The home study, criminal records checks, and references are done. The long meetings and stacks of paperwork are behind you. Finally, you are ready to move on to the part you have been waiting for: a match with a child. While this can happen in many ways (including adopting a foster child currently residing in your home), an infant adoption photolisting is a unique and exciting way to start to knit together your new family.

What exactly is an infant adoption photolisting? An adoption photolisting shows children that are ready to be matched with forever families. In Canada, privacy laws vary from province to province. This means that in my home province of British Columbia, prospective adoptive parents must complete the online adoption portal requirements through BCeID to a certain level before photolistings are made available.

In contrast, my neighboring province, Alberta, features a different child every week, called Wednesday’s Child, on certain news channels, in hopes of finding a forever home for a child awaiting adoption. As you can see, these two side-by-side provinces have very different takes on the privacy of children waiting for adoption.

When searching for an infant adoption photolisting, keep in mind you may not be seeing all the infants truly available for adoption. This might be due to provincial or state privacy laws. Privacy laws work in two opposite ways: they work to protect the child’s right of privacy (would you want to be posted on a site, advertisement style?), but when privacy laws are too strict it may impede on increasing the chances of making matches. Using British Columbia as an example again, we do not ever see adoption photolistings, anywhere. In Alberta, photolistings are published on the nightly primetime news, even once weekly, to greatly increase the viewership in hopes of making a match. The cost-to-benefit ratio of privacy versus advocacy cannot be accurately measured, but it is something to consider.

A photolisting is literally a snapshot at one moment; the ensuing write up about the child will be brief. While I tread lightly, as I am not saying a positive spin is always put on difficulties (adverse health issues, troubling behavior), I also understand that an entire explanation cannot be done in a blurb along with a photo. For more information on this topic, see this forum.

It is really important to make yourself a list of things you would like to talk to the social worker about. Be thorough. This is extremely important. While adoption disruption and dissolution will probably never be completely eradicated, it is very important the prospective adoptive families are made aware of the ins and outs of all behaviors, medical conditions, and special needs prior to moving forward. While I would never point fingers in the wake of an adoption disruption or dissolution, I know of several circumstances in which a lack of information or a lack of well-rounded, complete information definitely played a role.

Your job as a prospective adoptive parent is to follow up on every single thing that tickles you or makes a funny feeling in your stomach, whether that is a fear, something that seems uncomfortable, or something that seems small…but might not be. Don’t feel bad about this. While we are talking about real human children that need real, safe, and loving homes, we also have to be honest about our own capabilities, and our own limitations. If you are not comfortable discussing this with your current social worker, it might be time to make a change.

No one should be faulting you for saying that you feel a certain medical condition is too much for you, for example. YOU will be the one to raise this precious child to adulthood, and if YOU know that you cannot, then you cannot. Explore every aspect of the photolisting–even an infant adoption photolisting. It may seem that an infant placement is very cut and dry but pause for a moment. Are there unresolved medical issues? Are their potential medical issues? Remember that conditions such as Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders may not fully present until the child is older – starting school, for example.

We also now know, through current research, that bodies contain a cellular memory. I had a fascinating conversation with a specialist for one of our adopted daughters about this. One of our daughters has always had self-injurious tendencies, even as an infant. She would bang her head relentlessly against her crib bars at just 1-year of age, and she had been with us since she was 5 days old.

Tyler and I were extremely naïve in thinking that because she came to us so young, she would be escaping such things as RAD. How could a child so young–5 days old–have endured anything that would amount to the trauma required to have some of these behavioral conditions? Our specialist talked to me about cellular memory. He talked about things that are obvious, but somehow, I had missed them.

Babies recognize their parents’ voices when they are born. Think about a child who has been abandoned. They are looking for their parents’ eyes. They are seeking their mother’s milk, which they can pick out amongst other women who are not their mother. They are designed to take comfort in being held and being skin to skin. What happens when this doesn’t happen? We can’t predict all the outcomes.

We do know that maternal stress in pregnancy can affect the growing baby. Imagine what a baby in the womb experiences when the pregnant mother is trapped in domestic violence, beatings, and threats; malnourishment; homelessness; or addiction. That perfectly safe womb becomes a chaotic place and that baby is drenched in adrenal hormones far beyond what is normal.

