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Developing a Strong Family Profile

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.

Write from the Heart, Not to an Audience

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,

  • Expectant women are the primary readers and decision-makers, but sometimes the expectant father and the families of the expectant parents are involved in the process.
  • Although 26% of birth mothers are teenagers, the median age is 23 years old and 37% of birth mothers are 25 years old or older.
  • Even though many birth mothers are of a lower socioeconomic status, birth mothers of a higher socioeconomic status with educational goals are more common.

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:

  • “Our hearts ache to think that we are not yet parents.”
  • “During the last five years we have suffered through invasive medical treatments and multiple miscarriages, but we now believe that adoption is the best way to build our family.”

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…”.

Show More Than Tell

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.”

Include Attention-Grabbing Photographs and Captions

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:

  • PHOTO: Posed group picture of the prospective adoptive family with more than 100 extended family members in a park during a family reunion.
    Caption 1: Family Reunion 2009.
    Caption 2: We organized this year’s family reunion and were blessed to have 112 relatives join us from around the world.
  • PHOTO: Informal close-up picture of the prospective adoptive father reading to his 3-year-old niece and 5-year-old nephew while they sit at the bottom of the playground slide with a snack.
    Caption 1: A calm moment during our annual family reunion.
    Caption 2: Our nieces and nephews enjoy our stories AND our s’mores during our 15th worldwide family reunion.

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.

For more information on the adoption process, contact Hal Kaufman, My Adoption Advisor, at 612.801.6896, via e-mail at hal@myadoptionadvisor.com. Visit www.MyAdoptionAdvisor.com.