Adoption Through the Eyes of a Father

My wife and I felt called to adoption for quite some time, but the process always seemed daunting, and fraught with uncertainty. After completing long years of medical school and residency, along with having two children during the process, our family finally had more time together, and life started to feel pretty “comfortable.” However, we did not feel complete, and we knew we wanted to add another child; we just did not know how. Adoption weighed heavy on our hearts, but we were still plagued by doubts and insecurities. We feared the unknown and we held tight to our newly found, and long-awaited, sense of “comfort.”

 

Ultimately, we decided to fast for clarity and wisdom; and God answered in remarkable ways, as we know only He can. Our story leading to adoption is long and detailed, and one we love sharing, but it was during this time He made it undeniably clear our family was called to adoption. God had reminded us that we are not called to a life of “comfort,” rather we have been called to a life of purpose, regardless of the challenges that lie ahead. We have been called to exercise our faith through action, even during times of doubt and uncertainty.

 

Following our fast, we began our home study process, and started making our family profile book. Within a couple months we became a “waiting family,” and several months later we received the call we had been selected. Later that day we held our girl, Hayden Grace, for the first time, and our family was forever changed. Our “gotcha day,” also just so happened to be my birthday; so, every year we have plenty to celebrate.

 

I imagine every adoptive parent has their faith tested and refined throughout their adoption journey, and ours is no different. Over Hayden’s first year, she battled multiple health issues, each one testing our faith in new ways, and each one resurrecting more insecurity and doubt. Yet, through every storm, God calmed our unrest, and reminded us of His greater purpose and of His steadfast presence. Looking back, we cannot believe our fears almost led to missing out on our sweet Hayden. Well-intentioned friends and family often say, “she is so lucky to have you,” and my wife and I feel that statement could not be further from the truth. We are the ones who needed her, and we are infinitely grateful she is family.

 

Hayden just turned one, and she’s far too young for the difficult conversations of identity, grief or any other challenging topic that comes with adoption. Her older siblings have already started asking some pretty hard questions, hopefully helping to start prepare us for what is to come. We know there will likely be difficult conversations ahead, but as we have experienced time and time again, He will be there every step of the way.

 

written by an adoptive father  |  submitted by Lara Kelso

Helpful Responses to Questions all Foster Moms Hear

 

Being a foster parent comes with a lot of questions. So many that I have seriously entertained the idea of designing a t-shirt with responses to the top few and wearing it in public at all times. Some of these questions can come off as offensive and it’s true that people can be pretty nosey and invasive. But I have learned that while some folks could use a bit of work on being a tad less tacky in their delivery, the truth is that most people are just genuinely curious and don’t really mean to be insulting. They’ve probably thought about becoming a foster parent themselves and they are expressing some of their own personal reservations.  So, I think this is the perfect time to flip the script and instead of acting annoyed or giving a short answer, we can view these moments as an opportunity to educate our family, friends, or the stranger behind us in the grocery store line.  

The most common comment we hear about foster care is not a question at all. Our family has been fostering for 9 years now and hands down, the most common comment we hear about foster care is not a question at all and it goes something like this, “I could never foster. There’s no way I could give them back.” Ouch! This was tough to hear the first several times. I felt like people must think foster parents are cold-hearted humans and our homes have revolving doors through which children come and go and no one is any worse for the wear. The reality is that it is painful. It’s a loss. There are lots of tears and prayers. There is fear and grief – all the stages.  The heartache is deep and long-lasting. But I am here to testify that my family has a 100% survival rate! The truth is we can give them back. We will never be the same, but we will be okay. We will be okay because we serve a God who not only walks beside us in our suffering, He is a Father that understands our loss completely. We will be okay because we have been blessed to be a part of God’s plan for a child’s life. We will be better than okay because what we are doing is changing the course of a child’s life and making an eternal difference. Will it be hard? Yes. A child is always worth doing the hard things. So, when I am faced with a comment like, “It would be too hard to give them back”, I respond by saying, “Then you are exactly what these kids need.” They need parents who will love them so completely that they grieve deeply when they leave our homes.  Instead of asking what it will mean for us if we do foster, we should be asking what it will mean for the 450,000 kids in the US foster care system if we don’t.  

The line of questioning may continue. When venturing out with your crew, you might hear something like, “Are they all yours?” or even, “Which ones are your real kids?”.  Questions like these are more common than you think and a confident answer will help your kids feel secure about their place in your family. When it comes to strangers, I like to keep it short and sweet. A simple smile and a “They’re all mine” is recommended. Otherwise, the line of questioning may continue, causing things to become really awkward for everyone, especially your kids. If someone seems genuinely interested, you could hand them a Nightlight business card and say something like “Here’s some contact information if you want to learn more about growing your family through foster care and adoption. It is so important to be prepared with a quick response for questions like these so you’re not stumbling over your words.  

