The Best Therapies for Your Adopted Child (And You)

Adoptive families know that therapy will benefit their child, but it can be difficult to know where to turn. Maybe you thought it was called “counseling” but then you started to see words like “trauma-focused” or “eye movement desensitization” or question the effectiveness of art/animal/music/sand in therapy. We’ve created this guide below to find the right fit for your child or yourself.

 

Parent-Child Interaction Therapy (PCIT)

PCIT is a combination of play therapy and behavioral therapy for young children that will involve you as the parents. Parents learn techniques for relating to their child struggling with emotional and behavioral problems, language issues, developmental disabilities, or mental health disorders.

Who this best serves: Children ages 2-7 and their parents with experiences of trauma or have diagnosis on the autism spectrum.

 

Play Therapy

Children are able to examine and express their thoughts and emotions in an age and developmentally appropriate way through play. The goal is to help children learn to express themselves in a healthy way, learn respect and empathy, and discover positive problem solving techniques. This will work for children still learning English as well. General play therapists will be appropriate or you can consider Theraplay®, which is a specific type of play therapy, and you can look for a practitioner in your area.

Who this best serves: Children ages 3-12 who may have social or emotional deficits, trauma, anxiety, depression, grief, anger, ADD, autism, learning disabilities, and/or language delays.

 

Animal-Assisted Therapy

Often used to enhance other therapy the participant is engaged in, this therapy gives a sense of calm, comfort, or safety and diverts attention from stressful situations. They may keep an animal at home or by their side during the day or engage equine therapy at a ranch or equestrian school. Bonding with an animal can increase self-worth and trust, stabilize emotions, and improve communication, self-regulation, and socialization skills. Equine therapies have been very successful with adopted children.

Who this best serves: Children with behavioral issues, trauma histories, depression, autism, medical conditions, schizophrenia, or addiction.

 

Art/Music Therapy

Artistic therapies are typically nonverbal and allow the participant to process difficult feelings and express them when they cannot with words. This may be due to difficulties with expressing themselves or still learning English when other talk focused therapies may not be helpful. Music focuses on listening to, reflecting, or creating music to improve health and well-being. Art uses drawing, painting, collage, coloring, or sculpting to help express themselves and “decode” the nonverbal messages behind the art. Sandplay uses sand/toys/water to create scenes of miniature worlds that reflect their inner thoughts, struggles, and concerns.

Who this best serves: Children, adolescents, or adults who have experienced trauma, abuse, or neglect. They are useful for anyone struggling with anxiety, depression, trauma, or on the autism spectrum.

 

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and Trauma Focused- Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

This therapy is short-term and focused on intervention in the way an individual thinks and feels and how that affects the way they behave and problem solve. It works on changing thought patterns as a way to change behavior. Trauma-focused is for focusing specifically on effects of early childhood trauma.

Who this best serves: Adolescents and adults but school age children can benefit from this therapy if they are developmentally able to do so. It takes participants who are engaged in therapy and works well with depression, anxiety, PTSD, anger, panic disorders, phobias, or eating disorders.

Trauma-focused is best with adoptees or adoptive parents with abuse histories, PTSD, depression, or anxiety as a result of incidents in childhood.

 

Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing Therapy

This is a specialized therapy that diminishes negative feelings associated with particular memories of traumatic events. It focuses on emotions and symptoms from the event and uses a hand motion technique causing eyes to move back and forth which engages both sides of the brain. This physical and emotional connection can bring deeper healing, particularly with individuals with significant trauma.

Who this best serves: Adolescents and adults with PTSD, anxiety, phobias, depression, eating disorders, schizophrenia, and stress. It can also be used with younger children with therapists who have this experience and training.

 

Special notes for adoptive parents: The adoption process can bring up difficult emotions, thoughts, or experiences from your own past. While this is painful, it is also good that this is surfacing so you are able to seek healing. You may find your adopted child is pushing buttons you did not know were there and counseling will benefit you and your parenting. We encourage you to also consider the therapies listed above for yourself while you seek services for your child.

 

This information is sources from Psychology Today. You can learn more about these types of therapies and search for counselors on their website.

