Bonding with a New Child

When I adopted my then four-year-old daughter from China in 2008, I did not plan intentional ways to attach to her. I thought it would come naturally, like it did with my birth children. I was mistaken to think I did not need to have an idea of what to do. Shortly after bringing her home from the orphanage, I read an amazing book which changed by parenting plan. Parenting Your Internationally Adopted Child: From Your First Hours Together Through the Teen Years by Patty Cogen (2008) changed my perspective. I was reading it the first few months together and wished I had read it prior to the adoption and the multiple times I have referred back to it over the years.

I used many of the techniques Cogen refers to in her book. I had my four-year-old using a bottle to rock her to sleep and then a pacifier. I sang her lullabies and played silly finger games of Itsy Bitsy Spider. I read story books and played dress up. I pushed a stroller, took pictures, and did many of the things I had with my birth children when they were much younger biologically than four. I rebuilt the foundation to help my daughter to attach, learn the world is safe, and built trust.

There are fun ways for families to build this attachment with children of all ages. Their beginning story in life does not have to be the end of their story. Here are some suggestions for you to put into practice with your child:

  • Play games! Bring out Candy Land, Old Maid Cards, and Trouble. Roll the dice. Play games that call for the child to make eye contact with you. Do peek-a-boo with your young child.
  • Give piggy back rides to your child, play airplane on the floor or bicycle gymnastics with your child. With airplane, have your little one lay across your feet while you are on your back. Holding their hands, move the child through the air as you make sounds. And bicycle? Face each other and touch feet with your knees bent. Cycle your feet back and forth, singing a silly song of “bicycle, bicycle, who’s going to ride the bicycle”.
  • Embrace crazy hair day and let your child do your hair, or make up, or even face paint!
  • Dance & Sing – swirl around holding your child in your arms, your child standing on your feet, or do a fun hip hop. Break out the karaoke machine. Put on a dance video. Use songs that are soothing and quiet. Sing lullabies.
  • Write notes to your child. Leave a sticky note on the counter, put a love note in their lunch box, or mail them a letter. Send a meaningful text to the teen or write a loving post to the child, expressing affirmation to the child.
  • Read together. Make this a daily part of your structured routine. Get a library card and make going to the library a meaningful event for your child.

Whatever you add to your parenting to help your child attach, be attuned. Make things fun, even if they are intentional. Baking, decorating cookies, drawing, coloring, folding clothes, cleaning up their room, Legos and building forts – all activities that increase the time you spend with your child building the relationship they need to become thriving individuals and adults.

 

By: Tina Daniel, Ed.D., LPC

Encouragements for a Grieving Birth Mother

“Grief is like the ocean, it comes in waves, ebbing and flowing. Sometimes the water is calm, and sometimes it is overwhelming. All we can do is learn to swim.” –Vicki Harrison

No matter if you recently placed a child for adoption or placed a child many years ago, know that you are strong, beautiful, and courageous and there is support available to you at any time you may need it. An adoption support system is vital to help in processing emotions, struggles, and pain. You need a safe place where you can embrace yourself with a community of other courageous women who are on the same journey. A community where you don’t have to explain yourself or be fearful of what others may think. A community where you can learn to grieve, heal, and love again. You can impact your life for the better and find the courage you need, even when things get hard, by knowing that you are not alone.

“Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” Joshua 1:9

 

Here are some resources and support groups to surround yourself with community on this journey:

  1. Talk with Your Adoption Professional – We, at Nightlight have created the Post Adoption Connection Center to meet the variety of needs of those involved in an adoption. Whether you have come here to seek guidance, counsel, or connection, know that we are here to support you and extend God’s love and peace to you wherever you are.

 

  1. Brave Love- An organization that exists to change the perception of adoption through honest, informative and hopeful communication that conveys the bravery of birth mothers. BraveLove offers post-placement support groups and events around the country. You can also read inspiring stories from other birth parents on their site.

