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.

How to Support Your Family Member’s or Friend’s Adoption

Adoption can be a very emotional and financially challenging process where adoptive parents can experience high levels of stress and anxiety.  Whether a family is adopting domestically, internationally or through our Snowflakes program, prospective adoptive parents need the support of their family and friends rallying around them, as they go through the emotional roller coaster of adoption.

If you have not adopted yourself, it will be difficult for you to understand the emotions a family is going through during and after their adoption process. Below are some suggestions to help support your loved one or friend, which will help ease their difficult journey.

Listen! Adoptive parents need their support network more than ever. One very simple way to support prospective adoptive families is to lend an ear and shoulder to cry on.  Adoptive parents may need just to vent and express their anxieties and frustrations and know someone is listening. They don’t need your opinions, questions and critique, just listen and talk less!

Offer to help with simple things such as babysitting, respite care, cooking a meal or cleaning their house. While this may sound mundane, it allows adoptive parents time to rest, relax and recoup and lessens the stress of daily chores.  Time away from the children allows families to rejuvenate and think more clearly, particularly if these services are offered after the child enters the home.

Don’t criticize and ask questions.  Most adoptive parents have done their research before deciding to adopt a child and understand the risks and delays that come with adoption.  Because you may have not gone down this road you will not understand the process or emotions associated with the experience. Be supportive by not criticizing or asking questions, such as “How much longer until the child comes home?”  If the adoptive parent wants to share this information they will, asking questions that sound critical and judgmental will only exacerbate their doubts and negative emotions.

Offer to help with fundraising.  Adoption can be very expensive.  Assisting with holding fundraising events not only helps the family financially, but also emotionally, showing you care about the process and the family and want them to succeed.

Accept their decision to adopt and lovingly accept the adopted child.  It is so very important that adoptive parents know they are being supported, showing you support their decision and later the child, means more than you can imagine!

Don’t question why they chose to adopt.  Families choose adoption for many reasons, some due to infertility, some because they feel a calling to adopt.  Whatever the reason, it is a very personal choice and many times it is due to an emotional topic and maybe one the adoptive parent still struggles with.  It is better to accept and embrace their decision, rather than to question why.

Throw an adoption shower! Many have likened the adoption process to a “paper pregnancy” with the end result being a new child, a new family member, is entering their home.  An adoption shower helps celebrate the new life and family member and will help the family prepare for the arrival of the child.

Ask the adoptive parent, what can I do to support you? This simple question will mean so much and allows the adoptive parent to direct your efforts to what they may need the most.

Showing your support and love to a friend or family member during an adoption process shows you care and support them and may mean the world to a family needing support more than ever, both during their adoption journey and after the adopted child enters their family.  Sometimes doing the simple things for an adoptive family shows your loving commitment and support to the family and their decision to adopt.

 

written by Sonja Brown

21 Ways to Honor a Birthmom’s Love and Sacrifice

 

When a birth mother makes an adoption plan, she is often sacrificing her own desires and feelings for the good of her child, whom she loves deeply. This deep love translates into inviting another family into her child’s story and entrusting that child into their care and protection. It can be difficult for some adoptive parents to know how to fully honor this sacrificial love. In an effort to gather some creative ideas, I thought it would be most appropriate to reach out to adoptive families that are navigating this already.

Here are some of the responses I received when I posed the question, “What are some ways you’ve honored your child’s birth mother?”

