Developing your Child’s Racial/Cultural Identity

 

For many families who adopt children who have different racial or cultural backgrounds, you may ask yourselves: How do I promote my child’s racial/cultural identity? Is this something we can even address?

Although discussing the difference of race and ethnicity in your families may seem complex at first, it is extremely important for every child. It has been found that transracial families who do not emphasize the importance of racial identity or do not attempt to connect the child to other figures in that racial group (i.e. mentors, role models), result in the child learning to devalue and ignore their unique racial identity. The child may even grow up to have negative feelings about their own race if they are not provided opportunities to engage with other individuals and groups of that race or culture. Alternatively, when transracial families openly discuss and promote the child’s unique identity, the child develops a positive concept about their connection to that race and their own self-image. Furthermore, we know that both transracially adopted children and children adopted into families of the same race have no differences in feelings of self-esteem when racial identity is discussed (McRoy, et. al, 1982). This implies that families who don’t have prior experience/participation in the cultural practices of different groups are still completely capable of promoting such opportunities for their children; this then promotes the child’s positive self-image and self-esteem.

Once we recognize why these discussions of identity are so important for transracial families, we can then highlight the variety of ways to explore this with your child. According to Ung, O’Connor, & Pillidge (2012), racial identity is influenced by four different pathways:

  • individual
  • family
  • community
  • societal

Within the family level of influence, parents should incorporate key values and traditions from the child’s background into parenting practices, celebrations and rituals, and diet. For example, parents may research and ask individuals from their community, support groups, or even online about important holidays, and practices on that holiday within the child’s culture; additionally, parents may select one night a week to make a traditional or common dish from the child’s cultural background. Incorporating these values and practices into your family dynamics and even making it regular part of your routine unconsciously sends the message to children that their culture, their background, their racial identity are validated and normalized. As a family, you allow these customs to be something that is easily maintained in the child’s life, which further supports their racial identity development. Parents should also consider their openness towards other races or cultures – not just their openness to the child’s own racial background. Parents model ways of viewing the world to their children, therefore children may learn to be more open or accepting towards other races and cultures if their parents are as well. If parents model judgement and prejudice against racial groups, transracially adopted children will also learn to be overly-critical, even sometimes to their own racial group. This again emphasizes the importance of openness among transracial adoptive families.

For any children who have a mixture of cultural or racial influences in their life, it is crucial to encourage their growth and understanding, while supporting them in both private, family-centered and public, community-based activities. At home, families can motivate children to openly discuss and understand their racial heritage, how it may be different from your own, and recognize that as a positive thing about your family. In promoting positive self-image and self-worth, ensure that you are setting positive expectations about your child’s behavior and that you are setting aside time each day where your child knows they can come to you. Both of these practices remind your child of their unique worth, how they positively add value to the family, and that they will always be supported and respected by Mom and Dad. Regarding school or community based practices to promote a child’s racial identity, families may explore integrated schools or neighborhoods for the child to feel that their racial identity is modeled in their environment. This immersion in racial groups on a routine basis is extremely positive for transracially adoptees to feel “seen” in their identity and not feel as an “outsider” where they live and learn. Additionally, families should seek out community role models, support groups, or peer groups that value and promote the child’s racial and cultural identity (Hud-Aleem & Countryman, 2008). Such role models and groups can be extremely helpful when families do not live in a very integrated or diverse community; having at least one or two people for the child to connect with about their shared race and/or culture can be significant for positive identity development. Beyond your connections with the child’s unique racial heritage, families should be open to discussing and building relationships with other cultures and culturally dissimilar peers. This brings us back to the concept of openness among families. Again, we emphasize that parents should model openness towards various races/cultures in order for children to form openness towards their own and other groups.

Despite knowing the importance of developing your child’s unique racial identity, it may still feel complicated and challenging. If so, remind yourselves that this new territory is something you will navigate together as a family. You’re not alone in navigating this or feeling nervous or intimidated about this. It may be best for transracial adoptive families to start slow. You can commit to incorporating one dish every couple weeks or going to one cultural event in the community each month (it can even be a simple book reading at the library!). No matter how you choose to approach the development and encouragement of your child’s racial identity, remind yourself of the importance. Your efforts to support and validate your child’s background and identity is something that will be invaluable as they grow into your family, and one day, their very own.