 

  1. On Your Feet Foundation- This organization honors and values birth parents and the choice to place for adoption. They offer many avenues of support after placement including birth mother support groups, a birth mother mentor program, and retreats throughout the year. (Empowering birth parents after adoption | On Your Feet Foundation)

 

  1. Concerned United Birthparents (CUB)– A national organization focused on birthparents experiences, healing and wisdom. They offer a yearly healing retreat that welcomes all. Concerned United Birthparents (cubirthparents.org)

 

  1. Tied at The Heart – “is dedicated to providing birth parent support.  We work to facilitate healing retreats throughout the United States. We believe that no birth parent should feel alone or unsupported in their post placement journey,” (tiedattheheart.com)

 

  1. Birth Mom Buds – A web-based, faith-based organization that provides peer counseling, support, encouragement, and friendship to birthmoms as well as pregnant women considering adoption. (BirthMom Buds | Providing Support to Birthmoms & Pregnant Women Considering Adoption)

 

  1. Birth Mother Baskets- A resource that sends gift baskets to birth mothers and matches birth mothers with peers through programs, retreats, and online Facebook groups. (birthmotherbaskets.org)

 

  1. Start a support group- If your local area does not have a support group, this may be an opportunity to start one up. Utilize creativity and skills to focus on building a community to reach others who seek healing. “Two are better than one. If either of them falls down, one can help the other up.” Ecclesiastes 4:9-10

 

By Nichole Chase

PCOS and Embryo Adoption

Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) is a hormonal disorder that can cause issues such as insulin resistance and irregular menstrual cycles. More importantly to most women, PCOS can stop ovulation from occurring, which in turn impacts fertility. Around 6% to 12% of US women of reproductive age have been diagnosed with PCOS, making it one of the most common causes of female infertility today.

Have you been diagnosed with PCOS? Are you fearing the possibilities of infertility? Are you already experiencing some signs that things may not be working as normal?  If you are in one of these difficult spaces, be rest-assured that there are options for you!

One great option for women struggling with PCOS-related infertility is embryo adoption through our Snowflakes program! Compared to IVF where the ovaries must be hyper stimulated for egg retrieval, embryo adoption allows women with PCOS to avoid this process entirely. This is significant, since IVF can increase risk of developing a dangerous condition called ovarian hyper stimulation syndrome in women with PCOS. This condition can be deadly, and may require hospitalization or surgical procedures in order to be successfully treated.

Thankfully, research now shows that using frozen embryos can improve the rate of live births in women with PCOS without the risk of hyper stimulating the ovaries. Similarly, using frozen embryos allows women with this condition to have safer and more successful pregnancies than women who do IVF. This gives women with PCOS a safe and fulfilling option to achieve their dreams of pregnancy and motherhood!

If you are dealing with PCOS, is embryo adoption the option for you? It just might be! Click HERE to read the story of a Snowflakes Embryo Adoption family who overcame PCOS-related infertility through embryo adoption! To learn more about embryo adoption and donation, visit Snowflakes.org.

 

By: Kaelah Hamman

Misunderstanding Development

A child’s development is a long process, with many ups and downs that can feel impossible to predict, and adoption will most certainly affect that process. How much of your child’s behavior is typical, and how much of it is a result of your unique family circumstances? Here we will explore what average development looks like. We encourage you to learn more in each stage of your child’s development to help you normalize what are typical behavior and feelings and what may be complicated by their adoption story. Here is one site to reference for child development: https://www.childrensneuropsych.com/parents-guide/milestones/

 

Infancy

         In this period of life, the adoptive parents have the opportunity to build a foundational emotional attachment with their child. Learning your baby’s unique temperament and reactions to things that upset them can help you shape your parenting style to meet their needs. At age one, they will seek more independence as they learn to move about. This means you will see the beginnings of disobedience. Shape behavior by rewarding good actions rather than punishing bad ones.

 

Toddlerhood

         As language develops in ages two and three, children will begin to appreciate narratives, including that of their own life. Though they can learn and repeat the story of their adoption, they will not understand what it means to have a birth mother and an adoptive family. Using make-believe play may allow them to work through emotions they do not yet understand, as well as the concept of past and present. Greater pushes for independence combined with little knowledge of emotions can lead to tantrums when children are denied something. Though they may be stressful and embarrassing, tantrums are completely normal. Sensing their needs before they arise and having meaningful conversations about emotions can reduce their occurrence.

 

Preschool

Beginning in preschool, children spend more and more time away from home, and their worlds will rapidly expand. They will begin to compare themselves to their agemates on the basis of sex, race, family, and interests. Where the answers are too complex, it is normal for them to assume magical explanations, like baby-carrying storks. Be open and honest if your child comes to you with questions about these comparisons, similarities, and differences; being honest sooner will prevent confusion later.

