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Text Messaging As First Adoption Contact

Your Adoption Parent Profile is done, and you’ve decided to include a personal cell phone number so that an expectant mother can call you directly. Instead of getting a phone call, you hear a “ping” on your phone and receive a text message: “Hi! Are you still looking for a baby?”

At first, it might seem strange that an expectant mother’s first choice in reaching out would be through a text message. That might be because some of us—who remember when there was no such thing as the Internet—may still harbor the illusion that texting is something done casually and only between good friends and loved ones for quick and focused messages like, “I’m running 10 min late” or “Please pick up some kale and ice cream on your way home.” Not so for those born with a smartphone in their hands and for many other women and men who are using texting as a confidential and safe way to get health-related questions answered quickly. Even crisis hotlines have begun giving texting options to teens looking for answers.

For a women experiencing an unplanned pregnancy and struggling about what to do, talking to a complete stranger on the phone (whether adoptive parent or professional) could seem very daunting and strange. Texting provides privacy and safety, especially if she hasn’t broached the subject of adoption with family members or loved ones.

It is becoming more the norm that the first contact an expectant woman makes with an adoptive family, adoption agency, and adoption center is through a text message. Here at Adoption Connection, we’ve texted with expectant mothers who’ve told us, via text, “Look, I don’t like to talk on the phone, but I’d be happy to meet you in person,” and we take it from there.

Here are some guidelines so you can prepare yourself for that first “conversation.”

Think of Texting as a Digital Conversation

It might be slow going, but in each message, you can provide your texter with more information about your family and you’ll be getting additional information, too. Keep your text messages fairly short, with one statement and question each. Don’t overwhelm with too much information in one text. Remember, this is not email, and short messages are best.

Prepare Your Questions

Consider taking some time to construct a list of questions—you can keep them on your smartphone in a handy notes app—so that you can feel prepared when a text comes in out of the blue. Always thank your texter for reaching out to you! “Thank you for writing. My partner and I very much want to adopt a baby. I’m glad you reached out to me!”

Some questions to ask might include: What is your name? How did you find me/us? How far along are you? Where are you located? Does the father know you are thinking about adoption?

Leave Some Things Alone

Remember, this is about getting to know each other.  If you are hesitant to ask a difficult question—such as, “Have you had prenatal care?” or “Do you need financial help?”—then don’t.  Leave it to us.

Use Emoticons Only if You Feel Comfortable

If you don’t typically use smiley faces, winks, and the countless other emoticons, this is not the place to start. If you do use them and feel comfortable adding some for greater impact, go for it!

When Concluding Your Texting Conversation

You might be having a great texting conversation, but you know you need to get back to that project at work or you are heading out of town for the weekend. A multitude of things can keep us from continuing a conversation. Be conversational and honest about your time constraints and find out if you can provide her with more information. Suggest another time to text or talk on the phone. Some examples:

“It has been GREAT texting with you. I’d love to send you our profile in the mail. Would that be OK?”

“I’m headed to San Jose right now to visit my parents.  I can’t wait to tell them about our conversation! Is there a good time we can chat again soon?”

“It has been so good to chat with you. It sounds like you have a lot of tough choices to make. Would you like my agency to call you to discuss all of your options? They are really nice, but if you aren’t ready, that’s OK too. I’d like to chat again, though.”

Next Steps

Let Adoption Connection, or your adoption center or agency, know you had a promising conversation with an expectant mother. We can provide you with more advice and next steps.

Think of texting as a conversation and remember that your attitude is just as important as what you type. Be open, show trust and empathy, and set up another time to connect in the way she feels most comfortable with, whether it be text, phone call, Skype, or a face-to-face get-together.

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