Adoptive family specialists play an important role in the adoption process. These professionals provide services and assistance as families attempt to navigate the requirements and unique complexities of an adoption. Still, what these specialists do, and who they are, is often a bit misunderstood.
That’s why we’re going to give you a peek behind the curtain into a day in the life of an adoptive family specialist. As you’ll see, these are amazing people performing difficult jobs, all in service of adoptive families. At the core of their work is the belief that everyone who dreams of being a parent should have the opportunity to see that dream fulfilled.
From the mundanity of legal paperwork to the excitement of an adoption placement, an adoptive family specialist’s day is full of ups and downs. You never quite know what the next hour will bring. Throughout the 9–5 workday and outside of normal work hours, these specialists are on the grind, doing everything they can to create new families.
Here’s a little glimpse into what one of these days might look like.
7:00 — Get the Kids out the Door
Adoptive family specialists are people too. Before they can get the work day started, they have their own families to take care of. This is worth mentioning because, sometimes, it’s easy to see the professionals we work with as just professionals. If you are working with an adoptive family specialist, keep in mind that they are people with unique lives and responsibilities, just like you.
Even during these early-morning hours, it’s not uncommon for a specialist to take a call from a family in a delicate part of the process, like traveling to the hospital to meet the birth mother and baby. Adoptive family specialists often make the difficult choice to sacrifice parts of life outside of the office, like working with a family in-between dropping the kids off at daycare and heading to work.
8:00 — Time for Coffee
The American Adoptions kitchen coffee pot is the hottest spot in the office at 8 a.m. Coworkers gather around for the much-needed caffeine and chat about what each has in store for the day. This is a friendly office where coworkers genuinely care about each other, which is a part of why American Adoptions is able to serve families so well. There’s a whole team here that supports each other in our efforts to support you.
As soon as you get your turn to top-off your cup, it’s straight to emails. An adoptive family specialist sees an average of more than 50 emails a day. The majority require a considered response in a short amount of time. If it’s a Monday morning, it’s not uncommon to open your browser to more than 50 emails from the weekend. Welcome to Monday! In this line of work, the important stuff rarely follows a traditional work schedule.
9:00 — Social Work Meeting
It takes collaboration to make adoptions happen. The team of specialists at American Adoptions meets at least twice a week. They share caseloads, talk about particularly tricky situations and create a game plan to serve families even better.
10:00 — APQ Call
Depending on the day, an adoptive family specialist may have one, two or even three scheduled APQ calls. The APQ (Adoption Planning Questionnaire) is when an adoptive family outlines what they would like their adoption process to look like. This includes deciding what they are prepared for (race of the child, medical conditions, openness of adoption) and not prepared for in an adoption opportunity.
These calls are scheduled during the workday, as time outside of office hours is reserved for situations that require a more immediate response, like if a family receives notification that a prospective birth mother is going into labor.
But the APQ call requires more than just the time spent on the phone. Every adoption is unique because every family is in a unique situation. An adoptive family specialist will take time to prepare for the call by learning about the family — where they are from, what they hope for, why they are adopting and more. This preparation takes time and mental energy. So even though an APQ call may be scheduled for 10 a.m., it takes time outside of this hour as well.
11:00 — More Emails
Our adoptive family specialist has spent two hours away from her computer; one hour with coworkers and the other helping a family. During that time, her inbox has been piling up. There are new needs and new developments — a family is traveling to the hospital, another family has questions about waiting for the right adoption opportunity and an attorney wants to talk about a delicate adoption situation.
What do you do first? It’s all up to the adoptive family specialist’s judgement. That’s why it is so important to have experience — American Adoptions has been serving families for more than 25 years, and many of our adoptive family specialists have been here for a significant amount of time. This hour of their day is spent prioritizing. Based on their experience and expertise, they know who needs help first. Ultimately, the goal is to help everyone.
12:00 — Lunch, Kind Of
It’s a rare day when an adoptive family specialist enjoys a full lunch without multi-tasking. Typically, it’s a packed lunch pulled from the office fridge. On a lucky day, a group of adoptive family specialists may step out together to enjoy lunch out at a restaurant. Even though there’s technically an hour for lunch, it’s rarely taken in full.