Those closest to us often ask the most difficult questions. I can’t tell you how many times we’ve heard, “Is their mom on drugs?” While this is absolutely none of their business, it is an excellent opportunity to educate. In this case, you can still respond without divulging and personal or confidential information. Let them know that the reasons why kids come into care vary, but the bottom line is that it’s currently not safe for the child to live with their biological parents.  

“Are you going to adopt him/her?” Unless you have indeed moved into the adoption phase of the process, then you probably don’t know the answer to this.  You could simply say, “We will see what God has planned for our family.” the line of questioning may continue you could elaborate a little more and explain how the process works and even go into detail about where your family is in the process.  

“Why don’t you just stop fostering?” Yikes! This is a tough one that we have heard from a couple of well-meaning loved ones. This question might come if you’ve been venting about your struggles or maybe those close to you have witnessed you grappling with difficult circumstances first-hand. If you’re anything like me, you might be tempted to respond in a defensive way. But, understanding that questions like this usually come from a place of love and concern will help you to respond with grace. Parenting is tough, foster or not. It’s not an option to just quit being a parent. Parenting kids from hard places adds another challenging layer and things can get really messy sometimes. When this happens, we can use the opportunity to remind ourselves and our loved ones why we do what we do – These kids are always worth it! I suggest thinking through all the ways you’ve been blessed by foster care and maybe even writing them down. If you are concerned loved ones aren’t believers, this is an amazing opportunity to share your faith and the example of love that God has set for us.  If they are believers, then they know that following Christ is not about things being easy. Your reliance on Him could serve to strengthen the faith of others. 

These are just a few of the most common questions that foster parents hear. But there will be plenty more. Although these inquisitive people can sometimes test our patience, remember that God has placed them in our paths for a reason. So, before you speak, ask God to direct your words and allow Him to use you. Let your light shine for His glory!   

by Leesa Del Rio

A Snowflake Named Hannah

“A Snowflake Named Hannah” an honest review by a former frozen embryo:

“As a busy college student caught up in finishing the semester, I finally had the chance to finish my father’s memoir on my adoption story. That being said, I wanted to share my initial thoughts with you. My first is gratitude. Its difficult to look back on life’s events and in hindsight, not give God a five star review for how He worked out these events for our good and the good of Snowflake families everywhere. God was the ultimate author of my story, my dad just had the sense to write it down. I do not have enough time to properly thank each and every person that played a huge role in who I am becoming and who contributed to the Snowflakes program being born. Reading the criticisms from our elected politicians and celebrities on whether or not my life and millions more were expendable for the sake of embryonic stem cell research breaks my heart. These embryos are not merely dots on a page, but human lives. Embryonic stem cell research is still being funded, but at what expense? My life? Someone else’s? Snowflake parents, hug your Snowflakes tight for me tonight, and I thank you deeply for accepting the call to be a parent, and change the course of your child(s) life. This book continues to inspire my passion for a career in social work, and protecting the lives of frozen embryos awaiting a chance at life and continuing the work of the “pioneers” of this program. This is the first book I have read by John Strege, but it certainly will not be my last.”

Ways to Partner with Your Foster Child’s Biological Family

 

While children are in foster care, their biological families are provided with resources and plans to help increase their parental capacity, hopefully making them safer parents for children to return home to. For many prospective and current foster parents, interacting with biological families can be one of the more challenging aspects of their foster parent journey. Foster parents may be unsure of how to interact with biological family members or worry if it is even safe in some situations. They may even wonder if it matters, the social workers are handling the biological parents case plan so why should the foster parent get involved?

While foster parents are not asked to be the social workers for biological family members, they can be some of the greatest resources for a biological family. As foster parents open themselves up to become mentors and support systems for biological families, they will see parents grow and change in ways that cannot always be achieved through court mandated parenting classes or workbooks.

Not all relationships will look the same and they may not always end in a lifelong connection, but in many situations that foster parent-biological parent relationship can help to bring permanency and connectedness for the children in the case. It is not always easy, partnering and building a relationship with a foster child’s biological family, but it can be one of the most important things a foster parent does. Children in foster care who are able to see their biological family and foster family work together, even if reunification cannot happen, build a stronger sense of self and can avoid feelings of divided loyalty between the two families (1).