View these Nightlight blogs for more tips and considerations when raising your transracially adopted child:

Transracial Adoption Panel 1

Transracial Adoption Panel 2

Talking with Kids About Racism

 

References:
Hud-Aleem, R. & Countryman, J. (2008). Biracial identity development and recommendations in therapy. Psychiatry, (Edgmont), 5(11). pp. 37-44.
McRoy, R. G., Zurcher, L.A., Lauderdale, M. L., Anderson, R.N. (1982). Self-esteem and racial identity in transracial and inracial adoptees. Social Work, 27(6). pp. 522–526. https://doi.org/10.1093/sw/27.6.522
Ung, T., O’Connor, S. H., & Pillidge, R. (2012). The development of racial identity in transracially adopted people: An ecological approach. Adoption & Fostering, 36(3–4). pp. 73–84. https://doi.org/10.1177/030857591203600308

Why is Embryo Donation a Type of Adoption?

 

Did you know that embryo adoption has existed for 25 years?

National Adoption Month is recognized in November, where adoption agencies and families celebrate the beauty of adoption. However, embryo adoption is often overlooked. Why is it not considered a form of adoption even though thousands of families have participated in it for years?

Embryo donation and embryo adoption are two separate concepts, but are often confused as the same.

In typical embryo donation programs, the donor family creates embryos through IVF and can donate the remaining embryos to a family. However, the practice is not well regulated. Often clinics “in-house” will match the families and process all the paperwork. It is a hard and extensive process, and many clinics do not even find it worth the work to have an embryo donation program at their practice. The embryo cohort can be split up and often little communication or documentation is made between the donor and recipient family.

With embryo adoption, all the best practices of adoption are applied to embryo donation. In the end, the adoptive family will be receiving a child that is not genetically related to them, just like any form of adoption. Adopting families should feel prepared in how to parent their adoptive child, and placing families should feel assured that their embryos are going to a safe and loving home.

All adopting families are required to complete a home study which includes background checks, psychological evaluations, education, and home and post-birth visits. The adoption is finalized through a contract under property law.

Similarly to a domestic infant adoption, donors and recipients also choose each other and can decide the form of communication they are comfortable with. Families are given more information about each other than in a typical embryo donation program. Adopting families are given the donor family’s profile and medical histories so their adoptive child can know about their genetic background. The desire is that genetic siblings are placed together and families are encouraged to be open to discussing with the adoptive child of their adoption history.

The goal of embryo adoption is to provide safe homes for embryos who then become children. The only way to ensure the safety of the embryos is to apply the best practices of adoption.

The controversy over embryo adoption is often affiliated with the lack of knowledge about what it truly is and how it differs from typical embryo donation programs. There is also the ongoing controversy over the personhood of an embryo. Do embryos have the same rights as a child? The topic is still debated, but ultimately, the end result of any embryo donation and adoption program is a child being placed in a family that is not genetically related to them. The adopting family should be prepared to parent this child and placing families should be assured that their child is placed in a loving home.

Embryo adoption is another great form of adoption to celebrate this month. In fact, 1,000 Snowflakes babies will be born in just a few months! All these children would not have a home if embryo adoption did not exist. Join us in celebrating the families and children touched by this beautiful form of adoption.

To learn more about Snowflakes Embryo Adoption Program, visit Snowflakes.org.

Thankfulness Practices for the Family

 

November is a natural time of the year where our minds gravitate toward thankfulness. Cultivating that practice in your children can be fun and built organically into your family structure, not just in this season but throughout the year. Below are some ideas on how to incorporate expressing gratitude in your family with your children:

  • Add it into your routine – Your family naturally has routines and structures where you can easily add in a time of thankfulness. At bedtime, as children are brushing their teeth ask them to think about 2 things they are thankful for and tell you after they are done. You can ask them while you are reading books or tucking them into bed. Consider adding the question in while eating breakfast or in the car on the way home from school. Sharing “highs and lows” of their day can be easily altered to include what they are grateful for.
  • Gratitude activities – There are many crafts or activities that incorporate thankfulness that you can make at home or find available on a website. You can create a “Thankfulness Jar” or a “Blessing Tree” where children write out something they are thankful for and put it in the jar or add it to the limbs of the tree. Consider making a chain link with colorful paper that is added to each day and strung along the wall or mantel. Another idea is use a corkboard or magnet board where you can pin up gratitude cards to display.
  • Family gratitude journal – This can be used as a family or you can have each child write in their own journal. You can teach your child this practice that is ongoing through the year.
  • Thankfulness in prayer – Many models for prayer begin with praise and thankfulness. As you lead your child in prayer, be sure to incorporate thankfulness for what God has done and will do in their lives. Your prayers should include tangible blessings in your life but also acknowledge the goodness of God in their lives and how He provides for them throughout all areas of their lives.
  • Giving to others – Volunteering or giving items to others can show children the blessing and gifts they have in life and how they can bless others. This cultivates thankfulness by recognizing all they have been given and acknowledging the gift that is to them.
  • Thankfulness in hardship – We all go through challenging circumstances that can make it hard to remember the good things we have in our lives. If your child is going through something difficult, allow them to acknowledge those feelings and difficulties and also acknowledge what remains positive in their situation. Don’t brush off the challenges by only focusing on the positive because their feelings are valid and should be recognized. However, you can show them how to remember to balance the positives and negatives they will experience throughout life.

As a parent, you may not be good at keeping a practice of thankfulness. These suggestions above can benefit you as well as your children. Thankfulness is something that needs to be approached with intention if it is not our natural response to any situation.

We hope you have a wonderful Thanksgiving and are able to pause to recognize all the blessings in your life and family!

International Spotlight: Dominican Republic

 

Dominican Republic’s population has been steadily increasing each year. In 2020, the country’s population was roughly 11 million people with a poverty rate of 15.2%, meaning that 1.7 million of Dominican Republic’s people were living in poverty. The majority of Dominicans living in poverty also live in rural areas with little access to care and resources (macrotrends.net). Socioeconomic inequality among women, corruption, natural disasters, and an increasing population seems to be the main causes of poverty in the country (borgenproject.org). Among this poverty-stricken population are thousands of children that become neglected, abused, or abandoned every year due to the family’s inability to provide proper care for their children. These children are in need of safe, loving and nurturing homes; however, most of them find themselves institutionalized until they age out or are adopted. Typically, the Dominican Republic will prioritize domestic adoption before a child becomes eligible for international adoption. Dominican children that are not adopted domestically are then placed for international adoption by Consejo Nacional Para La Ninez Y La Adolescencia, (CONANI). CONANI is Dominican Republic’s central adoption authority, or the entity that oversees the adoption of children in need of families.

All children who become eligible for international adoption in the Dominican Republic have some type of medical or psychological need. Mild to severe special needs range in each age group. However there are older children and sibling groups that are considered special needs, but may not have a medical or psychological need.  These children are considered harder to place. Typical needs of children who are eligible for international adoption include blood related disorders, meningitis, diseases of the eyes, asthma, autism, and children with neurodevelopmental and/or psychomotor delays. Medical care for certain conditions may not be available in Dominican Republic’s health care system, as a result it is not always easy for the country to provide the sufficient care for children with significant needs. While the country’s healthcare system is the most advanced in the Caribbean, it is still not suitable for children in need of ongoing treatment and routine check-ups (borgenproject.org).

Currently, Nightlight’s Dominican Republic program has thirty-three children waiting for a forever family that are eligible for international adoption. The files of these children are available for potential adoptive parents to view on Nightlight’s Adoption Bridge website. Children eligible for international adoption from Dominican Republic have “DR” listed within their name on the website. Although Nightlight cannot post children’s photos on this website, the country does allow for limited access to children’s information online that includes general descriptions accompanied by their age and any identified needs. Eligible families can view their full file with photos upon request by e-mailing samantha@nightlight.org. Children listed on the website are immediately eligible for adoption once a family’s dossier is submitted to the country and they are matched by CONANI.

Additionally, there is a $500 grant available to the next family that adopts a waiting child from the Dominican Republic. If you are interested in adopting a child who is not on Adoption Bridge, we ask prospective adoptive parents to be open to children that are at least 6 or 7 years of age and/or have moderate special needs. Generally, sibling groups and older children eligible for adoption are generally healthy. To learn more about this program, you can submit an inquiry form here, and our Inquiry Team will reach out to share more.

Introducing Adoptions from Ecuador!

