Like most people entering the world of adoption, I came in looking like a deer in the headlights. I knew nothing other than the fact that we were hoping to adopt. I wasn’t sure where to start or what the process looked like. I spent a lot of time on the computer, Googling adoption laws, agencies, attorneys, and any other information I could get my hands on. I was educating myself on the topic, but as you can imagine, I had a lot of questions and no one to turn to for answers.
As our journey progressed, I felt very blessed to have people come into my life who were more educated that I was, and who were willing to point me in the right direction. They were my sounding board when I needed a sympathetic ear, and my saving grace when I experienced fear, impatience, and discouragement.
Having friends in the adoption community is a source of strength. The complexities of adoption can be difficult for family and friends to understand, especially if your journey is the first adoption journey they have been a part of. Making friends who are traveling the adoption path along with you, or who have already finished the course, can bring hope, comfort, and understanding . . . things all adoptive and hopeful adoptive parents need. They KNOW. When you talk, they nod in solidarity. They get it, and just hearing that someone else breathes “Yes” when you bare your heart can give you strength to keep moving. But, how do you meet people like you? Here are some ideas that worked for me.
- Social Media. With the rise of social media, our world became much smaller. If you search the word “adoption” on Facebook, you will find many groups dedicated to the subject. Do your research and find the right fit for you. This may mean joining and leaving a few groups before finding the right one, but once you find the right place, you can start making friends from all over. These groups can be wonderful places to ask questions, get ideas, learn from other’s experiences, and receive support. Many times these groups will hold a “roll call,” where all the members list the states in which they live. From there, you can identify others who live in your area, and can choose to meet up in real life. Some of the dearest people I know, who have been amazingly supportive, have come from online adoption support groups.
- Agency Classes/Socials/Support Groups. If you are using an adoption agency, or any other kind of adoption service provider, they may hold educational classes, support groups, or social gatherings. These can be for hopeful adoptive couples, or for couples who are post-placement. It can feel awkward at first, but be willing to step outside of your comfort zone and go. Chances are, you’ll be glad you did. If your adoption provider does not offer this type of service, ask if they would be willing to put something together. You could even offer to organize it. I’m sure there are other people out there who would be excited to join in.
- Reach Out. One of the friends I made during our search was through email. She was a popular blogger who had written about her experiences adopting two children. Her story was very similar to my own, and I reached out to her through her blog. She graciously replied and asked if I would like to discuss things further by phone. I was excited to talk to her, and we had a very insightful conversation about the feelings we both shared. It was so wonderful to finally have someone understand. She could say, “I’ve been there. I know. You aren’t crazy. It’s normal.” I hung up with more direction on where to go, how to get there, and encouragement to take the first steps. At that point I vowed that if I ever got to the other side of the adoption process, I would turn back and help those who needed it. Three years after a successful adoption, that’s exactly what I try to do.
- Be Brave. When we are out and about, we often see other families who were built by adoption. In transracial adoptions like ours, they can be easier to spot. If it has seemed appropriate, I have taken the time to introduce myself and my son to these other families. It is as simple as saying, “We are always looking for other adoptive families in our area!” I have never had a negative interaction by striking up a conversation with another adoptive parent on the playground, or at a museum, or library. We have even exchanged information and made plans to get our kids together for park dates.
Making friends in the adoption community can require you to step outside of your comfort zone and show a little vulnerability, but don’t be afraid! Do it. You will be able to bond with some wonderful people, share your discouragements and successes with people who can relate to what you are going through, and find the inspiration to keep moving forward.