 

School Age

         As children’s logic centers develop, they will spend more and more time puzzling through their place in the world. They may still struggle with the concept of adoption and what it means for your family and their future. They may even fear abandonment or wonder what they did wrong to be “given up” in the first place. This may result in angry or defensive behavior as a way of distancing themselves from potential hurt. You can help to positively shape their identity by reaffirming your love for them, as well as the love of their birth mother or family.

 

Adolescence

         This period is characterized by two forms of development: identity and independence. Now, more than ever, your child will be trying to find themselves outside of your family. They will want to reconcile their birth and adoptive families, a process that can be made much harder if they have little information about or connection to their birth parents. Self-image is also a vital factor of this time, and turbulent changes of adolescence can quickly lead to declines in mental health. Encourage them to explore and connect with their past, making sure they know they can ask questions without judgement from you.

 

It is always going to be hard to see your child struggle with their identity and relationship to you. They may need your help to work through their complex feelings at first, and later it may be enough just to tell them you are there for them as they grow on their own. Building a support system with other adoptive families, such as through your agency, can give both you and your child a head start on dealing with these feelings.

 

written by Ashley Conner

Gestational Carriers and Embryo Adoption

Surrogacy for pregnancy and gestational carriers seem to often be a trending topic online. We all know that social media can be a source of very helpful connections and information, but it is not always the best source of truth.

Here are some of the myths surrounding surrogacy/gestational carriers and embryo adoption that we have heard that we want to clear up!

  • MYTH: A “gestational carrier” is the same as a “surrogate”
    • If a woman is a “surrogate”, that means that she is biologically related to the baby she is carrying. A “gestational carrier” does not share any genetics with the baby she carries. In embryo adoption, if the adopting mother is not carrying the child herself, then they will utilize a “gestational carrier” because there is no genetic link between the embryo and the woman carrying the baby.
  • MYTH: You can save fees by using the DIY method to find a gestational carrier
    • When considering the gestational carrier option, the cost can be prohibitive unless you happen to know someone who is willing to be a surrogate on your behalf. Even then the costs can be high, and this is not an area where saving money should be the biggest priority.
  • MYTH: I need to adopt embryos before the gestational carrier agreement is drafted by an attorney.
    • It is important that the details of the gestational carrier agreement be settled before an embryo adoption match is made. Be sure to find a local family law attorney who is skilled in the field of assisted reproductive technology. The agreement between the embryo adopting family and the gestational carrier needs to include details such as:
      • Willingness to travel to the appropriate clinic for the frozen embryo transfer(s)
      • Details on how many transfers the gestational carrier is comfortable with
      • Confirmation that the carrier has been screened to carry a pregnancy
      • The fine points of how many embryos the gestational carrier is comfortable with transferring at any one time
  • MYTH: What my acquaintance in Texas knows about gestational carriers and how to navigate the process must apply to me in Florida.
    • Be really careful here. The laws surrounding surrogacy and gestational carrying are very specific and vary different from state to state.

If you are considering embryo adoption using a gestational carrier, be encouraged. Families have managed this in the past without issue…just be aware that there are still a few important things to consider and plan for.

You can learn more about Embryo Adoption on our website. See more details on gestational carriers on pages 30-31 of our Embryo Donation and Adoption FAQ Booklet.

Nightlight Christian Adoptions’ Spotlight on Ron Stoddart

A visionary is a leader of excellence who sees what others do not see, who achieves for now and plans for the future, who positively impacts different generations and raises up other visionaries.

Onyi Anyado

 

This month we are honored to highlight Nightlight Christian Adoptions (Nightlight) founder and leader, Ron Stoddart.  Mr. Stoddart has been instrumental in the development and expansion of Nightlight’s adoption services for over thirty years.  Having initially established a successful domestic adoption law practice during his career, it was in the 1980’s and 1990’s when there became a marked decline in the number of birthparents choosing to make an adoption plan.  This was in part due to the number of women choosing abortion as an option to an unplanned pregnancy, as well as a societal decrease in the stigma attached to single parenting.  During this shift, it was Mr. Stoddart who had a vision and initiative to expand adoption services on a global front to include international adoptions. So, in 1992 he began facilitating adoptions from the former Soviet Union.  During this period Mr. Stoddart traveled to Russia several times a year visiting orphanages and children in need. As a result of his efforts and passion over 1000 children in need of forever families were placed in US adoptive homes during the 1990’s.  In 1994, he merged his law practice and international foundation with our organization and became the Executive Director of CAFS (Christian Adoption and Family Services), whose name later changed to Nightlight Christian Adoptions.

