Whether you are an expectant parent or a prospective adoptive parent, part of your adoption journey will be either considering or writing an adoption family profile. For a prospective adoptive parent, creating your adoption family profile will come once your home study is complete and approved. For an expectant parent, you may review adoption family profiles at any time during your pregnancy, even if you have not made a decision yet as to whether you want to place or parent your child.

In a nutshell, an adoption family profile is a way for the prospective adoptive parent(s) to introduce themselves to the expectant parent(s). Unless a match has been identified early on, adoption family profiles allow the expectant parent to envision what life might look like for their child if he or she were to be placed with that prospective adoptive parent. As a prospective adoptive parent, the adoption family profile provides a way for you to share a bit about yourself. Think of it as an autobiography of all the amazing, unique things that make you, you, and all the amazing, loving gifts you would be able to give a prospective adoptive child. In your adoption family profile, you will include everything from the make-up of your family to your lifestyle, from your interests and jobs to your motivations for adoption. You will also include what type of relationship you would like to have with the expectant parents in the lead-up to the birth as well as after placement. There are varying levels of openness when it comes to adoption, and it is important that all parties be honest about what they are willing to commit to and what they are not.

For Hopeful Adoptive Parents

A good first step in assembling your adoption family profile is to take some time and look at others’ adoption family profiles online. Some adoption family profiles may be hard copies, though prospective adoptive parents increasingly choose to digitize their profiles and may even include short videos. How do others compose their profiles? What do you like about them? Do you have a sense of who the prospective adoptive parents really are from what they have included, or do they seem interchangeable? What might you have done differently? How would you choose to convey who your family is and why you want to adopt?

It is totally normal to feel overwhelmed by this process, so here are a few tips to get you started:

1. Write from the Heart

Notwithstanding that this might be the most important 1,000-2,000 word document you ever wrote, start by writing from the heart. What do you love about your life? What do you love about your family? What led you to adoption? What things do you hope to share with a prospective adoptive child? Pour it all out onto paper, then go back and highlight those things that are most important to you. The process of matching in adoption requires that both the expectant parent(s) and the prospective adoptive parent(s) feel that they are compatible with one another. The right match will find you and vice versa, and what will speak to expectant parents is your love, interests, and passions.

2. Divide and Conquer

At this point in your adoption journey, you will have completed the home study and will have compiled all the documents and self-reflection assignments that went along with it. Your home study can provide a good point to start from when thinking about dividing your profile into different “buckets.” Not only does this make your adoption family profile easier to read, but it can also highlight what is unique and special about your family. Your adoption family profile will typically have six categories: Your Story, Your Family, Your Home, Your Work, Your Favorite Things/Interests, and Your Thoughts on Parenting.

For Your Story, if you are in a relationship, share how you met. Share how you came to adoption. Has anyone you know been touched by adoption? This will transition nicely into discussing your family. Do you have any other children? How large is your extended family? Are there any pets? Then, moving onto your home, where do you live? Why do you live there? What is a typical day like for you? What do you do for work? Why do you do your particular vocation? What do you like to do on your weekends? How do you spend your free time? What are some of your interests? And then, finally, how do you plan to raise the prospective adoptive child? What are your thoughts on parenting? If you could put your parenting philosophy into 1-2 sentences, what would you write? The more details you can provide, the more an expectant parent will see and be drawn to all the unique things that make your family who they are.

3. Use Positive Language

In the adoption community, it is important to use positive adoption language as both a show of respect and support for each of the members of the adoption triad. Use words like “placing your child” or “making an adoption plan for your child.” You can express gratitude towards the expectant parents for considering placing their child with you, but do not assume the expectant parents will choose to place their child for adoption. You do not want to thank the expectant parents for a decision they have not made (placing their child) or are in the process of making. It is also good to remain gender-neutral when referring to the prospective adoptive child.

4. A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words

Visuals can convey meaning where words sometimes fail. What photos give the best impression of what life would be like for the adoptive child with your family? Where would they live? What would they do? For every photo, make sure you are adding to your story and enhancing the meaning of your words. If you reference your love of painting, include a photo of you creating. The more “every day” the photo, the better. If a photo looks too staged, an expectant parent might find you unapproachable. Look for candid shots that emphasize who you are and steer away from wedding photos (since most wedding photos are indistinguishable from one another). Show pictures of your friends and extended family. Are there children in your life? Showcase photos of you interacting with them. And remember, the more recent the pictures are, the better.

5. Don’t Be Afraid to Ask for Help

There is no question that putting an adoption family profile together can be daunting. A good adoption agency will help guide you through the process and may also recommend outside vendors who specialize in the writing and assembling of adoption family profiles. The words and photos will still come from you, but if figuring out design and layouts, font size and color is too much, there are professionals who can help.

But remember, your words, your photos, your captions–none of it has to be perfect. The purpose of the adoption family profile is to act as an introduction to you and your family, and no one’s family is perfect. Once an expectant parent identifies you, the next step will be to meet (either by phone, video chat, or face-to-face conversations) and for both sides to decide if the other is a good fit. If you are, congratulations! You can consider your adoption “matched.” But remember, matching is just another step in the adoption journey, and it is important to develop a relationship with the expectant parent throughout the pregnancy. Once the child is born, if the birth parents choose to ultimately place with you, then you will officially become a member of the adoption triad.

Jennifer S. Jones is a writer, performer, storyteller, and arts educator. She holds an MFA (Playwriting) from NYU Tisch. She has written numerous plays including the internationally renowned, award-winning Appearance of Life. Her amazing transracial transcultural family was created through adoption from China and India. She is passionate about the adoption community and talks about the ins and outs, ups and downs, joys, and “is this really us?!” moments whenever she can. She writes about her experiences at www.letterstojack.com.