Trends in Special Needs Adoptions

Why are there less “healthy” children or mild identified special needs available for international adoption?

Many families come into adoption wishing to adopt a young, healthy child and it is sometimes disappointing when they realize that this is not usually possible. Families sometimes look to international adoption because they want to adopt help a child in need. I have often had families ask me where there is the most need and my answer is always the same; we need families who want to adopt waiting children, which means children with special needs and older children. Why be a waiting family when you can adopt a waiting child?

The first thing I want to explain is how a child becomes available for international adoption.

  1.  Child is abandoned, removed from home due to abuse/neglect, or sent to orphanage after death of biological parents.
  2. The first thing that happens:  orphanage and authorities look for biological family to care for the child.
  3. If biological family is not found, then the authorities look for a domestic family to adopt the child.
  4. If a domestic family is not found, then the child is available for intercountry adoption.

 

This means that the children who are available in ANY country for international adoption are children who are older.  Most biological and domestic families are willing to adopt younger children who have no special needs.  This also means that even if a younger child is available that the child will have some type of special need that is not acceptable to biological or domestic families or requires more medical care than is available in the country. Domestic adoption has become more frequent in other countries which is why international adoption has changed over the years.

Even if a child is physically healthy, many of these children have emotional needs that may require them to see a therapist.  The children have undergone a lot of trauma in being separated from biological family, being raised in an orphanage, and then leaving the only life they have ever known.  Some children struggle to attach or bond to their adoptive families initially.  It takes a lot of time and work on behalf of the family for the child to feel secure in their adoptive family.

Please visit AdoptionBridge.org to see the children currently available through many of our programs. Below are some children currently waiting in our programs:

We also would encourage you to research some special needs further. A good resource for this is http://www.adoptspecialneeds.org/. Many families also seek the opinion from a doctor when looking over the list of special needs. You can either contact your pediatrician or seek out a clinic that specializes in international adoption (contact us if you need help locating one).

Keep in mind that there are many countries where it is possible to adopt older children or younger children with special needs who are not able to advocate for the children on Adoption Bridge. There are many waiting children in these countries as well. Some of these would include India, Burkina Faso, and more.

 

 

How to Prepare Biological Children for an Adoption

 

Bringing an adopted child into your family changes the dynamics of your home drastically… whether you become new parents or are a “veteran” parent who is already raising other children. During the home study and the waiting process there is often a lot of emphasis on education and preparation for the prospective adoptive parent/s gearing up for the adoption journey and for parenting an adopted child. However, there tends to be much less emphasis and education that is focused on preparing the children who are already in the home and whose lives will also change greatly through their parents’ adoption.

  • Educate– Talk with your children about adoption and ask them what they think about it. This can be an excellent way to both teach them about what adoption is and process through any misconceptions they may have about it. There wonderful children’s books available that you can read together that can be a springboard for great discussion about adoption. Here is a list of books that could be great resources to use with your children.
  • Encourage them to be a participant in the process– Some families hold off on telling their children much about their adoption process for fear that things could fall through or change. This is understandable of course, because there are so many unknowns throughout an adoption journey. There are ways to invite your children into the process without holding on to tightly to a specific outcome. An example would be to pray together for their new brother or sister and asking God to protect them, and to bring them home in His time. Invite them to help pick out a special toy or stuffed animal or draw a picture for their new brother or sister that can go in their room.
  • Don’t only highlight the good parts of adoption– It is easier to talk with our children about the exciting, joyful parts of bringing a new child into the family such as them having a new playmate, and the many things they’ll get to help teach their new brother or sister. However, it can be damaging to stop there. The other part of preparing your children for an adoption is to talk with them honestly and explain that some parts of adoption are hard. If you are adopting domestically and will likely bring home an infant, it’s important to talk about (in age appropriate ways), that the baby will have grown in another mother’s belly and why she may be making the loving choice for her baby to be placed with a different family. You will need to prepare them that when the time comes you will need to travel to meet a baby and to potentially bring that baby home. It is important to talk with them about who they would stay with, and what they could expect during the days you are gone.

 

If you are planning to bring an older child into the family who has likely experienced complex trauma, then it is important that you explain that they will have challenges to work through in relation to their history (again, in an age appropriate way). A child who has experienced trauma, such as abuse or neglect, or who has lived in multiple placements could have various delays and could bring different expressions of emotions and behaviors into the home that could be unfamiliar and scary to your child/ren. Other challenges could be that discipline may not look the same for your adopted child, and that they may need a lot of your attention after placement because adjusting to a new home can be so hard. It is important for your child to know that these things are a possibility, and that it would be natural for them to feel sad, frustrated, or even left out at times. Reassure them that their feelings will always be important to you, and encourage them to tell you how they’re feeling during every part of the adoption journey. It is not uncommon for children to keep their questions and concerns to themselves after an adopted child comes home, for fear that their parent is too stressed or overwhelmed to talk. Continuing to reassure them that their voice and feelings are important to you is vital, both before and after placement.