In his efforts to continue the expansion of international adoptions, Mr. Stoddart created a separate non-profit in 2009 that was established to organize and fund orphan host tours.  Initially serving children in Russia, the hosting program was later extended to other countries.  The first hosting tour was in 1995 and orphan hosting programs have continued into the present day with other US based adoption agencies and developing countries participating in a hosting program.  The success of the hosting program further extended into finding permanency for many children who were later adopted by their host family.

In 1997, Mr. Stoddart pondered the question “What do people do with their remaining embryos from IVF?  Is it possible that couples would donate them for adoption?”  He was intent on extending adoption best practice to embryo adoptions to include ongoing openness, a home study evaluation, and social work matching to ensure the best interests of the child were being served.  In 1998 Nightlight became the country’s first licensed adoption agency to offer embryo adoptions. In 2007 the embryo adoption program was branded Snowflakes® and today is one of Nightlight’s most vital and popular programs offering childless couples another option to grow their families.

During his tenure as the Executive Director of Nightlight, Mr. Stoddart led the merger of several other non-profit adoption agencies with Nightlight.  These mergers allowed Nightlight to further expand services in additional states, as well as the ability to offer additional intercountry programs to clients.

In 2012 there continued to be a noted decline in international adoptions.  This same year Russia closed their international adoption program, forcing Nightlight to again plan for a future of diverse services.  Mr. Stoddart retired as the Executive Director of Nightlight in 2013 and joined Nightlight’s Board of Directors.  It was during this time the Board decided to build a foster care services program and in 2013 Nightlight’s Colorado office opened its foster care program.  Today Nightlight has foster care programs in Colorado, California, Oklahoma, Kentucky, Georgia and South Carolina with other Nightlight offices following suit in planning and applying with local public child welfare agencies to offer foster care services in their communities.

Today, Mr. Stoddart continues to serve on Nightlight’s Board of Directors.  Over his career he has received many accolades for his continuous work in serving vulnerable children.   He has participated as a guest speaker on broadcasts of “Focus on the Family” and “For Faith and Family” and has served as a spokesman for numerous radio, television, newspapers and magazines for his pioneering work in exploring the ethics of embryo adoption and embryonic stem cell research.  He has developed and presented seminars on “Father – Daughter Relationships” and wrote and published the booklet “Tough Love in Action” as an aid in adoptions.

In acknowledgement of a lifetime of work dedicated to serving families and children around the world, Nightlight salutes the tireless efforts of Mr. Ron Stoddart and his visionary leadership that has led our agency to where we are today.

How to Become an Advocate for Foster Children in School

Children in the foster care system already have a difficult time adjusting to their new setting. This is especially true if they do not feel they are welcomed into their new school environment or find themselves experiencing new levels of trauma in what should be a “safe place”. It is important to understand that not every child who is in foster care has experienced the same type of trauma and that specific trauma experiences can lead to difficult/hard to handle behaviors. This can lead them to be withdrawn in the classroom, defiant towards caregiver, and struggle academically.  

Children in foster care have already suffered from the trauma that led them to be placed into the foster care system and what are schools doing to prevent more trauma from occurring in the schools? Fortunately, many schools are creating an atmosphere that allows foster children to feel safe and understood in their new school settings. Schools are beginning to encourage teachers to take trauma informed training, allowing them to have a better understanding of trauma-based behaviors and how this can affect the overall functioning of a child. It is important for teachers, and mandated reporters in general, to recognize the signs and symptoms of a child currently experiencing trauma or that has experienced a trauma in their past. Trauma can affect children in a variety of ways and it is important for a child to know that supportive adults are there for them. They need to know you will advocate for them in any way possible, allowing them to feel safe and comfortable with you in a world that has been so frightening at times.  

