The year of 2020 has been full of changes. We have learned this year, perhaps more than ever, how flexible we must be sometimes. The world of events has dwindled down to a virtual experience for most entertainment outlets. Concerts, award shows, fundraisers, parties, and even graduations are all less personal this year as we experience them through a screen. However, connection is still important and available to us, so while things may not look as exciting because they are different, keep an open mind as you can still enjoy networking, learning, and a fun time virtually. The adoption world has many ways to be plugged in and involved.
Birth Parent Opportunities and Ideas
For a year or two now, another birth mother, Lacy, and I had been discussing how to get birth parents together successfully. She and I were in a support group that was facilitated by the agency we placed with, but it was becoming a cliquey and unwelcoming place due to the women who were there. The other birth mothers were having valid feelings of disappointment and lack of contentment in their open adoption plans, but because they were always ranting about how crappy they felt their situations were, when someone had completely opposite views, it did not feel like the best time to speak up. Instead of that setting promoting healing, it was enabling stagnancy. So, I started bouncing thoughts around with my friend, Lacy, “I know that the agency can offer so many resources to help birth mothers, but 90% of them are not taking advantage of it. And a lot of those who are, seem to be stuck in a rut. Why?” After brainstorming a bit, we decided that there were a few things that were causing this.
Agencies are often where the “hurt” a birth parent experienced took place. They can be the root of a challenging time that birth mothers experience and oftentimes, regardless of how positively they view their story or the agency, it’s easier to disassociate with that organization so that they are not consistently reminded of that hard time they faced. Even though I have nothing but praise for the agency I worked with and my adoption story, I can relate to this thought. Many years after I placed my daughter, I was at the agency on a tour and they took everyone into the placement room where I too, handed my daughter to her parents many years before. I stepped into the threshold of the room and was immediately met by a thick wall of pressure. I couldn’t go in. I began to get very emotional and had to excuse myself from the tour to quickly pull myself together in the nearest bathroom. You see, adoption is hard and heavy. No matter how much we work on our healing, there are still triggers lingering around every corner.
It was Stagnating
Those women who were stuck in a rut of discontent? In my opinion, they could easily begin expressing their grievances in their open adoption plan because they were around caseworkers who could go back to the adoptive parents and prompt an update or whatever the birth mother was longing for. That is great. That is what our caseworkers are for. They help hold accountability in our plans so that expectations are managed as best as they can.
However, I think because they had gotten so comfortable making that their safe place to share their thoughts, they did not realize how it had become enabling for bad coping skills. How do we fix that? Lacy and I thought that if we found a way to gather birth parents in a neutral space like a restaurant and made it a casual happy hour like vibe where people can connect and share stories over dinner and drinks, that support would naturally fall into place without a formal structure. As a birth mother, I would much rather meet up over drinks and casual conversation to gain healing and support through friendships, than a group counseling session. But don’t get it twisted, I am 100% all about therapy. It is so beneficial for everyone. I just prefer that one on one.
One type of birth parent event is Birth Mom Dinners. An organization that is local to me, BraveLove, has a mission to change the perception of adoption through honest, informative, and hopeful communication that conveys the heroism and bravery a birth mother displays when she places her child with a loving family for adoption. BraveLove, outside of Covid-19, has several birth mother dinners nationally that are organized by a birth mother who hosts a dinner at their home. It’s a great way to meet other women who have placed a child for adoption, and to enjoy a night of fun and laughs. Nothing brings people together like dinner, right? This year BraveLove hosted a birth mother zoom party, which was quite the success! It looked different than people gathered around a table, but the purpose was still clear- birth mothers can always come together to find strength as a community. My organization that I was touching on earlier will be having adoption events locally next year. More information can be found here and even if you are not in the DFW metroplex, we would still love to be connected with you through social media.
Another way for birth parents to gather is with support groups or group counseling. BraveLove is also a great resource for this as they have all kinds of birth parent event listings posted on their website. Another way to find out if there are local support groups or counseling opportunities to you is to call a local agency or the one that you used. Their post adoption department should have resources to offer you. I challenge you to take advantage of these.
If you do not feel that you can go to something the agency you placed with is hosting, ask them if there are opportunities for you to get individual counseling, or if there are any support groups/groups not held by them specifically. I am confident they will understand if you are still working through hurt and/or trauma associated with them.
