We are the parents of twenty-two children. Four of these children are biological and eighteen are adopted. Over the years, God has faithfully met the needs of our growing family, and often He has done this through the loving hands of other people in our church and community. We think this linking of arms is such a beautiful way to support and encourage any adoptive family and to serve as an example of Christ’s love. It is one of our greatest desires to encourage other people to make themselves available for God to use them in the lives of other adoptive families in this way, and we hope that this document will give you ideas for doing that.
There are many other ideas besides those listed here, but all of these ideas are taken from our family’s personal experience or from experiences shared with us by other adoptive families. So we encourage any of you to use these ideas to spark creative thoughts of your own. It will require some sacriﬁce on your part, but it will bless a family in ways that they will never forget, and it truly will be a tangible, hands-on way for you to help change the life of a child in need of a family and home to call his own.
~ Scott & Kathy Rosenow, founders & directors of The Shepherd's Crook Orphan Ministry
Interested in helping support an adoptive family you know? Contact Diane Ferguson, our Homefront Mobilization Coordinator, for more information.
Ways to Help Support Adoptive Families
CLICK ON EACH SECTION BELOW TO READ MORE
During the Adoption Process
- Pray for the family and the child
- Sign up for email updates/follow the family's blog
- Be willing to write recommendation letters for their adoption dossier
- If you're a notary, offer to notarize documents for them. This can be a huge help!
- Contribute toward adoption expenses
- Donate frequent flyer miles
- Offer to help prepare their house for the child being adopted (safety improvements, modifications for special needs, building furniture, decorating, sewing, etc.)
- Hold a gift shower, no matter the age of the child they're adopting
- Create prayer cards with a picture of the child and a poem/Bible verse for the family to give out to friends
- This journey can be lonely and the waiting hard, so keep your friend company
- Schedule a girls' night out or a double-date night
- Be a listening ear; sometimes it's helpful to vent about the difficulty of the process
- Be a positive, stable presence—speak calmly, check in regularly, laugh, chat normally
- Help keep their focus on God and His work in this process, but be careful not to "preach" at them. This entire process—which can take years—can be more difficult and more painful than most people can imagine.
For all of the ideas listed below, please be sure to ask the family's permission before doing anything. Not all of these things will be good for every child, so the decision of what to do should ultimately reside with the adoptive family.
- Offer to help with the other children left at home
- Clean their house
- Put a stork in the yard and/or set up welcome home decorations
- Meet the family at the airport (but don't linger, because they'll need to get home!)
After the Child Comes Home
Be mindful that, during this critical phase of the process, there is a delicate balance between being available and supportive without being intrusive. The balance isn't the same for every family, so let the family guide you without getting your feelings hurt. Remember, it's alwasy about the family and the new child, and not about you. And always arrange visits ahead of time. Never show up unannounced.
- Offer to walk their dog, run errands, make a grocery run, go to the store for them, etc.
- Drop off a care package every now and then
- Send fresh fruit, flowers, and other niceties
- Offer to do chores for them, like cleaning bathrooms, mowing the lawn, raking leaves, shoveling snow, etc.
- Offer to help their other kids
- Help oversee their homework
- Read with them
- Take them for an outing so the parents can bond with the new child, or just rest
- Use text, email, phone calls—whatever the family prefers
- Send them notes of encouragement from time to time
- Listen, even if it's 2 am and they just need to vent
- Be friendly, but be careful not to get too close to the new child without the parents' permission
- If the child comes to sit in your lap, gently redirect him back to his parents
- Set up small playdates with the adopted child/parent to help with socialization, when the parents feel the child is ready for this
- Be sparse with parenting advice—they might already be struggling
- Always be aware of the need for the newly adopted child to attach to his parents
- See if there's anything you can do to help with the child's transition to using English
- Organize meals for the family
- 2-3 meals per week for a month is a good place to start
- Set this up before they travel so that the family knows what to expect upon returning home
- Ask about food allergies and food dislikes in the family
- Organize the schedule online with sites like:
- Set up delivery methods
- The family will be focused on bonding with the new child, so it might be better to have meals dropped off at a certain time each day (e.g., already baked and at dinner time so that it can be served immediately. Or, you could place a cooler on the front porch.
- Note: Again, bear in mind the balance between being supportive and being intrusive. During this phase it's rarely a good idea to stay for a visit unless the family requests that as a way to support them. It is usually best to deliver your meals quickly and quietly, and then leave right away. And always arrange drop-off/delivery times ahead; never arrive unannounced.
- Send everything in disposable containers so the family doesn't have to return dishes
- Stock their freezer with things like pre-made meals, frozen pizzas, emergency popsicles, ice cream bars, etc.
- Bring ingredients for a family pizza fun night so they can make their own pizzas, and maybe even some home-made cookies for them to decorate together.
