I have been dragging my feet about starting to answer all the questions, partly because I have been so busy and partly because there is plenty to write about just in my life in general - and updates are always easier to write than something topical. But, alas... I will begin.
The first question I am going to answer was unique in that the person asking wasn't trying to satisfy any sort of curiosity, but was genuinely interested in better supporting adoptive families. I don't think there is ANYTHING wrong with asking questions about adoption purely because you want to gain a better
understanding of the whole thing... I love asking questions and I encourage others to do the same! But I did like that this question was not for curiosity sake but for the sake of supporting others.
Before I get started, I would like to put out a bit of a disclaimer. I do not speak for all adoptive moms. I do not speak for all biological moms. I do not speak for all women, or all Christians, or all hilarious people. I don't speak for anyone but myself, and I don't even want that responsibility. As it is, my opinion can change just on a hormone's whim... so I can't even promise that I will agree with me tomorrow. So take all this with the tiniest grain of salt possible. Maybe not even salt, but like... some sort of low-sodium salt alternative. Just remember that if I write something ridiculous, I warned you to take my answers with a grain of Mrs. Dash. Now, let's do this.
Question: How can people better support adoptive families?
My low-sodium answer:
1) Celebrate! When a couple announces that they are beginning the adoption process, react the same way as if they just handed you a framed sonogram picture, because that is pretty much what is happening, they are expecting a baby!! This is great news guys. Who doesn't love a good baby? This is when you jump up and down, maybe cry a little and hugs all around! This is not a time to list all your concerns or ask if they've seen the movie Losing Isaiah. Just do all the normal "are you hoping for a boy or a girl? Do you have names picked out?" kind of stuff and just plan the freakin baby shower already.
2) Do Ask Questions! Asking questions is a great way to gain more knowledge about the process, to undo some preconceived notions, and most importantly it is a great way to be involved in a wonderful and exciting season in the lives of the happy couple and to show that you care! My guidance about questions is to frame sensitive inquiries carefully, and leave room for people not to answer if it is too private or too painful to rehash. Just because someone announces that they are expecting via adoption, does not mean that they are ready to sign over a HIPA release to you. Simply avoiding assumptions (about their fertility status, reasons for adopting, etc.) and asking "The Google" first will clear up some questions that you may want to ask ("How much does it cost?") and give you a spring board to ask those questions in a better way. ("I read that adoption is really expensive, are you planning to do any fundraising?") This shows that you care, you've done a little homework, and that you respect privacy enough not to be overly direct on sensitive points.
3) Do Share Your Reasonable Concerns. Adoption is a complex issue, and the very reality that adoption exists is actually a tragedy. Soo... it's very natural to have concerns or opinions on adoption, and it IS OKAY TO SHARE THOSE with your loved ones. If you've followed tips 1 & 2, you've earned the right to share concerns, but remember that concerns are best received if you use adoption-friendly language. Simply rephrasing questions like "Aren't you afraid that the kid will want to look for his real mom someday?" Or "Don't you want your own children?" to more sensitive language like "How will you prepare for the day your child decides he might be interesting in reconnecting with his biological family?" Or "Has a desire for biological children had any impact on your decision to adopt a child?" Just coming from a place of love and support is the most important thing. When in doubt, start all questions and concerns with "tell me if this is totally ignorant, but I just want to understand..." Chances are, you will blow it at one point or another, and a lot of grace is given to those who acknowledge the fumbling and/or to those who threw us a baby shower.
4) Encourage. Like a physical pregnancy, adoption has a lot of ups and downs. Pregnancy has plenty of exhaustion, anticipation, fears and joys... adoption too! Some pregnancies end in devastating sadness, yep... we got that too. People say stupid things to pregnant women, holler back on that one. Whether an expectant couple is growing their child inside of their body, or via the womb of another woman... they need a lot of support during this scary, exciting and life-altering stage! Keeping the couple encouraged and uplifted will be of great importance, especially during long wait times or times when they feel a sense of rejection when they are not chosen. Just a note of encouragement will do, but if you want bonus points... write a letter to their future child telling her how much her parents wanted her and longed for her and how loved she already is!! When all else fails, plan another shower.
5) Consider Financial Support. Adoption is ridiculously expensive. Until adoption reform takes place, it is an extremely costly decision, and one that people often make because they feel a specific calling to adopt. It is rarely a decision that is made because "We could afford it, so why not!?" There are plenty of ways to help with the financial portion, even if you personally don't have extra funds lying around. Simply hosting a fundraiser dinner in your home, or donating items for a fundraising garage sale, or spreading the word by sharing the link to their online fundraiser/auction... be creative! The reality is that it takes a village. Most people finance their adoption with some combination of savings, funds that have been donated, and ultimately an adoption loan. These are usually low-interest loans that can take years to pay off. We paid off our first adoption loan about one year before taking the second. We have been very blessed with generous friends and family, and without them... We would have had to sell Tom in order to bring Jaylen home. So, at least consider blessing adoptive families with bags upon bags of cash. Trust me, if you do... they will still have to take a loan, but they'll love you forever and you will have the distinct blessing of knowing that you helped bring a family together. Plus, if you are the controlling type... You can push for a least a middle name in your honor.
Tom rocking the T-shirt we sell as an adoption fundraiser.
Voila! Five steps to keeping your friends that adopt! And more on this later, but it also really helps of you aren't a racist.