Why Do Some Adoptive Parents Find An Adoption Match While Others Don’t?

finding-an-adoption-matchI had some exciting news over the weekend: a couple that I helped re-work their adoption profile announced they had found a match.

An expectant mother had connected with them after coming across their letter online. The baby is due this fall, and even though they know the situation could change at any moment, they’re absolutely thrilled, as they should be.

The changes we made to their profile — let’s call the couple Dan and Julie — weren’t major. Everything was basically already in place. All we did was tweak the writing a bit and replace some of their photos to make them stand out more. And though they were pleased with the final result and as much as I’d like to take credit for their success, the truth is I probably had little if anything to do with it.

In the end, the spark or sparks that led to their match were two things I could never have changed or improved upon, no matter how hard I tried: the expectant mother’s seven-year-old son liked the way Dan looked.

That got the ball rolling. Then two other things jumped out: upon speaking to Dan and Julie, the expectant mother realized that she and Dan grew up in the same city and had the same ethnic origin. In Dan and Julie’s words, “Things just went from there.”

So what’s the takeaway?

What does it mean for you if you’re trying to find an adoption match?

A few things. I’ll get to them in a sec. First, though, all of us who have created an adoption profile have asked ourselves at some point in the process the same question: how do you make a connection? How do you connect with expectant parents considering adoption? What are they looking for? Why do some couples get chosen while other don’t?

When you’re starting out, it’s tempting to think that finding an open adoption match comes down to some magic formula. Some code you have to crack.

Or that you have to have certain characteristics. You have to be young. You have to be rich. You have to be beautiful. (And it goes without saying that the reason you believe you haven’t been chosen yet is because you’re none of these things, or because other couples have more going for them in those departments).

And while any of these attributes would be nice to have, they’re not game-changers. Dan and Julie have a lot going in their favor, but I don’t think they would describe themselves in any of those terms.

In the 12 years that I’ve been involved in open adoption profiles and networking, I’ve seen dozens of hopeful adoptive parents find matches that don’t fit the profile I just mentioned. I’ve seen matches because a birthmother liked the couple’s dog. Because their house reminded her of the one she grew up in. Because she liked the way the couple looked at each other.

And sometimes, just because. The birthmother couldn’t put her finger on the exact reason, she just knew they were right for her. Sometimes it just comes down to a feeling. A hunch.

Couples who I thought would have no trouble getting chosen were passed over while those I thought didn’t stand a chance were scooped up right away. I’ve been wrong so many times that I’ve given up trying to predict who will get picked and who won’t.

Finding a match is complicated.

If it were easy, you wouldn’t need a letter or the internet or an adoption profile service like ours. You could simply do it on your own.

That’s not to say that there aren’t things that can help you boost your odds of clicking with an expectant mother. Having points of commonality is important. In order to choose you, a birthmother has to be able to relate to you.

So having a letter with good concrete details about you and the kind of parent you would be does help. So do strong photos, showing you looking happy and doing neat things with children. As does getting your message out there through social media and other channels. Don’t underestimate the importance of being at the right place at the right time.

But there’s a limit to how much you can do, to how much of the matching process you control.

Some hopeful parents agonize over every word in their profile letter trying to find just the right ones that will resonate with expectant parents. They hire photographers to help them make a strong first impression and then spend even more money on designers, printers and websites to increase their chances of their profile getting noticed.

Some will even take course on “how to talk to a birthmother” or hire someone to answer their phone so that they don’t fall apart or make a mistake when an expectant mother does call. And they’ll spend countless hours on social networks in an effort to get their profile in front of the right set of eyes. First Facebook, then Twitter and Pinterest. And if they don’t work, Instagram or Google + or …

There’s always one more thing to do. One more Facebook post, Tweet or Pin that could make the difference. It’s easy to think that if only you did this one extra thing, success would automatically be yours.

It might, but for how long can you keep it up? How long can you keep living in a state of heightened anxiety, jumping out of your seat every time the phone rings, without driving yourself (and your partner) crazy?

Sometimes, a match doesn’t have anything to do with anything you say or do.

Sometimes there is no reason why another couple will make a connection and you won’t. Sometimes it just comes down to plain old dumb luck or fate or destiny or whatever you want to call it. Or, as Dan and Julie have shown, sometimes it just comes down to being yourself.

What do you think makes an adoption match? What are you doing to reach out to an expectant mother considering adoption? Leave your comments in the section below.