One can become an advocate for a foster child who has experienced trauma in their school by:  

  • helping the child find counseling services to review their feelings towards the incident that occurred in the school  
  • providing the child with choices  
  • making an “out” plan if the child begins to experience unwanted feelings due to the trauma they have experienced or just in general  
  • Being their shoulder to cry on or someone that will listen when they are ready to discuss what happened to them  
  • Communicating with school counselor on the different behaviors a child may be exhibiting  
  • Allowing a child to know that they are safe with you and creating a safe environment for them in / outside of your home or classroom  
  • Communicating with social workers as well if you see a difference in their behavior 
  • Promoting trauma informed individualized programs in their school  
  • Understanding that the child may not have all of the answers for their behaviors or feelings but supporting them anyway  
  • Allowing for mental health days if a child does not feel comfortable going to school / needs time to think  
  • Letting them know that they are supported by you and others around them  
  • Allowing them to ease into a new environment and not pushing them out of their comfort zone  
  • Not sharing their experiences with others unless they give permission 

 

International Adoptees: How Their Birth Culture Impacts their adjustment into their adoptive family

I’ve noticed over the 25 years I’ve worked in International Adoptions, that children who are adopted by families who speak the same language or come from the same culture tend to have an easier transition to their new home and family over the first few months. They share a language and can easily communicate their needs, feelings and concerns. They also share a familiarity with foods, music, and often some family traditions. They do not have to try to figure out even the basics of conversation and adjust to a completely new environment.

 

I had a family arrive home with their toddler and they struggled to figure out why he just looked around, didn’t try to talk or smile. He seemed sad. They recalled him ‘laughing and babbling to staff’ who spoke in a language foreign to the family but familiar to the child. When I visited, a few days after they arrived home, I greeted the child in his native language and immediately got his attention. He reached out to me and laughed as I chatted to him. He did not have a huge vocabulary as a small child, but he clearly responded when I could speak a familiar language to him.

 

To a child coming into a new family and moving to a new culture, it is truly a culture shock! The child is adjusting to a new approach to life by her new parents and family. Life in a foster home or orphanage in another country is going to be very different from a home in the suburbs of Salt Lake City or Orlando. The difference in cultural experience affects each part of our lives. A child brought up on a rural farm in Iowa, will have a different experience than a child brought up in the city of New York.

 

The environments we are raised in and the culture that guides the way we move through our life experiences, affects the foods we eat, our language, the way we express our faith, how we perceive others, and the elements that help us enjoy our lives such as dance, books and music among other things.

 

We hosted an orphanage director from China in our home. Prior to her visit, I went to an Asian specialty market and purchased several pastries and some familiar fruits and vegetables, hoping that would get us through the first few days. However, I quickly learned that although she was appreciative of my efforts, these were not the foods she typically ate. We went to the market together and she picked out black sesame soup for her breakfasts, a bag of rice and several vegetables that I’d never seen before. We shared in the cooking of meals over the time she visited, learning about and enjoying one another’s foods and cultures. I now regularly use spices, and vegetables that I learned how to prepare from our lovely guest.

 

Culture not only affects the foods we eat, but also our experience of life. I remember one of my children getting a bad cold, soon after his adoption. He was very upset that I did not take him to the doctor ‘who would send him to the hospital.’ I made him chicken soup, gave him a big box of tissues and read stories to him. He was convinced the only way he would get better, would be by going to the hospital, where they would ‘cup’ his back. I looked it up; a cotton ball is lit on fire, put in a glass and then blown out as the cup is quickly put on ones back suctioning the cup on the skin. It sounded dangerous to me, but to my son, the toxins in his body were certain to ‘kill him!’ He certainly felt better following my prescribed care, not needing to go to the ‘hospital.’ I expect in the orphanage, when one child became ill, they were quickly removed from the group and isolated in a clinic, where they would not infect other children. This was the experience our son knew and expected when he became ill even in our home, not realizing that mom was able to nurture and care for him through a minor illness.

 

Another newly adopted child, when helping her mother make Christmas cookies, spilled the food coloring on herself. She quickly stripped down out of her clothing and climbed into the kitchen sink, where she washed the coloring off her body. Her mother looked on in amazement, wondering why her small daughter did not just go upstairs to the bathroom, where she could have used a far more comfortable bathtub. But this girl was used to bathing in the kitchen sink  in her foster home and did what was familiar.

