"So my loved one is now waiting in the waiting pool/list. How can I continue to support them? What happens next?"
1. One of the best things you can do is to ask the waiting parents, "How are you feeling with your adoption wait?" instead of, "Any adoption news?" Here's why. There may not be any news to share. Often, waiting parents just have to wait. Also, they very well could be chosen by a birthmom but may be waiting to announce it until they feel more confident that the adoption is going to happen (similar to how many pregnant mothers wait until the second trimester). Yet, most of us want our loved ones to check in with us, to not forget or ignore that we are expecting.
2. If your loved one is waiting for an open domestic adoption, keep your ears out. Unplanned pregnancies happen every day. If you hear anyone mention that their sister/cousin/roommate is pregnant and doesn't know what to do, casually mention that you have a loved one waiting for an open adoption. Chances are nothing will come of it, but a lot of people forget that adoption is a 3rd option and are only considering parenting or abortion. Many more would never consider closed adoption and don't realize that they can have contact and even a real relationship with their child after placement. Make sure not to promise that so-and-so would love to adopt the child, because a match has to feel right to both parties. But offer to put them in touch with each other if the expecting mother is interested.
3. Often, waiting families need a lot of distractions, especially when waiting for a first child. Include them in fun non-child-related outings.
4. If your loved ones have been waiting a long time, offer your empathy, not "solutions". It's really hard to feel like you're no longer controlling your own life, but that's where waiting adoptive families are. Their future is in someone else's hands. It's normal to want to help them get that control back, whether you are suggesting that they change their Dear birthparent letter, switch agencies, or try a different country. (Now if you actually have adopted, that's a different story, because you might have valuable insider information that they'd like to hear.) But it actually just feeds our insecurities during the wait. Offering an ear to listen is what most of us need most, and sometimes that's the hardest thing for our loved ones to give. Stay excited for us, and help us keep the faith that a child is coming.
"My loved one got a match/was chosen by a birthmom! What can I do to help now?"
No matter which option you choose, be specific about how you'd like to help instead of making a blanket statement like, "I'm here for you when you get the call." Often adoptive families will be so jazzed and stressed, they won't be able to think about what kind of help they need or they'll be too afraid to ask for help.
1. Caring for an older child if the parents can't bring him/her along.
2. Caring for the family's pets or dropping them off at the kennel.
3. Cooking meals and stocking their freezer. It's also great to stock the pantry with snack items for the friends and neighbors who will be dropping by to meet the new arrival. (cheese and crackers, salsa and chips, pop, juice, ice, etc.)
4. Housesitting (and perhaps tidying up while you're there).
5. Serving as a liaison - get a list of emails or phone numbers and send out updates so the new parents can concentrate on bonding with their baby and/or forming their relationship with birthfamily. Make sure not to tell anyone the adoptive family hasn't said to - often they may want to break the happy news themselves or are specifically NOT telling someone until they know for sure that the baby is coming home. Also, helping to address, stuff, and stamp baby announcements!
6. If you have baby stuff lying around unused, offer to give it or lend it until they are able to get their own. A lot of adoptive parents don't get pre-placement baby showers, so they may be missing things like a swing, a pack-n-play, a baby tub, or a bassinet. Loaning yours (until the gifts start arriving) would be a big help.