 

By: Heather Sloan, LBSW

Introducing: International Adoption from the Dominican Republic

Nightlight Christian Adoptions is happy to announce we were licensed to work in the Dominican Republic on May 6th, 2021 and are currently accepting applications for families looking to adopt internationally. Children available for adoption range from young toddlers to children in their teens and are of mostly Hispanic or bi-racial decent, some children may be of Haitian decent. About every 2 months, Nightlight receives a list of about 80-90 special needs children in need of a forever home and family. We have identified the most adoptable children and limited information on these children are available at: https://adoptionbridge.org/waiting-children/.

Typical special needs of children in the Dominican Republic include children with medical needs which range from mild or correctable to severe.  The special needs list also includes older children ages 6 or older, some with and some without mild or severe special needs. HIV, eye diseases, and asthma are some of the common medical needs of children our agency is referred from the Dominican Republic. Sibling groups are also available for adoption.

As we continue to receive new files of children, Adoption Bridge will continue to be updated. Those who have a completed dossier are eligible to receive the full list of the children. Additionally, the program accepts applicants for those seeking relative adoptions as well as families who want to pursue a traditional match of a child from CONANI, Dominican Republic’s central authority. For more information, about this program and eligibility, please visit our web page for the Dominican Republic. Since the opening of the program, Nightlight has focused on the needs of children placed in orphanages. The institutionalization of Dominican children is due to a variety of factors, including but not limited to; poverty, abandonment, the inability for a parent or guardian to provide proper care, and/or the death of a parent or guardian. These reasons and others are the primary reasons why a child is left without a family.

Socio-economic inequality is high for those who live in the Dominican Republic, and the employment rate for woman of the country is only 33%. Additionally, children and women of the Dominican Republic do not have equal access to education. Improper sanitation to produce goods, natural disasters, and crime are also leading causes of poverty in the country. According to World Food Programme, quality of health services are inadequate and poverty affects 40% of the Dominican Republic, with 10.4% living in extreme poverty. There are roughly 200,000 children in the Dominican Republic are considered orphans and the number continues to grow alongside the COVID-19 global pandemic. Children living in poverty are vulnerable to child labor, trafficking, exposure to crime, malnutrition and disease. Additionally, urban orphanages traditionally don’t have access to adequate schooling and it is often not a priority of caretakers to provide schooling for these children.

It is a goal of Nightlight to change the life of these children and provide children with forever families while advocating for adequate welfare for Dominican Republic’s vulnerable children. If you are interested in adopting from the Dominican Republic or would like to inquire about the program, please contact Samantha Brown at [email protected] or call 317-875-0058.

Dangers of Waiting to Donate your Embryos

 

Headlines state, “Baby Born from Embryo Frozen for 27 Years.” We all read in awe, marveling over the circumstances that allowed this to happen. If you have frozen embryos in storage, this might be the moment you begin considering the possibility of donating your embryos to another couple.

You might now be thinking, “well, my embryos have only been frozen for 5 years, I have plenty of time!” Coming from years of experience in the embryo adoption field, we would encourage you to challenge this assumption. Although research shows that children can still be born from older embryos, the chances a fertility clinic will allow the embryos to be transferred are unpredictable.

One major roadblock that occurs when trying to donate older embryos is the receiving clinic’s willingness and ability to thaw and transfer them. The science behind thawing and freezing embryos is constantly changing, growing, and improving. This can make it difficult when embryologists attempt to thaw older embryos. Most embryos frozen before 2012 were frozen using a method called ‘slow-freezing.’ After 2012, most were frozen using ‘vitrification,’ which is much safer and more effective. Because of this shift in freezing methods, most clinics do not train their embryologists on slow-freezing anymore. This makes it difficult to find a clinic willing to thaw and transfer the embryos, even if a willing adopting family is found.

Another issue with waiting to donate your embryos is found in the lack of medical records prior to 2012. Many clinics tend to destroy records after 5-10 years, and others place records into long-term storage, which are then difficult to find. These medical records, including important embryology information, are essential in the donation process. Not having these important documents when attempting to donate your embryos can unfortunately be detrimental to success.

