Abounding Opportunities for Children with Down Syndrome

 

In case you didn’t know, October is Down Syndrome Awareness Month. As a mother to a child with Down Syndrome it’s one of my favorite months as it gives me a good excuse to talk about my child to anyone who will listen! But every year at least one person asks me why we need an awareness month because, “Everyone knows about Down Syndrome” they claim. The truth is, while people know DS exists, most of the perceptions about people with DS and their lives are largely outdated and inaccurate. This is partially because the educational and social opportunities available for children like my son are growing and increasing every year in communities all across the world. These new opportunities help people with DS reach their full potential and bring a new sense of community among special needs families.

If you have a new child with Down Syndrome or are considering adopting a child with Down Syndrome you probably want to take advantage of these types of opportunities, but you may not know where to look for them. While every community is different and I can’t tell you exactly what’s in your area, there are some things that should be available no matter where you live and other programs that are common in most cities.

Therapies and special education are a HUGE part of life when you have a child with DS, and every child with DS is provided certain things through the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). Depending on your child’s age they will be provided services such as therapies (sometimes in-home or at school), play groups, pre-school, early intervention services, service coordinators, and employment services (for teens and adults). A good early interventionist or service coordinator can be extremely helpful in getting you connected to other services available in your state such as respite care funding, diaper programs (for older children), community support waivers, free medical equipment programs, and information about Medicaid eligibility. For more information about the IDEA, you can visit their official website here: https://sites.ed.gov/idea/

Community is vitally important to everyone but especially for families and individuals with special needs. When you are not part of a community, it’s easy to feel so alone, like no one understands your life or your child. But when you get connected… It’s hard to describe the kind of instant connection you can have with someone when you realize that you both have a child with DS. Thankfully, most communities have some type of special needs family support, and the National Down Syndrome Society (NDSS) has over 375 local affiliates all over the US. These organizations can provide emotional support, advice, and socialization for the whole family! Our local Down Syndrome Association is very active and has multiple events every month. With opportunities like mothers’ night out, private events at the local children’s museum, summer camps, and the annual Buddy Walk… there really is something for everyone! Your child’s service coordinator or early interventionist can help get you connected to one of these associations, or you can check the NDSS website here: https://sites.ed.gov/idea/ . Another great community can be found in online groups. I’m a member of a special mom’s support group on Facebook which has been very helpful for me. Besides just the emotional support and information on local events, the ladies in the group offer amazing advice on everything from potty training kids with special needs, to toys, to which movie theaters are the most “sensory friendly”.

Before I had a child with Down Syndrome I had NO IDEA about all the local events and opportunities available to people with special needs. There are so many that it would take me weeks to compile an accurate list of events in just the upstate of SC, but here’s my quick list of popular other opportunities to check for in your area:

– County Rec camps and swim lessons for special needs individuals
– Special Needs day or Sensory Friendly day at your local children’s museum or zoo
– Sensory friendly events at your county library
– Date night or respite night at your local church
– Kid’s gyms or playgrounds with inclusive equipment for kids with all abilities
– Sensory friendly movie times at the movie theater

– “Wings for All” program at your local airport to help older child practice before they travel
– Sports teams, dance groups, and horseback riding programs that are inclusive
– Holiday events like egg hunts, parades, or Santa encounters that have special needs areas or times

The point is, opportunities abound if you know where to look for them. And if something doesn’t exist yet, maybe you can help start it! Almost every event or opportunity for our kids exists because of a parent and a community. A parent who said “my kid needs this” and a community who helped make it happen!

If you have a child with special needs, tell me what’s your favorite event or opportunity in your community? I love hearing new ideas and discovering new programs!

 

written by Jennifer P | Adoptive Momma

Older Child and Sibling Adoption: A Good Fit For Your Family?

 

 

I have had the blessing along with my husband to have adopted 6 school aged children over the past 24 years. We knew we wanted children and as we had an active life style and both worked, we decided sibling, school-aged children made sense for our family. We enjoyed spending time with our friends who had children and as they were all school-aged, it made sense for us to adopt children in the same age range as our friends. That would ensure our children would have ‘readymade’ friends and our social group would remain the same. We also knew we wanted more than one child, so it made sense for us to pursue siblings.

