Reaching Out: The Guide to Writing a Terrific Dear Birthmother Letter


Want to put together a terrific adoption profile?
Based on extensive interviews with social workers, adoption attorneys, agency personnel, counselors, and birthparents, Reaching Out will help you know your audience, clarify your goals, and have confidence in what you present.

It's a tool kit for self-expression that anyone can use.
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Want to put together a terrific adoption profile?
Based on extensive interviews with social workers, adoption attorneys, agency personnel, counselors, and birthparents, Reaching Out will help you know your audience, clarify your goals, and have confidence in what you present.

It's a tool kit for self-expression that anyone can use.
Reaching Out takes the fear out of the process of writing about yourself. Chock full of valuable tips and strategies, it will help you speak your heart... authentically, clearly, and with impact.


  • What birthparents look for in a good letter
  • Common mistakes and how to avoid them
  • Tons of examples, samples, and styles to spark your imagination
  • Step-by-step writing and revision techniques to help anyone write well
  • Secrets of selecting photographs that work
  • Hints for good graphic design
  • Tips for writing with your partner

With a foreword by nationally known adoption counselor Carole LieberWilkins, M.A., Reaching Out also teaches you the keys to creating and sustaining a positive mental outlook throughout the adoption process.

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Editorial Reviews

Adoptive Family Magazine
With loads of examples and step-by-step instructions, Reaching Out will help you present yourself, your partner, your home, and your hopes in the best possible light.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780971619821
  • Publisher: EasternEdge Press
  • Publication date: 10/28/2002
  • Pages: 182
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 8.50 (h) x 0.39 (d)

Read an Excerpt

PLEASE NOTE: The information on this page is protected by U.S. Copyright law and may not be reproduced or distributed in any way without the express written permission of the author.

Here's an excerpt from ³The Golden Rules,² a chapter that helps readers achieve a healthy mental attitude toward writing their letter, and toward the adoption process itself. Much of REACHING OUT contains this sort of ³dual wisdom,² information both universally applicable to the adoption process and specifically useful to writing a good letter.

The Golden Rules

Yes, just a page or two after I said there was no right or wrong to writing a Dear Birthmother letter, I'm going to lay a few rules on you. Perhaps ³rules² is a bad word to describe this chapter; these philosophies represent the core values upon which this book is based. Taken as a whole, they provide a great mind set with which to begin not just your letter writing, but your whole adoption journey as well.

#1 - The Goal of a Dear Birthmother Letter is to Connect with the Birthmother who is Right for You.

Adoption professionals all agree that successful open adoptions­where the right baby makes it into the right home­occur when potential adoptive parents and birthmothers make a strong personal connection prior to the birth of the child. So, this first Golden Rule contains two bits of essential wisdom.

First, you must understand that your goal is to connect with a birthmother, not a child. If you are looking to adopt a newborn, you can't pick your child; you can only pick your child's birthmother. After all this time hoping for a baby, suddenly you must hope for an adult, and that's a change in consciousness. To find the baby that's meant to be a part of your family, you must connect with the birthmother who is right for you.

And there's that phrase again: who is right for you.

Not every birthmother will match up well with every potential adoptive parent. Personal temperaments, life philosophies, and personalities vary, ways of communicating differ, and personal rhythms sometimes don't click. The same variables that govern all interpersonal communication are naturally at play, and often amplified, within the high-stakes context of a birthmother/potential adoptive parent relationship.

A successful open adoption grows from a certain natural comfort level between the participants, a sense of ease that is reassuring to both parties. Your birthmother needn't be ³just like you,² either. This type of simpatico can easily exist between people of widely differing backgrounds and experience. When you finally meet the birthmother who's right for you, you may be surprised to find that you come from very different places yet share much common ground.

The best way to heighten your chances of meeting that special someone is to present an accurate and insightful impression of yourselves in your Dear Birthmother letter. The more authentically your letter communicates the essence of who you are, the better chance you have of connecting with the birthmother who shares those feelings.


#4 - Be Yourself

The temptation, when you're first starting to write, is to think in mercantile terms, to think of yourself as a product to be packaged and sold. This is a natural instinct given our consumer culture and the number of advertising messages we absorb everyday. Many potential adoptive families find the whole Dear Birthmother letter process so distasteful that they choose to abandon the course of adoption altogether. They are either discouraged by what they feel is a need to present picture perfect, ³Ken and Barbie² images of themselves, or they are turned off by the feeling that they are advertising for a baby.