There are numerous ways to partner with biological families and the best methods can vary across cases and situations. We have included a list gathered from current foster parents of ways they have partnered successfully with biological families. Start small at first and work to build a relationship over time. Foster parents should take the first step and initiate the relationship whenever possible. If the biological parent is not ready to reciprocate, leave the door open for the relationship to grow in the future. Relationships and trust take time to build, but when they can be built great things can happen!

Ways to partner:

Visit Journal: Use a small notebook or folder that can easily be sent back and forth with a child during their scheduled visitation with their biological parents. You can include updates from the child’s week, questions you have for their parents about their care, or a suggestion for something the parent could help with during the visit like practicing sight words or multiplication tables.

Letters and Emails: Some biological families may find themselves unable to visit with their child for any number of reasons, especially extended family members. Letter or email writing can be an easy way to foster a relationship between the child and their family when possible. Ask your social worker if you can mail physical letters to and from their office if privacy is a concern. You can also create a separate email account solely for communicating with biological family. This will protect privacy and will keep all communications in one place for easy reference.

Texts/Messaging Apps: Texts and messaging apps are one of the easiest ways to connect with biological family members. You can easily send pictures, updates, or ask questions as needed. Some foster parents may not be comfortable giving out their cell phone number to biological family right away, but there are numerous other ways to text and communicate virtually. Google Voice is a great option for families who want to text with biological family members but want to protect their personal phone number.

Phone and video calls: Depending on the age of the child and situation, these calls could be brief to chat about the child’s day or week, they could involve the biological parent reading a bedtime story to the child, or could be a video call where they play a virtual game together or do some other activity.

Including biological parents in decisions about the child: This could include decisions about field trips, what the child should wear for their school picture day, what sport or activity to enroll the child in, or other every day decisions. While it may be extra work for you as the foster parent to reach out and ask for the biological parent’s opinion on these decisions, it can go a long way in keeping a parent connected to the care of their child and in helping model appropriate decision making.

Inviting them to appointments in-person as appropriate: Whenever possible, invite the biological parents to participate in the child’s appointments and meetings. For example, you could invite the biological mom to an upcoming well check for the child and also offer some suggestions of questions you usually ask the doctor so she knows what to ask during the appointment. These appointments can be a great opportunity to model parenting skills in real time to the biological parents.

Additional visits for holidays, birthdays, or other special occasions: If allowed, offer to facilitate special holiday or birthday visits with child and their family. Let the biological family plan a birthday party if appropriate and have their own special time to celebrate the child. Ask the biological family if they have any other special occasions they like to celebrate, maybe they have a family reunion every year or a day they gather to remember a relative who has passed, and see how the child can still be involved in those unique family events in some way.

Making duplicates to share with biological family: Whenever a child makes a craft, card, present, etc. at school or in another setting ask if they can create two versions. If they are making a Mother’s Day card at their preschool, discreetly ask the teacher if they could make two copies so they can be sure to have one to give to their biological mom and one you can keep as well for any memory book or keepsake collection you have for the child.

 

written by Lexie Fowler

Pray For Adoption With Child Like Faith

 

Whether you are waiting for an adoption placement, walking next to a birth mom, or know an adoptee, here are some ways to pray for the adoption community, with child like faith.

Pray for their Grief. There is grief that exists uniquely for all parts of the adoption triad (birth mom-adoptee-adoptive family). There is loss and joy existing all at the same time. Pray that these emotions would be experienced without shame.

Pray for Openness. Pray that there would be openness that is right for all those involved. Every adoption situation is different, and openness looks different for everyone.

Pray for Peace and Comfort. For peace and comfort through the life lived and forever changed by adoption as a birth mom, adoptee and adoptive parent.

Pray for Perseverance. Adoption is a journey and is one that can change day to day for everyone involved. Emotions often run high and stamina can run low. Support systems can change and the road ahead looks uncertain. Pray for perseverance to press through the circumstances.

 

“This is the confidence we have in approaching God:

that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us.”

I John 5:14

 

written by Amanda Harmon

Celebrating Mother’s Day With Your Foster Momma Friends

 

Last year was my second Mother’s Day. A celebration that was hard fought for after several years of infertility, grieving, and then choosing a brand-new journey of foster care and adoption. My very first Mother’s Day went quietly. It was a couple months after our first official placement with twins, and I did not want to make a big deal out of it but was still a big deal to me. At the time I was at home focusing on bonding, worrying if I would be “mom-enough” for these kids in my care, and wondering if they might be reunited with their biological mom. It would be good for them all to have that, to find healing and be together again, though painful for me. It was memorable, but free of people’s expectations about how I should feel about the day.