 

Nightlight Christian Adoptions is happy to announce we are licensed to work in Ecuador and are currently accepting applications for families looking to adopt internationally! Most children available are over the age of 6 and there are many sibling groups available. There are some younger children available with medical needs. Children in Ecuador are of Hispanic descent. We receive files of children periodically that are waiting and these are sent to all agencies licensed to work in Ecuador. We are able to match waiting families with these children or advocate for them on AdoptionBridge.org.

In order to adopt from Ecuador, you will want to consider the following eligibility criteria:

  • You should be between the ages of 25 to 51 years old. There should be no more than 45 years age difference between the youngest parent and the child to be adopted.
  • Couples must be married for 3 years. Single women are allowed to adopt as well.
  • They expect that parents will know some basic Spanish skills. If you do not, you will be expected to take a language course and receive a certificate.

If you are interested in adopting from Ecuador, the first step is to inquire with Nightlight to determine if you are eligible. If it is determined that the program is a good fit for you, you will follow these steps.

  1. Fill out and application with Nightlight Christian Adoptions.
  2. Complete an orientation with your program coordinator.
  3. Begin a home study for an international adoption. If you live in one of the 10 states where Nightlight is licensed, you will be required to use us for the home study process. If you live outside of our licensed area, we will let you know which agency is preferred for your home study.
  4. File your I-800A application with United States Citizenship and Immigration Services.
  5. Complete your dossier for Ecuador.
  6. Once your dossier is registered with the central authority in Ecuador, they will begin looking for an appropriate match. They have regular meetings where a committee looks at the families that are waiting and matches them with the children available. The wait time for a match will vary depending on your openness to age, gender, sibling groups, and special needs.
  7. After you have been matched, you will complete a referral review with Nightlight’s social services team to ensure you are prepared for the placement.
  8. You will then file your I-800 with United States Citizenship and Immigration Services.
  9. When you travel to Ecuador, you must prepare to be in country for 8-10 weeks. There will be a 1-week bonding period prior to the adoption finalization. You will complete the legalization process and with the help of our attorney, you will obtain the birth certificate, ID card, and passport for the child.
  10. After you arrive home, you will be required to complete post adoption reports at 1 month, 4 months, 8 months, 12 months, 18 months, and 24 months after the finalization date. A social worker will come to your home to complete these reports.

We would love to talk with you more about adoption from Ecuador if this sounds like a program that would be right for you! Our Ecuador program coordinator is Rebecca Tolson. You can contact her by email at Rebecca@nightlight.org, by phone at (859)263-9964, or you can fill out our Online Inquiry Form and indicate your interest in Ecuador and she will contact you.

The Masks Adoptees Hide Behind

 

In October we celebrate a holiday where we wear masks and pretend to be someone we are not. Halloween is not the only time people wear masks; figuratively speaking people often wear masks in daily interactions. This is especially true in the age of social media where pictures and videos are commonly posted only after they are edited, using special filters, lighting, and backgrounds. In reality, behind the screen, there is a broken person searching for belonging, acceptance, and identity. Masks represent the idea of who we want to be or how we want others to see us.

Adoptees often wear masks that hide their brokenness and the trauma they have experienced. Masks can be a defense mechanism or a learned survival strategy used to protect a person. Masks can help give them courage to face tough situations or to pretend to fit in.

There are many misconceptions or stigmas about adoption, which are often encouraged by misguided and uneducated assumptions. Merriam-Webster’s dictionary defines stigma as “a mark of shame or discredit.” Common stigmas about adoption are that adoptees were unwanted, unloved and “given up” by their biological parents. The majority of children are in need of a loving home due to a series of unfortunate circumstances. However, because society has these stigmas, adoptees feel like they need to hide behind masks to protect themselves from this “mark of shame,” but they should not have to.

Adoptees often struggle to answer questions about who they are and where they belong. This struggle can be intense for some adoptees and interfere with their ability to form their identity. Many adoptees have no information about their biological parents, birth culture, medical background and much more. The lack of information can create a gaping hole creating a sense of feeling as if they do not belong.