If you are contemplating donating your embryos, please consider these risks as they wait for their fate in frozen storage. They are the siblings to your children, and lives worth preserving and living. Don’t wait to give your embryos a chance at life!

By: Kaelah Hamman

How to Protect Yourself from an Adoption Scam

When I first began working as a member o the adoption community, I imagined that many twists, turns, ups and downs could be part of the adoption process. However, adoption scams were not something that I anticipated coming into contact with. Adoption scams can affect adoption professionals and hopeful adopting parents alike, and can be frustrating, hurtful, time consuming, and exhausting.

The very first case I had when beginning work at Nightlight was with a fraudulent expectant mother. After many weeks of twisted truth and manipulation, she left everyone involved hurt, confused, and absolutely blindsided. After this case, I was determined to go above and beyond learning the signs of an adoption scam, and work to put an end to this issue.

I did much research about forms that adoption scams can take, and how to recognize the signs. Many of these scams come from social media. Just recently, I received a call from an expectant mother who had gotten the expectant mother cell number from an adoptive family via Instagram. Initially, things seemed fine. However, once I began to gather more information, ask more questions, and look into who she was, things did not add up and began to feel ‘off’. Over the next three days, this expectant mother displayed many of the telltale signs of a fraudulent expectant mother, and grew very aggressive over text when I did not give her what she wanted. After I utilized online groups dedicated to stopping adoption scams and saw numerous reports about her, I told her our agency would not be able to move forward. Though it was exhausting to deal with, I was so thankful to recognize the signs and stop our involvement in this scam early on. I have read story after story of lovely adopting families getting strung along by individuals like this, only to result in loss, confusion, and heartache. These stories are happening across the country, but adoption professionals across the country are coming together and joining forces to mitigate this issue, helping each other and our adopting families not stumble into the snares set by these fraudulent individuals. Social media can be an effective way to promote your adoption profile, but many adoption scams can come from these sites and it is important to be prepared to recognize these for what they are.

There are many different forms that an adoption scam can take: an expectant mother who is truly pregnant but has no intentions of placing her baby with a family, an individual who may not be pregnant but claims to be, or an individual who has essentially stolen the identity and photos of a real pregnant woman – all for the purpose of gaining money and services, or manipulating the emotions of adoption professionals and adopting families. So, how can we prepare for this and know when an expectant mother is fraudulent?

 

Learn to Recognize the Signs. There are ways to recognize an adoption scam, both subtle and obvious. If the texts seem odd, trust your instincts. Scammers are often persistent and demanding with their texts, and often times will grow very agitated or aggressive when asked to do things that verify their identity or when told information that could potentially mean they won’t get what they want. They often provide a lot of information upfront, and will often send photos or ultrasound images almost right away. It is also common for them to bombard you with many texts, and get upset if you do not respond right away. It is unusual for moms who are truly placing their baby for adoption to behave in this way.

Utilize Resources. There are many pages and groups online specifically dedicated to recognizing adoption scams and reporting fraudulent individuals. If you intend on connecting with expectant mothers online or utilizing social media as a means to show your profile, I would highly suggest that you join at least one group that is used for this purpose, such as “Ending Adoption Scams” on Facebook. On these pages, you can either search the expectant mother’s name who has reached out to you, or make a post with her first name, last initial, and state to see if any other agencies or individuals have heard from her or reported fraudulent activity or suspicious behavior.

Research and Learn from the Past. Blogs, articles, videos – look into them all. A known adoption scammer to be aware of is Gabby, who made an appearance on Dr. Phil and has continued to harass and deceive hundreds of adoption professionals and hopeful adoptive parents alike. Gabby does not stop creating numerous identities and stories, stealing the photos, names, and due dates of real expectant mothers via Instagram and Facebook. I myself have heard from Gabby and spoken to her on the phone. Learning what she does and what her communication is like will help you recognize if you are being “Gabbied” by her or a similar scammer. Many adoptive parents that have experienced an adoption scam have shared their stories online, and these create perfect opportunities for prospective adoptive parents to learn from these experiences and be prepared.

