Adoption: Layers of Motherhood

 

This article was originally published on “On the Word” at https://ancamartin.com/

He was abandoned at the gate of the orphanage. It couldn’t have been in plain daylight. The dusk in the air was most likely the rough projection of the dark and light battles on her inside. Battles of love and shame, fear and guilt hurried her hands like the wind hurries the moon away. They had to do it quickly, silently, and carefully. To abandon your helpless, small, newborn kin is illegal and punishable with prison and loss of public reputation.

She was a mother whose soft arms and cajoling eyes struggled to tell her heart to let him go. But let him go she must! He wasn’t what they hoped for in a son. He wasn’t fitting their paradigm and life trajectories. And so, he must go. Away from her kin. Away from her sight and presence. Deep into a place where street eyes don’t go and neighborhood bodies rarely walk. A place that boards orphans and no one knows their real name. A place where silent cries make no real commotion and small breaths warm no one’s cheeks anymore.

I think I know his mother. Or at least some of her. I know she was scared. Scared of her own soul reminding her with every birthday of the small, little boy with missing fingers and an extra toe. Ashamed of her mind’s million reasons why he was not good enough, strong enough, perfect enough, deserving enough of life with her. Broken at the future that will always have his shadow but never his voice. Pained at the ruthless circumstances that ruled her out, killed her hope, darkened her predictions, poisoned her love for him. Weak in the face of pressuring mobs and heartless laws.

And yet, she was courageous enough to slip her baby by death’s knives and sail him down her own river of cemented state orphanage. It wasn’t a Mosaic casket she laid her boy in, but a 2.5 square meters Asian box, built by a civilized society at the gates of a stern, cold world. She was determined to pass him well from her warm, tired bosom to the government’s stiff premises. Compassionate to let her feelings tie him tight in a blanket, with a red note, and the smell of a home on his skin. And hopeful. She must have silently hoped that humanity will not completely abandon him and that a family will gather him into arms of love and compassion. Hopeful that her inner cries would comfort his. Hopeful that his breath would warm someone else’s cheeks.

Motherhood doesn’t stop when the baby leaves our arms or wombs. Once a mother, always a mother. We can hide our eyes or stiffen our hearts: but the baby’s ties tangle us forever. That’s perhaps how I know that, though she abandoned him then, she won’t stop thinking of him today. She took him away from her breath, but his smell still warms her check—reminiscent breezes of her baby’s lips. She separated him from her family but he is still connected to her memories.

Today, this boy is in our family. Adoption is the other way of birthing a child—the undoing of abandonment, the pulling in of the outcast, the family-ing of the parentless, the gathering of the rejected, the loving of the love-less, the connecting with the disconnected. Adoption restores what abandonment rejected. It enriches what rejection depleted. It loves what pain broke down.

My motherhood sees her motherhood. I look at my boy and I see a fleeting shadow of her in him. She remains close to him if only in her dreams. My boy is dressed in layered motherhood and he doesn’t even know it.

I know my motherhood is richer and fuller because she chose to mother him first. I benefit from her hard choice to let her son live. I gained what she lost. I love what she rejected. I mother what she abandoned. I live with the one she parted with. I get to hold his little frame and hear his beautiful giggles. His lips kiss my cheeks and his words whisper sweet loves to me. I hold his hands with missing fingers and see God’s wonderful creation. I am grateful to his first mother who chose life for him in the dusk of an Asian street, at the gate of a cold orphanage, in the struggles of her conflicted, broken heart.

Written by Anca Martin, adoptive mother

Ways Your Family Can Help Vulnerable Children

 

Most will agree that all children deserve to grow up in a loving and protective family. All children deserve to be fed, to receive an education, clean clothing, shoes and to sleep in a warm and safe bed at night, all basic necessities provided by a family. All children deserve the warmth, love, protection and guidance of a parent or parents. Yes, we agree. As a rule however, most people do not know the number of children worldwide who are parentless or forced to grow up in an institutionalized setting not having access to things we all agree every child should have access to.

