How Many Words Should My Adoption Profile Letter Be?

writing - blogIt’s a question that pops up in my conversations with adopting parents all the time: How long should my adoption profile be?

Is there an ideal length I need to write in order to connect with a prospective birthmother? And if so, what is it? Is 500 words enough? A thousand? Two thousand?  What’s the limit?

Last week I wrote about how to make your adoption profile stand out by creating a positive first impression. I mentioned that with so many couples and singles hoping to adopt and so many profiles, websites, blogs and videos fighting for your attention, it’s becoming harder and harder to cut through the clutter and get found online by expectant parents with an adoption plan.

As a result, you need to make a positive impact right away, within seconds, by conveying trust and credibility through your profile’s design, words and photos.

Even relatively small things that you may think are insignificant such as your choice of font or colours, communicate things about you to a prospective birthmother and can increase your chances of making a connection and getting picked.

This week I want to talk about something that’s even more basic than that, a topic that you need to think about long before you sit down and write a single word — and that is, how long should your profile be.

If you’re like most adopting parents, just the mere thought of composing an adoption profile letter can strike fear into your heart. Let’s be honest, most of us don’t like to write. And we certainly don’t like writing about ourselves, particularly when it involves delving into complicated topics that we may know little about such as adoption and parenting.

So before you dive into your letter, it’s probably a good idea to spend time establishing two key parameters.

What do you need to say and how many words does it take you to say it?

Let’s start off by stating that there’s no magical length to an adoption profile letter. It’s not like a high school essay where you have a specific number of words to work with and you get marks docked if you go over the limit.

Nor is it like an application form where all you have to do is answer a bunch of questions and then wait to get the results back. (However, we are talking about adoption here — so waiting is big part of the package. But that’s another story for another time).

An adoption profile is unlike anything you’ve probably ever written. And I say that in a good way. After all, how many life-changing events can you name in which the outcome hinges on one single letter written by you. That’s right, in open adoption, your letter could be the game changer, the difference between whether you adopt this year or five years from now.

Other types of adoption are a different story. In public and international adoption, for example, you don’t have any control over the waiting process nor are you required to write a “Dear Birthmother” letter. In open adoption, however, you can shorten your wait time and directly influence the outcome of your search strictly on the basis of your letter. Pretty amazing when you think about it.

Truth be told, your adoption profile letter can be as long or as short as you want it to be.

In many ways, the actual length is irrelevant. Far more important is what’s in it — the content and the way that content is presented, and of course, whether it resonates with your reader.

Given that every prospective birthmother is different and is looking for different things, creating a compelling, honest and accurate portrait is the key. And along the way, in order to make a connection, you also need to include some essential information about you, your personality, lifestyle, family, home and parenting and adoption philosophy.

So how many words should you devote to each section? Should some sections be longer than others? How do you know when you’ve said enough about one aspect of your life and are ready to move on to another?

These are questions that you will work out as you write your letter. Some sections will come easier than others. For instance, describing your interests will be easier to write than sharing your thoughts about parenting about adoption, and that could dictate how much space you devote to those topics. And it also depends on how important those topics are for you and what you have to say about them.

Writing your letter can seem daunting at first.

With so much at stake, it’s hard to know where to begin, what to say, or how to say it. But once you start writing you’ll find that the words will start to flow more naturally, your thoughts will be more focused, and your confidence will increase the further you get into it.

You’ll probably find that you have more material than you know what to do with. In general, don’t devote more than a few paragraphs to each section. And instead of giving broad descriptions, try to pinpoint two or three details that paint a portrait of who are you or the parent you would be.

If you find the process overwhelming, break up your letter into the individual sections — about you, about your partner, about your home, about your family, etc.  — and tackle them one at a time. It will make your letter not only easier to write, but also easier to read.

If you’re not sure what to include and what to leave out, put yourself in an prospective birthmother’s position and look at things from her perspective. If you were thinking of placing your baby for adoption, what would you be interested in? What would you be looking for in adoptive parents?

In all likelihood, you would probably want to know what makes these people click — about their passions and their hopes and dreams for the future, and where you would fit into them. And you would want to know what sorts of things do they value. Is education important? Travelling? Athletics?

Help a prospective birthmother visualize you as parents for her child. Find details that tell a story, that she can relate to, and that will set you apart from other couples and singles.

