If you are anything like me, when you started considering building your family through adoption, you read everything you could get your hands on. You scoured the library, the bookstore, the internet. You connected with other hopeful adoptive parents and listened to podcasts and attended seminars and conferences. Now that your child is home, you’re exhausted. You spend most of your energy keeping a little person alive, and spend whatever is left over binge-watching shows on Netflix and trying to sleep.

I hear you. I’ve been there. I know you don’t need another thing on your to-do list. But you do need another thing in your life . . . an adoption community. It doesn’t have to be anything fancy. Just another family or two (or lots!) who have walked this road a little while and won’t be scared when you tell them the truth. Here are three important reasons your family needs an adoption community:

Your kids need to know they are not alone.

Though they will often be in situations where they are the minority, your kids need to know that adoption is a healthy and perfectly normal way to build a family. I can feel my daughter exhale when she is around other children who she knows were adopted. It’s one less thing she has to explain, which frees her up to just be a kid. And this is one of my most treasured goals for my daughter: to feel safe enough to let down her guard and just be a kid.

You need to know you are not alone.

Shortly after I adopted my daughter, I joined an official adoption group. We hired a babysitter and sat around talking and laughing and crying together. The moms in this group had built their families through birth, domestic infant adoption, international adoption, and foster adoption. Our stories were different. The themes of those stories (and our parenting joys and struggles) were remarkably similar. The truth is, parenting children who were adopted is different from parenting other children. You need a few people in your life who “get” that in a serious way. As our seasons of life changed, this group eventually disbanded. I still have a lot of support as an adoptive mom, and I think this just goes to show that there’s no need for your family’s adoption community to be official at all. Just find some other families who have adopted and be honest with each other.

Other people need to know they are not alone.

You are important. Your children are important. You may not be ready to tell it yet, but someone needs to hear your story. They may not be ready to tell them yet, but someone needs to hear your children’s stories. For a long time, I felt like a taker in my informal adoption community. I was a mess, I felt woefully incompetent as an adoptive mom, and I wanted to drink up all the wisdom and support and love that I could with no expectation of giving anything in return. And that’s okay. If you are there—if you need to drink it all in, there is a place for you. A little further along the road of adoptive parenting, I found my voice, and it has been tremendously freeing and empowering to share parts of my story and hear other adoptive parents and hopeful adoptive parents say “me too.” Even if you join an adoptive community for the support and information that you will receive, hang around long enough to share your story. Someone else needs to hear it.

Adoptive parents, are you with me? Where have you found community? How has it been important for you and your family?