It is estimated that there are 147 million orphaned children worldwide who have lost one or both parents. Consider this, 81.5 million Americans about 40 percent have considered adoption. If just 1 in 500 of these adults adopted, every waiting child in foster care would have a permanent family.  Seemingly, as with everything else, we become distracted or think someone else will take care of that and we go about our days or we just turn a blind eye and choose to ignore that a child somewhere is suffering. While we look away or get distracted, more children suffer and some die while in institutionalized care. While we look the other way, more children age out of institutionalized care to fend for themselves with little to no education or training and without the support of a family.  There are currently 107,000 children eligible for adoption in the U.S. foster care system and every year, about 28,000 children age out of foster care in the U.S. Many who age out are forced into criminalized behavior, such as prostitution and theft, simply to survive. Aging out of the system without preparation and a safety net affects not only the child, but also society at large. Each child that we lose whether through death or talents lost due to criminalization, we lose another potential gift to the world and society loses as a whole. We have a responsibility to these children to care for them, to nurture them and to ensure they grow into loving, educated functioning adults who can contribute to society.

In international adoptions alone, we have seen a dramatic drop. The number of children adopted to U.S. families from other countries peaked at 22,884 in 2004. In the past 18 years, the numbers have consistently dwindled every year and now are just under 2,000 adoptions annually, and continue to drop. Yet despite the decline in adoptions, the number of children in need and the need for adoptive and foster parents continue to rise. What a sad state of affairs for our children. They say a society is judged by how it treats its elders and children. What does that say for us when we sit by and allow so many children to go parentless and without families?

There are vulnerable children suffering worldwide every day. You hear about them in the news, you see them on TV. While many of these children cannot be adopted, there are many who are eligible for adoption in the U.S. and abroad, who are in desperate need of a family.

Whether you are hoping to adopt a younger child considered to be “healthy”, an older child, a sibling group or a child with special needs, there is a child out there waiting for his or her own family to call their own. A child waiting for the love and protection of a family.

If you feel you are being called to adopt, we encourage you to look at our waiting children eligible for adoption on Adoption Bridge.  Additionally, many of Nightlight’s intercountry programs are accepting new families such as Burkina Faso, Dominican Republic, Colombia and Albania. Many of our country programs have short wait times for families to be matched with a child, especially if you choose a waiting child.  If you wish to pursue adoption from foster care, Nightlight can assist adoptive parents navigate the U.S. foster care system and adoption process.   If you are unsure about adoption and want additional information, schedule a free initial telephone conference at your convenience to explore your options, by filling out Nightlight’s online interest form.

If you feel adoption is not the way that your family wants to care for the orphan, there are other ways you can be involved. By volunteering or making a donation. Nightlight is a non-profit organization. Making a tax-deductible donation provides assistance to families adopting and children in need in the U.S. and countries where we serve.

For more information on all adoption options available to families through, please visit our website or contact us.

Am I Pregnant ?

Am I Pregnant? 12 Pregnancy Signs and Symptoms to Look For

Have you been experiencing bodily changes? Do you think you may be pregnant? This can be a puzzling time as it is. To add to the confusion, many pregnancy signs and symptoms can have causes unlinked to pregnancy.

You should know that the early signs of pregnancy tend to differ from one woman to the next. Of course, your best bet is to take a pregnancy test as soon as possible. But paying attention to early symptoms of pregnancy is also important. With that in mind, consider these 12 early signs of pregnancy.

Pregnancy Symptoms Week 1

The American Pregnancy Association (APA) conducted a survey on the first signs of pregnancy. Of the women polled, 29% reported a missed period and 25% reported nausea as the first symptoms of pregnancy. We’ll consider these two first and then focus on 10 additional indicators. 

  1. Missed Period. A missed period is often the very first sign a woman has that she may be pregnant. Many women begin seeking answers because they know they’re late for their next period. If you’ve had a missed period of about one week, you might consider this a possible indicator of pregnancy. However, this symptom in itself may not be accurate if you’ve had irregular menstrual cycles. 
  1. Nausea/Vomiting. Nausea is quite common in the first trimester and may or may not be accompanied by vomiting. This is known as morning sickness, though it can be experienced later in the day as well. The severity can differ from person to person. It isn’t totally clear what the cause is for morning sickness, but it may be due to hormonal changes. 