Report Fraudulent Individuals and Block Numbers/Accounts. In the adoption community, we are all working diligently to do our part in mitigating this issue. If you encounter a fraudulent expectant individual, be sure to report the individual to an adoption professional. In addition to this, do not be hesitate to block scamming expectant mothers’ numbers or social media accounts immediately. Scammers emotionally manipulate to keep the conversation going and make it more difficult for adoption professionals or hopeful families to cut off contact.

How to Ask the Right Questions Without Being Accusatory. Ask questions in an open-minded way, and cast the “blame” on the adoption agency’s policies or recommendations. As an adopting family, it is best to try to avoid getting into in depth conversations with expectant mothers, and instead redirect the interaction and get them connected to your office’s Pregnancy Counselor for a match to be officially made. Our team is here for you, and are trained to recognize scams. If you do end up in a conversation with an expectant mother, try to avoid assuming that every expectant mother may be scamming but still proceed with caution and wisdom. If I suspect that an expectant mother may be fraudulent, I ask if they’d be willing to do a Zoom call and let them know that I, their pregnancy counselor, will need proof of pregnancy (medical records, a statement from clinic, or ultrasound verified by a doctor) before we can proceed with any services. An expectant mother who is truly pregnant and interested in considering adoption will not have a problem with this.

Remember that not every expectant mother who reaches out is fraudulent. The adoption and matching processes are beautiful and delicate, and I encourage you to not be fearful or jaded, but just to be prepared. If you choose to utilize social media as a platform to show your profile or reach expectant mothers, I encourage you to become well-versed on how to protect yourself from the ways of adoption scammers. Be creative, have fun, and be wise as you create your online profiles!

 

By: Winter Baumgartner

Parents Education Beyond Required Training Hours

Fourteen hours… That is the number of training hours that the state required of my husband and me before adopting our first child from foster care. In fourteen hours we learned why children come into care and how that experience may manifest in the behavior of the child. We learned that there is loss, grief, and trauma in adoption and we learned about A LOT of policies and procedures.  What we did not learn was how much we didn’t know.

 

Thirteen years later I can assure you that fourteen hours could not possibly have adequately prepared us for the job of parenting, particularly parenting an adopted child.

 

Those fourteen hours did not prepare me for the tough questions that always seem to come from the backseat of the car. They did not prepare me for knowing when and how to share the tough parts of his story. They did not prepare me for the identity issues he would face as a bi-racial child living in a white family. Though they taught us about trauma, they did not prepare us for it to manifest years later or how to explain that to others. They did not prepare us for handling the effects of prenatal exposure that did not manifest themselves until adolescence and puberty. And NO training of any kind for any parent could adequately prepare you to parent through puberty and the teenage years! (Oh the smell of teenage boys!)

 

Fourteen hours gives you just a glimpse into your journey as a parent and most importantly lets you know that you still have a lifetime of learning ahead.  There is no easy path and no magic manual that spells it all out for you, however, there are a few things I have learned over the last thirteen years that have helped tremendously.

 

  • Find your community. From day one of our adoption journey we have been intentional about surrounding ourselves with other adoptive families. Some of these families have privately adopted and some have adopted from foster care. Many have children in the same age range as our son and some are farther along on their journey. We have learned from each other and supported each other. Sharing resources, having an ear to listen, and a shoulder to cry on have been some of the biggest blessings of finding our adoptive community. They remind me that I am not crazy and I am not alone.
  • Every age and stage is different. As our adopted kids grow and mature, so do their questions. Not only do the questions change, but our responses have to as well.  What my son could understand and emotionally process at age five is very different from what he can understand and process as a teenager. Educating yourself about the emotional development of children will help you know what to share and when. It is their story and they have a right to know, but sometimes they need just enough for right now.
  • Trauma is real. As beautiful as adoption is, the reality is that there is real grief and loss. Even if your child came to you as a newborn or infant, they have experienced great loss. To be the best advocate for your child, adoptive parents need to understand trauma and the effect that it has on their child. Educate yourself about trauma!
  • Give yourself a break! Don’t reinvent the wheel. Parenting is hard!  None of us have it figured out. Read, read, and read some more. Find blogs that you connect with. Find print or online magazines that share both professional and personal articles about adoption. Follow adoption agencies like Nightlight. Glean from those that have been there.

