It’s 2020: Why Are We Still Afraid of Adoption Telling?

 

This blog was originally published on LavenderLuz.com.

How do I tell my child he’s adopted? And when?

Rant: I’m frustrated that these questions still come up (and surprised because my readers are adoption-savvy, so I start thinking everyone is). Who is preparing adoptive parents for adoption telling? And who should be preparing them? What can we do for the current and next generation of adoptees to help them own their story from their very beginning?

The move toward openness in adoption started in the 1980s, which means for more than 40 years we have been morphing from shame, secrecy, and walls of closed adoption => to => truth, disclosure, and doors of open adoption.

But time alone doesn’t mean all adoptive parents and hopeful adoptive parents have gotten the message of dealing in truth and openness. The adoption professionals who are launching these moms and dads into the world of adoptive parenting are not, as a group, doing a good enough job preparing their paying clients to parent with openness and disclosure (there are definitely some exceptions).

adoption telling from a wall to a door

Prospective parents, though, may bear the ultimate responsibility for learning about current best practices in adoptive parenting. But how can they know what they don’t know? A blind spot is, by definition, a thing you can’t see is there.

Recurring Evidence That Parents Don’t Know When & How to Disclose

A few times a month, someone will ask in a social media adoption group WHEN is the best time to tell their child they were adopted. And WHEN to disclose information about that child’s birth family. We’re not talking about an advanced course in “open adoption” — facilitating actual contact — but merely the basic disclosure that the child’s origin story has an extra element in it: adoption. That the child has first parents.

And that we can talk about it all.

Why Can’t Parents Talk About Adoption?

Time and time again, I hear this from well-meaning parents: We’re waiting until our child is ready to hear.

What I hear behind the words, though, is this: We’re waiting until we’re ready to tell.

But becoming ready doesn’t necessarily happen automatically, which creates a big problem for the whole family, not least of all the adoptive parents.

Sorites: A Paradox

Relevant here is the concept of sorites, a term I learned a few years ago from a New York Times‘ Ethicist column headlined “Should a Sibling Be Told She’s Adopted?”

‘Sorites’ (saw- RAHY-teez)’ — from the Greek for ‘‘heap’’ — is the name of a philosophical paradox. A grain of sand isn’t a heap, and adding one more grain can’t make it a heap, and as you add grains of sand, you reason that another grain can’t turn your pile into a heap. Yet at some point, a heap is what you have. In the temporal realm, there’s an analogous problem. Very often, it won’t do any harm to wait one more day to do something. So you put the deed off until, at some point, you’ve waited too long.

Sorites sins can creep up on well-intentioned people. Maybe your wife meant to tell you, when you first started dating, that she once had a fling with your brother, but the time never seemed right. There was no particular moment when she crossed the line from permissible deferral to culpable silence. A decade later, though, a spiny eel wriggles in her stomach whenever she thinks about it. She prays you never find out.

Sorites sins can rock relationships.

— Kwame Anthony Appiah, NYT Ethicist columnist in 2016

The Effect of Not Telling

Never mind the causes of why some parents can’t (or won’t) talk about adoption. They are numerous, individualized, and because they are in the past, they can’t be changed.

But the effects can be known and mitigated. And this leads to a deeper point than merely figuring out when and how to tell:

Whatever is keeping adoptive parents from telling is probably hindering their ability to parent effectively in other ways.

Because when parents are not disclosing something so big and integral to a child, they are not able to build a fully trusting relationship with him/her. Lies of commission and omission are likely to be devastating to the person they care about, once they realize that parents knew and did not/could not tell.

Not being able/willing to tell can also mean parents are having a difficult time dealing in What Is, in accepting the whole story of how the child came into the family, of the existence and validity of another set of parents — all in an effort to keep their own fears and insecurities at bay. If there is denial going on in one place, there may be denial going on in others (see the 1956 study listed in Resources, below). This compromises the ability to be truthful, which hinders the ability to build trust.

Adoption Telling is in the Best Interest of Parents!

When children sense they cannot trust their parents, they are more susceptible to looking for connections elsewhere. This can manifest in so many nightmarish ways, and as you can imagine can lead to lots of problems for the child and parents.

