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The ULTIMATE guide on how to start a local adoption support group

 

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by Tim Elder in Archives, Domestic Adoption

Here on the Infant Adoption Guide blog, you’ve read about the 12 reasons why you need a local adoption support group and How to find a local adoption support group.

What if there are no local groups near you? Or maybe you’ve found a group, but what if it doesn’t fit what you need? Well, there’s hope. You can start your own local adoption support group. Now – before your anxiety level gets too high, it isn’t as hard as it may seem.

You can do this. You just need the tips and tools to get started. Here is what I’ve found to be the most helpful stuff for starting your own local adoption support group.

How to start a local adoption support group

image courtesy of adamr / freedigitalphotos.net

The beauty of starting your own group

1. You get to choose how the group is structured (type, where to meet, frequency of meetings, content, etc.).

2. You can choose the type of group members (example: only those who are and/or have already gone through domestic infant adoption.)

3. You can start with inviting people you already have relationships with.

4. Starting small so you don’t get overwhelmed with feeling like you need 20+ couples signed up to get started.

5. Keep it simple so you can start right away and build from there.

Steps to starting your local adoption support group

1. Decide what kind of group you want – even come up with a group name. Do you want a group for domestic infant adoption or should you include foster/adopt and/or international adoption?    

2. Decide who can be a part of the group. Example: Have only moms, or have couples. Have only hopeful adoptive families or include those who’ve adopted already. 

3. Decide where you want to meet (at least initially). Example: Local coffee shop, restaurant, church, your house. You can always change the venue later.

4. Start asking people to become part of the group. You also may want to have a “core team” of people that help organize the meetings so you don’t have to do it all yourself. Ask people you already know, ask local adoption agencies/attorneys if any of their families would be interested, create a spot on Meetup.com, ask through social media (Facebook, Twitter,etc.).

5. Think about the format of your group meetings. You could have informal support group sessions where you each get a turn talking about where you are in your adoption journey. Meetings could also include regular guest speakers (adoption attorneys, social workers, adoption agency representatives, etc.).

6. Set up a private Facebook group that only members can be a part of. This will help you all communicate regularly, you can show the meeting schedule, talk between meetings, share tips, etc. 

7. Set the first meeting date/time. You can discuss the meeting frequency (monthly, bi-weekly, etc) at the first meeting. Here is a resource on holding good meeting discussions.

8. Serve food! This eases any tension and is great way to attract and keep folks coming back. This obviously can be done in many different ways, so figure out what works best for your group. 

Tips from adoptive families who have started local support groups

“I started a local group for domestic private adoptive families (because there are already groups for foster & international adoption) by originally reaching out through our attorney’s FB page. Then spread the word through a few online sources and word of mouth. It is amazing how many other adoptive families we all seem to know. We connect with a private/secret FB group (that requires approval to join) and use that for discussions and for planning our playdates/meet-ups. If we wanted to grow it much bigger, I could reach out to other local adoption attorneys or agencies, but for now, I like the small, intimate nature of our group and the organic growth through word of mouth.”

“Keep it simple, especially at first. Meet at a rec center or park. Avoid nap times.”

“It started fairly simply, by creating an event and sending out invitations to local moms with whom I already had relationships. The first get together was just three of us. Then the next meeting was a dessert night at another friend’s home and the FB group idea emerged out of that. Word got out and we started adding gals to the group. Now, when we host an activity, we create an event within the closed FB group and we always encourage gals to invited friends to the group and to the events.”

“Check with your local agency and social worker to see if they would pass on the info to the adoptive families they have worked with. Our group is in the early stages but we try to have an event (cooking lesson, park picnic) every 2-3 months. We have a set meeting time at a local restaurant for a monthly dinner. People I have met have become some of my best friends. It is a true blessing.”

“Our group meets once a month for 3 hours – which might sound long, but it goes by so fast! There are usually about 15 people that attend each month, although the group is much larger. Usually by the time we get all the way around the group, sharing our progress in the adoption process, about half the time has passed. There is usually a speaker for the second half…a social worker, an adoption attorney or agency, a birth mother, someone to discuss profiles, etc.”

