How can we make a non-sucky adoption profile?

March 3 2014 | offbeatbride
Offbeat Home & Life runs these advice questions as an opportunity for our readers to share personal experiences and anecdotes. Readers are responsible for doing their own research before following any advice given here... or anywhere else on the web, for that matter.
By: Colin BowernCC BY 2.0

My husband and I are beginning the open adoption process, and it's time to make a profile so prospective birth parents can learn more about us. We're Offbeat Lite (yoga, geeky, vegan, non-Christian), and all of the samples I've seen online look like Pinterest threw up on them.

I want expectant parents to get to know us — after all, they'll be part of our family — but I'm dealing with pressure to conform to the script of "loving couple describes each other lovingly while lovingly waxing poetic about the loving love they have to give your lovely child."

The agency tells us to be ourselves, but the prospect of marketing us is freaking me out.

Are pictures of me with pink hair going to sink this whole ship? What if our pit bull is a deal breaker for someone? Halp! — Shannon


We once featured an amazing essay written by a transgender dad as part of his open adoption application. It's well worth a read, as is the entire open adoption archive.

That said, we'd love to hear from Homies who've had experiences with open adoption: how can you write a profile that authentically reflects who you are, while also recognizing that some agencies might be nervous about pink-haired parents?

  1. As someone who has worked in both adoption and foster care, I can shed some light on this! While some parents worry their hair, tattoos, piercings, or other "non traditional" parent looks may turn off prospective birthparents, it is your uniqueness that will attract the right birthparent. So let that fear go!
    Secondly, your concerns about your dog can be addressed by simply sharing photos of your furbaby spending time with children, to show that they are friendly and affectionate.

    As long as your overall tone is upbeat and positive, your message will get through to the right person that will make your open adoption the best one possible for your family. Good luck!

    27 agree
  2. I agree with laurel. While certain features you have may deter some birth parents, it will also attract others, and most likely, better birth parents for your lifestyle and the type of relationship you want. You wouldn't want to hide the biggest parts of yourself to please them and then suffer a rocky relationship once they find out you aren't what they thought. I have not been on either side of adoption, but I am in the beginning stages of becoming a surrogate mother. In my searching for intended parents, I would love to make a connection with people that have similar interests or way of life and build a good friendship upon that….and that means I'd love to see IPs out there with pink hair and pit bulls! Finding the right people may be a long wait, but worth it. Best of luck!!!

    13 agree
    • When considering surrogacy, please research all of the complications and legal entanglements that have arisen from these contract including twins who would up being separated.

      I also hope you would consider moral and ethical issues that wlil impact the life of the human being you would be helping to create.

      The first thing I suggest you consider is why a couple is choosing surrogacy over adoption. With more than 100,000 children in US foster care who could be adopted, I would have some concerns. Do they want to be parents or do they want closes of themselves?

      Next, consider and ASK how open the people you carry a child for will be with their child. Infertile couples often try to keep it a secret and family secrets are unhealthy.

      • Thanks, but I have done A LOT more research on surrogacy than just picking out a couple that looks interesting to me. I've been looking into this for years and still won't be doing it for another few years.

        And what moral and ethical issues are you talking about? About the IPs values and how they will raise the child? While I would like IPs on a relative same page as me, ultimately the morals and ethics they impose on the child are theirs to choose, as it is their child. Same as I wouldn't want someone else to question the morals and ethics I impose on my own children. However, in an attempt to be a good match with a couple or single IP, chances are our morals and ethics will be somewhat similar.

        Secrets as in thinking they won't tell their child where they came from? How would this be different from an adoptive parent not telling their child they were adopted? Either way, yes the child should know…but I wouldn't say that parents of a child born from surrogacy are more likely to keep these kinds of secrets as opposed to adoptive parents.

        I have concerns with people that question how someone else becomes a parent. I agree that there are WAY too many children in need of adoption, but for many, the actual adoption process is extremely difficult, long, upsetting, and downright unattainable. I can't tell you how many times I have firsthand seen IPs go through an adoption only to have the birth mother change their mind last minute, along with other causes for the adoption to go wrong. Also, I don't think there is anything wrong with someone wanting a child of their own genetic makeup….they aren't clones. There are many reasons why someone may want surrogacy over adoption and neither way is better or more right over the other. It's about what is best for that person/couple/family. You should have some more sensitivity towards infertile couples….

        Ultimately tho…this thread is about the OP asking for advice on writing an adoption profile, not concerns with surrogacy…so let's stick with helping the OP.

