Guest post by the CCAI Post-Adoption Team
The sprint to adoption is filled with paperwork, prayer, fundraising, classes. But once a child comes home, the post-adoption marathon begins. Here’s how to support adoptive families over the long haul.
God doesn’t call every family to adopt.
But He does call us all to care for orphans and widows—which also sometimes means walking alongside the adoptive family to provide love and support along their journey.
Adoptive families choose to adopt. They have invested emotionally and financially—not just dollars, but countless hours of paperwork, tears, and prayers, milestones, and setbacks—in their conscious decision to bring an orphan into their hearts and home. They have also done a tremendous amount of preparation and education. And they commit to serve as a lifelong advocate for their child.
But oftentimes, these families struggle after bringing their child home. Their child is often coming from a hard place of trauma, neglect, and possibly abuse.
What happens when these families struggle?
Many parents are reluctant to seek help. They say to themselves, “I chose this path and worked hard to adopt this child. How can I admit that I need help?”
But the reality is that most adoptive families will struggle for weeks, months, or even years. And they need a post-adoption support team. A village who walks alongside them and, most importantly, jumps in to help the family, even without being asked. A support team of family, friends, and especially church community plays an integral role in helping families through the tough moments of their adoption.
How Can the Church Help?
Get started with these 6 post-adoption support strategies.
1. Establish a circle of support for adoptive families.
As advocates for orphans around the world, churches can fulfill their mission by becoming a safe, supportive space for adoptive families once their child is home. This is an opportunity to answer the call to care for orphans! People can make a difference in the life of an orphan by supporting those families who do adopt.
One idea might be to build an adoption group within the Church that seeks to become more aware of the needs of children and adults who have been impacted by trauma. Be educated, be proactive, be prepared, and be responsive to the needs of families. By creating a circle of support, the community empowers struggling families to become their own advocates and gives them an opportunity to reach out for help, confident in the knowledge that they will be understood and supported.
And don’t underestimate the power of prayer! Pray for the family constantly, and let them know you are praying for them!
2. Create connections.
When families experience isolation, they may struggle in silence; they may be emotionally drained and feel like they are sinking in quicksand. They need connections to people and experienced families within the Church that are available to listen and offer concrete and emotional support. This kind of one-on-one support shows the family they are not alone in their journey and offers a lifeline when needed.
3. Organize volunteers.
Churches can create a network of willing volunteers who can walk alongside the adoptive family to provide tangible support. Some of the most helpful ways to help:
- Provide meals or restaurant gift cards to families.
- Help with house cleaning or laundry.
- Offer to care for other children in the home or invite them for playdates.
- Buy groceries for the family or arrange to have them delivered.
- Offer to transport other children in the home to and from school or activities.
- Be available to provide respite care if needed.
- Be available for any call for help from the family.
4. Form adoption support groups.
Support groups can provide adoptive families with key connections to others who can share their own experiences and suggestions. Parenting an adopted child comes with its own unique set of challenges that often are only understood by other adoptive families. Just connecting with other adoptive parents and having a safe place to discuss these issues can tremendously help struggling parents.
Mental/emotional health professionals and/or social workers within the Church or community might be willing to share their time as a support resource for the group. Book clubs and reading groups are another fantastic way to open conversations about tough topics and to reassure families they are not alone in their challenges.
5. Throw an adoption-focused shower.
Most adoptive children have experienced some sort of trauma prior to their adoptions. When seeking to treat this trauma, a sensory approach promotes calming and self-regulation while teaching children positive ways to deal with stress, anxiety, and other charged emotions. Support groups could host an adoption shower, focusing on sensory items such as weighted blankets/items, fidgets, chews, tunnels, water/sand tray and toys, small trampoline, etc.
Check out this great blog full of ideas by Anna Fader.
6. Be present.
The impact of a lifeline can be far-reaching!
Once, CCAI worked with a family who experienced significant struggles following their adoption of a very traumatized 13-year-old boy. The adoptive mom recalls calling her pastor in the middle of a terrible night when her son’s rage was frightening the other children in the home. The pastor came to the family’s home and provided a calm presence and much-needed emotional strength until the child was able to calm down.
This family is thriving today, and their adoption is a success! By being present and engaging with a struggling family in a dark hour, the pastor provided the family with the support they themselves needed in order to support their child.
It really does take a village to raise a child! The adoption process itself is just the beginning of the journey; the crucial post-adoption support of family, friends, and community is what can empower adoptive families as strong self- advocates and set them solidly on the path of a lifelong successful adoption.