- Organize meals for the family
Many times we have been blessed by gift cards for Kroger, Walmart, Target, etc. These cards have helped so much as we try to provide daily for a large family on a very tight budget. Others have blessed us with gift cards for stores that will meet very speciﬁc needs, like Shoe Carnival. There have been some seasons when we don’t know how we would’ve provided shoes for all of our children without a gift like this. ~ S&K R
Years ago, our church started a program called “Just One More.” The idea behind this was that members of the congregation would pick up just one more of some non-perishable item when they shopped for themselves. This could be a jar of peanut butter, a container of juice, a pack of paper towels or toilet paper, ketchup, jelly. . . . There is a large box in the church’s lobby where these items are left each week. There is no way to describe how much this act of love has helped our grocery budget. This is such an easy way for many people to get involved without placing a large burden on any one person. But the difference this kind of combined effort can make for one family is huge! ~ S&K R
Whenever the two of us travel out of the country or have to spend time in the hospital with one of our special-needs children, members of our community and church band together to provide meals for our children waiting at home. It is so beautiful to be able to just focus on our travel and new child, or to give all of our attention to our little one who is sick, and not even have to worry about how to feed our crew who is waiting at home for us. ~ S&K R
As a result of meals that were being provided during the times described above, one friend took it upon himself to organize an ongoing meal ministry. He compiled a group of people who wanted to be a part of this and has been overseeing this meal ministry now for several years. This group of incredibly dedicated people provide meal components (meat, vegetable, starch, fruit, etc.) ﬁve or six times per month. Again, this is such a huge help toward our very large grocery bill, and constantly encourages our hearts as we live our very blessed but often challenging life. If you would like to ﬁnd out more about how to organize something like this for an adoptive family close to you, feel free to contact Pat Farrell for details about how he set this up for our family. This is such a tangible way to link arms with a family and be a part of changing the life of a child. ~ S&K R
Most families, in making the decision to adopt, are also choosing to give up many things that typical Americans have come to think of as necessities. Among these things is personal entertainment. This is especially true for large families or families with special-needs children. These families usually don’t have the money to join community pools or take their children to movies, the zoo, or amusement parks. Just to order pizza for our large family typically runs over $100. It has been such a special and beautiful treat when others blessed our family with restaurant gift cards, an annual zoo membership, movie passes, tickets to a special concert, or a day at Kings Island. Once, we were given tickets to a small circus here in town, and it was a magical day for our children—one they will never forget. ~ S&K R
In middle-class America, it’s pretty much just expected that families will take at least one vacation each year. This is often not the case for adoptive families, and again, this is especially true for large families or families with special-needs children. In addition to the expense involved in even a fairly simple vacation, often there are the complications of doctor or therapy appointments that can’t be missed, or daily medical supplies that make travel and/or lodging in a hotel difﬁcult. A friend of ours came up with a beautiful solution to these challenges for our family. For several years in a row, they invited us to stay in their home for a week while they were away visiting extended family. Although this home is located only about ﬁfteen minutes from our house, we felt like we had actually gone away for a vacation. Their home has a lovely in-ground backyard pool, and we did our best to cut ourselves off from normal life and appointments for that week, and this home did truly become a vacation resort for us as we played together, rested, and reconnected.
Another time, friends managed to make contact with someone who owned a very large mountain cabin which had been built speciﬁcally for family reunions, church retreats, etc. The owners of this cabin agreed to let our family use it for several days at no cost! This trip did involve travel, but we were able to work that out and had an incredible few days in the mountains, surrounded by wooded beauty. ~ S&K R
Adoption is a beautiful blessing for the children coming into a family, for the siblings of these new children, and for the parents who have been given the gift and honor of parenting these precious ones. But it’s also hard, exhausting work, with few breaks and ongoing periods of intense stress. If there are special needs involved, then there are even more areas of stress, as parents seek the best medical help for their child, learn how to care for the child’s speciﬁc needs, and ﬁt many appointments into their daily schedules. (We typically have anywhere between twenty-ﬁve and forty-ﬁve appointments each month!) It is so critical for these parents to keep their marriages strong and united to be able to face these challenges as a team. And having some time alone together to rest and catch their breath is essential. You can ﬁnd ways to help with this. In some cases, you may be able to offer babysitting, although they may not be able to accept your offer if their child is still in early stages of bonding or if there are complicated medical needs—but they will at least be touched by the offer. And if parents are able to make other arrangements for childcare, then you could help with their time away. Movie tickets, restaurants gift cards, a night in a hotel for a full night of uninterrupted sleep . . . these things can do much to refresh tired parents who are not in a position to cover the cost of these things for themselves. We have a friend who is part-owner of a cozy mountain cabin in another state, and this friend has offered the two of us the use of this cabin for free on several occasions, so that we could slip away for a quiet time alone. There is no way to describe how gifts like this help an adoptive family to stay the course and persevere during the more challenging times of parenting adopted and/or special-needs children. ~ S&K R
After the expenses of funding an adoption and adding family members to a home, there is often little room ﬁnancially to cover the costs of home repairs or renovations that might be needed to accommodate a larger family or the addition of a child with special needs. We have witnessed individuals reaching out to adoptive families in this way multiple times, and we have been the recipients of such gifts ourselves. You could take on the task of organizing fund-raising for this kind of project, or you could offer your own personal services or talents. Friends have re-covered worn-out chair seats for us, replaced carpet and ﬂooring, painted, made new curtains, brought in closet organizers to help us ﬁnd ways to better function as a large family in a crowded house. Backyard play sets have been built for our children, landscaping done around our house, and plumbing repairs done in our kitchen and bathrooms. It’s hard to describe just what it can mean to someone who has no time or money to do these things for themselves, to drive up and see ﬂowers planted across the front of their home, or to realize that their faucet is no longer leaking. We know of several families whose homes were remodeled or added onto in order to make it easier for the family to care for their growing family, and we are currently in the midst of receiving a blessing like this ourselves. ~ S&K R
" 'A new commandment give I unto you,' says Christ, 'that you love one another.' (John 13:34) And how is this commandment to be obeyed? The Apostle answers, 'Bear on another's burdens, and so fulﬁll the law of Christ.' (Galatians 6:2) Therefore the bearing of one another's burdens is a necessary eﬀect and proper exercise of this holy love. It will go and lift the pressure from the spirit, chase the sorrow from the heart, dry the tear from the eye, and supply the pressing need. Or if it cannot accomplish this, it will take its place by the side of the suﬀerer, sharing the sorrow and the want it has no power to comfort or remove. Is this law of Christ—the law of love—thus exhibited in you?"
~ Octavius Winslow (1808–1878)