Families who travel the road of adoption and foster care should NOT bear their burdens alone. Parents need supportive and encouraging "travel companions" for the journey. A team approach is critically important in helping children learn, heal and grow. This includes: therapists and counselors; extended family and friends; Academic resources and Support; Medical providers etc. Therapists, counselors, medical professionals and educators help with logistics: speech, development, emotional issues, shots, education etc. Family and friends can offer respite care through meals, cleaning the house, caring for other children in the home when necessary etc. As parents though, you can't expect your support team to work harder than you do- you are your child's primary agent for healing. Parents should also be intentional and seek out the right kind of help. You need people around you to provide balance of hope and reality. All hope and no reality is romanticism and all reality and no hope is depressing. So you need to surround yourself with people that will help you maintain a balance of both. Look for people who will not just pat you on the back and encourage you but will "fight the good fight" along side of you and your family.
Sometimes parents/caregivers wait too long to seek help. This causes them to become more and more isolated especially as issues at home escalate. Also parents may take the route of thinking that all of the families problems/issues reside with this new child. Its not an "us" vs "them" story its a journey. We have to commit to being life long learners as well as being willing to "unlearn" some of what we already know to make room for new ideas and strategies. Be proactive: even before you need the help, put the help in place. If you are already home, remind yourself that it's never too late to point yourself in the right direction. Today is the first day of the rest of your journey so decide which way you want to go today.
Now here is where I plea with the global Church to step up and be a source of respite for adoptive and fostering families. First understand that adoption agencies and social workers are only there for the process of getting the child home. Churches, in contrast, need to be there for the families as they begin the real journey, after the airport. Churches often staff ministries such as missions where they organize, support and encourage people to get out and see the world and it's needs so they will be motivated to give and serve. Yet when a family in their church is adopting or fostering, the mindset of partnership is limited to "go get them!" and "good for you!" As a body of believers we need to seek ways to make the Church a safe place for families that are parenting children from hard places or we will be dismissing a huge chunk of the commission call of Jesus. Churches are the tool God has chosen to use to care for widows and orphans. Not just a few families in the church but THE CHURCH. As a whole we ought to be the Aaron and Hurs (Exodus 17:12) of adoptive and fostering parents so that when they can no longer hold their hands up and claim hopeful victory, we can do so for them!
Another great blog post addressing this topic can be found here!