How to Prepare Your Marriage for Your Adoption Journey

 

You and your spouse have decided to adopt!  You are both probably feeling an array of emotions; excitement, anxiety, overwhelmed and even fear.  Deciding to begin the adoption process is a big decision, and one that you may have gone through many hurdles to get to.  Maybe you have gone through infertility or maybe you just feel the call to adopt.  The adoption process is stressful and can put a strain on your marriage. It is important that you prepare your marriage for the adoption journey. Whatever the reason you are preparing to adopt, here are some things to consider before beginning the adoption journey.

If you and your spouse have experienced the pain of infertility, give yourselves time to go through the steps of the grieving process.  This is a very personal process and the timeline will vary from person to person.  It may also vary between you and your spouse.  You may find counseling beneficial.  Look for ways to support one another during this time as well as give each other space to grieve on your own time.  Wait until you are both on the same page, and once you have moved into the acceptance stage you will be ready to look at alternative family building options such as adoption.

Once you have decided to adopt, you and your spouse can research the various types of adoption to see which type would be best for your family.  Ask yourself questions such as what age of child are we interested in? Do we want a newborn or older child?  If you have other children in the home, consider how the adoption of another child will impact your children already in the home. Are you open to special needs?  Talk to other families who have adopted.  These are all things to consider when deciding which path of adoption to take.  Don’t pressure each other into a decision.  One of you may need more time than the other, and that is ok.  Once you are both on the same page, then make the decision together.

After you have decided which adoption path to take it is important to decide how to finance your adoption.  Adoption fees can be expensive, but there are many ways to finance your adoption as long as you have a plan.  Financing an adoption can put a strain on your marriage, but having a financial plan can help ease that strain.  If you have undergone fertility treatments, they may have drained your savings.  Start an adoption savings account and contribute money each month to it, pay off any debt, and plan for ways to fundraise.  Adoption fees are generally paid at the time services are rendered, so you will be able to space out when the fees are due and plan for them.

Communication is vital to any marriage, but especially for families going into the adoption process.  It is important to keep open communication, respect each other and remain committed to each other.  The adoption process consists of a lot of paperwork, home study visits, lots of waiting and often times unpredictability.  Processes can change, wait times can change, and the stress of the uncertainty and waiting can cause anxiety.  Find ways to support each other during these stressful times. Pray together. Spend time with each other doing fun things that are not adoption related.  Go out to eat, take walks or even try to get away for a vacation.  Make sure to give each other space as well.  Find a trusted friend to talk to or an adoption support group of other families in the adoption process.  Lean on your church for support.

Making your marriage a priority and following these suggestions should help your adoption process go more smoothly.  Support each other, set realistic expectations, have a financial plan and be on the same page and you will make it through the adoption journey.  It will be well worth it!

Angie Thorn

International Program Coordinator

Adopting Embryos Created with an Anonymous Donor

 

Even though embryo adoption has been around for more than two decades, sometimes this kind of adoption can be a bit of a brain bender. But when you consider that life begins at conception, embryo adoption is such a beautiful way to build your family and rescue embryos from being frozen in time and space. At the beginning of a couple’s embryo adoption process, oftentimes the idea that the embryos are created through the placing family’s egg and sperm begins to form in their minds.

What surprises many adopting families is learning that nearly 50% of donated embryos are created through donor egg or sperm.

But if you put yourself in the shoes of the placing family, this decision is not so surprising. The desire to build a family can be extremely strong. Perhaps a family has gone through three rounds of IVF with no success, and the doctor advises them to consider using a donor egg. Many infertile couples continue their journey with a resounding YES! to donor egg and/or sperm.

What are the Pros and Cons for adopting couples thinking about adopting embryos created with a donor?

PROS:

  • Due to the average age of the donor, these embryos are typically more rigorous in achieving pregnancy.
  • Careful screening of donors for genetic, medical, and psychological issues is done.
  • You will receive a donor profile from the fertility clinic as part of the matching process.
  • Many adopting couples’ hearts and minds are put at ease when they realize that children have been born to the placing family resulting from these embryos.

CONS:

  • Discovering the identity of the donor can be difficult, as anonymity is still common-place in the fertility world.
  • The donor’s health history is not updated after the time of the donation.

