How to Help an Adopting Family

Some has told you that they are adopting.

Yay!

Now what?

The lack of education and procedure for adopting families makes it hard for people to know how to best support their loved ones, so I have made a list of practical things you can do to help based on our experience and advice from other adopted families.

  1. Be emotional support. Talk to them about the adoption. Listen to them vent without judgement. Let them know that you are cheering them on. All of these things are super helpful, even if they do sound cheesy.
  2. Offer to throw a baby shower, even if the child will be older. Just like a bio child, adopted children change a family forever. It is a huge, fun, frightening step and it is one to be celebrated. Check with the parent to see if they would like to have it before or after the child comes, and make sure to ask how they want to do it. Some might need a lot of things for their new babies, while others may have big families and just need a few new items of clothing or diapers. Make a big deal out of it, because it is! Especially for families that can’t have bio children, they deserve to take part in the traditional “growing family” festivities.
  3. Check in on the parents to see how things are going. Going along with emotional support, checking in along the process to see what they need and how everything is proceeding is a nice gesture. It is a long and slow journey, so having people that care to walk it with you is very helpful.
  4. Drop off dinners after the child comes home, but don’t expect to see the child. Much like a biological child, it can be a tumultuous time after the child comes home. There are a lot of feelings from the child, and the parents are trying to adjust to their new parenting duties. It is super nice to deliver meals so that they have to worry about one less thing. However, unlike when parents have babies, don’t expect to stick around and give snuggles. Adopted children need time to bond with their new parents, they might have severe behavioral problems, or they might just get overwhelmed with a lot of company. Don’t take it personally, they really appreciate the gesture, but just drop the meal and go.
  5. Give them space and time while they are welcoming their new child. Also don’t take it personally if you don’t hear from the family for a while. They are going to be busy and overwhelmed for a while, so just shoot them a text and don’t be too worried if they can’t hang out or talk. Just let them do their thing for a while, things will calm down and they will be your fun friends again someday.
  6. Find out if the parents need anything for the child (furniture, clothing, toys, carseats, highchairs, etc.) and reach out to the community to see if you can find any of the things for them. Depending on the situation, the adoption might go through really quickly and the parents might have very little time to gather supplies for their child. Parents often don’t know the age or gender of the child they will be getting, so gathering supplies ahead of time can become additionally difficult. If you hear that a child is coming, ask the family what they need and reach out to your community to see if anyone has something for cheap or free.
  7. Educate yourself about appropriate and inappropriate questions you can ask, as well as some common foster/adopting lingo. There is an amazing book called In On It by Elizabeth O’Toole (find it here) that can get you started, but educating yourself about common behavioral or emotional issues that come with adoption will allow you to be a good ally to parents. If you understand trauma and abuse, you will be more empathetic toward the children. This will also keep you from saying something insensitive and embarrassing yourself, the child, or your friends.
  8. Ask the parents before you say anything to a child! Don’t automatically assume the parents have told the child that they are adopted. I would either ask the parents how to talk to the child or hold your tongue. This includes saying anything about the birth parents in front of the child. (For example, if you know that they were taking drugs while they were pregnant, don’t talk about it in front of the child).
  9. Don’t talk negatively about the birth parents at all. No matter how old the child was when they were adopted, they will always love their bio parents. Never ever talk negatively about their birth parents in front of them, just like you would never talk negatively about anyone’s parents.
  10. Offer to come and clean. It can get crazy with a new child, so like when people have a bio child, just coming over for a bit and doing the dishes or folding a load of laundry is a very sweet gesture.
  11. Offer to babysit for a night out. They might turn it down depending on the severity of behaviors and attachment disorder, but they might also desperately need a break.
  12. Help raise money. Domestic adoption can be fairly inexpensive, contrary to the popular assumption, but international adoptions or private adoptions can be ridiculously expensive. Setting up a Go Fund Me page can be super helpful in these situations.

If you have not noticed, a lot of these could also be applied to bio children. The important thing to remember is that parents of adopted children are working to undo years of trauma and abuse in many cases, so it is important to be empathetic and sensitive to the needs of the child and the family. And every situation is different! Some families might have very little adjustment while others take years to mesh. If you are still wondering what you can do to help a family, just ask! And make sure they know that you really mean it when you say that you want to help. Even before doing things on this list make sure to ask and make sure they are appropriate for their situation. Good luck!

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