Not unlike any other New England family, the Ecker’s enjoy trips to Cape Cod during the summer, going to the beach, and looking out for any interesting rocks, gems or minerals that they can take home – whether found on a walk or in a small, coastal shop. Christopher is a typical 11-year-old boy who likes video games, plays with the family’s two dogs and likes science. His mother, Jackie, likes to tell him, “The world is your oyster…You can be whatever you want to be.”
Before becoming a mother, Jackie often thought about this statement. She was single and had recently watched a coworker go through her own adoption journey. That’s when Jackie decided she wanted to become a single mother, through adoption. Just like that, she was completing her home-study and driving an hour to and from her Massachusetts Approach to Partnership in Parenting (MAPP) classes. Jackie was encouraged to attend as many of the adoption matching parties, hosted by the Massachusetts Adoption Resource Exchange (MARE), as she could. She went all over the state for these parties. She would tell herself, “if people can travel internationally to adopt a child, I can travel across the state.”
At one of these adoption parties, Jackie connected with Christopher’s social worker. The next day, Jackie’s social worker, whom she had been working with, took it from there and sent over Jackie’s home-study and MAPP information. “Three weeks later, I was a mom” says Jackie. It was a quick turnaround, but Jackie mentioned that it was still far from a seamless process. “[the adoption process] has been a little crazy, but it turned out great in the end.”
The relationship, trust, and communication between Jackie and the two social workers helped tremendously throughout the adoption process. She stresses the importance of support from others during this process, especially from the social workers. From guidance throughout the process, encouraging her to attend adoption parties, to setting expectations, Jackie lends her adoption experience to her social worker. It helped a great deal having her social worker making sure that Jackie was prepared mentally, emotionally, and even financially.
However, the need for guidance and support doesn’t end after adoption. Jackie encourages parents of adopted children to ask for resources, particularly when it comes to therapeutic services for children. She also explains that knowing what works best for your kid, and what you need to do for your family to ensure that you are taking care of each other, is an important aspect of parenting – whether it is parenting a biological or adopted child. Even though Christopher was four-years-old when he was adopted, and didn’t really remember much about the foster care and adoption process, there was still trauma present. Adopted children are often times different than biological children; some have trauma and difficult backgrounds. Jackie explains that it is necessary for parents to understand how to best parent their child or children.
It was also difficult gaining Christopher’s trust initially after the adoption; it took almost three years for him to fully trust that this was his permanent home. There have been challenging moments, which many families also face. “You can prepare, and you just have to also be prepared for the fact that you aren’t going to be fully prepared,” says Jackie. “You have to be flexible and accommodating…just ready to embrace the craziness.”
All new parents – whether adoptive or biological – go through similar experiences, one of which is feeling overwhelmed during the early stages of parenting. Jackie explains that parenting is both overwhelming and rewarding, but that all parents should do their due diligence, particularly hopeful adoptive parents. “Only pursue it if you think you can actually do it,” says Jackie. “Once you have this child in your home, they are your child.” Now Jackie has an 11-year-old son that she can never imagine not having, and Christopher has a mother dedicated to loving and supporting him; especially when exploring for those special, one of a kind rocks and gems, just like he is to her.