There is no such thing as a “normal” family. As a group leader, you should assume each family is unique and in need of varying kinds of support in their differing circumstances. One type of particular situation you might see is a family in the process of adopting.
Some families might be waiting for a birth mother to choose them. Others might be adopting an older orphan from overseas. Some have been fostering a child and are trying to obtain parental rights.
It’s important to be aware of how to talk with and help the adoptive families in your group as you lead.
Be Careful With Questions
Families who have adopted children know about the well-meaning but pointed questions that can come from curious folks. Some of the more prickly questions they probably have already been asked include, Why are you adopting overseas when children in America need families? Why are you adopting from America when children overseas are starving in orphanages? How are you going to afford this? How will you be able to take care of your other children?
Those examples would fall into more of an offensive/accusatory category, but there are many other questions people ask that might be innocent and rooted in curiosity, so you just really need to be careful what you ask and how it’s worded.
The decision to adopt and the details surrounding the adoption can be highly personal, so let the adoptive family you shepherd lead the discussion, sharing what they want to. Here is a good read from parents.com on what not to ask an adoptive parent.
Organizing Financial Assistance
Adoption is not cheap. And many families who feel called to do it might be uncomfortable with the idea of fundraising. Here is a wonderful way you can help them! Rather than asking how much their adoption costs, ask them if they’d like help fundraising. Ask them if you can start them a fundraising website, or offer to be the point person if someone wants to make anonymous donations.
This is often one of the trickiest parts for families. They need help, but they don’t want to beg their friends and family. Take that off their plate and offer to organize for them.
Being Sensitive to Parenting Changes
Many families who adopt might spend several months in what the adoption world calls a “cocooning” phase. Orphans who don’t understand the concept of family need help bonding with their parents. Many might listen to what the experts say and avoid contact with the outside world until the newly adopted child shows healthy attachment. This might mean that your small group member who is usually always there and usually the one to host and organize drops off the planet for a while.
Support that. Don’t pressure the family. Don’t say, “Please come back! We want to meet your child so bad!” Just have a posture of service and stay connected through text or email, asking, “How can we help you? How can we pray?”
In short, stay connected and offer help, but let them lead what that looks like for their unique needs.
Scarlet Hiltibidal is a writer living in Nashville, TN. Scarlet has a degree in biblical counseling and worked as a Christian schoolteacher before she started writing. She has written for and managed various online publications. Currently, she writes small group curriculum for children and articles on motherhood for Smart Mom. Scarlet is wife to Brandon, who is part of the Groups Ministry Team at Lifeway, and Mommy to her daughters, Ever Grace and Brooklyn Hope. Visit her blog at scarlethiltibidal.com and follow her on Twitter @ScarletEH.