Tuesday Topic: "Let Me Know if You Need Anything."

Not everyone is called to adopt or foster children, but all of us can serve the fatherless by coming alongside the families in our midst who are caring for children.  We want to help, but often we’re not sure how, so we say something like, “Let me know if you need anything.”  Of course, we rarely hear when they do need something because they aren’t really sure what we meant when we made the offer.

Last night as I was reading through emails that have been sitting in my inbox far too long (I apologize profusely!), I noticed some common themes that brought this question to mind,

What would have helped you the most in the early weeks and months after adding a child to your family through adoption or foster care?  If somebody had asked you, “What can I do to help?” and you were able to answer anything at all with no shame, guilt, or concern about whether they really would want to do it, what would it have been?

I would love to hear your thoughts on this, and I’m sure many people working in orphan care ministry would also like to know how you would answer this question.  If you’ve been in the position of serving and helping other families, what seems to have blessed the families the most?

Take a moment to answer – we really want to hear from you — yes, you.

#351 – 360 giving thanks

success for Andrew and Mimi’s short films

a new recipe for dinner last night – and they liked it!

Honeybee and Sunshine baking bran muffins

Rusty’s good taste in dinner clean-up music

a young friend’s book being published

Rusty’s beautiful design for the cover – I’m in awe

Ladybug making lunch for the little ones while I take a walk through our hills

wind and wind and wind (a favorite line from Sarah, Plain and Tall – a lovely book)

glorious leaves on our maples

birds flitting about our new feeder by the back porch

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Encourage one another,

Lisa

This post may contain Amazon Affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

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.

32 Comments

  1. angela
    October 25, 2011

    A few meals would have been nice.

    BUT seriously,

    months down the road when the going was rough….

    The thing I grieved most keenly was the" felt loss" of friendship and friends. People backed off – walked away – stopped calling – stopped inviting – and it felt much like they stopped caring. – – to be sure there are a few who I can still count on. But 18 months into this, I have had to recreate my friendship base and the pain of the loss was overwhelming in when things were the hardest. Deep friendships are not built over-night.

    Reply
    1. shannoncl
      November 3, 2011

      ditto ditto!!!!!! yes.

      Reply
  2. Angela W
    October 25, 2011

    Our adoption support group brought us meals every other day for the first two weeks. It was wonderful because we didn't have to worry about food, but it also allowed small, manageable visits with people. It wasn't overwhelming for our kiddos because they had the freedom to go in another room and play if they didn't want the attention, but it gave my hubby and I some contact with the outside world while we were in hunker down at home mode.

    Reply
  3. Lisa
    October 25, 2011

    I echo Angela's comments. We were euphoric at first and did really well with the practical management of life. But it was as the months wore on that I began to feel like I was under house arrest and was very alone. I couldn't attend church or events often due to our new circumstances and ended up wondering 'what happened to all that support we felt pre-adoption? where was everyone htat had been cheering us on and fundraising and such?" It got really quiet and really lonely. Faithful, persistence friendship would've been really good. Sharing a pot of coffee would've been great. Someone to babysit in hte living room while I took a nap in the bedroom would've been a guilty pleasure I might have refused, but certainly needed! Having a 'mentor' adoptive mom's wisdom would've been comforting. Having someone clean the bathrooms and load the dishes would've been good. Having someone watch the 'new' babies so I could spend time with the 'old' ones would've blessed my big kids too. We were just swamped with the unexpected heavy load of it all and didn't come up for air for at least 18 months into it.

    Reply
  4. Heather
    October 25, 2011

    Laundry, cleaning my home, and meals – so I could concentrate on all of our kids during the transition, and nothing else. Unfortunately, I never found anyone willing to do the laundry or cleaning. Finally with our 4th adoption a few people brought meals. A number of people would ask what they could do, but when I said cleaning or laundry, they would just chuckle and say something like, "yeah, i bet it's hard to keep up with right now." – and then go about their merry way. I'm noticing I sound bitter. I guess I am a little, because when I offer help to someone I truly mean it. If there is something specific I want to do to help, I ask if I can do that specific thing for them. If there are things I'm not willing to help with, I make sure I don't ask an open ended question. Okay, off my soap box. 🙂 Definitely meals, cleaning and laundry.

