Opening the Eyes, Heart and Mind to Down Syndrome Adoption
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International Albinism Day
It Takes a Village to Raise a Child.
This African proverb is true of raising all children but it is even more crucial for single parents raising children. Parenting is hard. It is often a juggling act and it can be very isolating. As any parent can tell you, parenting is stressful, exhausting, demanding, overwhelming, time consuming, expensive, and requires a great deal of responsibility. It is, of course, also very rewarding. It can bring immeasurable joy to your life and increase the love in your heart. It is a journey worth taking!
Single parents who choose to adopt internationally generally do so for the right reasons and spend time doing research and preparing for the addition of a child in their lives. Single parents must assure that they have also taken the time to identify members for and develop a support network of family, friends, neighbors, co-workers, and community professionals before their child comes home. Your support system needs to be reliable, strong, diverse, and available to you. It should contain people who have your best interests in mind and who are capable of providing necessary supports for both you and your child. These people should be knowledgeable, nurturing, insightful, and encouraging. Support systems are not a sign of weakness or a failure to parent effectively; instead they demonstrate strength, awareness and an understanding that we all need to reach out for help on occasion.
Support networks exist on several levels. Each level of support is needed at one time or another when you are raising children. Each level of support can help both you and your child have a successful adoption and meet varying needs. Your first level of support should be those close family members, friends and other parents with whom you feel the most comfortable and who will be willing to “be there” on a moment’s notice. They are the ones whom you can call at 3 am to help you get to the emergency room or who will take your call at dinner time when you are exhausted and just need to cry on someone’s shoulder. They may be those who can help you with an emergency expense or watch your child for a few days while you attend a mandatory training for your employer. These people often know you better than you know yourself and they will not hesitate to give you good advice and assistance. This is usually a smaller core group of “chosen family.”
Next, your support circle should contain those people whom you see sporadically but who offer unconditional love and assistance when they are able. These may be extended family members, friends who do not live close by, co-workers, or members of an adoption support group with whom you are involved. These people understand your situation well and care very much about you and your child. Within reason and if they are available, they will come to your aid when needed. These are the co-workers who help you with a project when you have to run to the school because your child is ill. They are the elderly neighbors who are willing to watch your child on an unscheduled holiday from school. They are the support group colleagues who can give you expert advice on handling an international adoption issue because they have been through the same thing.
The third level of your support network involves the community supports with whom you regularly interact—the school, your church, your local adoption support group, your neighborhood community center, your child’s coach, and child care provider. These members all have areas of specialized supportive services needed to help your child thrive and you both be fulfilled. These support people bring a unique perspective to your family’s individual needs and they can help you with challenges you may face in specific areas.
Level four should include a person or persons who can provide gender or cultural mentorship to your child or meet a need in these areas that you simply cannot address on your own. If you adopt transracially or transculturally, you need people to help your child see people who look like him, talk like him and have the same ethnic heritage. If you adopt a child who is another gender than you, it is also important to allow him to regularly associate with someone of the same gender, to learn how to act, to learn how to “be” of that gender. Children need adult role models who bring these perspectives to their life in order to blossom and develop their whole self.
Your final level involves those professional from whom you can seek advice, treatment or support. These are your local medical professionals, mental health therapists, developmental specialists, adoption service professionals, and behavioral counselors. These are professionals who can address physical, medical and emotional needs, assist you in finding tangible resources and help you navigate systems that can often be difficult and confusing. These can be your international physician, post adoption therapist, or First Steps Case Manager. The staff at MLJ Adoptions should also be included in your team and we are always available to help you with adoption specific information and support.
Although each of these levels of support can and will evolve over time, it is important to recognize the importance of each one and take steps to begin identifying and developing the individuals you want in your support network early in your adoption journey. They will be the village who helps you raise your adopted child.
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