Those are some of the many questions that hopeful adoptive parents struggle with when putting together their profile. As a professional writer and a book conservationist, Alex and Clare understand the power of words and the importance of telling a good story.
But that didn’t make their profile writing experience any easier. As this New York couple from our adoption profiles page explained to me in a recent interview, not only did they have to find the words to accurately and honestly portray themselves. They also had to juggle satisfying the requirements of their agency with addressing the needs of the prospective birthparents they pictured would one day read their profile.
What was your initial reaction when you found out you had to write a profile of yourselves?
The profile we did for the web is a modified, abbreviated version of the “Birth Parent Letter” or “Book” we put together with our agency. Our first reaction, when we were told we’d have to write 10 to 20 pages about ourselves, was that it seemed like an awful lot. And it was, to tell the truth. In the end, our “Dear Birth Parent” letter was about 2700 words—about twice as long as the one on the web. What was hardest, though, wasn’t writing enough, but paring it down in the right way, to represent ourselves in a way that not only satisfied the requirements of the agency and tried to meet the needs of the unknown birth parents who would be reading it, but also felt like it was a true portrait of us.
How did you get yourself up to speed on how to write one?
Our agency gave us several profiles that other prospective adoptive parents had written (with their names of course erased). That was a great help mainly in figuring out the format—what types of information needed to be there, what order to put them in, things like that—as well as what sort of writing style was appropriate. We used one of them to create an outline with headers, wrote a few words under the ones we had something to say about right away, left the other ones empty till the second time around, and then took it from there. We also looked at other parent profiles online to see what people wrote for other ideas on what to include in our story. In the end we did four or five drafts, with the agency commenting on two or three of them.
What resource, tool or technique helped you the most?
Writing isn’t about getting it right the first time: It’s about revision. Our technique was to write a draft and then let it sit a few days before going back to it with fresh eyes.
What do you think is the most important element of an adoption profile and how did you address it in yours?
The most important element is the photographs—no doubt. People respond more quickly and powerfully to images than they do to words. That’s why we have the adage “A picture is worth a thousand words.” On the other hand, you can’t go back in time to recreate your life to make sure you’ve got the right pictures for your adoption profile! Some people do take pictures of themselves especially for their profile, or hire a professional photographer to take their picture. We chose to work with what we had. The most important photos anyway were the ones with our families that captured moments in time we shared together.
How did you go about writing it — what was the process?
In the written part of the profile, our goal was to try to address the birth parent we pictured in our minds—and, again, to satisfy all the requirements the agency had—and to make sure the birth parents knew that we could provide their child with a safe, loving home and the values and means to thrive and become the person they want to be. As we said, we went through several drafts. Some of it we did together, some of it we did separately and then pulled together afterwards. The first draft was really just a bare-bones version. Once we had answers to go with all the headers, we put together photos to go with them, and then sent that
draft to our agency. They sent it back to us with comments—more photos, they said! We went through a couple more drafts, sent it back to the agency, did a little more tweaking based on their comments, and then we were done. To a large extent the letter ended up being organized around the photos, actually. The section headers we had in the end were as follows: Who We Are, How We Met, Alex About Clare, Clare About Alex, Why We Want to Adopt, Where We Live, Child Care Plans, What We Do for Work, What We Do for Fun, a couple sections on vacations with just photos, Holidays and Traditions, Where We Come From, Our Wedding, What Our Families Think About Adoption, Our Family, What We Want to Say to You.
What was the hardest part?
The most important thing to us was to write a letter that would show birth parents we would be great parents for their child, but do it without slipping into clichés. When it comes to love and families, it can be difficult to find language that is both genuine and meaningful.
How long did it take you to finish?
From start to finish, the writing and photo selection took about five or six weeks. We set deadlines for ourselves and committed to working on it at least one night a week or one day on the weekend.
When did you know you were done?
When the agency approved it!
Now that you’ve put your profile out there, what’s your biggest fear?
No fears. We’re just hoping it won’t take too long!
What advice do you have for other hopeful parents?
At a certain point we realized that the only way we won’t get a child is if we give up. It’s a long process, though, with many emotionally trying times. The most important thing is not to compare yourselves to other prospective parents. Everyone does things their own way, and at their own pace. If you get caught up in how you’re doing compared to everybody else, it’s a recipe for discouragement.
Be sure to check out Clare and Alex’s online adoption profile. What do you think of their story and tips? How did you write your adoption profile letter? What worked for you and what didn’t? Please let your comments in the section below.