Identity formation occurs throughout childhood and adolescence and continues into adulthood. During their search for identity, adoptees may try on different masks and search for where they fit in. Here are some tips for adoptive parents to help support their child by encouraging them to take off their mask and find their true self:

  • Embrace their birth culture – Maintain connections with others who are from your child’s culture – your child should have role models who look like them. Celebrate your child’s racial and cultural identity. Cultivate an accepting cultural environment at home by incorporating holidays, traditions and recipes from your child’s culture into your daily life.
  • Give choices – Adoptees may not have had a choice regarding their family so it is essential to provide other choices such as allowing them to pursue their own interests, hobbies, and finding things they are passionate about and join groups with others like them.
  • Respect their birth story – Help your child create a Lifebook by detailing important dates, events, pictures, names, stories, accomplishments, and any memories they have about their journey. If possible, support your child if they want to have a connection with their birth family and help them do it safely.
  • Encourage open communication – Initiate conversations about identity and belonging. Listen and validate their feelings.
  • Connect with other adoptive parents and adoptees – Find community among others who understand the struggle and can provide perspective and support. Talking to others about their struggles can help you prepare your child for any challenges they may encounter down the road.

Every adoptee and their identity journey is unique and it may take a lifetime to form completely. Adoptees may continue to ask themselves, “where do I belong?” but parents can provide a good foundation for identity formation by creating an environment that encourages them to take their masks off and be their true self.

Resources for Birth Mothers

 

Choosing adoption for a child is a decision that cannot accurately be described in words. The amount of thought and emotion encompassed in the process of contemplating and choosing an adoption plan can be extremely overwhelming and can bring about many difficult conversations with oneself, partners, friends, and family. Many birth parents turn to family and friends for support and advice when contemplating how to handle an unplanned pregnancy. Sometimes these trusted support systems can be extremely helpful in navigating the overwhelming possibilities but other times, they can create more stress and confusion and birth parents need to find additional sources of guidance and support. There are many organizations that exist to help birth parents as they process through the many options they have. Two such organizations are:

  • The Option Line: (1-800-712-4357)The Option Line is a contact center that provides 24/7 access to bilingual counselors who can help provide calm, compassionate, and attentive counsel to birth parents in need. They are able to connect birth parents directly to a local Pregnancy Center in their area who can provide in person services such as exams, ultrasounds, and parenting classes.
  • Pregnancy Centers: Many pregnancy centers exist throughout the United States and are available to provide in person options counseling at no cost to the birth parents. Many Pregnancy Centers provide medical services such a pregnancy testing, STD and STI testing, and ultrasounds. Many centers also provide abortion consultations that help to provide a transparent description of the process, risks, and outcomes of the different types of abortions. The client counselors at Pregnancy Centers provide a listening ear and a source of compassionate and encouraging support to birth parents as they discuss their options and feelings associated. Most centers have information about local adoption agencies and the client counselors have contact information for pregnancy counselors with the agencies in order to provide a direct connection if desired. Pregnancy Centers also provide access to local parenting resources and classes for birth parents to help support them in the journey to parenthood should they choose it.

In addition to the Option Line and Pregnancy Centers, there are many groups that exist on social media to help dispel myths and stigmas surrounding adoption and to provide mentorship and support to expectant parents considering adoption. Two such groups are:

  • BraveLove: BraveLove was founded in 2012 by an adoptive mother who wanted to provide a space on the internet that presented truths of adoption and how it is a loving choice for expectant mothers. Their mission is to be a media advocacy organization that provides the world with reliable adoption information and advocates for the truth that adoption is a loving and brave option for unexpected pregnancies. They offer resources such as testimonials from birth mothers who have chosen adoption and transparent answers to many common questions regarding the process, choosing an agency, and how choosing adoption may impact the future. They also offer direct links to adoption agencies listed by state. Their website and social media is filled with videos and testimonials of women who have made the brave and selfless choice to make adoption plans and how their experiences with adoption have impacted their lives for the better. Many testimonials include details of open relationships and ongoing contact with birth mothers and their children. BraveLove also facilitates support groups and provides connections for birth mothers who have chosen adoption.
  • On Your Feet Foundation: On Your Feet was founded in 2001 and their mission is to provide compassionate and reliable post-placement support for birth parents. They provide access to case management services, grants for counseling, tuition, and emergency rent assistance as well as online and in person support groups. They have a blog devoted to raising awareness about important topics related to adoption, birth parents, the adoption triad, and self-care. Birth parents experience the process of placing a child in different ways and On Your Feet recognizes support is needed in processing the complexities that follow an adoption plan and there is no timeline of when the support is needed.

