street or lots of young children in the neighborhood, show it. Expectant parents don’t need to know whether your house is new or old, large or small or how many square feet it has. However, they do want to know that it’s safe, comfortable and ready for their child.
This one is tricky. If you’re not careful, this section can come off as preachy and be a huge turn off for prospective birthparents. Values mean different things to different people. At the end of the day, what it really comes down to is what’s important for you? What do you believe in? What are you concerned about? What do you hope to pass on to your child? One of the best ways to get at the subject is to simply talk about what you like to do and let your readers draw their own own conclusions.
For instance, if family is important to you, show family get-togethers. Talk about how you celebrate Thanksgiving or birthdays or about the special traditions your parents have handed down and how you plan to continue them. If the arts are important to you, talk about why they’re important and how you plan to enrol your child into music or dance lessons. If education is important, talk about your hopes and dreams to send your child to college or how you will encourage your children to pursue their own learning path based on their own interests and ability. If religion is important, talk about how it guides your life and how you plan to raise your child with those values.
Your personal connection to adoption
Most expectant parents don’t know a lot about adoption. Unlike you, they haven’t had the benefit of adoption edcuation and training classes. So even if they have an adoption plan in mind, they will still have doubts and questions about how it will work out and whether they’ll even go through with it.
If you have a personal adoption connection — through a family member or a friend — be sure to talk about it. Explaining how adoption looks and works, and putting a face on it, can help put an expectant parent’s mind at ease and provide a sense of comfort and support during a difficult time.
Your thoughts about adoption
Even if you don’t have a personal adoption connection, it’s important to include a section about adoption in your profile. If you don’t, some prospective birthparents may wonder why.
What are you hiding? Aren’t you comfortable with adopting? Isn’t your family behind you? What does open adoption mean to you and how do you see your relationship moving forward? You don’t need to say much. But you do need to show that you know what you’re talking about and that you’re looking forward to becoming an adoptive parent.
Your thoughts about parenting
Choosing adoptive parents for their child is one of the toughest things that expectant parents will ever do. Many wonder whether they’ll find parents who will love their child as much as they do. This is the section where you get a chance to address those fears and show prospective parents what you have to offer. If you’re a parent, talk about the things you like to do with your child.
Or even better, say in photos — include pictures of you playing and interacting together. if you don’t have children, talk about the things you like to do with other family members’ or friends’ children that will illustrate the type of parent you would be. Before they choose you, prospective birthparents need to know how you plan to raise, care and nuture their child.
Your childcare plans
Right now your energies are focused on finding a match, But it’s important to think beyond that — about what happens after your match is approved and your baby comes home. What are your child-rearing plans? Are you or your partner planning to take a leave from work? If so, for how long?
As your child grows up, do you intend to stay at home or return to work? As always, be honest about your intentions. Don’t say things that you think expectant parents wants to hear. Remember, one day they will be part of your family and you don’t want to make waves with them down the road.
The future you can offer a child
For most prospective birthparents, your profile will be the first point of contact, their first time they will meet and learn about you. I already talked about how your profile should be child-centered and how your stories need to relate back to a child.
But you can never talk about this topic enough. Be sure your profile contains a section about the opportunities you can offer your child in the future, whether it be taking part in sports, going to camp, or travelling around and seeing the world.
The relationship you hope to have with your future child’s birthparents
just because this section is included here, at the bottom of the list, doesn’t mean it’s less important than the others. in fact, this is one of the most important topics in your adoption profile.
Expecting parents don’t only need to know who you are now, before the placement, they have to know what place they’ll have in your life later, after the placement. With all the stories online about adoptive parents closing down their adoption, this issue has become top of mind for many prospective birthparents. So don’t forget to include a section about how you plan to keep in touch with them later, and how. Will it be through phone calls and photos? Skype? Visits? Again, find your comfort level and communicate it as accurately and honestly as you can.
A final sign off
Many adopting parents wrap up their letter with a section called “Our Promise to You” or some variation of it. Personally, I’m not a big fan of signing off your profile with a promise. After all, we all know what happens to promises — often they get broken.
Keep in mind that at this point you and the prospective birthparents don’t have a relationship. You don’t know anything about each other, how things will play out or what the future holds. So instead of setting yourself up for disappointment down the road by making declarations about things you know nothing about or that could change, devote the last part of your profile to the things that really count: thanking the expectant parents for reading your letter, summing up your earlier points and looking forward to a possible future together.
Writing an adoption profile is one of the most important and challenging parts of the open adoption networking process. Knowing what to put in your profile — and what to leave out — can help you stand out from the crowd and increase your chances of being chosen by prospective birthparents.
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