My wife and I certainly wrestled with these issues. I wrote about them for Offspring and Adoptive Families magazines [See Appendix 1: ³Love for Sale²]. And indeed, in some sense, writing a Dear Birthmother letter is constructing an image for yourself, an image you hope will appeal to a birthmother.

But primarily, a Dear Birthmother letter is an introduction, the purpose of which is to meet a person who may need your help (as you might need hers). You are not writing to persuade, as a sales pitch might do. You are writing to open widely the door to your life and let a birthmother have a good peek inside. Maybe even put out the welcome mat. The closer to your heart you can keep this thought, the freer of competitive concerns you will feel.

If you can't fully separate yourself from the feeling that you are selling something­and it would be disingenuous of me to suggest that you would be alone in this­at least sell yourself honestly. Don't pretend you're chicken if in fact you are steak. Always remember that your goal is to appeal not to just any birthmother, but rather to the one with whom you are likely to be able to form a strong connection.

Most importantly, don't begin this most important of life journeys with a lie, no matter how small it is. Now, more than ever, to thine own self be true.


#8 - Be Positive

For couples who come to embrace adoption after infertility, it's common for all thoughts of starting a family to come with a measured dose of sorrow. Coming to terms with the inability to conceive involves a process of acceptance, grieving and healing. For many at this early stage of the adoption process, these sorrows are still fresh and the wounds raw.

These are natural and normal feelings, and need to be dealt with and processed as you move on in your journey towards family. But your Dear Birthmother letter is not the place to do it. Your letter is your opportunity to reach out in love and joy to the birthmother of your child.

Articulate the positive things you have to offer. State your case honestly, simply, and directly. It's not a bad thing to mention your infertility, or any other sorrow or difficulty that seems central to your life, but do so within the context of the positive things that adversity has taught you.

Don't waste time qualifying, equivocating over, or pointing out the deficiencies of your life. We all wish our homes were bigger, our incomes larger, or our relationship with our parents better, but compared to Birthmother Problem #1, most potential adoptive parents have it pretty good.

Put your best foot forward. Speak of adoption as an exciting process that will lead to happiness for all involved. Communicate the same positive messages to your birthmother that you hope one day to communicate to your child.

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Table of Contents

Foreword: "Beginning Your Adoption Journey" by Carole LieberWilkins, M.A.,
Marriage and Family Therapist, Adoption Counselor

The Golden Rules
The Language of Adoption
A Variety of Letter Forms
The Major Subject Areas Explained
Making Your Letter Terrific
A Few Pet Peeves
The Writing Process: A Step-by-step Approach
Selecting Great Photos
Layout & Design
Appendices: Sample Letters

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First Chapter

Foreword: Beginning Your Adoption Journey
by Carol LieberWilkins, M.A.,
Marriage and Family Therapist, Adoption Counselor

It is my great honor to be asked to write the foreword to this book. As an adoption educator and psychotherapist specializing in infertility and family-building options since 1985, I've guided hundreds of couples (and singles) through the emotional minefields of their adoption journey.

It will probably surprise you to learn that almost every prospective adoptive parent with whom I have worked was absolutely certain they would never meet a birthmother or birthfather because they (check all that apply to you):

  • are too tall
  • are too short
  • are too skinny
  • are too fat
  • are too Jewish
  • are too Christian
  • are too Catholic
  • are too Buddhist
  • are a mixed faith couple or not religious at all or undecided
  • are too old
  • are too young
  • are not educated enough or too educated
  • are too wealthy (yes!)
  • are not wealthy enough
  • live in a huge house
  • live in a modest apartmentv
  • have curly hair
  • have straight hair
  • have tons of family locally
  • all their family is dead
  • have family living too far away
  • are single
  • live in the big city
  • live in the suburbs
  • live in the country
  • are disabled
  • are a minority
  • are not a minority
  • are infertility thrashed
  • haven't done enough infertility treatment to be worthy
  • already have one or two children
  • have no children yet
  • have already decided they are not worthy to become parents so why would they be chosen
  • are too average
  • are not average enough
  • or...

Be honest, how many lines did you check?

Here's something else that will surprise you. Everyone that I have ever counseled who remained on the adoption path became a parent, despite having any or all of the perceived ³deficits² above.

Coming to adoption after years of suffering from infertility usually leaves us pessimistic, frightened and intimidated. We feel ³³unentitled² to become parents. I can use the word ³us² here because I, too, walked this path. I am a mother who became a mother through the magical, mystical, complex, complicated, often difficult, spiritual process of adoption.

