Read parts one and two before reading this, if you haven't already.
This story has been coming out jumbled and I feel like I'm twirling around without actually saying what I want to say. But press on we will! Somewhere in this mess I'll hopefully convey why I feel so strongly about social media as one (of many) valuable means of post-adoption support and education.
Sometimes people talk about the fact that they went online to find an adoption support network for themselves as a failure of the agency/professionals to support them. That is not exactly my view.
I do not think that all post-adoption support needs to come from professionals. In fact, I’d even say most of it shouldn’t. I think of the role of an adoption agency somewhat like I think of our family's pediatrician. The pediatrician definitely has a role to play in maintaining my children's emotional and physical health, an important one. I rely on her professional knowledge when the kids are sick. I trust she has expertise that I don’t to spot potential health problems and I put a lot of weight on her advice. When the kids were babies and things seemed fragile and swiftly changing, we saw the pediatrician more often. But now that the kids are older and we have some parenting experience to rely on, we don’t need the pediatrician as much aside from crisis points and occasional check-ups.
But there is so much to parenting than looking after their basic health. There are all the day-to-day choices I make about discipline and food and education and potty training and values. There are the idea swapping, asking for emotional support, and plain old venting I need to do sometimes. And for help with all of those things I don’t turn to the pediatrician. Instead, I turn to my friends and family members who share my values. I turn to books or magazines. Sometimes I search for information or folks with similar experiences online.
In my mind, the adoption professionals are like the pediatrician. When things are fragile and new, they should get us off on the right track. They should be there to help us with counseling or mediation when we hit big adoption road bumps. They should be skilled in pointing us to other resources. Their convening power can be used for community building and advocacy, especially on the local level. But for day-to-day adoption support, I don't need an agency counselor, I need friends--friends who "get it."
Finding friends who not only have personal experiences with adoption, but who value openness and share my ethics would be really hard, if I were searching just in my little city. But online I've found my adoption tribe in spades: on Twitter, in my feed reader, in my email. They're a mish-mosh of adoptive parents, adult adoptees, and first parents. Even the "adoption friends" I have locally are people I first met online. And my tribe's combined knowledge and experience is phenomenal.
How many times have you heard someone say they found support online that they'd never been able to find offline? That they found people who shared their circumstances or values or worries? People who could offer up a quick word of encouragement or advice in the middle of a visit? People who challenged them to take a risk or see something from another perspective? How many times have you said it yourself? Just think of the difference we're making for each other.
I don't think any one of us has all the answers. I think precious few among us deserves any "adoption expert" label (I'm certainly not one of them). But all of us put together? We can be a life-changing resource for each other.
That's why I spend my nights copying and pasting entries onto the open adoption blogroll or dreaming up ridiculous projects. I want to open up spaces in which it's easier for people to discover new perspectives or make real connections with others in open adoptions, because my parenting was changed for the better when I did. It is all in hopes that somewhere in that big list of open adoption blogs something will resonate for a reader and she'll leave a comment and begin to form her own tribe. Someone will read a roundtable response and think, "Wow, I've never thought of it in that way before." Someone will click with her interview partner and a new friendship will bloom. And we'll all be a little more open-hearted, a little better educated, and little less alone.