Tips for Writing the Family Profile
Eight profile tips that can help reduce your wait.by Lori Holden
Crystal places the binder on the agency's table and takes a deep breath. This is one of the milestone moments her pregnancy counselor had told her about. What will she find in The Book? As couples adopting domestically know, The Book houses their dreams of newborn cries, baby books, and toddler steps. Containing profiles of a dozen or more waiting couples, The Book is the fist step in linking prospective adopters with birthmothers.
Crystal reads through the messages and looks at the photos from each hopeful couple. She notices the smiling faces, the compassion in their letters, the gratitude from people who have yet to meet her. She begins to place the profiles into two piles: the Maybes and the Nos.
She finally narrows her Maybe pile to two. She focuses on Couple #7 and a feeling of "rightness" settles in. Tears well up as she realizes she's found the parents of her baby. In this bittersweet moment, she tells her counselor to make the call.
That call changed my life. My husband and I were Couple #7, and we had turned in our profile exactly one week earlier.
Our daughter is now four years old. And when we adopted our son, two years later, we again had a very brief wait after submitting our profile. Why do some adopting couples become parents within weeks of submitting an adoption profile, while others wait months—or even years? Might the profile account for some of the difference in the wait times? I liked this notion because in a process that feels very out-of-control, the profile is a controllable factor.
To find out what makes a profile work, I talked with birthparents and adoption counselors. Here are their best tips:
1 Inject humor. Include an amusing anecdote or funny photo that shows that humor is one way you deal with life. "They had a picture of the whole family wearing 3-D glasses and watching fireworks, "recounts birthmother Kelly. "This family had a good time just being around each other."
2 Show something unique. Have a horse? Show it. Bilingual? Write a few words in your second language. You want to differentiate yourselves from the others in the stack. "The mother I chose proposed to her husband at an NFL football game on the big scoreboard," says Jessica. "I liked her chutzpah."
3 Find balance. Let potential birthparents know that your life is full enough that you aren't depending on a baby to make it "complete." "I didn't want my baby to be the one thing that saved these people from a life of misery," explains Sara, so I passed on them." Yet, don't make it seem so full that you would have no room for a child. Shelly recalls one couple she didn't choose: "Both people had high-powered jobs and were involved in so many things that I just couldn't see how they'd fit in another responsibility."
4 Match your expectations for contact to your agency's focus. For example, if you state you want very little or no contact, you may be in for a long wait if your agency is known for fully open adoptions. "We went to an open adoption agency because we wanted SOME contact," say birthparents Heather and Jason, "so we rejected a couple who wanted us to disappear after the birth."
5 Accurately represent yourselves and avoid playing to your audience. One birthmother might love dogs while another might be allergic. One might want the baby to be the couple's first, while another might want the baby to have older siblings. To bring about the best match simply be truthful about who you are and what your lives are about.
6 Be brutally honest about your profile. Better yet, have a trusted friend – someone less vested in the outcome – look over your masterpiece before turning it in to your agency. Ask this person to be candid about the photos, letters, and tone. Maybe you can't see that Aunt Tillie looks awful in that family photo, but you need to know. "In one picture, taken at a family picnic, they all had red eye," explains Gwen. "I know it was just the photo, but my impression was ‘how demonic!'"
7 Tinker. Advertisers know that tweaking just a word or an image can dramatically change results. If you've been waiting a while, make a minor change, like the stationery or the lead photo. "If your agency is having activity but your profile isn't garnering interest, a semi-annual review with minor changes might help," suggests Karen Bettis, Adoption Counselor at Lutheran Family Services.
8 Get exposure. Become an ambassador for your agency. Keep pregnancy counseling brochures in your car so you can post them at libraries and community centers (with permission). Your own doctor can be a resource to her patients who are pregnant but can't parent – if she has brochures. And to stretch your geographic boundaries, post your profile online. An internet search on "adoption profiles" turns up a host of sites that match birthparents and adoptive families.
To pursue adoption, especially for people who have achieved success in other areas of their lives, is to give up control. I like the idea that the profile makes a difference, that it helps you take back just a little bit of that control you may have lost. While you may have little influence on the activity level of the agency, you can make sure that birthparents who do come in see you in your best light.
Lori Holden, MA, and her husband built their family through adoption. They experience the wonders, joys and challenges of parenting in Denver, Colorado.
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