As I’ve said before, as the tween/teen years approach, parents are going to want to have a clear and trusting channel of communication between them and their adolescent. There really is no other true power in parenting during this stage. Grounding and withholding things can only go so far. Trust and connection are vital for making it through the turbulent tween/teen years in a trusting and connected way (adoptive parents: if you’re not already in this Facebook group, consider joining).

As one wise and experienced parent said in an online group, disclosing early and fully is “so much EASIER. No big reveal, no nervousness, no confusion, no sense of betrayal, no lies. Just the truth.”

What do you think? How should adopting parents find out best practices, and who should be tasked to make sure they do? With a focus on a solution (and not just on placing blame), please offer your ideas for progress for better adoption telling in the comments.

Relevant Resources

Thanks to TAO for those last two.

Lori Holden, mom of a teen son and a teen daughter, blogs from Denver. Her book, The Open-Hearted Way to Open Adoption: Helping Your Child Grow Up Whole, is available through your favorite online bookseller and makes a thoughtful anytime gift for the adoptive families in your life. Lori was honored as an Angel in Adoption® in 2018 by the Congressional Coalition of Adoption Institute.

Anonymous Embryo Donation Doesn’t Work

 

In the Snowflakes Embryo Adoption Program, there are no anonymous or closed placements available. Why? Simply put, it is just not possible anymore. Thanks to the at home DNA testing kits, and the internet, individuals can easily find out if they are donor-conceived and even who their donor is.

The Donor Sibling Registry is an online resource for donor-conceived people trying to locate half or full siblings and for donors trying to locate potential offspring. The results of some searches are disturbing, such as the sperm donor who fathered over 130 children! Medical science created the need for registries such as the DSR when assisted reproductive technologies became normative.

In 2018 the DSR presented a study of 485 adult donor-conceived people and their desires to find their egg, sperm, or embryo donor. The study sought to understand the search methods used and if they were successful, what became of the potential relationship between child and donor.

Many people who are interested in donating their embryos to another family have not yet told their children how they were conceived. This adds to the difficulty of making the decision to donate their embryos and often hinders their ability to choose open communications with the adopting family. What will happen if their children discover the secret of their conception? Decisions are made based upon fear rather than what is in the best interests of the children who are born from the set of embryos.

The good news is that 85% of the survey participants were told about their conceptions by their parents. The remaining 15% searched for their information themselves or were told by someone else.

The participants used one or more methods for trying to locate/find their donor:

  • 6% used a record search
  • 1% used DNA testing
  • 2% contacted the fertility clinic/doctor/sperm bank
  • 6% used the Donor Sibling Registry
  • 6% hired a genealogist
  • 9% used other means of searching

When working with the Snowflakes program you are asked to accept using the best practices of adoption. Most of those best practices are in place to do what is in the best interests of the children – children born to the donor, children born to the adopter.

Several of those best practices include:

  • Encouraging open communications between the placing and the adopting families. The two families, not Snowflakes, mutually agree upon the level and frequency of the communication.
  • Respecting privacy and not supporting secrecy.
  • Completing a family evaluation.
  • Permanent records storage by the agency.

There are many ways for your children to discover the truth about their conception. Why not have the source of that truth be you, the people who love them the most?

Learn more about embryo donation through the Snowflakes program, visit Snowflakes.org.

 

written by Kimberly Tyson

Keeping Your Marriage a Priority During Your Adoption Journey

 

The adoption journey is hard—especially on a marriage. From what seems like endless stacks of paperwork, waiting for a match, the anxious feeling you may have about any unforeseen hurdles… it can be hard not to feel a strain on your relationship. And this is all happening at a time when you need each other’s support the most.
Being forward with each other and taking precise steps lets you both take positive and preventable action to preserve your marriage. If you are blessed with a child, you will need and want a strong marriage to bring that child into. We made a list of small practices to put into action, so you can keep your marriage strong through the adoption process.