My second Mother’s Day, however, will always stick with me because we were remarkably close to our finalization date! A staggering amount of people wanted to celebrate my FIRST Mother’s Day with me, because of the adoption. “CONGRATS on your very first Mother’s Day!” they would say. Over and over this happened. They did not ask, did not think, did not know that their assumptions and lack of understanding about foster care would feel immediately painful. I spent many moments correcting and saying “second” Mother’s Day. It brought up an entire concoction of emotions that looked a lot like anger. I did not misunderstand their intentions, they wanted to celebrate the adoption with me. They wanted to share in my joy. They did not know the date of our placement like people know birth dates. It was an easy mistake.

Every time “first” was uttered, I just could not help but think of my foster momma friends who did not get to celebrate an adoption that month. The ones that were battling for the emotional healing of their little fosters. Losing sleep to help their kids cope, cleaning up messes (both emotional and physical) that are bigger than some parents with bio kids will ever understand.

Would those people trying to make a big deal about my “First” Mother’s Day celebrate those moms too?

Would they understand the emotional cost of fostering? Would foster moms be “mom enough” for them to give a happy Mother’s Day to regardless of whether they got to keep their littles? Were those well-meaning people willing to wade into the muddy waters of foster care and recognize the utter PAIN that can come from this holiday? To recognize that somewhere out there is a biological mother who is feeling wrecked about the kids she cannot see? Would they notice that fear that sometimes sneaks in when foster mom’s worry that they are not equipped enough to help these kids through their storm?

I’m not sure. After all that is a lot to unload on a well-wisher.

It is something worth saying though, isn’t it? That mom life doesn’t start when a judge declares it to be so. While it sounds like such a happy ending to focus on the day that things are final, adoption is not the goal of foster care. Being a mom these kids need is, even if they don’t want one.

Foster mommas might wake up to an angry child who is struggling with their first (or fifth) Mother’s Day away from their birth mom. Their kid may have had 6 different mom’s they have lived with in their lifetime. Their kids might love on them, or completely ignore them. They might need someone, anyone, to send them a text and say, “Happy Mother’s Day, you are doing a great job no matter what this day looks like for you!”. It may be a good day for them, a quiet one, or a painful one where they try their best to comfort a child who has melted down into an angry puddle.

What they do need, unquestionably, is to be SEEN as moms. It is who they are, regardless of the legalities. Don’t forget them this Mother’s Day.

 

by Deb Uber

How COVID-19 Will Impact the Foster System

 

COVID 19 has quickly swept through the nation as an unparalleled crisis. There is hope that the preventative social distancing steps will continue to protect at-risk health communities. However, this comes at a cost for children who rely on protective adults to keep them safe.

Lengthy school shutdowns have been detrimental for many at-risk children. They rely on school as a haven, a place that provides meals and emotional resources. Having teachers, coaches and school counselors involved in a child’s life help provide touchpoints to identify abuse or neglect that may be going on in the home. School can also often be the safest place for children to be seen and distance themselves from abusive caregivers. With nationwide stay-at-home orders in effect, there are far fewer mandatory reporters who have access to children that may need assistance. This was proven by over the news that there has been over 50% drop in calls made to Child Protective Services (CPS) in Colorado since the beginning of school closures.

Most children coming into the foster system are coming from situations where their parents are struggling with extensive mental health histories, substance abuse or other crisis that are preventing them from having the necessary resources available to provide for their family. COVID-19 will bring an increased need for family support, as many are losing jobs and resources that normally help keep them afloat. When mental health issues and addiction are mixed with a crisis of this kind, it is reasonable to expect a larger than normal increase in the number of phone calls made to The Colorado hotline over the next year as children return to school.

Colorado was already facing a foster care crisis, with not enough foster parents available to provide safe homes and beds for children in need. Now more than ever we need families and individuals to consider foster care or support for those who are fostering. Here are four simple ways anyone can help children in need due to the COVID-19 crisis.

 

  • Adopt a foster family- Consider “adopting” a local foster family, Nightlight has over 50 families caring for children who would love the extra support! This can be as simple as mailing encouraging cards and making a meal once a month, to more involved options like helping with laundry or assisting with transportation for kids.

 

  • Support Homes for Home a local emergency foster care program- A local program designed to provide stability and a safe landing place for emergency foster placements could use your support. The biggest need is respite care, or childcare within the family’s home, as it provides them a much-deserved and needed break. Learn more about Homes for Hope and other ways to support the program here.

