A new support group is ready to help foster parents who are considering adoption, parents of adopted children or people who are currently navigating the adoption process.

Santa Barbara County Social Services started the Adoptive Parents Support Group as a forum for parents to share experiences and receive support from people in similar situations.

“I saw a very deep need for those parents that were considering coming into, those going through and those who had just received authorization to have some sort of support so that they weren’t just cut loose on their own,” said Linda Mabry, Santa Barbara County Adoption Supervisor.

Separate support groups serve north and south Santa Barbara County. Both groups first met in August and will continue to meet once a month.

“Our parents are excited, energetic and ready to learn,” said Christine Farro, a social services practitioner who is currently overseeing the north county group. At the first meeting there were only three to five people, but by the second meeting there were 15 parents, Farro said.

On October 22, the north group will host a potluck dinner meeting as its next gathering at the home of Julie Bassera , one of the group’s members. Bassera is the parent of a seven-year-old girl that she and her husband adopted at the age of five. The couple also has four other boys.

“With any kind of gathering, when people have something in common, it helps,” Bassera said. “They know they aren’t alone and they can share experiences and feelings.”

Although Social Services created the groups, both are entirely parent-run. According to Mabry, said Social Services will only work to support the group’s growth.

At the last north county meeting, Farro gave a presentation about the juvenile court system and how it affects parents. She was the first guest speaker of many to follow.

Apart from the support group, Social Services offers an adoption assistance program that includes a lending library of books, magazines, web sites and other resources regarding parenting and adoption. Before an adoption is complete, Social Services also helps negotiate financial support depending on parental need.

According to Farro, the first step in the adoption process is placing a child in a foster home. However, even after the foster parents have decided to seek adoption, the child must first try to be reunited with his or her biological parents. If that attempt fails, then a legal process begins to remove parental rights from the biological family, thus setting the adoption process in motion.

After the adoption is finalized, Farro said the parents still have the right to back out if for some reason they change their minds. According to Farro, the support group is designed to help families through these situations.

The north county group plans to meet on the third Wednesday of each month, while the south group will to meet every fourth Wednesday. Both groups, however, will remain flexible enough to allow as many parents as possible to participate. As for the future, plans exist to provide childcare for the hour and half that most meetings last.