Foster adoption is a beautiful way to build a family. Families built by foster adoption deserve to be celebrated. Can you throw your friends a baby shower when they adopt from foster care? Absolutely! Will it look like all the other baby showers you’ve thrown? Probably not. And that’s ok. As much as parents by adoption (and everyone else) like to normalize our experience, we come to parenthood differently than many other families. And that’s ok. Every new baby (or child or teenager!) is worth celebrating! Read on for a few ideas of how to tweak the baby shower concept to work for a foster adoption.

Think about the timing.

Usually foster children have to be in a pre-adoptive home for at least six months before an adoption is finalized. Sometimes, they can be in that home much, much longer before they are adopted. Every situation is different. Every family and child are different. My daughter was my first long-term foster placement and when she was placed with me, it was clear that waiting for her adoption date was just “waiting out the clock.” My sister and friends threw a shower for us (what preschooler doesn’t love cake and presents when it’s not even their birthday?!) before her adoption was officially finalized. When my son was placed with me as an infant, the outcome of his case was uncertain. It would have been very stressful for me to have a shower to welcome him as an official part of the family when nobody knew if he would be. We had a great party after his adoption was finalized (two and a half years later).

Be creative.

I know friends of some foster parents throw them a “welcome to parenthood” party after they complete the licensing process for foster care. They may request gender-neutral items for children of varying ages (foster care is unpredictable).

When my son was first placed with me, many friends and family members brought food and sent cards/gifts/gift cards to help ease our transition into a family of three. These kind gestures meant a lot and didn’t carry the kind of “obligation” that is sometimes attached to a shower, as no one was asked to do anything.

At one other particularly stressful point before my son’s adoption was finalized, my sister organized an “avalanche of kindness”—inviting friends and family members to show kindness to our family in whatever way they chose. Again, the amount of support we received meant a lot to our family in a time before we knew what the outcome of our baby’s case would be.

Consider the needs and preferences of an older child.

While some foster adoptions involve infants, the majority involve older children (and often sibling groups). If the child is going to be at the shower, it’s helpful to remember that though adoption feels like a “just happy” event for many friends and family members, to the child who was adopted, it is always rooted in loss. Sometimes a more low-key celebration may be best. If the child is old enough, consider letting him or her help plan the event. Let the child help create a gift registry. And provide a safe place for the child to relax and calm down if things start feeling overwhelming.

When in doubt, ask.

Do you have friends that are adopting from foster care? Ask them what timing would work best for a shower. Ask them if they want to register for gifts. With my daughter, I registered at one place. When we celebrated my son’s adoption, he had already been with our family for over two years, and we didn’t need anything. I asked for people to bring a memory, wish, or prayer to share (and some still brought gifts!). Are they adamant that they do not want a shower? That’s ok. Think about other ways to show up and be supportive. Bring food. Send gift cards. Take the kids for an afternoon. And make sure to tell them that they’re doing a good job. When in doubt, find a way to celebrate!

Have you adopted from foster care? What advice would you add?