    Reply
  5. Ann
    October 25, 2011

    Food is always great and I would secretly love someone to clean my house–but doubt I would take up the offer unless the person was related (somehow it's easier to let my sister clean a toilet than my best friend LOL!).
    I think just having someone come and take the other kids out to do something fun is very helpful–giving me time to bond with the newly adopted child (this only works if the newly adopted is okay with staying home when the other kids head out the door).
    Another idea would be for a friend to allow us to borrow some toys for those times where the newly adopted is having a bad day–we used to have a toy sharing circle in a playgroup where we would pass around things like a play tent, a bin of McDonald's type toys, Lincoln logs, etc. It was great!
    One other idea is to have someone play "taxi" and take my kids to sports practice or even shoe shopping (I would pay of course, but shopping is hard with a newly adopted child). Years ago, when we had just adopted Vu, my daughter's godmother took her to all her orthodontist appoitments. What a godsend!!!
    Of course, there is always the ultimate gift–a Starbuck's gift card 😉

    Reply
  6. Chrissy
    October 25, 2011

    Oh yes! I echo the Starbucks gift card!

    In all seriousness, what two of the ladies mentioned is what I would say as well. Don't forget about us later on. Sure, everyone wants to meet the new kids when they arrive, and everyone LOVES to help before the kids come home but there have been a limited few who will still come and visit us. I think that is what I long for more than anything! To not feel alone!

    In the first month, though, the biggest help for me was when people offered to do special things with my oldest kids. They treasured those times. Even a simple walk to the park made all the difference in a really rough day!

    Reply
  7. Linda
    October 25, 2011

    It was hard the first few weeks of fostering our two children. No, it was probably the hardest time of my life, even more difficult than the time I had four birth kids six and under, had bronchitis two weeks after a c-section, and chicken pox was going through the house! How can that be? When I had given birth, I had family and friends who brought meals, Hubby took time off work, and others pitched in here and there. When we brought our two foster children home, there were no meals, Hubby went back to work, friends disappeared, and I was left with two preschoolers who had severe RAD, PTSD, and had FASD. They had doctor, therapy, and family visit appointments all over the county that had to be done often. I also had teenage birth children to ferry around also, so I was putting in a minimum of 125 miles of driving in a day, not counting the doctor visit trips. I was able to halfway hold it together until all of the family, except the foster kids, came down with the flu. The little ones would panic when I would lay down, so I wasn't able to rest. The children were so dysregulated, they would break things, throw things, drop things, and made a mess. They were constantly hungry, and being so underweight, they really did need to eat a little bit often. I called them my little hobbits because they wanted to eat so frequently. Of course the morning I started to feel better and I began to clean up, the child welfare inspector came to the house!

    So what would have helped me?
    I got support from our foster agency but none from our church. Because no one at our church at the time had ever adopted or fostered, I don't think they had any idea how difficult the first few weeks are. They understood new babies, sick parents, and death, but they didn't understand why anyone would need extra help or support when fostering. I would have liked more prayer and more help from the people we fellowshipped with, rather than from people we barely knew at the agency. It wasn't like we weren't involved with the people at the church, but they were just too busy with their own lives to notice what we were going through. We also live in an area of the country that most people hire others to help them clean, cook, and do lawn work. We couldn't afford that, but I think the people assumed we would hire someone to do what we couldn't do.
    A few meals here and there would have been nice.
    Maybe if someone heard we were sick, to come and help me clean or drive the older kids. Even one less driving trip would have saved me time and effort.
    Someone to go through the process to be approved so we could have some respite. At that time, a babysitter for a foster child in our state had to be fingerprinted, over 18, TB tested, and CPR trained. The law loosened up three weeks before our adoption was final, but at the time we needed it only our foster agency provided a time for us to have a date night once a month.
    Used clothes or someone to go out and help me shop. I had to go out and buy everything the kids needed after they came to our home, since they came with nothing but the clothes they wore and I had only a few hours notice that they would be coming. Shopping trips were difficult since both children would scream every time we went to a store.
    But most of all, I needed friends and family to give me a hug, encourage me, and intercede for our family and to welcome our children like they would be with us forever.

