Will COVID-19 Cease International Adoption?

 

Borders closed and lockdown began. When the COVID-19 pandemic hit early last year many countries suspended their foreign adoption programs as borders closed and lockdowns began. While many view this as a reaction to the inability to travel, it was also necessary as many countries temporarily closed courts and adoption central authorities – or determined how to move cases forward with new work-from-home protocols. Countries with weak infrastructures, particularly the third world countries we work in, were truly challenged by this due to lack of technology and processes that required in person contact. We had many families whose cases came to a standstill while others were impacted by additional quarantine time in country–requiring safety protocols such as testing prior to travel.

Accommodations were made. Some countries made adjustments that loosened some of their adoption requirements. For example, Haiti accommodated the required bonding time between the adoptive parent and child through virtual meetings. A Jamaica family also had their court process take place over Zoom.

COVID-19 will not cease intercountry adoption. Intercountry adoption is an emotional journey for parents so understandably many of the unknown obstacles from COVID-19 were, and continue to be, difficult for families working to bring their child home. But COVID-19 will not cease intercountry adoption. It is apparent that adoption central authorities and other countries’ commitment to working toward the best interest of children who need families has not waivered.

COID-19 has strengthened our resolve: If anything, the pandemic has strengthened the adoption communities’ resolve to work harder for waiting children. We have been successful in matching more waiting children and moving families through the home study and dossier process. It seems as though the time at home has allowed parents to make a decision to adopt and focus on the plethora of paperwork required. We are very optimistic that we will see travel restrictions lifted and processes moving at a more normal pace by summer.

The time to adopt international is NOW. Orphans are mentioned in the bible over 40 times which tells us there will unfortunately always be children who need safe and nurturing families. We are called to take care of these children because, for whatever reason, they have become orphaned from their biological family. If ever there was a time to adopt internationally, it is now. This is the perfect time to prepare, start a home study process and review waiting child profiles. While the effects of the pandemic may slow the process, delay travel, or worse, add risk to the process, we cannot become apathetic toward the needs of children all over the world.

Learn more about how to help. Intercountry adoptions have declined by 87% in the past 15 years while the number of orphans in the world has increased to over 140 million*. The pandemic adds another layer to this juxtaposition that potentially increases children’s need for families both domestically and abroad. At the least, please visit www.saveadoption.org/the-crisis and learn more about how you can help intercountry adoptions to the United States continue to place children who have not been able to find families in their own countries.

Facing the Unknowns in Adoption

 

If 2020 has taught us anything, it’s that life is unpredictable. Unpredictability and unknowns often leaves us uneasy and uncomfortable. This causes us to find ourselves trying our best to control situations because control leads to more security and less anxiety. It’s our human nature to desire a clear picture of how things are going to happen, but the truth is, adoption is an unpredictable process and no two cases or situations are the same.

 

As a social worker in the domestic adoption field, here is some advice I would give to potential adoptive families:

 

  1. Prepare for every situation.

When working with prospective adoptive families, sometimes I hear them say things like, “I don’t even want to think about the possibility of the expectant mother changing her mind because it’s too hard to think about.” Instead of this mind set, I want to encourage any potential adoptive families to prepare for the outcome of the expectant mother choosing to parent, because it does happen, and that should be celebrated and not dreaded. Before birth. expectant mothers can make an adoption plan, but this plan cannot become concrete until she signs relinquishments. It is important to understand the struggle and hardships the expectant mother is going through while she makes this decision and love her through the process despite what the outcome may be.

 

  1. Be flexible and understanding.

When you are going through the adoption process, your social worker is not going to be able to tell you exactly how things are going to happen, because even they do not know how things will unfold. Adoption is a fluid process and although we can do our best to educate and prepare for the birth and hospital time, there is no way to clearly know how that time will look. For example, before birth, an expectant mother might make a tentative hospital plan stating she does not want to spend time with the baby, but post-delivery, she may decide she wants the baby in her hospital room.  Don’t be alarmed by this kind of change, but be understanding of the mother’s wishes and desires. Changes like this does not necessarily mean the mother is choosing to parent, but she may realize time with the baby is the best thing for her emotional and mental health. It is helpful to remember that she is the child’s legal mother until relinquishments are signed, and it is our job to best support her in any way possible.

