8 Reasons to Have an Adoption Support Group

When you are going through the process of adoption, you need an adoption support group. It's more important than you may realize. Here's why.

Natalie Brenner April 03, 2018

It was a Monday evening around 8:00 p.m. when our two new sons through foster care arrived. This made us parents to four boys under the age of two: virtual triplet one-year-olds and an 8-month-old who was significantly delayed.

The next day car seats, high chairs, clothes, sippy cups, pack and plays, formula, baby food, and hundreds of diapers landed on our doorstep and living room floor. Hundreds of dollars of food was dropped off in paper bags. We had everything we needed and more. The support poured in from all angles. This support was from a village of people who were both in person and online: it was a humbling time of gratitude.

For nearly two years, we had been investing ourselves into an adoptive and foster care support group—a community of friends who were walking similar journeys to ours.

Our two permanent boys are virtual twins: one biological, one by adoption. Though we know many friends and family have walked the road of parenthood and having babies or toddlers in their home (the ages we were at), there was an added layer to our story many of those same friends and family couldn’t possibly fully grasp: adoption.

Here’s what I have come to know deeply: both types of villages—the people who aren’t in my physical life OR who don’t share this journey AND the people who share a similar journey—are absolutely a gift to cherish.

Something else I’ve come to know just as deeply is that having an adoption (and foster) support group—in person—is invaluable for a number of reasons.

Here are 8 reasons to have an adoption support group:

They get you.
1. They get you.

No one on this earth understands the complexity of your (adoptive) parenthood journey. When you need to tell someone you are both grateful and broken over the child who has become yours through adoption, another parent by adoption gets exactly what you mean.

When you share that letting your newly adopted infant cry-it-out isn’t in your realm of parenting, they understand attachments are broken and wounded even when adopted at birth.

When you need to cry about the heaviness that has moved into your home, they are not going to tell you “You chose this." They are going to sit in the heavy and grieve with you for the brokenness infusing your entire family.

They understand without words; you don’t have to explain how primary and secondary trauma impacts you and your children. And on the other hand, they understand that they don’t actually understand, which is perhaps one of the best things to have a friend understand. The reality is, you sort of have a trauma bond.

They get you in a world that absolutely doesn’t.

They don’t write things off.
2. They don’t write things off.

Pretty often, well-intending friends who are raising neuro-typical or biological children write things off as “a phase” or “normal” even when it isn’t those things. This leads a parent by adoption to feel incredibly unseen and misunderstood, knowing the friend they just confided in wrote their child’s struggles off as “typical” when it likely isn’t.

Friends who walk the adoption journey won’t tisk or shake their head at you when your gut tells you something is up. Likely, their gut told them something was up at one time or another, and others wrote it off.

They know you’re not a saint, and they know your child isn’t lucky to have you.
3. They know you’re not a saint, and they know your child isn’t lucky to have you.

This is one of my favorite parts of my adoption and foster care support group. Our little community is filled with parents by foster care and adoption, and we are constantly told how “amazing” we are, how “great of a person” we are, or how much of a “saint” we are. I get that this is well-intended, but it makes all of us sick to our cores.

We are not saints. We are not amazing. We are no more great than the next person. We get mad; we get annoyed; we get tired; we get hangry just like the next parent.

Our children are not "lucky" to have us. We are strangers to our children who have often been forcefully removed with tears streaming down their faces and fear coursing through their bodies. Never is it “lucky” that someone was ripped from their biological makeup.

They know what you need.
4. They know what you need.

The day after our first son was born, his mama chose us to be his new parents. We had just moved into a new little home and what was going to be our nursery was packed full of boxes. We didn’t have a car seat, swaddles, clothes, anything, and were due to leave around four a.m. the following morning.

Our friend Emily—whose five-year-old son was adopted at birth—came over around ten p.m. equipped with an infant carrier, a baby wrap, swaddles, blankets, clothes, wipes, all the things and more. But she also came with words of encouragement that we didn’t know we needed. She talked with us about attachment and bonding and gave us permission to not let anyone else hold him. She shared with us resources about attachment that we didn’t realize we’d need, even adopting at birth.

When our two daughters arrived via foster care, our friends sent us coffee cards and Target cards, but they also told us about all the local resources like the following: Kinship House (a counseling center specifically for children of foster or adoptive families), With Love (a local organization that exists to support foster families), when it is normal for kids to begin Head Start, and other things to be prepared for.

Remove the isolation.
5. Remove the isolation.

Whether your adoption group is a few miles down the road or simply online, it is nice to know there are others on this planet who understand the pain and gain adoption is.

An adoption community helps you not feel lonely because they understand you in a world that doesn’t.

Their words matter.
6. Their words matter.

Sometimes you find yourself in conversations that really suck. People not in the adoption community tend to forget your kids are actual kids with ears and ask things that are absolutely not their business or even make downright racist comments. The voices of your adoption community matter because they help build you and your children up, remind you of the truth, and offer safe spaces to process other people’s words.

When others are telling you not to get “too attached” in case your adoption “fails” or your foster children are reunified, your adoption and foster support group are reminding you it is in everyone’s best interest to get “too attached.” And they will be there for you when your heart is ripped open.

Offer you hope.
7. Offer you hope.

There are many times as an adoptive parent you might find yourself down. Maybe your child was just given a diagnosis or even a possibility of a diagnosis—this has happened to us a number of times. Maybe you lost contact with a biological family member, or your child yelled at you “You aren’t my real mom/dad.” When you are feeling incredibly down and out, your adoptive (and foster) community will offer you hope and comfort.

Build and give confidence.
9. Build and give confidence.

You know, we knew we appeared crazy when we said “yes” to vulnerable children in foster care with two under two. But the honest reality is that we felt confident because of the community and support that has been wrapped around us for the almost two years since our son by adoption was brought home.

When you have to make decisions about IEP’s and therapists and all of the other things that often don’t make sense to the outside-adoption world, your community will build you up and give you the confidence you need to make these decisions.

Babysitters who get it.
10. Babysitters who get it.

When we need a babysitter, our first choice is always our friends who have children from adoption or foster care. Sure, their hands are full already, but the reality is they understand that our kids' broken attachment isn’t cute and to be coddled. They know how to handle the boundaries being pushed. They know our parenting methods and styles and the reason behind them.

Don’t have to explain the process.
11. Don’t have to explain the process.

Especially if you’ve adopted out of foster care, you don’t have to explain everything like what is a CANS score, what a CASA is, who the SSA is, why reunification was the original goal, etc. The adoption community understands to a T, and it is such a relief to not have to spend 20 minutes explaining all these things to someone who still won’t understand the extent of what you’re going through.

Judgement-free friends.
12. Judgement-free friends.

They aren’t going to judge you when you don’t whoop your child’s butt when they melt down over the “no” to chocolate. They won’t judge your parenting style or your children for wetting their pants at age 5.

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Natalie Brenner

Natalie Brenner is wife to Loren and mom to two under two, living in Portland, Oregon. She is the best-selling author of This Undeserved Life. She likes her wine red, ice cream served by the pint, and conversations vulnerable. Natalie believes in the impossible and hopes to create safe spaces for every fractured soul. She's addicted to honesty and believes grief is the avenue to wholeness. Natalie is a bookworm, a speaker, and a lover of fall. Connect with her at NatalieBrennerWrites.com and join her email community.

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