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Building Your Family: Working with Prospective Birthparents

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Working with Prospective Birthparents

Best practices: navigating the matching period to the first contact, and onward.

In domestic adoption, adoptive parents are usually selected by, and are often in direct contact with, the birthmother before the baby is born. Depending on state law, parents adopting independently make their initial connection with potential birthmothers by advertising in print or online, negotiating much of the matching process themselves. Parents adopting through an agency complete their adoption profiles, then wait for them to be shown to prospective birthmothers.

Several companies are now offering Web-based services to help parents navigate the matching period. Parent Match is a national database of expectant parents and adoptive parents, which agencies and attorneys can access to create matches outside of their local network. And some adoption advertising sites let you do more than post your profile. For example, you can upload your paperwork using Adoption-Share or CAIRS’ MyAdoptionPortal. These companies are not adoption facilitators, so they aren’t legally making the matches. Rather, they’re widening the search net for birthparents and adoptive parents by letting them connect directly and by teaming up agencies and attorneys that haven’t previously worked together.

Whether you adopt independently or through an agency, you’ll put together an adoption profile that tells prospective birthmothers about your family (see tips on page 57). This may be a physical book or a page on a profile-hosting website.

Your next step will be to speak with prospective birthmothers (one mother shares her story, and advice, on page 64). What matters most is not a list of questions, but finding a way to connect genuinely as people. During your early conversations, let your first thoughts be about her needs and concerns. Ask about the pregnancy and the people in her life. Answer her questions simply and honestly, being as open as you would like her to be.

When working with a potential birthmother, and throughout the domestic adoption process, keep in mind that statutes vary from state to state. For the most part, though, reputable agencies and attorneys adhere to certain best practices, from your first contact onward. They generally agree that a prospective birthmother should have the right to receive counseling and to change her mind, have her own legal representation, choose the adoptive family, and have her wishes for future contact honored.

Compiled by the editors of Building Your Family, with research contributed by Elisa Rosman, Ph.D.

"Why I Chose Adoption"

The Early Growth and Development Study is an ongoing national study of birthparents and adoptive families. It’s providing a rare glimpse of the birth family’s choices and attitudes through every stage of the process. Here’s how birthmothers responded to a question about the adoption decision.

When deciding on adoption, it was “pretty important” to “very important” that:

95% You were able to screen and select the adoptive parents.

84% You were able to talk with, e-mail, or meet potential adoptive parents before the birth.

60% You had access to post-adoption services, like counseling, support groups, and updates from adoptive parents.

47% You received counseling.

26% You were able to talk with other people who had made an adoption plan.

22% The agency or the adoptive family paid for medical care.


SOURCE: Early Growth and Development Study, grant R01 HD042608, NICHD and NIDA, NIH, U.S. PHS.