Another way to be connected to others is to share your story. While that does not always come in an event form, such as when you are writing an article like this, there are usually opportunities to share your testimony as a birth mom at fundraisers held by agencies, panel speaking opportunities at adoptive parent orientations, or even at an adoption focused event being a guest speaker. If you are comfortable using your voice to share your thoughts and story, there are many opportunities out there and I find that it personally helps me heal the more I talk about everything.
I also challenge you to start meeting up with other birth parents that you may already know from your journey. You don’t need a big formal event to attend in order to find connection. Invite a few birth moms for drinks or dinner some night and then you can have the opportunity to chat. I believe that you will get something from it. After all, no one will ever understand what you are going through but another person who’s gone through the same situation.
There are so many different opportunities for the adoptee and adoptive parent side of the adoption triad. For adoptive parents, there are usually many training programs that you can take to widen your resource bank in parenting and communicating with your child. One of my favorite trainings that I took when interning with The Gladney Adoption Center was called Pathways Training. Gladney states that “[r]esearch is clear that parenting a child that has a history of loss, abuse, neglect or trauma requires additional insight and parenting skills to create a loving and caring environment for the emotional, physical, psychological and mental growth of a child. Parental preparedness is a cornerstone in further ensuring successful adoptions.” When I sat in on this training in particular, as an adoptee, I was so encouraged to learn that there are agencies training parents on how to best address the symptom of behavioral issues and realizing it is a more deeply rooted issue of some type of trauma.
I think that it is important to add in here that while adoption is a wonderful option when faced with unplanned pregnancy and families wishing to begin or add to a family, it is still founded upon the loss of a mother for a child and the loss of a child for a mother. As an adult, I have uncovered that a lot of the identity issues, behavioral issues, and nagging need to be wanted was from the deeply rooted trauma I had experienced from my adoption. While I grew up a very loved child who thought positively of my story and adoption in general, I still went through trauma and was therefore impacted by it.
Aside from training programs, there are adoptive parent support groups out there as well. This can be a great way to lean on other adoptive parents and rally together to be the best you can for your children and to be able to grow as individuals. The North American Council on Adoptable Children has an extensive database with groups nationwide for adoptive parents to find support. There are usually some type of family associations or groups that your agency has specifically as well. I know the agency I used has father-daughter dances, and other fun family-centered events.
As an adoptee, I have found it challenging to find a place to connect with other adoptees. I have leaned on therapy and agency events mostly for an adoption community. Therapy, while not necessarily a single event, has been the most beneficial to my healing from the trauma I encountered by losing a mother and father by being placed for adoption. We often forget that adoption is created out of loss, and that impacts adoptees. Being able to talk through that in therapy has helped me gain personal growth and important coping skills. I was part of an adoptee support group at one time, but I did not stick to it. Your agency should have resources for you as far as therapy and support groups.
Another great way to be involved in adoption events is to let your agency or any adoption organization around you that you would love to volunteer for. I have been able to serve on event committees and enjoyed getting to connect with other adoption ambassadors in the community through that. Most organizations will have at least one fundraiser a year, and these can be great to enjoy a night on the town for a great cause. I personally work for a non-profit on a fundraising team and I know that the trend this year is to have virtual events. You can easily Google your local area for adoption fundraisers that you can attend virtually. These types of events can be great for adoptive parents, birth parents, and adoptees. Every side of the adoption triad carries a passion for adoption in some form.
While there are so many adoption events out there, this year can be a great time to test out several different organizations, groups, and events. Virtual opportunities are often more convenient and easy to exit out of unnoticed if you aren’t feeling it. Therefore there is not any harm to trying a few!
As I have touched on before, events can be one of the best ways to establish your own adoption community. That in and of itself is the most beneficial thing in my eyes. I am so thankful for the women that I have in my life who I can call or text about anything that I am going through, and they genuinely will embrace me with grace and love to help me through. The other reason I find adoption events so beneficial is because I believe that there are so many people who could benefit from hearing about adoption. Children, prospective adoptive parents, expectant mothers facing an unplanned pregnancy, and the general public can learn so much by the adoption community bringing awareness to the table through adoption events.