  • We had flowers delivered to her on Mother’s Day.
  • We include her in our morning prayers each day.
  • We send her a card and pictures on her birthday as a little reminder that we are here for her and thinking about her on her day as well.
  • There is not a day that goes by that I don’t think about her.
  • The love we have for her to make that decision is hard to even put into words and we hope she knows that no matter what life brings, our daughter will always know the love her birth mother had for her to give her the best life possible.
  • We have photos of our daughter’s first mom and first siblings in her room. We talk about them every day.
  • We honor her when people ask questions. “Our daughter has two mommies who both love her.” We try to use adoptee and first mom positive language. No-“giving up”, No- “she is so lucky”, rather, “she is so loved” instead.
  • For our daughter’s first birthday, her first mom and I made a Shutterfly book together to honor her story. We read it whenever our daughter wants and read it along with the book her first mom made at the time of placement.
  • We send Mother’s Day and Christmas packages including artwork our daughter makes.
  • We FaceTime about once a quarter. We FaceTime for birthdays and Christmas morning.
  • Our daughter had some skin issues and we were in close contact with birth mom to give insight on siblings’ histories with similar issues. It made her apart of helping find solutions to help her daughter.
  • Our daughter made a handprint craft and we sent it and a care package to her for Mother’s Day.
  • Birth Mom and siblings were included in our daughter’s first birthday and we honored her there. We gave her loads of photos and a banner we had made with monthly photos of our daughter’s growth.
  • We keep routine in our visits so she always has something to look forward to.
  • We remember her birthday and her son’s birthday and always send them gifts.
  • We send her texts on holidays wishing her well and thanking her.
  • Probably the biggest thing I’ve done to honor her is to talk about her to others. Naturally people are curious about our daughter’s birth mom and the “situation” from which she came. Usually they can’t help themselves and make assumptions that she “gave away” her child and then the judgement starts. I make sure to say well that’s not how I see it. In fact, she made an enormous sacrifice for our daughter because she loved her so much and wanted to give her a better life than she could at that time. I usually end with, she is brave and strong.

As evident in many of the responses I received, honoring a birth mother can be done through thoughts, words, and actions. Being intentional about the language used when talking about your child’s birth mother to others can reduce stigma and encourage others to think about adoption and the choices made by birth parents in a more positive light. Talking openly with your children about their birth parents can help them develop a fuller sense of not only where they came from, but also provide space for them to ask questions and process difficult emotions. Finding ways to connect with birth parents, whether through in-person visits, phone calls, or sending special gifts, not only helps communicate to them a recognition of their sacrifices, but also invites them into continued participation in the lives of their children.

Here are a few other ideas you could consider:

  • Purchase a tree or flower in her honor and plant it together on a special day (i.e. child’s birthday, Birth Mother’s Day, etc.)
  • Release a balloon with a special prayer or note written by you and/or your child to your child’s birth mother (especially if you do not have direct contact)
  • Invite her to participate in special events as your child grows
  • Provide opportunities for your child to create homemade cards or crafts to send to birth mothers on special days throughout the year

written by Kara Long from ideas shared by NCA Adoptive Families

Talking with Kids About Racism

2020 will likely be remembered for many things. We have faced challenges in the forms of a pandemic, national calls to quarantine, businesses and schools shutting down, and lives being lost. We have also experienced protests erupting across our great nation due to an outcry for justice and an end to racism. The topic of racism is not only trending in many headlines and in bestselling books, but is also being discussed in our communities, churches, and around our dinner tables.

For our adoptive parents and especially for those parenting children of color, the discussions you may be navigating with your child in this season about race and racism may be more difficult than those you’ve faced in the past. It is heartbreaking to see children hear about, experience, or digest what racism is and the brokenness, division, and pain associated with it. However, this is a topic that our children will inevitably be faced with. It is important that we engage the conversation with them and set a precedent of talking openly and honestly about the issue.

Our desire is to help encourage, support, and equip you to talk about race and the difficult topic of racism in your home. These topics can be uncomfortable and challenging. Many parents are hesitant to discuss them because they are fearful of saying the wrong thing. However, if we want to raise the next generation in a way that will empower them to achieve greater racial equity and unity, then it’s critical to lay the groundwork in engaging in these discussions. If you’re raising a child of color, it is crucial that you create a safe environment in your home for these conversations to be had. Latosha Morrison, the creator of the organization, Be the Bridge, has stated that “you can’t fix something that you can’t acknowledge.” By teaching our youth to recognize unfair treatment or inequality, then we can also teach them to stand up for themselves and others.

Here are some recommendations and resources for transracial adoptive parents that we hope will help empower you to have deeper, more beneficial discussions with your kids about race and racism:

1)      Build a solid foundation.  Children have a deep desire to know their history. It is our responsibility as their parents to not only discuss issues related to race but to instill a sense of pride in our child regarding their rich heritage. What an honor it is to be able to communicate to a child that they are created by a loving God who made them in His image, exactly as they are. If you have been given the honor of a child of color then you have the responsibility to help them develop a strong and enriched racial identity. You can do this by teaching them to be proud of the color of their skin, the texture of their hair, and the richness of their culture. Affirm who they are and the unique gifts that they’ve been given. Instilling a positive racial identity is something that takes time, effort, and intention. Children face new insecurities and questions about their identity at each stage of their development. Helping them to feel valued, worthy, special, and confident in who they are is so worth every second of thought and action you can put into it!

