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Adoption is a journey that begins months, sometimes years, before a child comes home. Only after hours of meeting with social workers, after submitting to a home study, after authorizing background checks and financial verifications, after completing stacks of paperwork—only then do prospective parents actually become “waiting families” and the search for a match truly begins.

The waiting period isn’t just about waiting, though. During this time, agencies often ask adoptive families to create a portfolio—a printed book packed with personal photos and reflections that fully express their values and beliefs. These books serve a critical purpose: Birth mothers, particularly those seeking an open relationship with the adoptive family, use portfolios as a first-line tool in choosing loving homes for their children.

For a closer look at the making of an adoption portfolio, heymama spoke with Tobi Curtis, a nurse in California’s Bay Area who used the Mixbook design platform to create her family’s book. Tobi, along with her accountant husband, Jake, and the couple’s 4-year-old daughter, Avery, are awaiting an adoptive match—and could get a call any day now. Below, Tobi shares more on the family’s experience.

“Jake and I were always interested in adoption, even back when we were dating. In starting our family, we went through two miscarriages and infertility treatment together. We were super lucky that I was able to carry a biological child. After that experience, we started to think, OK, maybe next time around we’ll adopt.

“Jake has some family members who did an open adoption, and the process was amazing—basically two families becoming one big family, all surrounding this child. That’s when we became really serious about adoption, in going the open route.

“There’s a big misconception that children who are adopted are unwanted. Some people talk about birth mothers ‘giving up’ their kids—like they tossed the children away. What we’ve found is that for many birth mothers, it’s an incredibly courageous and kind act. They want the best for these babies, these children they loved and carried. In open adoptions like ours, they are personally choosing the family. They are actively involved.”

The Mixbook adoption book created by the Curtis family

“Our adoption agency requires waiting families to submit a portfolio. It has to be a bound book of certain proportions, and it has to include certain sections. Jake and I talked about this project a lot. While we were going through our home study, we were thinking, OK, the book is the next step. In one respect, it’s the fun part. But it’s also kind of scary because there’s so much at stake. One day I just sat down for seven hours and wrote the whole thing.

“That said, it’s one thing to write the book and choose the pictures, but then to design something that feels like you … that seemed overwhelming. So I asked my friend Angie, who is a designer, to help us out. She introduced me to the Mixbook platform and helped us put it all together. She even did some custom handwriting for us, for the titles and pages, and then we went back and forth and collaborated. The whole process was really simple, which was a huge relief.”

Tobi Curtis, Jake Curtis and their daughter Avery Curtis

“Our adoption book has so much in it. There’s a letter to the birth parent. The book talks about each of us individually, what we do, our hobbies, our likes and dislikes. We talk about our home, about our community, about the people who surround us. We talk about the things we love in life, like travel. We also incorporated some humor in there, which might not be for everybody.

“That’s the thing: Not everyone who looks at your profile book is going to identify with it. When you’re a waiting family, it’s really tempting to be like, What’s going to catch the most attention? But it’s more important to stay true to yourself. Your photo book is not going to be everybody’s favorite; it just has to be one person’s choice.”

Mixbook adoption portfolio with letter to the birth parent

“The letter was probably most important to me. Basically, the main thing we wanted to say to this person—because it’s the first page of our book—is, ‘We need you to know that you are good parent.’ That’s how it starts; that’s the message: Even if you don’t read another page of this, even if you look at our family and immediately know we aren’t the right fit, we want to acknowledge that you’re probably hearing discouraging things right now and facing tough decisions, and we want you to know that we see you as a good parent who wants the best for your child. That was the most important thing for us.”

Mixbook is great because it has a lot of really nice built-in design elements but also allows for customization. Making changes and moving everything around is super easy, and the printing quality is great.

“Our agency keeps 10 copies of our book on hand for different birth mothers who might be exploring their options. And because we’ve been a waiting family for a year, we recently had to make some updates—to our photos, our ages, stuff like that. Mixbook saves our project online and makes it easy to update. We had some new books printed not too long ago and couldn’t be happier.”

Avery Curtis

“We talk to Avery about adoption a lot. We read to her a lot of books about adoption, show her examples of adoption when it’s in a movie or story. She’s very excited about it. Right now she’s calling the baby a ‘brother-sister,’ but it’s pretty obvious she wants a brother-sister who’s a sister—she says she’s naming the baby Girlie. [laughs]

“You know, it’s funny: The no. 1 question I get when I tell people we’re going to adopt is, ‘Why?’ I don’t think they mean to be rude, but the tone is kind of like, Why adoption? What went wrong with you? On the other hand, kids like Avery just accept adoption as natural. Their questions are more practical, like, ‘Where is the baby going to sleep?’ For them it’s like, Of course. There’s going to be a baby, and it’s going to be my brother or sister. There’s no question about why. It’s pretty amazing.”

Photos and custom lettering by Angie Chua of bobo design studio.

About our sponsor: Mixbook makes creating beautiful photo products easy. With its powerful design editor, you can transform what matters most to you into one-of-kind photo products, including books, cards, calendars, and home decor. Combining endless customization with beautiful design, Mixbook allows you to create something that truly reflects your personal style. With its collection of on-trend designer themes and unique templates, you’re sure to find a design you’ll love—or you can create your own from scratch.

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