Imagine you have an unplanned pregnancy and you’re looking for a family to adopt your baby.
Now imagine you come across a letter from a prospective adoptive parent that begins:
“We want to start by saying thank you for considering adoption and considering us to raise your baby. We know you love your baby and truly cannot understand this selfless journey you have embarked on.”
You would likely be moved and relieved by the compassion and hope it conveys. Placing a baby for adoption is a lonely, difficult journey, especially if your family or friends are opposed to your decision or people are accusing you of “giving up” or “putting up” your baby for adoption because you don’t love them.
It’s comforting to come across someone who understands your situation and feelings.
Now imagine immediately after reading that letter you come across another one that starts:
“First off, we would like to say thank you and commend you for your selflessness and courage. We understand this is an incredibly difficult choice and can only begin to imagine how you must be feeling.”
“We would like to begin by expressing our admiration for the strength and bravery to consider adoption for your precious child. It is a selfless decision, and we would truly be honored to be considered as parents to your beautiful baby.”
“We can’t begin to imagine how difficult your decision to find a home for your baby must be. We admire your selfless strength and courage. We can only guess at how scary it must be to try to choose a family for your beloved child but we would be truly honored if you chose us.”
Suddenly that first letter doesn’t sound so special and heartfelt anymore. As you read on, you realize that all of the letters have a certain sameness to them that make them sound repetitive and mechanical. It’s as if everyone is following the same formula or being coached on what to say.
If you’re just starting to write your adoption profile letter or if you’ve already written it, you may be wondering what’s the best way to begin? How do I make mine stand out? How do I make my letter sound real and authentic as opposed to calculated and contrived?
Beginnings are always hard, and deciding what to say in the first few sentences of your adoption profile letter is probably the hardest part of all.
You only have a few seconds to make an impression. Find something that sets you apart and sell yourself, but don’t overdo it. You don’t want to come off as pushy or desperate. In other words, “Choose us! Choose us! We want to adopt!” won’t do the trick.
So what is the best way to break the ice and introduce yourself?
What NOT to say is just as important as what to say. For starters, stay away from the following salutations:
- Hi friend
- Hey birthmama
- Dear Birthmother
- Dear Expectant Mother
Hi Friend. Maybe you want to be friends, but at this point it’s a bit presumptuous. You want to sound friendly and casual but not too casual. At least not now. Wait until you get to know each other. Maybe then you’ll become friends and can address each other this way.
Hey birthmama. How would you feel if someone addressed you “hey adoptive mama”? It’s patronizing and disrespectful. You’re a lot more than a label. So is the expectant mother. If you want to show her that won’t talk down to her, this is a good place to do it.
Dear Birthmother. Again, don’t label or box in. She’s not a birthmother. At this point, she’s simply a woman with an unintended pregnancy who is exploring her options, one of which is adoption. She may be looking seriously for families for her baby and go forward with her plan. Or she may not.
Dear Expectant Mother. This is better but you’re still not there. Too formal. Not particularly warm and inviting. But still better than “hey precious mama” or “check us out.”
What should you say instead? How about just a plain old “hi” or “hello”, the way you would greet anyone for the first time. It’s natural. It’s conversational. And it’s simple, not condescending.
What comes next?
Showing empathy for the expectant mom is important.
So is telling her
- that you would make great parents and love her child just as much as she would.
- about how her child would grow up in a safe, stable home with a loving family and lots of opportunities.
There’s no harm in saying any of these things. Just make sure they’re not the only things you say.
Every Expectant Mother Is Looking For Something Different
Every expectant parent is different and looking for different things. For some, location may be important, For others, it’s race or religion. The criteria depends on the individual. Knowing that, try to weave some of those considerations into your letter as soon as you can.
Here are some examples:
“Hello from Maine. We are a bilingual family of four that loves to travel and spend time in the outdoors. We were blessed to build our family through adoption two years ago and are excited to grow our family again.”
“Greeting from New York. We’re two accountants (exciting, we know!) who love the outdoors and enjoy hiking in the mountains near our home with our two dogs. As first-time parents we would love to have a relationship with you and are open to sharing letters, pictures, and visits.”
“Thank you for considering us. We are a fun and creative couple excited to share our love of movies, art, literature and fridge magnets! We also like to cook and look forward to sharing our culinary experiments with your child!”
“Hi from Vermont. Music is a huge part of our lives, and so is our faith in Jesus. Joe is a pastor at our local church and Becky sings in the choir. We look forward to sharing pictures, letters, and visits with you.”
“Thanks for taking time to learn about us as you consider an adoption plan for your child. We are a compassionate, blended couple who love hip hop, the Beatles and singing in the shower. Here are a few quick facts to help you get to know us.”
Present Yourself As The Solution To Her Problem
The opening of your letter is your prime real estate. You only have a few moments to make your case. If it sounds like everyone else’s, chances are the expectant mother (or whoever is reading it) will move on.
The other thing is, saying “we can’t understand what you’re going through” or “you can only imagine how difficult this time must be” doesn’t really say a lot. If you can’t imagine what she’s experiencing, leave it out? Rest assured the expectant mother knows she’s going through a crisis without you reminding her.
Instead, explain how you can help her in an upbeat, positive tone. If her crisis pregnancy is the problem, you have to position yourself as the solution.
