GIVE IN KIND
Another way to help is giving in-kind gifts or your time. This won’t always help with the adoption fees, but it might free up the adoptive parents’ budget or time, which is sometimes even more valuable. Here are a few examples:
THINGS THAT WOULD HELP EARLY IN THE ADOPTION PROCESS
- Books to build a good library.
- Help with non-adoption-related stuff - Though adoptive parents can get tunnel vision about the adoption, many still have other everyday tasks piling up. Some parents might need help with household repairs, yardwork, or other tasks. If you have a specialized skill — or even specialized equipment– that you could donate or loan out, please do!
- Babysit - For adoptive families who already have kids, this could be a huge help, especially when stress levels are high and parents just need a break. Keep it gratis or do it in trade.
- Pass along savings - found a great coupon for something (free!) that you probably won’t use? Everything from free food to free entertainment would be appreciated, so pass it along. Most likely, the adoptive parents are already clipping coupons, but every little bit extra helps.
- Pass along your hand-me-downs - the adoptive family has probably given up what most people consider “basics,” not huge indulgences, but the little extras that spice up day-to-day existence: magazines, video subscriptions, new clothes (new anything!), going to the movies, theatre, or museum. Don’t hesitate to offer, especially if you’re ready to toss it out or give it away anyhow.
- Be a workout buddy, especially for the adoptive mother. Pregnant moms-to-be naturally adapt to carrying heavy loads over a 9-month period. And they continue to develop their carrying muscles as children grow from teeny tiny newborns to larger kiddos. Adoptive mothers, on the other hand, don’t have mother nature forcing their bodies into shape and often find themselves pulling muscles or seriously injuring their backs shortly after placement (especially when they adopt older, and often heavier, kiddos). You can help by scheduling workout dates with one or both parents (don’t expect them to invite you…despite knowing better, this might land low on their priority lists). Yoga, strength training, or outdoor activities like walking around the block are great. Invite the adoptive parent(s) to join you at the gym, especially if you have guest passes (gym memberships might be one of those budget cutbacks). Or, if fitness is your area of expertise, offer regular “classes” or develop a customized health plan for the adoptive parents.
- Indulgences - adoptive families have most likely given up most of life’s little luxuries. Pamper adoptive parent(s) with little treats like lunch/coffee/dessert or even a day at the spa. Or, send small gift cards (for coffee, snacks, movies). It might save their sanity!
- Send a care package or a thoughtful note - A box (of homemade cookies or low-fat snacks!, or a great movie and some candy, or even basic necessities for everyday living, like toothpaste or paper towels) is always welcome. Or, send a note of encouragement for the stressed-out couple. It’s a nice gesture that might just make their day.
- Schedule a date to get together and get their minds off of the adoption. Try to keep the conversation off kids.
- Pray, if you’re so inclined. It’s not all about the money. Pray for a trouble-free and speedy process, safe travels, and healthy children who can be quickly united with their adoptive parents. If you don’t pray, be positive and encouraging to the (potentially stressed and/or discouraged) waiting parents.
- Ask if there is anything you can do (if you’re willing), then do it.
THINGS TO HELP WITH TRAVEL
- Donate miles/points/rewards from your frequent flier or frequent stay programs: free hotel stays, plane tickets, or upgrades. (And don’t think that those upgrades are a luxury! Traveling 18 hours on a plane with two tired and terrified children, not to mention tired and terrified parents who don’t fit well in those coach seats, ain’t gonna be easy.) Chances are that the adoptive family is going to incur a huge travel expense, so this is an area where you can make a big impact on their bottom line. (With airfare at $2,000 roundtrip per person on average, we expect our travel costs to add up to $5,000 - $7,000 or more for the low-budget options.) There are several ways to help with miles:
Redeem your own miles for the reward. This option gets the most “bang for the buck” whether you or the adoptive parents pay for the (minimal) service fees.
Transfer your own miles to the recipient’s mileage account(s). There is usually a per-mile cost plus a small transfer fee. At United, you can transfer a minimum of 5,000 miles and a maximum of 15,000 miles to each recipient. The cost is $.01 per mile plus a $35 service fee per transfer. This is a good option if you don’t have enough miles to redeem a reward, or if the adoptive parent are short by a several thousand miles.
Purchase miles for the adoptive parent(s). This is a bit more costly and is really most useful only if the adoptive parent is short by a few thousand miles for a reward ticket. If you’re willing to spend this much, you may want to consider giving cash instead.
- Be a “friend” for refer-a-friend programs.The adoptive parents might belong to various incentive programs, such as frequent flyer, frequent stay, and other rewards programs. Often these programs have referral bonuses of free miles or points when friends sign up. Since most programs don’t cost you anything, both parties (you and the adoptive parents) benefit. You can help us by signing up for any of the following programs and giving our referral information:
Mileageplus Visa. Get up to 21,000 bonus miles for United Airlines, free upgrade certificates, no annual fee for the first year, and 1 mile for every $1 you spend. Heck, it’s kind of silly not to sign up.
Bank of America. Open a checking account and earn $25. We earn $25 too. (Actually, if you open a savings too, you can earn more, up to $50 total.) New customers only. We love BofA so much that we still bank there even though there are no branches in our state. Ask us for a referral code to sign up online or in your local branch.
My Points. Earn points for shopping or often for just browsing websites. We earn points when you join. This program also has a downloadable “Points Alert.” Points can be redeemed for a variety of gift cards and goodies. We’ve been doing this for years and have regularly “cashed in” points for gift cards to Target, Walmart, Bloomingdales, Starbucks, Chili’s, and Olive Garden. .
