10 Ways to Support Adoptive Families
My husband and I are adoptive parents, and so I wanted to take a moment to share some thoughts for the month of November, which is Adoption Awareness Month. As with any family, bringing home a new addition is a time of transition. We are blessed with a wonderful community who supports and encourages us in our parenthood. Over the years, as we’ve brought home our children, many people have asked us how they can help. In the moment, it has been hard to think of ways, so I’ve compiled a list to have on hand. While bringing home an older child through adoption can have a different set of challenges from bringing home a newborn, I think that many of the supportive roles of friends and family can remain.
I’ve come up with a list of ideas of ways to help new foster/adoptive families. Again, I am beyond grateful for all the love and support we’ve received during this process and I can really see and feel the impact it has had as we have grown our family!
1. Set up a meal train for the family. Meal trains are a gift for any family who is welcoming home a new addition. It’s so helpful to have time to bond, without worrying about what’s for dinner.
2. Offer to donate or purchase clothing or shoes for the children. Foster children may not come with anything or they may have clothing that either does not fit them or is not appropriate for that season. When children pass through the foster care system, often times their belongings, if they even have any, are transported in black trash bags. I cringe at the lasting impact on these children, of seeing their stuff as trash and thus an extension of themselves as trash. Donating clothing and shoes can be a relief to new parents, as it relieves them of both the added cost and time spent shopping.
3. Ask if they need age-appropriate toys. Often times, foster families can be placed with children very quickly, which leaves little time for preparation. Clothing and shoes, let alone bedding, is a scramble to purchase and toys are often lower on the list of necessities. I’m not only speaking of plastic play toys, but also puzzles that can be helpful for individual break time and board games to help with family bonding. Also, bikes and outdoor toys are very helpful. Remember, used items are still considered a “new toy” to these children.
4. Offer to take other kids already in the home out for play dates. As with any new addition, the attention to that new child can be hard for the children who were already in the home. Taking them out for some special time is important for them but also allows the parents to bond with the new child at home as well.
5. Call to check in and really listen. Sometimes parenting adoptive children can be the same as parenting birth children, and sometimes it isn’t. Adoptive parents, like anyone, sometimes just need to vent. I know that we all try to help each other by sharing advice, but please remember that sometimes all of us moms just want to be listened to and aren’t asking for advice.
6. Please don’t ask for details about the new child’s life. As their parents, we’ve been entrusted with guarding and protecting our children. As an adoptive mom, when people ask about my children’s “story,” I usually respond that it’s their story to tell, when and if they choose to share it.
7. Offer to help clean the house or fold the laundry. Again, who has the time or energy for cleaning or laundry, when you’re bonding with a new child? This is something people usually think about providing for moms with new infants, but please think to do it for moms who just brought home any new child.
8. Offer to help get the room/house ready for the child. Sometimes foster/adoptive families get only a few days to prep before the children are brought home. We’ve had as little as one day to prep the house, including buying and building a bed and dresser. My husband’s friends came over and built the bed and dresser in an evening, while I ran around getting things like sheets, pillows, towels and toothbrushes purchased and ready.
9. Everyone loves a rocking chair. Perhaps you have a rocking chair that the family could borrow to see if their child enjoys it before they purchase one. Kids of all ages can be soothed in rocking chairs. Often times, foster children have missed out on special moments like being rocked to sleep or being tucked in and sung to before bed. It’s a beautiful gift to go back and fill in those missed moments, and can really help with the bonding process for both the child and parent.
10. Finally, a simple smile and hug can go a long way. As with any parent, a simple reminder that we’re all in this together can turn any day around.
No matter how children come home, there are periods of transition, sleepless nights, and beautiful moments of bonding. Prayers are always appreciated as families grow and develop together! No matter how we have become parents, one thing remains a necessity; for us to support and encourage instead of compare and isolate each other.
Copyright 2018 Courtney Vallejo. All Rights Reserved.
Image Credit: 2018 Karen Padilla. All Right Reserved.