As many of us travel along this journey of adoption and foster care, few of us will make it without finding ourselves knee deep in the trenches. It is while in those trenches that we truly realize the importance of support in adoption and foster care.
Rose Colored Glasses
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Daniel and I first started the adoption process quite young. He was only 19 and I was 20 years old; still fresh in the naive stage of our lives . One of our first steps included an education course that involved guest panel speakers who spoke about the life of adoptive parenting. One woman in particular spoke about the challenges of raising children with special needs and Daniel and I discussed afterwards the importance of love. We knew that if a child could just receive enough love, that the majority of their challenges would melt away.
I know. We were SO misguided in our thoughts. Our intentions were good, to be sure, but the execution was hidden behind rose colored glasses of how parenting ought to be and what good parenting could accomplish. We assumed our lives would be just like anyone else’s, that we wouldn’t need help, and that life would be normal.
After a few short years, we realized just how wrong we had been. We discovered that special need parenting required a different type of parenting and that the gap between ourselves and our friends continued to grow until it resembled a chasm more than a gap. The chasm turned to occasional isolation and we knew we needed to finally seek supports. We had emerged from our naive pit and thrown our glasses to the wayside. Knowing of no other adoption supports available, we started our own adoption support group with 3 other couples; a family interested in adoption, a family in the process of adopting, and a family who had recently adopted twins. We didn’t realize it at the time, but it was the beginning of our emotional safeguard.
Our support group turned into friendships (we even founded a charity together to help others!) and we discovered just how much we had been hiding from those around us. Suddenly we could share the excitement of a completed dossier, vent at the preposterous comments of strangers, and cry together over hard decisions. It was a breath of fresh air as we were able to reveal our full and true selves to others who got it. Though we weren’t in need of life support just yet, it was the foundation for what God knew we would need down the road. The support group continued to grow and we felt fulfilled in the support we were receiving.
Shortly after, while sitting in the waiting room of my daughter’s ballet studio, I met a woman with two children through adoption. Upon finding out that she was an adoptive mother, I invited her to join our charity board of directors. Later I would find out she had prayed to meet another adoptive mother only the day before! We soon became friends and today she is one of my best friends. Somehow we gathered two other lovely ladies along the way and formed our own little adoption/fostering best friend club that would come to save each of us like we never imagined.
In the Trenches. Together.
Several more years down the road the chasm no longer exists and we find ourselves on entirely different continents than most of our friends. Chaos has engulfed our lives and isolation is the norm. Some of these challenges are due to the intricacies of adoption, some to the heartache of fostering, and some to the hurdles of special needs. As this new stage emerged, my best friend club was forming roots. Each of us were walking through new and difficult seasons that at times felt like they would leave us broken on the floor. Sometimes they even did. Thankfully, however, I had already developed my support group. That tiny group of 3 couples had grown and merged into an online community of over 100 (thanks to that ballet mom!) and my best friend club had come to understand me like no one else.
Now, we find ourselves distanced from our church, our old friends, and even family, as our children’s needs have grown more and more complicated. Doing the things we once enjoyed is often impossible, and the loneliness from the life we once knew can be all encompassing. Thankfully, my support group is here. Whether it be a quick vent in the Facebook group that others can validate, an encouraging comment from a fellow mother in the group, or a heartfelt phone conversation when I am at my lowest, I now have the comfort I never imagined I would need. Some host play groups and others host parties, where all our children can run around crazy and no one is the odd duck out. I truly can’t imagine how difficult life would be without these women. And although we are all in the trenches together, and many of us lack the time we once had to devote to friendships, I know they are all still around to drop off the occasional meal, bring a surprise treat, offer to watch a child, or continue to bring laughter and understanding to my life. It has truly been the life support I needed.
Find Your Support
I have been thankful to live in a community where adoptive parents are in the dozens, but I know many families do not. Many live in isolated communities, many are introverted, or many simply can’t get away from home. I would encourage you that if your resources are limited for seeking in-person support, to find online support until you can. There are many Facebook groups out there for the adoption and/or fostering community where others just get it. There are also many out there, however, that can be quite negative, so be sure to find the one that fits, and don’t give up until you find the right one. And when the time comes and you are able, seek out supports in your community. If they don’t exist, start them. Remember, it took me years to find the support that I now have, and it grew slowly, over time. Finding support that understands you and can support you will not only be life-giving for you, but will refresh your soul in a way that will allow you to better fill the cups of those sweet children you are raising.
And a final thought: men need support too! If you have a husband, be sure to help them find support in adoption as well! I will go into that in another post, but sometimes they need an extra push to get the support they need just as desperately.
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I’m having a terrible time finding local support groups in Indianapolis IN. I know they have to exist. Do have any resources?