Supporting families formed through adoption
Families not only come in all shapes and sizes, families are formed in a variety of ways. One way to become a family is through adoption. Some children are adopted as infants or toddlers, while others are adopted when they are older.
Some children are born in another country. Children are sometimes adopted by an extended family member when their birth parents are no longer able to care for them. Regardless of how or why it happens, adoption can be a positive way to create a family.
Regardless of how or why it happens, adoption can be a positive way to create a family.
Attitudes that non-adoptive families have about adoption can play an important role in the support, or lack thereof, that adoptive families experience. The Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute conducted a survey about the opinions people in the U.S. have about adoption. The results show that about 50 percent feel that adopting a child is preferable to remaining childless.
Some 25 percent think that it is sometimes harder to love an adopted child because the child is not their flesh and blood. Most feel that adoption serves a very useful purpose in our society.
What attitudes does your congregation have about adoption and adoptive families?
Here are some ways to foster understanding of the adoption process and support families who have chosen adoption as a way to create or add to their existing family.
- Recognize that adoption is a viable way to form a family. It can be a blessing to both the parent(s) and the child. Books such as One Wonderful You: A Unique Book for Adopted People of All Ages, available through the Children’s Home Society in Greensboro, N.C., and Web sites such as Adopt Shoppe Books provide a variety of books and articles.
- Infertility is one reason people choose adoption. Remember that infertility can be an emotionally charged experience. Seeking medical treatment for infertility may include peaks and valleys of hope and disappointment. It can be a high stress experience. Offer support, a listening ear, and a compassionate heart throughout the entire process. Consider adding the following title to your library: When You are Coping with Infertility by Vera Snow. Order this resource from the ELCA Resource Catalog: Phone 1-800-638-3522, ext. 2580 or online at www.elca.org/resources.
- Some people choose to adopt a child from another country. Dealing with the adoption requirements of another country, which could change at any time throughout the process, contributes to an emotional roller coaster ride for the parent(s).
- Patience and understanding by others helps them get through the journey.
- Realize that there can be a lot of time spent waiting during the adoption process, and we all know that waiting can be difficult. A normal pregnancy takes about nine months. An adoption could happen quickly or take several years. Weaving God’s Love Across Cultures has some excellent resources for blessing the family throughout an adoptive process, along with a wealth of other support for families planning cross-cultural adoptions. Order this resource from the ELCA Resource Catalog: Phone 1-800-638-3522, ext. 2580 or online at www.elca.org/resources.
- Recognize that some families will become biracial through adoption. Nurture your congregation to be a safe haven from bias and racism.
- Make sure that nursery and education leaders have policies and practices in place for handling children with critical health issues. Some adopted children are very healthy and others may have chronic or infectious health issues. Check with a local day care or nursery school for advice.
- Include adoption issues in parenting support classes and groups. Adoption includes issues of loss and grief, for example. Help adoptive parents be prepared for this fact. Consult Weaving God’s Love Across Cultures (above).
- Include stories of adoption in sermons, prayers, and education experiences.
This article was published in Seeds for the Parish
, a bimonthly resource paper for leaders of ELCA congregations.