Creating a family profile: tips from workers
On AdoptUSKids and some state photolisting sites, families who are home studied and approved to adopt from foster care can post a profile of their family that can be seen by workers searching for families for children.
We’ve asked a few caseworkers who use the AdoptUSKids photolisting what advice they would give families who are registering on an adoption site like ours. This is what they told us.
Give workers a sense of your personality!
Most people don’t enjoy writing, and hardly anyone enjoys writing about themselves. But workers want to get a sense of your personality to know if you might be a good fit for a child. And your narrative is their first opportunity to do it.
“There was one couple whose profile I will never forget. They called themselves The Steves. Their narrative was full of personality and vibrancy. They talked about how they met, why they wanted to grow their family, and clearly described the child they hoped to adopt—he would be a kid who was super outdoorsy, who wanted to go to beach and spend time with their dog. It was like I was sitting down and talking with them. You could just tell who they were.” ~ Home finder/residential coordinator
Include a recent photo that includes all legal members of your family.
A clear, current photo is another way for a worker to get a quick sense of your family, including how many children are in your family—and perhaps even pets! (Caveat: do not include children who are in foster care or not yet legally adopted.)
“A photo is nice to have, because assuming that everyone in the family is in the picture—and they should be—the photo shows me the composition of the family at a glance. And that is very important. But really, I’m interested in the substance of who people are. In working with these youth, we develop a relationship and an understanding of what they want. The photo is just one element to help us get a sense of the family.” ~ Permanency planning counselor
Share what you won’t consider as well as what you will.
Our AdoptUSKids photolisting form asks people to indicate what behaviors and conditions they will accept. A few workers told us that they wish families would describe behaviors and conditions that they are not willing to accept in their narratives—as difficult as that might be to put out in public.
“Don’t just check the boxes. Be honest about your concerns and describe how you are planning to deal with issues as they arise.” ~ Home finder/residential coordinator
Talk about experience you’ve had with children. It doesn’t have to be as a parent.
Having experience as a parent and fostering sets families apart in many workers’ eyes. But experience with children comes in many forms.
When you are describing your parenting experience, think broadly.
“Talk about all experience working with children and what needs you’ve dealt with. If you say you’re open to adopting a child with extreme conditions, and you have no experience, I will be skeptical if you know what you are getting into.
“But experience with children does not have to be parenting experience. If you have experience as a volunteer with Special Olympics, then you have a basic understanding of what it means for a child to have a disability. If you were a nanny, that counts too! Provide as much information as you can.” ~ Family services specialist
If you do not have experience and are not interested in fostering, consider volunteering. One youth advocate we spoke with refers families to a local organization that works with children who are at risk of entering the foster care system or mentor a child who is in foster care.
Describe where you find support.
Having a support system is essential to anyone who is adopting. But it can sometimes be even more important if you do not have as much parenting experience or are adopting children with greater needs.
If you have friends who have adopted from foster care, family in the area, connections in the community, or an understanding of resources through your work or other activities, let workers know. They want to be sure that families have—or can access—the support they need for their family to succeed.
Make sure your profile is current and up-to-date, that all of the information (photo, form fields, narrative) matches.
Workers are famously busy and often confused when there are apparent discrepancies between the information contained in forms, narratives, and photos.
You can make their job easier—and make it more likely that they will contact you—by being sure to update all areas of your profile at the same time. For example, if you adopt a child, update your photo to include that child and your narrative to mention that the child you may have mentioned fostering is now a legal member of your family. If you have a new pet, update your profile to include them.
“The dynamics in home—ages and conditions of everyone in the home is a big deal. Make it clear and consistent.” ~ Family services specialist
Think about how you would work with children’s birth families and potentially help them maintain relationships with them.
If your family is licensed to foster and adopt, you probably already know that supporting a child’s reunification with their birth parents is an important part of being a foster parent.
It can be helpful for workers searching for families to know how open you are to keeping children connected to birth parents and siblings who may be living with relatives or other families.
Think about how you will adapt your life to meet the needs of a child.
Describing your family’s lifestyle and interests is a very important part of your profile and a great way for workers to get to know you. But what if your interests do not align with the needs of the children you say you are open to?
“When I read profiles of active families who are open to children who have physical or other limitations, I often wonder what kind of adjustments these parents are open to making in their life. It would be great if people who talk about being outdoorsy and athletic—and also being interested in children with conditions that might restrict their ability to participate in these kind of activities—would also talk about how they would modify their lifestyle to adjust to the needs of the child.”~ Child service coordinator
Read your draft again—or have someone else review it—before you publish it.
We’re all busy, and you may be eager to check “finish my profile” off your list. But take the time to review what you’ve written to be sure it is clear, accurate, and error free.
“I would always suggest having a friend read your profile. Does it show who you really are? Is it too formal, or not formal enough? Are there errors or inconsistencies? What’s missing?” ~ Home finder/residential coordinator
“Proofread! Check punctuation, spelling, grammar. Put your best foot forward. If you have typos or poor grammar or are otherwise not paying attention to detail, I wonder if you will be able to navigate complex medical/mental health systems and advocate for children who might have special needs.” ~ Family services specialist
Thank you to the workers who shared information for this post with us:
- Courtni Lovell, Home finder/residential coordinator, Springfield Partners, MO
- James Patton, Youth advocate, Christian Family Care, AZ
- Mark Simino, Permanency planning counselor, Lund Family Center, VT
- Anissa Teachey, Family services specialist, City of Virginia Beach DHS, VA
- Lindsey Brynjolfsson, Massachusetts Adoption Resource Exchange, MA