Six Things Adoptive/Foster Families Need When New Children Arrive

Last week’s Tuesday Topic amazed me.  Your responses were so thoughtful and good – I wish we would have all been sitting in my family room, sipping coffee together having the discussion.  I suspect we would have laughed — and cried. Next to Notes on Hope, it may be my favorite Tuesday Topic we’ve done together.

This was the question,

What would have helped you the most in the early weeks and months of 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?

This is what you answered:

Bring Food

Many of you stated that having meals delivered allowed more time to focus on all of your children, but also gave you some contact with “the outside world.”  It does not have to be dinner, as somebody said, even bringing cut-up fruit would help.  Someone else mentioned having dinner brought by friends who then shared the meal and spent the evening with them.  One person wrote that when they adopted a baby, friends brought meals, but when they adopted an older child people assumed it wasn’t as demanding and didn’t bring meals.  I think we can safely say that every adopting/foster family will be blessed by meals.

We don’t need to make this complicated – simple food is a blessing. I remember a friend bringing us “Breakfast in a Bag,” a gift bag filled with yogurts, juice boxes, muffins and other little treats.  Gift cards for take-out were also mentioned – a great idea.  After one of our babies was born, a friend brought us Kentucky Fried Chicken and another ordered pizza to be delivered – what a treat that was!   Cookie dough ready to be baked, homemade soup or spaghetti sauce, a frozen lasagna, will all be welcomed.

Provide Household Help

Several of you wrote that you needed help with laundry and cleaning.  I know we all have a hard time letting people see our mess, but I for one, find it very hard to relax if my house is too messy and chaotic.  A friend grabbing the vacuum or folding laundry while we visited was a big help.  I had a friend once pick up all of our kids’ dirty laundry, take it home, and return it clean, dry and folded.   A group of friends might want to go together to hire regular cleaning help for the first few months after new children join a family, or create a cleaning team themselves.

Along those lines, a number of years ago I was very sick and needed treatments that were an all day event.  One day a friend came to my house while I was at the clinic, put new, clean flannel sheets on my bed, washed my other set, and cleaned my house with my older children.  I came home and crawled into a clean bed with new sheets and it was pretty much one of the best gifts I’ve ever received.  That was nearly nine years ago and I’ve never forgotten it.  Friend, if you read this, thank you once again.

Run Errands

Picking things up at the store, or driving children to sports practices and appointments was also mentioned as a great help.  If you are already out and about, or if you can add a child or two to the crowd in your car, you will make a big difference for a family adjusting to life with new children.  The first year my girls were in school, a friend drove them home every day which not only simplified my life, but relieved my mind.  As our little ones grow older, we forget how difficult it is to buckle multiple kids into car seats in order to pick up one child from an event.  Waking kids from naps to take an older child to a practice is even worse.  This is a great kindness if you are somebody who is already in the car and happy to run a quick errand for a friend with a new child.

Provide Babysitting or Respite

Many of you said that babysitting would have helped, even if it was just somebody being with the kids while you took a nap.  Some said they needed help with their other kids while they took new children to multiple appointments. Others said they needed care for their new children while they gave some attention to their original crew.  Of course, it all depends upon the unique needs for the family, but this seems to be a need for most families.  Weekends are particularly difficult for Dimples, the lack of structure that she enjoys at school just doesn’t transfer to a long Saturday stretching before her.  We try to fill her days, but one of the greatest gifts we receive are friends who invite her over for a few hours, or even all day.  This Saturday when I’m in Denver, she has big plans with our youth pastor and his wife and she is already looking forward to it.

Respite is a great need for families whose new children have significant challenges.  A family can quickly become exhausted when there is constant raging, arguing, and destructive behavior. A friend who understands children from “hard places” and is willing to give the family a 24 hour break, or even a four hour break, will have an impact far beyond what they may imagine.

Show Kindness to the Original Crew

I’m in the process of (slowly) writing an article for Empowered to Connect on “giving voice” to the siblings of children from “hard places.”  Our original children struggled with our inability to give them attention and time when we added three new children to our family and one year later added another.  They lost us for a number of months as we struggled to figure out how to live this new life.

My friend, Beth, welcomed Ladybug into her family and home, and nearly completely homeschooled her for a year after Dimples came home.   Rusty and Ladybug joined the youth group of a local church and we were thankful for the encouragement and positive adult interaction they received.  It was so meaningful, that we eventually made that our church our new church home.

Friends who will take the kids and do something fun is also a huge blessing when life at home seems to be a load of work or simply tumultuous.  If a family has new children who are raging or crying for hours, the kids may need relief from the stress too.  My friend, Sue, began taking Ladybug and Sunshine to the library once a week, which they still look forward to each Friday.

It is very easy to forget how hard this adjustment phase can be for the other children.  Reaching out to them, or giving the parents a break from the new kids, so they can enjoy the other children, is a real blessing.

Be Present

I have to admit, I was struck by the prevailing theme of loneliness and isolation in the comments.  I hope you will read them yourself, because I can’t express the thoughts as well as the original authors did.  Over and over readers expressed that once the initial excitement died down,  they felt lonely.  The needs of their children may have prevented them from getting out and about; they were stuck at home, alone, living a new life with new children.  It is hard to imagine how very isolating this can be.