1. Decide to invest in the marriage – Don’t assume a healthy marriage will automatically happen. Proactively decide that preserving your marriage is as important as (or more important) than adopting a child. Remember what brought you together, invest time, money, and energy into making it strong for when you are a parent. This priority still remains after you bring a child into your home.
2. Make a plan together – It is important that both you and your spouse are in agreement of the plan of action you will take. This includes what program to pursue, how much money is practical to spend, how long you’re both willing to wait. You must be prepared to be flexible with one another.
3. Communicate constantly –It is important to set aside time to talk to one another throughout the adoption journey. It is also equally important to listen as much as you talk. Be aware of how the other is doing.
4. Don’t use infertility, stress, or hormones as an excuse for bad behavior – This is not a free pass. Recognize the impact of stressful behavior on one another. Don’t push your spouse away because you are having a difficult time in this stage of the process. Be there to support each other; they are not the enemy.
5. Ask for help – Don’t be afraid to ask one another for help. And don’t be afraid to ask for outside help either! Counseling is extremely beneficial for couples facing an infertility diagnosis.
6. Keep your minds off the process – Schedule something to do every week, or at least once a month, that has nothing to do with adoption or children. Keeping yourselves busy once-in-awhile with other things will help you both to remember your relationship is not defined by adoption.

Happy Valentine’s Day from Nightlight Christian Adoptions!

 

written by Paige Zapf

Developing a Heart for Birth Parents

 

Domestic Adoption is a scary journey with lots of questions. “What if the birth mother changes her mind?” This seems to be the biggest fear of most adoptive parents. And the truth is that some birth mothers do change their minds about placing their baby for adoption.

Then we have the birth mother’s questions “What if the adoptive parents choose not to adopt the baby after it is born?” Really??? Birth mothers ask these types of questions? Yes, they do.

Domestic Adoption is a scary journey with lots of questions whether you are the adoptive parents or the birth parent. Many birth parents begin an adoption journey by making perhaps the scariest phone call of their lives. I’ve had birth parents state that they have picked up the phone and even dialed the number multiple times before having the courage to speak to a pregnancy counselor.

It has been my experience that adoptive parents come into adoption with their own fears and rightfully so. But many adoptive parents are surprised that the birth parents have fears as well. Fears that they will never see their child again. Fears that their child will hate them for choosing adoption. Fears of what their family or friends will think of them if they find out the birth mother chose an adoption plan for their child. Fears that the adoptive parents will change their minds. Fears that their child will not be loved for the person they are.

As I have walked the journey with many women who were choosing adoption for their unborn child, I have listened to these fears and offered assurance. I have assisted a mother and a father to process these fears as they meet prospective adoptive parents. I have been in the hospital room after the birth of a baby when the mother must again make the most difficult decision in following through with the adoption plan. I have hugged fathers as they thanked me for assisting them and their girlfriend in finding a family who they can trust for their child. I have shed tears with birth parents as they have left the hospital. I have held their hands in attorney offices as they sign documents to terminate their parental rights with tears in their eyes.

I have also walked the journey with many adoptive parents as they look through the nursery window at their baby and state “Lisa, I can’t be fully happy right now because I know what is going on in her room.” Meaning she knew that the birth mother was grieving. I’ve sat with adoptive parents as they grieved for the birth mother as she was leaving the hospital. I’ve counseled with adoptive parents as they are crazy in love with the baby while grieving for their new friend, the birth mother.

How can you develop a heart for a birth parent? See the birth parent as the loving father or mother that he or she is. Meet them and get to know them. Spend some time with them. While it is true that many birth parents have some struggles in their lives and may not live the same lifestyle that you live, it is also true that birth parents love their babies very much and choosing to place their child for adoption is the most difficult decision they will ever make.

 

written by Lisa Whitaker

6 Helpful Tips for Bonding With Your Adopted Child

 

Bonding is a critical part of building your relationship with your adopted child and is a precursor for how they will develop in the future, whether it be their physical growth, intellect, or how they form relationships with others. This is why it is important to have a strong foundation in the household when it comes to bonding and attachment. It’s common for adoptive parents to worry whether or not they will be able to form that bond with their adoptive child.

