From years and years of working with adopters and from my own personal experience, I know just how important a good support network can be. That’s why during the assessment phase of the adoption process, your social worker will spend a significant amount of time checking out your support network. At Adopters for Adoption, we want to ensure you are going to get the support you need and deserve.
Identifying your support network
Before entering the process, it can be a useful exercise to take a pen and paper, and consider what your support network looks like. Try not to think about this list too narrowly. As well as close friends and family, you may find support from neighbours, work colleagues and even other parents and carers.
During the process, it’s not unusual to find that some friends, who you thought would be there for you, might drift away. Perhaps they might not really understand what you are going through or how to relate to your experiences. However, other members of your support network, who perhaps you were not as close to before, may come to the fore – so don’t be too surprised if help comes from an unexpected source throughout your journey.
Identifying the differing skills within your support network can also be helpful. In fact, some adopters have found it helpful to make lists of who they might turn to, to meet the different needs they have throughout the adoption process. One friend may be great at providing a listening ear for you to offload how you’re feeling occasionally. Another friend may be more suited to helping you by offering practical help, like car lifts or running errands that you need sorting. A good way of identifying people’s valuable skills is to categorise your list into people who could offer practical help, those people you can phone in an emergency, potential babysitters, etc.
Asking people for help
Sometimes, it’s not easy to ask for help and it can feel like a sign of weakness. You may fear the worst: “What if they say no?”, “What if they ignore me?” and “What if they see my request as a waste of time?”
While these are all possibilities, they are quite unlikely to happen. Many people within our support network would love the opportunity to help us where they can. Just the same as we are happy to help them. Some may indeed say no, but many others probably can’t want to help – but simply don’t know how to help until you ask!
You may have friends or family who say, “Do let me know if there’s anything I can do to help!” This can be difficult to manage, but the onus is on you to follow up on that, rather than assuming they will come back to you. The best way is to give them something particular to do – the more specific you can be, the better! You might ask them to walk the dog once a week or go to the shop for you or pop round on a weekend for a catch up every now and again.
Remember, parenting vulnerable children is a marathon, not a sprint. Gather your resources you need and seek out whatever help is available, so that you can conserve your strength for the journey.
When a new baby arrives in a family, it’s not unusual for family and friends to rally around, drop of meals, or offer to iron or mow the lawn etc. The arrival of an adopted child or children should be no different; in fact, it will present additional challenges especially in the early days. Whilst you will be advised to keep visitors to a minimum at first, your support network will be essential from the very beginning. My husband and I really appreciated supportive texts and telephone calls as well as dog walks and the occasional Lasagne!
Helping others to understand
It can be discouraging if those around you seem to have little understanding of your needs, or the challenges you may be facing. Inevitably, there will be family or friends who have never really thought much about adoption or maybe their understanding of what it involves bears little relation to reality!
At Adopters for Adoption, we run regular Friends & Family Events, which are an opportunity for people in your network to come along, meet other people in the same situation and find out more about the needs of adopted children and the process involved.
Remember that while you may have been living and breathing this subject for some time now, but those around you may have some ‘catching up’ to do. If your family or friends are interested or willing to learn more, why not share some useful reading with them so that they can better understand adoption and the needs of your child.