Before CAIRS Solutions was created in 2010, adoption operated on an archaic process centered around pen and ink, faxing, and mailing. Change was necessary, but what caused it?
The short answer is Mark Livings, CEO of CAIRS Solutions, and his experience with adoption.
Before we start, I would love to get some background. I’ve heard wild rumors that you are some sort of computer savant! So, tell us, what were you doing before you started CAIRS Solutions?
[Laughs] I wouldn’t go that far! But information technology is my background and I have been lucky enough to apply it to a number of different fields. It is a rather long story but essentially, I applied technology to a number of different industries including the financial service, insurance, health care, and the consumer packaged goods industries. Some of the work I’ve been fortunate enough to do has changed the world in a small way, others – not so much. But that’s the nature of the tech world.
Healthcare, financial services, consumer goods – why adoption? That is so specific. What motivated you to start this company?
Well about a decade ago, my wife and I adopted our two sons and along that path there were several aspects of the process that made me realize that adoption could not only be more efficient but more secure, as well. Keep in mind, the overall goal of CAIRS is to make life better for everyone: the adoptive family, birth family, the adoptee, and also the caseworker.
Okay, so what was it like adopting in the pre-CAIRS days?
Before CAIRS, birth mothers were not given adequate information in regard to the families they could choose. It was a complete headache for birth mothers because they had very little information and were expected to make a very important decision. Part of this problem was the workload of the caseworker, which our management software has since helped relieve.
The second problem was that as a hopeful adoptive parent, I had very little direction when it came to writing or creating videos about my family. I had no idea what information was valued and had to do a lot of research to find what worked and what should be avoided. This is why we created the Family Marketing Program. It truly benefits everyone when the right information is accessible.
Finally, there was a complete lack of opportunity for me to provide communication to both birth mothers post-adoption. It is important for birth mothers to be informed on the development of the child but in the past, the frequency of communication was so unreliable that we needed to come up with a direct online communication system for both parties, hence the creation of Childconnect.
In your experience, what was the defining moment that made you realize the adoption industry was in need of this particular service?
The defining moment and call to action was when I tried to provide my three-month update to my adoption agency. The day it was due, I called the adoption agency to affirm the process and they informed me that they could not locate the birth mother. This is when I realized that the cruel nature of post-adoption. In some instances, there is very little opportunity for the birth mothers to get updates, which broke my heart. These women gave me the gift of my two sons and I couldn’t fulfill my promise of an open adoption.
Adoption is a very unique industry. So, as a start up in a unique industry, what kind of roadblocks did you have to get through, to get this company where it is today?
The main struggle was introducing technology to an industry that had no technological background, which proved to be a double-edged sword. It turned out that agencies had a remarkable distrust of switching over to an online system which made it hard to seem credible. What allowed us to solve this problem were birth mothers. Over the years, birth mothers became more and more technologically inclined which forced the demand for online adoptive parent profiles.
Now, where do you see CAIRS in the future? Are there any new pieces of software you plan on unveiling in the near future?
There are several things I see evolving for CAIRS in the future. As of this moment the main goal is to evolve expectant mother marketing services, so that these women can connect with agencies that will support them.
I’d also love to evolve our software to the point where they are all accessible via mobile application, while still providing the security standards that we’ve set for ourselves. For example, Childconnect will go completely mobile to increase efficiency however, the balancing act will be making sure that everyone’s location and identity are safe.
What kind of advice would you give to adoptive parents?
Well, first let me say : Take a deep breath, it’s a long process but it will happen. I know, I’ve been there.
I’d also say that it’s important to be educated on the different types of agencies that exist in the adoption realm. There are three main types of agencies: faith based agencies, not-for-profit agencies, and for-profit agencies. No two are the same, there are different costs associated with each one and they will have procedures that differ from one another.
And finally, just take the profile component seriously. This is the only thing that birth moms have to make one of the toughest decisions they’ll ever have to make – so give them the respect of creating a robust, unique profile. That includes video! If you think it’s scary being on camera, imagine placing your child for adoption and only being able to see a couple of pictures and read a couple of paragraphs about the hopeful adoptive family.
I love that last piece there, it couldn’t be more true. Okay, so Mark – last question. What piece of advice would you give to adoption organizations and lawyers.
Look I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – evolve quickly and don’t get left behind. The industry is growing and progressing, and it’s happening very fast. Trust me, you don’t want to be the next Blockbuster.
Well, Mark – we really appreciate you sitting down to talk with us today! We look forward to hearing from you more.
I appreciate you guys taking the time to hear my story! And if you want to learn even more, I’ll be speaking at the Florida Adoption Council conference in Orlando, FL on the 13th of October.