Build Credibility And Trust By Being Honest About Yourself
Give her an unguarded and honest glimpse into your life. Tell her how her baby—and she!–will fit into it. Give her concrete examples of what that might look like so that she can picture it herself. After all, if there’s nothing in it for her why should she pick you?
Before you get into any details about the big stuff, tell her a little bit about you. You need to build her trust and confidence. If you want to tell her how you plan to support her, don’t bring finances into the conversation. It will only cause problems for you later.
Details matter. The more specific you can be–about your interests and what you like to do for fun, and about your family and neighborhood —the better the chance you’ll have of painting a picture of yourself and making an honest, meaningful connection.
The goal of your letter is to create a spark. Anything could do it—a small insignificant detail in your letter or something you didn’t even think about in your photos. The expectant mother may like dogs and you have one. Or she always wanted to grow up to be a writer and you’re a writer. Or she likes skiing and your profile has photos of your recent ski vacation.
Don’t Make Promises You Can’t Keep
You never know what’s going to stick. The key is to be honest about yourself and transparent. By “honest,” it means not saying something because you think it will help you make a match.
For instance, if you say adoption was always your first choice to start a family and then later, somewhere else in your letter or during a conversation, you mention that you went through two rounds of IVF, that’s going to raise an eyebrow or two.
There’s no shame in not making adoption your first choice. Most expectant moms won’t think less of you if it was your second choice.
Similarly, if you say you’re open to all races, ethnicities or genders, and want an open adoption, that’s fine. But if you’re only interested in adopting a caucasian girl in a closed adoption, that’s not fine.
Ditto for special needs. If you’re not prepared to raise a child with special needs or a child whose mother has substance abuse issues, don’t say you’re open to all medical issues. There’s nothing wrong with that. Better the expectant parents knows that early on rather than after bonding with you.
Again you don’t have to put that in your letter and you probably shouldn’t. Just make sure your adoption professionals know.
As for transparency, everyone tells you that you need to be transparent. But what exactly does that mean and how do you convey in your letter? Being authentic means being yourself, being real, natural, not staged. Selfies are real, natural. Professionally-taken studio photos are staged.
Show Your Authentic Self
When people tell you to be honest in your letter, it doesn’t mean talking about how you always burn the brownies or fessing up to things you’d rather keep private.
For example, if you don’t get along with one of your siblings or your parents, that’s your business. You don’t need to mention it in your letter. But don’t say you have a close relationship with them either.
In the same vein, if you struggled with substance abuse when you were younger you don’t need to go into it. However, if you think sharing how you overcame your addiction is important to your story, share it.
If you’re not sure what to say at the beginning of your letter, go ahead and say that. Let the expectant mother know that you’re struggling to find the right words; that conveying your thoughts and feelings is difficult. This is a difficult, awkward time for her too.
Being vulnerable and expressing your concerns and fears is something she will relate to and could help you get the ball rolling in your relationship.
Don’t Focus On Your Infertility Struggles
If you want to talk about your infertility leave it for later in your letter. Most expectant parents will assume that’s why you’re here. You don’t need to say you’re infertile or talk about your infertility in the first few sentences. It’s one of the details that are important for your home study but doesn’t need to be front and center in your letter.
Similarly if you’ve gone through six rounds of IVF and miscarried multiple times, as upsetting as that may be, don’t include it in the beginning of your letter—unless, of course, you want to express how it’s changed you or strengthened your relationship.
Your infertility struggles may be important to you and your partner, but honestly it won’t mean much to expectant mothers battling their own issues. And it’s no reason for them to choose you over a couple who hasn’t gone through IVF or miscarried.
If You Have An Adoption Connection Mention It
Adopting a baby isn’t a competition and your letter shouldn’t be an outlet for your grief, anger, frustration. You may have had a horrible experience trying to get pregnant or going through IVF. That’s unfortunate. But it’s not a burden the expectant mother should have to bear or can change.
Don’t make her feel guilty or exert extra pressure on her. Let her fall in love with you for all the right reasons! If you still have lingering feelings of anger about your infertility, seek help or write a different letter and send it to yourself.
If, on the other hand, you have an adoption connection–either you or one of the members of your family are adopted or placed a baby—that you think gives you special insights into the pregnant woman’s situation, mention it. It could create a connection and put her mind at ease.
The key to finding a match is making yourself stand out and being truthful about who you are even if you think it won’t serve you. For instance, you may have adopted before and are worried you won’t get chosen because you think all expectant moms are looking for a childless couple. That’s true in some cases, but not all.
Avoid Making Assumptions About What An Expectant Mother Is Looking For
For instance, an expectant mom may start off thinking she wants a childless couple. But then suddenly something in your profile appeals to her and changes her mind. Or she decides that she wants her child to grow up with a sibling who is also adopted. You never know.
Use humor if it comes naturally to you. The adoption process can be so overwhelming at times. A little levity goes a long way.
You can’t say everything in your opening so choose your words carefully. Make each one count. Whatever you can’t fit in, save for later in your letter or your first conversation.
Try to strike a balance between providing information and inspiration.Doing so will give the expectant parent (or parents) hope and confidence and could be the beginning of a long, lasting, loving connection.