Successful Adoption: Beating the Odds!

For every healthy newborn placed for adoption, there 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 that 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 in Strategic Adoption Planning 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. Birthparents deserve to be treated with the respect and their desires regarding openness must be honored. Skilled and careful pre-adoption counseling and planning should clarify the needs and desires of both birthparents 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 birthparents? If so, how often? Are you willing to talk with your child's birthparents on the telephone? Are visits with your child's birthparents 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) "criterion" for their adoptive parents (i.e. 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 years of age, are single, are a same-sex couple, have other children, are non-religious 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.

Aside from finding an "ally-agency", how can you make yourselves known to prospective birth parents? Advertise! You can probably find "Want to Adopt" advertisements in the classified section of most any newspaper. If you haven't already seen adoption ads, look at a few newspapers and read the "Want to Adopt" ads. Advertising does work but it is expensive. Advertising is most effective if you direct your resources toward newspapers most likely to produce results. You must target your advertising to papers that serve the population you wish to reach. Not all states allow adoption advertising, so you must speak to an attorney before placing advertisements.

Aside from choosing the right papers in which to advertise, your ads should be uniquely written to stand apart from other ads. Just as you have a "vision" of the child you wish to adopt, birthparents have a "vision" of the adoptive parents they will choose. Most "Want to Adopt" advertisements contain the words "happy, stable, professional, financially secure... Etc.". If you want to be noticed, your ad MUST be different. Include something personal or unique about yourselves - it may be just what that special birth parent has been searching for. I have written ads for many adoptive couples. Following are some examples of successful ads:

Our adopted daughter is the joy of our lives!
We can't wait to expand our family with a new baby.
We promise abundant love and devotion,
the security of an at-home Mom and hands-on Dad
and extended family waiting with open arms.
Your child will grow up to respect your sacrifice as we do.
Call us at home, in confidence, anytime 800-569-5371

Open Adoption is Our Wish!
No unanswered questions for our baby...
s/he will grow up knowing you.
We believe our child by adoption will benefit from
positive interaction and contact with his/her birthparents.
We will help you in any way that we can.
We're easy to talk to. Please call us at home 800-569-5371.

The following ad was written for parties with a VERY unique and open adoption:

Hello, my name is Susan.
I chose Mary and John to adopt my baby three years ago.
They are wonderful parents and want to adopt again.
I'm thrilled to help them find another baby to adopt.
They are everything you hope for in adoptive parents.
If you'd like to talk to me about Mary and John, please call
anytime 800-569-5371

Advertising is only effective if you place the right ads in the right papers AND get adequate coverage. I recommend that my clients spend $800-$1000 per month on newspaper advertising. Yes, it is a lot of money. If you want to adopt in the shortest possible time, you must market yourselves in the most effective way.

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 e-mails and phone calls on a daily basis from birthparents and potential adoptive parents. The Internet is an amazingly powerful tool for adoption.

I strongly encourage my clients to create web pages and subscribe to particular Websites. My Internet consultants create web pages for my clients and list them with particular Websites, and on search engines if they desire.

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 lady learns about.

Along this line, I do NOT recommend that you send out mass mailings to obstetricians, nurse-midwives, social workers, school nurses, Etc. Those professionals frequently receive such mailings and, more often than not, 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 birthparents.
  • Use a several different mediums to "market" yourselves.
  • Align yourselves with professionals who will work WITH
    you and FOR you.