Our specialist looked at our daughter’s case and encouraged us to remember that our daughter’s body had a cellular memory of some of the horrific experiences she had in utero. Do not discount these earliest of early experiences in an infant adoption photolisting. Even when your heart is saying yes, remember to ask and dig deep about the history of this infant.

All children of all ages deserve loving, permanent homes. Something about photolistings always haunts me a bit—you are literally looking in the eyes of a child whose entire future is hinging and changing on if they are placed, who they are placed with, and where they are placed. I tend to find a sense of sadness in me when I look into these faces. I read an article last year about a boy in a photolisting who was sad—his photo showed an almost angry facial expression. He was older and didn’t think anyone would adopt him. I’ve been wondering if anyone had. What do we do about this part? How do you choose when there are so many that need homes? Let’s explore that:

  • This is going to take some time. Even if you think you’ve found a match from an infant adoption photolisting quite quickly, adoptions move notoriously slow. Actually seeing a photo of your child, or remembering the first time you saw their photolisting is probably going to put an incredible longing in your heart. So, while you wait read this and this.
  • This is going to take some prayer. Prayer has been, at times, the only solid ground I have had to stand on during some of our adoptions. Because we adopted through foster care and we did not know if the children we were caring for would become eligible for adoption or be available to us for adoption, it was extremely painful—we just did not know what was going to happen. And this is true when looking at a photolisting too. There could be other families considering the same child. There are children on the photolisting that no one is considering. Although the image of a beautiful smile or pretty face may captivate you, we all know there is so much more to it. My advice would be to pray your way through the infant adoption photolisting, considering that each and every child is WAITING and WORTHY. Pray for a home to open up for each child, and pray for which child you are to open your home to. Remember, you might not be the only one praying. In this beautiful article, a birth mom prays for the family that will adopt her child. Doesn’t that humble you? To think that a birth mother somewhere out there is praying for just the right family to adopt her child and that family might be yours. Our ability to pray for this journey, to pray for these waiting children, and to pray for our role in it all is an incredible privilege.
  • This is going to take some support. This is the time to gather your resources. While the adoption process might not have felt like a piece of cake, it might just be the easiest part! Some adoptive parents are becoming parents for the first time. Others are adding to their current family and that changes a lot. We have added to our brood three times through adoption, and every single time there is an adjustment period. Some will become parents for the first time and find themselves parenting a child with special considerations. Others will take on special needs parenting in an already bustling home. No matter what, this is a time to gather—while you still have the time! Don’t wait until it gets tough. Through an infant adoption photolisting you might already know the smile of your child, their hobbies and interests, but you don’t know what challenges might come. Look for a local support group, reach out to your church, or be bold, and let others around you know what you are looking for. People may ask you what you need, and sometimes we have a hard time articulating what we need. Read this article for some ideas to tell others. For grandparent support, see this article, as they are on this journey as well. Your local Child and Family Services office may have a listing of community programs and services that might be available to help you.

Everyone’s adoption journey is so different. Knowledge and information give us so much power and confidence. If you ask 10 people of their opinion or experience, you will get 10 unique answers. For some honest conversation, visit this forum.

Sitting here this evening with my favorite treat (a nice, cold iced cappuccino), I have spent considerable time looking through photolistings while writing this article. I see many faces, and I see hopes and dreams. I see photolistings for many different states and many different countries. I see many different ages, from infants to older teens, all looking for permanency. I see different physical abilities and different hobbies. I see different strengths and different challenges. I could actually get lost in these photolistings, these little snippets of lives posted online in hopes of bridging one young life to one family.

I wish that I could follow up and find out how each and every case was resolved. I wish I could meet the people adopting these precious littles (and not so littles). I imagine the satisfaction of a social worker being able to remove a photolisting after a successful match. I imagine the warmth that must bring to a heart. And a imagine what it would be like to be that adoptive mom who gazed upon that face in that listing years down the road, the moment in time still sealed on the heart, the image never lost. The moment when you just knew, or, when you felt that fear, but knew it was time to take the leap, or however it happened for YOU. I imagine printing and saving that photolisting, and taking it out years later to share: this is when I first met you, child of mine. I imagine those who are just sitting down now, with a cup of coffee, with their spouse, looking through the endlessness of possibility and love.