Beginning the journey of adoption when you are unexpectedly expecting can feel overwhelming. There are many things to consider, not the least of which is finding the right adoptive family for your child. For birth mothers seeking adoptive parents, there are many questions to consider and this article will help you walk through some of those questions. From heavier questions, such as why the prospective adoptive parents are considering adoption to lighter questions, like what the prospective adoptive parents like to do for fun, each question will help you ascertain a clearer picture of what life with the prospective adoptive parents would be like for your child. Only you will know the right answer to these questions, and what is right for you may not be right for your friends or family members who are supporting you in your adoption journey. Choosing adoption is a beautiful, difficult, loving, and lifelong choice. And it is a choice that you, and you alone, need to make. So grab a cup of tea and your favorite pen and let’s start building a list of your questions for prospective adoptive parents.
Why do you want to adopt?
One of the first questions to ask for birth moms seeking adoptive parents is, why do you want to adopt? For some prospective adoptive parents, the answer might be to provide a forever home for a child in need. Other prospective adoptive parents may struggle with infertility. Some people may not want to pass certain genetic tendencies on to a biological child. And others may be single parents who simply want to build a family. Whatever their reason, know that any prospective adoptive parent who has undergone the home study process has thought long and hard about this question and has even been asked to write an essay for their social worker exploring their motivations for adoption.
Why would you make a good parent?
Like their motivations for adopting, every prospective adoptive parent who has completed a home study has considered what would make them a good parent. If they are already parents, any children in the household will have been assessed and asked for their views. If they are first time parents, they have explored their thoughts on spending time together as a family, providing a safe and secure environment for a child, and disciplining and teaching values. Birth moms seeking adoptive parents should ask the question and see if the prospective adoptive parents’ views resonate with them. And remember, there are no right answers, it is simply whatever feels right to you.
Have you or anyone you know been touched by adoption?
Some prospective adoptive parents may have grown up with family members who were adopted, or may even be adoptees themselves. If the prospective adoptive parents have been touched by adoption, what was their experience? What is their perception of the adoption triad?
How much do you know about adoption?
If the prospective adoptive parents are new to the world of adoption, it’s a good idea to ask how much they know about it. If this is their first adoption and this is the first time you, as an expectant parent, have considered placing a child, how can you educate one another? What thoughts about adoption do you want to share with them? What thoughts do you hope they share with you?
Does your extended family know you want to adopt?
Whether this is the prospective adoptive parents’ first adoption or their third or fourth, the support of family members and friends can be crucial. Another question to ask is if their family knows they want to adopt. Are they excited about the prospect? Are they comfortable loving and caring for someone who is not biologically related to them? What have and will the prospective adoptive parents do to ready their families and support systems?
What type of adoption are you interested in?
Whether you are interested in pursuing a closed adoption or an open adoption, you have the opportunity to review parent profiles. Though, if you would like to pursue a strictly closed adoption, then that is okay too. For birth moms seeking adoptive parents, another thing to consider is what type of post-adoption contact you wish to have with the adoptive parents and the child. The differences between open, semi-open, and closed adoptions refer to the level of communication between the members of the adoption triad. In open adoptions, communication is typically frequent though the frequency of that communication varies between adoption triads. For some, it may be once a month, for others twice a year, and for some only once a year. Communication may come in the form of in-person gatherings, video chats, phone calls, emails, or letters. In a closed adoption, there is no communication between the birth parents and the adoptive parents or the birth parents and the child. Open adoptions have become more prevalent in the United States in the past 20 years and more states are recognizing post-adoption contact contracts. Having the conversation with yourself first about what level of openness you hope for with your placement and then having that same conversation with the prospective adoptive parents will ensure everyone is on the same page when it comes to your adoption triad and everyone’s expectations.
What is your family structure?
When looking for prospective adoptive parents, another question to ask is what their family structure is like. Though much of the basic details such as whether they are a heterosexual, same-sex couple, or if they are single will be answered in their parent profiles. If you are considering a couple it might be a good idea to ask how long have they been together. Maybe ask how they met or how they structure their family. Have they considered their division of labor? Is it just the two of them or is there an intergenerational element through an extended family member in the household?
Are there other children at home?