        114 agree
        • Just wanted to say you responded in a very mature and thought-out manner to someone who jumped in with a lot of (what sounded like) negative assumptions about you and your motivations.

          70 agree
  3. As a Birth mother, the profiles I looked at that were all "cookie cutter" type I instantly passed up. The ones that made me stop and really read through them were the most honest and unique ones that showed real personality. I also know some places let you include a short video introduction as well. Don't put in only perfect photos add one or two of you being completely normal.

    15 agree
  4. A couple I know created a nice Facebook page to "market" themselves as adoptive parents. They frequently post photos on it of themselves doing everyday things… going out to dinner, taking a weekend away, hanging out at home with their pets, etc. It's a really simple way to share what their daily lives are like (and what a baby would experience) without having to portray it all through essays.

    Maybe you could add a social-media component to your page, like a Facebook or Instagram feed showing pictures of you just living your life. Seeing how you live your life on an everyday basis might help birth parents feel more in touch with your lifestyle and less intimidated by the pink hair. It's easy to see someone who looks different and forget that they also have movie nights, plant garden beds, and snuggle with the dog. Show rather than tell!

    9 agree
  5. I have never been on either side of this, but I'd agree with all the others who are saying to be authentically you. You are looking to begin a long-term relationship with your adopted child's birth parents; like any long-term relationship, it will work better if you're open from the start about who you are, what you expect, and what can be expected of you. Hiding who you are will just attract the wrong people and not the right ones. Yes, pink hair will likely turn some people away β€” but they probably wouldn't be a good fit, anyway. Be authentically and fully yourselves, and your profile will pre-sort the parents for you.

    7 agree
  6. I also have no experience with adoption, but my experience developing new friendships after a big move has taught me that people relate to stories better than adjectives. So rather than telling them that you're loving lovey people, give them examples of how you express that love in your life. It does the same kind of work as pictures, but with words.

    7 agree
  7. As a birth mother, I had given the lady at the agency enough criteria that I thought was important that I thought that my options would be minimal. I ended up going through 150 profiles. It felt almost like online dating to me… many of these people were only after one thing from me and seemed like having the adoption open (to me, having my continued presence in their and the child's life) was an inconvenience that they would be willing to tolerate as long as I "put out" so to speak. And that made me feel like crap and I didn't really trust it. Some people were very "future child oriented" – they already had the nursery set up and had more pictures of it than them. And that made me uncomfortable and also feel guilty over the fact that I had the power to make their dreams come true but I didn't feel comfortable with it. The couple I ended up picking out (8 years ago last month!) upheld my belief that a couple should do what they want to do as a single people and do what they want to do as a couple before adding to the family. We had shared interests – I knew that there was an ability for me to be close to them beyond the simple "they're parenting the child I gave birth to".

    Put in interests that you have and things that you've done with your partner – a big thing for me was that the couple I chose had traveled a lot and enjoyed hot air balloons. They were also adventurous with food, something that I am and think is important for a child to grow up around. They were close with all generations of their family, which I value. They actually didn't mention WHAT they did for a living, just that they both really enjoyed their jobs. It was upbeat and made me think "wow, I really want to get to know them." In our e-mails and conversations, they gave me permission to ask any question and answered them calmly and often times with a humor that I enjoy to this day. I feel like they genuinely care about me as a human being, not just the mother of their son.

    I guess there are a few pieces of direct advice I can give. Be honest – but not too honest. Your profile doesn't need to explain WHY you're adopting. Try to avoid having your profile set up to trigger negative emotions – the goal with the profile should not be "I want her to pick us" (sometimes that can feel like "by any means necessary") but rather "I want her to want to get to know us". It should also be true to you – so I think having friends and family proof-read will give you an edge. I spoke with two couples, but the other couple didn't really live up to the what they had advertised. Also, be true to yourselves as far as what you want – it's easy to reach a point where you will feel like you'll do anything to get picked, but if you only want a semi-open adoption, the birth mom and the agency need to know. And if you're only interested in adopting a girl, the agency needs to know. And if the birth mom feels she should have the right to name the child or see the child unsupervised once a month or whatever (kinda crazy, but have been real demands from women I know), then she should be upfront and honest, as well. As far as the pooch, I was more worried about this couples jack russell terrier than I would have been over a pit bull, but they did include pictures of the dog with the six of so cousins our son acquired through the adoption, and that helped calm my fears. If you don't have easy access to kids, perhaps include the dog's training credentials? And lastly, remember that perfect matches do exist out there.