 

  1. Realize that when you are struggling, she is as well.

Adoption is scary for potential adoptive parents, but it is scary for the biological parents as well. While you are thinking about your lack of control in the situation, the expectant mother often feels the same way. Many women pursuing an adoption plan are in crisis situations, feeling out of control of their life as they never thought this would be a chapter in their story. This can be terrifying and they often fear that the adoptive family will not like them, will not love their child as their own, and the post adoption plan and contact they are being promised will not come to fruition. As a potential adoptive parent, make it your goal to get to know the expectant mother and ease some of these fears for her. Often, this will also make you more at peace with the situation as you get to know and love her during the process.

 

With all this being said, here is one thing that you can rest assured in- everything will work out and will fall into place the way God intended it to. Despite the fears and unknowns in adoption, take peace in the fact that God has already written your story, and He knows the exact plans for you and your family. The staff of Nightlight Christian Adoptions is excited and honored to walk through your adoption journey with you and support you in any way that we can.

 

What is This ICPC Thing?

 

One of the best things about adopting through Nightlight is that families have the opportunity to be selected by an expectant parent in any one of our ten offices across the country.  To think that you live in OK and might be considered as an adoptive family in South Carolina is an exciting thought, and brings hope of expanded possibilities. Some families might say it’s also one of the hardest things.  Why? Not because they hesitate one second to travel to get that precious baby  or taking off work a bit longer, but the wait to come home….that long, no specific time period, sit in a hotel room in an unknown city process known as ICPC.  Maybe taking a more focused look at the process will help make it more understandable–and therefore, tolerated a bit easier when the time comes.

 

The ICPC (short for the Interstate Compact on the Placement of Children) has been around since 1950’s when it became evident that moving children from one state to another for the purpose of foster care or adoption, needed some safeguards.  Its goal was to shut down improper, illegal or incomplete processes that left children in new states without proper support, permanency plans or legal parents.  By 1990, every state and the Virgin Islands had passed laws creating ICPC regulations.  So, technically, it is a compact between the states, not a federal law.  It applies to children sent out of state for adoption, foster care, treatment or residential centers.  Every state has a Compact Administrator (generally a staff in the state office) who oversees the coming and going of children between states, and assures that the legal work is done properly and the documents are in place to assure the placement is being done legally and in the best interest of the child.

 

Now, back to the “waiting to go home” process.  Because of the need for each state to approve the move of a child from one state to another, it is required that the child not leave his state of residence until that work has been done.  Let’s a couple lives in Kentucky and they are chosen to adopt a child in Missouri.  They travel to Missouri and are able to be there for the birth of their daughter.  What a wonderful experience to see that birth and be able to take her home from the hospital.  They return to their hotel room, very happy and longing to go home where they can see their family, who eagerly awaits their return.  But things are now at work in the background that will determine when they can go home.  The agency will have prepared some paperwork as before the baby’s birth, including the home study and all supporting documents.  But, we have to wait other documents, such as medical records. The last documents to be completed are the legal consent forms by the birth mother.  Once all the paperwork is collected, it is sent to the ICPC office of the sending state (where the child currently resides).  They review it and approve.  Sometimes they have questions, or ask for additional documents.  Once approval is given, they send it on to the receiving state, where the child will be residing.  That office does the same thing—reviews to make sure all documents are in order. The agency knows when each step is taken.  We are notified when the sending state approves, and also when the receiving state approves.  We’ve learned over the years of doing ICPC, that anxious adoptive parents making calls to check on the progress, or complain because it’s taking too long, is just not successful and actually interferes with the process.  ICPC offices are frequently handling many cases at one time, and they need to focus on their reviews.  We know from our experience that these workers are diligent and very aware that the families are in hotels waiting to leave. They work even harder when big holidays are coming and families are really anxious to leave.  These are the reasons we can’t tell you exactly how long it will take—there are several things we can’t control after the placement, but we do our part of submitting the paperwork as quickly as we can.  As soon approval is given by both states, families are free to leave immediately.

