The love of a family is one of life’s greatest blessings. If you are considering making an adoption plan for your child, there is no doubt that you want to place them with a family that will love, guide, and protect them. Where do you start? How do you find families that would like to adopt? How do you know which family is the right one to raise your child? Luckily, birth parents have more choices now than they once did. In years past, a birth mother may give birth and never know what kind of family their baby was placed with. Now, there are more options. While some women may still prefer not to know much about the adoptive family, many others find peace knowing that they can play a vital role in choosing parents to care for their precious child. This decision is a big one. It’s worth doing a little research to make an informed choice that you feel comfortable with. There are many key points to consider.
Are you placing through an agency?
If you choose to place your child for adoption through an agency, chances are good that you will have several waiting families to choose from. At any given time, there are usually several families hoping to be chosen. The agency will typically provide you with profiles of potential adoptive parents. These profiles give you a fairly detailed bio of who they are. They may include information such as:
– General location
– Reasons they would like to adopt a child(ren)
– Whether they prefer open, semi-open, or closed adoption
– Hobbies and interests
– What they feel they can offer a child when they become parents
– A dear birth mother letter
– Any other information they feel comfortable sharing
Read over these profiles carefully and set aside the ones that stand out to you. Once you have narrowed them down, look back over them to see if any specific family stands out as a frontrunner. While all families are unique and will hopefully be chosen, sometimes there is one family that you really feel you can connect with. When you feel that you have found them, the agency can arrange a face-to-face meeting.
Is this a private adoption?
If you have chosen not to place through an agency, private adoptions are still an option. If you already have a family in mind, adoption attorneys can help with the legal process. If you are considering placing with a family member, friend, or acquaintance—consider the effect that it may have on your relationship. Sit down with each other and have an open and honest heart-to-heart conversation about the wants and needs of each party. When everyone’s wishes are known and respected, the process tends to go much more smoothly. Perhaps you have found a potential adoptive family on a website, on social media, or through the classifieds. It is important to check character references and learn more about the family to make sure that they are a good fit for you and your child. It is often beneficial to have your own attorney just to make sure that all of your bases are covered when it comes to forming an agreement.
What level of openness are you comfortable with?
Adoptions come in all shapes and sizes. One of the most important things to consider when choosing a family is the level of openness that everyone is comfortable with. This conversation should ideally take place early on so that there are no surprises or disappointments later. Some people choose to have legally binding agreements about openness and contact while others make a verbal agreement.
Some adoptions are still completely closed. If birth parents choose not to have any contact with the adoptive family or their birth child, there are families who will respect those wishes. While a birth parent or adoptive parent may choose closed adoption for a myriad of reasons (trauma, family doesn’t know about the pregnancy, addiction problems, lifestyle concerns, fear of what may happen in the future, etc.), it is important that both parties agree fully so that no one regrets their decision in the future. Closed adoptions may also make it difficult for the adoptee to obtain medical records or find information on their roots if they choose to do so later in life and if they know that they were adopted.
Semi-open adoptions often involve contact mediated through an adoption agency or other professional. There may be letters and photos exchanged, gifts sent for birthdays and holidays, and updates sent periodically (monthly, quarterly, yearly). Often in semi-open adoptions, identifiable information such as their address is withheld. Some visits may possibly occur but not regularly. Many birth parents who want to be sure their birth child is healthy and happy without feeling that they are interfering choose this option. Some birth parents feel that complete openness is too emotionally overwhelming. In this type of adoption, some information is available to the adoptee if they know about their adoption and choose to ask questions or learn more about their birth family. Whether or not there is direct contact with the child is also a decision that needs to be made by both parties.
Open adoption is becoming increasingly popular. In open adoption, the adopted child knows from the beginning that they have been adopted. Letters, photos, gifts, phone calls, social media contact, and visits may all occur. Some birth parents are even invited to school functions, family outings, or birthday parties. When adoption is spoken about from the beginning, the person who was adopted has been shown to have a more complete sense of self as well as a greater understanding and acceptance of their adoption story. While the birth parents aren’t seen as “mom and dad,” they are often treated as extended family members. Open adoption can be very rewarding for all members involved, however, it is still important to lay ground rules and set boundaries so that each party feels respected and avoids resentment from any side.
Whatever level of openness feels right for you, personally, needs to be discussed with the family you choose. Make sure that everyone is clear about what is expected and where the boundaries lie.
What qualities are important to you in a family?
Think about your own family. Are there certain qualities that stand out to you, good or bad? Do you prefer families that are close-knit or ones that give each other more space? Are family vacations something that you want your birth child to experience? Is it important to you that your birth child has a large extended family or is a small, loving family enough? Think about family dynamics. Is it important that the adoptive family be married or would you consider a single parent? Do you prefer that they are heterosexual or are you open to members of the LGBTQ community? Is their education, income, career path, or housing situation important to you in any way? When choosing a family, you have the option to choose a family that is similar to your own or completely different.
Does culture or religion play a role in your decision?
When choosing an adoptive family, think about your culture. Are you open to families of different races, cultures, or ethnicities than your own? If so, is it important to you that they share the culture of your child’s heritage with them? This is something to consider and discuss. How about religion? Would you prefer your birth child to be raised with a religion similar to your own or are you open to other options?
