Supporting Adoptive Families

By Jennifer (Smith) Schuler

No doubt as your child’s school year and accompanying activities get underway, you look around and notice a difference in the cultural makeup of families. The 2010 Census showed that interracial and interethnic married couples grew by 28 percent over the past decade. In addition to marriage, families also become interracial and interethnic through adoption. For families who adopt their children, many of the physical and emotional changes that happen for them are the same as for those who conceive their children biologically. Those who adopt are indeed “pregnant in their heart.”

It can take up to three years to receive an adoption placement. During this time, those who are adopting often need extra support from their families and friends. One of the most helpful ways friends and family can support expectant adoptive parents is to uplift them emotionally and practically. Prospective parents make the same logistical preparations a biologically pregnant couple would, yet deal as well with the emotional rollercoaster that is the adoption process.

If you know a couple or individual seeking to adopt, please don’t be afraid to ask how the preparations are coming or what you can do to help. Know, though, that everyone will handle those preparations, as well as the “wait time” involved in an adoption placement, differently. Some may not wish to discuss many details on a daily basis – perhaps even waiting until the legal revocation period is over to announce the arrival of their child. Others may feel a need to chat more about the adoption process as it goes along, and will want your encouragement when they become frustrated or for you to share their excitement as each new step along the way is accomplished.

In either case, if you are not sure what to say or how to react, the best thing to do is to simply yet tactfully ask the expecting couple or individual. You might say something like, “I know waiting for your child must be tough, and perhaps even filled with frustration from time to time. If you would like to talk about it, I am happy to listen.” Or, “It sounds as though you are very excited now that your paperwork is finished. As you wait for a placement, would it be more comfortable for you if we begin planning your shower now or hold one for you once your baby has been born?”

Sometimes, one of the best showers you can give is a “money shower.” Generally the costs for utilizing an adoption agency’s or a facilitator’s services are significant (in the thousands or even tens of thousands of dollars). Having some of those costs recouped may be very helpful!

Here are additional ideas for how you can be helpful to adoptive parents:

  • Offer to help prepare a baby registry or decorate the nursery (or older child’s room) to the extent that the adoptive couple or individual is comfortable. Although loss surrounding an adoption placement is rare, some prospective parents may not be comfortable preparing a room ahead of time.

    Offer to decorate a nursery for the new arrival!

  • Send a gift card to stores which have items parents will need when their child arrives. Check if those cards can be used for online purchases. This may be a more convenient way for new parents to shop rather than struggling to coordinate trips to a mall around baby’s nap time – especially if they received a placement earlier than expected!
  • Take the expectant parent or parents shopping to all the fun baby or children stores.
  • ‘Fawn’ a bit over the newly expectant couple or individual – “How exciting for you!” It can be very touching and thoughtful for an adoptive parent to have someone ask how their “pregnancy” is going.
  • Call regularly to check in. Ask, “How are you doing with the wait?” Offer to get together just to talk or to help out in some other way.

As an adoptive parent, I know that it helps when family members and friends are supportive of you when you choose to build your family through adoption. I encourage you to celebrate with the adoptive parents you know, and to treat their child the “same” as if he or she had been born from the adoptive mother’s belly. This will help them create a warm, nurturing environment to welcome their new addition!

Are you an adoptive parent who has been helped by family or friends? Are you someone who has helped an adoptive parent? If so, please share your stories and ideas with us!

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