Whether you first hold your child in the delivery room, three months later, or three years later, the same tips of bonding and attachment apply. They include:

  1. Open the lines of communication: Talk to your child often. Be present and interact with him or her. Children need lots of reassurance and you both will learn about each other this way. Keep the lines of communication wide open. Toddlers and young children are full of a million questions. These questions provide a great way to connect and set the stage for meaningful conversations for years to come. And remember that it’s common for a toddler or older child to be shy when being transitioned into a new family. Don’t force a relationship. Be patient as you learn about one another.
  2. Understand that rejection is not about you: Early interactions make a lifelong impact on a child. It is important for children in hospital/foster/orphanage/institutional settings to be cared for by a familiar figure and to make a connection early on. Studies have shown that children who have benefited from a strong early bond in a safe setting will transition more easily, while children who have been exposed to poor conditions and lack a strong connection to a caregiver often exhibit trust issues later on. Most toddlers who have experienced rejection respond by becoming rejecting. For adoptive parent who feel a sense of rejection or distance, it can be a confusing and hurtful process. It’s easy for adoptive parents to blame themselves. While it may feel overwhelming on your end, try to imagine how your child may be feeling, but unable to put into words.
  3. Touch & Eye Contact: Find opportunities to have physical contact with your child. This can be holding your child in your lap, patting their leg, brushing their hair, lotion after bath time, etc. When talking to your child, make eye contact to let your child know you are fully present. But please do not force your child to make eye contact. When possible, get on their level, put your hand on their shoulder, and speak in a gentle voice. Feed your child during meal time if they will allow you to do so (even older kids benefit from being fed). Touch and eye contact will help your child feel safe and wanted.
  4. Create a routine: Children coming from foster care/institutions crave structure and routines. It helps give them a sense of control and allows them to develop trust. Having set bedtime rituals for a younger child, or a weekly family movie night for an older child are great ways to establish a connection with your child.
  5. Establish Permanency: Your child may have a fear that if they misbehave, you will no longer love them. Reiterate to your child that you still love them, even when you are in a bad mood or if they have misbehaved in some way. Send positive messages to your child to let them know that you will love them no matter what, allowing them to heal and attach.
  6. Do activities together: Teach the child how to do something you love: cooking, gardening, fishing, a favorite sport. They may end up enjoying the activity, creating a shared interest! In turn, engage in an activity that the child enjoys. This will show them that you are interested in what they like, and want to be part of their life. You may even want to consider creating a new tradition together that involves the whole family that everyone can enjoy together.

written by Hannah Tatman & Stephanie Muth

 

 

Easing the Home Study Jitters: What the Home Study Really Involves

 

My husband and I were asked to share about our experience with the home study process. It’s definitely a big part of adoption and can cause anxiety looking at it from afar. We were happy to provide our first-hand experience and hope it encourages you, wherever you are in your adoption journey.

Jay and I had gone to some foster-to-adopt classes before moving forward with domestic adoption, so we had heard about the dreaded home study and how intense it is. Going into our home study with Nightlight we expected it to be similar to what we had heard from the state. We thought our house and our lives would be picked apart and dissected for flaws. Thankfully we were completely wrong.

We had Katherine as our home study coordinator, she is so kind and made the process as comfortable as it could be. I don’t want to sugar coat it, there is quite a bit involved in a home study with paperwork and taking classes but as far as the part where you are interviewed and your house is “studied” it was nothing like we expected. We actually looked forward to having Katherine over and “chatting” because that’s what it felt like, a conversation. It was fun to talk about the future, how we would parent, our goals and aspirations for ourselves and our family. We never felt judged by any of the questions asked, it was clear that they were meant to make you dig deeper and really think about what is involved in parenting a child. Our favorite question to answer was, “What do you think will make your spouse a great dad/mom?” This was asked during our one-on-one interviews and later that day Jay and I talked about what our answers were, it got us even more excited and confident in our choice to pursue adoption.

We also expected our house to need a lot of adjustments based on the requirements of the state for foster care. With Nightlight it was just about making sure there was no glaring safety hazards, we didn’t have to show a lockbox for medication or have every inch of the house baby-proofed. They make it clear that they trust you to have your house ready for a little one when the time comes.

The process definitely takes dedication but if you’re pursuing adoption you already have the dedication you need. Nightlight will be there to support you from beginning to end and afterwards you’ll even be a bit sad that it’s over, except that you’re one BIG step closer to bringing your baby home!

 

Submitted by Katherine Calvin, MA | Home Study Coordinator

Written by the ‘K’ Family | NCA Adopting Family

Commonly Asked Questions About the Snowflakes Family Evaluation Process

  • Q:  What is the cost? 