These are only a few of the many resources dedicated to helping support expectant parents as they navigate the complexities of an unplanned pregnancy and providing resources and encouragement for them after placement.

If you are an expectant or birth parent or if you know an expectant or birth parent, seeking guidance and support these are all great resources to turn to. You can also view more information to other organizations, support groups, and online resources on Nightlight’s Post Adoption Connection Center page.

If you are a hopeful adoptive parent, I encourage you to visit the websites providing support to birth parents and raising awareness for the voices of birth parents, as it will help you have a greater understanding and connection to your child’s birth family and their experience in the adoption process.

If you are seeking to provide support to organizations caring for and supporting birth parents, I encourage you to reach out to your local pregnancy center to see what areas they may have needs or donate to an organization like BraveLove or On Your Feet Foundation to help them in their missions to serve and advocate for birth families.

Setting Expectations in International Adoption

 

Families approach adoption with their own hopes, desires, and expectations, whether they know a little or a lot about the process. It is always good to recognize your initial expectations and consider how realistic those are. Below we have outlined common expectations that families carry into international adoption and provide some perspective that should we

 

Initial Expectation: There are so many children in orphanages around the world that there is a need for families to adopt children under the age of 3 in international adoptions.

While there are many children in orphanages or children’s homes around the world, not all of these children are eligible for adoption.  Countries must go through a process before children are eligible for adoption.

  • Biological family members are asked if they can raise the child.
  • If biological family members are not an alternative, the country will need to receive permission from the adoption authority in the country and/or the court system in order for the child to be considered an orphan and eligible for adoption.
  • Once a child is eligible for adoption, a family living in the country where the child lives is sought to complete an adoption. Keeping the children in their country of origin is important.
  • If no family in the country is found, then the child is eligible for intercountry adoption.

Reality:  Children available for intercountry adoption in most countries are older or have a special needs and need additional care.  We want families to be open to minor to moderate special needs.  We also want families to be open to children up to the age of 6 years old, and in some countries even older.

 

Initial Expectation: My adoption should move through the steps quickly.

Your adoption is important and your international program coordinator is working behind the scenes on your adoption daily.  It is important to remember that she is also working on other adoption cases daily.  Each case is in a different stage and different work and steps are required to move each family through the process.  The attorney is working on your behalf but they also has many other cases to manage.  The Central Authority wants the child to be adopted but staff shortages and poverty prevent things from being done in a timely manner.  The court is often overwhelmed – not only with adoption cases but other family court cases or even criminal cases. All of these factors can affect how your case moves through the steps.

Reality:  Your adoption is important and you are not forgotten by our staff. Your case is moving forward, even if you do not “see” those moves and changes on a daily basis.  It is good to reach out occasionally to your adoption coordinator to check in on the status of your case, but giving the coordinator time to work and to encourage country representatives is also necessary.

 

Initial Expectation: Getting the official referral is near the end of the process.

Getting the official referral of a child is exciting.  All the work you have done in home study and education and paperwork has culminated to this point of having a picture and knowing the name of the child you will adopt.  You are ready to fly to another country and bring home your daughter or son.  But it isn’t that easy.  There are still multiple steps to take such as:

  • Receiving USCIS approval for the adoption
  • Completing the fostering period or bonding period as required by the country.
  • Scheduling a court date in the country which can take months to receive
  • Attending court and waiting for the official ruling to be issued
  • Receiving all the documents necessary to register the adoption and to obtain the visa.

Reality:  Each step of the International Adoption Process is one step closer in bringing your child home but each step takes time.  Exercising patience is important because these steps ensure that the process is completed correctly and ethically.

 

Initial Expectation: My travel time in the foreign country should line up perfectly with the timeline given by my agency.

The timeline given by your agency is an estimated timeline.  Your agency does not have control over foreign country entities, holidays, office closures, etc.  An estimated timeline is given so that you have an idea of the steps in the process.  Delays must be expected.  Americans have the most difficult time waiting.  Most other cultures know that delays happen and they take these delays in stride.  Americans tend to become frustrated, angry, and upset, many times expecting the adoption agency or representative in country to fix the delay.  These are things that are not in our control.