What are some special considerations to keep in mind when adopting embryos created with a donor?

  • Work to understand the placing family’s motivations. Start by remembering your own grief work around not being able to have a genetic child and your own family building expectations.
  • Know you can choose to not adopt embryos created with anonymous donors, but be prepared for a longer matching time.
  • It is your responsibility as a parent to build a solid foundation for your child by telling them their whole story. You don’t want your child to learn about their beginnings from someone else.
  • There are resources available to you to help you explain to your child about their beginnings.

National Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness

 

 

In 1988, President Reagan established October as National Observance of Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness month.  His intention was to offer Americans “the opportunity to increase (their) understanding of the great tragedy involved in the deaths of unborn and newborn babies” and to use this time to consider how we might support bereaved parents and family members.  Reagan aptly stated, “When a child loses his parent, they are called an orphan. When a spouse loses her or his partner, they are called a widow or widower. When parents lose their child, there isn’t a word to describe them.”

 

The loss of a child is a devastating, life-altering experience. These heart-wrenching losses can come through the death of an infant or child, stillbirth, miscarriage, SIDS, abortion, among others.  All losses are, at the core, painful; however, the loss of a child is uniquely difficult, as a parent doesn’t expect their child to die first.  Many moms and dads-to-be have longed and dreamed about being parents, so these tragic deaths of their infants or children are tantamount to the loss of a dream.

 

When I lost my daughter through stillbirth, my life changed forever. I have  described this experience as the “day my life fell apart.” After the heartache of years of infertility, her loss broke me, shattered my heart, my hopes, my dreams. I was haunted by thoughts of what might have been: the child I dreamed of holding, rocking, caring for, and watching grow up.  My arms ached to hold her; my body felt like it had betrayed me.  I couldn’t sleep, eat, or enter her nursery.  Like many women long desiring to be mothers, my baby represented to me the end of my infertility journey, my happy family.

 

With between 10 to 20 percent of pregnancies ending in miscarriage and the tragedy of stillbirth and infant loss, how do we remember babies gone too soon and those with “angel babies?”  How do we grieve the “what might have been” or support those who have suffered the tragedy of infant or pregnancy loss?

 

These are some things I learned as I fumbled my way through my grief journey: be kind to yourself, learn to recognize and name your feelings, know that your experiences do not define you but shape you. Consider talking to a therapist who specializes in infertility and infant loss.  Use good self-care, journal, get rest.  Be a student of yourself: learn about yourself, what you need, how your friends and family can support you. Ask for what you need, directly. Find others who understand your experience and your pain. Your journeys will not be the same but find someone to walk alongside you-a friend, therapist, or support group.  Talk about your experience. I was shocked to learn of how many women I knew who had suffered a stillbirth. Their stories gave me hope. Hope that I could survive my personal tragedy and hope that I could go on without my daughter.

 

In my journey of healing from the loss of my angel baby, I have had the honor to meet a fellow loss mom who has used her tragedy to minister to hundreds of women.  After the death of her infant daughter, Finley, due to medical malpractice, Noelle Moore saw “a large gap between the hospital and the home.”  She states that her care ended when she left the hospital after the death of her baby. She was left to navigate the pain of her tragic loss on her own and determined that she wanted to change this lonely, heart-breaking experience for other women.

 

Noelle started The Finley Project, a Central Florida-based agency that serves clients nationwide. The Finley Project is the nation’s only holistic program for mothers after infant loss and bridges the gap in care.  Noelle states that The Finley Project’s unique holistic approach is more than just a support group; it is a 7-part program that is free to the mother. Care for the mother who has lost her infant includes funeral planning and support, grocery gift cards, house cleaning services, massage therapy, counseling, support group placement, and support from a volunteer, the majority of which are other loss moms or grandmothers.  Noelle and her staff are uniquely positioned to support grieving moms after infant loss.  Please visit https://www.thefinleyproject.org for more information.

 

Like Noelle, I will never forget my daughter. September 11th marked the day that would have been Hannah Catherine’s 18th birthday. I was struck by how much her brief life affected me. She changed me. Being her mother has shaped the way I look at life, family, parenting, and the gift of a child.  God promises to work good in all things for those who love him. 18 years ago, as I walked out of the hospital, heart broken, arms empty, without my baby, I could not have said this. Today I can. Have hope, care for yourself, give yourself time to grieve and heal.