You’ll find that once you get into your letter, it will be hard to stop.

You’ll be flooded with memories from the past and inspired by your dreams for the future. And that’s ok. Writing a profile can be difficult. But it can also be satisfyingly therapeutic.

No matter how anxious you are to get the writing over with, don’t make the mistake of racing through it without doing a bit of fine-tuning.

When you’re done, put it away for a while. Then, when you’re ready, take it out and go over it with a fresh set of eyes. It willl help you identify and assess its strengths and weaknesses.

Upon re-reading it, you may find that it wasn’t as amazing as you originally thought. But once again, that’s okay. It’s all part of the process. Just go back and keep polishing it until you’re satisfied with the final product.

So once you’re done, how long should it be? For our online parent profiles, we suggest anywhere 1,000 to 1,500 words. If your letter is longer or shorter, we won’t turn it away. But we don’t recommend anything beyond 1,500 words. For us, that’s the sweet spot.

An expectant mothers is overwhelmed as it is before she gets to your letter. Now imagine having to read one profile after another, each one clocking in at 1,500 words or more. That’s a lot of reading, especially online!

Keep in mind that people’s reading habits are different online.

They don’t like to read long, unbroken chunks of text. So if you want a prospective birthmother to read through everything you’ve written,  from the beginning to the end, keep it short.

The longer your letter is, the lower the odds are that she’ll make it to the end. To make the reading experience even easier on her, be sure to keep the paragraphs short, no more two or three sentences, and to break them up and separate them with sub-headings. Prospective birthmothers will thank you and so will Google.

At the same time, don’t make your letter so short that there’s no meat or substance to it. The tone should be upbeat and positive. But don’t make it so breezy or make yourself sound so perfect that an expectant mother will forget it the moment she finishes reading.

When it comes to the length of a letter, I’ve seen examples from all across the sprectrum — from a few hundred words to several thousand. I wish I could tell you what length works best. But the truth is, there’s no direct relationship between the number of words and getting chosen.

In the end, it’s the details that count.

And whether the information you put into your letter are the kinds of things that a prospective birthmother is looking for. I’ve seen all kinds of letters, written from all kinds of perspectives, from the perspective of the adopting parent’s son and even from the point of view of another couple’s cat.

Needless to say, just about anything goes. And the same goes for the person on the other end. I’ve seen adoptive parents get chosen for any number of reasons — because they seemed nice, because they lived in the country, because they lived in the city, because they liked travelling, because they were homebodies, because they had a traditional family, because they were same sex couple, because they had pets, because they didn’t have pets, and because (this is a big one) they just didn’t seem “fake’ like the parents in the other profiles.

In many instances, getting chosen by a prospective birthmother will come down to your letter. But in other occasions other factors will play a role, be they your photos, your location, your race, or whether you already have a child or not.

I wish I could be more specific and tell you that if your letter is 1,000 words you stand a better chance of being successful. But that’s just the way it is. Getting picked by a prospective birthmother is more of an art than a science. There are many factors that go into a match, and the length of your letter is just one of them.

So, as you’re writing your letter, make sure that it’s as long or as short as it needs to be. Every word counts so don’t pad it. Think of it as an appetizer rather than a complete meal. Your profile should give a prospective birthmother a taste of what to expect and persuade her to contact you to find out more about you and what you have to offer.

Check with your adoption professionals.

Each agency has its own criteria and requirements about adoption profile letters. Some are more stringent than others, and many work with a template and can give you tips and suggestions. In some cases, you may be asked to boil down everything down to a single page and have the rest of your letter shown only if an expectant mother shows interest in moving on to the next stage.

In the end, just remember it’s your letter so you’re the only one who can really decide how long it should be. Make sure that it gives a good sense of who you are and the type of parent you would be, and that the portrait you create is honest and accurate.

Also, make sure that the quality doesn’t take a back seat to the quantity. As long as the information is valuable and includes things that an expectant parent is looking for, even 1,000 words will be more than enough to help you stand out from the crowd and make a connection.

How long do you think an adoption profile letter should be? How long is or was your letter to a prospective birthmother? Share your comments here or on our Facebook page.

Need help with your letter? Find out how our writing service can give an edge to your adoption profile and help you increase your chances of success.  

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