We found life was much easier with siblings as they helped to entertain one another. Our children were attached and protective of one another, and because they were adopted altogether this helped them to focus on attaching to us, as their parents.

Another consideration when thinking of adopting an older child is that there are many siblings that are available for adoption. Adoption Agencies and child welfare organizations try to keep sibling children together.

We found there were many benefits of adopting siblings.

One of the most important benefits is that the children already have a bond with one another. Knowing that they have an attachment already makes it more likely that they will be able to form other attachments.

When entering the family, they will always have a buddy, someone to play with, someone who talks the same language and has shared similar experiences. If you are interested in more than one child, it truly makes sense to adopt siblings. Siblings often have a very close relationship with one another that can help them as they make the adjustment into your family. Typically one of the siblings adjusts or takes a leadership role and helps the other sibling or siblings along with their adjustment to the family.

It is less expensive to adopt siblings at the same time rather than at separate times. We adopted two sets of siblings. Our children all developed a close relationship with one another. However their relationships differ according to personality, mutual interests and distance from one another. They became siblings to one another through adoption as well as genetics.

My youngest daughter who is in her late twenties, shared with me that she was glad to have been adopted with her sister as there was someone who shared her same genetics and they would always have one another, particularly if there were any sort of medical issue. It does not take away from the relationship she has with her other siblings, it is just something special shared just between them

Interestingly, most people express the concern that an older child might struggle more with attachment, however, older children CAN attach. I’ve had people tell me an older child, “can’t attach!” That has always puzzled me, as that comment often comes from an individual who is happily married. Certainly that couple met at an ‘older’ age and then fell in love, forming a lasting attachment called marriage. Why is it so hard to consider adopting an older child?

Although attachment takes work at any age, our eldest daughter, at age 16, was absolutely the quickest of all our children to attach, as she truly wanted parents and believed that we would be able to give her what she wanted, a family who would love and care about her. I’m sure she did not account for the fact that with parents, come rules, but she accepted them. I felt at the time and still believe that rules were part of the process that let her know that we cared about her. We explained that we had rules in place, so that there were no surprises. We had our expectations and she knew what we expected from her. More importantly, we gave her unconditional love and acceptance. We acknowledged that she had a life prior to coming into our family and that was in part, what made her so special to us.

We went into our adoptions knowing a bit more about our children. All of our children came with very special gifts, unique to them. Their personalities were evident. I knew our eldest was very smart and wanted to study science and math. I knew our son was not a great student, but loved building things and was very creative. Two of our children were very athletic and enjoyed playing soccer. It helped us to build a relationship fairly quickly as we had a good idea of each child’ likes, dislikes, strengths and weaknesses. We were able to go into their adoptions already having a bond through our shared interests.

We found there were many more benefits of beginning parenting with older children. Our children were toilet trained, slept through the night and could eat the same food we ate. They were able to go to the beach, go hiking or sailing without much planning. We took a lot of road trips and they were good about packing up their clothes and toys, and enjoyed listening to classical books on tape, playing road games and exploring the country. We never could have gone on our many family adventures if we had adopted babies. As my husband and I both worked, it was also helpful that our children were in school. We were able to adjust our schedules around school hours and holidays. However, had we adopted a baby, it would have been far more challenging.

Our sons joined our family after they visited our family through one of the nightlight summer hosting programs. We had the experience of having them in our home for several weeks, realizing during that time, that we also enjoyed parenting boys (after having successfully parented four girls). Hosting gave us the opportunity to see what it was like to have a boy in our home. Hosting is a fantastic way to have an older child in your home for a period of two to six weeks, allowing both you to experience what it might be like to add that child to your family. It also gives the child an idea about what it might be like to join your family or a similar family. As a single children without biological siblings, our sons both appreciated coming into a family where they would have several siblings.

I certainly would encourage any parents who might be open to adopting an older child or siblings to consider the many amazing older children and siblings who are waiting eagerly for a family to call their own. In our family we refer to our adoptions as part of our family adventures. Could you be that family willing to take that exciting adventure of adopting an older child or sibling children?

