There are two categories of people who communicate online with expectant mothers considering adoption:
- You are prospective adoptive parents (PAPs).
- You are just another member of the adoption community.
There are different guidelines for each of these groups to follow.
Let’s start with prospective adoptive parents.
If you are a prospective adoptive parent, and the expectant mother posts in a support group or on a forum asking for advice, do not advertise that you are looking to adopt a baby. Similarly, do not advertise your particular agency, facilitator, attorney, or consultant, in the hope that you will be chosen by this expectant mother.
At this point, the expectant mother is simply asking general advice. She is not asking for someone to adopt her baby. She is exploring her options. Allow that to happen without harassing her.
What if an expectant mother contacts you directly, such as through your online profile, and indicates that she is considering the idea of you adopting her baby? That’s a whole different ballgame.
- Do not appear to be overeager. Be calm. Be an adult.
- Do not immediately ask her to contact your attorney or agency. You don’t know where she is in her process yet. She may want to communicate for some time before she feels comfortable going forward.
- On the other hand, if she mentions money, then you do need to ask her to contact your attorney or agency. Always get proof of pregnancy and permission from your adoption professional before you send any money or gifts.
- Make sure that you are having a dialogue. Don’t pepper her with a lot of questions. Allow her to ask you questions. Answer them to the best of your ability. Think about what you would want to know if you were placing your child for adoption.
- Be yourself. Don’t try to guess what she wants you to be and say what you think she wants to hear.
- If time has passed and you have not heard from her, it is acceptable to send one communication (email, text, private message) stating that you hope she’s all right, you’re thinking of her, and she can email/text/PM whenever she’d like. Do not inundate her with messages.
Now, wonder of wonders, miracle of miracles, you have been matched with an expectant mother, and perhaps an expectant father as well. Now, what do you do?
- Always return texts, emails, or private messages promptly. If you need some time to think, it’s all right to say that. But do try to get back to them within 24 hours.
- If you don’t understand something, try communicating in a different manner. Maybe you don’t understand the abbreviations in text messages. If you’re having trouble communicating one way, try to communicate another way.
- Understand that communicating by text might be the easiest and cheapest way for expectant parents.
- Remember that tone doesn’t come across well online. You can’t see a person’s body language, or hear her voice. Assume good intentions. If you are having trouble communicating, ask your agency to help.
- Don’t get caught in the middle. If the expectant parents are no longer together, but are both involved in the adoption process, do not get in the middle of any conversation that should be between them. Don’t relay messages for them. Don’t agree to keep anything a secret from the other. Don’t take sides. You are Switzerland.
- If time has passed and you have not heard from them, it is acceptable to send one communication to each expectant parent (email, text, private message) stating that you hope they’re all right, you’re thinking of them, and they can email/text/PM whenever they’d like. Do not inundate them with messages.
Women considering adoption for their unborn children often come to online forums for advice. Occasionally, an expectant father might ask too. (Although I think I’ve only seen that happen once in 10 years.) It is very tempting to push your own agenda onto expectant parents. Don’t.
If you are another member of the adoption community:
- Do not try to convince the expectant parent that your perspective is the only one worth listening to.
- Do not try to scare the expectant parent into a course of action.
- Do not make assumptions about the expectant parent’s situation.
- Do not thank the expectant parent for “choosing life.”
- Unless you are an adoption attorney, do not offer legal advice.
- Do not refer an expectant parent to your friend/sister/cousin who is looking to adopt.
- Do offer compassion.
- Do listen to what the expectant parent is saying.
Social media is tricky to navigate under the best of circumstances. What have you found helpful when communicating with expectant parents online?