What Are Some Great Places for Adoption Support?

Adoptee
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Adoption is a roller coaster ride for all involved. It’s unique, brutal, and wonderful at the same time, and therefore, it is critical that all sides of the adoption triad (birth family, adoptive family, and child) have support available. In adoption, you need community, counseling, and strength. Here are some ways to get support for all sides of the triad:

Center for Adoption Support and Education (CASE)

This organization does individual and whole family counseling. I can see a great benefit from an adoptee both having someone to talk to privately as well as with the whole family. In teenagers especially, it can be hard to know whether an emotional issue is just from being a teenager or if it’s from being adopted. CASE’s highly trained adoption therapists can help with child and adult mental health issues. According to their website, “C.A.S.E. therapists use a family-based, strengths-based, evidence-based, developmental and systemic approach. We work with birth, foster and adoptive families. We have knowledge, clinical skills and experience in treating individuals with a history of trauma including abuse and neglect.” Another great thing about CASE is that they do webinars and online counseling. If an adoptee or parent doesn’t want to or cannot come in person, they have the option for online help.

Formed Families Forward

This is a small but focused non-profit organization supporting foster, kinship, and adoptive families of children with disabilities or special needs. They help families, teachers, and child welfare workers in the Northern Virginia area. Their website states, “Formed Families Forward’s mission is to improve developmental, educational, social, emotional and post-secondary outcomes for children and youth with disabilities and other special needs through provision of information, training and support to adoptive and foster parents, and kinship caregivers. …Children and youth in foster care and kinship care are at higher risk of having disabilities and requiring special education services. Some specific studies have found: Children and youth in foster care are significantly more likely to be identified as eligible for special education with an emotional or behavioral disturbance.”

Formed Families Forward holds peer support groups and groups where teens can learn specific skills like conflict resolution or coping with anxiety. Again, that community aspect is important for teens to not feel isolated. They also offer training for families about understanding certain disabilities and how to strengthen communication between the school and home and any Individualized Education Program the child may have in place. Parenting classes are also offered, usually targeted to families raising special needs children.

Adoption Agencies

Your adoption agency (if you used one) should be your first go-to source for information and support about your adoption. Not only are they professionals in the industry, but they know you personally and your adoption situation specifically. They will be there through potential “failed” or “disrupted” adoptions, as well as completed adoptions. Sometimes adoptive parents feel like once the adoption is finalized, they don’t want to “bother” their agency with any questions. Please don’t feel like that. Your agency should never make you feel like a nuisance. Remember, they work for you. They should be providing lifetime support for your family and the birth mother. Obviously, they are real people and not superheroes, so don’t expect them to answer the phone at 3 a.m., but ask for help within reason. Hopefully, you have done your research and found an ethical agency you believe in, but if for some reason you end up with an agency that you don’t like or doesn’t fulfill their promises to you or the birth mother, you may have to look for outside support.

One of the best sources for the birth mother side of the triad is Lifetime Healing, LLC (which is soon changing their name to Knee to Knee). This organization is run by Ashley Mitchell, a birth mom of 13 years, who has implemented curriculum for agencies to buy and use themselves to provide lifetime care for birth mothers after placement. This woman’s voice is such a needed powerhouse of information and healing in birth mothers’ lives. Your agency may be Lifetime Healing certified, meaning they use her curriculum. If your agency is not, you can refer your child’s birth mom to Lifetime Healing and they can get in touch on their own. Ashley travels quite a bit and holds birth mother support groups. This is where she got the term “knee to knee” from as that is what she does all the time—sits in person with these women and supports them.

Brave Love is a great organization for birth mothers. According to their website, Brave Love’s “mission is to change the perception of adoption through honest, informative, and hopeful communication that conveys the heroism and bravery a birth mother displays when she places her child with a loving family for adoption.” They host in-person events like birth mother dinners so that women can have camaraderie with others who have placed their children for adoption. Being a birth mother can be an isolating experience, so this is incredibly important to know others who have been in the same place. Anyone can also donate to this organization to help financially. Their website has open letters, a blog, and interviews for a more personal, in-depth look at adoption.

Adoptive Parents

Over the course of birth mothers’ lives, grief can come and go, but it probably won’t ever disappear. Certain life events can trigger depression so they need to have a trusted source they can go to for when they’re struggling. Some birth mothers refuse help, but this is really an unhealthy way of dealing with grief. Trauma always has a way of manifesting somehow. A birth mother doesn’t simply place her baby and then “move on.” Of course, we cannot force a woman to go to counseling, but showing her others who have and treating her with respect is essential. People have to help themselves, but we should always be helping birth mothers have the best outcomes possible. Send your updates, text your photos, and communicate with her as she wants you to. If she is quiet, still send updates and know that she may be reading them but she may not be in a place where she can respond. Pray for her and send her resources if you can. Send a Mother’s Day gift. Little things go a long way.

