Strategy Guide – Waiting Families Groups

By: - February 5, 2011

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This strategy guide is designed to help church ministries who want to launch a waiting families group within their ministry. Church adoption and foster care ministries are uniquely positioned and equipped to help families understand what it means to ‘wait well’ and helping them do just that. Rather than viewing the ‘wait’ as a negative aspect of the journey or something that simply must be endured, we know that the ‘wait’ is an opportunity to prepare, connect and learn.

During the past four plus years, well over 200 families have been served by Tapestry’s waiting families groups. We have also seen many other church ministries start similar groups. Below is a detailed outline of how our waiting families groups are organized and run to help families wait well.

Need, Vision and Description of Strategy:

The adoption and foster care waiting stage can be a difficult parts of the journey.  It is a time that is filled with questions and doubts and, frankly, it is a time that too few non-adoptive/foster families understand or can directly relate to.  As a result, we have created a small group specifically for those who are in the midst of the adoption (or foster care) wait.

We believe that those who are waiting should seek to “make the wait worthwhile” and this group is designed to help them do just that.  Led by an experienced adoptive parent, this group helps waiting families know that they are not alone and gives them the opportunity to connect with others who are also waiting so that they can pray with and for each other, support one another, learn from one another and, ultimately, celebrate with one another once the wait has come to an end.

Steps to Implementation:

  • Identify waiting families who desire to be connected with one another or who could benefit from the support of other waiting families
  • Identify an experienced adoptive family that is willing and able to shepherd and serve waiting families that are pursuing various types of adoption journeys (e.g., international, domestic, foster/adoption, etc.)
  • Find a date, time and location that works (Tapestry hosts each waiting families group at a local restaurant by reserving a private room. A host home would work well also.)
  • Get the word out (Tapestry uses its website, email list and we also let local adoption agencies know about the group so that they can refer families who might benefit)
  • Decide on a format. Tapestry has a lightly structured discussion, sometimes involving a specific topic; childcare is not provided
  • Be committed to follow-up with each person who attends the group.  While this can be time consuming and, at times, intensely pastoral, it is critical that the group be more than just a social gathering, and instead offer committed support, encouragement and true community.

Key Role(s):

Each Tapestry waiting families group is led by one or more person that has adoption experience and have the heart and wisdom to shepherd and serve waiting families.  It is important that the leader is willing and able to walk alongside those pursuing various types of adoption journeys, not just the same path that the leader has experienced.  It is also important that the leader is willing and able to follow-up, support and pray for families between the periodic group meetings.

Expected Financial Cost:

Very little (Tapestry serves desserts and coffee that is supplied by the lead couple).  Periodically the waiting families group will also have a dinner event, such as a Christmas party or a Memorial Day cookout.

Potholes to Avoid:

  • Do not allow group meetings to become “therapy” or “gripe” sessions about the adoption process, the waiting stage or adoption agencies (always focus on encouraging families and offering them hope and something positive)
  • Do not allow group members to scare others with stories or experiences that are “extreme” or “sensationalized” (always provide context and perspective without ignoring the real challenges that are often encountered both during the waiting stage and after placement)
  • Do not ignore or minimize the reality that the waiting stage can be difficult (the wait is often difficult and this is a group that should be understanding of that reality while at the same time helping people to find ways to make the most of it and redeem the time)
  • Seriously consider not having children present when the group meets as it can be disruptive to the group dynamic and may cause couples who do not yet have children to feel uncomfortable or out of place
Helpful Resources:

Quotes from Participant and Other Thoughts:

  • “We’ve really been encouraged by other people’s stories … meeting people in the same spot we’re at and having a group of friends we know will be excited in all the right ways when our child finally comes home”
  • From Romans 8 (The Message): “That is why waiting does not diminish us, any more than waiting diminishes a pregnant mother. We are enlarged in the waiting. We, of course, don’t see what is enlarging us. But the longer we wait, the larger we become, and the more joyful our expectancy.  Meanwhile, the moment we get tired in the waiting, God’s Spirit is right alongside helping us along. If we don’t know how or what to pray, it doesn’t matter. He does our praying in and for us, making prayer out of our wordless sighs, our aching groans. He knows us far better than we know ourselves, knows our pregnant condition, and keeps us present before God. That’s why we can be so sure that every detail in our lives of love for God is worked into something good.”

Also Found In: Resources for Churches, Strategy Guides