Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are solely those of the author.
Adopting or fostering a child is an awesome journey, but it’s also a lot of work! There is SO much paperwork, numerous background checks, the home study completion, the mental and physical preparation of adding to your family, and in some instances, adoption travel. However, once the child is home with their forever family the real work begins.
Transitioning a child into a new family can be stressful for the new child, parents, and siblings. Everything in the household is changing, personalities can conflict, routines need to be established, and tensions can run a bit high as everyone settles in. Often there is not a strong support network to help the family navigate their “new normal.” In fact, for many adoptive and foster families, the time just after a child comes home can prove to be a time of loneliness and even despair. But it doesn’t have to be that way!
Many people are not in the position to adopt or foster a child, but they can become a very important source of support and encouragement for those of us who have. Being the momma of 16 children (14 of them through adoption), there are a few things that I have experienced which I am sure other adoptive/foster families would love, as well. These simple ideas are a way for everyone to be helping hands to those families who have answered the call for orphans and vulnerable children.
1. Take them a meal. Everyone appreciates a meal they don’t have to prepare, and for a family who has just returned from an international adoption trip, a hospital stay with a newborn, or who are transitioning a foster child into their home, a meal is such a blessing. Whether home-cooked or delivered take-out, both are a wonderful treat for a tired momma! I do suggest calling the family ahead to check on allergies/food restrictions. Meal Train is a great website that can be used to help set up a meal calendar if a church or friend group is interested in providing meals for a week or two.
2. Have a “Gotcha Day/Baby Shower” for the new child, even if they are not a baby! Our church had a Fiesta Party for our 10-year-old Colombian daughter when we brought her home, and it was so wonderful! She received some needed clothing, school supplies and toys and it was a great opportunity for everyone to meet her. Adopting a child is expensive, so there may be things the family needs for the child but have been unable to afford. Most foster children come to their new home with very little clothing or toys. If a “Gotcha Day” shower is not an option, perhaps the new family could prepare an Amazon Wish List, which could be circulated among family, friends, and church members.
3. Offer to give moms and dads a “night out.” Babysitters are expensive and often hard to find for a newly adopted child or foster child. Mom and Dad need a chance to escape, even if only for a few hours. We have a friend who babysits our children twice a month, and it has become something my husband and I look SO forward to. It is important for mom and dad to stay strong and stay in love, despite any new stress that may be happening at home. A united front is very important!
4. Offer to take the other children in the home out for a special treat. There is bound to be some sibling jealousy when a new child comes into the family. An ice cream parlor trip or dollar store shopping spree with a family friend or relative is a special treat for a sibling who may be feeling a bit left out. It gives them a chance to be the center of attention for a short time and enjoy some one-on-one time.
5. Surprise a family with some groceries, movie tickets, gift cards, or even a gift basket of yummies. Adoption can be expensive and tough. Everyone loves an unexpected gift. One Sunday afternoon my family left church only to discover that our van had been completely filled with food! And not just any food, but the good, name-brand stuff! (This momma buys generics.) This actually happened several times, and the joyful squeals of the kiddos was priceless. We never did find out who it was that left the food for us, but that blessing meant so much to us!
6. Listen! I know as a very busy momma, my time with adults is limited. When I do get a chance to visit with friends I like to talk! I don’t necessarily need deep conversations and I am not usually looking for advice or counsel, I just need to talk about something other than Elmo, feeding schedules and homework. Sometimes parents just need to vent about things that are out of their control or that are weighing them down. Finding a friend who is willing to listen is a Godsend.
7. If you are a praying person, pray for adoptive and foster families! Many kiddos come into the home with brokenness, abandonment issues, anxiety and fears, and sorrow. Prayer is a how we take these struggles directly to the Lord. Adoptive/foster families need to be continually covered in prayer.
8. Be open-minded! One of the best things for an adoptive/foster family to have is friendship with another adoptive/foster family! The orphan crisis is real. There are over 160 million orphans in our world. Our country’s foster care program has far more children needing families than it does families seeking children. Christ calls us to be a father to the fatherless (Psalm 68:5), to care for the orphans and the widows (James 1:27). He seeks to set the lonely into families (Psalm 68:6). He can only do that when families have willing hearts.
You have an opportunity to make a difference to a family who needs encouragement and support. So many people have stepped up for my family through the years, and they will always hold a special place in my heart. Supporting an adoptive/foster family in ways similar to those listed above DOES make a difference and it is graciously appreciated!
Bio: Ann L. McKinney is the author of Always Room for More: Walking Through Open Doors.
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