Tuesday, November 13, 2018

National Adoption Month: The 5 People You Need In Your Adoption Village

It's fair to say, we knew we needed a village long before we adopted.  The minute adopting a child popped into my head, I was planning.  (That's the type A, anxiety-ridden life.)  

I started talking to those I knew who were part of the adoption community.  And the more people I talked to, the more people came forward, revealing to me they were part of the adoption triad.  

Each encounter was epic.  Necessary.  Beautiful.  Stirring.  

Each encounter left an imprint on my heart, leading me to be the mom I am today.   

When I look back over the past twelve years, because that's how long we've been part of the adoption community, I can hardly believe how each encounter, whether planned or by chance, brought us to a new height in our journey.  I cannot imagine if even one of those moments was lost.  Where would we be?  

Though sometimes we meet people by chance, the people we brought into our adoption village were invited with the utmost intentionality on our part.  We knew who we needed and why.  

Purpose.  And then faith that the purpose would manifest into positive results for our family, especially the precious children we were chosen to parent.

Building your adoption village takes time.  In fact, it's a lifelong journey.  But you need to start, if you haven't already.  Because your child needs you to step it up and be the parent that he or she needs you to be, as my friend (an adoptee) Madeleine Melcher so often shares.

The village consists of REAL LIFE people you can meet with FACE TO FACE and be HAND IN HAND with.  Online groups are fantastic when encouraging and educational, for certain, but there is nothing like support from someone you can see and touch.  

1:  Adoptees.

I'm not proposing you walk around begging adoptees to be part of your village.  But when you encounter adoptees who are willing to share their experiences with you, offer you advice and encouragement, and respond to your family's needs, that's a good indication that that individual may be someone you invite in.  

Adoptees can offer their experiences, their thoughts on what you can do and what you should avoid doing (as an adoptive parent), and suggestions on ways you can best connect and guide your adoptee.  

In essence, they are people who have "been there, done that," and should be your go-to in many circumstances.  

2:  Experienced adoptive parents. 

Oftentimes, I know adoptive parents go to those who are also in their same stage, usually waiting-to-adopt or new to adoption.  Though it's great to have someone who gets your exact feelings at the exact same time you're having them, there is a lot to be said for experience.  

How do you find these individuals?  Join an adoption support group, ask your adoption professional to connect you with others, and put yourself "out there."  When someone says they know of another local adoptive family, ask to be connected with them.  Be bold.  Be optimistic.  Be open.  

Experienced parents can point you not only to their own experiences, but to other connections they've established over the years.  They can walk alongside you, guiding you.  

Plus, there's major perks to being friends with other families like yours.  Over half of my friends are parents-by-adoption, and my kids are growing up seeing that adoption is a way some people build there families.  When there are get-togethers, the diversity is beautiful.  Children from different countries, families of different races, and lots of different abilities:  with a commonality-adoption.

3:  Birth parents. 

You might have an open adoption (we have four!), but sometimes it's "too close for comfort."  Meaning, it's hard to gain a lot of insight from someone in such a meaningful position in your family.  That's why knowing other birth parents can help you better navigate your relationship with your child's birth parents:  they can offer you their experiences and advice.  

Again, ask your adoption professional to connect you.  Join and adoption support group.  The more people you connect with, the more future connections you will make.  

I'm friends with three birth mothers who are not part of our own family.  Their insight has been invaluable, helping me better understand this important side of the adoption triad and see situations in a different (and better) light.  

4:  Adoption professionals.

Long after you adopt, you should retain relationships with adoption professionals.  Not just your adoption social worker or lawyer, but also with adoption competent therapists, doctors experienced in working with adoptees and their families, and others.  

The actual adoption is a one-time event, but being a parent-by-adoption is forever, as is being an adoptee.  Therefore, having people in your village who get adoption (like REALLY get adoption) and subsequent challenges and joys, is critical.   

5:  Support for your kids.  

Depending on the type of adoption, having individuals who can support your children's needs is incredibly important.  For example, my oldest two children, both girls, have a hair braider and a mentor.  My son has a barber.  These individuals racially affirm our kids while also educating us, as the parents, about what is appropriate for Black children.  We can go to them for parenting advice. They don't judge us, and they readily tell us what we need to know. 

In essence,

You find the people your children need, and you invite them in.  Yes, this means being vulnerable.  Yes, it means being humble.  And yes, it's worth every ounce of energy!  

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