Home Education Adoptive Families Need More than a Baby Shower

Adoptive Families Need More than a Baby Shower

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After learning of the many babies born every month in our county who need homes, my husband and I decided to pursue adoption through the foster care system. We educated ourselves about custody, fostering, visitation, adoption law, subsidies, and which babies are the hardest to place. We finished a home study, background checks, and a large tree’s worth of paperwork. Then, much sooner than expected, we got a call.

Almost overnight, our family of four became a family of five—and we were completely unprepared. We had no diapers, clothes, furniture, or bottles. I wrote a quick email to a friend at church giving her an update on our situation.

Several days later, we drove our tiny baby home and found a fully furnished nursery complete with a beautiful crib, a dresser full of clothes, and a changing table stocked with preemie diapers and wipes. I cried when I saw it all. The people of God had pooled their resources to love this tiny, helpless person before they’d ever met him. A week later, a woman from our church texted me saying she wanted to buy his diapers for the first year. I cried again at the kindness of God’s church.

Beyond Diapers and Dinners

Many families experience this kind of generosity at the beginning of an adoption journey. Fundraisers are held to pay for adoption fees and expensive flights. Gifts are brought to welcome children; meals are provided for days and weeks as the family adjusts to a new member. All these encouragements are helpful and needed.

But for some adoptive families, like ours, the most significant needs come later as they parent children who have endured significant trauma or have special needs. A child’s difficulties may begin in the womb, with a mother who struggled with addiction, didn’t have access to prenatal care, was unaware of her pregnancy, lacked nutritious food or prenatal vitamins, or was in dangerous circumstances that caused stress for the developing baby.

Sadly, being adopted into a stable family doesn’t erase these challenges. Many children, like our son, have significant, lifelong struggles. How can churches support adoptive families with ongoing needs?

For some adoptive families, the most significant needs come later as they parent children who have endured significant trauma or have special needs.

1. Provide financial support.

Adopted children may have physical needs requiring expensive surgeries, treatments, and hospital stays. They may need ongoing physical, occupational, and speech therapy. These medical bills can financially overwhelm a family.

Some children come with a history of trauma that can be difficult to treat. Neglected or abused children may, in their anxiety and fear, lash out with physical violence, verbal assaults, and frequent threats. Trained therapists may be needed for long periods, not only for the child but also for adoptive parents and other children who live with these extreme behaviors. Sometimes multiple types of care are needed to help with these behaviors, and not all are covered by insurance. Churches can help with these expenses.

2. Reduce barriers to participation.

Adoptive families may struggle to engage in church activities due to a child’s special needs or extreme behaviors. Our church has cared wonderfully for our adopted son, handling behavior problems and conflicts and allowing him to participate in night events and weekends away, even when that requires managing medications and food intake. Not all churches have the resources to care so comprehensively for a child with special needs, but consider what your church can do to help families with challenges participate as much as possible.

If the adoptive family has other children, get to know them and seek to make them feel welcome at church. Volunteer to sit with them during the worship service or to be a backup in case the parents need to attend to a sibling’s needs or behaviors.

3. Form a care group.

Get to know the family, the diagnoses, and the child’s needs. Form a small group of people to listen regularly to updates on therapies, school, health, and home life—and offer an unshocked ear. These parents may experience difficult behaviors. They can’t share these struggles with everyone, but they need to share them with someone. Be willing to hear what real life looks like in their home and respond with compassion. Pray specifically for these needs and let the family know when you do.

You might also form a support group for adoptive and/or special needs parents in the church that meets semiregularly for encouragement and sharing.

4. Provide respite care.

Encourage members of your church to be trained by adoptive parents or other professionals to provide respite care. Your church could even facilitate group training. Then offer a regular chunk of time (perhaps monthly) when trained church members supervise the adopted child in their homes as a break for both the child and the rest of the family.

Adoptive parents may experience difficult behaviors. They can’t share these struggles with everyone, but they need to share them with someone.

Adoption is a meaningful way to care for the most vulnerable in our society. If a family in your church has stepped out in faith to adopt, by all means, throw them a baby shower. But also check in months and years later to see how they’re doing. Some adoptive families have few problems and adequate resources to deal with the ones that come up. Others may really need your help.

Consider how your church can come alongside adoptive families in your congregation to help these little brothers and sisters who have big needs.

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