It’s National Adoption Awareness Month! Right now approximately 428,000 children are in the American Foster Care System. Over 100,000 of these children are open for adoption. While the focus this month is to raise awareness for the need for foster care adoptions, every year about 18,000 infant adoptions take place in the United States (site 1), and in 2016 Americans adopted slightly over 5,000 children through international adoptions (site 2). The number of international adoptions is steadily decreasing while the number of domestic adoptions remains steady.
While adoptions used to carry with them a stigma or hush hush, it seems like everyone now knows someone who has adopted or who is in the adoption process. Perhaps one of those families is your friend. Now what?
Well, what if your friend was pregnant? What would you do? Offer your “congratulations”? Ask her how she is feeling? Ask about the baby nursery? Plan a baby shower? Take a meal to help the family adjust to the new little one? Offer to come hold the baby while the new Mom has a few minutes to nap? Yes. Yes. Yes. All of the above typically seem appropriate, but what is appropriate when your friend is “giving birth” through an adoption?
Try offering your support and encouragement to your friend through one of these 20 ways.
1. Drop off their favorite beverage or treat – Early on in the adoption process your friend must write, rewrite, and again rewrite their life history. Nothing is left private in the mountain of forms and paperwork that one must submit just to begin the adoption process. Let your friend know that you are thinking about them as they complete the seemingly endless amount of form submissions by dropping off a treat to help them muddle through the stack of paperwork.
2. Ask about the process and the kid – Just as you would ask an expectant mother how she is feeling and about the baby, ask about the adoption process and the potential kiddo. Although the family may not yet have a match with a potential kid, once they do they will appreciate getting to share what they can.
3. Take dinner – A yummy dinner is always a help when you are spending extra evening hours completing paperwork, rushing off to required parenting classes, or even packing to travel (for an international adoption).
4. Select a scripture to pray for your friend – What would encourage you on a journey of waiting? Find a verse(s) of Scripture that you can pray for your friend. Write it down and give to them. Keep it on your refrigerator to remind you to pray for them and their new child.
5.. Offer to babysit – If your friend already has children, offer to keep their children when they prepare for a home study visit, attend a required parenting class, or even just to give them some quiet time to complete paperwork.
6. Gift them a family photo session in their house for home study photos – Most adoptive families have to submit family photos and photos of their home. Gift them a photo session in their home of professional photos they can use for their application and to put together a family photo book.
7. Help them clean and/or organize for a home study visit – Chances are a case worker will be in your friend’s home multiple times as part of the adoption process. Offer to help your friend clean house or organize a closet in preparation for a home study visit.
8. Offer to write a reference letter for them – Most adoption applications and home studies will require multiple letters of reference. Let your friend know that they can count on you to submit a letter of reference in a timely manner.
9. Offer to run an errand (or babysit while they do) – Again, due to the amount of paperwork and caseworker visits and other agency appointments your friend might benefit from you running an errand. Sometimes paperwork must be gathered from an insurance agent, an adoption agency, or the courthouse. Offer to run an errand for your friend while you are out one day.
10. Provide snacks for a home study visit – Most likely your friend will be both excited and anxious about their home study visit(s). They will want to show hospitality to their case worker(s). Help them do so by taking bottled water, coffee, cookies or a healthy snack they can serve during the visit.
11. Ask to see a photo of the child and comment on them as you would a new baby – Once your friend is matched with a kiddo, ask if they can share the photo with you. Take time to “oooh” and “aaah” over that photo just as you would a new baby. Listen while your friend shares about the child.
12. Offer to do their family photo book – If you are a Shutterfly fein, offer to put together the family’s photo book for them! Let your friend send you photos and facts about their family. Then, go to Shutterfly or another photo book site and create a book about their family. Inspiration can be found on Pinterest.com!
13. Don’t offer trite statements. – Chances are if your friend is in the adoption process they are pretty well versed in waiting and faith and getting stronger in it by the day. They likely don’t need to be reminded “God’s timing is always best”. Instead say, “i cannot imagine how it feels to wait on your kiddo. I’m praying for you and your child in the waiting.”
14. Give a gift card to a company that creates photo books.
15. Send them a text to let them know you are thinking of them and the process – Most likely the process and the kid is on your friend’s heart and in their mind all day, every day. They wake up wondering about their child and go to bed thinking of them. Let them know you are thinking of them, too. One gift of pregnancy is knowing where your little one is and basically how they are doing in the months leading up to the birth. In an adoption, the family does not have the privilege of “being with” the child while they wait. Instead, they can only wonder. Let your friend know you are thinking about them and their kiddo in the waiting.
16.Offer to help them move furniture to prep the new kid’s room in the house – If your friend is adopting an older child, this may be especially helpful. It seems that our society is good at welcoming babies, but we often need help and advice knowing how to create spaces for older children. Offer to help your friend with furniture purchases, toy purchases, or just in making space in their home.
17.Gift them home safety devices – As part of the home study process, the family will be required to add safety devices such as outlet covers, fire evacuation ladders for multi-story homes, lockable medicine cabinets, and perhaps even a home security system. Drop off some of these items or give them a gift card to Lowe’s for purchasing required items.
18. Gift them the Empowered to Connect Conference – Your friend will be required to take many hours of training and perhaps even read parenting books. However, in all of our required training, nothing was an beneficial as this conference. Gift this conference or part of the registration fee to your friend. It is a gift that will keep on giving.
19. Unless your friend is definitely doing an infant adoption, gift cards might be the best gift. If your friend is adopting internationally or through foster care, it could be challenging to know what sizes or styles to purchase in clothing, shoes, and for the child’s. Give your friend an adoption party or shower but ask everyone to bring a gift card and/or age appropriate children’s book for the family.
20. Remove expectations from your friend – Let your friend know that you are there and that you have not forgotten about them, but remove expectations for just hanging out. Perhaps your friend needs someone to listen to the challenges of the process or the frustration of waiting but the process of an adoption can be long and hard. Give your friend time to process, grace to just be, and a listening ear for the journey.