 

  • Talk about families that don’t match– If you could be bringing a child into the family that is of another race or culture, then discuss how that diversity will add richness to your home. If you are adopting from another country, talk with your children about the foods, holidays, or customs that their new brother or sister will be accustomed to. Begin celebrating those differences before the placement occurs if possible.
  • Keep having fun! Adoption journeys can involve stress and challenges so it is important to continue to prioritize normalcy and fun while you are awaiting bringing a new child home. It is easy to get caught up in the waiting process and to be future-focused as you dream of bringing an adopted child home, but don’t be so focused on the days to come that you miss filling your present days with meaning and memories.

An adoption will be life changing for every member of the family without question. There is much to celebrate, and so much to look forward to, while also preparing your heart and the little hearts in your home that there are good and hard parts of every adoption. By approaching your adoption journey with your child/ren with honesty and good communication, you are setting a tone that is invaluable and will serve each member of the family so well.

Transracial Adoption Panel 2

 

There are many places to receive education and training during the adoption process. In addition to books, online resources, and professional trainings, we want to offer personal experiences from some of our transracial adoptive families through an online Q&A panel. These parents offer just some of their personal perspectives for you to read and consider for your individual family situation.

  1. Introduce us to your family.

 

X family (requested names and initials be changed for confidentiality): Our family has 5 people.  We, the parents, are white.  We have one daughter (11) biologically, one daughter (8) through adoption from China, and 1 son (4) through adoption from China.

 

C family: We are white parents to 4 adopted children – Issac (black, 16 years old, boy, adopted through foster-to-adopt); Vivianna (Caucasian/black/Mexican biracial, 14 years old, girl, domestic infant adoption); Jayden (black, 13 years old, boy, foster-to-adopt); and Jasmine (black, 9, girl, domestic infant adoption).

 

  1. When starting the adoption process, what made you open to adopting a child outside of your race?

X family: Adoptive mother (AM) lived in China for a semester in college and had the opportunity to volunteer in orphanages, spent several years studying Mandarin, and ended up in a career teaching English to kids from around the world.  Adoptive father (AF) was drawn to the idea of adopting a child in true need of a family and kids with special medical needs are at the top of that list.  The China program fit. In an ideal world, no child would be separated from their biological family and adoption should not be a first resort.  We really wanted to be a family for kids who didn’t have another option.  Out of honor and respect for the trauma our own children have endured, we support the Unity Initiative by Love Without Boundaries that works in China to keep families together by providing for the medical expenses of kids with special needs so families don’t feel so desperate that they end up choosing to abandon (https://www.lovewithoutboundaries.com/programs/medical/unity-initiative/).

C family: We had been dealing with infertility, and were anxious to close that chapter of our life and become parents as soon as possible. So when we were being trained as foster parents, we were told the more open we had our home, the easiest we would receive a placement.

  1. What is something unexpected you have experienced, either positive or negative, as a transracial adoptive parent?

X family: On the positive end, we have gained a connection to our local Chinese community which has been so beneficial to our children.  Our kids have access to Mandarin classes, Chinese Fan Dance, Kung Fu, and more.

On the negative end, there is a cultural movement that elevates racial identity above all to the point where adoptive parents are being labeled as colonizers for not finding a way to place a child with parents of their race of origin.  We find this unfortunate because that often is not possible and leaves children waiting on an ideal that may never exist. We believe in a historic Christian, biblical view of race. We are one race – the human race, made in God’s image first, diverse in ethnicities and cultural practices.  In our opinion, a child gaining a family should not be limited by their ethnicity.

C family: A negative is that people often think we adopted our kids as an act of charity. What we’re really doing is raising our kids just like any other parent.

  1. What have been the reactions from members of your community that share your child’s race? Any comments, questions, or experiences with them you’d like to share?

X family: We live in a predominantly Asian community (this is an intentional choice to support an integrated identity for our children).  We have experienced acceptance by them and support in helping our children stay connected to their culture of origin.  Our local Chinese school teaches them Mandarin, celebrates cultural holidays with us, and provides opportunities for cultural dance, cooking, and lessons in cultural stories and traditions.  Local Chinese families have cooked traditional foods for my children as a gift.  The Chinese Parents Association at my children’s elementary school invited me to join so that my kids don’t miss out of cultural events they host.  They invite my bio daughter to join activities too.

The comments we receive most often from Chinese people are about how “lucky” our children are and how “wonderful” we are for adopting them because they would have “no future” in China given their special needs and orphaned status.  We usually respond with, “we are the luckiest parents in the world to have these children.” While these comments are well meaning, they aren’t helpful.  No child is lucky to lose their birthparents, to have little to no information about their origins, and to be raised in a family where they “stick out” as different.  We are not saying that adoption isn’t good, just that it isn’t “lucky.”

C family: We occasionally receive unsolicited advice on our kids’ appearance. Especially Jasmine’s hair. We’ve been approached by strangers recommending salons and stylists we should try. Years ago, our reaction was total humiliation and devastation. But we’ve become more confident to stand up for ourselves and our ability to care for our kids and their appearance.

