A few years ago, I signed up for online dating. I have been single for quite a while and in all reality, things don’t work like they used to. You most likely won’t meet your future spouse on the produce aisle at the grocery store. While I appreciate the convenience of having a bunch of prospective boyfriends at the end of a mouse click and algorithm, swiping through the endless matches is exhausting. Even with the filters, one out of five is usually a good fit for my checklist. (Yes, I am one of those, and sure, I’m probably setting the bar high, but #standards.) Honestly, the more that I sit here and talk about how awkward online dates can be, I realize that it’s very parallel with adoption matches.
Adoption matching is when an expectant mother considering adoption is “matched” (rather she picks) with hopeful adoptive parents. Pre-birth adoption matching is a hot topic in the adoption world. A lot of adoptees and some birth parents are sharing that they do not approve of pre-birth matching because they believe it is unethical and pressures a woman into feeling as if she has no choice to parent or change her mind. As a birth mother and adoptee, I acknowledge these thoughts and believe they are valid if that is someone’s belief. However, I know from my story and a lot of other birth moms I have connected with over the years that there is another view. Adoption matching is beneficial to expectant and birth parents, open adoption, adoptees, and adoptive parents. Let’s take steps to get over the awkwardness and explore how adoption matches are beneficial.
Adoption Matches are Beneficial to Expectant Parents Considering Placing a Child for Adoption
I mentioned earlier that a lot of buzz is trending around adoption matches and the concern that it pressures or forces a woman into placing her child for adoption. When adoption matching is done properly, the expectant mother has full control over the matching process. The process might vary but when I was going through the matching process, I began with sharing with my caseworker what type of parents I envisioned for my child. This gave her a good understanding of what profiles to look through to filter through to show me. The filtering process was prompted by a checklist that I created with my core desires in adoptive parents. My main desires were that they would be a two-parent home, faith would be important to the couple, that they were desiring an open adoption, and that they would reside in Texas.
Once I gave that feedback to my caseworker, she brought me five photo book profiles to look through. I didn’t have a time limit or an urgent deadline to meet; I was free to go at my own pace and think through my decision. Personally, that was important to me because I knew how important my decision was for me and for whomever I picked as well. I didn’t take that lightly.
Once I started looking through profile books I noticed things that stood out to me. Pets, family, their home pictures, their support network, hobbies, travel adventures, their love stories, and if they had children already. I appreciated what each of the profile books had to say but at the end of the day, I knew in my heart which couple I wanted to match with. I had a phone call with them shortly after letting my caseworker know that I wanted to pick them and that was extremely awkward.
It was like a blind date; I didn’t know them from Adam. We fumbled through some social pleasantries and stuck to the dialogue involving my pregnancy. I let them know that I wanted them to parent, so I’d like to meet them and that I was having a little girl. They cried and let me know that they had been waiting a long time. I remember very little about the call, but it was positive overall and they seemed lovely. A few weeks later, I met them over lunch. It was again awkward and I felt so worried that they would not like me or that I would say something wrong that I didn’t spend much time analyzing them.
My mind was already made up before I met them that I wanted them to parent. I honestly trusted my instinct and every moment moving forward, C&A validated that. I met them when I was about six months along. The beauty about this is that I then had three or so months to get to know them and spend time with them. This is not a requirement in the adoption matching process, but I highly recommend it. Thankfully, C&A were local and they were open to spending time with me every other week or so. This helped our relationship start naturally and not from a “here’s my baby, hope you uphold our open adoption agreement” forced place. As the months went by, I went shopping with them for baby stuff, had lunch with them a few times, painted pottery for the baby, and a few other things.
I began to realize that they actually cared about me and not just my baby. They wanted to know me and to know what I desired for my child as she grew up. What I dreamed her life to look like and what my childhood looked like. We got to know one another super well. This allowed our relationship to progress and flow seamlessly after I gave birth to my sweet O. I recommend that you connect with one another, expectant mother and hopeful adoptive parents, during this time. Be intentional and adoptive parents show through your actions that you will honor the mama even after their baby is born. Even the smallest things will stand out to expectant mothers during this time. We want to be important to adoptive parents too.