 

written by Megan White

Waiting For The Lord

“Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord.”
Psalms 27:14 NIV

 

“That sounded like a long time.” We started our adoption journey in June of 2018. On our first call with Nightlight, they told us that it would likely be somewhere around 6-18 months from the time that we were home study approved until we had a child placed with us. That sounded like a long time, but we told ourselves that we were open to a lot of situations and that surely it would be sooner rather than later. By the end of October 2018, we were home study approved and officially waiting. At first, it was exciting! We threw ourselves into preparing, setting up the crib, buying diapers to start a stockpile. Our hearts would race every time the phone rang. We were eager to update friends and family when they asked how things were going. We read books, listened to podcasts, and did all the “right” things to prepare for this. After all, we could get “the call” any day and we had almost reached six months of waiting. Six months came and went, and then we had to start renewing our home study. “This will be the last time!” we told ourselves. Any day now!

“But our confidence was slowly eroding.” We each started having moments of doubt. However, God was faithful and one of us was always steadfast when the other was doubting. We knew God led us to this path, but why was it taking so long? Pridefully, we wondered terrible things like why an expectant mom picked another family and not us. We started to cringe when people asked if there was an update on the adoption. What was wrong with us? We would check in every month and ask for feedback on our profile. We got a lot of good feedback, but someone else was always chosen instead. It was so hard not having anything to “fix.” And I wanted to cry after each expectant mother said that they wanted a family without children. It broke my heart that they didn’t see what an amazing big sister our daughter would be.

“We dug deep into our faith…” During the adoption process we watched family members announce their pregnancy, deliver, and celebrate the baby’s first birthday. It was a constant struggle against pride, jealousy, and negativity. As we ran low on excitement, patience, and hope, we dug deep into our faith to keep us going. We had to rely on God’s strength rather than our own. We did Bible studies, fasted, and prayed more than we’ve ever prayed. Slowly, and with a lot of work, our hearts began to change. We prayed every day that God’s will would be done in HIS timing. We prayed for the expectant mother and all of the things she must be going through. We began to pray that when our profile was presented, the baby would end up in the family God had planned for him/her, rather than just that it would be our family that was chosen. When our daughter asked, we were able to remind her that God knew the perfect baby to join our family and when that baby was ready, he or she would be there. Don’t get me wrong, I sometimes struggled to believe those words. But, I continued to repeat what I knew must be true about God’s faithfulness. When the second Christmas came without a match, I was devastated. It had now been 14 months of waiting and we didn’t even have a match yet. The chances of us having a placement by 18 months were dwindling. But, we kept bringing ourselves back to the knowledge that we were certain God had brought us to adoption and we had to trust not only His plan, but also His timing.

“And then, it happened!” In February of 2020, after 470 days of officially waiting and over 19 months since we began the adoption process, we received the call. We had been chosen to parent our daughter who had been born three days earlier and was ready to be picked up just a few hours away. Within a few short hours of that call, we were holding our beautiful baby girl. I know you have heard it before, but it is true that you understand why you had to wait so long as soon as you see your child. It was her that God was preparing us for all along. And along the way, He was refining us as well. He was teaching us to be more patient and selfless. He was guiding us to think more of others than ourselves. He was showing us His sovereignty above all things and increasing our faith. The wait is not fun. Some days it is crushing. While I cannot say that we enjoyed the wait, I can say that we can now look back and appreciate the work that was done in us along the way. We became better people and more supportive spouses. We were able to teach our daughter what it looks like to trust in God’s goodness even when it is hard. No, the wait was not easy, but it was oh, so worth it!

 

written by a Domestic Adoptive Family

How to Support Your Family Member’s or Friend’s Adoption

Adoption can be a very emotional and financially challenging process where adoptive parents can experience high levels of stress and anxiety.  Whether a family is adopting domestically, internationally or through our Snowflakes program, prospective adoptive parents need the support of their family and friends rallying around them, as they go through the emotional roller coaster of adoption.