If you do discuss the family structure why not ask if there other children in the home. If so it may be wise to find out how many and how old they are. Are they biological children or adopted? If not, do they envision having more children? Will those children be biological or adopted? How many children do the prospective adoptive parents hope to have? Do they believe birth order is important to preserve? What do they envision their family will look like when it’s complete?
Do you plan to take parental leave after the adoption?
As part of their home study process, the prospective adoptive parents will have needed to make some decisions about parental leave and should have researched and found what might be available through their employers. Is it important to you that the adoptive parents take time to stay home after placement? Bonding and attachment in the first few months is very important, so are the prospective adoptive parents able to do this? After the first few months, what will childcare look like? Is one parent able to stay home, or work from home, or do both parents work outside the home? If childcare is in the future, what type of childcare will it be? An in-home daycare, a relative or a friend, or a child care center?
What was your childhood like?
Birth moms seeking adoptive parents should also ask what was the prospective adoptive parents’ childhoods like? What did they grow up doing for fun? Did they spend a lot of time with their parents? What did that time look like? How involved were their parents in their lives? Were they the room parent and the coach, or were they there for dinner every night? Are their parents still together? Did they grow up with extended family living close by? What did they love about their childhood and what do they hope to change with their own children? All these questions may allow you to see what your child’s childhood may look like.
How will you explain adoption to the child?
Even for birth parents who choose to have a closed adoption, the prevailing sentiment in adoption culture is that it is important for the child to know they are adopted, even if the birth parents and their origin are unknown. Ask the prospective adoptive parents how they will communicate the child’s story to them. What language will they use? What language do you want them to use? Will they construct a life book for the child? What will be included in that life book? Have they thought about how they will talk about adoption to the child’s teachers? What tools will they give the child so the child can share their own story when they are ready?
How will my child know about their ethnicity or culture?
If you are considering a prospective adoptive parent of a different race or ethnicity, a good question to ask is how that prospective adoptive parent will handle raising a child of another race and/or ethnicity. Becoming a transracial and/or a transethnic family can be challenging. Have the prospective adoptive parents considered what it might mean to have a child of a different race and/or ethnicity living in their neighborhood or community? If the prospective adoptive parents live in a non-diverse neighborhood what can they do to provide racial mirrors for a child of a different race? If you, as the expectant parent, come from a different ethnic background, what do the prospective adoptive parents plan to do to maintain the child’s birth culture? Is it important to you that the child grows up knowing of the birth heritage?
Are you religious?
For some birth moms seeking adoptive parents, the question of religion is an important one. If religion is important to you and you were raised in a faithful community, do you hope your child is raised in a faithful community too? Is it important that your child attend weekly faith services or would you rather faith be something your child can explore later in life? Are there any religions in which you expressly do not want your child to be raised? How will they instill values and a sense of right and wrong in the child?
What’s it like where you live?
Ask the prospective adoptive parents to describe where they live. Is it somewhere rural or urban or in-between? Do they have a big backyard, a fun tot-lot, or a playground nearby? Are there other young families in their neighborhood? What is their house like? Are there any pets? Are there large open spaces or beautiful skyscrapers? Can you walk everywhere or is there a car culture? What does a typical day look like? What about a typical week? What do they envision life would be like for themselves as parents in the space they live?
What do you like to do for fun?
Last but not least, birth moms seeking adoptive parents should ask what the prospective adoptive parents like to do for fun. What are their hobbies? What are their passions? What would resonate with you? Do you hope your child grows up exposed to sports or the visual arts or music or theater? Do the prospective adoptive parents like to travel or are they homebodies? What else do they enjoy? Cooking, gardening, reading, volunteering, or playing pickup basketball? A parent’s interests and passions are often passed down to their children, so what do you hope your child will grow up learning and doing?
There are many questions to ask as an expectant parent seeking a prospective adoptive parent. It’s okay to ask as many questions as you can think of. Talking with prospective adoptive parents directly, through correspondence, or through your agency helps to build up a rapport and lays the foundation for your potential adoption triad. The more questions you ask, the more you can feel confident in your decision to find the right family for your child. Ready to start looking? Contact your social worker, your adoption agency, or simply start looking at prospective adoptive parent profiles to see who might be a good fit.
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?!” whenever she can. She writes about her experiences at www.letterstojack.com.