A lot of this confidence has come from other black families who have supported us and given us great advice. “I’ve never had a black woman say anything about my daughter’s rough-looking hair at the end of a long week,” they tell us. “They said that because you’re white.” We’ve found this invaluable and encouraging.

  1. There has been a lot of learning, discussion, awareness, and conflict this past year regarding how people of color are seen and treated in our society. What lessons learned this year would you want to pass along to other families considering or currently parenting a child outside of their own race?

X family: We have been intentional from the start with our kids about helping them have an integrated identity.  We want them to know that every part of them is valued in our family, including their first language and culture of origin.  They attend Chinese school to keep their Mandarin alive. One of our hopes is that they will achieve bilingual fluency so that if they ever want to go back to China and look further into their story, they can do so without the complications of a translator.   We celebrate Chinese New Year and Mid Autumn Moon Festival.  Since we live in LA, we also have easy access to cultural events.

We have also chosen to live in a predominantly Asian area where our kids don’t visually stand out amongst their peers.  They have racial mirrors, young and old, whose presence communicates to our children a normality about being Asian American. Actually, our blond haired, blue eyed bio daughter is the one who sticks out.  One year she communicated a longing for straight black hair and brown eyes so that she could be like her peers at school.

We would encourage any current or prospective transracial adoptive families to consider what the community around your children will communicate to your children about who they are.  If they rarely see another person of their same ethnicity, will they feel connected to and comfortable with their dual identity or seek to suppress or even reject connection to their culture of origin in order to fit in with the majority group?  What will this mean to them when they are older looking back?  When they go to college or enter the workforce and are assumed to have certain identity markers specific to their culture of origin, will they feel lost – not belonging in any particular world?  How will you prepare them for this?

C family: We regularly have conversations with our kids to be aware of micro aggressions targeted at people of color based on stereotypes that people still don’t realize they have. We always validate our childrens’ feelings and experiences, and teach them not to assume intention. We tell them, “Don’t be afraid to ask questions like ‘what do you mean by that?’ and ‘where is this coming from?’ or ‘why are you asking?’”

Alternatively, when people are overly familiar or intrusive, we encourage our kids to not feel an obligation to answer their questions or provide explanations. Their story belongs to them, and they have a right to share it or not share it with whomever they choose.

  1. What books, resources, or people have challenged you to consider your own racial biases?

X family: A powerful book for us was “Message from an Unknown Chinese Mother: Stories of Love and Loss” by XinRan.  This book absolutely tears apart the dominant American narrative regarding Chinese orphans.  They were never the “unwanted”, but instead were at the mercy of cultural, governmental, and societal pressures that led to the loss of their birth families.  The pain of the mothers who have loved and lost their children will stay with us forever.  This is a must read for families adopting from China.

We appreciate the voices of adult adoptees.  The research they’ve taken part in and the forums they have chosen to participate in to help educate transracial adoptive families is so valuable.  We would encourage adoptive families to seek out blogs, books, and research centered around adult adoptee voices.

We are thankful for real life friends who are Asian American who have generously shared their personal experiences, hurts, and challenges with living a dual identity. Their voices help us be mindful of what our children are experiencing and to be more attuned to the specific education, support, and empathy they need.

We have also been so blessed this year by following The Center for Biblical Unity which is founded by a friend of ours from Biola University who is a Person of Color seeking to frame the conversation about racial identity and racial relations/reconciliation around the Bible.  You can find their resources at https://www.centerforbiblicalunity.com, and her podcast at https://www.centerforbiblicalunity.com/all-the-things.

  1. What is something you wish you had considered or learned more about before bringing your child into your home, specifically in regards to racial identity development?

X family: We wish we would have been better prepared for how to respond when people make negative comments about our children’s country of origin.  People have big opinions politically, ideologically, and otherwise about China and will voice them in front of our kids without a second thought.  Sometimes these comments leave our children feeling rejected or that their country of origin is “bad”.  We can certainly communicate to people close to us about how to consider the impact their words may have on our children, but ultimately our kids will bump up against this in the broader community one way or another.  Some people have even thoughtlessly commented that they disagree with our desire to keep our kids culture alive for them, since it was that culture that led to their abandonment.  We never want our children to feel that we reject any part of them.  We teach them that all cultures have both beauty and fallenness.  We celebrate the beauty, because cultures of the world offer unique reflections of God and amplify different aspects of His character.

C family: We learned that finding like-minded families is the most important aspect to being in a community. Other black families have black parents and black kids, so they don’t match our family dynamic in the same way other multi-racial or adoptive families do.

  1. Do you have any good resources to share on how to learn more about your child’s racial experience in the U.S.?

 

X family: Again, the most important experiences for us to listen to for the sake of our children are adult adoptees, who have a unique experience that differs from typical Asian Americans.  We enjoy the these transracial adoptee resources at  “Yes I’m Adopted, Don’t Make it Weird” that is a vlog (https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCmNviK-KxPVfU4iZD82oQ-A) and Facebook Group (https://www.facebook.com/groups/2154616001461723).  The Empowered to Connect Podcast covers the topic of transracial adoption in episodes 17-20 through adoptee interviews as well.