If you have not adopted yourself, it will be difficult for you to understand the emotions a family is going through during and after their adoption process. Below are some suggestions to help support your loved one or friend, which will help ease their difficult journey.

Listen! Adoptive parents need their support network more than ever. One very simple way to support prospective adoptive families is to lend an ear and shoulder to cry on.  Adoptive parents may need just to vent and express their anxieties and frustrations and know someone is listening. They don’t need your opinions, questions and critique, just listen and talk less!

Offer to help with simple things such as babysitting, respite care, cooking a meal or cleaning their house. While this may sound mundane, it allows adoptive parents time to rest, relax and recoup and lessens the stress of daily chores.  Time away from the children allows families to rejuvenate and think more clearly, particularly if these services are offered after the child enters the home.

Don’t criticize and ask questions.  Most adoptive parents have done their research before deciding to adopt a child and understand the risks and delays that come with adoption.  Because you may have not gone down this road you will not understand the process or emotions associated with the experience. Be supportive by not criticizing or asking questions, such as “How much longer until the child comes home?”  If the adoptive parent wants to share this information they will, asking questions that sound critical and judgmental will only exacerbate their doubts and negative emotions.

Offer to help with fundraising.  Adoption can be very expensive.  Assisting with holding fundraising events not only helps the family financially, but also emotionally, showing you care about the process and the family and want them to succeed.

Accept their decision to adopt and lovingly accept the adopted child.  It is so very important that adoptive parents know they are being supported, showing you support their decision and later the child, means more than you can imagine!

Don’t question why they chose to adopt.  Families choose adoption for many reasons, some due to infertility, some because they feel a calling to adopt.  Whatever the reason, it is a very personal choice and many times it is due to an emotional topic and maybe one the adoptive parent still struggles with.  It is better to accept and embrace their decision, rather than to question why.

Throw an adoption shower! Many have likened the adoption process to a “paper pregnancy” with the end result being a new child, a new family member, is entering their home.  An adoption shower helps celebrate the new life and family member and will help the family prepare for the arrival of the child.

Ask the adoptive parent, what can I do to support you? This simple question will mean so much and allows the adoptive parent to direct your efforts to what they may need the most.

Showing your support and love to a friend or family member during an adoption process shows you care and support them and may mean the world to a family needing support more than ever, both during their adoption journey and after the adopted child enters their family.  Sometimes doing the simple things for an adoptive family shows your loving commitment and support to the family and their decision to adopt.

 

written by Sonja Brown

21 Ways to Honor a Birthmom’s Love and Sacrifice

 

When a birth mother makes an adoption plan, she is often sacrificing her own desires and feelings for the good of her child, whom she loves deeply. This deep love translates into inviting another family into her child’s story and entrusting that child into their care and protection. It can be difficult for some adoptive parents to know how to fully honor this sacrificial love. In an effort to gather some creative ideas, I thought it would be most appropriate to reach out to adoptive families that are navigating this already.

Here are some of the responses I received when I posed the question, “What are some ways you’ve honored your child’s birth mother?”

  • We had flowers delivered to her on Mother’s Day.
  • We include her in our morning prayers each day.
  • We send her a card and pictures on her birthday as a little reminder that we are here for her and thinking about her on her day as well.
  • There is not a day that goes by that I don’t think about her.
  • The love we have for her to make that decision is hard to even put into words and we hope she knows that no matter what life brings, our daughter will always know the love her birth mother had for her to give her the best life possible.
  • We have photos of our daughter’s first mom and first siblings in her room. We talk about them every day.
  • We honor her when people ask questions. “Our daughter has two mommies who both love her.” We try to use adoptee and first mom positive language. No-“giving up”, No- “she is so lucky”, rather, “she is so loved” instead.
  • For our daughter’s first birthday, her first mom and I made a Shutterfly book together to honor her story. We read it whenever our daughter wants and read it along with the book her first mom made at the time of placement.
  • We send Mother’s Day and Christmas packages including artwork our daughter makes.
  • We FaceTime about once a quarter. We FaceTime for birthdays and Christmas morning.
  • Our daughter had some skin issues and we were in close contact with birth mom to give insight on siblings’ histories with similar issues. It made her apart of helping find solutions to help her daughter.
  • Our daughter made a handprint craft and we sent it and a care package to her for Mother’s Day.
  • Birth Mom and siblings were included in our daughter’s first birthday and we honored her there. We gave her loads of photos and a banner we had made with monthly photos of our daughter’s growth.
  • We keep routine in our visits so she always has something to look forward to.
  • We remember her birthday and her son’s birthday and always send them gifts.
  • We send her texts on holidays wishing her well and thanking her.
  • Probably the biggest thing I’ve done to honor her is to talk about her to others. Naturally people are curious about our daughter’s birth mom and the “situation” from which she came. Usually they can’t help themselves and make assumptions that she “gave away” her child and then the judgement starts. I make sure to say well that’s not how I see it. In fact, she made an enormous sacrifice for our daughter because she loved her so much and wanted to give her a better life than she could at that time. I usually end with, she is brave and strong.

