How to Support Friends During the Adoption Process

Source: Ondřej Lipár, Flickr

Source: Ondřej Lipár, Flickr

Earlier this year we published a blog series on how to support your spouse through the adoption process. If interested, or you have a stressed spouse, you can check out our helpful suggestions. Often, it is easier to know and respond to our spouse’s needs, but understanding how to help our friends can be a bit more difficult. When a person or family embarks on adoption, the process is long and sometimes overwhelming. Having a community of supportive friends and family is incredibly important. From remembering to smile and enjoy moments of happiness, to needing a shoulder to cry on from time to time, friends play a vital role for adoptive parents.

New to Adoption

If you are new to the world of adoption and have friends beginning the process, then a good place to start is by reading books or magazine articles on adoption or adoption blogs. If you acquaint yourself with some of the general information, your friends will truly appreciate being able to talk about the process with someone who understands. You can also ask for pamphlets or information booklets from the adoption agency and don’t be afraid to ask question, too. Likely, many of the questions you have are ones the adoptive parents have, too. Don’t underestimate the power of friendly conversation; that may be just what your friends need and will help them feel they are not alone in this adventure.

Another option is to attend meetings with your friends. Some agencies offer informational sessions and your friends might feel more supported if you are able to come occasionally. This is another good way to be informed about the process and ask questions. If you have the time, bake some cookies to bring to the meeting or suggest coffee afterwards to help your friends process any new information they’ve learned.

Finally, your friends may need to call on you for a reference. So be prepared to offer one and make sure to ask questions (of your friends and the agency) to understand what constitutes a strong reference.

Foster Hope

Depending on the type of adoption your friends seek, the time the process takes could be several years. There will be times when hope will feel far away and the stress will feel too much. It’s these moments when your friends need you the most and you can help them by offering a reminder to not lose hope. One lovely way to engender this feeling is to plant a hope tree. This can be any tree or flowering shrub native to your area and you simply plant it for your friends at the start of their process. When hope feels low, invite your friends to say a prayer together around the hope tree or read inspiring words out loud. And finally, remind your friends that just as the tree continues to grow, so will they grow closer to expanding their family. Once the adoption is final, plan for a hope celebration around the tree. Now your friends will have a lovely reminder of their journey for many years to come.

The most important things you can offer as a friend is the ability to listen. Listen to the stress, the sorrow, and the tears. And remain supportive. Often, parents going through this process just need a kind ear and some encouragement. Such support will be invaluable to your friends.

Teaching Adopted Children Their Story

Source: Spirit-Fire, Flickr

Source: Spirit-Fire, Flickr

Parents of adopted children will one day face the question about whether or not to tell their child the story of how they came to join the family. An intensely personal decision, parents must make the decision that is best for the child and family. There is no easy answer about how to approach this subject or when. That is entirely up to the parents and the situation surrounding the adoption process. If you are an adoptive parent considering having this discussion with your child, we have a few tips to offer to ease the process.

Open Adoptions

Naturally, open adoptions will result in more conversations about birth parents. When your child is younger, you can begin to lay the groundwork. As the child grows up, you can expand on the story and explanation. For example, when younger the child can learn to understand that any visitation or contact is with a family member or other name you feel is appropriate. As the child grows up, you can explain the nature of this relationship more and the nuances of birth and adoptive parents. You can explain the significance and how their unique situation is different from their peers.

Grow the Conversation

As above, you want to grow the conversation as your child grows. A three-year-old won’t be able to understand all of the details like a ten-year-old can. Questions may come up as children are very curious (as we all know!) and can often sense things. Even if your own child doesn’t, other children might ask questions. It’s important to be prepared as adoptive parents and know what you wish to discuss and when.

One common question that arises as a child gets older is “why?” If this does happen, remember to not speak negatively about the birth parents or the situation. Coming from a place of positivity and love will help you down the road when a teenager might ask “why?” again. Balance your answer between giving an answer to the why and expanding on all of the positive ways this decision has impacted everyone.

