What the Church needs to know about single adopters

A growing number of those sensing God's call to adopt are single, so here are some thoughts from single adopters so we can better understand and support each one.

A growing number of those sensing God's call to adopt are single.

Here are Christians, prepared to make great sacrifices to parent a vulnerable child, yet instead of raising them up as inspirational examples within our churches, we so often flounder in knowing how to support them well. It's no wonder that our thinking in this area is still developing, as single adoptive parents are a fairly new group within the Church's pastoral care umbrella.

So here are some thoughts from single adopters so we can better understand and support each one. There are a huge number of suggestions. Don't try and do them all at once! Perhaps take note of two or three that could be implemented in your church.

Single adopters are parents

This sounds obvious, but we don't always put adoptive parents in the same category as birth parents.

Does your church organise meals rotas for new parents? Then do the same for adoptive parents. Adopters may not have as much warning as birth parents that their child is on its way, so your church will need to be flexible. And single adopters, in particular, don't have the support of a spouse to cook while they care for the child. So start as you mean to go on – with food, and a rota!

Consider how your church organises itself socially. If you run marriage courses, and groups for (predominantly childless and working) 18-30s, think where a single adoptive parent might fit in. Perhaps some of your groups can loosen their criteria – or you can encourage single adopters into a supportive church parenting group.

Single adopters are strong

No one chooses to parent a vulnerable child unless they are physically, mentally and emotionally robust, so you will rarely see a single adopter break down. In fact, they will usually look like they are coping brilliantly.

But this is because they have no choice. Single adopters have to keep going, have to be both Mum and Dad, have to do all the housework, have to deal with the meltdowns on their own. If you offer help, or even insist on it (“I'm bringing round a meal next Thursday...”), you'll likely never be turned down.

Why not help your single adopter/s to find a link person in church, if they don't already have someone? It could be their small group leader or a close friend. This link person is responsible for keeping in touch, finding out particular needs, helping and coordinating others to help.

A link person could be helpful before the child is placed. Could they organise a small group to help prepare the child's bedroom? Organise a baby (or older child) shower? A meals rota?

While single adopters are strong, no one can do everything well! Has lawn-mowing become a burden? The odd DIY task proving impossible? An ever-increasing ironing pile? This is where a link person can be helpful in discovering the need and organising a person or people to meet it.

Single adopters don't get a break

Whilst all single parents work incredibly hard to be both Mum and Dad, many will have a former partner who takes the children every so often.

Single adopters have no such let-up. If the parent or child become ill, it can be impossible to leave the house – and, if it's the parent who is unwell, there is no one to do school runs, laundry or cooking. Do your single adopters have people they can contact for help in these situations?

“Our church has a Facebook group where people list items offered or wanted,” says one adopter. “When my son had a fever and the medicine ran out, within minutes I had someone offer to pick some up for us.”

Single adopters are working to a tight budget

Some will have had to give up work in order to care for their child. Others will be working reduced hours and/or paying for childcare.

Make things easy for them. Reduce or waive the cost of church outings, events, or anything that has a price-tag attached. Give food parcels, or birthday and Christmas presents (or money towards them) to the kids. Invite them on days out or holidays, and cover the cost yourself or reduce it for them.

Realise that, when a single adopter is invited out in an evening, they will need to pay for a babysitter. Gather a list of willing church members who will do this for free (a list ensures that the adoptive parent doesn't feel bad asking the same person all the time).

Single adopters want to feel part of your church

Many single adopters report feeling isolated. Is it easy for them to connect with small groups, meetings and socials in your church?

Asking whether the adopter would like to host a small group, so that he/she can always attend, is a great place to start. If this isn't possible, how about organising a regular, trusted babysitter so that he/she can attend a group in a different location? Or using Skype/FaceTime so that the parent can take part remotely?

Invite families to spend time with you on a Sunday. One single adopter shares how precious this is: “Sundays can be very long days as a single parent, particularly for children who miss the routine of school, have already had a day to decompress, and are now starting to wind themselves up about school the next day. I know how precious family time can be, but one practical thing I always appreciate is when people invite us to lunch, or to join in with something in the afternoon.”

Single adopters want their children to feel part of your church

Like all Christian parents, single adopters want their children to grow up knowing God's love, and decide to follow Jesus for themselves.

But these children have all kinds of complex attachment needs, are traumatised by their past to varying degrees, and may also have learning difficulties or physical disabilities – all of which are likely to leave even the most competent children's worker in a cold sweat.

Fortunately, Home for Good has provided plenty of support for church leaders, and has also recently launched its Children's and Youth Leader Training.

One single adopter says her church accepted her and her daughter from the start. “One of my leaders said to me on the first Sunday, 'Never apologise for your children in church' and that made such a difference as I navigated the early days of parenting with a crying child. It was exactly what I needed to hear.”

I've mentioned babysitting, but for some children the change in carer can be very unsettling. Encourage your single adopter/s to find a trusted friend or two who can build up a positive relationship of trust with their child/ren, perhaps visiting weekly, so that eventually they can become a babysitter.

Even so, don't take it personally if an adoptive parent turns down an offer of babysitting – they will be so grateful that you offered, but a change in routine can change a vulnerable child's behaviour for days after the event. I think we can all understand a single parent wanting to avoid that!

As children get older, their needs change. “My 15 year old needs 'intentional' male role models who are there for him,” says one single mum. “He has a mentor at church who prays for him and he links with them when needed. Our youth worker is great at understanding attachment and the associated difficulties.”

Single adopters don't have 'back-up' when it comes to parenting decisions

Are there people who can commit to regular evening visits, to give the adoptive parent some company and/or someone to pray with them? Are there other parents with similar-aged children who could link up for playdates and/or a meal together?

If your church has a lot of adopters or foster carers, or if you're aware of some living locally, consider planning an occasional or regular event for them to meet up – the support from those who are going through similar challenges is invaluable. Even better: don't leave them to organise their own event! They are already exhausted. Use this event as a chance to bless them for what they give.

Finally, a great way of showing your support for any adopted or fostering families in your church is to become a Home for Good church. You'll receive helpful resources and ideas to inspire and equip your church family.

Supporting single adopters is important, but we'll never get it right all of the time. As long as lines of communication remain open – potentially with the help of a link person – then the parent will never feel worried about approaching their church with a concern.

Thank you for all you do to welcome and support the single adopters in your church!

You may also want to read this blog, written anonymously by a single adoptive mum, sharing from her perspective and experiences.

Written for Home for Good by Lucy Rycroft (LucyRycroft.com)



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