 

A child adopted internationally comes from a culture that is typically very different from his adoptive parents. The child perceives life from the life experiences he has had. So for our children who are coming into a new culture, it can feel like they have landed on Mars and are expected to now be a Martian! It is important that as adoptive parents, we are sensitive to the fact that our children are coming to a very different environment and culture than that of their original home or stay in care.

 

Culture can also describe the emotional environment of a family. If a child comes from a neglectful or abusive family, that child will expect any future family to also be abusive, or neglectful. The child will have expectations that the new family will act similarly to past experiences. I always explain to prospective parents that it is important to define their family rules, expectations and culture as part of the home study process. It is a good exercise, as it helps the family identify what is important to them and what they need to teach their child as the child comes into their home. For a child who comes from a scary and hard place, it is critical first to provide an environment of safety. It is important that the newly adopted child feels safe in their new home.

 

I remember the first day we were home with our newly adopted children, I became distracted as I was helping them with something and the eggs boiling on the stove exploded! Fortunately no one was hurt, but there were pieces of egg everywhere! I yelled when I saw what I’d done! Suddenly our typically giggling, very busy girls were silent and ran to the sofa, where they tried to crawl underneath. I looked at them, shrugged my shoulders and told them ‘Mama made a big mistake and now had a big mess to clean up and I was such a silly Mama!’ I then began to laugh and they came out and joined me, patting my hand and then helping me clean up the kitchen. I was teaching them that even Mamas make mistakes. We can laugh about things and work together to fix problems. They were in no danger from me, and this was the beginning of their healing as they saw that life was going to be different from in their original home or orphanage. This was not a lesson learned in one instance or in a day. It was a lesson learned over many experiences over time. They learned that our home was a safe and loving place, where they would be encouraged and yes, where we all make mistakes and work together to fix them.

 

We all come to each new experience with expectations from our past. It is important to recognize with an international adoptee, that as parents, we need to seek to understand the past our children experienced and help them to adjust to their new home, life and family. As we try to incorporate some of the wonderful parts of their country of origin, photographs, music, dance, art, and foods, it will help our children to gradually take on pieces of their new culture that are comfortable and fit for them. I may never experience cupping to rid my body of toxins, but I certainly enjoy borsht and blini, two foods I’d never tasted before adopting my children and now regularly prepare in our home.

Post Adoption Reports – Why?

Post adoption reports are required by families who adopt children from outside the United States. The requirements vary in number and frequency, usually based on the sending country’s laws. It is understandable that after a sometimes long and expensive process of adoption that parents feel both wary and weary of a social worker visiting their home to report on their family unit for years after homecoming. In order to understand this requirement, it’s important to learn about the history of US/intercountry adoption and why it not only protects adoptive parents and their children, but how it can ultimately benefit yours and the legitimacy of future adoptions.

Adoption is among the oldest and most widespread of human social practices. The oldest recordings of adoption practices date back to 18th century BCE. It wasn’t until 1851 when Massachusetts enacted the first modern adoption law, that adoption was recognized as a social and legal matter requiring state supervision. While 1851 seems late in the history of adoption, it was actually early in the history of adoption law. For example, the United Kingdom, did not pass legislation regulating adoption until 1926. In the 150 years since, modern adoption law has spread and been accepted throughout the Western world—so thoroughly we forget how innovative it is and how hard it is for other cultures to grasp. The idea of permanently and legally severing a child’s biological ties to a birth family is all but incomprehensible to some cultures.

It has been widely reported that US international adoption grew out of orphan-rescue missions in the wake of military conflicts, beginning with the airlift of German and Japanese orphans at the end of the World War. Similar rescues followed the Korean War, in 1953, the Bay of Pigs debacle, in 1961, and the Vietnam War, in 1975. These “babylifts” were, in part, political and fueled by a new superpower’s desire to demonstrate its good will to the rest of the world as humanitarian mercy missions.

In addition, in 1955 Henry and Bertha Holt, an evangelical couple from rural Oregon, secured a special act of Congress enabling them to adopt Korean “war orphans.” These children of Korean women and American GIs had been stigmatized or abandoned because of their visible ethnic differences and the presumption of infidelity or illegitimacy. The Holts turned their personal experience into a mission, founding the first organization dedicated to large-scale international adoption, Holt International Children’s Services.

