Adoptive Families, You Need a Support Team

Some of us adopted children thinking we could handle it – all of it.

We were competent people and even experienced parents, but it wasn’t long before Russ and I learned we couldn’t do it on our own. Parenting children with early trauma took more than we could give.

We needed a team.

It wasn’t easy to create our support team. Asking for help required humility. We also needed creativity and flexibility to think far outside our norms to find solutions.

Let me share some of the members of the team we created.

Our Support Team

1. Health Care Providers

Before adoption I was a mom who rarely gave her children Tylenol; after adoption, we had a team of four different clinics at Seattle Children’s Hospital for our children. We traveled there at least once every three months for appointments and sometimes more frequently. We also had an occupational therapist, dentist, optometrist, and the occasional quick care doctor on our team as well. Two of my children took medication twice a day, every day. And after a few false starts, I finally developed a monthly prescription refill schedule to manage the challenge of staying on top of medications.

2. School

Before adoption, we were a homeschooling family, and we didn’t anticipate school outside the home would become part of our lives. But after our adoptions, we discovered it was what two of our children needed. We added teachers and classmates to our lives.

3. Tutors

Our girls had several wonderful tutors who helped them catch up on language skills. One spring I hired a “homework helper” who helped us through the end of the school year, including all of those pesky projects like dioramas. The combination of school still being new, English not being their first language, and simply being behind in their education meant the girls needed extra help.

4. Therapists

We were blessed to have an amazing therapist for our children. We traveled regularly for appointments, requiring a significant sacrifice of time and finances, but the benefits for our children and our family were remarkable. Before adoption, I never imagined we would need the help of a therapist; today I cannot imagine our team without this experienced and compassionate person who understands trauma, attachment, and grief.

5. Therapeutic Adults/Respite

We had special friends who were very much part of our team, providing loving, secure care for our children. My dear friend (fondly known as Aunt Michele) and her family were a key part of our daughter’s team. Every Wednesday afternoon, Kalkidan went home from school with Aunt Michele and stayed until after dinner. Michele and her husband understood our daughter’s needs and how to help her grow and mature in a healthy way. This relationship was a key part of her healing and a great source of help.

In addition, a young couple in our church offered respite to us. They loved children and had the experience, education, and compassionate hearts to care for our daughter. This was an answer to prayer.

Extended family can also be a critical part of a family’s team; sadly, we don’t have family living near enough to be involved with our children on a regular basis. If you have family near, I encourage you to seek their help and support.

6. Helpers

One summer I hired a high school girl who took the kids to the park, on hikes, and even on a trip to the store to buy flip-flops. A young woman cleaned my house a few times; a luxury I never allowed myself before.

If you have children who are old enough to babysit, you may not see the need to hire helpers. However, we learned there are times when we need to lift the burden off of our older children as well and not rely too heavily on them. In addition, we had one child we couldn’t leave in the care of siblings because it was stressful for everyone.

Hiring helpers is difficult for families whose budgets are already stretched caring for our children. You may need to think creatively, bartering with a helper or trading with friends. We realized it was important to “invest” in our children and our family now, so we didn’t “pay later” when the problems were more severe and everyone was completely exhausted.

7. Church and Youth Ministry

We’re very thankful for the blessings we receive from our church and particularly the people committed to loving and teaching the youth. For years we attended a church without a youth group and we saw no need for it. One of the many changes in our lives was joining a new church that fit our family better.


Whether you are preparing to bring new children into your family or you adopted years ago, I encourage you to think about what your family needs.

Do you have extended family or good friends who can become a more integral part of your team? Maybe you need to seek out a therapist or meet with a teacher. Regardless, let me encourage you to lay down any excuses or pride holding you back from seeking help and building a team to provide your child the love and care he needs.

Don’t try to tough it out and make it on your own. Create your “team” starting today, and let others hold you up when you are weary. Everyone will benefit more than you can imagine.

Leave a comment and tell me, who is on your team? Who do you wish you could have on your team?

[An earlier version of this post was published on Empowered to Connect a number of years ago. We’ve come a long way since then. Despite our gains, we still need a circle of support around us, and I’m guessing you do too.]

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With courage and hope for the journey,

Lisa

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Let me introduce myself. Russ and I are the parents of twelve children by birth and adoption, and sometimes more through foster care. I'm the creator of One Thankful Mom which has been as much of a gift to me as to my readers. In 2011 I became a TBRI® Pracitioner* and have lived and breathed connected parenting ever since. I'm deeply honored to be the co-author, together with the late Dr. Karyn Purvis, of The Connected Parent; it is her final written work. I love speaking at events for adoptive and foster parents. I'm also the co-founder of The Adoption Connection, a podcast and resource site for adoptive moms. I mentor and encourage adoptive moms so you can find courage and hope in your journeys of loving your children well.

6 Comments

  1. Janna Williams
    April 30, 2018

    I’d like more people to pray for us!!

    Reply
    1. Lisa Qualls
      April 30, 2018

      Truth! Janna, thanks for reminding us of the importance of prayer.

      Reply
  2. Sammy
    April 30, 2018

    We’ve adopted 12. We had lots of doctors and the school gave our kids lots of extra help learning English etc… I mainly go to my family, friends and Jesus Christ constantly.
    http://www.sammynmick@blogspot.com

    Reply
    1. Lisa Qualls
      April 30, 2018

      What would we do without family and friends! Thanks for sharing, Sammy.

      Reply
  3. Angie
    April 30, 2018

    1. A partner in prayer who’s available to text, email or call when needed for requests & to share the PRAISES. Sometimes I get bogged down by requests & forget the praises.
    2. Respite & Childcare- Homes of Hope has respite scholarships for foster/adopt families in our area and my husband & I try to schedule regular get always. However, we usually cannot find anyone that can watch our kiddos from the hard places. Too often we rely on our eldest and most times that does not go so great.

    Reply
    1. Lisa Qualls
      April 30, 2018

      Great ideas for team members, Angie. I agree, it’s hard when we rely too much on our older kids.

      Reply

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