    35 agree
    • Well, I had a half-finished thought there. Perfect matches do exist, but the good stories are dwarfed in comparison to the amount of horror stories that you find on the internet.

      1 agrees
    • As a prospective adoptive parent who's in "the pool" (and already finished with her materials) – I really appreciate the insight you provide. Thank you!

      5 agree
      • I'm glad I could provide some insight! After speaking with "my" adoptive couple in the years since our son was born, they've opened my eyes to the challenges on the "other" side of adoption. I wish you so much luck in finding your perfect match!

        1 agrees
  8. Dan Savage and his husband Terry Miller had this exact same problem when they adopted their son over a decade ago. There's a great chapter in Savage's book "The Kid" describing the whole process of writing their adoption profile as an extremely offbeat gay couple. Short version: they said fuck it and were honest about who they are. It may help you to check out the book though and read up on their decision making process.

    7 agree
  9. I bet that birth mothers are also intimidated by some of the 'perfectly perfect' couples out there. I bet there is a birth mother with pink hair right now out there looking for some adoptive parents she will click with, and long term not be judged for being a more off-beat influence on the kids life. I know if I was placing my baby for adoption i'd be looking for a non-religious, interesting couple to raise her- and of course give all the lovey love and that stuff.

    9 agree
  10. We were very honest in our adoption profile and seem probably similar to you. I had very little faith that an expectant parent would want to meet us, but we felt it was important to be authentic in order to find the right match. At the end, we looked at our profile and thought "if I were in the position to be considering placing a child for adoption, I'd want to meet us". That was perfect since we wanted to appeal to expectant parents who were like us so we would have more in common than a child long-term. I'm sure that we were instantly looked over by some expectant parents because of who we are, how we presented ourselves, our values, etc. All we cared about was if the person that would be a good match for us would recognize that in our profile. Ultimately, we succeeded with that and were chosen by a couple that were/are an absolutely perfect fit for us. We're several years into our open adoption now and it's been a beautiful adventure. I love our child's birth parents (and family) beyond anything I would have expected and it's so much deeper than our child. I think part of the reason our open adoption has been so positive is that we were open about the things that would be dealbreakers to expectant parents that weren't a good match for us, but were appealing to our child's birth parents. Good luck with it all!

    5 agree
  11. I was a birth parent who put a child up for adoption about 15 years ago. There's really no one "Right" way to do your profile, other than be honest about who and what you are. Every birth mom is looking for something different for her child in terms of what the family should be like, but the one constant is the love. Show your love for each other and how much love you have to give the child and the right birth mom will be attracted to it. I'll be honest, a pit bull would have turned me off, and still might, even after living with one for a couple years. But the right birth mom for you won't be bothered by that. The right birth mom will like your offbeat-ness because she either has those qualities herself, or she has positive associations of them and so she will be attracted to you as adoptive parents BECAUSE of them, not in spite of it. As far as design layouts and things like that, make it reflect more of you. Don't go all cutesy and Pinteresty if that's not your style. I hope you find the right child for you!

    My husband and I may be going down that road as well soon, and I have to admit, I struggle with this too because I just don't think we are that interesting and we don't DO a bunch of stuff in the way of hobbies. We're homebodies basically.

    2 agree
  12. Prospective adoptive parent (waiting "in the pool") here speaking: I too felt very self-conscious while preparing our materials about "marketing" ourselves (specifically a Shutterfly type book). What helped was to start out just writing about ourselves and what our life is like, and to include the vision of what we hope to give our child, and what kind of relationship we hope to have with their birth family. Be authentic to yourself and let go of the worrying about "selling" yourself like a new TV.

    It did help that our agency gave a rough outline of how to prepare our "book" (pp 1-3 introduction, pp 4-10: biographies & stories about each of us, sections on our home, our traditions, our hopes & dreams, etc.). So if your agency doesn't have that format, maybe try going back to 5th grade essay prep and write an 'outline' for your materials and go from there?

    I will say, somewhat contrary to what one commenter said above, that our agency told us to use as many pictures as possible. Our counselor specifically told us many mothers/parents are overwhelmed by receiving a stack of books (confirmed by the birth mother above who said she had to look through 150) and our directions said to break up the text with lots of pictures and icons.

    2 agree
    • and…ask your counselor for support! They have surely heard this before and can try to answer you questions.

