Did you know November is National Adoption Month? We’ve adopted our two children and we have built up quite the community of friends who have adopted either domestically or internationally. Our most recent adoption was in September when we brought home an almost-two-year-old! As soon as we announced our news, the question we got over and over was “how can we help”. I thought I’d share a few ways you can support your friends who are either waiting to adopt or recently brought home a child.
How to Support Your Friends Who are Adopting
Positive Adoption Language
The number one way you can support adoptive families is to do some research on positive adoption language. If you’re unsure of how to word something, or if a question is appropriate, start your statement with that. “Is it okay if I ask…” or “What’s the correct term for XYZ”.
Language is the vehicle we use daily to communicate our ideas and notions about the world we live in. And although we might not be aware of it, there is also a subtext to the words we choose, reflecting our values in subtle ways, even when we aren’t consciously trying to do so. Words have a way of shaping our beliefs and thought processes.
Adoption can be an emotion-driven topic, and sometimes we fail to realize that word choice in certain contexts may convey unintended negative messages. – AdoptMatch
A few choice terms that will be helpful to know: “birth parent” and/or “birth mother” are the first I’d recommend committing to memory. It may seem like it’s not a big deal to ask “is his dad tall?”, but in reality, the adoptive dad is “his dad”, if you’re curious about his genetics, ask about his “biological” or “birth” family. On that note, in many adoptive cases, the adoptive parents may not know or may not want to disclose information about the birth parent, particularly the birth father.
BraveLove is a great resource to learn terminology about birth mothers.
BraveLove’s goal is to show how adoption is an amazing act of love and courage.
If you’re close enough to the family to offer to organize some tangible support for them, there are several practical and logistical things you could do to coordinate incoming support from others.
- Host a shower or coming home party (either in person or online)
There are mixed opinions about having a shower during an adoption wait. With our first adoption, we opted to have a regular baby shower about a year into our wait. We registered for gender-neutral items and all the essential baby things like car seats and such. For some couples, having a fully stocked house with no child to use those items makes the wait harder. For others, the pre-planning and organizing give them something to focus on as they patiently wait for “the call.”
After our son was born, we also had a “sip and see” with family and friends as an easy way for people to meet the baby. Granted this was our first child, who is now four.
2. Coordinate a care calendar or meal train
For many people, the time between the official call and bringing a child home is very short, so it’s not possible to prepare in traditional ways like making freezer meals. It’s very beneficial if friends can rally around the family and provide them with gift cards to places like DoorDash or bring them homemade meals. Also, if they have other children or household duties, some of the sites allow you to offer help in those ways.
I know one family who had 48 hours’ notice to go pick up their son in another state. They didn’t even have a nursery ready. Their friends had a key to their house and went to buy a crib and other nursery essentials, and set it all up for them.
There are several websites that can help facilitate care calendars and meals:
Speaking of travel, did you know you can donate your unused mileage points to your friends? While we were approved and waiting on our first adoption we were holding on to every travel point we’d accumulated. Our adoption license was for anywhere in the United States. We knew at any minute we might have to buy plane tickets or book a hotel stay. Our son ended up being born right outside of DFW so we only used those points for a few nights in a hotel.
While we were gone, someone came to our house to feed our pet. These are the types of last-minute logistics that are often overlooked. So now I know to offer to be the person who is on stand-by to get the mail, walk a dog, or similar tasks.
A fellow adoptive family who needed to travel for an extended period of time suggested you could do very practical things around their house, like offering to mow their lawn while they are gone.
Remember the older sibling(s)
Taking placement of a new child can often be a whirlwind experience for a family, including older siblings. If you’re sending gifts or offering support remember the other kids. We’ve personally offered to take older siblings to the park and other adventures with us, as a family is getting used to a new addition. Especially if you have children around the same age. With our second adoption, I really appreciated people who sent gifts for both kids. My four-year-old was much more aware of the volume of gifts showing up and some days the jealousy monster was very present.
As any family grows, gift-giving is a fairly obvious way to show your support. I’ll add three tips: hand-me-downs were very much appreciated, don’t forget you can offer the gift of your time AND please buy items from their registry if they have one.
I had way more than nine months to prepare for my first baby. During my wait, I did so much research on particular bottles, diapers, swaddles, and all the other essentials. The amount of time I spent curating my wishlist was comical. Which made me all the more excited when I received a gift that came recommended by whichever book/blog/email list I’d pulled from.
I also can not overstate how appreciative we were of hand-me-downs, particularly clothing. Because we did not know the gender ahead of time for either of our children we were not able to watch for sales and start collecting a wardrobe as other parents can. Also, because the timing is unclear there’s no way to know what season you might need. And let’s not forget that baby clothes can be expensive! Accepting money from friends may not be something adoptive parents feel comfortable with, but saving on future costs is a nice benefit of reusing clothes.
One friend asked for clothing after finding out their baby was a different gender than anticipated!
We had an unexpected last-minute switch in the sex of the baby – same baby just turned out to be a girl when we had been told boy. We already had a boy child and lots of boy items. I put out a call to friends and neighbors for baby girl clothes as soon as we found out we were taking placement. Every day I would come home from work to boxes and bags of clean folded baby girl hand-me-down items. It was such a wonderful welcome.
I’m sure these things happen to other couples, but uncertainty is a common thread in families built (or expanded) through adoption.
And last, but not least, if you’re handy or you have a particular skill that you can offer during an adoption wait the gift of time is often overlooked. Because our approval period was almost two years, we had plenty of time to do every Pinterest craft we could come up with to over-decorate our nursery. A few friends hand-made items to match the nursery decor. It’s so fun as the kiddo gets older to tell them their favorite blanket with sewn by a friend across the country!
If you have adopted or have supported a friend through their adoption what other ways do you recommend friends and family can be helpful?