For most couples, starting a family doesn’t really require much—technically just a few moments together at the right time of the month. But for others, it can be a much more challenging endeavor, including months if not years of trying to have a baby, tough decisions to be made about fertility treatments and/or adoption, a significant financial investment, and more than a little luck. But now, a growing number of couples in the quest to start or expand their family through adoption are finding they already have a (free) tool they didn’t know they had: Facebook.
With over 800 million active users, Facebook is now being used more and more by couples trying to adopt, in the hopes that a friend, a friend of a friend, or even a stranger may be able to help them find a baby in need of a home. Taking a couple’s adoption search to Facebook is cheap (free, if one doesn’t buy any advertising), fast and allows hopeful parents-to-be to reach a wide audience. Some adoption agencies now allow families to make use of Facebook, among other websites, to find birth mothers, and couples seeking private adoptions (those done legally but without using an adoption agency for placement) have expanded their search from word-of-mouth networking, newspaper advertisements, and adoption-specific websites to Facebook as well. Families for Private Adoption (FPA), a non-profit volunteer group in the Washington, D.C. area that provides support and education (not placement services) to couples considering or in the process of private adoption, now includes how-to information on using Facebook and the Internet as a marketing tool for couples seeking to adopt in its biannual private adoption workshops.
Angela Lores, the mother of a son adopted in January of this year, as well as a speaker at recent FPA workshops, explained that she joined Facebook to help get the word out when she and her husband were looking to adopt. There, she created both a page and a group for the couple’s adoption journey, and said that while ultimately she didn’t find her son through Facebook, the support she received along the way and upon successful completion of the adoption was immeasurable. She adds that many hopeful adoptive couples support other couples in the same situation, passing along leads when something isn’t right for them, and alerting each other to potential adoption scams. She plans to use the site again when they’re ready to expand their family.
For many couples, though, an adoption search is often a relatively private matter, given the potential for heartbreak along the way, which can make broadcasting one’s search on Facebook feel painfully public at times. One such couple is Emily and Matt (who asked that their last names not be used for privacy reasons), who popped up in my own Facebook feed this summer. Emily and I had gone to college together (traveling together in Europe and West Africa), and she and Matt married just two weeks after graduation (after having known each other since sixth grade and dating since high school)—and then seemed to fall off the face of the earth (at least I could never find her on Facebook!). I recently reached out to her to ask how someone who was so private for so long had come to Facebook to share a very personal struggle to build a family.
Emily explained that after years of trying to get pregnant (including three unsuccessful rounds of IVF), she and Matt ultimately chose to pursue adoption in the fall of 2008, at first internationally. “We love the idea of adoption, and there are kids that need to be adopted. The idea of having any kind of biological connection didn’t seem at all important to us any longer.”
After being on a waiting list for an Ethiopian adoption for two-and-a-half years and remaining at the ready that whole time, they removed their names from the list and changed gears this past spring, deciding to try to adopt domestically, in part because of the greater transparency in domestic adoptions and greater certainty that a birth mother was making this decision of her own free will. Because their adoption agency didn’t do domestic adoptions in their home state of Maryland, Emily and Matt eventually decided to pursue private adoption and found their way to an FPA workshop in May where they learned that pursuing private adoption would basically be a full-time job, because the onus would now be on them to get the word out about their search. Despite not even having a Facebook profile of her own, Emily jumped in, creating one for herself, an adoption page for the couple, Emily and Matt Are Hoping to Adopt, and a website separate from Facebook, emilyandmattadopt.com.
Less than two months later, the couple had a solid lead through friends of friends on Facebook: a young woman in another state who was pregnant and considering adoption. They spoke with her and her family in the following months, received sonogram images and regular updates from her prenatal appointments, and ultimately all agreed to the adoption. Emily and Matt, who both teach at the college level, and who share a home with Emily’s parents, planned their fall teaching schedules around their expected arrival (including Emily canceling two of her classes to be with the baby full-time), so that they would never need to use a daycare or outside childcare. But, in the end, after the couple had traveled to the hospital for the birth, held the baby and prepared to leave the hospital as parents, the young woman changed her mind the morning of their discharge, leaving a message for them via a social worker that they would have to leave empty-handed. For now, they continue to try to spread the word of their search and hope that fate—or Facebook—renders them parents in the end.