As children grow up they will likely want more details, too. You can continue to grow the story of the adoption and the experience of your family together. Perhaps tell the story with pictures or any other information you have on hand. And remember to be patient as your child will be rewriting some part of their personal narrative as the story of the adoption grows right along with them.

Myths and Facts About Adoption

Question mark sign

Source: Flickr, Colin Kinner

There is an enormous amount of information about adopting children on the Internet, some of it is useful and some of it just clutters the rest. Clutter like comments on message boards or forums that perpetuate myths about adoption or foster care; comments that can sometimes scare or cause anxiety in prospective adoptive and birth parents. Together, we can tackle many of these common myths that you might come across as you research adoption options.

Common Myths about Birth Parents

One of the biggest myths that people see is that a birth parent will regret the decision for the rest of their lives. The truth is that for a prospective birth parent facing an unplanned pregnancy, making the choice for adoption can be a positive choice and one that is right for everyone. Regret won’t be part of the equation when people come to adoption from a place of love and support.

Another myth we see is that birth parents are uncaring. That anyone could think this means they have not truly considered the adoption process. When a prospective birth parent chooses adoption, it comes from love and unselfish decisions. Many prospective birth parents come across negative stereotypes on websites and find that there is a lack of community support to make the choice that is best for all. We hope to help eliminate those stereotypes and if you are an adoptive parent, speak out on the positive outcome of the process to keep this harmful myth at bay.

Common Myths about the Adoption Process

There are more articles on the adoption process than any other topic. And that is because so many adoptive and birth parents have questions and want to understand what every step might look like. You might come across myths saying that adoption damages the child or that the adoption process is secretive. The truth is that adopted children do as well in life as children who are not adopted. This is because both the adoptive and birth parents come to the decision and the process from a place of love and a total lack of selfishness. That child is loved by all in the process!

And as for secrecy, the level of information shared between adoptive and birth parents is entirely up to each group of people. Open adoptions provide more access by nature of the arrangement, but the adoption process today seeks to share information in a way that benefits everyone involved. Transparency is far more prevalent now than it used to be.

There are many more myths about adoption, which we will continue to tackle and dismantle. If you are an adoptive parent one of the best things you can do to help eliminate these myths is share your story with others and show them the beauty that is adoption.

Supporting Your Spouse During the Adoption Process – Part 2

Holding hands

Source: Flickr, Nita

Last week we posted a blog on supporting your spouse through the adoption process. We focused on activities you can do together, from exercising and prayer to relaxing baths and having fun. Be sure to check it out and we hope you find it helpful. This week, the focus is on supporting your spouse’s self care needs. This means making sure that your spouse is taking care of him- or herself, even when you’re not around.

The Importance of Self Care

In order to reach the end of the adoption process healthy and happy, it’s vital that people make sure to take care of themselves. Stress, worry, and frustration can take a physical toll if you’re not careful. Focusing on self-care simply means focusing on your well-being, both mental and physical.

To support your spouse in this effort, come up with a “feel better” idea board. If your spouse is frustrated working on paperwork or simply feeling down about the process, then have that idea board handy. It should include things like “Take a Walk” or “Eat a Piece of Candy.” You can also place prayer reminders around the house for your spouse to see when feeling discouraged. Anything to remind your spouse that it’s important to take care of themselves so they can be strong and ready to open their hearts to a new member of the family when the time comes.

Easy Ways to Lighten the Load

Source: Flickr, Donnie Ray Jones

Source: Flickr, Donnie Ray Jones

If time management is getting the better of your spouse, suggest ways to lighten the load so the days don’t feel so burdened with tasks. If you have children in your family who can take on chores, ask them to share some extra chores to relieve your spouse for a bit. This could be taking out the trash, washing dishes, raking the yard, etc. Even the smallest things will feel like a weight has lifted. And your spouse may not think to ask for help, so it’s up to you to see when the need arises and spring to action.

Outsourcing Tasks to Make Room

Source: Flickr, Meal Makeover Moms

Source: Flickr, Meal Makeover Moms

If it’s not possible to have immediate family help out, then reach out to your larger family and friend circles. You’d be surprised how eager people will be to help. Have a big week ahead that you know will be difficult? Ask your friends to bring by a few casseroles so your spouse doesn’t have to worry about food that week.

