Maintaining Resilience on Your Adoption Journey

Family walking and holding hands
Introduction

“It is in collectivities that we find reservoirs of hope and optimism.”

— Angela Davis

Resilience is central to LGBTQ+ existence. Over the course of history, resilience has enabled queer people to persist, resist, survive & thrive. It is no doubt, then, that resilience is also a cornerstone in the LGBTQ+ path to parenthood. 

In Family Equality’s 2019 study of LGBTQ+ families, we learned that 62% of LGBTQ+ millennials plan to build their families in the coming years, and 40% of them hope to do so through foster care & adoption.

This means millions of LGBTQ+ people will be interacting with foster care & adoption systems in the years ahead. As many adoptive parents know, expanding your family requires patience, positivity, and moxie. The highs are overwhelmingly high, but the lows can be devastating. So, for LGBTQ+ prospective parents choosing to expand their family through foster care & adoption, finding ways to nurture resilience is paramount.


Get Grounded

To be grounded, you have to know your “Why.” In other words, what is your reason for going on this journey? For those embarking on the path to foster & adoption, the Why might be: to expand your family, of course! So, let’s move beyond the Why. What are some other ways to stay grounded in this process?

  1. Think of something—an image, a thought, a memory, a motto—that you can return to when you’re feeling overwhelmed. For some, this is the work that they’ve taken to get to this point. You know, the joys, sacrifices, triumphs, and self-discoveries. For others, it’s the deep-rooted knowledge this is the right path for them. Maybe for you, it’s your relationship with your partner, co-parent, or chosen family. Locate this root, and then journal about it or talk to a professional to dig deeper.
  2. Be honest with others about your search for an “anchor.” As LGBTQ+ people, we have a communal anchor: love. For centuries, our communities have made sacrifices in the name of love. This fierce understanding of the importance of love, specifically self-love, sets our community apart and enables us to be survivors. This is to say that resiliency, love, and family are in our bones! Reflect on what it might mean to be rooted in self-love, or love in general.

Share the Burden

Like most things, resilience doesn’t flourish in isolation. Just as it’s important to share the joy, it is essential to share the burden. This path is bound to have hurdles—from waiting periods to home studies—and surrounding yourself with others who understand your anxieties will only help you face each potential obstacle with fortitude. One way to do this is to make a shortlist of people that you can reach out to when difficult moments arise. Ask the people on that list if they are okay being part of your circle! This bypasses any anxiety related to bothering or burdening others unexpectedly.

Historically, when LGBTQ+ folks have been excluded from mainstream processes, we’ve learned how to forge our own path. Our ability to “DIY” is a crucial part of our collective resilience, and it’s so valuable to our family-expanding journey. One tool many LGBTQ+ people use as to better navigate this journey is called “Worry Days,” where each of your closest supporters are given a specific day to worry about you, alongside you. This works best when you’re waiting for something specific. On each Worry Day, you’ll have a go-to contact that you can commiserate with, be distracted by, and ask for help from. If you’re feeling anxious about asking for support, this can be a day where your supporters know they should be the one reaching out to you.

For some, Worry Days involve a walk outdoors together or the sharing of many cute cat memes. These types of creative rituals can really help bolster you in the midst of uncertainty.



Tip:

As it stands, discrimination against LGBTQ+ prospective parents in adoption and foster care is legal in 11 states. Too often, LGBTQ+ people are turned away from agencies because of who they are or whom they love. With this in mind, it could be helpful to have other LGBTQ+ people on your support list. While many of your worries will be related to the foster & adoption process, you are also likely to face some emotional hurdles related to your gender and/or sexual orientation, and members of your own community might better understand how to navigate these experiences. 

Set Boundaries

Boundaries serve a purpose in moments of great emotion or uncertainty. So, give yourself permission to set them! 

Plan for your worst days. Imagine what clothes you want to wear, what you want to eat, if you’ll unplug for the day, etc.

Then, plan for coming out of your worst day. Think about who the first people you reach out to will be, if you’ll call into work, and what self-care might look like. Write these things down so you can revisit them when or if you need to. You can also share them with your supporters if you think you’ll need someone to hold you accountable for taking the time you need to care for yourself.

If applicable, make these lists with your partner, or decide whether you each need your own lists. Be honest with yourself in the process, and strive to be shame-free. 

Additionally, give yourself permission to break your boundaries. As LGBTQ+ people, we have been taught that we cannot trust ourselves or that our collective and individual “gut” may be inaccurate. This is not true! In the moment, you will know if you need boundaries to fall back on or if you actually need the space to make your own (alternative) decisions. Trust this. 


Find Your People

The internet has so many resources, but not all resources are built for LGBTQ+ people. While most tools will not explicitly exclude our families, few are created explicitly with us in mind. Given this reality, LGBTQ+ folks have become experts at community-sourced research. From peer support groups to social media affinity spaces, there are many ways to learn about other LGBTQ+ people’s experiences and gather advice. Ask around to see what agencies and professionals other queer folks are using. You may also want to ask if there are any professionals that would be considered expert in LGBTQ+ family expansion or if there are any that should be avoided. Just as there is no reason to recreate the wheel on your path to parenthood, there is no need to put yourself at unnecessary risk of adversity. By engaging in these networks of support, you are enabling yourself to enter into situations with confidence, with the experiences of your community supporting you. 


Stay Connected

So, you’ve found your anchor, built your support systems, and dug into your networks. Don’t lose all of that once you’ve gained the confidence you needed or accomplished the goal you set out to achieve! The process of building resilience is continuous and fluid. It needs to be tended to not only in our valleys but in our peaks. Put the support groups on your calendar and show up even when you don’t feel like it. Offer advice in social media groups when someone else is asking. Allowing these networks to be consistent creates a foundation that you can rely on, regardless of where you find yourself on your journey.

And, of course, once you’ve completed your family-building journey, community is still essential! Keep up with your networks and seek out groups for LGBTQ+ parents. In so many ways, this is only the beginning of your parenting path.


Envision the Future

Envision the future. Or, in other words, don’t be afraid to have hope.  

Buy the clothes for the child you are eager to welcome into your family. Plan the first family vacation. Start building the treehouse. Imagine family movie nights. 

Actively manifest what you want your life to look like. Of course, the balance between manifestation and hope is delicate, and no one wants to set themselves up for heartache. But hope is something we could always use more of!


Photo of Jess Venable-Novak, Director of Family Formation

Jess Venable-Novak

Director of Family Formation

Jess is a queer, non-binary educator, organizer, and parent living in rural Vermont with their partner, kiddo, and a baby on the way. They’re also the Director of Family Formation at Family Equality andbring with them years of experience working at the intersection of education, facilitation, and community building. Folks can get in contact with Jess here.



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