Fourteen hours… That is how long it will take you to figure out that this journey will be a lifelong learning experience.

Celebrating the Holidays with Foster Children

For many people, Christmas is a fun and joyous time, full of eager anticipation for the presents under the tree and the traditions we are so used to.  For children in foster care, however, this time of year can be anxiety-inducing, full of negative memories, and a time of change as you move between homes.  As foster parents, you have the opportunity to change how a child feels around the holidays, and positively impact their perception of the days we all hold dear. This doesn’t come easily, and it will require you to hold your traditions and expectations with an open hand as they may look different.  This is a great opportunity to ask the children in your home what their traditions may be and see if it is possible to incorporate those into your home.

In order to help ease children into the holidays here are some ideas to consider:

  1. If the anticipation of unknown gifts is too hard for your child to comprehend let them in on the secrets! Maybe opening a gift a day in advent style fashion would make it less overwhelming, or letting the child know of some of the specific gifts that they will receive so that they don’t have to worry about what it may be.
  2. Help the child buy gifts for their family of origin. Part of their concern may be that their parents, siblings, or family members will not receive gifts as they do. Help ease this concern by allowing them to purchase or create gifts to give to their loved ones.
  3. Do not pressure them into participating in group activities. If being around large groups is too overwhelming, let them stay at a distance or let them take frequent breaks.
  4. If you have a relationship with the biological family, ask them what some of their traditions are. Maybe this year you have a specific breakfast on Christmas morning that they are use to having around the holidays.
  5. If the children in your home celebrate a different holiday, take the time to research and learn about how to celebrate them. Do not be afraid to ask for help and find unique ways to incorporate new things into your home.

 

The holidays will look different as new children enter your home, and while it can add additional stress and excitement it can also be full of memories and hope.  Watch for signs that they are struggling and do not be afraid to talk to them about these worries. At the end of the day the goal is to support them and help them feel safe and secure, and that may mean making small sacrifices and adjusting the way you do things this time of year.  You may get one holiday with a foster child, or it may be the first of many, so work with them to make it a time to celebrate and enjoy together.

By: Morgan Pauley

Season of Giving

Christmas is a time of excitement. Stores are bustling, shoppers are busy, and there is a sense of anticipation in the air as we prepare for the holidays with friends, family, food, and gift-giving. In the back of your mind, you think again about your frozen embryos sitting in storage…

Is this the season to give the ultimate gift of a family to those who cannot have a family themselves?

 Perhaps you are unable to use all of the embryos you have created using IVF, and now the thought of discarding them or donating them to science does not seem like the right choice anymore. But there are other choices—gifting them to another family! Embryo donation through the Snowflakes Embryo Adoption Program allows families who are complete to give their remaining embryos to another family so they may complete their own family like you! You created the embryos in the first place to hopefully become a living, breathing baby. You can still choose life for your embryos!

Christmas is a reminder that family and kindness are of utmost importance. Seeing loved one’s faces light up from an exciting gift is often more gratifying than receiving a gift yourself. Embryo donation through Snowflakes empowers you to have a choice in the family who received your gift of embryos. Choose to give the greatest gift of life to not only a family but your embryos.

To learn more about the donation process, visit Snowflakes.org.

Why Do Foster Families Quit in the First Year?

With more than 430,000 kids in out of home care each year in the United States, we often hear about the need for more foster homes. You might be surprised to learn that the biggest challenge facing the government-run system is not recruitment, but retention of qualified families. Research shows that one- half to two-thirds of foster parents close their homes within a year of getting approved.  This can be attributed to several factors including lack of support, inadequate education, and a general feeling that very little value is placed on input from foster families. Nightlight is striving to rewrite the script. Part of our mission statement is to prepare and support families to be committed and effective parents. Our team understands that caring for kids from hard places is especially challenging and having a strong support system in place is crucial.