“We have belonged to a support group for 11+ years. We meet once a month for a meeting and we have social gatherings throughout the year-Halloween Hayride, holiday party, summer picnic, baseball game fundraiser, etc.”

“We meet once every couple of months during the week for a potluck, and then meet a few times a year on a Saturday for something fun or to eat out.”

“In our area 2 adoptive moms started a monthly support group open to any moms – we meet once a month at Panera. We use word of mouth to get others to join as well as go to adoption seminars and catholic conferences. If you build it they will come-:) we sometimes have guest speakers or talk about books or articles or just catch up with everyone. It is always a great meeting.”

“Hello! I started a group in my church (we had about 10 adoptive families in a church of 300), but I realized there were people in the community who wanted to join too. Not everyone wants to meet in a church setting, so we meet at a local cafe. Over four years, our group has grown from 10 to 101!!! Here’s a few suggestions:

1. Go to Vistaprint.com and make some cheap but nice business cards to give to adoptive families to hand out when they meet/spot other adoptive families. That’s definitely helped our group grow!

2. Decide who can be in your group (for us, it’s women only who have adopted, or wanting or waiting to adopt). Moms have to be local to where we live.

3. Choose how often you meet. We meet once a month on Sunday evening (which works well because there aren’t many activities on Sunday nights) at a local eatery or a member’s house.

4. Our group is very casual. We rarely have speakers. We just get together to support, educate, encourage, and celebrate with one another. Here’s a few speakers we’ve had: experienced adoptive parents (in their 70s!), an attachment therapist and a counselor (talking about letting go of mommy guilt). I love our group!!!

5.We have a FB page (closed/private) where moms can post questions, inspiration, and thoughts. Good luck, and I say GO FOR IT!”

“You can use Meetup.com as a platform to communicate, reach out to others in your area and set up meeting times etc. You can tweak the group’s security to make it monitored membership (to weed out SPAM). Alternatively you can set up a private Facebook page for your group. This would be a great way to communicate and create events.”

“I have used both a meetup.com group and a private facebook group as a forum for setting up meetings and events. I reached out to local adoption attorneys and organizations and used social media to create awareness. I also suggest talking to your local Inspire.org leaders too. I reached out through moms groups and funneled all requests through a gmail address to ensure it was only adoptive families or hopeful adoptive families. I made our focus pretty narrow and our group is rather small since I was primarily trying to serve the private infant adoption families that weren’t really served in the international or foster adoption groups.”

Ideas/topics for your group meetings

1. Supporting birthmothers (and birthfathers) before and after placement.
2. Managing an open or semi-open adoption.
3. Positive adoption language.
4. How to answer stupid and or offensive comments/questions on adoption.
5. How to educate your extended family & the broader community about adoption.
6. How to tell your child their (age appropriate) adoption story.
7. How to be a positive trans-racial family.
8. Putting your best foot forward with your adoption profile.
9. Managing your adoption journey – how to get through the wait and adopt faster.
10. How to be a support for other hopeful adoptive families.
11. Social networking and adoption.  

Other things to consider

–You can think about planning events throughout the year (picnics, Christmas party, etc.).

–Good organization, planning, and positive attitudes will make for a strong support group.

–If you include waiting adoptive families along with those who’ve already adopted, you can establish a great mix of support. The children from the adoptive families can even develop a bond over time.

The NACAC (North American Council on Adoptable Children) has published many resources to help group leaders and group members provide services to other adoptive parents and shape the group’s direction and services.

–Here’s an article from Adoptive Families magazine with some additional tips.

–There isn’t a leader who hasn’t been discouraged, made mistakes, or wondered what to do next. Keep going – ask for help from others. Keep a positive attitude.

–This simple truth will never change: families need support. So what better way for adoptive families to get support than from each other.

QUESTION FOR YOU:  Are you thinking of starting your own local adoption support group? Leave a comment and let’s get one started together!

 

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