A good friend and colleague of mine has a sign in her office that says, “We can do hard things.” During the last year I have found myself reminding myself of this phrase often, mostly in reference to my personal adoptive parenting journey. I’m sure I’ve said it many times that adoptive parenting isn’t easy, and it isn’t for everyone. But for those who are interested in becoming adoptive parents or are have already adopted I want to encourage you that “We can do hard things.” More importantly we can do hard things when we have the support of others. A small percentage of people understand adoption, the complex trauma that a child is forced to deal with and how to help/parent that child. That is why connecting with other adoptive parents who “get it” is so important.
Adoption has the potential to push a person or family into isolation. But the point is you don’t have to isolate yourself and do this alone. We can do hard things, but we need to navigate this journey together! It is not healthy to live in isolation. According to a study, by Julianne Holt-Lunstad, Timothy B. Smith, Mark Baker, Tyler Harris, David Stephenson, on Loneliness and Social Isolation as Risk Factors for Mortality, “Living with air pollution increases your odds of dying early by 5 percent. Living with obesity, 20 percent. Excessive drinking, 30 percent. And living with loneliness? It increases our odds of dying early by 45 percent.” You’re not alone!
Where can you find support?
- Connect with friends and family members – Start with those you know and are connected to and branch out from there. Is there someone in your family or group of friends who have adopted or know someone who has? When we were in the process of adopting we were approached by several family members and friends whom we did not know had a connection to adoption. The goal is to have a couple of close friend with whom you can openly and honestly share and talk through your struggles, worries, fears, and successes specific to adoption with, others who understand what you’re going through and will support you.
- Join a support group – Most adoption agencies have support groups that they can connect their families to. If not, they may know of a place to refer you to. Many churches also have support groups of families who are in the process of or have adopted. If a support group does not already exist, consider hosting a group in your home where other adoptive families and children can meet.
- Oasis – An online support community for foster and adoptive parents. https://oasiscommunity.me/members/ They provide trainings and interviews with professionals and experts in the foster/adoption field, resources, encouraging and informative videos from other adoptive parents, a forum, and, my personal favorite, real-time support from a member of their care team. This community of adoptive parents are welcoming, nonjudgmental and have had the same or similar experiences in their own foster or adoption journey and can relate like many others cannot.
- Reach out to your adoption agency – My favorite part of my job at MLJ Adoptions is connecting with other adoptive families, listening, and providing support and resources when needed. I’m an adoptive mom too so I understand the many struggles and joys that come with the gig.
- Access state-run post adoption services – Each state in the US receive federal funding that is designated for post adoption services and they can determine how they want to put that money to use. In general, most states offer post adoption services at low or no cost to the family. These services may include: assistance in connecting with resources, behavioral health care services, respite, and/or support groups. Services are dependent on the funding available and the specific needs of the child and family. The goal is to help the post adoptive family before they are in crisis.
The good news it there is support available and a great community of adoptive parents willing to support you on your adoption journey. We can do hard things, especially if we are willing to walk along side others on the same path.