 

In the meantime, the families that plan ahead to be in their “temporary home” for several days fare the best.  So, make the best of it!

Here are some ideas for how to get through:

 

  • Plan to focus and enjoy just being together with your new little family member, whether you’re in a hotel or sitting in the hospital.  These times can enhance bonding and allow for lots of attention and nurturing for the baby.

 

  • Learn some things about the city you’re in, and explore as much as you can, especially if you arrive before delivery day.  This will help pass the time and can become a part of the birth story you will have to tell your child.

 

  • Bring books or computers or things to do in those quiet moments when the baby is sleeping (if you’re not asleep yourself!) It’s a good time to reflect on the journey that you’ve been on and the life ahead of you.  Take lots of pictures and videos, send them out so family can see what you’re doing each day.

 

  • Never hesitate to ask the staff of the office where you are about anything you need–locations of grocery stores, baby stores, restaurants, parks, places to go, and attractions unique to that city.

 

  • Once you are home, life will get very busy and we hope the memories of your entire experience will be a positive one, especially those days and moments created by waiting through the ICPC process.

written by Debbie Nomura, LCSW | Executive Director – OK Office

Make Cut Out Snowflakes Day

 

 

What memories do you have as a child around this time of year? Perhaps, like me it was the family gatherings, the giving of gifts, blessing those who are not so fortunate, or just watching the snow fall. It always looked so beautiful as its gentle blanket covered the landscape. Each snowflake adding its own impact.

 

In celebration of the season, I remember cutting out snowflakes, adding glitter, and using them to add a little sparkle to my daily life. Did you ever cut out snowflakes in order to decorate for the winter season? And did you know, there is even a special day allocated to that every year. The day is called, “Make Cut Out Snowflakes Day.” This year it’s celebrated on December 27th, 2020. Imagine all around the world people are making unique paper cut outs of snowflakes.

 

Some of us only think about snowflakes during the winter months, but there is more than one meaning for the word snowflakes. Do you know another type of snowflake that while frozen inspire people to get excited about love, hope, and happiness?

 

These are the kind that exist throughout the year. Here in the U.S. its estimated that there are over a million of these types of snowflakes. Imagine a million frozen snowflakes. That’s a lot of snowflakes! If you haven’t guessed by now, I am talking about frozen embryos.

 

The idea of using the word “Snowflakes” to describe frozen embryos was coined by a company called Nightlight Christian Adoptions, who handles various types of adoptions, including embryo adoptions. In fact, it was Nightlight who started the whole idea of embryo adoption here in the United States.

 

What is Embryo Adoption? Couples who grow their family through the process of IVF often find they have more embryos than they need to build their family unit. Therefore, once their family is complete, a couple may place their remaining embryos to be adopted. This is a beautiful gift for an adopting couple who, without the placing family’s kindness, may never have had the opportunity to become pregnant and have a family they can call their own.

 

During this holiday season of love and goodwill, perhaps, you might give a thought to the million or more embryos that are just waiting to be born. Maybe you, yourself, have embryos you would like to place for adoption. Or maybe you’re someone who would like to adopt embryos, to have the opportunity of becoming a parent, and welcoming a new baby into your home. Each one adding their own little sparkle.

 

written by Jen Grams

Waiting During the Holidays: Survival Tips

The holidays are a time for merriment, cheerful moments, and spending time with loved ones. But for those who are waiting to adopt, the holidays may be a difficult or painful reminder of what is missing.  Waiting to adopt can be hard at any time during the year, but it can be particularly difficult during the holiday season. “Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need.” Matthew 6:33 NLT. Here are some things to try as you wait to adopt during the holidays.

  1. Start a new tradition- Putting off creating new holiday traditions because you’re waiting to adopt can be depressing. There is no need to wait! This holiday season, make new memories and start a few fresh family traditions that you’ll look forward to year after year. Bake cookies on Christmas Eve, take a drive in your pajamas to look at holiday lights, have a s’more’s and cocoa night. Creating new traditions as a couple now allows you to have more time to enjoy them together.

