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Choosing a Adoptive Family

Kathryn Patricelli, MA

Once a birthmother has chosen an agency or lawyer to assist her through the process, the next step is then to locate the right family to raise the child. As mentioned previously, if the birthmother chooses a closed adoption, she will have no say in the family that is chosen.

In a semi-open or open adoption, the birthmother must consider many variables as she thinks about the type of family that she desires to care for her child. The birthmother may find that she has preferences regarding particular characteristics in potential adoptive parents. Such characteristics may include preferences for particular:

  • Ethnic or cultural backgrounds
  • Religious backgrounds
  • Values
  • Parenting styles
  • Locations
  • Lifestyles
  • Discipline methods

Birthmothers may also have preferences regarding

  • Whether extended family is available to help raise the child
  • Whether the adoptive parents have other children already
  • Whether the adoptive parents plan to tell the child he/she is adopted
  • (In an open adoption) how much contact will occur between birth and adoptive parents and how broadly that contact may occur (e.g., will it be okay if birth-grandparents see the adopted child?)
  • Whether the adoptive parents or birth mother will name the child
  • How involved the adoptive parents will be in the pregnancy and birth

The selection process begins when the birthmother receives profiles describing potential adoptive families. Each profile includes a history of the adoptive parents, their reasons for wanting to adopt, their attitudes and beliefs concerning the adoption process, the results from the social workers' home study, and more. Typically a birthmother will be given between three to five families to consider as a starting point. The agency will have already done a thorough interview with the birthmother concerning her preferences and will have worked to match those preferences with appropriate available families.

What comes next varies based on the type of adoption being contemplated. In an open adoption the birthmother has an opportunity to meet with families with profiles she likes. This meeting process may or may not occur in a semi-open adoption. When they occur, such meetings typically take place at the adoption agency. Both parties are afforded a chance to ask questions and learn about the other person's or couple's background. .

A meeting between birthmother and potential adoptive parents can be very uncomfortable and anxiety-producing for both sides. The potential adoptive parents will feel that they need to be on their "best behavior" so as to convey the birthmother that they are the right family for the child. For the birth mother, it can be very difficult to meet with multiple people who desperately want to adopt a child when it is clear that she cannot satisfy them all. Despite the real potential for discomfort, many birthmothers and adoptive parents alike find that such meetings yield valuable information. Both birthmothers and potential adoptive parents may use the information they gain in a meeting to arrive at a decision as to whether there is a match or not. This is a critical decision for both parties, especially in an open adoption where contact may continue throughout the life of the child. Therefore, it is important that everyone feels it is a good match. Multiple meetings may need to occur before all are comfortable that a firm decision to pursue the adoption together can be made.