- Collect “points” to help the adoptive parents earn free things. We collect MyCokeRewards points and we’re saving for a digital camcorder. And it’s not just “coke” but any Coca-cola brand product (Barq’s, Fanta, Dasani are a few, but click here for a complete list). Email us with any unused codes or mail us bottlecaps and the pull-off section on fridge packs. See ticker for our progress!
Once baby got home, we also started collecting Pampers points, which are found inside most Pampers items. If you use Pampers products, but don’t bother with the points, please save them for us! Baby Joseph can earn all kinds of fun prizes, like books and toys.
- Send a care package for the parents, the baby, or the orphanage — or all three! Ask adoptive parents what they need. Chances are they’ll have a long list of over-the-counter medicines and baby/travel necessities that will add up fast. Most adoptive families are also asked to bring donations for the orphanage or care center, but there are often specific needs, so ask first. Contribute as much as you can. Those little guys need everything they can get.
- Give (or loan) good-quality audio-visual equipment, or offer to be a personal photographer during travel. Parents will want to capture the entire experience for their children’s Life Books, but if they don’t already own this equipment or have a volunteer photographer, most likely they won’t be able to afford it once they’re well into the process (and debt). Another alternative is to hire a professional photographer in-country to accompany the adoptive parents while meeting their child/ren for the first time. This might not be as expensive as you think, but do make sure you’re getting what you expect before you shell out any cash.
THINGS TO HELP PREPARE FOR BABY
- Help the adoptive parents find good deals - one indispensable read is Baby Bargains by Denise and Alan Fields. While this book can be checked out from most local libraries, it’s worth the small investment (and the authors even offer a money-back guarantee). Note: make sure you get the most recent edition as it is updated frequently.
- Help prepare the nursery - set a date to help with painting, wallpaper, furniture assembly or other decorating side-jobs.
- Host a baby shower for the expectant parents (adoptive parents are expecting and should be treated the same as pregnant parents).
- Give a gift from their baby registry.
- Send a book. Kiddos of all ages love stories.
- Donate your hand-me-downs, especially for first-time parents. Don’t hesitate to ask what they need or offer your gently used stuff. It may be double-trouble for some people (like us), who are hoping for twins or siblings. Note: most safety experts shake a stern finger at certain hand-me-downs like cribs and car seats, even from known entities like friends and family. If adoptive parents — especially nervous first-time parents — politely decline these items, understand that they may diligently following suggested advice and you should take no offense.
- Offer to run errands - the “O” factor (overwhelm) can drag anyone down. If you don’t mind pitching in, then there’s a lot you could do: interview potential nannies, pick up something at the store, go to the post office…whatever might help the adoptive family. For a more coordinated approach, schedule a time once a (week/month?) to run errands during specific hours. You’ll probably get a list of to-dos!
THINGS THAT WILL HELP AFTER BABY ARRIVES
- A stocked fridge. Make arrangements to stuff the adoptive family’s fridge and cabinets full of healthful goodies while they’re traveling. Or, ship a care package to arrive on their doorstep shortly after they arrive home (if you’re not local, order from an online food/grocery store). Prepared or easy-to-prepare meals are especially welcome. Don’t forget soft solids or formula for the little one(s).
- Food on the table. Whether new or seasoned parents, they probably won’t have the time or energy to cook after a long return trip. Make arrangements to have someone deliver a meal each day of the first week or two that they’re home. Gift cards to nearby restaurants (especially those with take-out) will be more than welcome.
- A stocked nursery. While you’re stocking the fridge, make sure that there are sufficient diapers, wipes, and basic medicines in the house. Also be sure that the nursery/kids’ room has clean sheets and a set-up crib/bed. There’s a darned good chance, especially for international adoptive parents, that both baby and parents will come back feeling ill — either from food/water bugs, a cold/flu, or just sheer exhaustion from travel. They will all want to collapse and not having to prep anything before they do will be a Godsend.
- A clean house. Coordinate with other friends and family to tidy the house before they get home. If possible, organize a group to descend on the house (with advance warning) a couple of weeks after parents are home. They’ll think you’re the greatest! Or, even the occasional clean-up would save mom’s sanity.
- Other help. Parents traveling back from some international destinations may bring back more than their children. Giardia and other types of food- and water-borne illnesses are typical and can result in loss of sleep and nutrition, and ultimately add extra stress. Though it’s a crucial bonding time for parents and children and visitors are often discouraged, if parents are particularly sick, they may need a helping hand to care for their children.
- Coupons! Don’t throw away those coupons from the Sunday paper that you won’t use. Instead, cut out baby-related coupons and surprise the new parents with coupons for diapers, bottles, binkies, formula, shampoo, lotions, you name it! You’d be surprised how much parents can save using coupons. There are frequently coupons for $1 (or more!) off diapers and other necessities. Send store coupons too since many stores will accept both store and manufacturer’s coupons for the same product. Shannon’s grandma sent us some coupons for $5 off Target with a minimum Pampers purchase. When we added in manufacturer’s coupons (and got lucky because Pampers were on sale), we saved a bundle. But baby goes through diapers like there’s no tomorrow, so an unending supply of coupons would be a welcome and appreciated gift!
- Space and understanding. Adoptive parents (and siblings) often need a special time to bond with their children (of any age, including newborns). This is not a quick or an easy process and many adoptive families will go into “quarantine” in which they mainly stay at home and ask friends and family to hold off with visits for up to 6 months. Adoptive families will usually avoid outings with large group, and this often includes church activities (or services). Regardless of whether a family goes into quarantine, understand that attachment specialists will recommend that folks other than immediate family members (mom, dad, siblings) avoid touching or holding the adoptive children too much (if at all). Though these may seem like extreme measures, adoptive parents are simply trying to ensure the best possible transition for their new family and your understanding and support will help them during this often difficult time.