As evident in many of the responses I received, honoring a birth mother can be done through thoughts, words, and actions. Being intentional about the language used when talking about your child’s birth mother to others can reduce stigma and encourage others to think about adoption and the choices made by birth parents in a more positive light. Talking openly with your children about their birth parents can help them develop a fuller sense of not only where they came from, but also provide space for them to ask questions and process difficult emotions. Finding ways to connect with birth parents, whether through in-person visits, phone calls, or sending special gifts, not only helps communicate to them a recognition of their sacrifices, but also invites them into continued participation in the lives of their children.

Here are a few other ideas you could consider:

  • Purchase a tree or flower in her honor and plant it together on a special day (i.e. child’s birthday, Birth Mother’s Day, etc.)
  • Release a balloon with a special prayer or note written by you and/or your child to your child’s birth mother (especially if you do not have direct contact)
  • Invite her to participate in special events as your child grows
  • Provide opportunities for your child to create homemade cards or crafts to send to birth mothers on special days throughout the year

written by Kara Long from ideas shared by NCA Adoptive Families

Preparing for a Frozen Embryo Transfer

 

You have decided you want to pursue embryo adoption and have completed all the necessary steps. You have chosen an agency, filled out an application, completed the home study, have been matched with embryos, finalized the contract, and had the embryos shipped to the clinic!

Now you are super excited to get to the fun part, right? The day of your long awaited frozen embryo transfer (FET)! However, you may have to wait just a little bit longer before that special day.

Your clinic may require some preliminary tests before you are ready to begin preparation. Once you have been medically cleared, then you are ready to start the prep work!

First, you will typically begin birth control, followed by an ultrasound to make sure the lining of the uterus is thin and blood work to check hormone levels. Then, your reproductive endocrinologist will prescribe estrogen pills to build up the uterine lining, followed by another ultrasound and more blood work. (Some REs may even allow you to complete a natural cycle transfer with no birth control or medications. Talk with your clinic to see if this is a possibility for you!) REs have an “ideal” thickness that they like to see the uterine lining before they proceed with an FET, but don’t be discouraged if your lining is not within that range! Many women, including myself, have gone on to do transfers with a lining that was not considered optimal and had a successful pregnancy!

About five days before your scheduled FET, you will begin taking progesterone in oil injections each day. It is not the most fun, but so worth it once you see that positive pregnancy test! I would recommend warming the oil with a heating pad or by rubbing it between your hands before you start. It also helps to sit on a heating pad for a few minutes before the injection, as this will help prevent lumps under the skin. Massaging the injection site immediately afterward can help prevent those lumps, too. Switching injection sides each day is recommended, so you do not get too sore on one side.

The day of the FET is really quite simple and easy compared to everything else leading up to it! You will come to the office with a full bladder (yes, really), get changed in to a medical gown and hairnet, and the doctor will perform the FET using a small catheter. You get to watch the embryo get implanted right there on the ultrasound!

At this point you are done! Try to keep busy and focus on other things during the two week wait for the pregnancy test. You will continue the progesterone in oil injections for those two weeks after your FET and continue them for several weeks after if you have a positive pregnancy test.

You got this, mama! And if your FET resulted in a negative pregnancy test, you are strong and courageous for giving those little embryos a chance at a full life!