    Reply
  8. shannon
    October 25, 2011

    i had a friend–not really even a close friend– call me several times and say "I have absolutely nothing to do for the next two hours. What can I do?" I had her bring big kids to soccer, grab us some takeout, come watch the babies while I showered, purchase a gift for secretary's day, etc. She was amazing. The Spirit seemed to prompt her on days when I really needed it. Another friend called me every time she went to Sam's to see what I wanted (I live close by and she just dropped it off on her way home). A different friend came and babysat after bedtime so we could go out (we weren't ready to let others take over bedtime routine yet).

    Reply
  9. Paula
    October 25, 2011

    Everyone has made such great comments… especially about the loneliness… all of the suggestions are spot on. In addition, I would have loved someone to come and sit with my kids for an hour while I took a nap and didn't have to worry about ANY of the kids at all – both the bio bigs and the adopted littles. I was so incredibly tired and emotionally drained the first six months.

    Reply
  10. Courtney
    October 25, 2011

    food.
    meals. dinner. breakfast. a friend brought lunch over totally ready to serve one day and served my kids and cleaned it up!
    even just a bunch of fruit cut up would be a huge blessing!

    Reply
  11. Jeannette
    October 25, 2011

    We had meals provided for us a for a week after bringing our son home. That was great as we adjusted to jet lag. But it was also really good for me to get back into a normal-ish routine of cooking. What I really wish someone would have offered is to watch the other to kids of ours while we took our adopted son to his various doctor's and counseling appointments. It was incredibly stressful to have to figure out either with my husband who would watch the other two and who went to the counselor or who we could hit up for babysitting (again). And dragging all 3 kids (4 and under) to lengthy dr.'s visits, and blood draws…. that would have been wonderful.

    Reply
  12. Gwen
    October 25, 2011

    It's already been said up there ^ ^ ^ but I would have loved to have some six/seven/eight-months-in support. It was a time when I felt isolated, desperate and hopeless; that was the time when I needed friends to pop in for coffee, and sit and let me cry and talk… and to pretend not to notice the state of my house. When our friends saw just how tough things were getting with older child adoption, the phone and doorbell stopped ringing. I know that they were letting us have space and privacy to work through things, but, boy, I really needed some distraction during those tough times.

    Another huge service would be for an older teen / young adult to take an interest in my older bio kids, who feel frustration, grief and anger at the loss of their previously easy family life. My older kids are going through a huge crisis of faith — why has God allowed our family to be destroyed? (that's their perception) — and are looking for answers, not always in the right places. A Godly young woman to mentor my girls would be an enormous blessing right now.

    And, yeah…. dropping off meals….. arriving unannounced, scrub brush and rags in hand to clean the bathrooms….. picking up milk, bread, and three or four bunches of bananas for our Ethiopian boy….. dropping in with an encouraging Bible verse written down on a piece of paper, maybe with a Tim Horton's coffee in hand….. Those would all be lovely blessings indeed! 🙂

    Reply
  13. dorothybode
    October 25, 2011

    You know what? We need help now….11 years, 10 years, 8 years, six years..(you get it) after the adoption as we face mental health crisis, serious medical diagnosis and exhaustion that comes from an 11 year battle to 'put on a happy face.'

    After placement there is an initial rush of attention…it's often those wearing years that leave us desperate for help.