 

–by Rhonda Jarema

Understanding the Adoption Tax Credit

 

Has anyone you’ve ever known (perhaps even you) had a deep and sincere desire to grow their family through adoption, but its price tag was so overwhelming and discouraging that they concluded there is no way I could EVER afford to adopt?

And if that’s you, I truly understand.  Unfortunately, adoption is expensive and many of us do not have unlimited funds to be able to afford adoption. But before you decide that adoption isn’t an option because of the price, I implore you to educate yourself on the financial resources available to adoptive families, especially the Adoption Tax Credit. The Adoption Tax Credit can help families reduce their federal tax liability and greatly offset the costs of the adoptive process. For adoptions finalized in 2018, the adoption tax credit is up to $13,810 per child.

There is a lot of information on the web about the Adoption Tax Credit. Below are a few creditable resources that I want to share with you. It’s a spring board to your understanding of the tax credit.…And now for the mandatory legal disclaimer.…I’m in no way, shape or form, a tax professional nor am I endorsing any of the links. Please consult your tax professional for how you can receive the maximum benefits from the Adoption Tax Credit….and now, on with the show.

 

Here are a few online informative articles about the 2018 Adoption Tax Credit:

  • North American Counsel on Adoptable Children (NACAC): Adoption Tax Credit 2018:

https://www.nacac.org/help/adoption-tax-credit/adoption-tax-credit-2018/

  • Considering Adoption: How to Claim the 2018 Tax Credit:

https://consideringadoption.com/general/2018-adoption-tax-credit

  • The IRS:

https://www.irs.gov/taxtopics/tc607

 

 

Here are two YouTube videos that I found informative:

  • Rules for Claiming 2018 Adoption Tax Credit – How Can I Claim the Adoption Tax Credit?

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kjF9bIbIml8

  • The Adoption Tax Credit // Explained Simple By A Foster Mom

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=09L0xJVlG_g

 

 

Please do not let the sticker shock of adoption or your lean financial portfolio be the only reason you do not pursue adoption. Do your research, talk to financial professionals and, if God has etched it onto your heart, never say never!

 

“The greatest legacy one can pass on to one’s children and grandchildren is not money or other material things accumulated in one’s life, but rather a legacy of character and faith”– Billy Graham

Why Should You Consider Adopting Through A Christian Adoption Agency?

 

 

You may ask yourself, “Is adopting a child through a Christian agency all that important?” After all, there are many ethical and competent agencies that provide excellent services but do not reference being Christian. Here at Nightlight, we are a distinctly Christian agency, and as a result, you may decide to adopt your child through us.

Nightlight believes in the dignity of human life. This is more than just a belief system in which we are “pro-life.” We advocate for life being given to all humans, starting with embryos—even embryos who may be considered “special needs.” In our Snowflakes program, Nightlight staff provide extensive services to both the genetic/donor and the adoptive families. We are committed to these embryos being born into loving families who have a positive view of adoption.

Because of our dignity for all human life, we value the birth families making an adoption decision. This translates into our advocating for openness in adoption so that birth parents and the adopted children can have continued relationships. We always want a woman’s choice to place a child for adoption to be a positive and life-affirming decision; therefore, we care well for expectant women. If instead of adoption they decide to parent, we give dignity to that decision as well. Women who are expecting children with profound special needs are also supported, and Nightlight has been able to place any newborn infant, regardless of the seriousness of the child’s needs, into a loving family.

Nightlight staff care for the orphan, as mandated in Scripture. At any one time, Nightlight offers close to 15 different international programs. We believe children need to grow up in families and not in institutions.

We at Nightlight are committed to placing foster children into stable families. We believe Christian families should be supported and not be deterred from fostering and adopting children who have experienced abuse and neglect. Our approach is refreshingly different in the attention our families receive.

Nightlight is pro-family. We believe children grow up best in a family environment with a mother and father who have made a life-time commitment to each other through marriage. While we do allow children to be adopted into single family households, we all agree nearly all children do best being reared by a couple. When families come to us to conduct their home study and adoption, these pro-family values are represented in the way we support our clients.