Other Pregnancy Signs and Symptoms

  1. Tender/Swollen Breasts. In the APA survey cited above, about 17% of women surveyed reported this as the first sign of pregnancy. However, this can occur between four and six weeks into pregnancy. You may experience tingling, aching, and swelling/enlargement of the breast tissue. You may also notice darkening of the areas surrounding the nipples. Once your body adjusts to your new hormonal changes, these feelings should subside. 
  2. Light Spotting/Bleeding/Vaginal Discharge. This is known as implantation bleeding and occurs after the fertilized egg attaches to the uterine wall. Implantation bleeding could be mistaken for a menstrual period, but there are some distinct differences. Some of the key differences include a smaller amount, shorter time, lighter color, and absence of clotting. 
  1. Cramping and pain. The cramps women experience when pregnant may seem similar to those during PMS. But just as we mentioned above with implantation bleeding, implantation cramps are different. These cramps would be present even after you’ve missed your period. Other pregnancy signs and symptoms include leg cramping and soreness in the lower back. 
  1. Headaches are so common that this one can’t be relied upon alone. In this case, you may also be experiencing lightheadedness or dizziness. These symptoms would be due to hormonal changes in your body. You should consider them in conjunction with other pregnancy symptoms you’re experiencing. 
  1. Sensitivity to Smell. Though there may be little scientific consensus on this one, it remains a commonly reported symptom. Sensitivity to smell is something that many women report particularly in the early stages of pregnancy. It may also be one of the causes of nausea during this time. 
  1. Change of Appetite. Does the Caesar salad you normally love seem a little off-putting? Or does your craving for potato chips and spicy salsa seem out of character? Change of appetite is common as an early sign of pregnancy. Often, the foods you normally desire won’t sound good to you at all. This may also be due to hormonal changes and along with changes in your senses. 
  1. Frequent Urination. Having to hop up and run to the bathroom in the middle of the night? Unless you’re hydrating like crazy, that could also be one of the pregnancy signs and symptoms to watch for. Also due to hormonal changes, it’s possible to experience this even before missing your period. 
  1. Constipation and Bloating. Speaking of hydration, that’s not a bad idea considering this symptom can be very uncomfortable! If you’ve had fewer than three bowel movements in a given week, you may be dealing with pregnancy constipation. Hormonal changes can be the culprit behind bloating and constipation.
  1. Mood Swings/Fatigue. Mood swings and fatigue are also attributable to hormonal changes. This is because your body is producing a hormone called progesterone. This hormone supports the pregnancy and is responsible for milk production in the breasts as well. As soon as one week after conception, you could experience fatigue due to your body working harder to pump additional blood to support this new life.
  1. Heartburn, or indigestion may affect more women in the second and third trimesters. However, it’s generally considered to stem from your increase in progesterone levels, so don’t rule it out. Especially if it’s not something you normally experience.

 

 

 

 

Am I Pregnant? Find Out for Sure

If you’ve experienced any of these pregnancy signs and symptoms and want further information, give us a call. You shouldn’t have to go through this time in your life alone. We’re here to help.

 

Disclaimer: This website and blog does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Content from this website and blog is not intended to be used for medical diagnosis or treatment. The information provided on this website is intended for general understanding only and is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice.

 

 

Introducing Adoptions from Portugal!

 

Nightlight Christian Adoptions is happy to announce we are licensed to work in Portugal and are currently accepting applications for families looking to adopt internationally! Most children available are over the age of 7 and there are sibling groups available. There are some children who are healthy but most children available  from Portugal have different level of medical needs. We receive files of children periodically that are waiting and these are sent to all agencies licensed to work in Portugal. We are able to match waiting families with these children or advocate for them on AdoptionBridge.org.

In order to adopt from Portugal, you will want to consider the following eligibility criteria:

  • You should be between the ages of 25 (30 if you are single) to 60 years old. There should be no more than 45 years age difference between the youngest parent and the child to be adopted.
  • Couples must be living together for 4 years and married for at least 2 years. Single women and men are allowed to adopt as well.

If you are interested in adopting from Portugal, the first step is to inquire with Nightlight to determine if you are eligible. If it is determined that the program is a good fit for you, you will follow these steps.