If the budget allows, consider hiring someone to help with house cleaning or lawn maintenance to lighten the load and make time for self-care and adoption support group meetings. If you can tell your spouse not to worry about mowing the lawn or cleaning the bathtub, then there’s time to go to a support group. And just like that, things start looking up and feeling less overwhelming.

It’s important to make room in your day-to-day life for the adoption process, so get creative and trust that any support you offer will make a huge difference in your spouse’s life.

 

Supporting Your Spouse During the Adoption Process – Part 1

Holding hands

Source: Flickr, Nita

Whether you are just beginning or are starting a second adoption process, stress and worry are part of adoption day-to-day process. Many people, even those who do not consider adoption, have heard tales of the struggle and the anxiety. Embarking on the adoption process is a big decision for couples and families and it requires continued support and dedication.

So when your spouse feels overwhelmed by the paperwork, what can you do to help? Or if you both are just exhausted, what can fix that? Ho do you help your spouse through the process and make it to the end happy and healthy? These aren’t easy questions and of course there is no fix-it for everyone, but we’ve compiled some easy ways that you can support your spouse during the adoption process.

Activities to do Together

Source: Flickr, Guppydas

Source: Flickr, Guppydas

Prayer and Meditation – When stress is at all-time highs, the benefits of prayer and/or meditation are well proven to relieve stress and lower blood pressure. In order to make this a routine, suggest to your spouse that you take part together. Picking a set time is a good way to turn this into a habit and it only takes 5 – 10 minutes. Create a comfortable and quiet space and then pray or meditate together. Suggest that the two of you read your favorite Bible passages together or perhaps you share your adoption goals for the day. Centering your minds and hearts before embarking on a day full of adoption paperwork or questions will help you get through it much easier. And you start the day by being supportive and in tune with each other. Win win!

Have Some Fun – Go see a comedy at the movie theater or take in a local theater production. Anything that will make you both have a good, hearty laugh. Just getting those giggles started will really help ease tension and bring perspective. If getting out isn’t too easy, then rent that comedy you’ve been meaning to watch for months, make a big bowl of popcorn, and then turn off the lights and recreate the movie magic at home.

Ways to De-Stress

Source: Flickr, Fit Approach

Source: Flickr, Fit Approach

Exercise – If your spouse is looking particularly overwhelmed or worried, suggest going for a walk. Exercise is the easiest way to relieve stress and feel better! And it doesn’t have to be anything too intense. A long walk around the neighborhood will do just fine. Or, the two of you can go for a jog around the park or perhaps go for a swim at the community pool. Any activity that gets the body moving will help distract the mind from worries. Set up regular walk or workout times with your spouse and make it a habit. This way you can bond while you help each other feel better.

Relaxing – You can also draw a wonderful, indulgent bath. Light some candles, get some fresh flowers, and make the bathroom a peaceful sanctuary. Even if it’s a short bath, taking a few moments will help tremendously. And if you can spare a shoulder rub, even better! Most people store tension in the neck and shoulders, so just a brief massage will help release that stress. While your spouse is relaxing, throw in a load of laundry or take care of the dishes. When even the smallest tasks can fall off the to-do list, the load will feel much lighter.

Check back next week for our next installment on this same topic. We will cover how you can help your spouse focus on self-care and time management.

Online Support for Adoptive Parents

People supporting each other

Source: Flickr, Ondřej Lipár

Now that the spirit and cheer of ringing in the New Year has settled, many of us are back to the usual routine. That means meal prep, long work hours, shoveling snow, laundry, homework, and so much more. Usually we all end up feeling like the day needs just one more hour! The festive spirit of the holidays can be invigorating, but once that all settles, facing the day-to-day routine again brings about stress and anxiety for many adoptive parents. We understand that there is always a mountain of paperwork to complete or stacks of mail to sift through. But thankfully, there are many resources available online to ease that stress.