  1. Do you have any children’s books that you’ve read to your child regarding racial identity and/or adoption that you would recommend?

X family: We hired an artist to do basic illustrations of the life story of our children so that they could understand the narrative of their own history from a young age.   There are pages for: birthparents, finding place, orphanage, receiving a care package from us, the day we met, the day we arrived in the US, and a picture of us standing in front of our home.

We own many adoption books, but the favorite of our kids is, “God Found us You” by Lisa Bergren.

We also have several children books featuring Asian characters (not about adoption specifically).  Our kids particularly enjoy “The Mermaid” by Jan Brett, The Moon Lady by Amy Tan, and Really Rabbits by Virginia Kroll.  Our older daughter enjoys books by Grace Lin, particularly “Where the Mountain meets the Moon.”

  1. What has been the biggest challenge for you as you learn to parent a child outside your own race?

X family: The biggest challenge for us is feeling the weight of the division in our culture around race relations.  There are competing ideologies at play, but the dominant narrative being pushed is humanistic rather that biblical. We are trying to frame ourselves around a historic Christian view of race, anchoring ourselves to the truth of the Bible and relying on God to help us participate in true reconciliation and healing among races through the redemption and family offered in Christ.  We are looking forward to reading a recently released book on this topic from a Talbot Seminary professor, “Confronting Injustice without Compromising Truth” by Thaddeus Williams.  See the book preview including the ethnically diverse group of contributors here:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mCuAkzHuRFE

C family: Honestly, we don’t often have these challenges because we’ve approached adoption and race issues very matter-of-factly with our kids. We are always working on finding the right balance between recognizing how out-of-the-ordinary our family is with how we’re just like everyone else.

For example, we don’t all agree with the athletes kneeling for the National Anthem. We’ve even had some heated debates. But we have boundaries and mutual respect for each other’s opinions, and we can laugh off the differences.

  1. What do you see is the main role a parent can play in the lives of their child concerning their racial identity development?

X family: Help them keep both parts of themselves alive and integrated – the culture of origin where their lives began and the culture of adoption where their lives are now. Do this together as a family.  Learn the language with them.  Cook their cultural foods together.  Find community members who can help educate them about their culture of origin or even about what it means to be an American with dual cultural identities.  Listen to adult adoptee voices.  Keep conversations about race, injustice, identity and truth a regular part of family life and stay grounded in the gospel.

C family: Be educated! Educate yourself, and those around you. Reach out to mentors within your child’s race for their perspective on social issues.

  1. Anything else you want to share that wasn’t covered by the questions above?

X family: Don’t get swept away by the pressures being put out there by social media, media in general, or the dominant cultural narratives about race.  Have real life, genuine relationships with people of other ethnic and cultural backgrounds and approach the things you don’t know or haven’t experienced with humility.  Listen, learn, and most importantly – stay grounded in Jesus who is the ultimate answer to the fallenness we see all around us.

C family: Please check your motives in choosing transracial adoption. Be careful that it is not your attempt to prove to those around you that you are anti-racist. It is not your child’s job to fulfill a dream for you or to bring diversity to your life. This is actually a form of micro aggression. Adoption should be about finding the best family for a child, not the other way around.

If you are interested in hearing from two more families on this topic, please check out our blog post Transracial Adoption Panel 1.

A Book Review: All You Can Ever Know

 

“No matter how a child joins your family, their presence changes all the rules; they move into your heart and build new rooms, know down walls you never knew existed.”

 

This book offers something very unique through the perspective of an adoptee. It does not hold back about the complexities of adoption and does this by the author’s own lived experiences. By the end, you feel  like you know Nicole Chung, the author, or had spent hours sitting with her, listening to her life and her deepest thoughts. She recalls memories and beautifully weaves them together with her current quest to find her biological family. Simultaneously, she feels torn between the family who raised her and the family she always longed to know.

 

Nicole deconstructs her experiences and emotions from childhood to young adulthood. It’s important to remember that every experience with adoption is different. Nicole’s story is unique to her and her family and her quest is filled with many mixed emotions. She sets out to search for her biological family as she approaches motherhood. At different times, she marvels at the connection and the physical and emotional attachments with her baby during pregnancy and after, that are imminent. She reflects how she does not have any of this with her birth mom, let alone many details of her own birth’s circumstances. It’s a loss she’s grieved but now re-experiencing in a new way.

 

This book will challenge you in many ways  that can only be accomplished through the stories of those experiencing adoption and daily living it. It reveals a hidden layer of self reflection. While we celebrate new stages of families and growing bonds, there is also pain through loss that exists in adoption. For some adoptees there is always a pain or isolation that exists in parts of their story, and although Nicole has the opportunity to find some level of closure in hers, she does not fail to acknowledge the hurt and pain that exists for others in her own story or for others and their own experiences. Whether the whole book or parts of the book are familiar to you, it should not be generalized with every adoption. For example, adoptions are also facilitated by agencies, not just attorneys and levels of openness in adoption can vary.

