The process of adoption can be challenging, time consuming, emotionally draining and expensive.
Bainbridge Island resident, entrepreneur and adoptive parent Erin Quick knows that from personal experience. She also knows that it doesn’t have to be that way, thanks to an adoption matching app.
A self-matching platform
That’s why Quick, along with Justin Friberg, a Seattle-area entrepreneur, started building PairTree — an online self-matching platform that connects families hoping to adopt a child with expectant mothers who want their baby to be adopted — in 2020.
While some work was put on hold when the COVID-19 pandemic hit in March of that year, Quick kept her great idea moving where she could. Even as she and the rest of the working world waited out pandemic lockdowns and other impacts, Quick launched a private Facebook group where she helped to match families looking to adopt domestically with expectant mothers. More than 500 families joined. And when Quick asked them whether self-matching would be helpful to them, the response was an overwhelming, ‘Yes!’
Responding to a need
In response, Quick hired engineers to start building the platform.
Around the same time, she participated in Techstars, a global investment business that provides access to capital, one-on-one mentorship, a worldwide network and customized programming for early-stage entrepreneurs. Quick credits that organization with helping her close PairTree’s first round of financing in July 2021.
Quick has drawn on her more than 20 years of experience in global brand marketing and her first-hand knowledge of adoption to create a platform aimed at helping families navigate their own adoption process. The PairTree digital adoption platform increases and speeds up connection opportunities between adopting families and expectant mothers. The company also provides a comprehensive, end-to-end adoption experience, from home study approval to matching birth and adoptive parents to completing the state’s legal process of adoption. The platform tailors that three-step process to each adult and child involved, providing guidance to both adoptive families and expectant moms.
A company drawn from personal experience
Quick knows well the financial and emotional toll adoption can take on a family. She and her husband always considered adoption as a potential part of their family journey, but only began actively seeking to adopt after experiencing three miscarriages. Today they are the parents of two children through adoption.
“There’s a pretty significant transition that happens when you adopt, especially when adoption wasn’t the first option,” says Quick. “I feel a sense of honor that I was chosen to be their mother. And until you go through it, you don’t understand the magic and beauty of this.”
Roadblock: The high cost of agency adoption
When Quick began to take a closer look at adoption through agencies, she learned that domestic adoption can take upwards of 24 months and cost more than $60,000. Both the time and cost of agency adoption are steep obstacles for most families hoping to adopt.
Quick also learned that in Washington State, prospective and birth parents do not need to use an agency for an adoption. This is true in many states, although some do require that an agency be involved in the process.
Supporting adoption without an agency
Here in Washington, adopting families can move through the steps of adoption on their own, but many say they want or need guidance through the three basic steps.
Getting a home study completed and approved by a state-certified social worker is the first step.
Next, a family has to find or be matched with an expectant mom. Finally, in the third step, families need to complete the legal process of adoption. Although PairTree does guide users through each step of the process, its main focus is on matching prospective families with expectant mothers.
A family hopes for connection
Kat and her husband Collin (last names withheld for privacy) started their adoption journey in July 2022. The couple looked into agencies first, but were floored by the high cost and what they felt was an “old-fashioned” approach. An adoption attorney friend put them in touch with Quick. So far, PairTree has helped the couple through their home study and into the next step of matching with an expectant mom.
“Erin is amazing and super accessible, responsive and helpful,” says Kat. “The reason she started the company is that she has been through this. She gets it. I have felt so supported by her.”
Support for birth moms and expectant people
Kat says she feels confident about an adoption going through because she knows that their eventual birth mom will be coached and supported through the process. In fact, PairTree has the perfect coach for expectant moms on staff – a birth mother who placed her child for adoption. Kat says the fact that families on both sides are guided through building their profiles and given customized advice every step of the way is very encouraging.
“This felt more realistic,” says Kat.
Quick says providing support to the birth families has been an important goal for PairTree from day one. She wants birth moms to feel that they are a part of their kid’s life after adoption and providing them with resources and coaching is essential to that.
“These women are heroes,” Quick says. “This is a heroic feat.”
Adoption matching app extends access
She adds that PairTree has made the adoption option more accessible to many expectant moms with the release of the phone-based adoption matching PairTree app. While not everyone has access to a computer, she explains, the vast majority of expectant moms do have a cell phone, including the high percentage of expectant people interested in adoption who are at or below the poverty line.
Often, expectant mothers seeking adoption are provided a limited number of adoptive families from which to select. In general, birth mothers are presented with the families who have been waiting the longest. That, says Quick, leaves little room for discerning whether the parties connected are truly the best match for each other.
Balancing control in adoption
Conversely, she adds, giving an expectant mom the control over the process and ample choice lays a solid foundation for a long-term relationship between the two families. And that ultimately benefits the child.
“We’re now able to provide a completely modern approach to adoption and we look forward to continuing to support families over the course of a lifetime,” says Quick.
Protecting against the pain of scam
One thing PairTree does not support are scammers. The platform has a security feature which tracks four major markers of adoption scams to help families avoid them. While PairTree does not disclose the markers publicly to ensure their security measures continue to work well, the company does have a staff person review each account to ensure the legitimacy of information.
“That combination has been extremely effective for us – over 96% of the time we flag an account and notify families within 24 hours (and oftentimes much faster),” adds Quick.
The platform’s security protocols also allow PairTree to ban users when scamming is suspected. In fact, most families receive a warning email from PairTree before they even see a message from a potential scammer.
“It is devastating to be scammed,” says Quick.
A company giving where it gets
In work that is all about giving, receiving and caring, PairTree goes an extra mile on the giving side.
The company created its “5% Fund” as a further help to birth parents. The fund donates 5% of net profits from every subscription, every month, to organizations that provide support for birth mothers, such as Lifetime Healing Foundation and Equity Before Birth. And, PairTree is working with Carrot Fertility to provide corporate employee benefits for adoption.
It’s about connections
So far, more than 4,500 prospective adoptive families and 450 biological mothers have registered on the PairTree platform. The company does not share rates of finalized adoptions, although Quick is happy to share that, this far, 130 of 450 registered expectant moms on the site have made active connections.
A different kind of dating
Quick points to the dating platform Bumble as a model for PairTree’s “tracking” focus. Bumble doesn’t track how many marriages come out of its connection service, but rather how many “first moves” happen or how many people reach out to each other.
Likewise adoption matching app PairTree’s measure of success is online engagements – that is, profile views and likes and messages exchanged between those registered on the platform. In its own way, PairTree too is a “dating app” — a platform for parents on both sides of the adoption question to independently see who’s out there and, hopefully, to find their own perfect match.
“We basically built Bumble but for adoption,” says Quick.