 

-An Embryo Adoptive Mama

For more information, please visit Snowflakes.org

What I Wish You Knew: A Birthmom Testimony

I grew up having a fairytale idea of how my life would turn out. I was going to be happily married, a stay at home mom with 6 children, I would have a huge yard with a tire swing and life would be perfect. In reality, I was married… and divorced. Twice. I was blessed with being a stay at home mom for 10 years to 5 amazing children.

 

One of the most important things to me as a mom was to be involved with my kids and provide them with a safe, loving, fun and comfortable home life and to be available to them as much as possible. That became more challenging after becoming a single mom with joint custody and needing to go to work to provide for them. The circumstances were far from perfect, and there were ups and downs, but I worked jobs that allowed me to be home with them when they weren’t at school and I was able to attend most of their school and sporting events. Being a mom, in my opinion, is the most important ‘job’ ever and I always wanted to be the best at it, but I made many mistakes along the way. One of the biggest mistakes I made was not showing them the importance of putting God first. I ‘believed’ in God and I had been ‘saved’, but I had not invited God to be a part of my life. I wanted to live a life pleasing to God, but I still wanted to be in control and do things my way.

 

I was 41 years old, I was not married, 3 out of 5 of my kids were teenagers and still at home, I was expecting my first grandchild… AND I became pregnant. It was not a part of ‘my plan’, but it was part of a bigger plan that I would see unfold in the coming years. I knew every child was a blessing from God. I tried to embrace and welcome the news of becoming a new mom again, but I was consumed with feelings of guilt and shame (for allowing myself to be in this situation). I was anxious and worried (what would my family and friends think)? I was filled with fear (how was I going to raise a baby by myself, could I physically, emotionally and financially meet all of her needs?)

 

I had never felt so alone. Each day brought new fears and worries. I prayed daily, asking God to give me strength and peace and guidance. Every time the thought of adoption came into my mind, I pushed it away. I had heard many amazing adoption stories, but those were other people’s lives, other people’s stories… what kind of ‘mom’ would I be after having 5 children to even consider placing her for adoption? But, what kind of life would she have with me?

 

She was due in September and it wasn’t until July that I reached out to the Nightlight Christian Adoptions. A lot of faith, fear, heartache, tears, prayers and love were involved in the decision to consider adoption and not raise my daughter myself.

 

I changed my mind and my opinions about adoption a lot, during the pregnancy and after. I realize as prospective adoptive parents, you’ve had your own fears and worries and difficult trials that as a birth mom I have never experienced. The adoption journey has a lot of unknowns on both sides. Be patient, be supportive… ask questions, but understand if we aren’t ready or able to answer them. Be open and honest and be yourself – be real.

 

I was fearful that there were no perfect parents for my daughter, but I realized I was far from perfect. I learned to trust God and let Him lead. He chose the perfect family for my daughter. There will always be unchartered territory, on the birth mom’s side and the adoptive parents’ side – journey it together. You don’t have to have all the answers right now.

 

The greatest gift I received from the adoptive parents in my situation, was their acceptance of me and the amazing way they showed their love, their kindness and their gratitude. They helped change my view of birth moms in adoption. I am not a ‘bad’ or ‘unloving’ or ‘selfish’ person. I love enough to want more for the daughter, that I myself could not provide.

 

I originally did not want an open adoption. They were respectful of my decision while gently making it clear that they were there if I changed my mind, and they made great efforts to include me as little or as much as I chose to be involved, without making me feel pressured. We now have an open adoption and being a part of their lives has been a blessing I could have never imagined. I do not have regrets; I do not worry or live in fear for my daughter. I know she is cared for and loved by so many and with the exact mom and dad and family God planned for her.

 

I am praying for each and every one reading this, praying for birth parents, praying for adoptive parents, praying for the children who are a blessing no matter how they come to be a part of their chosen family.

 

“’For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the LORD, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.’” Jeremiah 29:11

 

–written by a Brave Birthmom

Advocating For Your Adopted/Foster Child’s School Needs During a Pandemic

 

Advocating for a child in regular life circumstances can feel like quite a challenge. When you add a pandemic to the situation, it can feel overwhelming! I first learned about the necessity of advocating for services in the school system when my husband and I first adopted. When I pointed out concerns I had to our daughter’s teacher, she reassured me that the issues would likely resolve on their own and were attributed to the adoption process. I waited a year, seeing our daughter’s frustration growing, as her needs were not being met in the classroom. I will always regret the delay in accessing services.