  1. Fill out an application with Nightlight Christian Adoptions.
  2. Complete an orientation with your program coordinator.
  3. Begin a home study for an international adoption. If you live in one of the 10 states where Nightlight is licensed, you will be required to use us for the home study process. If you live outside of our licensed area, we will let you know which agency is preferred for your home study.
  4. File your I-800A application with United States Citizenship and Immigration Services.
  5. Complete your dossier for Portugal.
  6. Once your dossier is registered with the central authority in Portugal, they will begin looking for an appropriate match. They have regular meetings where a committee looks at the families that are waiting and matches them with the children available. The wait time for a match will vary depending on your openness to age, gender, sibling groups, and special needs.
  7. After you have been matched, you will complete a referral review with Nightlight’s social services team to ensure you are prepared for the placement.
  8. You will then file your I-800 with United States Citizenship and Immigration Services.
  9. When you travel to Portugal, you must prepare to be in country for 6-8 weeks. There will be a 1-week bonding period prior before the child is transferred into your care. With the help of our attorney you will complete the guardianship process and will obtain the US visa for the child.
  10. After you arrive home, you will need to contact an attorney in your State to process a full and final adoption.
  11. Also you will be required to complete post-placement reports and submit them to Nightlight at one month, 3 months, 6 months, 9 months and 12 months after you arrive home. If you have not finalized your adoption in the 12 months after arriving home, you will be required to continue a post placement visit with your social worker to be submitted to Portugal every 3 months until finalization.

We would love to talk with you more about adoption from Portugal if this sounds like a program that would be right for you! Our Portugal program coordinator is Viktoriia Serediuk-Buz. You can contact her by email at viktoriia@nightlight.org, by phone at (317)875-0058, or you can fill out our Online Inquiry Form and indicate your interest in Portugal and she will contact you.

International Spotlight: Albania

 

Albania is a small country located on the southeastern Balkan Peninsula of Europe. The country of Albania has a population of around 2.8 million people. The capitol city of Tirana is home to about 900,000 of that population. Of those 2.8 million people making up the Albanian population, around 857,000 of them are children. Of those children, 31,000 of them are currently abandoned and living in orphanages throughout the country. There are several reasons as to why children in Albania may end up in orphanages, but no matter how they found themselves there, every single one of them are in need of a loving family to help them reach their full potential. Every child that resides in these orphanages has a story, and that story includes things like neglect, abuse, and vulnerability. Even with the obstacles that have been dealt to some of these children, we know that each one of them is one loving family away from completely rewriting their story. Currently, Nightlight is the only agency from the United States working with the Albania Adoption Committee (AAC) on international adoptions. The Albania Adoption Committee is the central authority in Albania who oversees all adoptions in the country. There are other countries around the globe who work with the AAC, but Nightlight is the sole American agency. See details about our program here.

 

The Albania Adoption Committee does like to prioritize keeping children in country through domestic adoption programs. Often times, the children that are adopted domestically are the younger and healthier children. If the AAC cannot place a child domestically in country, that is when they will free the child up for international adoption. Generally, children that are available for international adoption have some sort of special need, developmental delay, are older in age, or have a combination of these. One thing that makes Nightlight’s Albania program so unique in comparison to other programs, is that we can get referrals of younger children with more mild to moderate special needs. We often get referrals from the AAC of children ranging in ages from 2-15, children with mild to severe special needs, as well as sibling sets.

 

Another notable point about the Nightlight program is that it is a relatively short program in the realm of international adoptions. The time frame we are currently seeing from start of adoption to adoption completed, is around 2 years. Also in the program, we currently have two waiting children who have been referred to us by the AAC that we are actively searching for families for. You can view the profiles of these two children through Nightlights’ Adoption Bridge webpage. To view the profiles of our available children in Albania, you can click on the waiting children icon located at the top of the Adoption Bridge home screen. Then in the “Search Children” box located on the left hand side of the screen, you can refine the search by choosing Eastern Europe under the “New Locations” tab. All children located in Albania will have an “A” located in front of their name. If you are interested in learning more about a waiting child in our Albania program, you can contact Anna Lee (anna@nightlight.org) and she can provide you with the child’s full file to review.

 

Since we have just recently wrapped up a great year full of blessings in the Albania program, we found it fitting to highlight some of the accomplishments here. In the year of 2022, the Albania program saw five children come home with their forever families and another five children get officially matched! It was a joy-filled year for the program with many reasons to celebrate!