 

  1. Taking an adoption “breather”- Taking a step back to think about things other than your adoption process can give you some time to relax and rejuvenate. Hang out with friends or family, read a book, go for a hike, check out a National park, bake, watch a movie. Give yourself time to breathe, and when you are ready to think about adoption again you will come back with a renewed perspective.

 

  1. Self-Care, Self-Care, Self-Care – exercise, take a bath, get enough sleep, eat good food. Buy yourself a gift, go out for a spa day. Channel your energy into doing something nice for yourself. You deserve it.

 

  1. Start a journal- You may consider journaling as a way to express your emotions or save it to give to your child one day to show your feelings while you waited for them to join your family.

 

  1. Do something kind for others- No matter what time of the year it is; random acts of kindness can benefit everyone. They can positively impact others and they are great for the soul. Donate items from your home, send someone flowers for no reason, let someone check out before you in the grocery store line, volunteer at a local shelter or soup kitchen, cook someone a meal. The list is endless. Also, let others be kind to you.

 

 

  1. Pray and talk to God- Taking time to go somewhere quiet and pray and meditate is something every soul needs. Once we take these moments each day we feel more peaceful and possess the strength in our hearts to truly appreciate our “present”. Thankfully, when you bring God into everything you do, you can’t help but rejoice at all times. “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing.” -1 Thessalonians 5:16-17

 

  1. Be honest with yourself (and others) – It’s okay to feel sad, be honest with yourself and others. Do not feel obligated to attend every holiday event you are invited to. It is okay to decline. Talk with your spouse or a close friend or family member about how you are feeling. It is also okay to enjoy the time spent catching up with family and friends or creating new traditions. Sometimes just talking about your feelings can provide the relief needed to take a step forward.

written by Nichole Chase, LMSW | Social Services Manager

What is Giving Tuesday?

 

Many people have heard of GivingTuesday, but what really is GivingTuesday? The GivingTuesday organization defines GivingTuesday, the Tuesday after Thanksgiving (December 1st), as “a global generosity movement unleashing the power of people and organizations to transform their communities and the world”. It was created in 2012 as a way to encourage people to do something good for others. GivingTuesday encourages people to give, to celebrate generosity, and to make other’s smile.

As we all know, the year 2020 has had many unexpected challenges and there are many families that have been impacted in a variety of ways. This year it is extremely important, if we are able to, that we give to others. While many people associate “giving” with financial giving there are many other ways to be a part of GivingTuesday. You can give your time by volunteering, using your voice to advocate for issues or causes, giving goods to donation drives, completing small acts of kindness to those around you, or using your talents to help nonprofits.

Last year $511,000,000 was raised on GivingTuesday in the U.S! If you want to take part in GivingTuesday the organization’s website has several opportunities and ways to get involved as well as a list of organizations that you can give to.  Click https://www.givingtuesday.org/ to find out more about GivingTuesday and how to get involved!

Nightlight Christian Adoptions has many families that are in the process of fundraising to adopt a child through our international, domestic, and embryo adoption programs. If you wish to donate to a family hoping to adopt on GivingTuesday (or any day!) go to https://adoptionbridge.org/families/. You can browse through profiles of waiting families, learn more about them, and help them fund their adoption!

 

Written by Natalie Zickmund, BSW 

Domestic Program Coordinator and Post Adoption Coordinator

5 Frequently Asked Questions About Open Adoption

 

The concept of “open adoption” has become much more accepted in the last 30 years. Today, roughly 90% of adoptions are open, according to the Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute. Many families, however, still have questions and concerns about what that relationship actually looks like and what it means for them and their child. Below are a few of the most commonly asked questions when it comes to domestic adoption:

  1. What exactly is open adoption?

Open adoption is where there is some kind of direct contact between the birth family and the child and his or her adoptive family. This could include letters and pictures sent via email, text messages, phone calls, virtual meetings, or in-person visits. The amount of openness in an open adoption varies depending on the arrangement agreed upon by the birth and adoptive families at placement and the level of contact the birth family is comfortable with.

  1. Is open adoption confusing for a child?

I think this is one of the most common fears experienced by adoptive families prior to starting the adoption process– and understandably! Adoption can be a complex experience with a number of unknowns. However, studies show that when an open adoption is talked about honestly and openly, not only is it not confusing for a child but it is beneficial. When a child’s adoption story and their birth parents are discussed and/or introduced early in the child’s life, the child has a more secure and trustworthy view of themselves and their parents.