 

Since March, when the COVID19 pandemic hit the United States, schools were shut down throughout the nation. The challenging process of requesting specialized services through the school district became additional challenging as all services went remote. Requesting testing and evaluations became next to impossible as school districts scrambled to provide the services that were already assigned, let alone trying to evaluate and determine new services for a child who had not completed any sort of evaluation.

 

Special education evaluations and services can and should be provided despite the pandemic situation. The Special Education Services Team for our school district met with parents last week (online) and shared that in-person evaluations will continue despite the pandemic. Masks, shields, Plexiglas or whatever PPD was necessary to keep both the child and evaluator safe, would be implemented. Some testing will be conducted via remote online programs where appropriate and some might utilize the parent as an in-person helper. We have seen our district come up with very creative solutions to the many challenges of providing speech and occupational services online, along with learning programs for all levels of students.

 

I am concerned that families may delay the request for evaluation or services due to issues with the pandemic. Obtaining services for a child through the school system can seem like an impossible task. It is important to address any concerns right away and not rely on a professional assigning the issue to stress over a foster or adoptive placement. Your child is eligible for evaluation at the time of placement, regardless of the pandemic.

 

Any advocating or request for services from your school district for your child must be in writing. For example, if your child is struggling in learning to read and write and you think your child might have a learning disability, it is critical to identify what you have been seeing and put it in writing to your school principal, requesting an evaluation for an Individualized Education Plan or IEP.

 

 

As a parent, whether adoptive or foster parent, we have learned that we are our child’s biggest and sometimes only advocate. We best know our child and can best describe what they need. It is best to begin with your child’s teacher, helping to identify the issues and needs of your child. The next step is to write a letter to your child’s principal. It is important to identify the issues you have observed with your child, noting any detrimental effects on your child’s ability to learn and benefit from the classroom environment.

 

The IEP letter should include a request for testing and a full evaluation, to determine whether your child is eligible for an individualized education plan or IEP. The IEP process is a formal process that is federally mandated and governed. If your child needs special education services those services would be provided under the IEP program. Testing will not begin right away, but your letter formally starts the process. If you just speak with your child’s teacher or the principal that does not initiate the special education or IEP process. A verbal request for evaluation or services can be ignored whereas if the request is in writing, it begins the formal IEP process. Typically several months of testing will follow. At the end of the evaluations, there will be a meeting of the IEP team, which includes the principal, and the many therapists and specialists that have evaluated your child and you as your child’s representative. You might also check with your pediatrician and see whether the pediatrician notes any issues as well that should be included in the IEP evaluation. You can bring outside reports into the IEP meeting for consideration of services.

 

Throughout the IEP process, from initiation to the provision of services, it is important to stay diligent and to make sure your child’s needs are always at the forefront of the discussion. It is important to continually advocate for your child. We learned through the years as we have gone through more than our share of IEP meetings, that unless the parent is willing to politely make a case and push for services needed by their child, they are less likely to be successful. It makes a difference if the adult in a child’s life is assertive about the child’s need for services.

 

If your child is on an IEP or you believe your child should be on an IEP, I would highly encourage you to track down the parent group for special education in your district. This committee might have different names, but each district should have such a parent committee. The parents on the committee might have some good advise for you as you advocate for your child. One or more of the parents in the group may have experienced a similar issue with their child and might be able to offer some advise on how they were successful obtaining services. I also would encourage anyone whose child is in need of services or is receiving services to read through the www.wrightslaw.com website. It is full of fantastic resources, information and programs available to help you with advocating for services your child might need as it is run by Pete Wright, an attorney advocate in Special Education Law. He has written several books on how to obtain special education services and won cases in front of the Supreme Court.

 

Despite the challenges we are currently facing as we live through this pandemic, your child’s academic, behavioral, emotional, developmental and social needs need to be supported and services obtained through your school district when necessary. Advocating for your foster or adopted child might sometimes feel like you are pushing a boulder up a steep hill, but the outcome is so worthwhile. Your are your child’s best advocate and there is nothing like the experience of seeing your child complete a task that seemed impossible prior to the therapy that was initiated through your advocacy.