    Reply
  14. coffeemom
    October 25, 2011

    Take the kids out of the house to a movie or park or whatever…so I could have some time, alone. That was what I needed most, every time. OK, hey, I still do! Anyone???

    Reply
  15. Debbie
    October 25, 2011

    I always receive offers of babysitting. To be honest, babysitting is something I wish I could use, but I can't. In our experience, it was just too rough on the kids with significant attachment problems. I would have loved a visit — I can stay home and visit. Some coffee – Yes! Maybe a meal that I don't have to plan. Mostly, just understand that I might fall off the "social" planet for quite some time. Please be patient with me.

    Reply
  16. dawn
    October 25, 2011

    I agree with all the posters above.

    No one really realizes how much adoption is a trauma for everyone in the family. I loved meals, someone to take my other kids, and groceries. But like the others, for me, the isolation was the hardest. I often felt unable to share with anyone what was really going on in our home. I covered the bruises and sat in silence, unable to reach out to anyone. I literally felt trapped in my own home. It had become a prison.

    What I needed, was someone to stop in and just let me cry. To see the mess our lives had become and to comfort us through it. To not judge or offer advice, just to BE with us. I think it's so hard to feel like we aren't able to reach out because we "wanted this", we "prayed for this". Feeling judged by others brought us to a serious low in our lives.

    The only thing that saved me (besides the overwhelming love of God) was reaching out to an online friend. One who I texted through numerous rages, as I was being beaten both in body and in spirit. She talked with me, prayed with me, and loved me through it.

    Hard stuff. Great question!

    Reply
  17. Steph
    October 25, 2011

    I just found your blog last night and am so blessed by it! Also found your friend 9to20, and am blessed beyond words by her. I just wanted to say how great it is to see the honesty here. What we have needed the most in the two years since bringing our second adopted older daughter home is honesty and transparency from other adoptive and foster parents! I have one adoptive-mom friend several states away, and every few weeks we chat on the phone with the freedom to tell it like it is! 🙂 But strangely, the adoptive and foster parents we know here in our area act like adoption is a breeze. There is no freedom to express struggle or need, and our greatest judgments have often come from these other adoptive parents! It would have been great for close friends to recognize that adding this child to our family was hard and not judge, but just be there…..for the long haul! Relieved to see I'm not the only one who feels this way. And still confident that my God shall supply all of my needs – and my daughter's – according to His riches in glory! 🙂

    Reply
  18. Sara
    October 25, 2011

    We've been home almost two months and we're doing really good, but reading all the comments is comforting….just to know our new normal is normal. A friend who watches the big kids while we take our new son to appointments has been vital. A couple of times friends have invited us over for dinner at our house. They've shown up at our door with a meal and a game and those evenings are some of my favorite cocooning memories. I'm thankful for all of you who have walked this road before us and aren't afraid to share about it.

    Reply
  19. learningpatience
    October 25, 2011

    Before I read any of the comments I thought, "Just keep being my friend and believe me when I dare bare my soul enough to share with you that this is hard!" I too felt isolated because of the needs of our children, but I also had friends who wouldn't believe me when I would try to express how difficult it all was. They would say things like, "Oh, but they're so beautiful!" as if that meant that none of our children could be suffering a huge loss and struggling to the point of pushing our whole family close to the edge.

    Some other things that were amazingly helpful:
    -A friend used to call me at random times and say, "I'm at [the big store]; what do you need? I'll run it by as soon as I'm done shopping.] She'd call on her way to my house and tell me my total, so I could hand her the check as she handed me the groceries.
    -Gift cards for places that do take-out. Dining out was just too laborious at first, but it was a huge blessing to not have to cook some nights!
    -People who prayed for us and who would occasionally say, "We are praying for you!" out of the blue.
    -Friends who would come here to chat (instead of going out for coffee or meeting somewhere else). This allowed me to put the kids in bed and then socialize on the nights that my husband was working at night. (I know my house isn't as fun as sitting at the cute coffee shop, but it was such a blessing to be able to host my friends on those nights!)

