When a family welcomes a child from a hard place into their hearts and home, they have to “go back to the beginning” as The Connected Parent says. This doesn’t mean that this child or even teenager is actually “baby-ish” (sometimes these children actually have higher IQs than their peers because they need to use their wits to survive), but that issues of sleep, food, sensory processing, behavior, attachment, etc. might need to start at ground zero.
For example, when we adopted our son at almost three from China, we brought bottles, pouches, soft snacks, and at least 3 different types of sippy cups, because we had no idea what he was used to eating. We packed so many different sizes of clothing, diapers, age-appropriate toys, medicines, etc….we just didn’t know. Children may regress in toilet training or sleeping or behaviorally to an infant-like state when they go through the trauma of being in a new environment. And understandably so.
So adoptive/foster families must be ready for EVERYTHING to best support their new child. Which isn’t easy. It takes a village to support a family! The family might not be able to sleep, go to the grocery store, or even leave their house for weeks/months (sound like the newborn days, huh?!). Here’s some practical ideas you can do to help a family (hint, hint, it’s helpful to think as if this family has a new baby!)
Gift cards to stores/grocery stores before travel/placement so the family can purchase 5 different sizes of diapers to be prepared
Offer to clean the family’s house (or pay for a cleaner!) while they are traveling or before placement (or home study visits!)
Babysit so Mom and Dad can have a date night before travel/placement (I promise it won’t happen again for a long while!)
Bring over groceries, freezer meals, or even snacks (bonus: restock a family’s fridge while they are traveling and double check with them what their new child eats!)
Meal train once the child is home (consider having the family put a cooler outside to drop the meal off if having visitors would disrupt sleeping or attachment…there will be time later to meet the new child!)
Donate clothes (if the family wants!)…it can be so helpful to have a small variety of different sizes ready without investing in clothing the child won’t be able (or won’t prefer) to wear.
Mow their grass and do yard work while the family is traveling and/or the first few weeks (months!) home.
Watch their pet while their are traveling and/or for the first days the new child is home to give time for adjustment. Just not having to pay for a dog sitter while on a 2+ week travel trip and during jet lag was such a blessing for us!
Be a friend, however they need it. Maybe they don’t think it’s wise to have visitors right away, so respect that but offer to call, text, run errands, take their other kids, etc. Maybe coming over and hiding in the laundry room folding clothes would be a huge relief or watching the kids so the parents can take a nap. Maybe just some coffee and flowers on the front door will show them that you’re in this with them. Ask and be ready.
Bonus: Some adoptive/foster mamas would appreciate a “traditional” (or maybe a little untraditional) baby shower and sometimes feel forgotten. Ask them, so you can love them well!