NACAC’s Seven Tasks for Parents: Developing Positive Racial Identity has some great tips for how to do this well, and The Conscious Kid’s website is dedicated to promoting healthy racial identity development in youth.

2)      Celebrate your child’s racial/ethnic heritage and history. What an honor it is to not only get to celebrate who your child is, but also to celebrate their culture and the rich history of those that came before them! Adoptive parents with children of any race that is different from their own should be intentional about embracing their child’s racial and cultural community. Introduce them to books, TV shows, and toys that include characters and historical figures of their race. Listen to music, eat foods, and participate in celebrations that are well known in their culture. Hang beautiful art that reflects people that look like them in your home. Find activities in the community where your child can interact with other kids who look like him or her.

3)      Outsource.  Seek out men or women of color who are willing to speak into your life and your son or daughter’s life. If you are not a person of color yourself, then your child’s lived experience is something that you won’t be able to fully share with them. You won’t know what it’s like to be a minority in this country or what it feels like to be stereotyped or treated differently due to your skin color. It’s okay if you don’t know how to answer every question that your child has as it relates to race. It will be a gift to you and your child to have someone else who can offer their perspective, experience, and support.

4)      Talk about the hard things. While there is much to celebrate in embracing your child’s race and culture within your home, it is critical to understand the challenges that come with raising a child of color in a society where racism exists. The history of racism in this country is undoubtedly difficult to discuss. However, the fact that prejudice, discrimination, and racial inequality still exist and that racial tension in this country has recently received so much national attention, has brought about increasingly heavy and painful conversations as children of color try to make sense of it all. Creating a safe space for your child to talk and share about difficult issues related to race and racism is so very important. NCFA recently released a wonderful publication, called Proactive Engagement: The Adoptive Parent’s Responsibility When Parenting a Child of a Different Race. It addresses the responsibility of discussing issues surrounding race and racism with children, and the complexities adoptive parents face trying to protect their children from racism whenever possible, while at the same time preparing them for the racism that they will inevitably face. We highly recommend referencing this article as it also includes wonderful resources and advice about what’s appropriate to discuss and share according to the age and developmental stage of the child.

5)      Celebrate heroes and advocates. When considering how difficult it is to confront issues like discrimination and racial inequality with children of color, I recalled an episode of Mister Roger’s Neighborhood. In that episode, Fred Rogers talked about when he was a little boy and would see scary things on the news. He stated “My mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’” It is so important to teach children about the many good, caring people in our communities who are working for change. A good starting place could be teaching them about civil rights heroes such as Martin Luther King Jr., Rosa Parks, Frederick Douglass, Ella Baker, John Lewis, Roy Wilkins, James Farmer, Whitney Young, Ralph Abernathy, Ruby Bridges, and so many more. In addition, it is important to discuss and celebrate individuals who are currently leading the way in educating about racism and advocating for better standards for racial equality. Who are you learning from? What community leaders do you see trying to make a difference? Who are people or organizations that are bringing people of all races, backgrounds, economic statuses together? While we still have important work to do in this country, let’s remember the helpers and talk about ways that we can all be a part of the change.

6)      Pray together. Pray as a family for racial equity and reconciliation in your community, city, and nation. We know that the Kingdom of God will include every nation, tribe, people, and language. We can pray together for help in loving our neighbors well, and for God to bring people together in ways that we haven’t seen or experienced before. When you feel led, take the opportunity to lament as a family over instances of racial injustice that occur. Many times, lament comes before healing. Pray that God will bring healing to our brokenness, that He will move and change hearts, that He will raise up godly leaders, that He will reveal to us our own biases, and that we can be a part of the work of reconciliation that is so close to His heart.

In our work with transracial adoptive families, Nightlight has worked to educate families well on issues related to parenting children of color. We are seeking to strengthen our education and thinking through ways that we can better support and equip our families both before and after their adoption. Part of the work we have been doing was to update the list of resources that we recommend for transracial families. There are so many new books and websites available and we have tried to compile a thorough list of helpful materials. We hope you will find some resources that will be a blessing to your family.

–Amy Eudy, Home Study Manager

Preparing for a Frozen Embryo Transfer

 

You have decided you want to pursue embryo adoption and have completed all the necessary steps. You have chosen an agency, filled out an application, completed the home study, have been matched with embryos, finalized the contract, and had the embryos shipped to the clinic!

