Successful Adoption: Beating The Odds!

For every healthy newborn placed for adoption, there are approximately 200 people seeking to adopt. The odds are STAGGERING! Successful adoptive parents "beat the odds" by maximizing their visibility with potential birth parents. They use a marketing approach to search for birth parents. They invest their time, energy, creativity and resources toward the goal of building a family. I call this process strategic adoption planning.

The first step in strategic adoption planning is to determine what child you wish to adopt. Begin by describing to yourselves the child you hope to adopt. Is it a newborn, infant, toddler, school-aged or older child? Do you wish to adopt within your race or another race? If of another race, do you have a preference? Is a child with special medical or emotional needs your desire or do you wish for a healthy child?

If you wish for a healthy child, what are your feelings about prenatal drug and/or alcohol exposure? Do you have a gender preference? Would you be willing to adopt twins? A sibling group? Do you wish to adopt a child from another country? The next step is to decide what type of adoption you desire. Do you wish to have an open, semi-open or closed adoption? Warning: The type of adoption you think you want is likely to be different than what you actually end up with. In my experience, most adoptive parents are fearful of openness until they learn a bit more about adoption reality.

A common fear (among first-time adoptive parents) is that birth parents will show up years later to reclaim their child. In reality, nothing could be further from the truth. The vast majority of birth parents choose adoption because they love their children and want them to grow up in happy, loving homes. Most birth parents today desire some degree of openness in adoption. They want to know how the child is doing, not wonder and imagine how he/she is. Birth parents deserve to be treated with respect and their desires regarding openness must be honored. Skilled and careful preadoption counseling and planning should clarify the needs and desires of both birth parents and adoptive parents. If it seems that the two are at odds, another match should be sought as it is in the best interest of all concerned.

Try to imagine what type of continuing contact you would be comfortable with after placement. Are you willing to send photos and update letters to the birth parents? If so, how often? Are you willing to talk with your child's birth parents on the telephone? Are visits with your child's birth parents something you can envision?

Fear of the unknown often causes first-time adoptive parents to initially reject open adoption. Later, as they become more educated about adoption, adoptive parents often come to prefer some degree of openness. Open adoption is not for everyone, but I truly believe that it is something all potential adoptive parents should at least consider.

The next step in strategic adoption planning is to align yourselves with the resources most likely to help you achieve your goal. For example, if you desire a closed adoption, you need to work with an agency that will not pressure you to have an open adoption. If you wish to adopt a healthy, Caucasian newborn, you will likely not be successful working with a public agency that places predominantly minority children. If you prefer to adopt a child from another country, you must work with an agency that is experienced in facilitating inter-country adoptions.

Adoption agencies may have either explicit (rarely) or unspoken (commonly) "criteria" for their adoptive parents (e.g., age, race, religion, marital status, education, financial resources). Unfortunately, some agencies will take your money, place you on a waiting list, never place a child with you and never explain why. Meanwhile, you waste precious time when you could be working with another agency and/or independently to build your family. If you are over 40, are single, are a same-sex couple, have other children, are nonreligious or anything else that may classify you as a "nontraditional" adoptive parent, you MUST find out which agency will truly be an advocate for you in implementing your adoption plan and work with that particular agency.

There are many excellent resources for and about adoption on the internet. Some websites post listings of waiting children and of waiting adoptive parents. In response to this website, I receive emails and phone calls daily from birth parents and potential adoptive parents. The internet is an amazingly powerful tool for adoption.

You never know if you might have a neighbor, friend or relative who is facing an unplanned pregnancy. If you've made your desire to adopt known to others, chances are you may be the first person the young woman learns about.

I do NOT recommend that you send out mass mailings to obstetricians, nurse-midwives, social workers, school nurses, etc. These professionals frequently receive such mailings and often personally know of someone wanting to adopt. Except in very limited circumstances (i.e., for my clients who are health care or legal professionals), I believe that targeted mailings are a waste of time and money.

In summary, I strongly believe that to "beat the odds," you must approach adoption from a marketing perspective.

  • Maximize your visibility to potential birth parents.
  • Use several mediums to "market" yourselves.
  • Align yourselves with professionals who will work WITH
    you and FOR you.