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January 19, 2011

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CareCalendar is a tool every adoptive family could use. Bringing home a new child is not unlike giving birth to one in terms of the demands on a family’s time in the first weeks a child is home. Ideally, an adoptive family’s support circle contains at least one other adoptive family who, having been-there-done-that, offers to coordinate meals and other practical offers of help.

The practical question is, How? None of us can anticipate how the transition will go, so it can be hard to guess what we’ll need. Some also find it hard to ask for help, imagining that asking someone to coordinate will be an imposition.

Enter CareCalendar: a free on-line tool that helps you, or a friend acting on your behalf, easily coordinate offers to help. Once your calendar is set up with the needs you specify, CareCalendar provides a calendar number and a matching access code unique to your family. You or your coordinator email the codes to friends, who then follow the link to your page. There, volunteers will find a calendar listing your needs (like meals or childcare) in red. To fill a need, volunteers click on a need and fill out a very short form. Needs that have been met are shown in green. In the case of meals, the calendar also displays the promised main course to help avoid a whole week’s worth of spaghetti.

The CareCalendar is linked to GoogleMaps for easy access to directions to your house and also contains a “news” page you can update like a blog with information specific to your needs. The system also helpfully prompts for things like food sensitivities, dislikes, if you have freezer space, and the time you usually eat dinner.

I have used two CareCalendars, one for a friend who had surgery, and the other for friends moving back to the state. From the stand point of a user and a coordinator, the system is set up beautifully. A user who volunteers to meet a need gets an email receipt a few minutes later, then a reminder email the day before. The coordinator gets an email every time someone volunteers so it is easy to stay on top of which needs remain. The coordinator also has a contact list so if, for example, a blizzard changes the appointed day and time for unloading the moving van, I can easily contact the volunteers to reschedule. The family being helped –you–can also easily check to see the help coming your way.

CareCalendar is very flexible –a must-have with the uncertainties of adoption travel and settling in. Too many meals? Delete some. Realize later that some regular play dates for your other kids would be a blessing? Add them. Need help longer than you expected? The calendar is easily extended.

CareCalendar is free, a ministry of the family who developed it and who runs the site. Donations are accepted and a sponsorship of $10 per month is suggested –and well worth it! They also have an option allowing organizations like a church to sponsor any number of CareCalendars for a year with a single suggested donation.

So, adopting friends with travel calls on the horizon: add one more fun thing to your to-dolist during these last days of your wait: click on over to CareCalendar and check it out!

P.S. Any one interested in viewing the UrbanServant CareCalendar for their move back home, please email me and I will send you the access information! zeman 1102 at usfamily dot net in usual form.

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