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This article outlines many, specific ways to network and locate a baby to adopt

Agency, Adoption Attorney and Adoption Consultant

Cautions and Recommendations:
Many pre-adoptive couples who are new to adoption may want to work with an agency, an adoption attorney or an adoption consultant. These people already have their own networks and may be able to locate a birthmother for you and/or help you in locating a baby to adopt. Before you give anyone money or agree to work with someone, check with others who have worked with that person in the past. Other information you will need to know is: What regulations do they have regarding age, marital status, etc.? How many adoptions do they do a year? What percentage of couples finds their own birthmother vs. their finding the lead? What is their success rate? What is their philosophy ? (e.g.: Do they believe in counseling for the birthmother? ) How do they charge (i.e.: a flat fee, by the hour, are phone conversations charged to the client)? What is the method of payment (several large, lump payments or monthly billing)?

We advise pre- and post- adoptive counseling be obtained for both the birthmother and the adoptive couple. Part of this counseling should include an in-depth analysis of ways that the birthmother could keep the baby and parent the baby, as well as grief counseling. This is important whether or not the adoption is open or confidential.

Most independent adoptions involve having the adoptive parents prepare a one-page letter addressed to the birthparents, telling about themselves, their family and what they would offer a child. A picture is attached to each letter. The picture should be an informal one showing the couple or family enjoying each other. It should be in color and at least 4 X 6 inches and close up. If the family has pets, it is a good idea to show them in your picture. These letters can be sent to M.D. offices, attorneys, counselors and friends.

If you have other children, some experts will tell you not to include them in your picture or resume, and some experts advise including them. It is our feeling that other children should be included. This is honest, and also many birthmothers want to be assured that their child is not an "only" child. Some birthmothers also feel that they would like their baby to be raised by someone who has experience. It is also helpful for birthfamilies to know your ideas of child rearing and to see the results.

Mail Labels
Once your resume is prepared, it is important to distribute it as widely as possible. Start out with your friends, relatives, and neighbors. You will be surprised at how helpful people will be especially your closest friends who have been supportive during infertility. Often these friends feel helpless and unable to do something for you. This is something most friends are willing to help you with. Give your resume to everyone you know and some extras for them to give to other friends.

Some experts recommend sending resumes to MDs, counselors and other professionals who might have contact with pregnant teens. Because many of these professionals have so many letters, pre-adoptive families have begun trying other routes. One of our readers has reported good success by looking in the yellow pages of her phone directory under "Mail Labels" and buying 1,000 labels to mail her letter to organizations connected with her profession. She reported two successful leads this way, and she and her husband are now the proud parents of a baby girl, all in several months!

Pins and Tee Shirts
There are many ways of using self-made or made-to-order tee shirts and pins as networking tools. A friend had a shirt with three dancing teddy bears on it. Above the bears, was the message," I'm expecting..." "to adopt soon," was written under the bears. The friend was wearing the shirt at a picnic. A stranger came up to her and exclaimed that she had been searching for someone who knew about adoption. She owned a retirement home, and one of her employees was pregnant and wanted to make plans for adoption. She met with the birthmother, who was eight months pregnant, and the woman agreed to have the friend adopt her baby.

Pins are easy to make yourself or you can have them made at shops which specialize in custom products. One which we have seen has a picture of a baby carriage on it and reads, "We Want To Adopt," around the top, and "Can You Help?" across the bottom. They make great conversation starters with the possibility of a lead.

Business cards
Make up business cards which include your name, a P.O. Box number, phone and your attorney's phone number. The card should have something like the following message printed on it, "We Want To Adopt a Baby! If you know a pregnant woman who would like someone to adopt her baby, please contact us or our attorney, collect." Enclose a business card in all correspondence, including bills, payments, letters to friends, etc. Give cards to supermarket checkers and baggers. Drop cards in bowls at restaurants meant for business cards or give to your waitress or leave card on the table. Leave cards with beautician, at the laundromat, library, with the newspaper boy or anyone else you routinely see during the week.

Volunteering And Support Groups
Many times a lead materializes simply from being in the right place at the right time, or talking to the right person at just the right time. Two ways of maximizing your chances for a lead are by volunteering at your local adoption agency and/or support group.

If you are dealing with infertility, there is a national support organization, Resolve, which accepts volunteers and which has meetings and symposia which deal with infertility and adoption education. To find the local branch, check your phone directory or write to the national office at 1310 Broadway, Somerville, MA 02144, (617) 643-2424.

To find an adoption support group in your area, if you have no idea where to start, write to AFA, Adoptive Families of America, 3333 Highway 100, North, Minneapolis, MN 55422 (1-800-372-3300) or call the North American Council on Adoptable Children, 1821 University Avenue, Suite N498, St. Paul, MN 55104, (612) 644-3036. They will be able to assist you in finding a group in your area.

A further important source of adoption information is your local Department of Social Services or Human Resources, which usually has an adoption division or office. These people can often advise you about local groups involved in adoption.

Personal Outreach
One person we know spent an afternoon on the phone, talking to college and university student health centers near her. Through this phoning, she heard about a possible birthmother contact, which she and her husband are pursuing. Other phone calls can be made to local high school counselors, hospital social workers, or social workers and/or family counselors, crisis counselors or psychologists. Other ideas for outreach might include a visit to a local clinic or health center, or planned parenthood center.

Adoption Notices
Placing adoption notices in the classified section of newspapers has become a common way to find a birthmother. However, this is illegal in some states, so check first. Even in states where this practice is illegal, notices may be placed in national newspapers such as USA Today. The cost of placing notices varies widely, with the cheapest and often the most effective being the "throw-away" newspapers which can have a huge circulation. You can go to your local library and the reference section has a book listing all newspapers in the United States.

There are also ways of getting your message out on radio and TV, if you keep your ears and eyes open. For example, a radio show offered the chance to broadcast a message of twenty-five words to the first ten people who donated to a telethon. One couple had their request for a birthmother broadcast to hundreds of thousands of listeners. Many small towns have local TV stations where average people can afford to place notices. There are also cable channels which offer reasonable rates for TV ads.

Another method is to have flyers made up with a picture of a baby. A message such as, "Happy couple seek baby to complete our family. We have been married for eleven years and have a stable, loving relationship. We have a four-year-old adopted son who wants a little brother or sister. If you can help us contact us at 321- 1234." These flyers can be put all over, especially in laundromats, phone booths, bus stations, restaurants.

A Word of Caution to Pre-adoptive Couples
There has been an increase in "birthmother scams" during this year. Usually what will happen is that a birth mother will contact a couple. Everything may seem fine at first. However, very soon this person will be requiring many additional items, and begin asking for more and more money, sometimes for legitimate expenses and some- times for items which are not covered in "pregnancy-related expenses" such as cars, bail for jail, etc. Another scam which has surfaced is a birthmother who is taking money from more than one couple. For this reason, it is a safeguard to have a professional involved in your adoption and to insist on counseling for the birthmother. Also, do not send money to ANY birthmother, just based on the promise of a baby. Please be careful.

We welcome comments and suggestions.
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Credits: Sandra Lenington

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