Trans-racial Adoption Support

With over 60 years of experience navigating adoption, Nightlight has created this booklet to help adoptive families learn how to navigate trans-racial adoption from a Christian perspective.

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Humans are the Image of God

Genesis 1:27 “So God created mankind in His own image”.

This is the basis of our equality, beauty, and worth. It is important for children to be taught this to help them understand the value of their own race, and the value of races that are different from their own.

Remind your child that they are not defined by their appearance. In Acts 17:26-29, Paul preaches to the Athenians, “God made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth… we are all God’s offspring… descended from one person.” Your child is a human being like everyone else.

 

Handling discussions about racism

In the words of experts Beth Hall and Gail Steinberg, “Address [your] child’s needs without apologizing for being white.” You do not need to apologize for being white any more than your child does for their race. Far from an apology, it is a thing of planned beauty by God.

Think of the words of the prophet in Isaiah 43: 5-7, “I will say to the north, ‘Give them up!’ and to the south, ‘Do not hold them back.’ Bring my sons from afar and my daughters from the ends of the earth – everyone who is called by my name, whom I created for my glory, whom I formed and made.”

Remember that institutions cannot be guilty of sin: it is only individuals who are guilty. Focus on institutions absolves individuals of guilt. Since institutions cannot repent, the focus on institutions implies that racism is a permanent fixture. But if racism is an issue of individual sin, then your child is not a permanently oppressed victim. Instead, they are the observer of someone else’s sin.

Set the example that we oversee our own attitudes. Whether or not to be a victim is up to us. We can choose to go through life laughing or crying.

 

Before an Adoption takes place

Consider your family members who will also be a part of the family when you adopt. Some people have decided not to adopt transracially, after determining their parents, the grandparents-to-be, are unlikely to ever accept their child. Others have determined the same sad reality but decided not to care what the grandparents-to-be will think.

This is a decision you will have to make. But if it helps, remind your relatives of Leviticus 19:34, “The foreigner residing among you must be treated as your native-born. Love them as yourself, for you were foreigners in Egypt. I am the Lord your God.”

Consider your neighborhood. Some families have moved to different neighborhoods out of sensitivity to their child’s needs to be accepted and to be around a greater amount of cultural diversity. Know that this will make your adoption public. You must be okay with that. Decide now what your response will be to comments from strangers about your adoption. Will you say something funny? Defensive? Instructive?

Have a sense of humor. It will do everyone well.

Consider more than the required number of trips to their country of origin, both before and after an adoption takes place. Your child will probably ask for this, so start thinking about it early on. Especially when your child is mature enough to process and appreciate the trip, make it happen.

 

Preserving Culture

Preserve elements of culture. Culture includes food, clothing, music, language, and holidays. Learn to speak some of the phrases and teach them to your children if they do not remember/never learn. Learn to cook the food even if they don’t remember/never experienced it. Read books or visit websites that come from their culture. Celebrate the holidays.

Culture also includes things like worldview, values, religion, relationship dynamics, expectations people have of one another, and the view of individual versus collective autonomy and responsibility.

Become familiar with these more complex issues and share with your child when age appropriate.

Do not be threatened by your child’s desire to connect with their race, ethnicity, country, and culture of origin. This is a good thing. But do not feel compelled to insist they pursue this more than your child desires to.

Communicate with the birth family. Or, if not practical, available, or advisable, then communicate with extended in. If that is not possible, then communicate with people from the community/country of origin. By communicate, we mean through social media and the exchange of gifts, letters, photos, etc.

Spend time with people of the same ethnicity. Preferably, find a church with someone of your child’s ethnicity, and even peers that can be friends. Or find an older mentor. Meet with someone online. Seek out someone who they can see looks like them.

 

Self-Esteem and Race

Increase racial self-esteem the same way you increase self-esteem in general: showering them with praise, giving them autonomy to make their own decisions, finding something at which they excel, and letting them thrive at it. Tell them you love them. Give them hope that they will be successful.

Focus on unity and similarity. Most racial rhetoric today divides. But the Gospel unites. In Galatians 3:28, Paul says, “There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” The Gospel unites, while the world divides. The Gospel focuses on our oneness, while the world is teaching us to focus on differences. The prevailing lens of the media sees the world in terms of the oppressed and oppressors (this is the fundamental tenant of Marxism). But the Gospel sees Christ, and the one-people he died for.

Tell them they are beautiful. Do it every day. Make sure they know it. And remind them that their beauty is a part of the promise of heaven. Three times in Revelation we are told that the Church triumphant will be comprised of people from every tribe, tongue, people, and nation, (Rev. 5:9; 7:9; 1:11).

 

Parenting

Listen to your child. Some children may feel no loss at all over their racial identity. The degree to which your child identifies with race will vary. Do not assume. Tell your child that you are here to listen to them.

Understand that being a small ethnic minority affects dating. Your child will wonder whether they should or will be attracted to someone of the same race, or a different race.

