1. First, ask yourself: “Am I genuinely offering support?” Or “Am I interjecting my own thoughts, desires, ideas into someone else’s decision?” (We also call this being nosy.)

Birthparents are often willing to share their adoption story with friends, but they should not have to justify their reasons for adoption. As one birthmother shared, “I felt so relieved when my friend just sat and listened to me. She said she understood that the adoption was my decision and that I must have very good reasons for it.” Some birthparents may not have supportive, unbiased people in their lives who can help them through the ups and downs of the adoption process. Ask yourself if you can withhold judgments while she is trying to sort through this complex time of her life.

2. Second, ask the birthparent if she’d like to share her story. “I’m here if you want to talk. Would it be okay if I asked you a few questions, too?”

Each person is different and it is unfair to generalize how a birthparent feels about answering questions about their adoption. Simply ask for permission before offering suggestions and asking personal questions. Here are some examples of questions that might be okay to ask:

“Do you know if you’re having a boy or a girl?”

”What’s been the most surprising part about being pregnant?”

“Are you going to choose an adoptive family? If yes, what do you like about this family?”

3. Please do not mention your niece, cousin, or neighbor who is hoping to adopt a child and your willingness to introduce them.

Your intentions may be well-meaning, and it may seem like a wonderful match to you. However, this has the potential to place the birthmother in a giant void of many wonderfully deserving adoptive parents waiting for children, which she is unable to fill. This may lead to her feeling unnecessarily guilty and embarrassed. She may have difficulty saying “no” or “I’m working with an agency.” Again, before offering to help, ask the birthparent for permission to ask personal questions. If they are open to sharing, you can ask them where they are in their adoption plan. “Have you decided whether you’ll be working with an adoption agency? Have you selected an adoptive family?” It may be okay to introduce the topic of knowing a great couple, if she’s interested, or offering to help her select an adoption agency.

4. Recognize that the adoption process can feel like a roller coaster, with many ups and downs, thrills and fears. Birthparents are making a decision that requires significant sacrifice and may be emotionally painful, yet also exciting and hopeful.

If the birthparent has previously given you permission to ask personal questions, you can continue to support the birthparent by asking them how they’re handling the adoption process. Questions such as:

“Do you know if you’re having a boy or a girl?”

”What’s been the most surprising part about being pregnant?”

“Are you going to choose an adoptive family? If yes, what do you like about this family?”

It is unfair to make statements such as “I could never do that.” Perhaps, if you were in a different situation, you, too, would find the strength to make a loving plan, such as adoption. Remember, a birthparent greatly benefits from unbiased supporters who simply offer friendship along the journey.

5. If you find out about someone’s plan for adoption and have only limited contact with the person, it may be hard to know how to respond. Rather than being silent (which can be interpreted as “disapproval”), the following are some brief responses that you may use.

“Those parents will be very blessed to raise your child.”

“It seems like it was a decision that required much thought and planning. I hope that you have peace in knowing that the adoptive parents will be thrilled.”

“There are many blessings in an adoption, my family has benefited from that loving choice a few times.”

“I don’t know much about adoption, but I hope everything is going well.”

“I will be praying for you and the baby’s future family.”

6. We are relational people. Sometimes, in order to relate better to others, we tell stories that show our relatedness. Example: You say, “My dog just died.” Your friend replies, “Oh, I had a dog once….”

Telling stories about an acquaintance or relative who experienced adoption may not be appropriate for the given situation. There are many circumstances, reasons, thoughts, and plans involved in an adoption. Each situation is extremely personal and unique. Return to #1 listed above and consider the intent of your story before you share. Will the story help the person in their particular situation? Or are you sharing because the story has the word adoption in it?

7. Take time to notice the language that the birthparents are using, and try to reflect it. Again, if they have given you permission to ask questions, ask them to teach you positive adoption language if you are unfamiliar.

Language is more than a collection of words; it creates meaning and can be used to empower and restore hope within an individual. We encourage birthparents to use positive adoption language such as, “I am making an adoption plan for my child,” rather than “I’m giving up my baby.” An adoption plan is made because the birthparents love the child and believe that adoption is the best choice for them, no matter how painful. Adoption does involve sacrifice and letting go, but a birthparent never “gives up” on their child.

This language also extends to “I am choosing to parent my child,” rather than “I’m keeping my baby.”

A birthparent should never feel forced into making an adoption plan. A reputable adoption agency will help parents reach their own decisions about their hopes and dreams for their child.