 

There are several informative topics addressed in the book that any adoptive family, relative or professional, could learn from. We encourage everyone to find space for stories like Nicole’s and gain deeper insight to adoption. Examples of topics included in this book are open & closed adoption, transracial adoption, racism, infertility, pregnancy, poverty, child abuse, grief, trauma, belonging and birth family reunion. You can acquire your own copy here.

 

 If you’re new to hearing the adoptee experience, we also recommend “Closure” , a documentary by Angela Tucker where she and her husband document her search for her biological family. Angela also has a podcast called, “The Adoptee Next Door”, where she features conversations with other adoptees and insights on racism, religion, immigration, trauma, and many other topics.

 

 

Book Review for Birth Moms

 

Once the holidays settled, I was able to dive into an amazing story of a young mom’s journey of adoption- Finding Hope: A Birthmother’s Journey into the Light. I would like to start off by saying this book is also a quick read and you will not be able to set the book down until it is finished. You will cheer on this mom in her low points and even more in her high points. This book is written by Hope O Baker who continues to advocate for birth parents on this journey through conferences, social media, and other outlets. In this book you will follow Hope through her pregnancy, placement, family struggles, mental health, and more.

 

Hope tells us how it was difficult knowing which family to choose to parent her baby when she was looking through adoption profile books. She stated, “.., but it didn’t click,” until seeing the profile book of the family she ultimately chose to adopt her baby. It is often that expectant parents look through a number of books and no connection is felt. When Hope brings light to this part of her journey it brought reassurance that this is a good read for not only expectant moms, but also prospective parents to understand. She shows us the ups and downs of her feelings through this process. She gives us an opening to the anxious feelings that come with selecting a family for her son.

Another main focus that Hope speaks to us about is the struggles with her mom throughout her journey of adoption. In the book you follow along with the arguments and uncertainties of their relationship. This can be seen in many stories of expectant parents. There may be a family member that does not understand an expectant parent’s wishes or the expectant parent is left wondering how to tell their family about their plan of adoption. When reading along through Hope’s story it is evident that the people who the expectant parent(s) chooses to be a part of their journey could benefit from Finding Hope. I do not want to give everything away, but there is a happy ending!

 

Hope lets the readers in on her struggles with substance abuse and mental health. Hope was doing great in her career by making strides and friends at her job, but inside she was struggling with depression, alcohol, and drugs. We hear about a moment in her story where she knew she needed to find better coping strategies or she would not be able to get out of what she was experiencing. Through the journey of her drug and alcohol abuse, she is frank and honest with the readers. We see the realness in how it can take over as a coping mechanism.

 

Finding Hope: A Birthmother’s Journey into the Light is an empowering story and should be read by expectant parents, loved ones of expectant parents, and parents waiting to adopt. Hope is open and honest about her joys and falls of her journey from finding out she was pregnant to where she is now. Hope states “I’m still broken, but I see those cracks as opportunities.”

The Journey of a Social Worker

 

The Beginning: I walked up the trail to the lake.  Looking around I saw a group of teenagers sitting and talking.  I walked over to the group and began talking about the beautiful day.  Then I looked at Kristen and asked, “Are you ready to go?”

Kristen was a 14 year old foster child and I was her social worker.  I had received a phone call from the school stating Kristen had skipped school.  I knew where to find her and went to the lake.  There were no harsh words but there was an expectation that Kristen would come with me to return to school.

The Impact: Kristen was a beautiful girl but she had experienced a difficult life.  She needed someone to stand with her and support her as she tried to discover the life that God had always intended for her.  There are many stories I could tell of my time with Kristen.  I always wondered if anything I did or anything I said would have an impact on Kristen’s life. Years later I discovered that Kristen was married to a wonderful man and had twin boys.  And she remembered me and the time I spent with her.

The Example: Working with Kristen made me see how important it was to take time with older children.  To set an example for them in life.  To be a confidant.  To support their dreams.  To walk with them through the difficult times.  I began to see that in order for a child to succeed, he or she needs a firm foundation.  I began to think of ways that I could help young pregnant women learn how to parent their child so that the cycle of foster care would end.

After raising my own children, I began working with Nightlight Christian Adoptions as a pregnancy counselor and then a Domestic Program Coordinator.  I began to live my dream of assisting women in parenting their children.  Being a parent means loving your child so much that you make decisions that are best for them even if it makes your heart aches.  I have walked with woman after woman as they made the most loving choice for their child: to allow an adoptive family to raise them as their own.

The Support: I left Nightlight for a short time to work with a pregnancy center in my hometown with the goal to create a safe place for women who are hurting.  Women who think abortion is the only answer.  Women who are struggling to break the cycle of abuse, neglect, domestic violence.  To help women provide a firm foundation for their children.

God eventually led me back to Nightlight as an International Program Coordinator.  Now I work with orphanages and central authorities, attorneys and private investigators, government officials and others to help find homes for children who are orphans.  To help children to be placed in loving families who can provide that firm foundation for the child to live and thrive.