Now you are super excited to get to the fun part, right? The day of your long awaited frozen embryo transfer (FET)! However, you may have to wait just a little bit longer before that special day.

Your clinic may require some preliminary tests before you are ready to begin preparation. Once you have been medically cleared, then you are ready to start the prep work!

First, you will typically begin birth control, followed by an ultrasound to make sure the lining of the uterus is thin and blood work to check hormone levels. Then, your reproductive endocrinologist will prescribe estrogen pills to build up the uterine lining, followed by another ultrasound and more blood work. (Some REs may even allow you to complete a natural cycle transfer with no birth control or medications. Talk with your clinic to see if this is a possibility for you!) REs have an “ideal” thickness that they like to see the uterine lining before they proceed with an FET, but don’t be discouraged if your lining is not within that range! Many women, including myself, have gone on to do transfers with a lining that was not considered optimal and had a successful pregnancy!

About five days before your scheduled FET, you will begin taking progesterone in oil injections each day. It is not the most fun, but so worth it once you see that positive pregnancy test! I would recommend warming the oil with a heating pad or by rubbing it between your hands before you start. It also helps to sit on a heating pad for a few minutes before the injection, as this will help prevent lumps under the skin. Massaging the injection site immediately afterward can help prevent those lumps, too. Switching injection sides each day is recommended, so you do not get too sore on one side.

The day of the FET is really quite simple and easy compared to everything else leading up to it! You will come to the office with a full bladder (yes, really), get changed in to a medical gown and hairnet, and the doctor will perform the FET using a small catheter. You get to watch the embryo get implanted right there on the ultrasound!

At this point you are done! Try to keep busy and focus on other things during the two week wait for the pregnancy test. You will continue the progesterone in oil injections for those two weeks after your FET and continue them for several weeks after if you have a positive pregnancy test.

You got this, mama! And if your FET resulted in a negative pregnancy test, you are strong and courageous for giving those little embryos a chance at a full life!

 

-An Embryo Adoptive Mama

For more information, please visit Snowflakes.org

Advocating For Your Adopted/Foster Child’s School Needs During a Pandemic

 

Advocating for a child in regular life circumstances can feel like quite a challenge. When you add a pandemic to the situation, it can feel overwhelming! I first learned about the necessity of advocating for services in the school system when my husband and I first adopted. When I pointed out concerns I had to our daughter’s teacher, she reassured me that the issues would likely resolve on their own and were attributed to the adoption process. I waited a year, seeing our daughter’s frustration growing, as her needs were not being met in the classroom. I will always regret the delay in accessing services.

 

Since March, when the COVID19 pandemic hit the United States, schools were shut down throughout the nation. The challenging process of requesting specialized services through the school district became additional challenging as all services went remote. Requesting testing and evaluations became next to impossible as school districts scrambled to provide the services that were already assigned, let alone trying to evaluate and determine new services for a child who had not completed any sort of evaluation.

 

Special education evaluations and services can and should be provided despite the pandemic situation. The Special Education Services Team for our school district met with parents last week (online) and shared that in-person evaluations will continue despite the pandemic. Masks, shields, Plexiglas or whatever PPD was necessary to keep both the child and evaluator safe, would be implemented. Some testing will be conducted via remote online programs where appropriate and some might utilize the parent as an in-person helper. We have seen our district come up with very creative solutions to the many challenges of providing speech and occupational services online, along with learning programs for all levels of students.

 

I am concerned that families may delay the request for evaluation or services due to issues with the pandemic. Obtaining services for a child through the school system can seem like an impossible task. It is important to address any concerns right away and not rely on a professional assigning the issue to stress over a foster or adoptive placement. Your child is eligible for evaluation at the time of placement, regardless of the pandemic.

 

Any advocating or request for services from your school district for your child must be in writing. For example, if your child is struggling in learning to read and write and you think your child might have a learning disability, it is critical to identify what you have been seeing and put it in writing to your school principal, requesting an evaluation for an Individualized Education Plan or IEP.

 

 

As a parent, whether adoptive or foster parent, we have learned that we are our child’s biggest and sometimes only advocate. We best know our child and can best describe what they need. It is best to begin with your child’s teacher, helping to identify the issues and needs of your child. The next step is to write a letter to your child’s principal. It is important to identify the issues you have observed with your child, noting any detrimental effects on your child’s ability to learn and benefit from the classroom environment.