A:  The fee for a Snowflakes Family Evaluation (SFE) is $1,500 plus the social worker’s travel expenses.  These travel expenses could range anywhere from just a few dollars for families who live near one of our offices to several hundred dollars for families who live outside the U.S.  The average is $300.

  • Q:  What is the timeline for the completion of the report?

A:  The amount of time it takes to complete the SFE is mostly controlled by the adoptive family and their speed in gathering and completing the necessary paperwork.  It is possible to complete the report in 1-2 months, though for most families it’s 3-4 months.

  • Q:  How many face-to-face visits with a social worker are required?

A:  Because long-distance travel is often involved, generally only one face-to-face visit in the home is required, which can often help speed up the overall timeline of your adoption process.

  • Q:  How much paperwork is involved?

A:  Because Snowflakes uses an adoption model, the required paperwork is similar to what is used in a home study.  However, it is often a smaller amount than what’s required for a home study and the requirements are more flexible since we aren’t having to follow the regulations of any government entity.

  • Q:  Are there other “hidden” fees involved?

A:  All of the SFE parent education is in the form of webinars and pdf articles, which are provided to you free of charge. We do require current infant/pediatric CPR and first aid certification, so you may incur a fee for this.  Background checks (criminal and child abuse) are required for any home study and are required as part of the SFE process as well.  FBI background checks cost $18-$50 per person.  Child abuse and neglect background checks are provided free of charge in many states, while other states charge fees of up to $20 per person.  For married clients, we also utilize an online assessment that has a fee of $35 per couple.

  • Q:  Are post-placement visits required?

A:  Snowflakes requires one post-birth visit, via video conference, within 6 weeks of the child (or children’s) birth.  The cost of this visit and report is included in the $1,500 SFE fee.

 

written by Beth Button

Nightlight Christian Adoption’s Core Values

 

 

There are plenty of adoption agencies to choose from, but which adoption agency is best for you?

Of course, the type of adoption you are interested in pursuing factors into your choice.  The good news is that Nightlight offers all types of adoption services: domestic infant, international (20+ nations), Snowflakes Embryo Adoption (we pioneered it!) and foster care/adoption in several of our states.

Nightlight provides home study services in the states where we are licensed.  For our embryo adoption program we can provide home study services wherever you live.

But, aside from the services we offer, why Nightlight? Recently our executive management team reviewed and discussed the core values of our agency. The people who work at Nightlight are FOR YOU.  They want you to be successful in your adoption journey.  They want each child to get placed into the best family for that child.  We are child-centric.

Here is a list of the core values we hold at Nightlight.  Read through it. Is this the type of adoption agency you would like to help you?

  1. Christian worldview
  2. Prayer
  3. Help more children in need be adopted into loving and permanent families
  4. Solid pro-life position
  5. Culture of yes
  6. Teamwork – internally and with our clients
  7. Excellence in client Service – before, during and after your adoption
  8. Courtesy and Respect – internally and with our clients
  9. Client success by offering program variety
  10. Diligent family screening
  11. Biblical conflict resolution
  12. Solid commitment to open adoptions

Nightlight has been serving adopting families before, during and after their adoptions for more than 60 years.  Our experienced and compassionate staff are available to answer your questions and help you choose the adoption program that is best for you.

Learn more at https://www.Nightlight.org.

 

written by Kimberly Tyson

How to Spread the Word About Embryo Adoption

 

For the past twelve years, I have been working for Nightlight Christian Adoptions. All of my focus has been on raising awareness and participation in embryo donation and adoption. The most discouraging words I hear on any given day are, “I’ve never heard about this before. You need to be doing more to help people know about this wonderful adoption choice!”

Yes. We do.

Today we are going to focus on our BEST voice for letting other people know—YOU!

Why are you our best voice?

  • Because you may have successfully placed your remaining embryos for adoption.
  • Because you may have adopted embryos and given birth to your child.
  • Because you know people who are facing infertility and would be delighted to know about this adoption choice.
  • Because whether you know it or not, you know people who have remaining embryos and would love to help them be born.
  • Because the more people like you who are telling other people, the more people know.
  • One in eight couples are diagnosed with infertility in the United States.

Here are some ideas for helping you engage with people around you. If you would like to talk with me about one of these ideas, or another fabulous idea you have, please contact me in our Colorado office.