We have had times where people talk poorly of birth mothers in general in front of us or online. It’s important to take it upon ourselves to challenge them. Spread real and positive information about adoption. Changing public perception takes time, even decades, but it is truly up to us—we are the ones who will create change and create more empathy for these birth mothers. Let them know they have a voice, too. See if they would like to start their own blog. Suggest they blog or write articles for adoption websites to get their story out there. It is so therapeutic to write about your experiences.

Self- Education

In my opinion, your greatest source of support will come from self-education. Find stories of others who are also in the adoption world. Go on Instagram and find others to connect with. I have found so many birth mothers and adoptive mothers on Instagram who are willing and ready to share their stories and also their hardships via posts and videos. These aren’t just “fake internet friends”; they are real people with relatable stories. Even if their story is different than yours in some ways, there is always a common thread and common emotions. You can directly message them on Instagram as well. I feel I learned more about adoption after we adopted than prior to adoption just by connecting with others on Instagram. I suggest following @bigtoughgirl, @adoptwell, and @heloge to start. Another helpful place is the YouTube channel for Adoption.com. You will see many group interviews here that shed light on all types of adoption from international to domestic to foster care.

The usual “elephant in the room” is the birth father. Adoption does affect him as well. Typically, an adoption plan may be considered because of a lack of father involvement, but it doesn’t mean he is a bad person automatically. There are many bad guys out there, but there are also ones who do care about their children and even have an open adoption relationship with their child just like the birth mom may have. I hope I will see more of this as time goes on. I’m always surprised by how curious I am about my son’s birth father and how much I care about him. I’m often told to ignore him completely, but I know he was affected by this too, even if he’s too young to realize it. He will have to think about this more as he ages and starts his own family—it’s unavoidable. We have told him we are here for him if and when he wants a relationship with his son. I’d be lying if I said my patience isn’t growing thin—but I have always extended grace. We met him one time when our son was about 18 months old. I am hoping to see him in the future. I want to have information about him to share with our son. I want to be able to tell my son about his birth father. It can be like pulling teeth, but it is my job to be able to provide my son with information about his birth father. I believe this is important. Of course, every situation is different. Some birth fathers are incarcerated or fathered the child through rape. Every parent has to make decisions that are best and safest for their child.

The Child Welfare Information Gateway

This site gives a list of options by state. If you’re looking for financial resources, this is a great place to look. Depending on your family’s and your child’s needs, try searching for grants or programs for their age range. You can also apply for programs or clubs within your area that are not just adoption related. This can help to build connections with other families with similar situations or limitations. In their “Preserving Families” section, they state: “Family support services are community-based services that assist and support parents in their role as caregivers. Such services can take many different forms depending on the strengths and needs of the family, but their overarching goal is to help parents enhance skills and resolve problems to promote optimal child development. All families can benefit from support in some way; the principles of family support should be incorporated into casework across the child welfare service continuum. Family support programs may address the general population or target particular groups such as ethnic and cultural minorities; adolescent parents; kinship caregivers; or families facing health, mental health, or substance abuse issues.”

You can find links here to the National Parent Helpline which is a call center for emotional support for parents. Under the “News & Events” tab, you can find a list of conferences to attend by state. Under the “{Topics” tab, you can find adoption information—everything from the legal aspects of adoption to the lifelong impact on the adopted person.

Seek and You Shall Find

Adoption support is available; however, you tend to have to dig for it. It’s not like you’ll see ads on TV for it. Doing your own research online and learning from those who have come before you are ways you can find the specific support you, your child, or your child’s birth family needs. Even the most seemingly “perfect” adoptions will have bumps in the road. You don’t have to feel isolated—reach out to others like yourself and professionals who can guide you. Parenting is hard even in natural families. Adoption adds a layer to parenting, and I don’t know anyone who has ever said they regretted going to counseling. If you don’t like the counselor or resource you first use, try another. Keep going until you find what works for your family.

 

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Kristin Anderson is an adoptive mother who lives with her son, husband, and two crazy dogs. She loves open adoption and is always looking for ways to help in the adoption community. You can find her blog at www.lookingforlittleone.wordpress.com


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