    Great question!

    Reply
  20. shannoncl
    October 25, 2011

    It is still the best gift anyone ever gave— my sister came for a weekend and just picked up my entire house, did all laundry and sorting and organized things that had been unorganized since arriving home. We are on 20 months home and if someone or two people had come to my house for an entire day to do that for us once a month- it would have sooo helped during those times when I had n.o.t.h.i.n.g. left- yet still felt the obligation to manage the home but knew if I could just lay on the floor and play with my new son….. it's overused… but still "PRICELESS". Literally. She paid for his flight home, for diapers for a 3 months and more- but those 2 days… BEST EVAH!

    Reply
  21. Denise
    October 25, 2011

    This is such a great topic. I have to agree that the loneliness as friends have dropped out of our lives has been really difficult. One of my best memories was when my oldest was a baby. He screamed. Constantly. A woman came over with her teenaged daughter. Her daughter walked with my baby in our back yard. I could still hear the screams but at least they weren't right in my face. The woman sat me in a chair, propped my feet up, wrapped a quilt around my shoulders, and brought me a cup of tea and a peeled orange on a pretty plate. I'll never forget it. It wasn't anything monumental but it meant the world to me.

    Reply
  22. Rachael
    October 26, 2011

    We came home from Ethiopia with our sons; twin toddlers about 4 months ago and I am not mommy to 7. We were blessed beyond measure with meals when we got home and people reaching out and for that I am so very thankful. The one thing that I thought about when I read your post was … encouragement. I was drawn to your blog because you are encouraging. I love how you sign off on your posts. Right now, being home for a few months and trying to truly settle into "life" … life seem very lonely. Encouraging each other is huge in my mind. I agree with much of the comments above about isolation and loneliness. Could be a card, a phone call, a friend stopping over for coffee… Nothing big… just a reminder that there are others out there praying for you and love you in the midst of the adjustments that are happening at home that seem to include tantrums, exhaustion, stress and mountaintops of joy at our house.

    Reply
  23. Mary
    October 26, 2011

    Meals, offers to do errand-running or to ferry kids to their activities when a day has been too tough for me to have the energy to leave the house in the afternoon/evening. I've also found it tremendously restorative to spend an hour or two with one of my well-attached kids, just to encourage me and remind me that I do have easy, healthy, delightful parent/child relationships in my life. Struggling with attachment issues can just take over your mind, and a break is so helpful. You can feel so very conflicted about leaving kids who so desperately need to get attached, but you've got to have the energy to commit to the relationship overandoverandover to help the child eventually feel safe enough to begin to trust. So do what it takes to get revived, even if it means leaving kids now and then.

    Reply
  24. mommafoster
    October 27, 2011

    We fostered a newborn until she was 7 months old. She left two months ago, but I would add asking a foster family how the grieving/loss is going after just the first few days of departure–without just saying, "Oh, gosh, I don' t know how you could never do that. I'd just become so attached…." I know its a bit of a different situation, but I thought I'd add that.

    Reply
  25. Melissa
    October 29, 2011

    I know others said this, but meals would have been helpful. Our first adoption we received meals just like with the birth of my other children. With our second we didn't. I think a lot of it was because she was 5 years old, the other adoption was a 7 month old. For some reason, people think babies take more out of you. But that simply isn't the case. Meals would have given me one less thing to manage as we were trying to adjust.

    Reply
  26. christ
    November 2, 2011

    I would agree that the loneliness was the biggest thing. People sometimes "didn't want to bother us", but actually, we wanted to feel like it was real life and that our friends were still there. We have a big family – and so many people just don't seem to want to mess with that – please, drop in for coffee. You don't have to bring anything, but you certainly can! Sit and fold clothes with me! Come and join in life. Just someone else in the house, interacting with the family and the kids gives me a bit of a break.