Hair is not a trivial issue. If you are raising black children, know that hair care is different and that you will need to learn more about this subject. You may need to go to an expert salon.

Know there is a struggle to fit in. Transracially adopted children universally express this experience, so do not be oblivious or dismissive. It will happen.

Your child will hear disparaging comments sometimes. Be prepared for it. Tell your child what racism is, so they know it when they hear it. This will help them put the burden on the other person, rather than on themselves. Remind them that some people are toxic. Assure them that they deserve to be treated with dignity.

 

Self-Care

Join a support group or a group of friends who have adopted transracially. If one does not exist in your city, then do it online. You will need to share your experience, struggles, and advice.

Do not compare your child to others. This is good advice for every parent. It’s good advice, especially, for adoptive parents. But it is good advice for transracial adoptive parents.

Be solution-focused, rather than problem-focused, as if there are no solutions and nothing will ever change. Instead, create the attitude that we are not here to point fingers or cast blame, but we are all part of the solution. Have hope in the future.

—Daniel Nehrbass, President

McCleary Family Receives “Bright Lights Award”

The Board of Directors of Nightlight Christian Adoptions established the “Bright Lights Award” which is given in recognition of a commitment to adoption which inspires others to adopt, advocates for adoption, or makes a great sacrifice in adoption. “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father which is in heaven” (Matthew 5:16).

The second recipients of the Bright Lights award are Matthew and Megan McCleary.

In July of 2017, they went to Africa on what was supposed to be a short trip to attend court and bring Enoch home. But at the same time, Ghana signed the Hague convention and implemented new laws that delayed their case.  However, Matthew and Megan already went to court and legally adopted Enoch. At that point, many couples would understandably return to the US and leave their child in the care of the orphanage until they have a date for a visa appointment. But this couple decided to stay the course in Ghana, which turned out to be three years!  Matthew traveled back and forth to Ghana throughout that time, while also working in the US.  They had great support from their church, and faith that all would eventually work out for the best. The decision to stay with one’s child in Ghana is understandable, but what is exceptional in Megan and Matthew’s case is how they summarized the experience:

“Ghana was hard, but will now always be such a big part of our lives. Enoch is very Ghanaian and also so American. We have all grown so much these past three years in ways we never could have foreseen.  We can’t wait to finally start our family together in our home country.”

The McCleary’s perseverance of living three years in Ghana is an inspiration to us.

 

Kurle Family Receives “Bright Lights Award”

The Board of Directors of Nightlight Christian Adoptions established the “Bright Lights Award” which is given in recognition of a commitment to adoption which inspires others to adopt, advocates for adoption, or makes a great sacrifice in adoption. “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father which is in heaven” (Matthew 5:16).

The third recipients of the Bright Lights award are Joe and Marie Kurle.

Joe and Marie Kurle just recently brought their son Joseph home from Nigeria. They were matched with Joseph in June of 2019 and waited 10 months for their I604 investigation before being approved to bring him home. But this was just the ending to their 5 year adoption journey. The Kurle’s first applied to Nightlight in 2015 to our Uganda program. Then right when they were submitting their dossier, the adoption laws in Uganda changed and the 12 month residency requirement started but was still unclear on how those laws would be interpreted. We explored other options (but did not close the door on Uganda) and they were even sent a file of siblings from Albania as they were open to switching to a new program because Uganda was so unstable. They were interested in the siblings but another family committed to them while they were reviewing the file. They remained in the Uganda program and we later sent a referral of a 6 month old boy. That referral also fell through. That baby was eventually placed with an American family who was living in Uganda. Then they were sent a referral of an adorable little boy named Frank. They committed to him and were excited to move forward. They even received an official match. We later had to take away that referral because we found out the baby home in Uganda was being unethical and we had to immediately stop working with them. The family asked if there were any children at the other baby homes we worked with. There was but it was a child with severe special needs. They reviewed her file but eventually declined. Next they transferred to the Nigeria program in April of 2017. They were matched with a child named Reuben in December of 2017 and couldn’t wait to be united with him. Reuben’s adoption was dragged out for about 18 months due to an aunt coming forward that was contesting the adoption. Unfortunately no one had ever visited Reuben and the aunt was deemed not eligible to adopt him but someone from his village got involved making it impossible for him to be adopted. The Kurles were really torn about giving up on adopting Reuben. They already felt such a connection to him and had sent him letters and messages. They were always so patient and kind during their entire wait with all of these adoptions. But in the end they realized that his case may never be approved by a Nigerian court and decided to be open to another child. In June 2019 they were matched with Joseph from Nigeria. As stated above their wait to bring him home was dragged out by the US Embassy I604 investigation but in September 2020 Joe Kurle finally traveled to bring Joseph home. This family never once complained about the process or said harsh words.  They were so happy and grateful to be home with Joseph. This family is a family strong in their faith. The family understood that sometimes God has plans laid out for us that look much different that the plans we have for ourselves. They kept the faith and persevered.

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