 

We are hopeful to continue to grow the Albania program in the coming years. If you are interested in joining the program, you can contact Anna Lee through email at anna@nightlight.org or call our Kentucky office at (859)-263-9964. Families that apply in the month of January will receive a $500 grant toward their adoption fees.

Will Your 2023 Include Embryo Donation or Adoption?

 

Perhaps you are new to our blog, or maybe you are a faithful reader. We are glad you have found it!

The Snowflakes Embryo Adoption Program celebrated its 25th anniversary in 2022. Twenty-five years of helping families with remaining embryos place their embryos with loving adopting families. Here are some reasons to celebrate.

  • Our 1,000th baby will soon be (or has already been!) born—a reason for great rejoicing.
  • Over 9,000 embryos have been placed for adoption through Snowflakes. These are embryos of all qualities and quantities and our team works diligently to find matches for all.
  • The transfer to pregnancy success rate is 54%. Of that, 90% will result in childbirth.

More people are learning about the options of embryo donation and adoption and choosing it for building their family. Raising awareness about this unique form of adoption is the biggest challenge our organization faces. Thank you for telling your family and friends about Snowflakes! Growth in the Snowflakes program over the past eight years has been amazing.

  • 28% average increase year-over-year in families choosing to adopt embryos
  • 27% average increase year-over-year in the number of babies born
  • 25% average increase year-over-year in families choosing to place embryos

Family stories are one of the best ways to communicate the benefits of embryo donation and adoption. Part of our 25th anniversary celebration has been to invite families to submit their stories to us. You may find another family’s story resonates with you and your circumstances.

In 2023, we thank those of you who have chosen the path of embryo donation or adoption. We want to welcome those of you who are considering embryo donation or adoption. Call us! 970-578-9700. We will listen to your questions and clearly communicate the way embryo adoption may be the adoption path for you.

We hope to speak with you soon!

Adoption Assistance for Children with Special Needs Adopted Domestically

 

Any waiting family associated with Nightlight Christian Adoptions long enough, will inevitably receive an email from Nightlight requesting consideration of a domestically born child who, because of significant special medical needs, is considered harder to place. Baby Saylor diagnosed with schitzencephaly, Baby Michael diagnosed with Prader Willi syndrome, and Baby Tommy diagnosed with microcephaly are just a few of the babies who were spotlighted in these emails. These babies, all with serious lifelong special medical needs, received placement through Nightlight with loving adoptive families.

There is a lot to seriously consider before accepting placement of a child with special medical needs. Much more than this blog can cover. The following is information about Adoption Assistance, the medical coverage and financial assistance available to adoptive families accepting placement of a special needs child, and the process of applying for Adoption Assistance when adopting privately.

The Adoption Assistance and Child Welfare Act of 1980 provided the first federal subsidies to encourage the adoption of children who would otherwise remain in long-term foster care by removing the financial obstacles related to adopting a child with “special needs”. Benefits commonly include monthly cash payments, medical assistance, reimbursement of nonrecurring adoption expenses and post adoption support services. There is a common misconception that Adoption Assistance, also known as adoption subsidies, is only granted to children adopted from foster care. This is not true. Adoption subsidies are available to any child adopted domestically, whether through foster care or private domestic adoption, who meets the definition of “special needs”. In a nutshell, a “special need” can be thought of as any obstacle keeping a family from accepting the placement of a child. A significant, lifelong medical need is one type of these obstacles. The largest criteria of what identifies a child as being “special needs” is the same throughout the US, but there are some varying smaller criteria among states.

