U.S. Census Bureau records show that 2.07 million adopted children under the age of 18 are living in households in the United States. That’s 2 percent of all children living in our nation’s households. In Iowa, the percentage of adopted children is slightly higher — 2.9 percent — or 19,207 girls and boys. Some of these adopted children are sitting in the pews of our parish churches, children like Asher and Adeline Pries. Their parents were interviewed for a story in this week’s issue about their decision to become adoptive parents. How many families with adopted children are you aware of in your own parish? How are we, as the body of Christ in the Diocese of Davenport, supporting and affirming families with adopted children?
Adoption is one of six topics the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops highlight during October, which is Respect Life Month. The bishops examine the adoption issue from the perspective of a mother who placed her baby for adoption. This mother offers suggestions for reaching out to women like her, longing for empathy, compassion and patience. Some of her suggestions are applicable to families who adopted children: let compassion guide your actions, be present, reach out and keep reaching out.
When a husband and wife announce that they are adopting a child, say to them “Congratulations!” Don’t ask them, “Why are you adopting? Is something wrong?” Offer the kind of support you’d offer to parents welcoming their child by birth into the world. If you’d take a casserole to the house or a gift, do the same for adoptive parents. Conversely, it’s important to respect the privacy of parents who have not yet told anyone that their children are adopted, including the children.
Understand that some adopted children deal with unique challenges. An adopted child who previously experienced multiple moves from caregiver to caregiver, sudden or traumatic separation from the mother, abuse or prenatal exposure to drugs or alcohol, for example, might exhibit anxiety or developmental delays. Ask the family of adopted children dealing with stress if you can be of help.
Adoptive families seem almost invisible in the parish, which means we need to be more intentional in our approach to ministering to the wide variety of families that make up the church. What, if anything, are we doing at the parish level to address the needs of adoptive families?
What about adding a petition for adoptive families in the prayers of the faithful? Could we offer support groups for adoptive parents or for adopted children? Are our catechists aware of the dynamics of adoption so that they can be supportive of any special needs an adopted child may have?
If pastors offer a blessing to expectant mothers and fathers, couldn’t they invite adoptive parents to receive the blessing regardless of the age of the child or children entering that family? What about offering respite care to families of adopted children who need a break, but might be reluctant to ask for one? Hugs, kind words, prayers and a willingness to listen are godsends, especially when adoptive parents are dealing with trying issues.
Other ideas: support nonprofit organizations such as the Iowa Foster and Adoptive Parents Association (IFAPA) (www.ifapa.org) and Bethany for Children & Families (www.bethany-qc.org/), a licensed child placing agency in Iowa. IFAPA is hosting its fall conference Oct. 28-29 at Marriott & Conference Center in Coralville. Topics range from supporting healthy transitions to psychotropic medications to the effects of disrupted attachment to culturally responsive parenting. Iowa Kids Net (www.iowakidsnet. com/content/adoption) and the Child Welfare Gateway Agency (www.childwelfare.gov/topics/adoption/) are also good resources.
November is National Adoption Month and the theme is “Every Kid Deserves a Family.” Adopted kids and their families also deserve the support of their parish family. As one adoptive mom who previously lived in the Davenport Diocese said, “We couldn’t have done it without our church family and friends!
Barb Arland-Fye, Editor