The Ever Changing Field: The amazing thing about being a social worker is that it is an ever changing field.  Seeing new opportunities to help people.  Learning new ways to make a difference.  Reaching out a hand to the hurting and the confused.  Sometimes taking on more than I can handle, which is typical of almost every social worker.  Always knowing that God has made some to be teachers, some to be caregivers, some to be authorities, and some to be social workers.  I am honored that God chose to create in me the heart of a social worker.

 

No matter where you begin your journey as a social worker, you will find so many rewarding opportunities to impact, to lead by example, and to show your support to those who need it the most.

Transracial Adoption Panel 1

There are many places to receive education and training during the adoption process. In addition to books, online resources, and professional trainings, we want to offer personal experiences from some of our transracial adoptive families through an online Q&A panel. These parents offer just some of their personal perspectives for you to read and consider for your individual family situation.

  1. Introduce us to your family.

 

S Family: We are white parents to five adopted children. Three of our sons are adopted from Uganda and they are 9, 10, and 12. We have a 5-year-old daughter from embryo adoption who is black and a 3-year-old biracial (Hispanic/White) son through embryo adoption.

 

P family: We are Adam and Ashley (Caucasian) and have adopted son: Arkyn (afro-Colombian, age at adoption was 13, currently age is 15), and biological sons (two): 1-Auden (Caucasian age 12) 2- Asher (Caucasian age 9)

 

  1. When starting the adoption process, what made you open to adopting a child outside of your race?

 

S family: We specifically started the adoption process to adopt from Africa. My husband’s uncle is from Uganda. My husband had been as a pre-teen and had wanted to adopt from Africa since his first visit.

 

P Family: Our story is a little different than most as we were not actually seeking out to adopt but were rather lead by the Lord to adopt.  If you’d like to know more details of our story, you can read it here:
https://www.lovewhatmatters.com/two-kids-that-was-our-plan-i-expected-a-no-way-but-he-started-talking-about-it-before-i-did-family-adopts-after-hosting-foster-child-he-was-meant-to-be-here/?fbclid=IwAR0ZAmKWbe2khAB6DdGw4aIf3a4W4dxSIwA8PqS7af0xgEanx1AtfhD_EBI

 

  1. What is something unexpected you have experienced, either positive or negative, as a transracial adoptive parent?

 

S family: We have had a lot of experiences due to having been transracial parents for over 10 years. I think the most frustrating thing is the common occurrence of intrusive questions from strangers who are curious about our family. Asking questions about our children’s story in front of them can be very difficult for our kids. Another fairly common occurrence when my daughter was young was that white women would frequently want to touch her hair. I have always intervened to confront someone when it happens, but now that she is older she is empowered to confront people on her own.

 

  1. What have been the reactions from members of your community that share your child’s race? Any comments, questions, or experiences with them you’d like to share?

 

S family: I think one of the most encouraging parts of this journey has been the interactions with members of the black community. They have always been encouraging and helpful. I have been in the black haircare aisle and had women come up to me to ask me if I needed help or tips. Whenever I have reached out to a black woman for hair help, questions, etc—I have been welcomed. When we attend church services of our local black church, the staff and congregation has been overwhelmingly kind. We have even developed a relationship with the pastor and been able to share concerns and thoughts about raising black children in our town.

 

P family: Most people have been very supportive.  We live in a small town where most everyone knows each other to some degree, so when we hosted Arkyn and needed to advocate for him the community “followed along” so to speak and so when we began the adoption process everyone rallied around to help in fundraising and supporting that process.  So with that being said there are lots of people that already “knew” Arkyn before he was home. The most questions we have gotten have been about hosting and the program and how that all works.

 

  1. There has been a lot of learning, discussion, awareness, and conflict this past year regarding how people of color are seen and treated in our society. What lessons learned this year would you want to pass along to other families considering or currently parenting a child outside of their own race?

 

S family: I spend a lot of time talking to white families navigating this journey. I think the first step if you are new to the discussion and opening your eyes to systemic racism—learn to sit in the uncomfortable. The initial reaction to any type of information that goes against the filter with which we have seen the world is challenged, it can be easy to shut down and get defensive. Parenting a child of a different race requires the humility to learn and listen, really listen, to those who share the culture and race of your child. My second recommendation is to fill your life feed — whatever media that may be that you allow to inform your mind—to have more voices that resemble your child than you. Whether it be podcasts, books, social media or movies…start shifting the content to creators that are the voices of your child’s culture, race and journey. It is especially important to listen to these privileged voices in the space of transracial adoption. The voices that carry the most weight with how you navigate this journey should be adult transracial adoptees. They are the best representation we have of what our children might be feeling and experiencing as they grow.

 

P family: It has been a hard year in that area for sure and I think the hardest thing was having to have those hard conversations with our son who came from a place and country that he had never experienced such harsh discrimination.

 

  1. What books, resources, or people have challenged you to consider your own racial biases?

 

S family: The Color of Compromise by Jemar Tigsby, Black Dignity in a World Made for Whiteness by Austin Channing Brown, White Fragility by Robin DiAngelo

 

  1. What is something you wish you had considered or learned more about before bringing your child into your home, specifically in regards to racial identity development?

