Getting the Help You Need
Experiences like Mollie's and Dawn's may be more the rule than the exception, and make post-adoption support crucial. But where can parents turn to for help? In some cases, adoption professionals can be valuable sources of support. Michele Anderson, who is in the process of adopting a baby girl from China, says, "My social worker is awesome, really amazing. She is an adoptive mother, too, and she made it clear that if I ever need anything once our daughter comes home, that she would be there for us." Not all parents feel the same level of comfort with their adoption professionals as Michele does, however. After all, these are the very people who basically have been charged with judging a couple's suitability as parents for months or even years. Couples are reluctant to project an image of anything less than perfection out of fear of suddenly being perceived as unstable, or even ineligible to adopt a child.
Anne Landry, the director of operations at Alternatives in Motion, an adoption agency in Houston, encourages parents to dismiss that fear and reach out to their agency in times of need. In fact, in anticipation of the post-adoption needs of her clients, Alternatives in Motion offers services such as group counseling sessions, annual education seminars, family socials, and small pre-adoption support groups to facilitate the adoption process for their adoptive parents.
The National Adoption Center is another leader in post-adoption advocacy. Its website says, "While all families experience stress, families who have adopted often have additional issues for which they need help." To meet the needs of adoptive families, the center offers case management, crisis intervention, community and Internet-based education and support, in-home services for children, and parent support groups, among other services.
In addition to taking advantage of adoption agency programs, parents can share, provide, and receive support from their peers through a multitude of adoption websites that offer forums and discussion boards. Some churches and community centers also provide support groups where parents can befriend and share experiences with fellow adoptive parents.
In some cases, commiseration alone may not be enough to quell post-adoption depression. The good news is that parents need not—and should not—suffer alone. Depression is a serious disorder that deserves treatment. There's no shame in seeking the guidance of a professional specifically trained to help patients adjust to their new lives as parents. Working toward resolving depression is the greatest "welcome gift" adoptive parents can give their children.
During the post-adoption period there are sure to be difficult times sprinkled with happiness and happy times sprinkled with difficulties. Equipped with knowledge and support, adoptive parents are sure to triumph and enjoy the family they worked so hard to create.