We value adoptions. This may be obvious, but not all adoption programs are financially prudent. Nightlight’s battle cry is “Get more kids adopted”; therefore, we offer nearly every type of adoption possible and do not choose to offer programs solely based on the economic success of a program.

Adoption is part of God’s plan. All believers are adopted by God as one of His children and so we view adoption as a positive experience. As with our spiritual adoptions into God’s family, earthly adoptions also come as a result of loss and grief. We know the struggle is real and adopted children can face many issues. We offer continual support and counseling to families—not just during the adoption process but after placement through our Post Adoption Connection Center.

Nightlight staff will be praying for you and your child. Each week, the staff at Nightlight pray for the needs of our birth families, adoptive families, waiting children, and our agency. We believe God loves our families and waiting children even more than we ever could and so we bring them before his throne often!

Nightlight staff and board members adhere to set of Christian and ethical principles. While many people who do not claim to be Christians observe these high ethical standards, we at Nightlight have a reason for our ethical standards: we are commanded to adhere to these morals. Our standards are not simply obedience to rules, but obedience to a God whom we love. Therefore, we will be honest, hard-working, diligent, giving, and caring because God gives us a special love for those placing children, “orphans,” and for those adopting these children.

We believe that being a Christian is a result of the transformative work of Christ in our lives. Most importantly, those at Nightlight believe Christianity is more than an ideology through which we provide services. Our goal is that children’s lives will be transformed by a relationship with Christ in the context of a loving family. So how does God’s transformative work in us at Nightlight make a difference in the way we provide services to our families? First, we believe God is sovereign, and He knows the child for you. Your child may or may not be through Nightlight. Next, we seek to be directed by the Holy Spirit, so the decisions we make are often the result of prayer. We are not perfect. Our goal is to be wise and provide godly counsel and support to you and your family. Such counsel and support begins when you first make a decision to adopt and go through the adoption process and continues long after you are home with your child.

 

If you have determined that Nightlight is the right agency for you, then we are honored to serve you and your child!

 

Considering adoption? What does the adoption tax credit mean to you?

taxesIf you are considering adopting a child this year, you’ll be happy to hear the latest update on the adoption tax credit. The adoption tax credit has been extended for one more year, has increased, and you may even qualify for a refund!

The new tax credit provides not only a credit but a refund if you do not receive the $13,170 in tax credit. So instead of waiting perhaps up to five years to get your full tax credit, you can receive the credit as a refund if you do not pay $13,170 in taxes.

If you are considering adopting a child from China, for example, the fees and your expenses could work out to be about $23,000. When you deduct for the tax credit, which may also be a refund, you could really be paying about $9,830 in net costs. If you or your spouse’s company has employer-provided adoption benefits, which on average, tend to be about $5,000, you could end up having a net expense of about $4,830. Continue reading

Employers step up

Employers step up with benefits as adoption becomes more difficult

September 2, 2007

BY SUE SCHELLENBARGER The Wall Street Journal

workplaceAdopting a child from overseas has never been easy. But new restrictions on overseas adoptions have made the process much tougher, causing added stress and job disruptions for would-be parents.

The changes are demanding more patience on the part of adoptive parents, better planning and communication at work with bosses and coworkers, and more flexibility on the part of employers. Fortunately for some, the shift coincides with a sharp increase in adoption benefits by some employers, including paid leave and reimbursement for costs.

Flexibility at work has always been essential for adoptive parents. In anticipation of a Chinese adoption in 2004, Jean Walker, a marketing manager, shifted to a new job with her employer, Verizon Communications in New York, that required less travel. She laid plans with her boss for a substitute to cover her three-month adoption leave.

Then, she waited — for the call that a child was ready for her in a Chinese orphanage. It came within weeks, triggering a new flurry of paperwork, planning and leave-taking, Walker says. That adoption took about a year.

More hurdles
But now, many of the most popular countries for U.S. adoptions, such as China, Russia, Ukraine and South Korea, are tightening restrictions or extending the waiting or processing periods. Continue reading