One of the best ways to ensure success as a foster home is to thoroughly research agency options at the beginning of the process. Look for an agency that provides adequate education as well as access to real, ongoing support services. With smaller caseloads and more focus on the family as a whole, a private agency like Nightlight is better equipped to provide high level post-placement support. Nightlight understands that easy access to a wide range of support services is essential. We view our foster families as partners. In addition to a high-quality initial education, we offer mentoring, round-the-clock support, community, counseling, relevant ongoing education, a lending library of resources, and much more. Foster parents report that they often feel isolated and alone in their struggles, so staying connected can make all the difference.

You will also want to look beyond your agency for those around you that are willing to help out when you need it because respite care on a regular basis is absolutely vital to success for a foster family. Research tells us that more than 1/3 of Americans have considered fostering or adopting. Although some may not be quite ready to take that step, we know that we are surrounded by people looking for opportunities to get involved in other ways. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Many churches have adoption and foster care ministries in place that provide a wide range of services from lawn care, to meal deliveries, to parents’ night out. The Nightlight team keeps a running list of these resources for families in the areas we serve. Take advantage of opportunities for respite and take time to recharge. Burnout happens fast and is one of the biggest reasons that so many foster families decide to close their homes. You can be proactive and do your best to prevent this by making a list of respite providers in your area so that you have options for quality childcare whenever it’s needed. If possible, ask a supportive family member or friend to attend trainings so that they can become educated on the specialized care that is required.

Being intentional about self-care and making it happen on a regular basis will go a long way toward avoiding becoming overwhelmed and ready to call it quits. Spend time each day doing something that makes you feel good. The reality is that some days there just isn’t time to read a book or go for a run. But something as simple as listening to relaxing music or drinking a warm cup of your favorite beverage can help you recharge. Sprinkle in your favorite sports, playing with pets, listening to a podcast, or journaling throughout your week. Spending time with your Heavenly Father each day is without a doubt the very best way to refocus and fill your heart with hope and joy. This doesn’t have to happen as soon as you open your eyes in the morning.  He is there on your commute to work, and when you’re washing your toddler’s hair, and while you’re heating up leftovers for the second time this week.

Just as important as selecting the right agency and making time for self-care is having realistic expectations. The world tells us to steer clear of hard things, but the Gospel tells us something different. Know that this is going to be hard, but don’t forget that it’s also going to be worth it. There are social worker visits, medical and therapy appointments, court hearings to attend, ongoing trainings, and meetings with the biological family. The reality is that these requirements are time consuming, but they are also necessary. It is important to be both prepared and flexible. Look for ways that you can make the most of these requirements and use them to your advantage. Doing your best to develop a positive relationship with a child’s biological family whenever possible will make a huge difference in your experience at visits. Your comfort level with the family will also serve to build trust with the child and nurture your relationship. The same is true with social worker visits. A good relationship with your social worker will make home visit days something you can actually look forward to. The Nightlight team is here to walk beside our families through it all, keeping our eyes fixed on goal of securing loving homes for waiting children and in doing so, bringing glory to God.

 

By: Leesa Del Rio

Gratitude in the Face of Struggle

November heralds our Thanksgiving celebrations and festivities! I know many people who love this celebration because they describe Thanksgiving as the least commercialized holiday. Just as many people approach this time with a bit of dread…because the “thanksgiving” and “gratitude” in people’s lives seems all too manufactured, inauthentic and painted on.

I see both sides. Especially during times of struggle and strife in our lives. Each of us individually are probably well acquainted with struggle. Our nation as a whole has also experienced a kind of collective struggle as we continue to grapple with the pandemic that never seems to end. It is during these times that I have to actively discipline myself to remember those stunningly bright spots in my life so that I can truly be authentic in my gratitude.

