Time makes change. People, relationships, technology, and laws all change with the passing of time. During the 23 years that I have been practicing adoption law, I have been witness to multiple changes in the law as well as in the composition of the families who are seeking to adopt. Singles, as well as gay and lesbian couples are seeking to adopt in equal or greater numbers than heterosexual couples. One is hard pressed to think of what has often been referred to as a non traditional family as non traditional anymore!
Along with these changes it is to be expected that the relationship between birth parents and prospective adoptive parent(s) would also change. Birth parents are no longer content with just knowing the first names, age and state in which their adoptive parent(s) reside. Birth parents want the opportunity to become familiar with their prospective family in a more intimate (yet not necessarily identifying) way than in the past. This is where today’s Life Book or Adoptive Parent Profile comes into play.
Typically a birth parent and prospective adoptive parent have their initial communication with one another over the telephone. This may occur when a pregnant woman responds to an ad that prospective adoptive parents have placed in a publication or through an introduction by someone familiar with both of them. Typically the next step in this new relationship is for the birth mom to receive a written communication from the prospective family. Twenty some years ago prospective parents would dash off a letter or a card to the birth mom and this would be sufficient to establish a continuing relationship. No longer.
A pregnant woman who is considering adoption now knows that she can expect much more from a potential family. Today prospective families prepare a book about themselves for the birth mom and her extended family to review. This Life Book or Profile as it is sometimes referred to will include details about a family’s home and environment, nuclear and extended family, support system, and values. In other words it will relay allow a prospective birth mother to preview the details of a family’s life.
The importance of this profile cannot be underestimated. If a birth mother doesn’t care whom she is choosing to place her baby with, chances are she is not serious about making an adoption plan. I always view it as a red flag if the birth mother is not interested in taking the time to get to know the family she in intending on placing with.
I urge the prospective adoptive families with whom I work to put time and effort into preparing these books. This book should reflect who you are personally; your interests, values and commitments. One cannot properly express these thoughts by copying text from sample books or the books of friends who have adopted in the past. The profile should not include generic statements and thoughts. This is your book and your life. This book will be a key factor in helping you to make your own special connection with the right birth mom.
These profiles should not read as resumes. Birth moms are not interested in the awards that you have won through your education and employment. If you are already a parent, you do not want to brag about how adorable, athletic and brilliant your child is. A birth mom isn’t going to be hearing how much you love your child. What she will be worrying about is if the baby she is carrying can live up to this sibling. Will you be able to love her child as much?
The woman you will want to make an adoption plan with is the one who is concerned about the values and stability of the family she will be placing her child with for the rest of his/her life. She wants to be assured that her child will be safe, secure and loved unconditionally. A birth mom wants to be able to visualize the child’s future routines, weekend activities, holiday celebrations and educational opportunities. A thoughtful Life Book is the way this can be accomplished. Once you have completed your story you will want to add photos to illustrate what you have discussed. Many birth moms reveal that they intend to hold on to these precious books as keepsakes. They often admit to sharing these books with people in their lives who are near and dear to them. A woman who feels this way is the woman with whom prospective parents have the best chance at making a successful adoption plan.
Suzanne B. Nichols Esq. has a Master’s degree in counseling as well as a JD degree. Her practice has been limited to adoption for over 20 years. She is licensed to practice law in NY and NJ and has offices located in Westchester and Manhattan. She has been a Fellow of the American Academy of Adoption Attorneys since 1991. She has authored articles on domestic and international adoption for professional publications and is a frequent guest speaker at professional organizations.