 

The IEP letter should include a request for testing and a full evaluation, to determine whether your child is eligible for an individualized education plan or IEP. The IEP process is a formal process that is federally mandated and governed. If your child needs special education services those services would be provided under the IEP program. Testing will not begin right away, but your letter formally starts the process. If you just speak with your child’s teacher or the principal that does not initiate the special education or IEP process. A verbal request for evaluation or services can be ignored whereas if the request is in writing, it begins the formal IEP process. Typically several months of testing will follow. At the end of the evaluations, there will be a meeting of the IEP team, which includes the principal, and the many therapists and specialists that have evaluated your child and you as your child’s representative. You might also check with your pediatrician and see whether the pediatrician notes any issues as well that should be included in the IEP evaluation. You can bring outside reports into the IEP meeting for consideration of services.

 

Throughout the IEP process, from initiation to the provision of services, it is important to stay diligent and to make sure your child’s needs are always at the forefront of the discussion. It is important to continually advocate for your child. We learned through the years as we have gone through more than our share of IEP meetings, that unless the parent is willing to politely make a case and push for services needed by their child, they are less likely to be successful. It makes a difference if the adult in a child’s life is assertive about the child’s need for services.

 

If your child is on an IEP or you believe your child should be on an IEP, I would highly encourage you to track down the parent group for special education in your district. This committee might have different names, but each district should have such a parent committee. The parents on the committee might have some good advise for you as you advocate for your child. One or more of the parents in the group may have experienced a similar issue with their child and might be able to offer some advise on how they were successful obtaining services. I also would encourage anyone whose child is in need of services or is receiving services to read through the www.wrightslaw.com website. It is full of fantastic resources, information and programs available to help you with advocating for services your child might need as it is run by Pete Wright, an attorney advocate in Special Education Law. He has written several books on how to obtain special education services and won cases in front of the Supreme Court.

 

Despite the challenges we are currently facing as we live through this pandemic, your child’s academic, behavioral, emotional, developmental and social needs need to be supported and services obtained through your school district when necessary. Advocating for your foster or adopted child might sometimes feel like you are pushing a boulder up a steep hill, but the outcome is so worthwhile. Your are your child’s best advocate and there is nothing like the experience of seeing your child complete a task that seemed impossible prior to the therapy that was initiated through your advocacy.

 

written by Rhonda Jarema, MA

How Hosting Changed My Life

My family was part of the first host program at Nightlight in 1995. It really was a unique program, the first of its kind, as school-aged children from overseas orphanages were being offered an opportunity to visit the United States. Ron Stoddart, Nightlight’s founder, brought over 12 children from a Children’s Home in St. Petersburg, Russia, ages 7-14 years old.  The children performed their version of The Little Prince at venues across Southern California.

 

We had actually only been home with our daughters, adopted from the same Children’s Home, 2 months earlier, so were dealing with our own adjustment as new parents. We agreed to host two 7-year-old little girls from the group of children our eldest daughter had belonged to at that orphanage. It was a wild 2 weeks! It brought up some issues with our daughters as their friends told them they would be going back to Russia and not to believe us that we were their ‘forever family.’ We did a lot of talking, processing of feelings and reassuring our daughters that they truly were here to stay. We became close friends with all the other families involved. It was an amazing experience!

 

We continued to host over the next 23 years, having over 75 children in our home! Nightlight had several years where there were two tours, summer and winter. After the first few years, I began to work at Nightlight and also took on the responsibility for the tour program. We hosted children from China, Colombia, Kyrgyzstan, Latvia, Russia, Taiwan and Ukraine. It was a fun experience for our children, as they got to practice their Russian and Spanish or learn words from yet another language. We enjoyed experiencing another culture, as we tried new foods, listened to different music and heard their stories. Ron named the tours, ‘”Every Child Has a Name’” at remind us that each child has a story uniquely their own.

 

We brought the 10-year-old soccer champion team from St. Petersburg Russia one year. It was fun to take the children to different places and see their faces as we went to the beach, Costco, Disneyland or a real, manicured soccer field for the first time. The boys were used to playing with a ball made of tape and on a rocky playground. They didn’t have any equipment. Through families and sponsors, we sent them back with soccer cleats, balls, uniforms and a wonderful sign with all of their names. They were so excited!