Adoption Assistance is provided through two levels. One is through the federal level (called Title IV-E) and the second is through the state or county level (called Non-Title IV-E).  A child cannot qualify for both. The benefits can vary among states, especially the benefits provided on the state or county level. In private adoption, when a child has never been in foster care, Adoption Assistance, whether IV-E or non-IV-E, is overseen by the county or state public social services agency where the adoptive family resides, even when the child was born in another state. Waiting families can be proactive by researching the Adoption Assistance guidelines and services offered by their state. Here is a helpful website with additional state information:   https://nacac.org/help/adoption-assistance/adoption-assistance-us/state-programs/

The Adoption Assistance determination process, for a child placed through private adoption, begins by applying for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) disability benefits for the child.  The SSI disability application should be processed through the SSI office in the county where the adopting family resides. For more information on this application process please see: https://www.ssa.gov/benefits/disability/apply-child.html

If the child is approved for SSI disability benefits, he/she automatically qualifies for Adoption Assistance on the federal level (Title IV-E), and for Medicaid. Children approved for SSI disability benefits will begin receiving SSI benefits immediately and benefits will be retroactive to the date the application was submitted. Benefits include monthly cash aid and state medical coverage. This can feel like a win to adopting parents, but it is important that they continue and complete the Adoption Assistance application process, to receive Adoption Assistance. There are income guidelines for SSI benefits and once the adoption is finalized, the SSI benefits will be adjusted according to the adoptive family’s income. The adoptive family could experience a significant decrease in benefits.

If the child does not qualify for SSI disability benefits, they still may qualify for non-Title IV-E Adoption Assistance on the state or county level, and special medical coverage offered by the state.

The next step, for either SSI determination outcome, is to apply for Adoption Assistance through the public social services agency in the adopting parents’ state. Depending on the state, this may be at the county or state level. Most states or counties process very few adoption assistance applications for private adoptions and may not be familiar with the process. The National Council for Adoption website previously referenced has information about who can assist in your state.

Lastly it is important that adopting families not finalize the adoption until the Adoption Assistance has been approved. Once an adoption is finalized, it is nearly impossible to successfully obtain adoption assistance, especially on the federal level.

Like any government funded subsidy, there is never a guarantee it will last forever; however, in in my fifteen years as an adoption professional, Adoption Assistance on the federal level (Title IV-E) has only increased. The availability of Adoption Assistance should not be overlooked in private domestic adoption. The application and eligibility determination process may appear complicated, tedious, and lengthy, but the benefits are substantial. The benefits may provide all the financial difference in a waiting family’s ability to accept placement of a child with a special medical need.

Navigating the Holidays with your Foster Child

 

Most of us tend to think of the holidays as a time of joy and celebration. However, for kids in foster care, this time of year often triggers big emotions. We are smack dab in the middle of the hustle and bustle of the Christmas season. The changes in routine, school programs, gift exchanges, sweets, endless food buffets, and family gatherings can be enough to make even Martha May Whovier come unhinged. Complicated feelings are inevitable, but having a plan in place can go a long way toward heading off major meltdowns.

 

Communication is key. If your child is old enough, you should definitely talk with them about their family traditions and find out if they would like to share any of their favorites. Encourage them to help with planning and incorporating familiar traditions into your schedule. It is important to consider the possibility that your child might not be used to much in the way of gifts and festivities, so suddenly experiencing the holidays in such stark contrast can cause intense feelings of confusion and loss.  Give your child a heads up about traditions you have followed in the past and be assuring that you would like to include them if they are interested in joining in. But it is important to avoid forcing participation if they are uncomfortable.

 

Keep it simple. Try to avoid events with lots of people, over-stimulating activities, and events that require you to be on a tight schedule. Instead, plan a few fun activities that offer plenty of flexibility. Some ideas are a popcorn and movie night, fill some to-go cups with hot cocoa and drive around looking at Christmas lights, or decorate some store-bought cookies. The important thing is to keep the activities optional and low-pressure for both you and your child.

 

Be flexible. Have some ideas and supplies at-the-ready for activities that allow for last-minute modifications. Make sure to offer them on days when everyone is feeling well and in a mind space to get the most out of the experience.

 

Finally, prepare your heart.  Remember that our own feelings of frustration and disappointment are usually due to unmet expectations that are often times unrealistic to begin with. It can be disheartening when we work hard to make the season magical and fun for our kids and they do not respond in the way we would have hoped. It is so important to remember that we should not take this personally. Showing our frustration or making demands will only compound the problem. Try to remember that their reactions are not a reflection of our efforts or their feelings about us, but rather their feelings about what they have been through.

 

Navigating this time of year can be extremely difficult with kids from hard places, but with a little understanding and preparation, it can be a truly meaningful time of creating wonderful and lasting new memories.

