When diving into the realm of adoption it can be hard to find the resources or support you might need. It is hard to even know when you need to reach out. Understanding the different types of support and knowing where to find it can be beneficial. Even if not immediately necessary it is always good to be well informed in case you find yourself in an unexpected situation. If you are going through an agency they usually provide a certain amount of information that can be helpful, but if you are going through a private adoption there are some things with which you might need help. Different assistance is provided depending on your state. In the state of California, you can go to the California Department of Social Service website and search specifically what you are looking for. It is important to find the support that you need whether it be legal, financial, or emotional through any avenue available.
Finding the right support can take time. Do not be afraid to keep looking for the right resources for you and your family. It can be quite an investment of time but, in the long run, be well worth it. I am sure that at some point we have all heard the African proverb, “It takes a village to raise a child.” Parenting, in general, is stressful. The help from others has been a long tradition in cultures throughout history. It makes life much easier to have a support system in place that can guide you through this journey. You are going to have hard days, but the hard days make the good days that much better.
Why do you need support?
According to the website verywellmind.com, social support contributes to maintaining good psychological health. The three different types of support mentioned are emotional, instrumental, and instructional. Emotional support can be as simple as being a shoulder to cry on or uplift during hard times. Instrumental support is when physical needs are met like bringing a hot meal or lending a helping hand. Instructional support consists of mentoring, advice, exchanging information, and guidance.
Parenting children that were adopted can have challenges that are separate from parenting biological children. Our challenges can exceed the normal parenting woes. Not only are we trying to do our regular parenting we have the added stress of all the legalities. There are going to be questions you do not know how to answer yet or biological family situations you have never experienced. Having a support system built on other families of adoption can be very invaluable. Most families of adoption have the support of their friends and family; however, there are some things with which they just cannot help you, and it can sometimes feel isolating. Relating to other people and implementing some common ground with those who have been in your same shoes can alleviate some of the weight. You are not alone.
Know When to Reach Out
Knowing when to reach out for help is hard especially when you want to try to keep it all together. I will be the first to admit that I had serious pride issues. I never wanted to admit that I was struggling in some areas because I felt pressured to prove myself. I was so worried that people would not see me as his mom that I tried to go the extra mile with everything. I finally realized I had nothing to prove to anyone including myself. I did not have to be an extra mile mom; I am just a regular mom. For me to be the best mom for my son, I had to lay down my pride and my insecurities and learn to ask for help. Most of the help I needed was emotional. This was a new life for me and I did not fully understand what I was capable of until I was able to talk about it. I finally was able to connect with people who had been in similar situations, and I felt an instant weight lifted.
Where to Find Adoption Support
It might sound cliché but Google can be your most valuable asset when trying to find any resources. You can search for local non-profit organizations, counseling, or even places to donate if you were interested in giving back. I live in California so I have looked up what resources my state provides. The California Department of Social Service has a list of agencies that are in good standing with the state. The list was updated in December 2020, so it is current. If you are in the beginning stages of adoption, it might be beneficial for you to go through the list and start researching what agency would be best for you and your family. The list includes the location of the agencies as well as the web addresses. It is easy to scroll through and start the process of elimination by distance alone if that is your initial prerequisite. There is also a list of children that are adoption-ready if you are interested in working with foster care. You can also find a link that provides your local county social services contact information.
If you are already involved with an agency please find out all accessible resources. Some agencies provide a 24-hour line of communication or group emotional support. They also work with a network of professionals that should be able to give you the assistance you need. Additionally, webcasts with guest speakers such as health care professionals, adoptive parents, or birth parents are also commonly provided to help educate you during the entire process of adoption. I have also seen some agencies offer referrals to free counseling whether you are a client of theirs or not.
However, if you are doing a private adoption utilize your lawyer’s knowledge. Lawyers are there to help; if they are not directly available they usually have a staff member that is designated to address your questions and needs. Ask from the very beginning what would be your responsibility as a client. When we were adopting, our lawyer filed all the forms but we were responsible for getting our fingerprints and home study. Never having done that before, I reached out to her assistant for a little direction. I was somewhat reluctant because I did not know if clients were supposed to know these things or not. It was a quick email exchange that saved a lot of headaches, and I am glad I did it. Always remember it will not hurt to ask.
