In honor of National Adoption Month, I thought I’d do a post about one of my biggest passions! I am an adoptive and (former) foster parent so I speak out of experience. Adopting and fostering takes a lot of love, dedication and determination to go through what can be an exciting, but exhausting process. My list of “Ways to Help an Adoptive Family” is not exclusive to new placement or the first few months. We go through many changes and there is quite a learning curve in parenting children who have experienced trauma early in life. So, please, take some time out of your busy schedule and plan a way you can help an adoptive family this month.
Ask before you give gifts.
As I type this list, my husband spoke up and said I need to put this first! When we received our last foster placement, we helped the transporter unload the kids and then the stuff started piling in… Each of the kids had several suitcases plus garbage bags full of clothes, toys, craft supplies and many, many trinkets from their last home. It was overwhelming! It took me weeks to sort through it all. Outgrown clothes. Broken toys. There was so much the kids could not even remember which thing belonged to which of them (causing TONS of fights in an already stressed out household). The chaos settled once we got things sorted and implemented a good chore system. But soon birthdays and Christmas came around. They received gifts from the county, from our agency, from our families, from their biological families and then additional organizations pitched in with more goodies.
While it was all done by well-meaning people, the “blessing” was more of a curse to our overwhelmed and overstimulated kids. Before you go out and buy gifts for the new family member (s), please ask what is actually needed. Most of the kids were very happy with just a simple stuffed animal. The older kids cherished the toys they had earned with our chore system much more than the ones given them. This connects with my next point…
Bring gifts for the whole family.
If you buy a gift for the new kid(s), please buy (equal) gifts for the kids already in the home. Most kids are really excited to have a new sibling, but jealousy starts to fester when all the attention and presents are for the family addition. Adopting or fostering is a BIG adjustment for everyone. As much as you can encourage family harmony, please do so. I suggest gifts that promote family time like age-appropriate board games or gift cards to local, kid-friendly places.
Meals are a welcome gesture when everyone is still getting acquainted. It is such a freedom for a growing family to have that extra bonding time. Best practice on this gift is to, again, ask first. Adjusting to a new diet or new way of eating can be traumatic for a child who has just moved so be sure to ask the parents for ideas. If in doubt, a gift card to a local restaurant is usually welcome!
Shop for groceries.
Packing up a large group of kids (or even a single baby for that matter) is quite an ordeal. Many of the kids we had in our home had never seen the inside of a grocery let alone how to act in one. After a time (or two) of broken items as little hands reached out from the cart and small people bolted in front of passing cars, I resorted to doing the shopping after bedtime. Someone to shop for me (or to watch kids so I could shop) would have been wonderful!
Ask of they need any errands run like picking up toothbrushes, diapers or toilet paper, dropping off packages at the post office or filling the car with gas. The little things add up quickly!
Help with household chores.
It doesn’t take long for dishes and laundry to pile up! There may be leaves to rake, sidewalks to clear or grass to mow. Offer to help or, better yet, just show up willing to work. When you add another person to the family there will be an increase in everyday messes!
There are lots of appointments when you add a new child to the family. New doctors, county or agency meetings, counseling, visitations… the list goes on. Good, reliable babysitting is hard to come by for adoptive parents. Check with the expectant family if there are any restricts such as the sitter must be over 18 or have a background check.
Transport kids to sports, school or church events.
Juggling the schedule of the “new” kid can make the other kids feel pushed to the backburner. It can mean a lot to a busy adoptive family to have some help keeping the social life of the rest of the family going even if the new baby or child needs time to attach in the quiet environment of home. Driving the family’s older kids to sports, band, church activities, homeschool co-ops, field trips, etc. can be a blessing to an adoptive family.
Be a listening ear.
Sometimes we just need a listening ear or a shoulder to cry on. All parents have those days where nothing seems to go smoothly or the kids are especially out of hand. Be that nonjudgmental friend you can call when overwhelmed or stressed. Be available even if you don’t have advice to give or feel inadequate for the problems adoptive families face. Visit as often as you can. It can be lonely as an adoptive or foster family settling into a new “normal.” Make a point to support the family and spend time with them!
Thank you for joining me at mom2mom.info. Please leave a comment with other ideas for helping adoptive families.