Adopting a child is a joyful event. When a couple or family makes sure that children have a family that will care for them forever, it is a life-changing gift. And this gift can be multiplied when the whole community comes together in support of blended families.
However, adoption can also trigger strong emotions on all sides. All children face difficulties with emotional, social and cognitive development; making or keeping friends, and; academics (and adoption can amplify these issues). Any children already in the home can also experience difficulties as they adjust to the new family member. Even parents who have done their homework and are well prepared for the challenges that come with adoption can have feelings they don’t expect. It’s important to manage expectations and to realize that challenges are a normal part of the process.
When communities offer adoptive parents strong support, many of the challenges above can be turned into positive experiences. If you know of a non-profit or charitable organization in your community that offers services to adoptive families, consider what you can do this holiday season to help.
Adoption Support Services
At the Exchange Family Center, we offer workshops for parents and caregivers that emphasize creating a positive environment where children feel safe to express their emotions. We also discuss recommendations for teaching kids to manage their feelings and to develop healthy outlets for emotion. All of these workshops and services support all types of families and children, including adoptive families and children.
Here is a list of the types of services to look for if you’re considering adoption or have recently adopted a child. You may find the following services valuable:
Sessions to help children and youth process feelings of loss or grief related to the adoption.
Sessions to help parents build trust and attachment with their children.
Programs, support groups, or sessions to help families heal from childhood trauma.
Programs and support groups to help older children and youth explore questions of identity (“Who am I? How am I like and different from my parents?”)
Programs and workshops to help children succeed in school.
Sessions and programs to help children and families learn more effective ways to respond to stress.
Strategies and sessions to help children and adoptive parents navigate safe and positive connections with birth relatives.
Programs to prevent crises that can result in adoption, disruption, or “rehoming.”
Types of Services
Different types of adoption support services exist in many communities and many of these services are available free of charge. These may include the following:
Mental health counseling or therapy
Support groups for parents or youth (face-to-face or online; for all adoptive families or specific to the child’s culture, identity, or special needs)
Workshops, seminars, and publications
Camps and other social events for children, parents, and families
Birth parent search and reunion support
Every family is unique and has its own unique strengths and challenges. To get the kind of support adoptive families need, it’s important to find service providers who understand both adoption-related issues and your family’s particular needs. For assistance finding support in your community ask one or more of the following:
Your adoption agency
Your doctor or your child’s doctor
Other adoptive parents and local support groups
Your employer’s human resources (HR) department or employee assistance program (EAP)
Your state post-adoption services contact, which you can find through the National Adoption and Foster Care directory—there’s even an app (check out the National Foster Care & Adoption Directory)
Here, in North Carolina, the State Foster Care and Adoption Program Manager is Erin Baluyot. She can be reached at (919) 527-6369 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. If you are here in DUrham, you would reach out to https://www.ccfhadoptionsupport.com/.
Adopting a child and giving him or her a secure and loving home is one of the most generous ways to give back. As an adoptive parent, you are literally saving a life. Remember to take time out to celebrate YOU and to show appreciation to yourself for all that YOU do. For example, schedule time to take a walk in nature, write in a journal, or treat yourself to your favorite dessert. Self-care is important for all parents. When caregivers take time for themselves to continue doing their amazing work, everyone benefits.
Also, remember that every family has its ups and downs. Adoption support services can help your family enjoy the ups and survive the downs. Don’t shy away from reaching out and asking for the support you need.
During this season of giving, whether you have adopted a child, are considering adopting, or know of a family with adopted children, consider what you can do make the season brighter. If you missed your chance to Adopt a Family for Christmas this year, don’t worry! There is still time to give to our Angel Tree or Make a Donation to our end of year campaign. Will you help EFC spread the love this holiday season?
Parts of this blog article were adapted from the 2018 Prevention Resource Guide from the US Department of Health and Human Services’ Children’s Bureau. You can download this and other tip sheets by at childwelfare.gov.