Reality:  Your timeline is an estimate and a view of the steps needed to complete your adoption.  Your adoption agency and the country representatives are doing all that they can to ensure that the adoption is completed as quickly as possible while recognizing the country culture and requirements.

 

Initial Expectation: I have extenuating circumstances and should be able to obtain an expedited adoption procedure.

In the world of International Adoption there are very few extenuating circumstances that would make the process go faster.  Your job or your time away from family is not considered extenuating circumstances.  We have had families beg for expedited services for a terminally ill child to be brought home for medical attention to be given quickly only to be told that they must go through the process everyone else goes through. Even adopting a relative often does not change the process you will go through.

Reality:   Your adoption provider cares about you and your family.  The adoption process does not change for anyone.  All steps must be completed.  Exceptions or expedites are rare.

 

It is important for families to have a realistic expectation of the adoption procedure.  Your program coordinator will begin setting those realistic expectations in the inquiry and application process.  It is important for you to know that to us – every adoption is important and we are working hard to move you through the process so that your child can come home.  Delays are inevitable.  The process takes time.  Patience is key.  Devote this time to preparing your life and your home for your child.  Place your faith and trust in God who desires the orphan to be in a family.

Anchored in Hope: Adoption from Foster Care

 

Families are able to adopt children directly from foster care. There will be time of bonding before placement officially happens that allows you to get to know one another and how you all fit together. After placement there is also a period of time (varies by state) before the family can finalize the adoption. This allows for a family to bond, connect, and adjust their daily living to having a child(ren) in their home. Going from no children in the home, to having children, is a very big change that can take time and effort for a family to adjust to their new daily routines and schedules. Even just adding one more child to a family that already has children, will take time to adjust.

Children adopted from foster care tend to be coming from hard places, which can lead to difficult behaviors and emotions. A child may take any amount of time to feel trusting and fully comfortable with their new family and it is necessary that their adoptive parent(s) and sibling(s) in the home be aware of this when a child is placed. Barth et al. (1988) state that disruption is more likely to occur when children of older ages are adopted into a new family; an older child is described to be a child above the age of three years old. Barth et al. (1988) also describe how the number of disruptions have taken a drastic decline since the establishment of agencies and more advocates to be a supportive hand to those children within the system. Examples of these agencies are Nightlight Christian Adoptions, state workers, counselors, and CASA workers. The list goes on. The decision to adopt a child is an important decision that causes change to a family’s overall dynamic. Learn more about Nightlight’s Anchored in Hope Program, that assists families adopting from foster care.

With the establishment of the Adoption Assistance and Child Welfare Act of 1980, the number of families who are now willing to become licensed foster and adoptive parents has drastically risen. This created a monthly per diem that given to foster parents’ to ensure that they are financially capable of providing for the basic needs and wants of another child placed in their home. This assistance can also be very helpful as many of these children need services that are more specialized and therapeutic to address issues from trauma, grief, and loss. It is important to remember that children who were placed in the foster care system were placed there for a reason and they may have triggers that affect them for a lifetime.

To be able to help a child feel safe and have a place to call home is a privilege that more and more people around the US are taking advantage of. Children who are adopted from foster care may have difficult behaviors that take time and a great deal of patience to work through. It is important for adoptive parents to know that working through trauma and traumatic experiences is not an overnight fix for a child. Adoptive parents should not have this expectation as working through trauma can take a lifetime. Providing love and stability to an adoptive child is necessary. However, when this love and care is provided, it does not mean that all previous issues will be fixed immediately. Taking time to listen and support an adopted child is necessary to help them know that they can trust their adoptive parents and work to overcome their traumatic experiences / habits. Being an adoptive parent is one of the most rewarding experiences one has described, but with it, comes a great deal of patience and trauma-informed practices. Nightlight offers a Post Adoption Connection Center that specifically aims at providing additional support and services to families and children after adoption.