 

How to Talk to Your Snowflake about Their Origins

 

“You cannot start a relationship on a lie and expect a high level of openness in return.” ~ A Snowflakes Embryo Adoption Mother

It is natural to be curious about our origins; and with programs such as Ancestry DNA and 23andMe, it has never been easier to get our hands on this information. This can be a great tool for discovering distant relatives or learning about your heritage. For those who are adopted, it can open a completely new world by answering questions and filling in the biological gaps. Unless the adopted person does not know that they are adopted…

Embryo adoption through the Snowflakes Program is a wonderful choice for family building! From pregnancy to bringing a newborn baby home, you get to experience all the joys and trials that any parent goes through. It can be easy to slide the fact that you adopted your child as an embryo under the rug. After all, you carried the child for nine months, gave birth, and have all of the photo evidence to prove it. While you can keep this private information from the cashier at Walmart, the soccer coach, and Gladys down the street, the most important person who needs to know that your child was adopted as an embryo, is your child.

It can feel very intimidating, and maybe you are just not sure where to begin. We recommend starting the second you bring your little one home from the hospital. There are two reasons behind this:

  • Your child will never remember a moment you sat them down to tell them they were adopted. (Children who are sat down and told “at an age where they can understand adoption” tend to look back on that conversation as a traumatic experience as opposed to the adoption being normalized throughout their childhood.)
  • You can get a feel for the words, themes, and methods you want to use to explain the story as your child grows. You might find it easier to use language young children may grasp more easily or find yourself using the actual terms; whichever one works best for you is great!

You might also find making a Lifebook for your adopted child to be helpful. Explain that you needed help having a baby, so a generous family whose family was complete placed their baby seed with your family. Include photos of the donor family, the day of the transfer, your child as an embryo, ultrasounds, pregnancy, and the baby. This is a great resource for adoptees that they can carry with them throughout life and look back on!

Children’s books are also great! What is better than normalizing their story by reading a book before bed? Snowflake Babies, Made with Love, The Pea That Was Me, and many others are wonderful stories that explain embryo adoption in ways that children can easily understand.

It is incredibly important to let embryo-adopted children know their origins. Secrets do not stay secrets, and that is especially true today with access to genetic testing at the tip of our fingers. When secrets do come out, relationships may become damaged as a result. Children may be left wondering, “My story is so taboo that we do not talk about it? Are my parents that ashamed of me?”

It can also be difficult as a parent of an embryo-adopted child, with thoughts of what will happen once the floodgate opens that they are biologically related to someone else. How will they react? Will they wish to go live with their genetic parents rather than us?

While these are normal fears to have, DNA does not make a family—love does. You will always be your child’s parents, not the man and woman who share DNA with them.

The most encouraging story we found on the subject is the story of Ingrid von Oelhafen, an infant abducted from Yugoslavia during World War II by German Nazis. When Ingrid was older, she began searching for her biological parents. After a lot of searching, she finally located them, but she said it made little difference in her life. Her memoir ‘Hitler’s Forgotten Children’ ends with this quote:

“It is enlightening to find our roots, but we are what we become through the lives we’re given.”

Talk to your children about the hard things and they in turn will talk to you about the hard things. Stay open and honest with your children, and respect them enough to tell them the truth—especially when it comes to their genetic origins. While it will be enlightening, it will not change whom they identify as their true family—you!

To learn more about embryo donation and adoption through the Snowflakes Embryo Adoption Program, visit Snowflakes.org.

International Spotlight: Colombia

 

The right of children to be children

To think of childhood as a different stage in a person’s life is a fairly recent concept; in Colombia this term began to be used in the early twentieth century (Jaramillo, 233). Before that, children were considered small adults, who had to assume quite complex responsibilities for their age. However, despite the passage of time, the reality for thousands of children remains the same, and in many cases they find themselves in the sad and heartbreaking situation of living through experiences -violent and traumatic- for which they do not yet have the necessary tools or maturity to be able to deal with. These events will determine their lives, in many cases continuing eternal spirals of generational trauma and a present characterized by an emotional void.

The armed conflict that Colombia has lived through for more than fifty years has greatly affected the civilian population, with the poor being the most affected, among them those who have experienced the conflict directly. Thousands of peasants, indigenous communities and Afro-descendant population who have been dispossessed of their land and have been forced to flee their own territories. Many of them have settled in the country’s large cities, facing an urban of that is unkind and selfish.