  1. Forward the monthly Snowflakes Newsletter to everyone in your email distribution list. There is a super-easy ‘Forward to a Friend’ button at the bottom.
  2. When you send out your Christmas cards/photos/letters this year attach this Snowflakes badge. There are many online services that will allow you to create personalized stickers.
  3. Participate on a Snowflakes Facebook Live session to share your donation or adoption story and answer questions from new inquirers.
  4. Create a vlog series of short, interesting, engaging videos for YouTube, allowing you to uniquely record and share your embryo donation or adoption journey.
  5. If you live near one of our ten Nightlight state offices, work with that office’s staff to be the keynote at an informational adoption seminar specifically on embryo adoption.
  6. Take your Snowflake baby back to your fertility clinic to introduce your baby and encourage the Reproductive Endocrinologist, Embryologist, Donor Coordinator, Nursing staff—everyone—to proactively promote Snowflakes among patients, both donation and adoption.
  7. Choose six (or more) churches in your community. Go visit. Talk with the church secretary. See if you can talk with the pastor or schedule an appointment for later. Ask if there is a specific person in the church who is passionate about adoption and talk with them.
  8. Submit your family’s embryo donation or adoption story to be included on our Family Story pages on the Snowflakes website (please email paige@nightlight.org to learn how to submit your story).
  9. Create a 15-30 second video that can be used in our social media advertising campaigns.
  10. Send us photos of your Snowflakes babies, along with a completed photo release form, to use in our awareness efforts!
  11. Talk with your employer’s human resource department and ask to have any adoption benefits apply to embryo adoption. (Proctor & Gamble provides this benefit to their employees.)
  12. Reach out to your local media outlets—newspapers/T.V./radio, to ask if they would be interested in your embryo donation or adoption story. Human-interest stories are a valuable tool for grabbing the attention of their audience.

Written by Kimberly Tyson

Learn more about embryo adoption at Snowflakes.org and EmbryoAdoption.org.

Reasons to Partner with an Adoption Agency

Success. Some facilitators of infant adoption will continue working with a birth mother, even if they think she will ultimately change her mind about placing her child for adoption.  They operate on wishful thinking and want to collect fees throughout the process.  Non-profit adoption agencies are more interested in the well-being of the child than in collecting fees.  For that reason, we will only match a birth mother with adoptive parents if we believe the birth mother will not change her mind.  In fact, Nightlight is careful enough to prevent shattering the dreams of adoptive parents, that our domestic matches result in adoption 96% of the time.

Wise contracts. Some websites offer couples a place to connect and carry out their own embryo adoptions.  But they often do this without a contract, or with an insufficient contract.  Since Nightlight has helped with embryo adoptions for over a decade, we have crafted contracts that avoid pitfalls, disappointments, and future conflict.

Realistic promises.  Some facilitators make unrealistic promises about the costs, time involved in adoption, and likelihood of placement.  Obviously, they do this in order to win your business.  But non-profit adoption agencies like Nightlight know that this is a bait-and-switch approach.  False promises ultimately hurt the client and the reputation of the agency.  We would rather risk losing a few potential clients than make unrealistic promises.

Thriving families.  Adoption agencies are committed to life-long support and education for families.  They do not simply complete an adoption but give resources to adoptive families and birth mothers, who keep coming back for advice and help in years to come.  In addition, adoption agencies use decades of experience to assist in matching, as well in helping adoptive families make decisions about adoption that will help them thrive.

Convenience.  Adoption agencies are a “one stop” place to complete an adoption.  If you work without an agency, you will still need an agency to complete a home study, and to act as the “adoption service provider” to complete some necessary steps.  But with an adoption agency, you do not need to work with any other party to complete the adoption.

Protect children.  Adoption agencies incur stiff penalties if they do not comply with laws, such as the Interstate Compact on the Placement of Children (ICPC).  These laws protect children from trafficking, and also prevent families from fraud.  Since in most states facilitators are unregulated, they do not have the same level of regulation.

Experience.  Many agencies have been working with adoptive parents for decades, and it is a rather recent utilization of a “loophole” that has allowed other parties to offer adoptive services.  With an agency, you benefit from years of expertise.

Daniel Nehrbass, Ph.D. | President