There are a variety of behaviors and emotions that a child must work through during the adoption process especially if they are older youth. Children coming from a trauma background may display behaviors such as hoarding food, sleep difficulties, difficulty with self-soothing, attention seeking behaviors, having difficulty concentrating, night terrors, being on alert at all times, and having ADHD like tendencies usually from trauma experiences. These are just to name a few, and no trauma behaviors are the same for all. Just as adults, children deal with their life experiences in ways that best fit them or that make them feel most comfortable. When children are exhibiting difficult behaviors, it is important for a caregiver to:

  • have patience and to form a trusting bond with that child. Utilizing TBRI practices are some of the best ways and procedures for children to feel safe and form a bond with a parent. It may take time to form that bond as children may have difficulty understanding the reason why the adoption was necessary and may want to remain close to their biological family. This is okay and this is normal. Nightlight offers TBRI training to all adoptive families as a part of their training process.
  • never speak ill of a biological parent as this may cause a child to feel as though they cannot confide in their adoptive parent if they have questions about their biological family as they grow older. If you speak negatively about their biological parent, who is a part of that child, then they may question if you are speaking negatively about them.
  • identify a support system during the adoption process and post adoption as well. Ensuring that one has stable friends or family that can be a part of their adopted child’s life, can help the child and their adoptive family feel more comfortable with one another.
  • identify counseling services once the child is placed in your home. This has been known to help greatly with the transition process and also the overall understanding of a child’s new life. Having a counselor allows for the child to have someone that they can speak to of their feelings who is not a new family member. Beginning family therapy to help form attachment between a family and their adoptive child will also be extremely beneficial for the family to learn proper ways of speaking to one another, work on any difficulties that may persist, and also to overall form a stronger family dynamic.
  • find a support group that adoptive parents can become a part of to give you new people with similar experiences you can rely on and trust as you weather the joys and challenges of parenting.

By: Kayla Snow

 

References: Barth, R.P., Berry, M., Yoshikami, R., Goodfield, R.K, & Carson, M. L. (1988) Predicting Adoption Disruption. Social Work, 33(3), 227-233. https://doi.org/10.1093/sw/33.3.227

International Spotlight: India

 

We have been working with India for a little over 30 years now. Nightlight’s India program first began in Missouri with Love Basket Adoptions in 1984. Love Basket merged with Nightlight in 2015 and brought this wonderful program along with them. India is a Hague country, and we work directly with CARA (Central Adoption Resource Authority), that oversees all adoptions in India.

Our India program has continually grown over the years and has successfully found many loving families for waiting children in India. Since our India program first started, we have been able to welcome around 400 children into their forever families here in the U.S.

Typical Ages, Wait Times, and Special Needs

Both male and female children are available for adoption in our India program. Most of the children that we see available from India are around ages 2-15 years old with special needs. India also has older sibling groups available, as well as children with no special or medical needs 8 years and older.

Families adopting from India are able to be matched with a child with special needs from India’s Waiting Child Portal. Families adopting a waiting child with special needs, can be matched in around 6-12 months after being registered with CARA. An additional option for families that have NRI status (Non-resident Indian) or OCI status (Overseas Citizen of India), is to wait for a referral from CARA of a child with no special needs; however, prospective adoptive parents that are open to special needs will have a much shorter wait time.

Typical special needs can vary from minor to severe; however, many are manageable with proper medical treatment. Some common special needs we see in the children placed from India include: vision and hearing issues (including deafness and blindness), heart conditions of varying degrees, developmental delays, thalassemia, cleft lip and/or palate, hydrocephalus, and malformed and/or missing digits/limbs. Families that are open to these types of needs would be a great fit for adopting from India. In most cases, we see significant improvements in children with special needs once they are able to receive medical treatment and live in a healthy environment.

Recent Matches

So far this year, Nightlight has found new forever families for 6 children! In addition to this, 9 families were able to return home with their children this year. Below are the ages and medical conditions of children recently placed from India:

  • 3 year old girl: microcephaly
  • 2 year old girl: congenital deformity of feet
  • 5 year old boy: leg spasticity & dystonia
  • 3 year old girl: birth hypoxia
  • 8 year old girl: no special needs
  • 3 year old boy: low birth weight, premature
  • 9 year old boy: no special needs
  • 4 year old girl: cerebral palsy

Grant Opportunity

For families that apply to our India program in the month of October, Nightlight will waive their $500 application fee! Applications must be submitted by October 31st, 2022.

If you are interested in adopting from India or hearing more about our program, please reach out to Kate Resh at kate.resh@nightlight.org . You can also find more information on our India Program webpage.