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?
- 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.
- 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.
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.
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!
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.