 

S family: I think I was just unprepared for how hard it is for those who have grown up with privilege to recognize it. It costs a lot to admit that your trajectory in life may not have been determined only by your merit. People can really have difficulty realizing that just because you overcame difficult circumstances or challenges doesn’t mean that systemic racism doesn’t exist. I think the often used quote that white privilege doesn’t mean your life hasn’t been hard, it just means that the color of your skin isn’t one of the things that makes it harder.

 

P family: I can’t think of anything specific but I don’t think you can ever really learn enough or stop learning about their specific culture and where they come from and include it in your family as much as possible!

 

  1. Do you have any good resources to share on how to learn more about your child’s racial experience in the U.S.?

 

S family: There are a lot of adoptee voices being highlighted on IG, FB and podcasts. Never stop trying to understand because it is a lot to try and comprehend when cultures is just something that washes over you from the day you are born. Understanding a different racial identity will be a lifelong learning journey.

 

P family: I would say staying involved as much possible in their culture and connecting with other transracial adoptive families.

 

  1. Do you have any children’s books that you’ve read to your child regarding racial identity and/or adoption that you would recommend?\

 

S family: We keep a house full of books with racial mirrors. Young Gifted & Black, The Crown, Chocolate Me, The Little Leaders Series

 

  1. What has been the biggest challenge for you as you learn to parent a child outside your own race?

 

S family: I think the biggest challenge is having to try and lift the veil of white privilege from the eyes of friends and families. It’s an enormous undertaking to try and get those you love to see what persons of color are dealing with on an everyday basis. If white people can start to unpack their privilege, it would have such a ripple effect on our communities.

 

  1. What do you see is the main role a parent can play in the lives of their child concerning their racial identity development?

 

S family: I consider my role to be a facilitator to give them experiences and relationships with those who can really help them develop a positive racial identity. There is so much that I can’t teach them due to the differences in our racial identities. Another role I consider really important is having a relationship that fosters the openness that any question or topic is welcome in our home. We use current events and their own personal experiences with discrimination to help them process what it means to be black in our current world.

 

P family: Just being supportive and meeting them where they are and answering any questions they may have.  Supporting them as they choose to explore their heritage and not pushing your own ideals or heritage on them.  Leave stigmas out of it and let them choose their path and who they feel they need to be, they come from hard places and don’t need any added pressure.

 

  1. Anything else you want to share that wasn’t covered by the questions above?

 

S family: I just encourage families to keep learning and sitting with the feelings of discomfort that come with changing and altering your view of the world. We are choosing to educate and learn for our children. Research is continuing to show that transracial adoptees struggle with racial identity plus the trauma and loss that comes with losing their birth families. Adult adoptees are asking us to combat the colorblind mentality that was typical of most of our upbringings and asking us to see the world as they see it. Our children can only be more prepared for discrimination and bias if we are open to having the hard conversations and believe the experiences that people of color are sharing to those who listen.

 

 

Couples Weary of Domestic Adoption Find Success in Embryo Adoption

 

Domestic adoption has been an incredible choice for many families, but for others it simply does not work out in the end. They become weary of domestic adoption because of long waiting times for the child of their dreams.  That was the experience of Dana and Tim Ericksson, who had two birth mothers change their minds during their domestic adoption journey. The couple went on to successfully give birth through embryo adoption.

After trying to conceive a baby for eight years, Dana and Tim never thought they would see a positive pregnancy test.

Thanks to embryo adoption — an option that allows the adoptive mother to experience pregnancy and give birth to her adopted child through the transfer of donated frozen embryos — Dana became pregnant.

“We had been married 15 years and we had been trying for eight years and never once been pregnant,” Dana said. “I never thought it would happen for us. It was surreal to be able to experience it.

Having a biological parent change their mind is not the only concern, though. For many, the cost of a domestic adoption can be a huge deterrent. Domestic adoption can reach upwards of $30,000 or more. That price simply puts domestic adoption out of reach for many couples without taking on significant loans or personal debt. The health of a child can be a concern, as couples won’t have an opportunity to control the prenatal environment and may be unsure about what conditions their child experienced before they were born. Domestic adoptions can also take years, making the timing of growing a family unpredictable.

Many couples who are pursuing a domestic adoption have not yet learned about the option of embryo adoption. It might be that they have heard of it, but are afraid of entering the world of assisted reproduction again. Most of the couples who choose embryo adoption have experienced failed IVF. They finally find success by adopting embryos. The cost of embryo adoption is about ½ the cost of domestic adoption and takes it about 8-12 months to be matched with a placing family with remaining embryos.

Curious? Learn more about frozen embryo adoption, visit Snowflakes.org.

 

Creating Your Profile Book: 5 Steps to Putting Your Best Foot Forward

 

 

As a family adoption advisor and pregnancy counselor, I get the unique opportunity of working with both adopting families and expectant mothers. It gives me great joy to be a bridge between families and moms, and also gives me a chance to help the two understand each other’s perspectives just a bit more. These two worlds are brought together during the profile viewing and matching processes.

This part of the process can be nerve-wracking for families and expectant mothers alike! As someone that has had the opportunity to review many families’ profile books, and also sit with expectant mothers as they view them, I have come up with five tips to help families create a successful book and put their best foot forward.

