Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Creating Your Adoption Profile Book: Advice from an Adoptee


That's the number of adoption profile books I created.  But not created like sipped-some-tea-while-listening-to-jazz-and-handcrafting-a-profile-book.   No.  Like agonized over.  Every word.  Every photo.  (Being a writer has its downfalls...)  For hours and hours and hours, well until 2 A.M. sometimes.  (Read more about this agonizing process in my latest book.) 

Why are profile books so hard to create?  For one, many of us feel like we just aren't good at it.  Two, writing about ourselves is just weird.  It feels braggy and awkward.   Three, we know what's at stake.  We are putting ourselves "out there" to be evaluated as potential parents.  And that's intimidating! 

If you're struggling to create a profile book, if you've been putting it off because you feel you just cannot ever get it "right" (whatever that means), you are NOT alone.  Which is exactly why today, I'm sharing with you the words of Madeleine Melcher, owner of Our Journey to You, a profile creation and review business.   Now, Madeleine isn't just a business owner, but she's also a book author, mom of three, adoptee, and 2017 Congressional Coalition on Adoption Angel-in-Adoption awardee.

Rachel:  You are both an adoptee and a mom-by-adoption.  How do these two roles impact your profile-creation business?  

Madeleine:  I think that having grown my family through adoption and having been adopted myself allows me to truly understand what families who come to me are going through in terms of the stresses of the actual adoption process and the strong desire in their heart to welcome a child into their family. As an adoptee I think I can better see the whole picture of adoption and that people are not just adopting an infant, but a person who will grow up, have questions and need parents- not “adoptive” parents.  I have a lot of empathy for my own birthmother and I think that has carried over. I have had the opportunity to speak with a number of women who have placed their children and it is important to me that these women receive the honesty and true picture of a family through the adoption profile.

Rachel:  What is the #1 mistake you see hopeful parents make in their profile books?  Why is this mistake problematic? 

Madeleine:  Many of the profiles I see online sound the same.  The text could fit a thousand other families because it is so devoid of the uniqueness that makes the families who they are. There is no doubt in my mind that all of these families are thankful someone is reading their profile, that they are excited to grow their family through adoption, etc. but the expectant family needs and deserves more than that.  What makes the best profile books is text and photos that show and tell the reader about YOU- not the you that you think they want to see, the real you.  I think that families feel they need to be some imaginary version n of perfect with a huge, spotless home, and expensive vacations- they could not be further from the truth.  

Families need to be who they are and it is the specifics of what makes them who they are that will help the reader feel like they have met them for the first time.  Families need to look at their lives and the daily moments they hope to share with a child and convey that through words, captions and absolutely pictures.  If you hang out in your pajamas on Saturday mornings and make pancakes? Awesome!  Include it and definitely take a picture of your smiley face pancake!  Do you get involved in your community with volunteer work or attending cultural fairs or the farmers market?  Tell the reader about it! What are your strengths as a couple and how will that help in your parenting together? 

Don’t give generic answers, let the reader feel like they are getting to know you- is one of you handy and will fix broken bike chains or build a jungle gym?  Is one of you the math guru who will help with geometry homework when the day comes?  If you are single, answer the questions the reader will have before they have to ask.  For example, single women should include what male role models are in their family and specific ways they will be a part of the child’s life.  Families need to stop worrying about being themselves and realize that that authenticity or the lack there of can be felt immediately and does make a difference.  BE YOU is what I tell my families, there is no one else you can or should want to be!

Rachel:  You are for ethical adoptions.  How can a hopeful parent create an ethical profile book?  What does that even mean, exactly? 

Madeleine:  The purpose of adoption is to find loving and permanent homes for children who need them, period.  An ethical profile book begins with the most important part of a relationship, old or new- honesty.  

Hopeful parents must first be honest with themselves as they work through the many pages of “preferences” given to them by their agency.  Can they handle a child with more critical physical or mental health needs? Do they live close enough to the resources they would need for a child who may have those needs? Are they prepared for the question marks of a child who has been drug exposed?  Do they have an extended family wo would welcome a child of another ethnicity?  Are they willing to do what is needed to be sure their child feels represented in their family and life? 

Hopeful families must be honest with the expectant parents who read their profile by showing their authentic selves and not making promises they do not know if they can keep.  If families don’t know if they are open to sharing letters and pictures or if they are open to visits and regular communication with a birth family they should not ever say they would. Families should not feel pressured by anyone into promising a level of openness they are not comfortable with- expectant parents hoe for as many different levels of openness as hopeful families do and the truth is, whatever families think they may want now may change depending on the family they match with and vice versa.  

Knowing you have done all you can to have an ethical adoption is important!  It is important to the family, the birth family and will be one day to the child that was welcomed through it.

Rachel:  You offer profile book creation and profile book reviews.   How does a hopeful parent decide which option is best for them? 

Madeleine:  Sometimes people know right off the bat that they cannot get a profile done as quickly as they would like or that they don’t know where to start or really what to include so they reach out to me solely about creating their profile for them.  I have a workbook for families to use that can get them started as they draft their rough text which I will make suggestions about and sometimes ask them to include more about something that would be of interest to the reader, help them keep text manageable for the reader, add lists and meaningful captions that can draw from what would otherwise be more text and go over all text for adoption appropriate language.  I also speak with the family about what kinds of photos to include, help them choose photos, caption them and do all of the layout.  The layout is created with the family preferences and the guidelines of any agency they are working with and when we are finished if they need agency approval to move to printing I ensure any changes requested are done as quickly as possible and the pages are prepared for upload to printer or Shutterfly for hardback books.  It is really important to me that my families love their profile and that it is ethical and authentic.  People who come to me about reviewing a profile have already completed one on their own and want to be sure they did what they needed to and did not make any glaring missteps, before letting go of their final draft and going to print.  My reviews give comments on the elements of layout, photos, captions, text and adoption appropriate language.  Not only do I let the family know what I suggest they change, edit or add- but I give specific options of ways they can change, add or edit if they choose to.  I have had families that initially come to me for a review decide they just want to start from scratch and they become creation clients—either way, I love to help.  There is never any pressure from me for the client to choose one path or another, I want them to have what they feel will help them achieve the truest, most authentic profile they can- period and that varies from family to family.

Rachel:  What is one message you'd like to send to those considering adoption?  

Madeleine:  Please, when you welcome your child into your home and hearts- BE THE PARENT.  NOT the “adoptive parent”, not the 2nd parent—THE parent and all the good, bad and in-between that comes with it.  Being the parent means you will do anything and everything you can to meet your child’s needs – whether it is taking them to the doctor when they are sick, telling he or she they were adopted from DAY ONE, teaching them how to dribble a basketball or learn square roots, give the birds and the bees speech or wipe a runny nose—being THE PARENT means being there and helping your child with everything, adoption related or not.  The most important way to know what your child needs is to LISTEN—the more you listen the more your child will talk and when he or she is a teenager you will be glad that is already something you share.  And when it comes to adoption- there is no more important voice than YOUR CHILD’S.  Your child needs you to be the parent- I hope you will meet that need with a fierce and forever love and 2 listening ears.

Connect with Madeleine on her site, on Instagram, and Facebook both here and here.

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