The Adoption and Fostering Community: Supportive or Critical?
How would you describe your community? Do you find most parents and professionals are kind and supportive of you and your family, or do you walk away from situations feeling criticized and demeaned?
Outside the adoption and fostering community parents may expect to run into criticism from naive and uninformed people, but surprisingly it can also be a problem within the community. When families are struggling with their child’s acting out or acting in behavior they can become the target of a hurtful glance, remark, or criticism. Families use the following words to describe their inner reaction from negative exchanges with other parents and professionals:
Isolated Reprimanded Hurt
Pitied Misunderstood Lonely
Disregarded Scorned Disbelieved
Stories From Real Families*
Emily and Shaun added four year old twins, Luke and Andrew, to their busy family of five. Shaun and Emily describe their painful interactions with others, “We have had many comments on our parenting techniques --from other parents. They think we are helicopter parents for not letting the twins out of our sight. We have been told we need to let them grow and explore, and make mistakes. We have been told they are just acting their age, as preschoolers, and their natural personality is loving, kind, and affectionate. Some of our family members and their preschool teacher have made comments to us too, like we need to be more consistent, or better, with our discipline - implying that if we were doing a better job, the kids would have better behavior.”
High school sweethearts, Joe and Missy, adopted sons, Tommy and Braden, after several years of unsuccessful IVF treatments. Tommy and Braden, age twelve and ten, respectively, were placed into foster care as toddlers due to severe neglect by their birth mother. In a therapy session, Missy tearfully relays the ongoing lack of support from school, family, and friends, “People always think they can parent our child better than us. They say things to us like, ‘If only you all weren't so strict, after all, they’ve been though so much!’ What I really need is for my family and friends to call me and ask how we’re doing and listen without judging us or the boys.”
What Do Families Need?
When families are asked, “What are the ways people can support you and your family through challenging times?” Most parents express a desire for others to listen to them without judgment. It sounds like a simple request, but it is bothersome for most people as they feel compelled to fix the problem which is not even within their power to fix!
In emotionally trying times, people feel alone and misunderstood. One way to comfort a hurting friend is to accompany them on their journey, walking alongside them, being present with a nonjudgmental stance. This is the message, “I don’t know how to help you, but I am here for you.” Let’s listen to Joan’s story:
Single mom, Joan, recently adopted her son, Jonah, from foster care at the age of ten. Her mother, Samantha, has been extremely supportive of the adoption. Joan states, “I couldn’t do this without my mom. She’s my champion! I’m often hurt by friends who don’t understand what I’m going through or who’s kids don’t have the “issues” Jonah has . . . but their kids don’t have his history. I consider myself very lucky: when I’m stressed my mom listens without judgment and she frequently takes care of Jonah for an overnight or a weekend. It’s reassuring to have time away knowing that Jonah is with her where he is loved and safe --and she makes him follow the rules! Probably the best thing is she doesn't judge me for needing a weekend to myself or a night out with friends. That means a lot.
As a community, adoptive and foster families need to stand united and help one another. What are you willing to do to kindly lift up another parent or family? What are some ways you can walk alongside the parent or family instead of turning away?
Join the supportive and caring community of parents at Forever Families. Click on the "Community" tab to enter the group and introduce yourself!
*All identifying information has been changed to protect the privacy of the families.