Remember that authenticity is key. While the visual appeal of your profile book is very important, remember that the goal of your profile book is to show the expectant mother what life for her baby would be like as part of your family. While it is great to include professionally done family photos you may have or selfies of your lovely faces, it is important to have photos of you being yourselves and enjoying regular family life. Include candid photos, photos of visiting the park, walking the dog, or baking in the kitchen; include put-together photos, casual photos, fun photos, and photos of normal, average life alike. This type of variety shows the down-to-earth humanness of your family, and will make your book feel relatable. Authenticity opens up the door to connection!

Embrace Vulnerability. Putting your life on display for a stranger who is making a big decision to see may feel daunting and overwhelming, but I encourage you to be vulnerable as you create your book. There are a number of reasons why expectant mothers will select family profiles, but many times whether or not the expectant mother feels a connection to the family plays a significant role in this process. There are many wonderful, loving families waiting to adopt, but your story is uniquely yours – share it! Expectant mothers will view many profiles and see photos of many different families, but your story is what sets you apart and makes you unique.

Create a Design that Catches the Eye. While the content of your book is most important, the design and layout of your book can at times be almost equally important. Your profile book shows the expectant mother who your family is, and we want to see you put your best foot forward. If design is not your forte, don’t stress! There are companies, such as Kindred + Co. and Little Ampersand Co., who create custom or semi-custom profile books from start to finish. These companies create lovely, appealing books that are designed with expectant mother’s perspectives in mind. If going this route is not for you, viewing example profile books or browsing Pinterest for inspiration is a great way to create your own book with a little bit of design help from those that have done this before.

Know that your story matters.  Share who you are! Your childhood, love story, interests, faith background, passions, hearts for adoption, thoughts about each other, and day to day life are part of who you are and who you’ll be as parents. This provides more opportunity for connection, and gives expectant mothers an even greater glimpse into who you are. There are many factors and details that may lead an expectant mother to her decision when it comes to choosing a family, but often times it comes down to these details.

Have Fun! While creating your profile book may feel overwhelming or stressful, try to have fun with it and embrace this unique opportunity to creatively share who you are as a family. No family is perfect, and creating profile books is not a contest amongst families; being your authentic selves will go far. You are absolutely not alone; our team is excited to assist you as you prepare to create your profile book and will help you throughout this process. No matter how you choose to create your book, your book and your story will connect with the right expectant mother. Though creating your profile may feel daunting at first, I pray that you are able to have fun and embrace this opportunity of sharing your story!

 

What You Can Do to Become an Adoption Advocate in 2021

 

Advocacy in adoption can be surprisingly easy and straightforward when aware of the available resources. Below you will find some ideas of how you can support families and help orphaned children find their forever families.

  1. Be supportive of adoptive parents going through their adoption process by providing donations, offering respite care, or completing small acts of service. Some examples of small acts of service include cleaning the adoptive family’s house, cutting their grass, preparing a meal for them, or providing them with a listening ear for emotional support. A little goes a long way here! Nightlight Christian Adoptions provides many routes to help financially support prospective adoptive parents and children in need:
  • Click here to view our donation page.
  • Click here to donate to a specific family or child on Adoption Bridge.
  • Click here for more information on respite care.
  • Click here for other ways to give.

 

  1. Become a Foster Family. During COVID-19, there has been a strong need for foster families due to mandatory shutdowns of schools. In turn, this has become detrimental to many at-risk children who would normally view school as their safe haven from difficult family situations such as abuse, neglect, or both.
  • Click here for information on how to become a foster family.

 

  1. Sign up for National Council for Adoption (NCFA) newsletters that will guide you on advocacy efforts through research and best practices.
  • Click here to subscribe to NCFA’s newsletters. Simply scroll to the bottom of their page to subscribe.

 

  1. Write your congressman about the need for permanency for children worldwide and the need to reduce barriers to intercountry adoption. I encourage you to keep it brief, and limit it to only one issue and one page. If you have another adoption issue you’d like to write about, write a separate letter.
  • Click here to find your representative.

 

  1. Attend seminars and workshops to further your knowledge regarding our adoption programs and how you can support the different types of adoption that Nightlight offers. These classes will provide families with useful information and support.
  • Click here to view our schedule of our offered classes.

 

  1. Support children that are hard to place. Generally, Nightlight will place eligible waiting children that are in need of forever families and who are ready to be adopted on the secure site known as Adoption Bridge . We encourage families to be home study ready before inquiring about a specific child. However, you can still inquire without a completed home study. You can also donate to our Bubushka Fund that supports international children that are harder to place.

 

  • Click here to donate to the adoption of hard to place or special needs children. Simply select “Bubushka Fund” from the dropdown menu on the page.

While not every individual or family finds adoption is something they can commit to, there are numerous ways to help vulnerable children and to support prospective adoptive families who wish to provide a forever home for these children.  Understanding that these processes can be emotional and lending support efforts are also extremely valuable to the world of adoption. All efforts towards this end should be acknowledged.