Adoption Matching Benefits Open Adoption Plans
Once the baby is born, it is completely up to the mama if the hopeful adoptive parents are present. Moving forward, the mama gets to decide if she is going to place her child for adoption and sign relinquishment papers. During this time, it’s best if the hopeful adoptive parents are very respectful of mama and baby’s alone time. Don’t pressure her and trust that she will do what’s best for her and her child, even if that means parenting. If the mama decides to place her baby for adoption and move forward with the hopeful adoptive parents, she can decide when she’d like to have placement.
I waited a week before placing because that allowed me a week of visits with my child. I needed time to grieve and process what I was about to do. A week later, while it was one of the hardest things I ever did, I placed my daughter with her amazing parents. In the past 11 years, I have seen how our time together before my daughter was born has benefited our open adoption plan.
Because we naturally became friends before my daughter was ever in the literal picture, it helped us establish a connection built on the three of us. While my daughter is what brought us together in general, it was nice that our friendship was not reliant on whether I was “giving” them my baby or not. I remember thinking during the pregnancy how I could tell that they truly cared about me and that I was important to them. I wasn’t just one of many possible adoption matches.
A thought for hopeful adoptive parents here is to have an open mind and if what I am describing doesn’t sound like something you are comfortable with yet, maybe you need to wait a while before matching with an expectant mother. This is a simple foundation for open adoption and I 110% believe that it is beneficial to making it work well. On the expectant mother’s side, if you don’t want to hang out with the HAPs during your pregnancy, please voice that. While I think that HAPs need to be open to that no matter what, I believe you should set the tone for what you want the pre-birth time to look like.
I have spoken with a lot of birth mothers who did not have the same “magical” experience as me with adoption matches. Sometimes it’s harder to connect with strangers, so if you need to take it at a different speed, do that. But if you want more, please tell them or your caseworker that. I think it can help establish a strong connection. But also, guard your heart as you would with any new relationship. After birth, if you have established this connection, it is easier to navigate boundaries, transparency, hard conversations, and visits or updates.
I cannot stress enough to adoptive parents that if you say you are going to do something in your open adoption plan, you need to commit to that and follow through. It is so important. The most common thing that I see birth mothers struggling with post-placement is that their AP’s agreed to something pre-birth, but did not continue to uphold that after placement. I understand that not every situation is healthy, but if that is your scenario and reasoning for changing up the open adoption agreement, you need to communicate that with your caseworker so that birth mama’s expectations can be more realistic. We all grow and mature over time, so it may not always be a challenging relationship.
Please honor your child’s birth mother and give her connection to her child in whatever way you can manage. But if there are not any critical challenges, lean in. Birth mama will not take the baby away, she will not replace you just because she has a strong relationship with her child, and she most likely wants to be a part of your lives. Give it your best shot and see how it can benefit you.
Adoption Matching Benefits the Adoptee
Taking everything into account that was said above, if you do those things or something similar, you are likely to have a strong relationship with your child’s birth mother post-placement. This benefits the adoptee tremendously. Allowing your child to know their birth mother (and maybe birth father if he’s present) will slowly normalize their identity as an adoptee, that the birth mother loves their child and did not abandon them, and that they can know the answers to questions they may have later on in life because they have a biological connection.
As an adoptee who grew up in a closed adoption, I have seen the tremendous differences an open adoption with the people I chose for my daughter’s parents has made. My kids have always had their story transparently told to them, their parents value my relationship with my kids, they see through my children how important knowing me is to them, and our lives together have been evidence that open adoption is best for the adoptees.
My daughter shared the other day before a visit with me that she was so excited to see us all later that day. Her mother told me how much it means to her and I said, “It’s so special what we share. I never take it for granted.” She doesn’t either. My kids love doing life with me because I am their mother. Maybe not in a conventional sense, but I am a part of them. Having that relationship with the adoptive parents just feeds into so much more down the line.
While adoption matches can have their awkward moments and challenges, it is overall beneficial to all sides of the triad. We all can fear the unknown and worry that things will not go the way we expect but if we go in with no expectations other than that we will do our best, imagine how far that leap of faith can take us. Adoption matches can work and they can be done ethically and intentionally; you just have to do the work to get the best outcome. Also, remembering that this is ultimately all about the adoptee and what is best for them helps keep everyone motivated to lean in and embrace adoption and all of its complexities.