Several people said they wished friends would just stop by for coffee, even if the house was messy.  Others used the words grief and loss to describe how they felt.  Some of you said you needed somebody to just listen and not judge or try to cheer you up as you coped with the changes in their lives.  Encouragement is needed.  If you live a distance away, a phone call, email, or encouraging text may be what a mom needs.  Knowing you have not forgotten her, that you are praying may help her through the next hour.

It has been four and a half years since we brought our first adopted children home and for a long time our life needed to become very contained and small.  We simply could not go out much; even going to my bookgroup once a month became impossible.  I hope you’ll be encouraged to know that this month I am going to my bookgroup once again — and I even read the book.

If you missed this post, be sure to go back and read the great responses from everyone.  Please take a moment to add your thoughts – it is not too late.

Thank you for being a great community and sharing my life.

Encourage one another.


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.


  1. Kayla
    November 7, 2011

    Ooh perfect! I've been trying to do an adoption related post every day or so in November and I'm planning to share this. It has so many helpful ideas for how to celebrate and support adoption if you are not an adoptive family.

  2. Heather
    November 7, 2011

    This was wonderful! Thank you so much! As I read it, I am realizing how much the care months, even years after the homecoming is helpful. I started crying when I read the part about feeling isolated – and I didn't even know I was feeling that until I read it. Thanks!

  3. Lauren
    November 7, 2011

    Thank you so much for sharing! I am a foster care social worker and also a friend to many adoptive families; this post is so helpful.

  4. Sara
    November 8, 2011

    What a great post. You wrote about what our lives were at the beginning. During the hard work of helping my daughter heal from attachment, trauma and sensory related disorders the isolation and judgement we felt was overwhelming. Our daughter's struggles were hard enough, but when we added the lack of support and the lack of love that came our way the losses and isolation became stiflingly painful.

  5. Bethel
    November 8, 2011

    I loved this article, Lisa! I found that we had great community at the very beginning….so many friends helped with meals, childcare, finishing our basement as we needed more bedrooms, laundry, decorating for Christmas and on and on. Our adopted children have been home for four years and it's still a very lonely place as our community has dwindled. We have certainly found new & sweet friendships with other adoptive parents and for that I'm grateful. The kind of support suggestions that you included in this blog is absolutely essential!! I hope that parents/families that are beginning their journey take these suggestions to heart!

  6. Jen Hatmaker
    November 10, 2011

    Thank you, Lisa. A friend sent me over here, as it was very similar to a blog I just wrote as well on How to Be the Village. I am so moved and grieved by the comments once again; such a mix of beautiful moments of true community and utter loneliness. I too have been criticized for sharing the hard parts (mainly by other adoptive parents), but these responses tell me that people are overwhelmed and lonely and they need to hear someone say something true about the struggles in adoption as well as the beauty. Thank you for providing yet another outlet for people to speak honestly. Love to you today…

    1. One Thankful Mom
      November 10, 2011

      Jen, a friend shared your "after the airport" post with me shortly after you wrote it. I was going to email you, but then life moved on. Thanks for being an honest voice in this journey – which has twists and turns that we could never anticipate. By the grace of God, we're running the marathon.

  7. jen anderson
    November 11, 2011

    Amazing as always!

    1. One Thankful Mom
      November 13, 2011

      Thank you, Jen.

  8. Angela
    December 15, 2013

    We first adopted a 2 1/2 year old female. After a LONG wait, it happened fast! One visit at McDonald's and she was in our home! I already had two adult bio daughters and 3 grandchildren but this was my husband's first child. We were so excited and I had my youngest grandchild there to help her feel at ease. It was much more of an adjustment than I ever thought it would be! After a week my granddaughter went home and there we all were, a new family. We were still in excitement mode but were starting to feel overwhelmed. We felt embarassed by it, shocked that we were having trouble handling our new life! I start having doubts, about everything! I couldn't talk to anyone about it because it seemed so "bad" of me to feel this way. Then I felt quilty for having those thoughts and I was totally exhausted every day. I finally called her social worker and spoke with her briefly and she told me that I wasn't expected to feel the same about my new daughter that I felt for my granddaughter at this point. It might seem small but that was an answer that turned everything around! It even gave me the "space" to begin to grow to love her dearly! I was scared because I didn't feel the same love I felt for my kids and grandkids and it make me feel horrible and "wrong". The truth is, this is a stranger, a child who is living in your home but you don't really even know her, haven't had time to learn all the sweet and special things about them yet. They're still struggling with the change of homes and the loss of the only people they knew, so you aren't the only one having troubles! My daughter just turned 17 on the 6th and she is the apple of my eye! I love her fully and hugely! I can't imagine my life without her. She's actually alot like my first bio daughter: smart and musical and very loving. What helped me most in the early days was to know that love grows, and isn't always there just because you adopted. It takes time and it's so worth it. The journey of discovering your new child is something you never forget but that you don't really think about as it's happening. Looking back, my daughter and I laugh at the early days and have stories for each and every photo from those days. It was a learning time for both of us, and it got us to a wonderful place in our lives together. I wouldn't trade those times for anything because here we are now, a tight, loving family.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

I accept the Privacy Policy