Letters of Reference, Part Two: More about the actual letters

31 Oct

Yesterday I wrote about how we chose the people we asked to write our letters of reference, but we still had lots of questions once we decided on our three references. 

What should the letters say?
Are you allowed to read them? Are you allowed to make suggestions? Are you allowed to answer questions? Can you provide samples?

Photo courtesy of
courtesy of ‘mpclemens’

The rules may be different from state to state or even agency to agency, but our letters of reference had to be sent via USPS to our home address. They were to be sealed and addressed to “Social Worker”.  They also had to be notarized.

Note that the letters are to be sealed. If it’s important to you that you get to read them first, discuss it with the people you ask to submit them. Perhaps they won’t mind sharing with you. This might not honor the intent of the agency’s request, but nothing in our paperwork specified that the prospective parents could not read them. So, give it some thought … but do what feels right to you.

We didn’t ask to read them, but we did say that if the letter writer wanted us to read them that we would. Two of references sent them to us in advance, and one did not.

We did answer questions for all three of our references. They were simple questions (like, “What year did you meet?”), though. I’m not sure what we would have done if the questions were harder (like, ”What should I say are the qualities that will make you good parents?”). We thought a lot about who to ask so we were pretty confident we wouldn’t get questions like that, but I guess we would have given some vague ideas and hoped for the best. Remember, you want the letters to be heartfelt recomendations – not boiler plate language that will sound like you wrote them yourself.

There are a couple of key elements that should be included in each of the letters. I found this summary on The Labor of Love:

An adoption recommendation letter should include information about how you know the person that you are recommending. It should tell how long you have known them, and in what capacity. It should talk about the person’s strengths, qualifications, and any other skills that you have observed. You should discuss their character, their contributions to the community, their accomplishments, their dependability, and their consistence. You should summarize the types of interactions that you have seen the person have with children, whether they are your children or whether they are other children. You should also discuss the persons temperament and attitudes about child rearing. Finally, you need to summarize the adoption recommendation letter with why you recommend the person, and how fully you recommend them.

Even after all that, we still wondered about two things: could we provide sample letters and should we share some instructions (like the description above) in order to make it easier for people to start the task?

Trackbacks and Pingbacks

  1. Adoption Letters of Reference, Part Three: Asking our References | Sweet Little Nest - November 1, 2011

    [...] I have discussed, we had a lot of questions about who to ask and how to write to our adoption letters of reference. Once we had chosen our references and basically figured out [...]

Leave a Reply