An Adoptive Mother’s Viewpoint: Why Defunded Family Support Group Should be Reinstate
I remember it like it was yesterday. I was talking to a stranger that instantly felt like a friend. It was our first contact and somehow it felt like I was talking to someone I had known forever. This was my initial experience with Adoptive Family Support Network (AFSN). I was reaching out at the advice of our adoption worker. Within the first few words of the conversation, I felt understood. Prior to that phone call, I was feeling alone, inadequate, and completely unprepared for the journey that adoption was taking my family on. I was questioning my abilities as a mom and wondering if this was the life that I was supposed to be living.
Fast forward a couple of years and I began to volunteer for the very program that saved my sanity that day. I knew that coming out of the place I had been in was a direct result of the support I had received from AFSN, and it was now my opportunity to pay it forward. I wanted to do whatever I could to help this organization get the word out and support as many families as possible. I was eventually hired on and continued being able to make a difference in the lives of adoptive families. Recently however, the Governor’s line-item vetoes put an abrupt end to the Parent-to-Parent Program.
I have had the honor to walk alongside many families on their adoption journeys. Many of those I have met or spoken with along the way have been in a similar situation to me when I first called. In addition to being that voice that gives someone a feeling of belonging, I have also been able to witness the incredible relationships that have formed out of our “village.” The AFSN motto became “We are the village.” Connecting families to other families that look like theirs or have similar experiences to theirs is what is at the core of the parent-to-parent program. From large events like Great Wolf Lodge or Adoption Celebration to small gatherings at Meijer Gardens or a support group, the connections that have been made because of this program are significant for many reasons.
The funding cuts that have taken place in Lansing are not just impacting a program and a few employees; this program impacts thousands of families across the state of Michigan. The support that we were able to provide to 76 of Michigan’s 83 counties includes that one-on-one support I mentioned, parent education, family fun activities, support groups, and many other supportive services. The idea of someone feeling isolated and alone rather than supported and strong is heartbreaking. Systemically this is bigger than an organization or a family. The number of families this program has helped to remain intact is significant. Upon hearing about the veto, so many of our families reached out with a similar message: “Our family would not be together if it weren’t for the support of AFSN.”
The support and connection to services that AFSN offers new adoptive families has indeed been a lifesaver for many. When families have called AFSN in crisis, the help they’ve received has made the difference between families relinquishing an adoption or staying together. AFSN has served as ‘’the village’’ to support them, connect them to resources, and help them strategize what they’re dealing with in a more manageable way. Without AFSN, there could likely be an increase in kids ending up in residential treatment or families saying, ‘I want to be done.’
The money it takes to run this program is a drop in the bucket compared to the money saved by keeping kids in their homes rather than residential placements or juvenile justice programs.
Shelley Garcia is the adoptive mother of two sons, ages 15, and 8 years old, from the state’s child welfare system. She reached out to AFSN in 2011, after her younger son was placed in her home. She went to work for AFSN in 2014, until the program was dismantled due to a budget veto in October.