Parent Support Group Series

We have posted about various Parent Support Group options for Kansas City, Wichita, and St. Louis, with more cities slated to come as we continue on into 2017. If you haven’t already, please check out these blog pages and see what options are available in your city. Support groups can range from in-person meetings at churches or baby boutiques, to great parent meet-ups at playgrounds, musical events, and more. Plus, there are links to find support groups online, too. There is something for everyone.

Parent groups are crucial for adoptive parents as building your community and support group will only help you succeed and feel more confident as you go through the process. Plus, people who have been through it all before will always want to share any tips they can offer.

Online Support

If our Support Group Series hasn’t yet covered your town, or if you find yourself in a more remote location, then online is the way to go. You can start with Adoption.com‘s large forum site that is open to all parents who have questions or need support of any kind. Additionally, there is the parent group database on the North American Council on Adoptable Children. Both of these are great places to start.

On our own website, we list many local support groups that are available, too. Whatever your need or whatever your question, there is someone out there ready to help. So reach out and get ready to find your community.

Adoption and Taxes

Tax word and money

Source: Flickr user 401(K) 2012

As January of 2017 kicks off and we all get back into our regular school and work routines, we are reminded that tax day isn’t too far away. As the W2s start to come in, it’s time to turn our attention to the complex tax law and adoption. Not a terribly exciting topic, but one that is important for adoptive parents (current and future) to know. Thankfully there is a wealth of knowledge already out there, but we have compiled some of the best information sources for you. If you still have questions or concerns, you should reach out to the agency and a tax specialist. Don’t let questions go unanswered and don’t be afraid to ask!

At Adoption & Beyond, we offer free access to an experienced financial coach and system to make sure families are prepared financially. Reach out to us if you have any questions.

Adoption Credit Information

As with any tax question, you can always turn to the source – the IRS. The link provided gives all of the major details, as well as links to relevant forms and instructions. If this page looks overwhelming, or if you’re new to learning about this topic, then check out the frequently asked questions page at the North American Council on Adoptable Children. This will pose many of your major questions and provide some quick answers.

Another site for information about the permanence of the tax credit can be found here, where they update regularly regarding any new legislation that takes place. For a more engaging approach that weaves in useful information, check out the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption.

Once you are all caught up on learning about the credit, consider reading this Adopt Help site that is already updating and providing information for the 2017 tax returns. This is a great spot to bookmark!

The adoption community builds success on sharing information and offering support. Hopefully these pages will answer questions, but if any remain be sure to contact us or your adoption agency to make sure you and your family are secure when it comes time to submit those tax returns.

Resolutions for the New Year

Parents and child holding hands

Source: Flickr, Kat Grigg

Happy New Year! The start of 2017 will bring about many changes and may even include your family’s decision to grow through adoption or fostering. Change in the new year can be both beautiful and overwhelming, so many of us make the pledge of a few resolutions to help ourselves grow and learn in the coming year. If you have the desire to make a few resolutions, but don’t know where to put your focus, consider some of the suggestions below.

Tailored to adoptive parents, these are meant purely as suggestions and to get conversations going between you and your spouse or family. You will always know what is best for you and your family, so trust your instinct as you consider what you would like to change in 2017.

Resolutions Ideas

Listen More to Your Child – Communication is key for all families, but is especially so if you have an adoptive child who joined your family at a somewhat older age. Think about if you are really listening when arguments or tantrums happen. Truly listening and processing what your child is saying is the fastest way to growing communication and understanding. When children feel they have a voice in the family, they are more likely to open up and talk more. Having clear talks can help get to underlying issues that may be causing behavior problems.

Take Interest in School Activities – Because our children spend such a large part of their time in school, it’s important to know what is happening in the classroom and on the playground. You can check in with the teacher and your child to find out about lesson plans and upcoming projects. And don’t be afraid to ask about playtime to make sure there aren’t any instances of bullying happening on the playground. Showing that you care about their school day will only become more important as your children grow up.