    • The numerous pictures advice is FANTASTIC. I LOVED seeing "my" couple in photos of their numerous adventures and with their family, it made it easier to envision what ultimately became "our" child in their lives.

      1 agrees
  13. As someone who would be in the market for adoptive parents should any spawn somehow find their way into and out of my uterus, I'd just like to say that pink hair and pitbulls would give you MAJOR points. I think you're best off being yourself and waiting for the right person to come along.

    5 agree
  14. I suggest having an honest conversation with your agency before you start about how much they "help" with editing profiles. Our agency pushed us to make a number of edits, and in some ways this is helpful (they have the years of experience doing this) but it was also frustrating that they complete rewrote our intro, which highlighted the unusual fact that we live in a college residence hall, into some generic "we're excited to adopt!" language that sounded like every other profile. (I realize that our living situation may turn some people off, but it's also who we are and I didn't want to hide that.) So it's a good idea to find out ahead of time how much offbeat-ness may be edited out of your profile, which could be frustrating or helpful depending on how much experienced guidance you're looking for.

  15. Hey everybody! OP here–I submitted this question back in January, and we put ourselves on a deadline to get the book finished, so we had it printed and sent to our agency just last week. I'm happy/relieved to see that we ended up following much of your advice (basically to be ourselves and trust that there's an expectant mom out there who will love us for who we are, and we'll love her for who she is too). We are definitely planning on creating a Facebook page, and our agency gives us a searchable online profile as well. If anyone's curious as to how the book turned out (and to see our awesome dog, who does certainly love kids but can't hold still around them long enough for a good photo), please feel free to have a look: http://www.mixbook.com/photo-books/family/jim-shannon-s-adoption-album-10293813?vk=8nkv1hts5f

    Props to whoever recommended Dan Savage's The Kid–I read that when I was in college 10ish years ago, and it was my first introduction to open adoption. I've carried that idea with me ever since, and I re-read it a few months ago when we started the process (and recommended it to our social worker). Dan and Terry's journey definitely inspired me when my husband and I first started talking about kids.

    Thank you so much for your advice and support and well wishes. The OBE is truly a wonderful place to be. Some days it's hard to keep faith that this will all work out the way it should, but all the happy families of all stripes and configurations and origins I've seen here give me hope.

    8 agree
    • I saw your mixbook and I think it turned out wonderfully! It does a great job of showing who you are as people, and what a wonderful home you are able to provide for a child. I hope that you find exactly what you're hoping for and that a wonderful birth mom sees it and picks you! πŸ™‚ Good luck!!

    • Not going to lie; I BAWLED my eyes out reading your book. I feel like I know you and want you to adopt me! (Mind you, I'm 25. But damnit, you'd be cool parents.)

      Best of luck!

      4 agree
      • Thank you! That's exactly how we want everyone to feel. You made my day. Keep on being awesome! πŸ™‚

        1 agrees
  16. I have no experience in this area, but I work in online marketing and I think one tip could apply here. One of the biggest recommendations is not to use stock photos, but rather to use real photos.

    I know the standard profiles aren't actually using stock photos, but I'm guessing some get pretty close. The truth is, most people can't relate to them like they can to real photos.

    I have no idea what these things usually look like, but I would seriously consider using some normal snapshots of your real life. I know personally, I would think, "hey – these are real people after all, not the soft-focus zombies I keep seeing!" πŸ˜‰

  17. I know Shannon and Jim a little bit but that is all I needed I know that they are an exceptional couple and will be fantastic parents.

    1 agrees
  18. When I was 16 (with pink hair), I considered adoption for my child. My biggest fear was that an open adoption would be closed after the baby was placed. There are so many types of open adoption. It's very important to be clear about whether you mean "once a year pictures" or "you're family , come to my birthday next month, sister".

    I felt much more intimidated by cookie cutter profiles than offbeat ones. I felt more judged. Another thing, which doesn't entirely make sense, is that I was uncomfortable with parents who were too perfect. While I wanted the best for the baby I was carrying, it often felt like " look at all the things we can offer that you can't ".

    I picked out a family, but ultimately didn't go through with the adoption. I didn't break any hearts, as I never actually contacted them. I kept finding reasons to avoid doing so. However, they were gay dads in unusual professions who seemed a healthy mix of stable and not boring. I also considered a single mother with dreadlocks and a few others.

    There is hope. I might never have considered a family if I didn't read about his mom's log cabin or her collection of unusual mixing bowls or whatever.

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