 

  • Consider becoming a certified foster home- Learn more about providing a safe space in your own home for children in the foster system. Children are needing families open to temporary, short and long-term foster homes, as well as families open to adopting children who cannot reunify with their families. Email [email protected] to learn more about your options or check out our website at https://nightlight.org/colorado-foster-care/

 

  • Donate your stimulus check towards helping foster children in need- COVID-19 has impacted families in different ways. If you have been fortunate enough to not need the stimulus check to meet your needs, consider donating it to support your local community’s children. Your donation will help provide resources to local foster families as they take on the increased needs of the foster system.

Donate

Hope For A Birth Parent

With the Easter holiday passing by this month, we are reminded of a greater love. The love that would sacrifice everything to assure us eternity with our Lord. With this love, hope is given and restored that we will receive something beyond what we can hope for in this lifetime.

 

As I searched the definition of hope, I came across two meanings. The first definition was a feeling of expectation and desire for a certain thing to happen, and the second one was a feeling of trust. I glanced at the first one for a minute and thought, of course birth parents have a certain desire for their children when they choose to make an adoption plan. They desire for their child to have more, do more, and be more than what they can provide at this moment in time. They have the hope that their child will understand the sacrifice they made by alternatively parenting with an adoptive couple. They are desiring for greater outcome for what they can even imagine at this moment in time.

 

But…

 

What really hit me after this thought process of desire, was that feeling of trust. From every aspect of a birth parents life they are having to trust their pregnancy counselor, their adoption agency, their hospitals, their family, their friends, and most of all themselves. They are hoping they are making the right decision. They are trusting that they are making the right decision. Trusting in a decision to place a delicate beautiful creation they carried for nine months into the care of two people they have known possibly their whole third trimester, or even just from looking at a family’s profile book 24 hours after giving birth. A sacrifice of hope, for more.

 

Esther 4:14 says, “Perhaps you were born for such a time as this.” A time of hope, a time of sacrifice, a time of healing.

 

written by Kandace Reed

Infertility Awareness Week

Infertility is a disease of the reproductive system. It’s often diagnosed after a couple has tried unsuccessfully to get pregnant for one year. The cause of a couple’s infertility has a wide range: 30% of the time it is a female factor, 30% male factor, and 30% of the time the issue is unknown. And many times, there are no signs or symptoms.

Anyone can suffer from infertility. It does not discriminate against race, religion, or economic status. National Infertility Awareness Week® unites millions of Americans who want to remove the stigmas and barriers which stand in the way of building and completing families.

There online resources and support groups out there to connect with individuals who are facing the same obstacles that you are.

If you are looking into adoption as a means to build your family, Nightlight Christian Adoptions offers domestic, international, foster-adoption, and the Snowflakes Embryo Adoption Program. You might also find these additional resources helpful, as well.

Infertility can feel absolutely isolating. But you are not alone.

Preparing Your Biological Children for Adoption

Bringing and adopted child into your home will be a huge transition for your children. There are some practical ways that you can make this easier for your children and at least help them to better understand adoption and the changes it may bring to your family.

Explain the process

You want to be honest and realistic with your children. Explain what this process will look like and be honest about what the timeline might be. You also should work on preparing your children for some of the issues that your adopted child may have after coming home. You can use your education to talk with your children about issues that come from trauma that your child may struggle with. It is important not to paint a rosy picture about what things will look like because there may be some really difficult times.

It is also important to use positive adoption language when talking with your kids. You shouldn’t use phrases like “giving up their baby for adoption.” Instead you should tell them that the expectant parent is considering “making an adoption plan for her baby.” You can check out one of our older blogs to see more examples of positive adoption language: https://nightlight.org/2017/12/positive-adoption-language/

Read books together

            There are several books that are specifically written to help children better understand adoption. You can find many recommendations from Creating a Family HERE.

Involve your child

            It is important that your child feels involved in this process and preparation. Perhaps they could help pick out some toys or decorations for the child’s room. Maybe they can help get the room together. It may help them to feel more excited if they get to play a small part in this. Depending on the age of your child, it is also important to talk with them about the adoption and get their input and opinions. This isn’t to say that if you child isn’t on board that you need to stop the whole process, but you can at least address some of their concerns and work through these issues to help them feel more comfortable about the situation.

Spend one on one time with your kids

Obviously bringing a new child into your home is going to change things greatly. It is important that during the preparation period you aren’t completely focused on the adoption all the time. There should be a degree of normalcy in your child’s life still and you should cherish that time with them before everyone’s world changes. Once you bring your adopted child home, it will be important to continue some of your same routines and to make sure that you are having some quality one on one time with each of your children so that everyone is taken care of emotionally and physically.

 

written by Rebecca Tolson