As a result of decades of rural and urban violence, the family institution has been one of the most affected, with cases of domestic violence, sexual abuse, neglect, physical and psychological mistreatment, among others. In many cases, it is evident to see how this violence has been transmitted from generation to generation, with children being the most affected actors, and those who must be legally and emotionally protected from dangers or threats to their integrity.

 

The law, adoption, and children’s rights

The Code of Childhood and Adolescence in Colombia, the highest law that defends the rights of children, establishes that it is the obligation of the family to promote and guarantee their rights, as well as the responsibility that civil society and the State must assume to guarantee their development and protection. Faced with the impossibility of remaining in their biological family, the Colombian State has sought ways to ensure that millions of children and adolescents can exercise their right to live and grow up in a family that can provide them with the love, tools, and support they need to develop in a healthy environment that guarantees all the rights granted by national and international laws.

In this way, adoption has grown to become a very important step in the process of restoring the rights of minors, who through their adoptive family can have the possibility to heal their wounds, to believe in love again, to be heard, to have a dignified and full life, to go to school, to develop talents and skills, to play and practice sports, to grow up physically and mentally healthy: the right to be a child.

Adoption in Colombia has undergone countless changes, as any social process has presented flaws and problems, however, the institutions that compose it with the passage of time try to do the best with the few resources they have and always looking after the best interests of the children. Currently, international adoption is a fundamental mechanism to guarantee the rights of children, since not being able to be reunited with their family of origin or not being adopted by other Colombian families, the possibility of growing up in a healthy and free environment is limited. In this way, foreign families play an important role, becoming an agent of change, who through their support and accompaniment are committed to make their rights a reality.

With the help of the ICBF (Colombian Institute of Family Welfare), the IAPAS (Institutions Authorized by the State to carry out adoption processes), external organizations such as KidSave, Project 143, and Hague accredited adoption agencies, the construction of international adoptive families is a reality. Currently, various types of children are available for adoption, including children under ten years of age with special needs, children over ten years of age, and sibling groups of different ages. We facilitate adoptions with the families who contact us directly to wait for a child referral and we support the adoption of children who participate in the hosting program.

 

Nightlight in Colombia

Nightlight Christian Adoptions was legally established in Colombia in 2015, finalizing the first adoption in 2017. To date we have carried out 121 adoptions, supporting the construction of new families in different states across the U.S. and even working with American families living abroad.

Through the Waiting Child list, which is organized directly by the ICBF’s sub-direction of adoptions, we have found twenty-eight families for forty-eight children. Likewise, with the joint support of KidSave and its hosting abroad program, we have been able to ensure that forty-five children were guaranteed their right to have a family. The number of families that have decided to grow through adoption fills us with joy and pride and motivates all our team to continue working so that thousands of Colombian children can live in a loving and resilient family nucleus.

Our work is characterized by the fact that we work for the children, regardless of the case, and we advocate equally for all children regardless of the complexity of their life history or special needs. We support the children, even in cases where we do not have a family yet for them, through therapeutic processes such as EMDR and cultural and recreational activities.

During the process in Colombia, we closely guide the families, not only with the legal procedures that are required, but we also support them emotionally, where we listen to the children and the adoptive parents, we solve issues, we offer suggestions, we laugh and cry together. For this reason we invite all those who will soon travel to Colombia to carry out their integration process and legal paperwork to enjoy the process, to make the most of learning about the place where their children come from, to allow themselves to explore other identities, and to embrace the new culture that will incredibly transform their lives forever.

Any families that apply to adopt from Colombia in the month of December will receive a $500 grant toward their adoption fees.

 

References
Código de Infancia y la Adolescencia. [CIA]. Law 1098, 2006. November 8, 2006. (Colombia)
Jaramillo, C E. (2007) Los guerreros invisibles. El papel de los niños en los conflictos civiles del siglo XIX en Colombia. In P. Rodriguez, M E Mannarelli (Ed), Historia de la infancia en América Latina (pp.233-243). Universidad Externado de Colombia.
United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, November 20, 1989, https://www.ohchr.org/en