However, more common than having lunch with coworkers is working right through lunch altogether. Whether that means accomplishing personal tasks or getting caught-up on work, an adoptive family specialist may need to use this time chip away at the to-do list.
1:00 — Post-placement Follow-up
Back to work!
The adoption process may technically end with a final decree of adoption, but the lifelong journey is just beginning. We’re there for all of it.
The adoption specialists at American Adoptions provide support for years after placement. This means that in addition to the active families they are serving, they are also fielding questions and updates from hundreds of families about post-placement life.
Sometimes these are great updates about how amazing a child is doing. Other times a family may be in a hard situation and seeking help. Responding to all of this takes time and effort, as adoptive family specialists often fill the roles of counselor, administrator and social worker all at once.
2:00 — Delivering the Hard News
Then there’s the worst part of the day. Some days it never comes; other days it happens more than once. It often falls on the adoptive family specialist to deliver hard news to a family. This may mean a miscarriage has occurred, or an adoption has disrupted. Whatever the cause, it’s never easy to make a call that turns a family’s world upside-down.
The emotional impact of a disruption on a family is immeasurable. There’s also a serious effect on an adoptive family specialist. No one does this job unless they care. When a family is mourning, it weighs heavily on their adoptive family specialist.
Delivering this news, and then doing everything possible to bring a family back to a good situation, is one of the most challenging parts of the day.
3:00 — Delivering the Good News
Adoptive family specialists also have the honor of giving a family the best news ever. This is what keeps everyone going — the chance to let a family know that they’ve been selected by a potential birth mother, or that they’re only hours away from holding their baby for the first time.
Each day as an adoptive family specialist holds the possibility that you will be a part of creating a new family. The mountains of emails, hours of phone calls and stress from bad news is all bearable because of this opportunity.
4:00 — Resolving as Many Issues as Possible
As the day begins to wrap up and coworkers head toward the elevators, it’s time to put a bow on as many outstanding tasks as possible. This could mean responding to emails, prepping for tomorrow’s APQ call or squeezing in a few more phone calls. It all depends on what is happening on that specific day.
5:00 — Kids, Dinner, Family and Life
After fighting traffic home, it’s time for the rest of life. There are kids’ days to talk about and the spouse’s work to discuss. Then there’s soccer practice and dance recitals and much more. Just like anyone else, an adoptive family specialist has a lot to do when work is done. But unlike most other people, their work doesn’t really end.
Adoption is pesky in that it rarely abides by a typical work schedule. While most adoptive family specialists try to draw a line between work and life, many still find themselves fielding calls at 8 or 9 p.m. from frantic adoptive families who just heard that the prospective birth mother is going into labor, or that there has been some unforeseen complication that needs immediate fixing. Sometimes, along with late-night calls, this means finding someone else to pick up or watch the kids after work, or explaining to a confused son why mom has to stay on the phone and can’t play outside right now.
It can be hard, never knowing when the phone will buzz with an urgent message. That’s the reality for many adoptive family specialists, who work tirelessly to help families.
The Heart of an Adoptive Family Specialist
Are you tired just reading that? An adoptive family specialist does so much in a day. And while this day is an example of what might happen, you never really know. There are great days when you get to help a family finalize an adoption. There are stressful days when an unexpected legal issue takes four hours to resolve. There are also really hard days when an adoption disrupts and you have to help a family cope with some of the worst news they’ve ever received.
Adoptive family specialists do all of this every day because they genuinely, deeply care. Every hopeful parent with dreams of starting a family deserves to see that dream fulfilled, and no one is more intentional about supporting that dream than our adoptive family specialists.
If you’re considering adoption, you should know that an adoptive family specialist is always on your side. They’re a real person, just like you. They want to help. If you are already in the adoption process, this might be a good time to remember how hard your adoptive family specialist is working for you. A kind text or encouraging email can go a long way.
Adoption is beautiful; it is also challenging. It takes a group of people — parents, birth mothers, attorneys, doctors, adoptive family specialists and more — working hard and working together to make it happen. Every person wakes up to a day full of unique obstacles, and the best way to navigate it is with understanding and compassion for each other.
As a family, now that you know what a day in the life of an adoptive family specialist is like, you may be better equipped to find ways to support them, just like they’re working so hard to support you, too.