Adoption Do’s and Don’ts

woman-with-newbornPosting an adoption profile to reach out to a potential birth mother is one thing. Connecting with one is quite another.

Here are some tips on what to do to make the most of that big day when it arrives — and afterwards. Need a boost with your efforts to connect with a prospective birth mother in Canada? Check out our Parent Profile Writing Service.

Do
Make it as easy as possible for a prospective birth mother to contact you. Inviting her to call collect is convenient but she still has to go through an operator. Get a toll-free number instead — it’s more direct.

Don’t
Include a business number on your letter unless it connects directly to you and you’re able to speak candidly.

Do
Consider getting a cell number where you can be reached at any hour of the day. Most pregnant women who will be calling you will give you one and only one chance to answer the phone. If you’re not there to answer it, they likely won’t call you again.

Don’t
Forget that the call could come at any time — as you’re getting out of the shower, in the middle of dinner, you name it. Be prepared!

Do
Get call display. It costs a little extra but it’s worth every penny. If only because it will keep you sounding fresh and upbeat each time you pick up the phone.

Don’t
Post your adoption professionals’ number on your letter. You can if you want to, but it won’t help you very much since most women who will be phoning you will be interested in speaking to you directly, not to a third party or an answering machine.

Do
Make a point, if you’re a couple, of having the female partner do all the talking on the phone. A potential birth mother will be able to relate to her better, particularly since she may have had difficulties with men in the past.

Don’t
Let your emotions get the better of you when the call finally comes. We know: easier said than done. But remember, this is only the first step. There’s still a long way to go.

Do
Leave a list of questions ready by the phone. This will be one conversation you won’t want to leave to chance. Besides, you wouldn’t believe the things we forget to ask when we’re excited, anxious and nervous.

Don’t
Neglect to find a comfortable place to talk — a quiet corner where you’re relaxed, ready and free of outside distractions.

Do
Remember that your situation won’t always be as stressful as the first few conversations. (It couldn’t be; you wouldn’t have any hair left to pull out or nails to bite). In time, as you and a prospective birth mother get to know each other better, your anxiety and fears should gradually subside and hopefully be replaced by a relationship based on trust, honest and mutual understanding.

Don’t
Be afraid, if a prospective birth mother initially calls you at a bad time, to ask if you can call her back. Sure, it won’t sound great, but you’ll be kicking yourself later if something goes wrong or if you have to deal with something else at the same time.

Do
Be yourself: honest and open. Keep in mind that the reason a prospective birth mother called you was because she liked what she read in your letter. Don’t let her down! And make sure that everything you say gels with what you wrote in your “Dear Birth Mother” letter.

Don’t
Try to impress her. Your efforts will come across as desperate, clumsy and insincere — a different person than the one she thought she contacted.

Do
Put yourself in her position. Treat her with respect and never lose sight of the fact that she may be confused and knows very little about the adoption process.

Don’t
Neglect to take notes. This will help you sort out what was said at a later date and could prove useful in alerting you to potential gaps, omissions and inconsistencies.

Do
Keep the tone of the conversation friendly, light and relaxed. Think of it as a “get-to-know-you” chat, not an interrogation.

Don’t
Worry about running out of things to say. If anything, you’ll have the opposite problem.

Do
Discuss your other children, if you have any. But don’t dwell on them too much — even if you think the world of them. You don’t want a prospective birth mother to feel her child won’t measure up.

Don’t
Don’t make any promises you can’t keep, no matter how much you want a pregnant woman to place her baby with you.

Do
Remember that the person who calls you may be shopping around. There’s nothing that says she can’t do this, and there’s nothing that says you can’t ask her if she is.

Don’t
Leave the first conversation open-ended. If things go well, set up a time to speak to her again. And don’t forget to get a number where you can reach her before you get off the phone.

Do
Fill your partner in on the highlights of your conversations while they’re still fresh in your mind. His/her feedback will be invaluable and you’ll avoid having him/her go over the same territory the next time s/he speaks to her.

Don’t
Forget to let your adoption practitioner and licensee know that you have the beginnings of a situation, and at the earliest possible opportunity. They can point out some of the red flags, offer suggestions, and generally help you determine whether the person who called you really is pregnant and considering adoption for her child.

Do
Make sure to get a confirmation of her pregnancy at the earliest opportunity. Your licensee can do this for you. Until you get it, don’t assume anything. And remember, even if the woman who contacts you does turn out to be pregnant, she’s not a birth mother until she places her child for adoption and has her parental rights terminated.

Don’t
Neglect to ask yourself whether the person who called you is someone you can rely on. If for whatever reason you decide she isn’t, break free before you get too emotionally and financially involved.

Do
Find out as much as you can about the potential birth father. Tread softly, though. This could be a sensitive subject.

Don’t
Despair if you don’t click with the first person who contacts you. Other opportunities will come your way. The important thing is to stay positive, keep an open mind and don’t lose sight of your goal of becoming a parent..

Do
Keep in mind that you can only deal with one potential birth mother at a time. But that doesn’t mean you should ignore other leads that come your way. They may come in handy later, if your situation doesn’t work out.

Don’t
Listen in on your partner’s phone conversation with a potential birth mother without alerting her first. In general, it’s not a good idea for both you and your partner to speak to her at once. Doing so will only confuse and possibly intimidate her.

Do
Set aside plenty of time when you call her. There will be lots of serious issues to cover, and you don’t want to rush through them.

Don’t
Neglect to contact one your adoption professionals right away if something odd or suspicious crops up in your conversations.

Do
Remember that your job is to gather as much information as you can and to slowly build up a relationship with her. At the same time, don’t forget to keep your radar up at every stage.

Don’t
Be afraid to ask the same question twice if you didn’t get a satisfactory answer the first time.

Do
Remember to have your partner speak to her, too, even if you’ve been elected to be the “designated spokesperson.” You’ll want his/her feedback and you’ll want her to know that you and your partner are in sync regarding your adoption plan.

Don’t
Neglect to ask something just because you’re afraid as to how a potential birth mother will react. If you feel you have to wear kid gloves every time you speak to her, there’s something wrong. Move on before you drive yourself — and your partner — crazy.

Do
Bear in mind that while it may seem like you have few rights now, after a prospective birth mother’s revocation of consent period runs out that will change..

Don’t
Lose sight of the fact that many of the issues you may have regarding a prospective birth mother are resolvable. The key is to deal with the issues directly, as early as you can, before they have a chance to spin out of control.

Do
Resist the temptation to give her anything that could be considered an inducement. This includes everything from buying her a cup of coffee to bringing her flowers at the hospital when she gives birth.

Don’t
Overlook the importance of getting photos, a scrap book or some kind of mementos from both birth parents. This will be an important reference tool for your child as s/he grows older and starts to ask questions about how s/he came to live with you.

Do
Try to get the mementos prior to the placement. Afterwards, a birth mother (or father) may not feel up to contacting you for quite some time.

Don’t
Discuss any of the less attractive elements of the potential birth parents with your family and friends since that’s how they’ll remember them later.

Do
Keep in mind that while raising an adopted child requires different skills, the basic ingredients — love, empathy, compassion and support — still apply.

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