Having been through both the adoption experience and the child birth experience, I found that all kinds of people know how to take care of you after you give birth, but hardly anyone knows the right things to do when you bring home your adopted child. Most people also don't know how to respond appropriately when you tell them that you are adopting in the first place. This is meant to be a guide for the friends and families of adoptive families in the praying/planning/dreaming phase as well as families in process and newly home. Link it up, cut and paste, email it out to your family. I will say all the things to your family that you are afraid to say or maybe that you yourself don't even know that you need yet! (I don't mind being the heavy!)
1. When your loved one comes to you with the news that they are planning to adopt:
•Do not say, "Oh, don't give up trying for 'your own'" or "Don't you want to have one of 'your own' instead? Adoption is not something people enter into lightly. And prospective adoptive families already do consider this child that they do not even know as 'their own'. By saying this to an adoptive family, it insinuates that you will not be accepting their new addition as your 'own' grandchild/neice/nephew/etc. Also- many families that consider adoption have been through long periods of time dealing with infertility and adoption may be a very emotional decision. It signifies the end of one dream and the beginning of a new dream. Supporters need to be very sensitive to this and be positive!
•Share your concerns about the finances of adoption, but do it in a non-judgemental way. Yes, adoption is expensive. But you need to understand that there are grants, fundraisers, and ways to aquire the money. So instead of looking at the people who want to adopt and saying, "Oh my gosh- you are so poor, you will never be able to afford this!" say something like, "I know that this will be expensive, how can we help you plan a fundraiser?"
•Do not recall in gory detail every terrible adoption story you've ever heard. This is the equivalent of telling a pregnant woman that her baby will be born with 12 arms and she will be in labor for 3 weeks and her boobs will fall all the way down to the ground after breastfeeding. Just don't do it.
•If the family is adopting internationally, do not condescendingly talk about how there are so many kids here in America who need home. Each person needs to do what feels right for their family. Sometimes that means adopting domestically, and sometimes that means going international. Either way, a child who needs a home and a family will get one. Focus on that fact and leave your personal opinions about which you think is best to yourself. Remember- they are BOTH awesome (and BOTH necessary!)
2. Once families are in process:
•Check in with the adoptive family's (from here on out called A.F.) emotions! Adoption can be a very emotional process. There are days where you are in the dumps and days when you want to celebrate. Give the A.F. the space to talk about their feelings and their frustrations. When they call super excited and say, "I got my I-171h", pretend like you know what they are talking about and jump up and down and throw a party.
• Throw a baby shower just as if the A.F. was pregnant. Make a big stinkin' deal over the mom to be. Obviously, don't play the how big is your belly game. But do everything else the same!
•Support A.F. fundraisers. They need your help! Better yet- host a fundraising dinner, pancake breakfast, auction, raffle, etc. to help the family raise the money to bring their child home.
•If there are other children already in the A.F. offer to babysit them leading up to traveling so that mom and dad get a few last dates in before the new addition.
•If the adoption is international, educate yourself about the child's birth country.
•If the adopted child will be of a different race, educate yourself about transracial families by reading articles, books, etc. Just googling transracial families will bring up a wealth of information. Also (and no one should do this anyway!) do NOT make derogatory comments about the child's race, birth country, or culture.
•Offer to keep siblings, pets and housesit for the A.F. when they are traveling.
3. Once families are home:
•All the same rules apply as when you bring a baby home from the hospital. Bring food, offer to coordinate meals and food dropoffs for church groups. Come over and clean. Wash clothes and put away laundry. Wash dishes. Do not believe the A.F. when they say they do not need help. THEY DO!
•Respect the A.F's rules regarding holding their new addition. Many families may wish to not have any outsiders (this includes Grandma!) holding their child so that this child who has been with many caregivers can learn who mom and dad are. A.F's do not do this to hurt your feelings. They are only doing what they feel is best for their new child. Do not make them feel bad about this.
•Also- sometimes to foster attachment in our adopted kiddos, the parent's don't want to leave them with a sitter or family member for a long period of time after coming home. Understand that this is not because the family member or sitter is not trusted or loved. It is just to help give the new child the right sense of family and permanance.
•Offer to run the carpool, run errands, cut the grass, babysit the siblings, pick up items at the grocery. New moms are notoriously sleep deprived- even if this is the 10th child they've adopted. Drop over a huge cup of Starbucks. Say hello at the door with said cup of coffee and leave.
•Give gift cards for takeout and pizza- so that long after the food welcome wagon has stopped coming, the family can still eat without having to cook! Seriously- who wants to cook when you've been up all night with a crying baby?
•Even though the A.F. did not give birth, families who are bringing home new children will be exhausted from long nights in the hospital (domestic adoption), long flights or a week or two in a foreign land with a new child who has most likely been screaming non-stop or acting out because the child has no idea what is happening to them. Give the A.F. the forum to share how ragged they are. Do not judge them. Every single part is not going to be perfect. Let them get how hard it all is off their chest without feeling guilty about it.
•Watch for post adoption depression. It is a real thing. Just because a woman isn't flooded with pregnancy hormones, doesn't mean that she can't develop depression. There is a lot of leadup going into an adoption and sometimes the reality is tough and can lead to lots of emotional ugliness. Be supportive.
•Do not expect adoptive parents to be "super parents". I find that there is a huge stigma that adoptive families should have it all together because they "paid a lot" for their children. All families are on a learning curve- no matter how they got their children. Do not be quick to dispense advice if you've never adopted a child (because parenting an adopted child in the early days is a lot different than a biological child), but be quick to say, "How can I help?"- Then be willing to actually help!
•Most of all, share in the joy that comes with bringing a new child into the family!