Here is my stunningly bright story that inspires my authentic gratitude –

My youngest child has a tweak in his DNA that puts him outside the spectrum of what we call healthy. We make at least four visits a year to Children’s Hospital where we are given our marching orders for the next three months. Sometimes these visits remind me that this is not what I imagined as a young pregnant mama. A friend told me that having a baby is like planning a trip. You think you know where you’re going…perhaps Ireland…and you pack accordingly, but somehow your plane lands in an equally beautiful place – New Zealand. But everything you packed is wrong for this trip. That is how I felt when I was adjusting to parenting a chronically ill child with a life-abbreviating disease. I had not packed for this trip, and I wasn’t even sure I wanted to pack for this trip. But here I was…in New Zealand.

I arrived at our next visit to Children’s with my 7-year-old in tow. I had a clipboard in hand with our daily schedule. My overflowing notebook with the last five years of medical visits and lab results was tucked under my arm. My little guy had his bag stuffed with his favorite “buddies” and games for when the day dragged on. I was laser-focused: Don’t get in my way; I am a mom on a mission. Before our first appointment, I made a quick pit stop to the ladies’ room. Then the question, “Mom do I have to go in there with you? I am 7…

“Okay, stay here, I’ll be quick”

I step back into the hall where my little one is waiting for me, and that is when I see the stunningly bright moments that can only happen in the struggle of the unexpected arrival in New Zealand. My fuzzy-headed guy is sitting on the floor with his new bald-headed friend. There isn’t really much more to see than their two heads bent close together. I cannot interrupt. I wait. After a little while my sweet treasure looks up at me and simply says, “Okay.” He stands up and I take his little hand in mine. “What was that about?” I ask. “Oh, we were just praying for his chemo treatments.” And we walked on.

Press into your authentic gratitude this season.

 

By: Dawn Canny

Value of Openness in Adoption

While openness has become a more common practice in the adoption community, it can still be a relatively new reality for some to have an open relationship with their child’s birth parents. The term “open adoption” typically is used to refer to adoptions in which all parties are known to each other and have some form of ongoing contact. Adoptions vary in their levels of openness, from confidential (closed), to mediated (semi-open), to fully disclosed with ongoing contact (open). The primary benefit of having some level of an open adoption is the access children will have to birth relatives and to their own histories. They can get a first-hand understanding of the reasons leading to their birthparents’ decisions about them, and have a direct way to find other answers, ranging from medical and genealogical information to personal questions as simple (and important) as “Who do I look like?” or “Do I have other brothers or sisters?” As adopted children grow up and form their identities, they typically confront many questions related to genetic background and birth family. When there is no way for them to find answers, they must manage ongoing uncertainty.

When adopted children seek information about their histories, or when they struggle with feelings related to their adoptions, it is paramount that they feel able to talk freely with their parents and that they feel heard and understood. Adopted children who experience more open adoption communication are reported to have higher self-esteem, and their parents rated them lower in behavioral problems. Among adopted adolescents, those who had greater openness in their families reported more trust for their parents, fewer feelings of alienation and better overall family functioning.

 

Benefits for the Child

  • Establish a sense of connection and belonging
  • Develop a deeper understanding of their identity and a greater sense of wholeness
  • Gain access to important genetic and medical information
  • Preserve connections not only to family but also to their cultural and ethnic heritage
  • Develop a better understanding for the reasons for placement, which can lessen feelings of abandonment and increase a sense of belonging
  • Increase the number of supportive adults in their lives

Benefits for Birth Parents

  • Gain peace of mind and comfort in knowing how their child is doing
  • Develop personal relationships with the adoptive parents and the child as he or she grows
  • Become more satisfied with the adoption process

Benefits for Adoptive Parents

  • Build a healthy relationship with their child’s birth family and provide lifelong connections for their child
  • Gain direct access to birth family members who can answer their child’s questions
  • Improve their understanding of their child’s history
  • Develop more positive attitudes about their child’s birth parents
  • Increase their confidence and sense of permanency in parenting

 

Openness in adoption can provide a child with valuable connections to his or her past. No single open arrangement, however, is right for everyone. As with any relationship, there may be bumps and challenges along the way in the relationships between birth and adoptive families. Likewise, these relationships are likely to evolve and change over time. Through careful consideration of options, a clear child-focused approach, and a strong commitment to making it work, you and the birth parent can decide what level of openness is right for your family and the adoption triad.

By: Caidon Glover