The saying “it takes a village to raise a child” is spot on. Our adoption support network is scrutinised during the assessment process and for good reason! All families need a strong support network, but for adopters it is even more crucial.
We have added challenges and complexities on top of the day-to-day parenting.
You may be reading this as you embark on your adoption assessment, or you may be an experienced adopter whose support network has dwindled. Whoever you are, I hope this blog will give you some practical tips to help you grow a strong adoption support network, both for your child and for yourself.
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Making the most of the friends and family you already have
I found that the best place to start to grow my adoption support network, was to consider all the friends and family that I already have.
I talked their ears off about my adoption dream for years before it finally happened. Therefore, when it did, they knew just how important the moment was. When my lovely sister-in-law was pregnant, she would keep us updated with any changes and developments during the pregnancy. I loved this, so I did the same with our adoption.
I found it helped to generate excitement and make everyone feel involved in the journey we were on. It also meant they were super understanding when I got grumpy and frustrated over how long it was all taking!
When I went on training courses or read anything of interest about adoption, I would share it with them.
It was important to me to prepare my closest friends and family for the potential realities of adoption.
I wanted them to be aware of the ways our kids might act differently to those who haven’t experienced trauma. We have not had many trauma behaviours so far, but I wanted to make sure that our closest people were aware of potential tricky behaviours and the reasons why a child might behave this way.
I wanted to be sure my child would be met with compassion, understanding and empathy. Thankfully, this has always been the case for us, but I know that, sadly, it is not for everyone.
If you would like to engage your friends and family further, there are a few ways you can do so. Some agencies run a training day for family and friends to find out more about adoption.
There are also some good books out there that are specifically aimed at the extended family and friends of adopters. I bought the book Related by Adoption: a handbook for grandparents and other relatives, from Amazon, whilst we were going through the process. It’s a short, simple read, covering all the basics that they need to know, in order to best support you.
If you’re interested in more ways to get your friends and family on-board with your adoption plans then check out, Simple ways to get family excited about your adoption journey.
Communities that you are already part of
Groups and communities that you are already part of, give you an opportunity to deepen friendships and consider whether any of your friends could become part of your adoption support network.
I considered all the communities that I was part of, including work, voluntary groups, craft club and my church.
Sometimes joining a new group, especially with your child, can open up opportunities for mutual support. This could be a local wildlife club, sports club, faith group or creative group.
These are all opportunities to develop friendships and have a think about whether these friends could support you in your adoption journey.
Personally, we have found our church to be so welcoming of our children.
They are like extended family to us and love our kids and include them fully within the church family. Just like with friends and family though, they may not know a lot about the care system and the potential additional needs of our kids.
The charity, ‘Home for Good’ are passionate about the role the church can play in finding safe and loving homes for all kids. They help equip churches to be safe spaces for kids, through training for leaders and kids workers about the potential extra needs of our kids. They also have a great book, Home for Good: Making a difference for vulnerable children, that can be shared with others in your church community.
Making friends with other parents
Making friends with other parents can be really helpful, especially while your child is small. There are multiple ways to do this.
I found my local playgroup was the best way for me, as I adopted both of my children as toddlers. I joined the committee too, which really helped me to make friends there. It is so much easier to chat in a relaxed way, in an evening, when the kids are in bed! Book bug groups at local libraries are also a great opportunity to meet other parents when your child is small.
As my children got older, I looked at other opportunities and joined the school parent council to meet more parents from my son’s school. Basically the more involved you can get, the more likely you are to make friends. I started asking around before I adopted and found out about local groups. The social workers liked my enthusiasm!
If you are struggling to make mum friends, I have been there! I have shared some of my thoughts on the challenges and some encouragement in ‘Mum friends – Why is making friends with other parents so difficult?’ and if you are looking for ways to find other parents then check out, The best tips to find mum friends easily.
Meeting other adopters
I would say this one is essential.
Befriending other adopters gives you someone to talk to who ‘gets it’ and has experiences similar to you.
You may not be able to offer each other practical support, depending on both of your family circumstances, but the emotional support is equally important.
Most adoption agencies run an adopters support group. If yours doesn’t, then you can approach your local authority to ask if they do.
The charity ‘Adoption UK’ also have support groups in various locations throughout the UK and online groups. I asked to go along to one run by my local authority before we adopted. This was really helpful, as I could start getting to know other adopters locally and learning from their lived experiences.
Online Support Services
Lastly, I just wanted to mention the huge range of support that is available online. This is particularly great when you live somewhere rural and can’t always make it along to events further afield.
I’ve already touched on the support groups that ‘Adoption UK’ run, but just wanted to add that they have a range of virtual groups too. These include specific groups for home educators, LGBT+, men, people of faith, single adopters, parents of teens and those in the first few months of their journey.
They also run a programme of additional support, that you can ask your social worker to refer you to. “Therapeutic, Education and Support services in Adoption (TESSA)” is available to any adopters who are struggling. It’s also fully online so can be accessed by anyone across the UK.
Facebook Support Groups for Adopters
Facebook support groups have also been really helpful, when I was looking to grow my adoption support network. However, I found I had to be quite selective.
“Connective Parenting NVR with Sarah Fisher” is my favourite. If I have a parenting challenge and I want ideas on how to handle it therapeutically, how to put the theory from the books into practice, I just ask on here and within a day I have about 20 helpful suggestions. One of them always seems to work for my kids. It’s great!
I’ve also found the ‘Therapeutic Parenting’ group and ‘T.I.P. Trauma Informed Parenting’ group useful for this too. These are closed groups where the moderator (who has usually written books and run courses) will post helpful information from time to time. However, they are places to ask questions from others in similar situations and learn and support each other.
Growing your adoption support network makes all the difference
I hope that this has given you a few ideas to try as you work to grow your adoption support network.
It does take work, but I believe it’s worth the effort when you have a team of people to support you in the highs and lows of your adoption journey.
Some of my network support me emotionally, some support me practically, and others support me with information, trauma informed suggestions and signposting to useful services. I have found that I need all three types of support.
This allows me to be the best parent I can be, for my little ones. I hope that you are able to find the support you need for your family too.