If your concerns surpass the capacity of your agency or lawyer please contact your primary health care or mental health provider that could arrange adequate care or suggest a support group with which they are familiar. You must not hesitate to find the right support you need; the sooner the better.
There is a quote floating around on a meme that says, “Experience is the best teacher, but no one said it had to be your experience. Ask questions and save yourself the stress.” Try not to limit your options of resources. Living in the social media age can be a perk. There are so many people on social media that are more than happy to share their experiences with you and guide you through unfamiliar territory. Again, whether it be a legal or emotional experience, someone has probably experienced something similar. There are Facebook groups for just about anything. These groups have an interesting way of meeting very specific demographics. Facebook groups are private forums that not only operate under the guidelines of Facebook but also are governed by a moderator and have their own guidelines as well. Some groups even have a brief questionnaire before you are allowed to join just so they know if you are going to fit appropriately. Sometimes it might be a little harder to find local groups or they might not meet your desired activity level, but you can keep searching in the search bar until you find one that you want to join. Leaving a Facebook group is just as easy as finding one. If you do not feel comfortable or feel like it is not for you simply click the “leave group” button.
Some interesting groups found on Facebook were specifically to help expectant mothers develop a line of communication with potential adoptive parents. One particular group had strict rules on initial engagement. To ensure that the expectant mother felt safe and comfortable, no one was allowed to contact her first. It is so important to establish and understand these boundaries due to the sensitive nature of the situation.
One of the most important things I have learned from being in a Facebook group about adoption is how to move forward with biological family contact. I did not realize the apprehensiveness I had was limiting my perspective. I was so afraid of not being fully recognized as my son’s mom that I was not willing to open my mind. I thought our adoption dynamic was complicated because my son is an actual relative of mine. So, my opinion was that the lines between biological family relationships seemed to be cloudy from the start. The most valuable advice given to me was how to set comfortable boundaries. What I have realized from so many others is that our dynamic is not as unique as I initially thought. The tradition of family adoption is fairly common, however, it is usually informal. Although our son’s adoption is one hundred percent legal and documented, we can still expect to have the same success with boundary compliance and good relationships as so many families previously have had.
These forums have been my sounding board and place to vent. They understand my struggles in a way that others could not. I remember when my son was going through the tantrum phase I would often be at my breaking point. He has had a speech delay since he was very young and has always had trouble communicating. So, his tantrums were extra explosive. Well, one day I was venting to a family member and she said, “Well, you wanted him.” I remember asking myself if her reaction would have been different had I given birth to him. That was the beginning of me noticing that people held me to a different standard because I chose to be a mother. Just because I went through a different process to become a mother did not mean that I had different requirements. It was not until I bonded with absolute strangers that I learned I was allowed to have vulnerable parenting moments and bad days, too. I did not have to be a super mom just because adoption was completely optional. It was a huge turning point for me and helped me remove the unrealistic expectations that were unconsciously set for me. I had bad days, and it was okay. I still have bad days, and it is still okay.
Our Adoption Community
We have to start looking at support as an asset and not a handicap. We learn from each other and through our experiences. We have to understand that finding support is for the betterment of the whole family. Establishing a strong support system that can guide, comfort, and encourage you through the trying times will strengthen you. Being a parent of adoption is beautifully complex and not everyone gets to experience it, but it does come with obstacles. It is the reality of adoption, and learning how to overcome these things shows our children how committed and determined we are. Do not be afraid to learn from others. Plus, there will be people who learn from you, too. What I have learned from the adoption community is that there are so many people willing to share, and they make you feel comfortable sharing as well. This is not a one-sided community. We understand each other, we get each other, and we hear each other. So, if you have not already, look for us!Are you and your partner ready to start the adoption process? Visit Adoption.org or call 1-800-ADOPT-98 to begin your adoption journey. We have 130+ years of adoption experience and would love to help you.