    Reply
  27. Heather
    November 2, 2011

    We adopted identical twin girls at birth after taking in Mom and older sister who was just a baby herself. The last 3 months of the pregnancy I ended up leaving home and staying with her in the hospital about an hour away while my husband and daughter took care of her little one, and family and friends from church picked up the slack at home–babysitting, meals, prayer support, encouragement. Bringing them home was the highlight of all of those days…..but three months later, no sleep, no food and two babies on opposite schedules, I was stressed, exhausted and wondering if adoption had been the right choice for our family. What could I have used? People who dropped in and did all the things the above posters said–without saying "Yes, I know its hard, but isnt it a blessing?". We went through tough times again lately when we moved and had two 18 month very very busy toddlers, but I almost feel like saying something to someone is just going to bring another comment like the previous one. SO someone who understands and has been there would be such a blessing to have a cup of coffee with right now. 🙁

    Reply
  28. Melissa
    November 3, 2011

    Meals… yes. Not forgetting about us… yes. Playtime with my daughter while I'm at home getting stuff done… yes.

    In my experience, either people seem to think I've got it all under control, or they just figure that if I've been able to handle the first one or the 3rd one, etc, that I can handle this transition. Which is not true. It absolutely takes time to adjust… And it is SO VERY lonely. Someone who actually takes the effort to call once a week and just check in, is great, too… or email or whatever. But consistently and really interested in how we're all doing would be nice… to vent, or cry, or just coo about how things are going.

    Reply
  29. sleepyknitter
    November 7, 2011

    Oh, wow, I thought the title of the post was "six things adoptive children need", and WOW, did I need that! But this is a good post, too. Thank you.

    We brought home two children three weeks ago, a 14-year-old and an 8-year-old, and things are really rough right now with the older one, who is very angry about her adoption. (She truly doesn't understand what was going to happen to her very, very soon if we hadn't adopted her). We are exhausted and isolated in our daily life, but we have significant help in areas such as translation during the intense crisis moments (of which there has been an increasing amount over the last three days especially), after-school tutoring, and so forth.

    What would have helped me most with our first two adoptions (infants) would have been people dropping by our house in the afternoons for 20 or 30 minutes or an hour, if they had it, just to curb the feeling of isolation.

    What would help us most now with the two older adoptions would be people stopping by to spend time with our younger kids so that we can either rest or focus on the older two.

    We are in a very difficult time, and I know that we have at least six or seven more months of this before our oldest, the 14-year-old, begins to soften (if she's typical). The eight-year-old is adjusting just fine to her adoption. But our three younger children are frightened of the oldest, and it's just hard right now to manage our household.

    And I agree with several people who said prayer would help. There is tremendous strength, courage, and hope in knowing that other people are interceding for us. I am very thankful for those who have prayed for us.

    Blessings!

    Reply
  30. learning2Bimperfect
    November 7, 2011

    I think the only people who understand the adjustment a family goes through when bringing an older child home are those who have been there or those who have really educated themselves about adoption and foster care.
    I have to say, our first couple of years were OK. Our kids did not have outrageous behavior problems and we had older kids home to help.
    But now, with the older, helpful ones out of the house and the bio kids and adopted kids all going through adolescence at the same time I DO need help, but I'm not even sure what?
    –prayer
    –understanding
    –someone to tutor unwilling homeschoolers
    –someone to help me organize and clean my house
    –someone to pray with me and keep me looking up
    –someone to mentor my kids when I'm too tired to hear them
    –someone to take me out
    –someone to provide a safe haven for my kids so I can have moments of peace and reflection
    –someone who is willing to work real hard and get little thanks.
    Maybe I just need a MOM! At least I have a savior and the good advice, 'this to shall pass'

    Reply
  31. Sharon
    November 10, 2011

    I am loving reading all of these comments. We were very isolated those first months with very little offers of help or understanding of how difficult adding a new family member is…especially when they are older. I need to rethink how I offer help to others as well.

    Reply

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