It is common and normal for everyone approaching adoption to have fears, including that they will not be chosen. Many are afraid that an open adoption will result in complicated relationships with birthparents. Then there is THE BIG FEAR: the feeling of being threatened by birthparents.

The more you understand birthparents and the adoption process, however, the more you will realize how untrue are many of the myths surrounding open adoption, and how little you have to fear. Birthparents are as different in their needs, personalities and styles as are prospective parents. For every aspect of you that you think will cast you in a negative light, there is a birthparent looking for someone exactly like you.

And most are at least as frightened as you are. They are often alone, confused, and in the most difficult situation any of us can possibly imagine. They cannot parent the child they have created and desperately need someone who can and will. They are often embarrassed, feel foolish, and feel ³unentitled² just like you.

To the birthmother or birthfather, you look like you have it all. You (if not single) are married; you are old enough and mature enough to be good parents (as if that were a guarantee!!); in most cases you have more financial security than the birthparents (no matter how much you have); you want to parent; you have medical insurance, support systems, jobs, each other, and more. In other words you have and are many of the things birthparents do not have and are not.

Being Who You Are

Over the years, I have guided many clients through the process of creating their dear birthmother letters. As strange as it many sound, one of the most difficult aspects has been to get them to be who they really are. Coming from that unentitled place, they feel they have to create a false image of themselves in order to be acceptable to a birthmother.

Too often they have been guided to alter the details of their lives and the real essence of who they are. Someone told them to change their names (³Myrtle is a homely name, could you be Missy?²) or the spelling of their names (³Susan is so formal, but birth mothers can relate to Susie²), decrease the importance of things that are vital in their lives (³don't mention that you, as a woman, work²), or increase certain aspects that may be of little importance at all (³couldn't you be more outdoors-y?²). And prospective parents usually comply, out of fear of the unknown and the misinformed belief that these are the only ways to ³get chosen².

When these lost souls and I finally speak, I encourage them as I now encourage you: above all else, be yourself and be true to yourself. Do you really want to start out a relationship with the person who will forever be connected to your family by shading the truth? Do you want later to speak with your kids about their adoption process knowing that you were ³chosen² or matched based on untruths? And is it possible to truly know and trust a birth mother with whom you want to develop a relationship if you start out on false premises?

Untruths are hard to maintain. Ruses taint the process and the spirit of adoption.

Imagine instead, birth parents and adopting parents coming together to create a family. You perfectly meet each other's needs. The child will have a loving family, the birth mother will rest assured her child is safe, and you will at long last be parents. This is the image of the adoption triad you want to carry in your mind as you begin this wonderful journey.

This book teaches you concepts and steps consistent with good mental health. It will show you how to be congruent, in other words, to have your outsides match your insides. It encourages you to trust, both yourself, and the birth parent you hope to meet. And it will help you to introduce yourself to birth parents feeling very comfortable that the people described in your Dear Birthmother letter are absolutely you.

I hope this Guide fills you with confidence and enthusiasm as you begin the process of bringing into your lives the birth family that will eventually fulfill your dreams of parenthood. It's a wonderful journey, and one I urge you to honor and appreciate.

May your path be blessed with all the joys that adoption can bring.

Carole LieberWilkins, MA
September 23, 2001

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 5, 2002

    Reaching Out: The Guide to Writing a Terrific Dear Birthmother Letter

    This book is great! It is easy to read and filled with lots of examples and HEART. It helps you choose the content, style, and structure that works best for you. It continually gives you the encouragement to be yourself(s) when writing your letter and to understand important things about birthparent's mindset. Before we (my husband & I) got this book, we had struggled to write our Dear Birthmother Letter. Once we got this book, we were able to write our letter relatively quickly. Most importantly, we are happy with the result. Our letter is full of life and love. Our friends and families continually comment that our personalities and our lives are vibrantly conveyed in our letter. Writing a Dear Birthmother Letter is a difficult step in the adoption process. Using this book with make this step easier and more effective towards making a connection with a birthmother.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 5, 2002

    Reaching Out: The Guide to Writing a Terrific Dear Birthmother Letter

    Anyone who is daunted by the task of writing a Dear Birthmother letter should read this book. Recommended by a friend, I picked it up and couldn't put it down. I found it witty, practical, warm and honest. Loved it. (In fact, I am having to restrain myself from using "!!".) My husband is now reading it and laughs out loud. What seemed an overwhelming task now looks like fun. Here's to the journey...

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