Rates of international adoption began to climb dramatically after 1992, when China opened its orphanages and let Westerners adopt some of the thousands of daughters abandoned because of a radical and historically unique social experiment: the one-child policy. Intercountry adoption by westerners transformed from a charitable endeavor to a private industry. And with that came unethical motives and practices that legislators and legitimate agencies who were finding families for orphaned children were already desperately trying to prevent tried. For example, in the 1980s a number of Latin American countries were hit by child-buying and kidnapping scandals; in some cases, during civil wars, military forces were killing insurgents and selling their children into international adoption. In 1989, the televised sight of Romanian orphans warehoused in abysmal conditions broke many Western hearts provoking thousands to adopt from Romania. Many did take home institutionalized and often developmentally delayed children. Others fell under the sway of entrepreneurial locals who saw money to be made. As has been widely reported, by 1991 Romanian adoption “facilitators” were soliciting children directly from birth families in hospitals, on the street, in poor neighborhoods, even in their homes, sometimes haggling over prices while shocked Westerners stood by. In response, Romania shut its doors to international adoption, reopening for reform, and then closing again when corruption returned to re-open only to Romanian citizens living abroad. Similarly, in 2008, Guatemala closed its doors to adoption to try to root out systemic corruption. Overall, these are tragic results for children who legitimately do need safe forever families.

While the motivation for the adoptive parents may have been sincere in countries like Romania and Guatemala, US legislators continued to scrutinize other countries’ practices in determining a child’s “orphan status” and termination of birth parental rights. And rightfully so. All too often US and European agencies have been “finding” children for their consumers by contracting directly with orphanages, maternity homes, hospitals or foreign lawyers abroad who are unsupervised by their respective governments. At Nightlight, we work hard to vet our foreign partners along with the United States Embassy in those countries to ensure we are placing children who may never have a chance to find a family in their native country.

Post adoption reporting is one of many ways in which the US government has worked with foreign governments to assure legal and ethical adoption practices. Furthermore, the reports are a tool in which US citizens and our government ensure children have not been trafficked, sold or rehomed without anyone’s knowledge. Keep in mind that the cost of post adoption reporting should be merely to cover worker fees, translations and shipping when original reports are required. One of the most important items to report is that the adoptee has obtained US citizenship under the Child Citizenship Act of 2000. The US Department of State website states:

The Department strongly urges all adoptive parents to take these obligations seriously and comply with post-adoption and post-placement requirements in a timely manner. Failure to do so may put at risk the ability of future U.S. families and foreign children to be matched. Your cooperation will contribute to the country of origin’s history of positive experiences with U.S. citizen adoptive parents. 

 Post-adoption reports provide an important opportunity for the adoptive parents and the child to discuss the progress of the adoption. They may also provide assurances to political leaders and adoption officials in the child’s country of origin that intercountry adoption was indeed in the child’s best interest.

 

Nightlight works in countries who are open to placing children with US families as a last resort for placement. This may look different in many countries. For instance, in disaster-torn countries like Haiti, there is little ability for domestic adoption thus creating a humanitarian effort for children of all ages. However, in Colombia, domestic adoption is prevalent and growing for children who have been detained into the child welfare system due to neglect and/or abuse. Only children who have not been placed successfully in-country over time are able to be adopted outside of Colombia.

We encourage our adoptive families to utilize post adoption reporting as a resource for their adopted child and family. Many families experience little to no transitional issues and may feel post adoption reporting to be invasive and unnecessary. However, adoption is a lifelong journey for adoptees. Post adoption social workers can provide insight and connection to the adoptee that is outside of the family unit. We also realize that social worker visits may be triggering to some adoptees and work with families to prepare the child and work toward a positive experience for the family. While home visits are required by most countries, visits can start in parks or restaurants to gain trust and build relationships between workers and adoptees. Ultimately, it’s important that adoptees feel they have a network of people in the adoption realm that can support their journey through their lives.

 

For more information on post adoption resources, visit our Post Adoption Connection Center

Schuster Institute for Investigative Journalism (2010.) Capsule history of international adoption.

Seabrook, John. (2010.) New York Times. The Last Babylift: Adopting a child in Haiti.

The Adoption History Project (2012.) Timeline of adoption history.

US Department of State (n.d.) What to expect after adoption.

US Department of State (n.d.) FAQ: Child Citizenship Act of 2000