  1. Is open adoption the same as co-parenting?

Not at all. Once an adoption is finalized, the child is legally a part of your family, as if you delivered them at the hospital. You, ultimately, have say over how they are raised and their beliefs about their adoption and their birth parents. An open adoption just means that a relationship gets to be built between you, the child, and the birth family. Secondly, this birth family has chosen you to be the child’s parent for a reason. As your relationship with them develops, so does their trust and respect for you and what you decide is best for your child.

  1. What if my child grows up with an open adoption and decides they like their birth parents better?

Just as your relationship with the birth parents grows more secure over time, as does your child’s understanding of their birth parents’ role in their life. You are their parent. In an open adoption, the child grows to develop a more well-rounded perspective of who they are and where they came from. Through open communication, the child will grow to love their birth parents and establish a relationship with them as they age but it will not take away from the amount of love they have for you.

  1. What if there is a difficult situation in my open adoption and I don’t know how to handle it?

An open adoption will require difficult conversations at times, as does every important relationship. There is no guarantee that your open adoption will always be easy, but it will be worth it. Nightlight and other agencies are in place to help navigate the difficulties that can accompany adoption, including conversations about open adoption. If your family is ever confronted with a situation in your open adoption that you would like assistance navigating, we are here to help and support you.

written by Paige Lindquist

What Are Your Home Study Options For An Embryo Adoption?

Requiring a home study as part of the embryo adoption process follows the best practices of adoption.  Regardless of whether government entities recognize or regulate the adoption of embryos, the end result is that a child will be placed with parents to whom he or she is not genetically related.  The home study involves several elements, including assessment, education, and preparation.  It also provides peace of mind to the placing parents involved.

 

When adopting embryos, whether through an adoption agency or another entity, a home study is often required.  In addition to a domestic home study, Nightlight Christian Adoptions offers another option, the Snowflakes Family Evaluation (SFE).  Here are some things to consider when comparing the home study and SFE:

 

  • Cost:  Managing expenses is an important consideration for adoptive families.  The cost of home studies varies greatly and is often influenced by the cost of living in the region where you live, as well as the supply/demand factor.  You may be able to find an agency who will complete a home study for $1,200, while others charge $3,000 or more plus travel expenses.  Many agencies also charge a separate application fee.  The fee for an SFE is $1,500 plus travel expenses.  There is no application fee.
  • Availability: The SFE is offered to all families, regardless of what state or country they live in.  Traditional domestic home studies must be performed by an adoption agency that is licensed in your state of residence.
  • Modification: Some adoption agencies will permit a home study to be amended for the purpose of a domestic or international adoption if, for example, you begin the embryo adoption process and later decide to switch to a different adoption program.  The SFE cannot be modified to support any other type of adoption.
  • Timeline: 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 process in 1-2 months, but the average is 3-4 months.  The time it takes to complete a domestic home study varies greatly depending on the agency you use and the state in which you live, but is generally a longer process.
  • Number of visits: Every state has different home study requirements, and that includes the number of face-to-face visits that home study providers must make before they can complete a home study.  Most states require 2-4 separate visits for a licensed home study.  The SFE requires only one home visit with an SFE provider, which can often help speed up the overall timeline of your adoption process.
  • Paperwork: SFE paperwork is similar to what is used in a home study, since we follow an adoption model.  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.

written by Beth Button 

How to Prepare Your Marriage for Your Adoption Journey

 

You and your spouse have decided to adopt!  You are both probably feeling an array of emotions; excitement, anxiety, overwhelmed and even fear.  Deciding to begin the adoption process is a big decision, and one that you may have gone through many hurdles to get to.  Maybe you have gone through infertility or maybe you just feel the call to adopt.  The adoption process is stressful and can put a strain on your marriage. It is important that you prepare your marriage for the adoption journey. Whatever the reason you are preparing to adopt, here are some things to consider before beginning the adoption journey.

