five simple ways to support host families

Many of my friends and family know someone hosting an “orphan” or two or six the next few weeks. Most of them are so supportive and excited, but they may not know exactly what to say or do to show that support. Others are curious and unsure of this strange thing their church friend or family member has decided to do. It is easy to put a foot in a mouth or suffer from “paralysis by analysis” in new and different situations such as this. You know you want to do something, say something, act somehow on their behalf, but you are not sure what they need, what the right thing to say is. Or even what the heck these families are doing. Am I right?

All of the children arriving to the States today are hoping to be adopted. Many of the host families are also hoping to adopt their matches. Others are here to advocate for their host child in hopes of finding them an adoptive home. No matter the exact circumstance, successful mechanisms of support are the same.

Here are a few simple pointers to help you spread the love and show support:

–DO NOT SAY STUPID STUFF. “The child will ruin your life and your children’s lives.” True story. Do not say stuff like that. If you are vehemently opposed and are not open to changing your mind, you should actually not say anything. However, if you are just unsure or a little reserved, say stuff like “I am intrigued by this experience, tell me a little about how you decided to do this.” Instead of saying, “I could never do that, you are crazy!” say, “I am not sure I could open my home, but I want to know more, tell me what drew you to this program or this child.”

You could even be super direct. Just say “I have no idea how to support you, but I really want to. Tell me one thing I can do.” I love direct. Do not tell the parent they are a savior, a hero, or amazing. Tell them they can do this, that they are stronger than they think they are, that they have you as a wing man, and that your faithfulness is theirs.

–RESERVE JUDGMENT. Stay Open. Maybe you know a family member who’s adoption didn’t work out like they thought it would. Maybe you have your own bias against different races or ethnicities mixing in a family. Maybe you saw a 60-minute interview a decade ago where some random child from a random place destroyed a random family’s home after they opened their hearts to said child. If these are your only experiences with adoption, Get Another One. Yes, bad things happen to good people. But the last time I checked most murderers, rapists, and drug dealers came from biological families. Mental health issues are universal. Instead of worrying about the what if’s, use this as a time to get to know the child of your friend. Those without family are people too. They think, feel, have hopes and dreams just like you and me and the children we are raising. Imagine if you didn’t have a family…no one in the world. Yeah, that would really suck. We have the ability to change that.

–SOCIAL SHARE. Tell others like crazy. For a million and one reasons the match may not be successful. Most of these children age out of care and/or are not available for adoption once they hit the ages of 15-16. You could be the difference. Tell people about these kids. Share their story. Add friends and friends of friends to the private advocacy pages that each family has set up. As these children become real to others, their chances for a forever home skyrocket. God or the universe or whatever you want to call it could be working on someone else’s heart….if you open your mouth or click “share” you may just connect that anonymous heart with a beautiful child who needs a home.

–DO SOMETHING. In moments like this talk really is cheap. Do something visible. Anonymous is so awesome. But in times like this, your friends and family need to See people in their corner. They need to Feel the love and know who they can trust, who they can text, who they can rely on. Most of the host families are new to adoption–especially that of older kids. They may not know what they exactly need. But they will need something. And reaching out can be scary if they are unsure of your support level.

I literally had no idea what I would need when I came home from Bogota with four little kids. When we finally arrived home at midnight though, we were greeted by friends and family. They had signs and pictures and smiles aplenty. They had stocked our fridge and pantry and sorted bags of donated clothes. They framed pictures we had previously posted from our weeks in Bogota so the kids could see a piece of themselves in their new home. One dear friend who lived in California made travel blankets and care packages for our kids’ ride from LAX to Las Vegas. She made the drive to meet us and hug us before we left for Nevada. Practical. Thoughtful. Kind. It helped the kids on the drive and showed me the bursting love and support she wanted me to feel. I knew she would do anything for me. Exactly what I needed in that moment.

The options are truly endless. Heart attack a door. Organize a clothing swap. Invite the entire family over for dinner and swimming. Learn a few words in the child’s language and practice with them. Send a note of encouragement to the parents. Mow their yard. Text your bestie and ask if she needs to escape for ice cream after bedtime. And just let your buddy talk, no judgments on the table, just unconditional love.

Meals are an excellent way to show support. I received no meals when we came home from Colombia or when we received our three siblings from foster care, and I needed them way more at that time than when I had a bio baby. People do not naturally see the two experiences as equal because the children are older or maybe not permanent. That’s okay, but now you know. Parents are just as tired–maybe more so, just as focused on the new children in the house, trying to navigate relationships, keeping everyone safe, creating routines, bonding, etc. If a family says no to a meal, just show up with muffins and juice, frozen breakfast burritos, or snack bags for the kids. Something easy they can use in a pinch. Food is Love!

–SPEAK. Silence is truly Deafening. Whether spoken or not,  adoptive parents of older children carry the bag of “What If’s” over their shoulders. What if this child is not accepted? What if this child is not loved by those that love me? What if the negative comments are actually true? What if I made a mistake? What if I am not strong enough to do this? I could write a hundred more What Ifs, but you get my point. Above all, if you make eye contact or see one of your friends at church or at an event, Do Not Dart Away. Smile. Say hi. Be polite. You don’t even need to speak. Just give a long hug of encouragement.

The families who are hosting are just awesome. They are so excited, nervous, faith-filled, and a little apprehensive. They have spent dozens of hours applying, taking classes, completing homestudies, preparing for their children’s arrivals…and some sleepless nights wondering what the heck they have gotten themselves into. It’s kind of a big deal. Love on them, if you know them. And social share if you do not. All kids need homes. A world where every child has a home would be an awesome place to live. We can make that happen one child at a time, whether here or abroad.

All my love,

Rachel

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