There are thousands of hopeful adoptive families out there. Each one of them is unique, with both good and bad qualities. How well can you really get to know a family from an online profile or a ten-page book? Even if you could, how can you know if they’re the right ones? Is there a truly ‘right’ family for your child?
That’s a complicated question. I believe with all my heart that I placed my birth daughter with the family that was right for her. I call it God, some people call it fate or the universe, but out of all the people I could have chosen, I know that she was meant to be a part of the family I placed her in.
I didn’t know what was going to happen in the future with the family I chose. You won’t either. It’s confusing—there are so many people that look great on paper. If you can, try to meet the couple you choose in person as much as possible before placement. When I was pregnant, I got to know baby R’s adoptive parents pretty well. That helped me a lot. They were already wonderful parents to a sweet little boy, so I knew they’d be good parents for my baby. They showed genuine love and care for me, not just for my baby. I wasn’t sure if a family who was 100 percent right even existed—but I knew I would not be making a mistake if I placed my beautiful baby into this family’s arms.
So I trusted what my mama heart told me was good and took a leap of faith. I look back now and realize what a huge risk it was—I had only known these people for a few months, but I chose to trust them with my child?! I know so many women who were promised openness that didn’t happen, but somehow I believed that they would keep their word. It would have been so easy for them to tell me what I wanted to hear, only to walk away after I placed with them. But something just told me it would all be okay.
And it has been. My birth daughter’s parents have not broken a single promise they’ve made to me. I have had the privilege of watching her grow up, and she is thriving. Now she is a middle child and the only girl. She squabbles with her brothers; sometimes she’s sweet, and sometimes she’s sassy. When her daddy pulls into the driveway, she hides and waits for him to walk in the door so she can jump out and scare him—and he acts so surprised every time. She loves her mama dearly. Every time I see her I am reminded that she belongs with this family.
There is no perfect family for your child. No one will do everything right all the time. No open adoption relationship will go without ups and downs. You will never find a perfect family, but you will find the right one. People who love your baby with all their hearts and keep their promises. People that have been waiting for years to be parents not just to any baby who comes along, but to your baby.
I can’t tell you how to find the right family for your child. Maybe the way you find your ‘right’ family will be very different than the way I did. Maybe you’ll know right away, or maybe it will take a while. Maybe you have a few options that feel right, so you just pick one. None of these are wrong ways to find the right family.
I can’t guarantee what the right family will look like for your child—but I can tell you how to find out if they’re the wrong ones. You won’t go wrong with a family who is clear and upfront with you. But if someone is resistant to giving specific answers to your questions—what kind of contact you will have post-placement, what their parenting style is, etc.—they probably aren’t the ones for you. With adoption, it’s important to be able to talk about the hard things and be honest. If they’re not honest with you, how do you know they will be honest with your child?
Most adoptive parents are good. They’re not going to try to hurt you or mislead anyone intentionally. But some are more educated than others. Some are aware of the importance of setting clear expectations between birth and adoptive parents. Some aren’t. Some have learned about how to talk to their child about adoption, and some haven’t. There’s nothing wrong with people who aren’t educated on adoption, but they probably aren’t right for you. Down the road, maybe they’ll learn and be perfect for someone else. But don’t place with a family if you aren’t sure how much they know about adoption and adoptive parenting.
In the end, you just have to follow your gut. No one else can tell you what is right or wrong for your baby. Let your mother’s intuition guide you. Don’t be afraid to say no to situations you aren’t comfortable with. And when something feels right, deep down, go with it. When you meet the right family, you’ll know.
Annaleece Merrill is a birth mother to the cutest little girl on earth. She loves being an advocate for open adoption by writing, mentoring, and speaking at adoption panels. She attends Utah State University in Logan, Utah.