 

Most of our tour programs over the first 15 years were performance tours. The children performed traditional folk dances and their National Anthem, having prepared prior to their visit. The first performance, the children would be very shy. However, with each performance, as they received applause and tokens of appreciation, the children blossomed!  They enjoyed sharing their culture with the appreciative audiences.

 

Each child came to the US with a small backpack, sometimes with one or two sets of clothing and a toothbrush, but more often, empty. They left with rolling suitcases and character backpacks stuffed to the brim with clothing, new toys and school supplies. We knew everything would be shared with the other children at the children’s home once they returned, so sent clothing, toys and supplies that would be enjoyed by children of all ages.

 

We saw the tour program as a way to advocate for older children hoping for adoption, we also saw it as a way to learn more about other cultures, share our home with children who may not have had a positive family experience. The children experienced having a story read to them before bed, cooking together and going swimming in the ocean. We kept in touch with some of the children, some for a brief time until they were adopted. We continue to stay in touch with others, long past the time they visited. One even stayed with us as she completed an internship for her university, at Nightlight.

 

The majority of the children did find their ‘forever family.’ However, for those who were not adopted, they had a wonderful vacation where they got to experience a loving family who cared about them and shared their family life. They left with memories that would last them a lifetime. As our 4 daughters grew up, we found we had room for two more children and adopted our sons. We did not anticipate adopting again after our first four daughters, however hosting brought us our boys.  Hosting changed our lives in so many ways, leaving us with so many wonderful memories and best of all, our sons!

 

written by Rhonda Jarema | Executive Director, California Office Nightlight Christian Adoptions

 

 

The Importance of Honoring Communication Wishes of Birth Parents

 

We all know, keeping an agreement, any agreement, is important for the simple sake that it’s a measure of your integrity and moral character. Another helpful question to explore maybe this, “How do I establish a post adoption communication agreement with birth parents that will allow me to act in the highest degree of integrity and honor and is most beneficial to my child?

 

Your child, as they grow, will learn your true character through how you treat others. Additionally, your child is an extension of both you and their birth family. How you treat their birth family may be interpreted by your child as, “this is how they feel about me.”

 

Here are a 7 few tips that will help put you on the right path.

 

Examine yourself. Long before the matching process you need to ask yourself, “What are my feelings towards open adoption and continued contact with birth parents?” If feelings of fear or anxiety begin stirring in your heart, it is time to take a pause and look at the root of these feels. Maybe you have unaddressed fears of being rejected by your child or your child favoring their birth parents over you.  Don’t be afraid to discuss these fears with your adoption social worker. They welcome these questions and will help you work through them. Once these fears and anxieties are addressed you’ll be better prepared to have beneficial conversations about openness with birth parents.

 

Start the conversation about openness as early as possible. It’s important to talk about the level of openness you are all comfortable with during and after the adoption even before you are in an official match.  Talking openly and truthfully about everything lays the foundation of an open communication. This may feel stressful and awkward at first, but it is the best way to establish boundaries and expectations from the beginning.

 

Continue ongoing communication throughout the pregnancy to build a level of comfort with the birth parents. The Doors stated it well in their song lyric “People are strange when you’re a stranger”. The strangeness and awkwardness you may feel towards a birth parent (and they feel towards you) only has a chance to subside with time spent communicating and getting to know each other. Hopefully during this time parties are building a mutual respect. This doesn’t mean asking them personal intrusive questions but instead getting got to know their likes and interests. Just having more exposure to each other over time is likely to make you both feel more comfortable.

 

Know your limits. Don’t promise to more contact than what you are really ready to commit to, just to have the birth parents like you more. You are making a commitment for 18 plus years.

 

Understand the post adoption contact can and will change. One of the key characteristics to a successful adoptive parent is the ability to be flexible. Understand that during the course of your child’s life the communication from the birth parent may ebb and flow, depending on several variables.  If they haven’t had contact with you in a few years and then return, don’t scold them but welcome them back and begin a conversation. (

Additionally, if a birth parent hasn’t been able to commit to their communication agreement, it doesn’t mean you have a pass to break your terms of the agreement. Try to be as consistent as you can. Again, your child is watching you J)

 

Know not to take things personally. You may have established what you thought was a great open relationship with your child’s birth parents only to have them discontinue communication with you or they ask for more contact then what you both originally established. If you are abiding to the communication guidelines clearly established in the beginning, you should not fear that a birth parents’ absence is about you or that you need to abide to their wishes for increased contact.

