By Hal Kaufman
Published in Resolve, for the journey and beyond, Spring 2010
The family profile, also known as the parent profile or Dear Birthmother letter, provides expectant parents considering adoption with their first impression of a prospective adoptive family. It gives them a glimpse into what life would be like for their child. Prospective adoptive families have complete control over the quality of their profile and the profile has tremendous influence over how quickly families adopt. It is the most important element in the domestic adoption process. What separates the great family profiles from the good ones? The great profiles feel genuine and not cookie-cutter in nature, share interesting stories that create opportunities to develop personal connections and includes pictures that pull the reader deeper into the profile.
Expectant parents who are considering making an adoption plan for their child can distinguish between prospective adoptive families that write authentically and honestly from their heart from families that seem to be writing what they think expectant parents want to hear. If you stop and think about it, writing what you think an expectant parent wants to read is nearly impossible to do well because the audience is so diverse. For example,
Writing from the heart does not mean, however, that one should share everything. Imagine that you are on a blind date that starts something like this: “Wow am I happy to finally get a date! The last person I dated was just awful. It’s been so long since I’ve even had a date and believe me; I’ve tried plenty of times. I just hope this one works out.” That is not a good start! Desperation, sadness and frustration are not a recipe for attracting a match. Unfortunately, many prospective adoptive families communicate similar sentiments in their family profile.
The following examples share genuine facts and feelings, but also can create a negative response from the reader and should be avoided:
One way to address infertility in the family profile is to mention it without any details while simultaneously sharing some positive outcomes. For example: “Our experience with infertility not only opened our eyes to the beauty of adoption, but also strengthened our marriage and better prepared us to be parents.
We learned that…”.
Great family profiles inform the reader through memorable stories. Expectant parents considering adoption get to know families better through stories than by reading a list of facts. Furthermore, the more a family profile engages the senses through anecdotes, the greater the response by the reader. To reinforce these points, compare the effectiveness of these two pairs of examples. Which ones are more likely to strike a connection with a reader?
1. “Sue likes to cook.”
2. “Nothing beats the sweet smell of Sue’s homemade caramel rolls fresh out of the oven on a brisk Sunday morning.”
1. “We are an active couple and love the outdoors.”
2. “Last summer we fulfilled our dream to hike Glacier Point in Yosemite National Park. After a full day of hiking with 20 pounds of gear we expected to sleep
well, but the pounding 1,500-foot waterfall BELOW us had other ideas.”
Photographs are another great approach for helping expectant parents get to know prospective adoptive families. In fact, the most important elements of any family profile are the pictures and corresponding captions. Expectant parents use the pictures to make initial judgments about the prospective adoptive family and to decide whether to read the profile. The strongest family profiles communicate so much information through pictures and captions that the reader can truly get a sense of the family without ever reading the profile.
The best pictures show faces and expressions,not scenery and one-inch bodies. Captions should provide useful information that fit into the profile itself and do not repeat what is obvious from the picture. Both pictures and captions provide opportunities to express values and personality. Notice how each of the following examples shows increasingly effective approaches for pictures and captions:
With domestic adoption families can take concrete steps that have a direct impact on how quickly they adopt. Most families coming to adoption from infertility find this incredibly empowering. Creating a strong family profile is a creative expression of what life for a child would be like as a member of the prospective adoptive family. It is the most important step they take in the adoption process.
This article focused on the family profile, but the family profile is just one tool used to make a connection between prospective adoptive families with expectant parents considering adoption. Adoption outreach refers to all of the actions that prospective adoptive families can take to find, be found by, and strike a connection with expectant parents. The result of personal adoption outreach can be a faster and less expensive adoption. Learn more about adoption outreach in the article library on RESOLVE’s website at www.resolve.org.