No part of the adoption process strikes fear in the hearts of hopeful adoptive parents quite like creating the profile. It’s the page, book, or website that will lead to whether expectant parents decide to meet you. It’s the first impression that could change your life. But no pressure, right?

There are companies that will charge a lot of money to design your profile for you, but I’ll give you some advice for free, as an adoptive parent who has been there. Here are some common mistakes that you might be making!

1. Addressing your letter “Dear Birth mom/birth parents”: “Birth mom” is a term reserved for after a woman relinquishes her child. Until then, she’s an expectant mom, or a mom. Using birth mom prior to that can be viewed as coercive. Try starting with “dear friend” or even just “hello” instead!

2. Not being yourself: Honesty is the best policy. Don’t tell white lies. Don’t exaggerate. And for the love of all that is good and beautiful, don’t “borrow” portions of other hopeful adoptive parents’ letters. Your goal is to have some sort of relationship with the mother/parents that choose you to parent their baby, right? All good relationships are based on honesty. Someone is going to love YOU for YOU, so you don’t need to be anything but yourself!

3. Trying to please everyone: You’ve only got so much room in your profile. You want to stand out to the expectant parents who are the best fit with your family. Don’t spend time stressing over whether having bio kids will be a turnoff, or if it’s a good idea to show your family pets in the family photo. Some expectant parents will want a couple with no kids, and others will be looking for families with siblings. Some might be allergic to dogs, and others have fond memories of their childhood golden retriever. You can’t make everyone happy, and all expectant parents are different. Include the things that set you apart! Do you wear silly hats on birthdays? Include a photo! Are you passionate about social justice? Talk about it! You never know what an expectant parent will connect with.

4. Focusing on your journey or desires too much: Yes, you want to share about yourselves, but in the end, it’s not about you and why you think you should get to be a parent, but about the expectant parents and what they want for their baby. Don’t dwell on your struggles with infertility, for example. A sentence or two that you’re adopting because you haven’t been able to have a biological child is enough. Rather than saying over and over and over again how much you’re ready for a baby, demonstrate it by talking about your parenting philosophy, your love for your spouse, and showing fun pictures of your lives.

5. Using bad photos: You want your photos to tell the story of who you are. Make sure you’re not using photos that are blurry, or full of other people, or very old. You want to show who you are now, and what is special about you. Don’t use too many photos from the same event, either. You’ve got limited space, so use it wisely and creatively!

6. Not using descriptive captions: No one wants to read a list of everyone included in the photo and where the picture was taken. That tells the expectant parent nothing about you. You want to use the caption space to demonstrate who you are further. For example, I wanted to include a shot of my extended family on our profile. I chose a picture from my mom’s PhD graduation, and used that caption not only to talk about how close my family is, but that I’m the proud daughter of an immigrant, and explain the importance of education in my family. That shows who we are and what we’re about much better than “This is my extended family at my mom’s PhD graduation.”

Now that you know about common mistakes and how to address them, you can go forward more confidently in your profile building pursuits!

Thinking of other common errors that I didn’t mention? Sound off in the comments!

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