Everyone’s adoption journey – child or parent – is different. Of the few things that are the same, I’m reminded of a quote from a childhood favorite, Christopher Robin: “You're braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think.” The adoption journey is always one of bravery, strength, and knowledge.
The journey starts for many with gaining knowledge. For adoptive parents, that means learning about the adoption process by reaching out to agencies, community resources, and other adoptive parents to understand what adopting from foster care looks like. Parents undergo many trainings and meetings with the child’s teams to learn about the experience in foster care and how best to support their child. That often includes education on how childhood neglect and abuse impacts development, and the therapeutic supports needed to care for children who have experienced such trauma.
For the child, gaining knowledge means understanding that they cannot return to their birth parents’ care. It also includes the child receiving information about what the adoption process in Minnesota looks like, what entering an adoptive family will entail, and what aspects they will have control over.
Learning through Bravery
For both parent and child, the learning stage results in starting the grief and loss process. All adoptions, even infants and very young children, begin with profound loss. For the child, they start grieving the loss of the birth parents/family, community, and the familiarity of their current life. For adoptive parents, they start grieving the stability and predictability of their current life. This process is normal as the family enters a new, unknown stage of life.
With bravery, the adoptive family and child continue their journey into the unknown – what will family mean for them into the future. They think of all the possibilities and start imagining what family could look like. Inevitability, they both find themselves anticipating meeting one another and proceed bravely into a new relationship. The parent and child allow for vulnerability in getting to know one another and start to build trust. They proceed bravely, making compromises as they meld their journeys together to form their new path as an adoptive family.
Building Strength Together
The child and adoptive family exude great strength as they open their hearts to one another, trust, and begin a new chapter together. Together, they will experience many new firsts as an adoptive family, like the first day at a new school, the first disagreement, first holiday, and first disappointment. They will also experience many big emotions as a family.
The strength to persevere and work through challenges is key for the relationship of the adoptive family and child. Each individual must practice humility and have the strength to ask for help. It’s important for the adoptive family to seek assistance from their support network, while the child also needs their own safe group to talk to as they navigate their new relationships. With each day, the family hopes they will grow closer and find their new normal as a family system.
Through the journey of knowledge, bravery and strength, the child and adoptive family make a significant and meaningful impact on one another. This can be summed up by another famous quote from Christopher Robin: “Sometimes the smallest things take up the most room in your heart.”
This blog article was contributed by Kristie Kremer, Adoption Social Worker for Nexus-Kindred Family Healing.
Nexus Family Healing is a national nonprofit mental health organization that restores hope for thousands of children and families who come to us for outpatient/community mental health services, foster care and adoption, and residential treatment. For over 45 years, our network of agencies has used innovative, personalized approaches to heal trauma, break cycles of harm, and reshape futures. We believe every child is worth it — and every family matters. Learn more at nexusfamilyhealing.org.