A Profile of Adoptive Parents

couple-walking---ca---betterIf you’ve read any of the parent profiles on our Adoption Profiles page, the one thing you’ve probably noticed by now is just how different they are. The letters — and the people behind them.

Hopeful adoptive parents in Canada, just like birth parents, are hard to classify. They don’t fit into neat, little categories. One of the myths about them is that they’re all rich. In fact, waiting adoptive parents come from all walks of life and their emotional resources are often just as important as their financial ones.

Still, there are certain things they share in common. At the risk of sticking our neck out, let’s start with the obvious one: they all want to start a family. And if they’re part of our Waiting Parent Registry, they’ve all had their home study approved.

What that means, among other things, is that they:

  • Have a stable marriage
  • Have a stable income
  • Are fit to become parents
  • Understand the issues of raising an adopted child
  • Are in good health
  • Have no criminal record
  • Have good references

You’ll also find that, for the most part, prospective adoptive parents are:

  • In their early 30’s to early 40’s
  • Have a pet but no children
  • Are a traditional two-parent couple
  • Have a post-secondary or college degree or consider education a priority

Some couples, the older ones especially, may already have children so keep in mind that the above list is not ironclad. There are exceptions to every rule.

What They’re Looking For

Knowing how stressful and complicated adoption can be, most hopeful adoptive parents will be looking for a birth mother (or father) who, above all, they can trust and feel comfortable with. What that means will vary from couple to couple. However, at the very least it means working with someone who’s decent, honest and open.

You may not be together anymore with the prospective birth father. Waiting parents understand that. Still, before they invest themselves into the process, they’ll want certain assurances. Above all, they’ll want to know that you’re committed to your adoption plan and that the prospective birth father is, too.

Hopeful adoptive parents understand that you have the option of changing your mind, and if they sense that you’re struggling with your decision they might decide to pass up the opportunity to work with you. On the other hand, many more will be willing to take the chance and help you work through your feelings and doubts.

During your pregnancy, they will want to know that you’re taking care of yourself and that you’re alcohol-free and drug-free. They will also want to know that in filling out your social and medical histories, you haven’t held anything back that would affect their decision to go through with the adoption or their ability to raise a child in the years to come.

Given the choice, they prefer a birth mother who:

  • Is reliable and responsible, who follows through on whatever she’s supposed to do
  • Is empathetic and understands that they too are going through a difficult time
  • Isn’t manipulative
  • Is willing to have at least one face-to-face meeting before the placement

As for post-placement, their preference would be to find a birth mother who is co-operative and with whom they can put together an adoption plan that meets their needs and the needs of the child. This usually means a plan that allows them to have an ongoing relationship with you through photos and letters and doesn’t make unreasonable demands on them as to how they should raise the child.

Where you live in relation to them is usually not an issue. Ideally, a waiting parent would favour birth parents who live far enough away so that they don’t have to worry about running into them, but close enough that they have the option of contacting them, when and if they choose.

Whichever waiting parents you contact, they will want to protect themselves by making sure you meet certain criteria. Once they’re satisfied, they’ll make fewer demands and be more inclined to sit back and just go with the flow. However, in the early stages, this will take time and your relations with them at times may be bumpy and awkward. Chances are, you’ll run into a few surprises along the way, but once you deal with them your relationship will be all that much stronger.

What They’re Not Looking For

Most couples that you’ll contact will be thrilled to hear from you. And, unless they’re already involved in another situation, they’ll jump at the chance to work with you. There are, however, a few things that may cause them concern. Namely, if you’re:

  • Wavering in your adoption plan
  • Your child’s birth father or your family is opposed to your plan
  • You miss key meetings, appointments or deadlines without good reason
  • You have substance abuse problems

These are all issues that you can discuss — and hopefully work out — with your counsellor. And depending on how anxious the waiting parents you’ve contacted are to move forward with their adoption plan, they may not be obstacles at all. As with so much in adoption, a lot will come down to personal preferences and comfort levels. The key is to be honest, open and upfront. That way even things don’t work out the way you’d like them to, at least you can tell yourself you’ve given it your best shot.

Some waiting parents will be fussier than others. How will you know which ones are fussy and which ones aren’t? You won’t until you speak to them. Sometimes, though, their letters may tip you off, particularly if they already have children and are set in their ways. Once again, the fact that they exhibit either of these traits may not mean anything since each situation is difference and should be judged on its own merits.

Whichever couple you do decide to contact, good luck! And always remember that what you know about them and when you know it will make the difference between a placement that’s successful and one that’s not.

Suggested Questions

Calling a complete stranger is never easy, particularly when it involves discussing a subject as personal and complex as adoption. Here is a list of questions that will hopefully make things easier for you and the prospective adoptive parents — now and later.

  • Hi, I just read your on-line letter about your desire to adopt and I’m considering adoption for my child. Is this a good time to talk?
  • Do you mind if I ask you some questions?
  • Can you tell me something about yourselves — how would you describe yourselves?
  • How long have you and your partner known each other, and how did you first meet?
  • What are some of the things you like to do together and on your own?
  • How long have you been trying to start a family?
  • When did you first realize that you wanted to adopt?
  • Are you still undergoing fertility treatments or planning to go through more in the future?*
  • Do you both work — what kind of work do you do?
  • Once you become parents, will one of you stay at home?
  • What are your views on parenting and adoption?
  • How do you plan to raise your child — what are your priorities?
  • What kinds of values would you want your child to have?
  • Are you religious?
  • What are your views about education?
  • Does the fact that your child will be biologically different from you make a difference?
  • What about your partner — is he as comfortable with your decision as you are?
  • What would your reaction be if your child wasn’t interested in the same things that you were or, let’s say, wasn’t a good student?*
  • Tell me about your families — do you have any siblings, nieces or nephews?
  • How do they feel about your decision?
  • What kind of house or neighborhood do you live in?
  • What kind of relationship were you thinking of having after the baby’s born?
  • What if the child had a birth defect — how would that affect your decision?*
  • Have you spoken to or are you currently speaking to any other birth parents?
  • Is it possible to meet you before the placement?
  • Are there any questions you would like to ask me?

* Best left tor an adoption professional to ask

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Featured Waiting Parents


Making A Hospital Adoption Plan
What to consider when you give birth.

Placing Your Baby With The Adoptive Parents
What to expect after you give birth.

Exploring Your Adoption Options After An Unplanned Pregnancy
More on the "third option."