Adoption Advice, Tips and Hints
Advice for Families Hoping to Adopt.
- Facilitating Contact with a potential Birthparent
- The First Call!
- Ongoing Conversations
- Additional things to Consider
Make it easy for prospective Birthparents to reach you. Many of them will be nervous when they contact you (as you will be) and may look for any excuse not to complete the call, or may not try again if their first attempt to reach you fails.
- Get a toll-free phone number. Most major phone companies can provide one that rings at your home phone. A collect call is great, but going through the operator can be intimidating or a hassle.
- Avoid using a business phone unless you have a private area to speak freely and the number rings directly to your desk.
- Consider using a cell phone or pager so you can be contacted any time and anywhere. This will be especially handy when you are working with a Birthparent so that they can be in touch throughout the pregnancy.
- If you will be using the Internet to do much of your networking have an E-mail address available. If you can't or don't want to use the address you already have (your employer won't permit it, etc.) use a free E-mail service such as Excite or Hot Mail.
- As a last resort, use an answering machine. A Birthparent may be too nervous to leave a message, but it's better than nothing.
- Don't Forget! A Birthparent could call at any time! Always answer the phone upbeat and prepared.
It won't matter if you know it's coming or it's the middle of the night, the first call is the toughest, for everyone. Anxiety will be high, hearts will be racing and there will be plenty of nervousness to go around.
- Be yourself, honest and open. The reason a prospective Birthparent called was because she/he liked what they heard about you or read in your "Dear Birthparent" letter.
- The tone of the conversation should be as friendly, light and relaxed as possible despite the butterflies in your stomach. This is a "get-to-know-you" chat nothing more. The hard questions can wait for now.
- Make sure your conversation and "Dear Birthparent" letter (or information you told an adoption professional) tell the same, truthful story. Nothing will end a budding relationship sooner than lies
- Put yourself in the Birthparents position without being patronizing. You may suspect that they are confused and know very little about the adoption process but you ABSOLUTELY DO NOT know the emotions she or he is feeling or what they are going through.
- Don't make any promises you can't (or don't intend to) keep.
- Don't Leave the first conversation open-ended. If things go well, set up a time to speak again. And don't forget to get a number where you can reach her or him before you get off the phone.
- When the call is over, tell your partner (or trusted friend) the highlights of your conversation so it is still fresh in your mind. Their feedback will be helpful and they won't have to go over the same territory if they speak to the Birthparent next.
- If the conversation doesn't go well it doesn't mean you did anything wrong. As long as you are truthful, sensitive and honest, you'll be well prepared for that "one" phone call.
OK, so now you've made contact, what next? Like any relationship, the nervousness will fade and comfort will increase as you get to know each other. The key here is to be upfront, truthful, sensitive and honest. Ask what you need to ask, tell them what they want to know.
- After you have exchanged a call or two, and the anxiety on both sides has decreased, it's time to ask some important questions. Have a list of those questions ready and near the phone. You wouldn't want to forget to ask something because you are anxious, excited or nervous. But remember, this is NOT a quiz show, don't bombard the Birthparent with questions. Spread them out over a few calls if necessary, it will make everyone feel better.
- Have a notepad available so that you can remember what was said or write questions you might want to ask at a later date.
- Men, don't be surprised, upset or offended if the potential Birthmother doesn't want to speak to you right away, often or at all! She may simply feel more comfortable speaking to a woman, it doesn't mean you are not important to her decision.
- Once it seems like you have a relationship growing, you should let your adoption professional know. Their experience will provide invaluable advice and help alert you to indicators that there might be a problem.
- Trust your gut. While fraudulent situations are not common, you don't want to be taken advantage of at this vulnerable stage in your life. At some point you will want to request that the Birthparent speak to your adoption professional. If they are reluctant to do so, or if something seems "funny" and you can't get a straight answer to your questions or concerns, it may be time to back out and wait for a situation that makes you more comfortable.
There are many things to keep track of, to learn and to do while you go through the adoption process. This section contains a small list of things you should think about and/or do during the appropriate times leading up to the birth of the baby. An adoption professional is paid to help you with all of this and will have additional suggestions for you.
- Confirm that the potential Birthmother is really pregnant as soon as you can. You should also get medical records to see that the Birthmother and baby have been getting appropriate care and are in good health. Don't be surprised if the records arrive "de-identified". This is a common practice.
- If you are not in contact with the potential Birthfather try to find out as much as you can about him. This is important for health reasons, but also to provide some history for your child (especially in open adoptions). Caution: this could be a sensitive subject for the potential Birthmother so use your best judgment before you ask.
- Even though several potential Birthparents may have contacted you, it's not fair to them to work with more than one set unless you are upfront about it. If you are wishy-washy about your commitment to them, how can you expect them to be committed to you? Keep track of other potential leads though in case your current situation doesn't work out.
- Many states have very strict rules regarding anything you do that could be interpreted as an inducement for the potential Birthmother Before you do anything, even something that seems trivial like buying her a cup of coffee, be sure you know EXACTLY what the law allows. One slip and the whole thing could be over.
- As you get to know the Birthparents, put together a scrapbook of your experience. Get photos or other mementos from both of them (especially if you are not going to have continued contact after birth). This will be a great thing for your child as they grow older and begin to ask questions about how they came to live with you. Try to get this done before the adoption is finalized. The Birthparents may not feel like contacting you for quite some time afterwards.
- Remember, many of the issues you may have as you speak with a prospective birth mother are resolvable. It is important to deal with the issues directly and soon as appropriate. That way, they won't have a chance to spin out of control.
- If you feel there is something about the potential Birthparents that you find unappealing, keep it to yourself. Don't share this with family or friends. You don't want your child or her Birthparents to be thought about or discussed in an unflattering light in the future. Of course, if any of these things pose a danger to the health of your child or the success of the adoption you should talk about them with someone you trust.