Any hopeful adoptive parent will agree: the most stressful part of putting together your profile is the “Dear Expectant Parent” letter. This is your time to introduce yourself as a person or a couple. Depending on your agency, you may get a paragraph or a page, but no matter the length it’s difficult to condense your thoughts into the space. Parents who choose adoption for their children are as varied as the hopeful parents wanting to adopt, and when we wrote our letter the first time, I had no idea what we should say to both show ourselves in the most realistic light, and to stand out from the other couples at our agency. Now that we’re going through the adoption process a second time, I feel much more confident as we prepare to write a new letter. Here are some dos and don’ts that I’ve observed over the past few years of being in the adoption community.
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7 Tips To Improve Your “Dear Expectant Parent” Letter
Any hopeful adoptive parent will agree: the most stressful part of putting together your profile is the letter.
There are multiple ways you can start your letter, but don’t start with “Dear Birth Parent/Dear Birth Mother.” Why? A woman is not a birth mother until after she places her baby for adoption. Using the terminology before can be subtly coercive. Meaning, if a woman is called a birth mother throughout her pregnancy, that is how she may view herself, when in reality she’s an expectant mother and can still opt to parent if she wishes. Beyond “Dear Expectant Parent,” you could say “Dear Friend,” or even a simple “Hello!”
It’s fine to include a couple of sentences about why you’re adopting. However, dwelling on the subject too long can come off as though 1) you haven’t sufficiently grieved your infertility or 2) that you feel you are owed a baby after all you’ve been through. You don’t want to inadvertently make the expectant parents reading your letter feel like they are at all responsible for fixing your pain.
You don’t know what they’re feeling, or what their lives are like. The reasons an expectant parent decides on adoption are quite varied. Suggestions in your letter that you’ll provide a better life, a more stable life, or more financially secure life, for example, can come off as self-righteous and may not be factual. The same goes for declaring that you know the expectant parent “must be feeling” x or y.
Do remember you’re writing for the right woman/parents to bring into your family, NOT writing for every single expectant parent. This can be challenging to remind yourself. I know I stressed over whether details about our lives might off-put some people. The reality is that while some people will hate cats, think our playing Pokémon Go as a family is stupid, and have zero interest in our love for exploring random festivals during the summer, there are other expectant parents who love cats, play Pokémon Go themselves, and would want to come to the National Hamburger Festival with us. I realized that I should want to match with someone who has some common interests, considering that the hope is that our future child’s parents are forever a part of our lives as well. That made it easier to narrow our focus when writing.
For example, I could write, “My husband is great with kids!” or I could write, “On Sunday afternoons he enjoys leading family hikes at one of the nearby Metro parks, where he teaches our children about the local plants,” or how “Mark spends time building spaceships out of Legos, and he and our sons jam out to the Hamilton soundtrack while our daughter claps along.” Which sounds better to you? It’s the little details that make you come to life.
I’m not talking about listing some kind of contract, but what are your basic values? For example, is yours a home where your child will go to church regularly? A home where social justice is valued? A home where further education is being saved for? A home where your child will see the country/the world because travel is a priority for you? Say that! Do you want an open adoption, and if so, what might that look like? Again, you don’t need to go deeply into detail, but you want expectant parents reading your letter to finish it with a good idea of what a life in your home would mean for their child. And, it should go without saying, but don’t promise anything that you can’t or won’t do. Too many adoptive parents do the “bait and switch” with their child’s birth parents and whether that’s intentional or not, the damage it causes is the same.
Maya Brown-Zimmerman is a mother of three, both biologically and through adoption. She has been blogging since before it was cool, and is passionate about everything from open and ethical adoption to special needs advocacy and patient-physician communication. In her spare time (ha!) she's on the board of directors for a medical nonprofit and enjoys medical and crime dramas. You can read more from her on her blog, Musings of a Marfan Mom.
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