Support Groups

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support groups

Groups formed to help others with a similar interest or problem; also called mutual aid groups. There are adoptive parent support groups, adopted adult support groups and birthparent support groups. It is impossible to determine the exact number of support groups nationally, but virtually every state in the United States has at least one ongoing and active group.

A few of the support groups are nonprofit organizations that number their membership in the thousands or hundreds but most are made up of a handful of individuals who come together to form their group.

Adoptive Parent Groups

Some adoptive parent groups concentrate on the adoption of children with special needs, others are oriented more toward intercountry adoption or infant adoption, and still others attempt to cover all ages and types of adoption. Some organizations concentrate on children adopted from particular countries, such as China or Russia.

Adoptive parent groups can be extremely helpful as information providers to prospective adoptive parents. People who have already adopted can advise them on agencies, attorneys and such issues as what a home study is really like and also can allay many of their fears about adoption.

The average person considering adoption has no idea where to turn for information, and usually friends and relatives are equally uninformed or baffled by the subject. As a result, support groups fill critical information voids.

After the adoption has taken place, other adoptive parents can provide advice and information to assist new adoptive parents through adjustment problems they may face.

Some groups are very aware of adoption issues and current federal and state legislation on adoption and keep their members informed on the latest adoption current events.

Actual lobbying of their state and federal legislators on adoption issues is another goal of some support groups, and groups have succeeded in convincing legislators at every level to pass a broad array of bills supporting adoption.

Most adoptive parent groups maintain a regular contact with their local adoption agencies and attorneys and build up a camaraderie between social workers and adopting parents. Groups invite social workers and attorneys to speak at meetings, and many plan an annual informational meeting when a variety of child-placing experts attend and explain their policies and the guidelines to follow in applying for a child.

Another goal of many adoptive parent support groups is to assist adoption agencies in recruiting adoptive parents for children with SPECIAL NEEDS. Some also raise money to buy food and clothing for foreign children and Christmas presents for foster children, and they perform other charitable activities.

Groups that concentrate on the adoption of children with special needs or larger groups that attempt to encompass all forms of adoption may assist local social services departments; for example, some groups will drive foster children who are legally ready to be adopted to a photographer to have their pictures taken for the state's WAITING CHILD PHOTOLISTING. Others actually VIDEOTAPE waiting children, and tapes are shown to prospective parents.

Support Groups for Adopted Adults or Birthparents

Support groups composed primarily of adopted adults or birthparents are also interested in legislation, and some actively lobby for open records. Members generally are interested in doing a SEARCH for an adopted adult or birthparents or have already accomplished such a search and wish to share this information with others. They may desire the moral support and camaraderie of people who share a common bond of adoption.

Adopted adults may wish to have a voice in lobbying state and federal legislators on a variety of adoption issues. (See ADOPTEES' LIBERTY MOVEMENT ASSOCIATION; AMERICAN ADOPTION CONGRESS.)

Reasons for Joining Support Groups

People who are in the process of adopting primarily join an adoptive parent group to learn and to obtain information and moral support. They often feel very anxious about identifying a good agency or attorney.

If they are in the midst of their home study, they may be concerned about whether or not they will ever "pass" the home study and be able to successfully adopt a child. Other members who have successfully adopted build their confidence and hope.

The relatives of an adopting family may be very nonsupportive and urge them to drop the idea of adoption altogether; consequently, the support group serves as a kind of family.

Members who already have adopted may join a support group because they want to adopt more children via a different method than they previously used; for example, they may wish to adopt through an agency although their first child came to them through an INDEPENDENT ADOPTION. Or they may wish to adopt internationally after already adopting an American-born child.

Some members join because they believe in adoption as a positive concept, and they wish to help others. They may also wish for their children to have the chance to meet and socialize with others who were adopted.

Support groups can be a good resource for adopted children, giving them an opportunity to meet other adopted children. This is especially important for families who have adopted children from other cultures, although all children can gain reassurance from learning that adoption is a good way to form a family. In addition, support groups can provide information on adoption issues, thus helping both adoptive families and their children.

Most parent groups produce a monthly, bimonthly or quarterly newsletter offering information on children newly adopted by members and articles written by adoptive parents or adoption experts. The newsletter serves to inform and also to reinforce the importance of adoption to its members.

To locate the nearest adoptive parent support group, individuals should contact their state adoption office or national organizations, such as RESOLVE. Adopted adults should also contact their state social services office or adoption agency as well as national organizations, such as the American Adoption Congress or Adoptees' Liberty Movement Association. Birthparents may wish to contact the state social services office and local agencies as well as national organizations, such as CONCERNED UNITED BIRTHPARENTS.

A Healthy Skepticism Is a Good Idea

Whether the group is for adoptive parents, adopted adults or birthparents, members and visitors should keep in mind that group members' information and opinions may not be based on research or expert advice. Instead, the advice from support group leaders or other members may be based on a negative or positive experience that they generalize to all adopted people or to all adoptive parents. Thus, members should retain a healthy skepticism about information that doesn't sound authoritative or accurate. Individuals should be sure that they seek legal advice from attorneys and professional advice on adoption from experienced social workers.

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