Is location a factor?
Even if you don’t know the exact address of the family who will be adopting your child, you may find it helpful to know what city they live in. Do you prefer someone inside your city or state? Are you okay with the possibility of running into them while you are out and about? Is it helpful for keeping in touch and planning visits? Are you okay with a family who lives in another region or country? How will it affect the level of openness that you are comfortable with?
How do you feel about other children in the household?
Some families prefer to have one child while others would love to have more. What is your opinion of siblings? When considering a family, it might be helpful to know whether they currently have (or plan to have) other children as well. Kids who are the “only child” may receive undivided attention, while kids with siblings may form strong relationships that last a lifetime. If other children are part of the family, are they biological or adopted? If they have been adopted, what type of relationship does the family have with the birth family in that situation?
Do they have pets?
If you have grown up with a faithful dog, you may have hopes of the same for your child. A furry companion (or more than one) can be a wonderful addition to a child’s life. Dogs, cats, horses, birds, reptiles, fish—the types of pets go on and on! When considering an adoptive family, you may like to know whether they are animal lovers. If you have a strong family history of animal allergies, you may prefer that your child lives in a pet-free home or is at least monitored closely for any possible issues.
What type of lifestyle will your birth child lead?
When reading through the profiles of potential adoptive parents, you will likely run across pages that describe the hobbies and interests of the adoptive family. Are they music lovers who attend concerts frequently or play instruments? Do they vacation often? Where do they love to go? Do they live in the city or in the country? Will your birth child attend public or private school? Is the adoptive family athletic? Creative? Do they seem to have a good sense of humor? Do they collect anything really cool or really weird? Are they active in their community? Are they military? Do they move often or are they fairly settled where they currently live? While you can’t know every aspect of a person’s life based upon a description or a meeting or two, there might be certain parts that stand out to you and those are worth noting.
“Dear Birth Mother” Letters
If you are adopting through an agency or even through another avenue, “Dear Birth Mother” letters are fairly common. These are simply letters from the adoptive parents to the potential birth parents of their potential child. These letters are often personal and heart-warming. Sometimes families choose to share their reason for wanting to adopt—whether that be infertility, miscarriage, a calling from God, or just wanting to open their home to a child. They may write about hopes, dreams, and concerns they have for their future children. They will most likely give you an overview of what they can offer to a child: stability, a loving and supportive home, and all types of opportunities. It may also discuss their feelings toward you and their prayers for you, even if they haven’t met you yet. These letters offer a glimpse into the heart and mind of a hopeful parent. If you find one that touches you, take that into consideration.
Once you have decided on a parent or couple to provide a forever home for your child, you may want to meet them. This can be a true test of your decision. While the first meeting may feel awkward (What do we say? What do we wear? How should we act?), it can also be a great moment to connect. Some families may feel an instant bond—a connection of the souls—and some may not. That’s okay! These things can take time. What’s important is that you get to know each other a bit. Talk about why each person is choosing adoption and about the parts of the adoption plan that are important to you. Don’t be afraid to be open and honest with what you are feeling and what your hopes and fears are for your adoption journey. If you are placing through an agency, you may have a social worker available to help mediate and spark conversation. Ask yourself if you feel comfortable with this family—speaking to them, being around them, the overall vibe they give off. Give yourself time to think after the meeting. Don’t rush your decision. You want to be sure before you make the final judgment. Are your head and your heart in tune with the choice you have made?
What is important to you at the hospital?
Birth plans are important, even in adoption situations. How do you feel about the adoptive parents being at the hospital while you are in labor/giving birth? Are you comfortable with one or both of them being in the delivery room? Would you like them to meet the baby immediately or would you prefer that you have some one-on-one time with the baby first? Will you be giving your birth child a name? If so, will the adoptive parents keep that name or will they choose one of their own? Don’t be afraid to make your wishes known and to ask the adoptive family what their opinion is as well.
Trust Your Instincts
If you are making an adoption plan for your child, it is probably safe to say that you are doing so out of tremendous love. Adoption can be a selfless, beautiful act of love where a parent puts the needs of a child above their own wants and needs. Because you care so much for your child, you will likely know how to choose a family that will be right for him or her. Feel free to ask friends, family, and professionals for their opinions, but let the ultimate choice be yours. It is one that only you can make.
Be sure to take care of yourself during and after your pregnancy/adoption placement and don’t be afraid to seek help and resources in your area if you need them! Counseling and support groups can be incredibly helpful. You are not alone, you are amazing, and you are strong.
When the adoptive family holds their baby for the first time and their joy lights up the whole room—when you see the gratitude in those eyes and feel the love pouring out from their souls—your heart can rest easy knowing that you have made the right choice.
Leslie Bolin is a happily married mama of 3 amazing kids. She is also the birth mother to an adult son. She is just beginning the reunion process, which makes her nervous and excited at the same time. Leslie enjoys educating others about adoption and has done her fair share of outreach, writing, and public speaking on the subject. She has an Associate of Arts degree in Social Work and plans to continue her education. Leslie enjoys spending time with her family, finding peace in the beauty of nature, and laughing as much as possible. She believes that smiling is contagious and that music is good for the soul. She is a firm believer that even the most difficult moments can be turned into something beautiful when we use our stories to help others.