Adoption: Meeting a Birthmother
If you decide to interview and screen birthmothers yourself, whether in person or by phone, follow these basic interviewing tips:
- Try to avoid holding preconceived notions about the birthmother as poverty-stricken, unintelligent, or anything else. Research indicates that she is more likely to be middle class and of normal intelligence. Listen to what she says with an open mind.
- If you have any questions that might be sensitive, don't ask them first. Instead, begin by making small talk. You need to build up a little trust. (Don't wait to ask them last, either. You might never get to them.) Some sensitive questions can be deferred altogether and left to the birthmother's attorney or social worker to ask.
- The way you word questions is important. Don't phrase questions in a way that implies what the answer is. (For example, “You're not working now, are you?” implies that the expected answer will be “no.” Instead, ask “Are you currently employed?”) Don't ask the question in a way that implies there is a “right” answer.
- After you ask a question, wait for the response. Don't answer for the birthmother or try to rush her.
- If the pregnant woman backs off from answering a particular question, ask other questions. Then consider rewording and revisiting the original question a little later, and you might get your answer. For example, if you asked, “Do you think prenatal care is important?” the birthmother might have shied away from the question because she hasn't been to a doctor yet. You could later ask, “Have you decided what doctor you plan to see?” By rephrasing the question and also asking it later, you are more likely to receive an answer. However, if the second try doesn't work, back off.
- At the end of the talk, ask the pregnant woman if there's anything important that you haven't discussed, then be silent and give her time to answer. Often people will say “No,” and then they'll blurt out something they're worried about or that's important to them. It doesn't always happen, but it's worth asking the question.
- Understand that some birthmothers are not emotional or sharing kind of people, and they won't want to be your close friend. This doesn't mean they're not serious about adoption. Their primary concern is whether you would be good parents to the child and whether you seem to be good candidates; then they're satisfied.
Questions for You
Don't expect to be the only one asking questions when you speak with a pregnant woman considering adoption. In most cases, she'll have a few questions to ask you! Some of these questions might be appropriate, and some might not be. Here are a few questions you should be prepared to answer:
- How long have you been married (if you're married)?
- Can't you have children?
- Why do you want to adopt?
- What does your family think of adoption?
- Do you have any pets?
- How long have you been thinking about adopting?
- What religion are you?
- Will you work after the baby is born? If so, what kind of child-care arrangements do you favor?
- Who will take care of the baby if you're sick? (This question is more likely to be asked of a single person, and it's a valid one.)
There are also questions that you should not answer. Some of these might be answered later by your adoption arranger, and some are just no one's business. Even if you want to answer these questions, resist this impulse!
If you have identified a birthmother and she asks you for money, refer her to your agency or attorney. Do the same if any other person she knows asks you, such as the birthfather, his parents, and so on.
Any exchange of money could be construed as “baby selling” by a third party, which might be a serious criminal offense, depending on state law. Note that I'm not talking about $20 for bus fare and a sandwich. I'm talking about significant amounts. (Although you should watch out for constant nickel-and-dime stuff.) Don't make this mistake.
- What's your address? You may want to provide this information later, but do not provide it in your first encounter, which, by the way, should be in a public place like a restaurant or park. Not a fancy restaurant, either, because that might make her (or you) too nervous. Go for the mid-range.
- Who do you (and your spouse) work for? Don't get too specific, at least not during the first interview. It's okay to say, for example, that you're an engineer and your husband's a plumber. It's better to not say that you work for XYZ Electronics at 95 Maple Street. You don't want anyone involved in the adoption except the adoption arranger to contact you at work.
- How much money do you make? A birthmother who asks you this right away may be a scammer (see Common Adoption Scams)—or a naïve person who doesn't know what to ask you. Either way, tell her that you make enough to support your family and to support a child.
- How much money will you give me? This is another sign of a possible problem or a naïve person. Tell the birthmother that you have to refer all financial aspects of the adoption to your social worker or attorney. If you are pressed very hard on the money issue, do not pursue this adoption. There will be other opportunities.
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Excerpted from The Complete Idiot's Guide to Adoption © 2004 by Christine Adamec. All rights reserved including the right of reproduction in whole or in part in any form. Used by arrangement with Alpha Books, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.
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