 

written by Rhonda Jarema, MA

Adult Adoptees’ Perspective on Interracial Adoption

 

The Debate on Interracial Adoption: Since the 1970s, there have been debates in America on whether children of one race should be adopted by parents of another. One camp argues that children adopted interracially lose their sense of identity and culture, while the other claims that regardless of race, it is positive because these children are finding homes. So, what do adult adoptees have to say about their experiences with being adopted by parents of a different race?

Kiana’s Experience: On the Archibald Project’s 48th episode, Race & Adoption Advice from Adult Adoptees, Kiana speaks about her experience with being a black child adopted and raised by a white, single mother (https://www.thearchibaldproject.com/). Kiana was adopted at age two with two other girls from her orphanage. She grew up in a community that had many adopted children, so her family unit seemed normal to her until the age of five. When Kiana began Kindergarten, children asked why she did not look like her mother; it was difficult to constantly explain that she was adopted and know what level of detail she needed to share. Thankfully, Kiana’s mother encouraged open communication with her daughters about adoption, and together they came up with a plan on what to say to the other kids.

Kiana’s mother made an effort to incorporate Haitian culture into their daily life. Every Haitian Independence Day, the family would cook traditional Haitian food, fly their national flag, and celebrate. They had dance parties to Haitian music and even attended an annual summer camp with other adoptees from their orphanage. Although she speaks fondly of these memories, Kiana explains that interracial adoption is complicated. As an adult, she is most uncomfortable around black individuals because she fears them calling her “white washed.” She continues by saying, “it feels like you are standing at two tables (black and white), and you don’t have a chair at either one.”

My friend, Dante*: It has been over a decade since I met my friend, Dante. Our friendship has been close, and I am immensely grateful that he chose to share his adoption story with me…and all of you! At the age of five, Dante was adopted from Guatemala along with his younger sister, Agostina*. They were adopted by a white couple in the American Midwest.

This time was scary for Dante as he was in a foreign place and did not speak the same language as his adoptive parents. However, as with Kiana, experiencing this transition with a sibling made it much easier. Over time, Dante and Agostina began to trust and bond with their new parents. His parents took a different approach than Kiana’s as they chose not to incorporate Guatemalan culture into their children’s lives. Although Dante regrets losing his Spanish speaking skills, he still embraces his Guatemalan culture as an adult. Dante loves listening to Guatemalan music and learning about the country. Overall, adoption has been a positive experience for him, and he is extremely grateful that his parents made the decision to adopt. Dante reported, “I am thankful for my parents and everything they have given me. Without them, I would have likely ended up in a gang or participating in illegal activities because of where I came from. Instead, I have a good life.” Dante desires to adopt children of his own some day because he “has seen how adoption can change someone’s life for the better.”

Should I Incorporate the Culture of My Child’s Home Country in Our Lives?: The answer to this is… it depends. When a child is adopted, especially from a foreign country, they need to process their new life circumstances and decide what their identity is going to be. They often experience an inner battle between the culture of their homeland and that of their new home. Kiana recommends that adoptive parents give their children space to feel and process all of the emotions that come with creating a new sense of self. She said her mother did a good job of not taking it personally when Kiana pushed her away during these times. In addition, children in a sibling group may not react the same way to this process. For instance, Kiana enjoys learning about her heritage and visiting Haiti, while her sister has little interest in those pursuits. It is important that adoptive parents give their children opportunities to stay invested in their birth country’s culture. From that point, each child can decide whether he or she would like to learn about their heritage or fully embrace an American lifestyle. No path is wrong, and neither indicates that the adoptive parents are not doing a great job at raising their children.

Conclusion: It is difficult to state which side of the debate is correct. Both adoptees above said there were complications with interracial adoption, but also indicated that their experiences were overall positive. Based on these cases, a successful and healthy interracial adoption can be achieved by adoptive parents who 1) support open communication and 2) present opportunities to incorporate the child’s culture if he or she is interested in pursuing it.

*Names have been changed for anonymity

 

written by Heather Berry