 

Never hesitate to reach out to your adoption agency for advice. Lastly, if communication between birth parents and adoptive parents become contentious, it’s never too early for either party to reach out to an adoption professional or the adoption agency to ask for help and mediation. It’s much better to involve a third party when the conflict first arises then wait until it escalates.

 

 

These are simple and basic tips to assure that a post adoption communication agreement with your child’s birth parents can be established and sustained throughout your child’s life. Although it seems to be the exception and not the rule, I have spoken to birth parents who had signed an agreement of an open adoption, but then the adoptive parents cut off communication. This is heartbreaking. Remember, a birth parent’s decision was not made from a lack of love. She chose you because she felt that you would raise her child better than she could at that point in her life.

 

Written by Michelle Alabran

 

*For more information about why Nightlight believes that open adoption is in most cases the healthiest choice for all involved in the adoption triad, click here.

Overcoming a Millennial’s Perceived Adoption Roadblocks

 

Those born from the 1980s to the mid-1990s are what society calls millennials. It is not uncommon for individuals and couples born in this generation to delay traditional life milestones like marriage, home-buying, and parenting. With that said, there are a few perceived adoption roadblocks that are unique to this generation.

 

Finances

 

One potential roadblock for this generation is the cost to adopt a child. Adopting a child can be expensive, but of course, international, embryo, foster care, and domestic adoptions all have different fees to successfully place a child with a loving family. Millennial unemployment or underemployment is currently more than double the national average. There are certainly several different causes for the rise of millennial unemployment and financial struggle. The number one cause is student debt. The average millennial who has attended college has more than $37,000 in student loan debt. This debt can take years to pay off which can potentially postpone plans for adopting.

 

Fortunately, there are several opportunities for fundraising an adoption. Families seeking adoption may sell T-shirts, put on a spaghetti dinner, have a bake sale, receive contributions from their church community’s financial support, and fund raise in many other creative ways. There are also tax credits, scholarships and other financial assistance available to help families further grow their family through adoption. Click here for more helpful resources for funding your adoption.

 

Schedules

 

Another roadblock for millennials in regards to adoption is scheduling conflicts. Millennials primary education was geared towards the end resulting in pursuing college, the military, or some sort of trade. Because of this a lot of men and women born in this generation earned a degree or certificate of some kind. Therefore, it is more common in this generation than generations preceding that spouses are both working part-time or full-time jobs. These couples may work the same hours, or be on opposite schedules. There are also a lot of jobs held by millennials that require frequent travel to other states or countries. With this said, couples born in this generation consider who will care for their child while they are working, can they afford to hire someone or a daycare to care for their child, how much paid time off or Family and Medical Leave (FMLA) will they have to spend with their adopted child after they are matched? All of these questions and more could be potential roadblocks for these couples considering adoption.

 

The great news is that a lot of corporate agencies and organizations offer great Family and Medical Leave (FMLA) benefits that are accommodating to adoptions, regardless of the age of the child. Families have been able to travel internationally with airfare and hotel costs covered by the company they work for, some families can take months off of work to help their 12-year-old adopted child from a different country accommodate to their adopted family and a new culture. Of course, this is not the case for everyone but it is something to consider and talk to your supervisor or human resources department about at your job. Another thing to consider is that schedules typically have flexibility. Couples considering adoption will have time to modify work schedules, modify routine and to plan for time spent as a family.

 

Age

 

The final roadblock millennials perceive regarding adoption is their age. Depending on who you ask millennials age range from about 23 to 38 years old. Families who adopt might be adding another child to their family or they could be adopting their first child. That said, young couples may fear they will not be approved to move forward in the adoption process because they are too young and/or do not have any experience raising a child.

 

The good news is that there are educational requirements to fulfill before being matched with a child. All adoptive families are required to to complete education including articles and videos on parenting, adoption and if adoptive families are pursuing international adoption, learning about your child’s country of origin. There are several parenting classes offered virtually and face to face across the nation that are typically free or low in cost.

 

There are perceived roadblocks to everything we do in life whether that be applying for a new job, moving to a new state, or adopting a child. It is important to access any available resources or information to assist families in navigating roadblocks.

 

written by Margaret Baldwin | MSW intern