But now after our family has walked this road for the last 15 months, I can go ahead and say I sucked at supporting adopting families. Not for lack of interest or compassion, but because of a lack of knowledge and education of the process and emotions that are involved in adopting. And after being on the other side of adoption and interacting with people over the last year, I would say that most people are in the same category - not intentionally being unsupportive or hurtful - rather just ignorant or even at a loss of what to say.
So, I came up with some suggestions of ways in which you can support families that are on the road of adoption (some are suggestions of things you can do and some are things you should just simply never do):
If you don't know something ASK!
We have a family member that is currently pregnant and over the holidays I sat and listened as many family members asked her all about her doctors appointments, ultrasounds, etc. I love that! I want them to ask her all about her pregnancy, that is an exciting time for her! But, no one really asked me about the adoption. And, again I don't think it was because they didn't care or disapproved or anything like that, I simply think it is because they didn't know what to ask.
Now, sometimes people may be very private about the details of their adoption. And if they are that is fine, but let them tell you that - don't just assume that. Always err on the side of compassion and care, then assumption. Here is a suggestion of some questions you can ask:
- Are you adopting domestically or internationally?
- What led you to that decision?
- Do you have an agency you are working with?
- Where are you in the process?
- Are there anyways my family can be a part of your process?
- Are there anyways we can pray for you?
Stop saying these phrases! I'm sorry, I don't know how else to say it - they are offensive and you have to stop.
• So have you always wanted to adopt after having children of your own?
• Why don't you just have more children of your own?
They are all "children of my own" some I just birthed and some I picked up. Adoption was never our Plan B, it was always God's intention for our family and it has always been HIS timing. And at the end of the day I am MOM to all of my children. I am responsible for their well being and development. Adoption is not a charismatic feel good act of good will, it really is just parenting. When asking an adoptive family about their story, use phrases like "biological children" instead of "kids of your own".
- Oh, wow you are going to take maternity leave? Why?
JUST FYI - If you are planning on adopting and was not aware that maternity leave was an option, maternity leave for adoptive mothers is protected under the Family Medical Leave Act just like biological births. So be sure to talk to your employer.
- Are you going to tell her she is adopted?
- So, why didn't her real parents want her?
Find a way to be involved!
Ask if there are financial needs you can contribute to. Help organize fundraisers. Throw a baby shower or a party to help the family out with items that are going to be needed for the new addition. Ask them for ways in which you can pray for them throughout the process. Offer to set up a blog for them to record their journey. Help them get their house ready for home studies. Celebrate milestones with them. There are so many possible ways that you can be involved, just be creative.
And as a final word, we as adoptive parents have to commit to extend grace and help educate. I have never been frustrated by someone that has said, "I honestly don't know anything about adoption, is it OK to ask ___________________?" Because that shows me you care and want to be invested in our family, you just may not know how. I have been there, I have said some pretty stupid things to adoptive parents, but I didn't stay there and you can't either.