Support Adoption in your Community – You may be surprised to find other adoptive parents in your local town or city who need friends and time with other expanded families. So reach out to support groups and parent groups and start attending those potlucks. Building community is a great way to grow your own family’s support network and it is fun, too. You can also donate books on adoption to your local libraries for other children to read.

Connecting With Your Adoptive Community

Source: Flickr user moodboard

For some adoptive parents, the community that surrounds them is supportive, but not necessarily made up of other adoptive parents. Having a community as parents is incredibly important and pivotal to success. From swapping stories about parenting trials, to sharing techniques and information about illnesses, nothing can replace a strong community of parents. If you find that the other parents around you are not adoptive parents, don’t lose hope. There’s no reason to feel alone with the connections that the internet can provide today.

In previous posts, we have mentioned some local options for parent support groups along with another post about adoption education resources. Be sure to check these out as many will help introduce you to other adoptive parents who can become your community. But if you are looking for support – sharing tears, frustrations, and the joy of raising an adoptive child – then you might consider an online blog.

Privacy and security are certainly concerns, but you can create and run a personal blog without giving away personal information or contact details. The level of anonymity is entirely up to you. Once you decide what you are comfortable with sharing, consider the possibilities: open sharing of information, connecting with adoptive parents across the US (maybe even the world!), and having a vast community right at your fingertips, nearly 24 hours a day. Many adoptive parents have blogs that you can read right now. A quick Google search turns up hundreds! Here are a few that you can peruse as examples:

Adoptive Parent Blogs

Confessions of an Adoptive Parent
A Mother on the Road Less Traveled
My Real Kid
Mama Mem
The Big Long Wait

Parents can treat a blog like a journal entry, sharing and speaking things that are perhaps too hard to share in person. It’s also a chance to virtually meet other parents and build connections that can last. Many of the blogs above have a vast blogging community with regular readers. Additionally, when you put your story out there for other adoptive and foster parents to read someone may just take comfort in your story one day. Consider how much better you felt when you realized your fears were not just your own. Sharing your story not only relieves stress for you, but it also connects you to others. One of the greatest aspects of the internet is its ability to connect us all, and there’s no reason it can’t do the same for you and your family as you embark on your adoption journey.

Online Education Resources for Adoptive and Foster Parents

Source: Flickr user Jules

At Adoption & Beyond, we are available to talk with you whenever you need us. We understand the immediate nature of adoption and that questions can arise all the time. Although we hope that you will come in and visit us (or call), we also know that making time for appointments in busy lives is a challenge. Most of us turn to the internet for answers, whether we need help with a math problem or a parenting technique. And the internet can be a great resource, especially for people who can’t travel easily or have long work hours.

Below is a list of adoption webinar resources for potential and current adoptive and foster parents. If you’ve never participated in a webinar, don’t worry! It won’t bring back nightmares of pop quizzes or tests. It’s simply an online “class” or meeting. Your level of participation is entirely up to you. Most offer a general informative lecture followed by the ability to type in questions. Then the speaker will address as many questions as possible and provide additional web links, PowerPoint presentations, and more. They are a wonderful resource for getting started.

If you attend any webinars and have questions, feel free to call us so we can help.

Online Webinars

C.A.S.E. webinars – The Center for Adoption Support and Education (CASE) has a mission to strengthen the wellbeing of foster and adoptive families and understands that learning is a natural and lifelong process. They offer a monthly webinar series called “Strengthening Your Family” that gives away 300 free registrations (it’s normally $25). The next one is scheduled for October 20th and tackles the topic: Is Medication Right for My Child? Coupon codes for free webinars can be found on their site, along with a monthly schedule of all webinars you can attend.

Adoptions Together – This site offers a variety of free, on-demand webinars covering topics such as transitioning from foster care to being an adoptive parent and how to be a child’s advocate in school. For a nominal fee (about $10.00), you can also choose from another 20 webinars covering a wide variety of topics useful to both foster and adoptive parents.

National Council for Adoption – The archived webinars are available to download instantly and over topics from parenting stress to adoption and the law. Though do note that state laws vary and if you have questions, please call us.