If you and your spouse have experienced the pain of infertility, give yourselves time to go through the steps of the grieving process.  This is a very personal process and the timeline will vary from person to person.  It may also vary between you and your spouse.  You may find counseling beneficial.  Look for ways to support one another during this time as well as give each other space to grieve on your own time.  Wait until you are both on the same page, and once you have moved into the acceptance stage you will be ready to look at alternative family building options such as adoption.

Once you have decided to adopt, you and your spouse can research the various types of adoption to see which type would be best for your family.  Ask yourself questions such as what age of child are we interested in? Do we want a newborn or older child?  If you have other children in the home, consider how the adoption of another child will impact your children already in the home. Are you open to special needs?  Talk to other families who have adopted.  These are all things to consider when deciding which path of adoption to take.  Don’t pressure each other into a decision.  One of you may need more time than the other, and that is ok.  Once you are both on the same page, then make the decision together.

After you have decided which adoption path to take it is important to decide how to finance your adoption.  Adoption fees can be expensive, but there are many ways to finance your adoption as long as you have a plan.  Financing an adoption can put a strain on your marriage, but having a financial plan can help ease that strain.  If you have undergone fertility treatments, they may have drained your savings.  Start an adoption savings account and contribute money each month to it, pay off any debt, and plan for ways to fundraise.  Adoption fees are generally paid at the time services are rendered, so you will be able to space out when the fees are due and plan for them.

Communication is vital to any marriage, but especially for families going into the adoption process.  It is important to keep open communication, respect each other and remain committed to each other.  The adoption process consists of a lot of paperwork, home study visits, lots of waiting and often times unpredictability.  Processes can change, wait times can change, and the stress of the uncertainty and waiting can cause anxiety.  Find ways to support each other during these stressful times. Pray together. Spend time with each other doing fun things that are not adoption related.  Go out to eat, take walks or even try to get away for a vacation.  Make sure to give each other space as well.  Find a trusted friend to talk to or an adoption support group of other families in the adoption process.  Lean on your church for support.

Making your marriage a priority and following these suggestions should help your adoption process go more smoothly.  Support each other, set realistic expectations, have a financial plan and be on the same page and you will make it through the adoption journey.  It will be well worth it!

Angie Thorn

International Program Coordinator

Adopting Embryos Created with an Anonymous Donor

 

Even though embryo adoption has been around for more than two decades, sometimes this kind of adoption can be a bit of a brain bender. But when you consider that life begins at conception, embryo adoption is such a beautiful way to build your family and rescue embryos from being frozen in time and space. At the beginning of a couple’s embryo adoption process, oftentimes the idea that the embryos are created through the placing family’s egg and sperm begins to form in their minds.

What surprises many adopting families is learning that nearly 50% of donated embryos are created through donor egg or sperm.

But if you put yourself in the shoes of the placing family, this decision is not so surprising. The desire to build a family can be extremely strong. Perhaps a family has gone through three rounds of IVF with no success, and the doctor advises them to consider using a donor egg. Many infertile couples continue their journey with a resounding YES! to donor egg and/or sperm.

What are the Pros and Cons for adopting couples thinking about adopting embryos created with a donor?

PROS:

  • Due to the average age of the donor, these embryos are typically more rigorous in achieving pregnancy.
  • Careful screening of donors for genetic, medical, and psychological issues is done.
  • You will receive a donor profile from the fertility clinic as part of the matching process.
  • Many adopting couples’ hearts and minds are put at ease when they realize that children have been born to the placing family resulting from these embryos.

CONS:

  • Discovering the identity of the donor can be difficult, as anonymity is still common-place in the fertility world.
  • The donor’s health history is not updated after the time of the donation.

What are some special considerations to keep in mind when adopting embryos created with a donor?

  • Work to understand the placing family’s motivations. Start by remembering your own grief work around not being able to have a genetic child and your own family building expectations.
  • Know you can choose to not adopt embryos created with anonymous donors, but be prepared for a longer matching time.
  • It is your responsibility as a parent to build a solid foundation for your child by telling them their whole story. You don’t want your child to learn about their beginnings from someone else.
  • There are resources available to you to help you explain to your child about their beginnings.