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Adoption Lists


Email lists are a way for a group of people with the same interests to exchange topic- or subject-specific email messages. Messages sent to the list are stored centrally on the list server and distributed from there to all list members.

Email lists can be a wonderful source of support, ideas, community, and fun. They can also be worse than the worst spammer. Message overloads can slow down our systems, crash our email programs, and drive us crazy! It's a true love-hate relationship.

The adoption community thrives on shared experience. We are supportive and encouraging of each other as any well-run email list will prove, but we - subscribers and owners - need to use them wisely and well.

Here at Adoption.com, we have a wide selection of email lists for every group and interest. And the last time I ran a search at Yahoo! for adoption-related lists, there were more than 1200! And this isn't the only email list service used by our community... ListBot, and L-Soft are just a couple of the others, and many lists are handled privately with individual email software.

Getting the most out of an email list means selecting one to meet your needs, finding a well-run list, and learning to manage your messages - incoming and outgoing.

Types of lists

There are basically two types of email lists:

Announcement lists are simply email notifications from the list owners about news affecting the area of interest. This can be site updates, policy updates, or news of upcoming events. These lists operate one-way only: from the list owner(s) to the subscribers.

Discussion lists allow all members to exchange email messages with all other members. Some of these lists are moderated, which means that messages exchanged are monitored for inappropriate content. List moderators can either screen messages individually before they reach the subscriber group, or they can contact those who violate list rules after the message has been sent to the list.

A list to meet your needs

To find that special list that meets your criteria, you'll want to define what you're looking for and what type of list suits you best. Have an idea of the basics before you start:

  • Is there a specific topic you want to discuss?
  • Who you want to discuss it with?
  • Do you want a moderated list or not?

You may want an unmoderated list for parents who have adopted or wish to adopt from a specific country. You may be looking for a closely moderated adoptees-only list. You might feel most comfortable with a loosely moderated list for birthmothers over the age of 50. Or you may want a list open to all voices in the adoption community.

Email list operators

Everyone, from the biggest information-delivery Web sites to an individual, can (and does) run a mail list.

Adoption infoterias

"Infoterias" is my own word for the big sites that serve up a wide range of adoption information to all segments of the adoption community. Some of these sites operate announcement lists to keep you up to date with what's going on, but do not usually operate discussion lists.


Groups like Concerned United Birthparents (CUB), Families with Children from China, Bastard Nation (to name a few), operate email lists. Check out their Web sites for information about membership (some have membership fees) and email lists. Most of these lists are for members only.

Reunion registries

Many reunion registries sponsor email lists for those who have posted their information. The best lists can usually be found through registries with a specific focus, such as a particular state, maternity home, or religious affiliation, that narrows the scope of the discussion.


Most email lists are operated by individuals who determined a need from within their own adoption experience. These lists tend to be very specific in focus and, for the most part, they are closely moderated. Lists can be found to meet almost every interest area from single parent and transracial adoption, to failed reunions and frustrated searches. There are even anti-adoption lists.

Picking the right list

When you find a list that sounds interesting, read the description. List owners are usually very specific in describing their ideal target audience, and this information often includes the current number of members.

Contact the list owner or moderator. If you have questions beyond the information provided, don't hesitate to ask the person(s) who set up the list. Even if the list is not moderated, someone is responsible for its management.

Try it out. Lurking is one of the great Internet pastimes. When you join a list, you may want to watch and read the interaction between members until you feel comfortable enough to join the discussion. If you don't feel the list is a good "fit," unsubscribe! There's nothing worse than getting overloaded with email you don't want!

A well-managed list

Sometimes it's difficult to know if a list is well-managed or not until you actually subscribe. Here are some signs I look for:

"Subscribe here" page
  • This should include a clear description of who can subscribe, topics discussed, any rules, and at least a mention about the size of the list.
  • If the list is open to advertisements, professional searchers, adoption agency representatives and/or adoption attorneys, this should be stated here.
  • The list should offer the option of receiving mail in detail (every message separately) or digest (messages grouped together) format, with a good description of each option.


  • This is certainly optional, but something I personally appreciate. Before the welcome message, a confirmation message is sent to double-check that you actually did subscribe from the email account where the message is addressed. It will not allow your subscription to start until you respond. It's an extra step when you do sign up for a list, but this is a good indicator that the list owner is cautious and interested in making the list available to those who need/want it, and not leaving it open to spammers.

Welcome Message

  • No more than one! A system that sends duplicate messages may mean that list owners aren't paying attention. And if an automated response is arriving more than once, what will happen when messages begin to flow between list members?
  • Clear instructions on how to unsubscribe!

Handling your list mail

When you find the list(s) of interest to you and complete the subscription process, watch out!

I subscribe to dozens of lists... literally! One has more than 200 messages on a normal day; another sends out messages in digests of 25 each - and I get as many as 10 digests every day! Yet another may only have three messages in a day, but I want to be sure to read each of them the minute they arrive!

Every email client has its own options for handling mail, like filters, downloading headers only, and storing messages in separate folders. And many prefer to use free email accounts from services like HOTMAIL or XOOM just for email list subscriptions.

Where to find a list

Email Lists not right for you? Come talk at our Adoption Forums here at Adoption.com or join us for Adoption Chat!

Credits: by Nancy S. Ashe

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