Waiting is hard for most. For those waiting to grow their families through adoption “the wait” takes on new meaning.  Feeling empowered during this time is practically inconceivable.  Sharing this struggle and finding support in it can be challenging. Discovering tools to help navigate this time will allow waiting families to feel both empowered and supported.

It is crucial to understand why this time of waiting is hard.  The answer is not as obvious as one would think.  Many imagine this time as a period of excited anticipation and assume these are the thoughts of those actually experiencing this wait.  While there are elements of this that are true, much more is happening.  It is important to know that each waiting individual has a different experience.  Often we do not know the details of the journey that has taken place up to this point.  For many this journey has involved infertility and loss and has left wounds that are not automatically healed while awaiting a child to be placed in their hearts and lives.  Sharing the details of the journey is not easy.  This suffering is often done alone or with the support of select few.  It can create a sense of isolation and marginalization.  This happens not because people do not care.  More than likely it is because people do not know what to say.  The opposite is also at play with those who ask questions that feel intrusive and excessive.  It is these types of experiences that push waiting families to retreat and manage the journey alone.

As you can see, this period of waiting is filled with more than excitement and we have just scratched the surface.  Creating clarity around what waiting families need and how to meet this need will be helpful.  These families and those that support them greatly benefit from having information, education and connectedness.

We have all heard the phrase “knowledge is power”.  For waiting families, knowledge is empowering.  Gathering information about your agency or adoption in general gives back a little bit of the power that is lost to families during this time.  People like numbers and statistics.  These things are concrete and give us something to hold on to.  It is important to remember that numbers do not always tell the whole story. Make sure you are asking questions that are specific to the type of adoption you are doing such as, intercountry, domestic, waiting child, etc.  And, make sure you are getting information that is specific to your agency.  Just because one agency is doing 20 domestic adoptions a year does not mean all agencies are doing that many adoptions.  If your agency is reluctant to give you this kind of information that is a red flag.

Understanding the process also allows families to feel empowered.  There are so many steps and requirements during the adoption process.  Knowing exactly what this looks like will help a family feel at ease.  Ask for this in writing so it can be referenced as needed.

Also, know what the factors are that are contributing to the wait. It is hard to sit and wonder why a child has not yet been placed in your home.  It makes one question what could be done differently.  “Should we change our profile book?”  “Should we be more open?” “Should we adopt from a different country?”  These types of questions can keep you awake at night.  No one has all the answers to wait times but agencies do know some things.  Ask questions so you can have peace of mind.

Ongoing education is an important contributor to empowering waiting families and those that support them.  Education differs from information in that the focus becomes more about becoming an adoptive parent and less about the facts, numbers and processes.  This can begin as soon as the home study process begins.  Most states require education as part of the home study process.  Instead of checking off a completion box use this opportunity to learn and grow and even share with those close to you.  Engaging loved ones from the start allows them to feel like they are a part of the journey.   It also educates them so they can be a more effective support system for you.

Most agencies provide and/or encourage training after the completion of the home study.  Taking advantage of this allows waiting families to feel productive in the waiting and this is empowering.  When these trainings are offered at the agency rather than online it provides an opportunity to engage with agency and with other families that are waiting.

Connectedness is often the missing piece.  Gathering information and seeking ways to learn are easier, more concrete things to do.  These are the kinds of things we can put on a checklist.  Connectedness requires an element of vulnerability and families that are waiting to adopt already feel vulnerable enough.  Our human nature keeps us from wanting to put ourselves out there.  It feels risky to connect with others who may be able to see how hard this waiting has been. The possibility of being set up to feel more pain is daunting.  Frankly, it may just feel easier to avoid connectedness and more vulnerability during this time.  The challenge is having the ability to see beyond the uncertainty and finding the strength in connecting with others.  When this happens there is great reward.

You can find connection with your agency, other waiting families, families who have adopted, and your own support system.  How to do this is different for everyone but there are some good places to start.  Within your agency look for trainings and social events that are geared toward families that are waiting to adopt. When you go, try to talk to other families.  So many times these types of events are held and families are physically present, but remain emotionally removed and cautious which keeps them from connecting.  Hopefully your agency has events for all their families to include families that have already adopted.  Reaching out to families that have already adopted is very powerful and can provide a great deal of hope that your dream of adopting will happen.  In regard to your agency, tell them what you need.  If you want to know every time you are considered for a child let them know that.   They need to know you.  Use the home study process to build a positive relationship with your social worker.  Feeling known is a form of connectedness and feeling known by your social worker and agency will give you a great deal of comfort.

Creating a support system of family and friends allows you to connect with those who have known and loved you before this process started.  For many this is a small group of people that you trust and can rely on.  It should include those that know what you need and know what to say and when to say it.  These are the people that you are most comfortable with.  Talk with them and let them know that you want them to be a part of your support team as you are on this journey.  They will be honored.

The process of becoming an adoptive parent is much more than paperwork.  There is an emotional component to this process that is often overlooked.  Bringing awareness to this and then giving it the attention it needs, will empower those wanting to grow their families through adoption.  Through gathering information, continuing to learn and connecting with others the journey to adopting can be a rich experience worth repeating.

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