Compiling the perfect portfolio for adopting a child.

In your search for a baby, you may decide to look for a birth mother who is unable to keep her child. As part of the process, an adoption attorney or agency may ask you to provide a portfolio -- or picture story of your life -- that a birth mother can review in her quest for an adoptive family.

In compiling your portfolio, you'll want to communicate some basics about your life, such as your relationship as a couple or family; your activities, hobbies, interests, and values; and your genuine desire to be parents -- and you'll want to do so in a friendly, open, and honest manner. How do you begin? Here are some tips to help you.

1. Find an appropriate album. Since you'll want some flexibility in telling (or retelling) your story, choose a book in which pages can be rearranged and added. Also, avoid bulky, fabric-stuffed albums, which are difficult to store and send through the mail.

2. Select a theme. If you'd like, you can adorn the cover of your portfolio with a child-friendly figure, such as Winnie the Pooh, or with pictures of another storybook character or baby animals. This theme can be carried throughout the book as well.

3. Tell your story in pictures. Place pictures of yourselves, close friends, relatives, pets, other children (if you have them), and important life events in chronological or thematic order. You might include pictures of your wedding, holidays, your home, vacations, and favorite activities or hobbies. Select photos that provide a warm, wholesome, honest portrait of your family and that display a sense of comfort and responsibility. Include no more than 20 pages of pictures (10 pages front and back), with a maximum of six to10 photos on each page.

4. Make it personal. Write captions for each picture or set of pictures, and personalize the information as much as possible. When referring to yourselves, for instance, use your first names (though not your last, if you want to maintain anonymity).

5. Write a compelling letter. Your "Dear Birth Mother" letter should describe your feelings toward the birth mother and convey something about yourselves and why you want to adopt. It should go on the first page of the portfolio. When writing your letter, try and follow these guidelines:

  • Strive for simplicity. It's best to keep the language simple and the sentences short and to the point (remember the birth mother might be a teenager). Your intention is to express your genuine desire for a child, and the love you can provide, in a way that's clear, concise, and forthright.
  • Paint an honest picture of your life. Tell the birth mother a bit about your jobs or professions; your favorite hobbies and activities, especially ones that a child may enjoy; the positive aspects of your marriage and extended family life; your religious faith and/or your values; and other things that are important to you as a couple. Maintain a positive attitude, but don't exaggerate the truth simply to impress a birth mother. Remember your goal is to connect with a woman who shares your outlook on life -- and who appreciates the particular attributes you have to share with a child.
  • Be sensitive to the birth mother's needs. Let her know that you are sympathetic about her unplanned pregnancy and that you realize how much she cares about her unborn child. Also suggest that you are willing to maintain an "open" relationship after the baby is placed, but be honest about your level of openness. For instance, if you're not willing to see the birth mother after the adoption, don't mention this. But if you do plan to send pictures and progress reports about the baby, be sure to let her know.
  • Let your personality shine through. Begin the letter by simply saying "Hello" or using some other informal salutation. (Don't start by saying "Dear Birth Mother," which can sound impersonal or off-putting.) Use your first names throughout the letter, and don't be afraid to let your personality, sense of humor, warmth, spirit, and genuine caring come through.

Some prospective parents choose to include a copy of their home study (with all identifying information removed) and letters of reference in their portfolio. This decision is up to you. If you don't include your home study, however, you can write a brief, one-page biography that highlights some of the positive aspects of your life, such as your stability, financial security, love for children, home, family, hobbies, and favorite activities. The home study and reference letters can be placed in the back of the portfolio (if you include them); the brief biography can go right after your letter to the birth mother.

Once you've completed your portfolio, have a few trusted friends or relatives look it over and give you their feedback. Your agency or attorney may offer their suggestions as well. When you're satisfied with the final product, have at least two color copies made. Give one copy to your attorney, and keep at least one copy and the original at home. After you've adopted a child, your original portfolio will make a good keepsake -- you can use it to tell your child the story of how you adopted her.

Sources: The Complete Adoption Book by Laura Beauvais-Godwin and Raymond Godwin, Esq.; Adoptive Families

All content here, including advice from doctors and other health professionals, should be considered as opinion only. Always seek the direct advice of your own doctor in connection with any questions or issues you may have regarding your own health or the health of others.

American Baby