Lest you start panicking - I do not intend to turn this blog into a forum for adoption-only information. It happens to be on my mind this week and I do now feel qualified to share after having officially adopted, nevertheless we have far more experience in the foster-care land and I think we can help more regarding foster-care than we can regarding adoption. (But if you have questions about adoption please ask - I either know or have the resource, so I can help there too...)
Came across this post today which was a great read and may be helpful for all of you who are interested in helping foster parents and, in this case specifically adoptive parents, but don't feel called to foster or adopt yourself. Trust mie, good friends are vital in this process and I think this blog post points it out well.
I will say that I don't agree with all of these statements, not all apply to adoption from foster care, and I think some of these are personal sentiments rather than truth-for-all. I do think it is a great start to get you thinking about what to say and what not to say and that can give you a glimpse into what hopeful adoptive parents go through as they go through the process and my is it a process. One that is often filled with confusion, buried minefields, and something you figure out only as you go. Kind of like a video game where you don't see things coming until they hit you. That's about right.
I remember when we got our first foster placement. We went from 1-3 kiddos on the weekend and even though I didn't have to work the next day (it was Sunday) I was thrown through a loop. I didn't know how to make dinner for all of us and it took a while to get to the point where I actually made enough food for mie too. I was super blessed by my Sunday school class who provided meals to us for those first few weeks.
What would I say differently if I wrote that article?
Here's what I know - first (and this is a caution to all of you foster/adopt parents) - most people are trying. They don't know what to do and often say stupid things or nothing at all. We get hurt and our pain is totally justified. But they probably didn't mean it. They probably were trying to be supportive but have no idea how to be. So please, try to be patient with folks who are ignorant of how to be supportive - their statements and interest alone provide you an opportunity to minister to them and teach them about the foster and adoption community - who knows you may be a catalyst that helps God open a door in their hearts.
Staying Away - In my experience with foster care, I don't necesarily need you to stay away or not visit for a while. I can definitely see that with international adoption or straight adoption from foster care this may be an issue and we may need to limit contact with our kiddos for a while. Trust our judgement and trust that we are not trying to hurt your feelings. If you are concerned, call, text, or email and ask how you can help or better yet, offer suggestions. Say things like - can I bring you dinner tonight or tomorrow? I'm going to the store and am going to pick up something for you - do you need any laundry detergent, formula/food, or diapers? How about a 12-pack of coke, a bucket of licorice, or a hot apple cobbler with ice cream (or whatever treat)? If you do stop by for a quick visit and depending on how close you are, offer to throw in a load of laundry, wash dishes, or sweep the floor or alternatively to watch the kiddos while the new parent does that or takes a shower. It takes a lot for most people to actually allow you to help, but offering goes a long way toward making us feel thought-of, which gives a boost to what we can handle. Bottom line with all of this, if you don't see us for a little while, if we decline normal functions, if we don't call or email you for a little bit don't assume we're falling apart or that we're permanently disavowing our friendship. We're just trying to figure out how to get through the first few days and weeks and though we'd appreciate the phone calls and emails and such to check on how we're doing we don't want to feel like we're failing in the other areas of our life. We need permission to adjust, just like you'd give permission to a mother who just gave birth.
Sharing the Children's Story - With adoption, I've found the advice to not ask too many questions or expect too many details of the children's story to be something that is unique to each adoptive parent. Some parents don't mind sharing, particularly if the child is younger, but others are very sensitive to letting that be the child's story to tell. Just be aware of that. For foster care it is MUCH different - most times foster parents aren't allowed to share the details. Asking a foster parent for details about the child's history can put the foster parent in a very sticky situation. We want to share, I assure you. Most of the time we're appalled at some of the decisions birth parents make OR we're supporting their efforts to get better and we want to tell you all about that. That being said, foster parents have a confidentiality requirement. My best advice? Show interest in the children by asking questions like "how was their first night" or "do you have enough clothes that fit them right now?", things like that. Then, the foster parent will share what he/she feels comfortable sharing. Focus on the here and now not the child's past.
Other than that, I hope you enjoy the blog post I linked to above.