Starting a family is always a risk, whether your baby is biological or adopted. But adoption carries with it certain risks that parents of biological children never face. Knowing what they are and how to deal with them now can save you a lot of headaches and heartaches down the road.

Perhaps the biggest risk in any adoption in Canada — particularly if you’re trying to connect with a prospective birth mother through open adoption — is jumping into a situation before you’re ready.

Like most prospective adoptive parents, you’ve probably come to adoption via infertility. Which means that you’re vulnerable and you’re anxious — not exactly the ideal combination when you consider that you’re about to make one of the most important decisions of your life.

Babies — or the mere thought of adopting one — can do funny things to your heart and your head. You’ll say things you wouldn’t normally say; do things you wouldn’t normally do. Chances are it took you years to get to this point. And given all the time you’ve spent — or depending on your point of view, wasted — getting here, you don’t want to wait another day. You want to become a parent — yesterday.

Your impatience and frustration are perfectly understandable. But they should never get in the way of the next stage of your journey.. Adoption, you see, is both a waiting game and a guessing game. It’s about making informed decisions. And before you can do that, you need to get informed.

Every adoption has its red flags. And private open adoptions that use the Internet are no exception. The first thing you need to know is that you can’t adopt over the Net.

Posting your adoption profile letter on our Adoption Profiles is an excellent way to reach out to a prospective birth mother. But the Net is just a search tool, no different than placing an ad in the newspaper — a way to find a prospective birth mother.

Once you find her — or rather she finds you — you still have to go through the proper legal channels to get your adoption approved.

And as with any type of adoption or adoption search tool, there are no guarantees that it will work. Just because you build a website — or post a letter online — doesn’t mean they will come. There’s nothing that says a birth mother will find you. Or if she does, that she’ll contact you. Or that, once she contacts you, the two of you will click.

We don’t want to discourage you — after all, we’re not called Canada Adopts! for nothing. We just want to point out some of the issues you should be aware of. A lot will depend on you and your letter. For instance, letters with multiple photos are generally more successful. And a lot, of course, will depend on luck. So as great a search tool as the Net is, it shouldn’t be your only one.

You’ll need to screen everything that comes your way — carefully. Some of he messages you’ll receive will be desperate cries for help. Others glimmers of hope. And still other just plain dead ends. Remember, the Net is only as good as the people who use it.

Keep your radar up at all times. One of the reasons expectant mothers turn to the Net is because it enables them to maintain their anonymity. Anonymity, however, can be a two-edged sword. It can help people be deceitful just as easily as it can help fulfill hopes.

The New Yorker cartoon showing two canines chatting in front of a computer perhaps said it best: “On the Internet, no one knows you’re a dog.” Or, for that matter, an adoption scammer.