When Love Isn’t Enough for Children Who Experienced Trauma

Love is in the air as we celebrate Valentine’s Day! We often associate Valentine’s Day as a ‘Hallmark holiday’ with the cards, chocolates, and red roses. We celebrate with lavish gifts and expressing our love to our loved ones. Yet how do we express love in a way that matters to our children from hard places? More than simply saying, “I love you” or giving a tangible gift, children who have experienced trauma require something different. They require connection.

We know that the brain that has experienced trauma needs more than just love to grow, develop, and heal. TBRI (Trust Based Relational Intervention) offers us three foundational principles for raising children who have experienced trauma: connection, empowerment, and correction. I often find that it is difficult to follow these principles in the moment and it does not always feel intuitive to parent in this way. Sometimes expressing love to our children feels easier when we can just buy them a new toy or tell them how we love them instead of showing them how we love them. As humans, we are hard-wired for connection and children who have experienced trauma crave connection in a variety of ways. What works for one child to feel connected does not always work for another. Love does not “fix” a history of trauma, but connection can help establish trust and create nurturing bonds.

Below are some great ways to connect and show love to your child:

  • Connect by playing a game by making intentional eye contact and copying each other’s facial expressions. This is also a great way to discuss feelings and emotions and how to define them.
  • Connect by mirroring each other’s body movements as if looking in a mirror. This is a great way to connect through body awareness.
  • Part of being able to connect is ensuring that the child feels safe in their environment. Connect by using “I wonder” questions. It takes the pressure of the child needing to have a direct response and gives a safe space to answer with multiple options for responses. For example, reword the sentence of “What were you thinking?” with “I wonder what you were thinking about?”
  • Connect by preparing and cooking a meal together and discussing the importance of nutrition. Talk about how you feel when you eat a balanced meal and how you feel when you do not.
  • Connect by doing a mindfulness activity together. Take a nature walk and point out what you notice about the sounds you hear, the colors you see, the smells you smell, or how being outside makes you feel.

Showing our children how we love them instead of just simply telling them that we love them helps establish deeper bonds of trust. What are your favorite ways to connect with your child? How do you show them that you love them?

By: Amanda Arata

The Best Therapies for Your Adopted Child (And You)

Adoptive families know that therapy will benefit their child, but it can be difficult to know where to turn. Maybe you thought it was called “counseling” but then you started to see words like “trauma-focused” or “eye movement desensitization” or question the effectiveness of art/animal/music/sand in therapy. We’ve created this guide below to find the right fit for your child or yourself.

 

Parent-Child Interaction Therapy (PCIT)

PCIT is a combination of play therapy and behavioral therapy for young children that will involve you as the parents. Parents learn techniques for relating to their child struggling with emotional and behavioral problems, language issues, developmental disabilities, or mental health disorders.

Who this best serves: Children ages 2-7 and their parents with experiences of trauma or have diagnosis on the autism spectrum.

 

Play Therapy

Children are able to examine and express their thoughts and emotions in an age and developmentally appropriate way through play. The goal is to help children learn to express themselves in a healthy way, learn respect and empathy, and discover positive problem solving techniques. This will work for children still learning English as well. General play therapists will be appropriate or you can consider Theraplay®, which is a specific type of play therapy, and you can look for a practitioner in your area.

Who this best serves: Children ages 3-12 who may have social or emotional deficits, trauma, anxiety, depression, grief, anger, ADD, autism, learning disabilities, and/or language delays.

 

Animal-Assisted Therapy

Often used to enhance other therapy the participant is engaged in, this therapy gives a sense of calm, comfort, or safety and diverts attention from stressful situations. They may keep an animal at home or by their side during the day or engage equine therapy at a ranch or equestrian school. Bonding with an animal can increase self-worth and trust, stabilize emotions, and improve communication, self-regulation, and socialization skills. Equine therapies have been very successful with adopted children.

Who this best serves: Children with behavioral issues, trauma histories, depression, autism, medical conditions, schizophrenia, or addiction.

 

Art/Music Therapy

Artistic therapies are typically nonverbal and allow the participant to process difficult feelings and express them when they cannot with words. This may be due to difficulties with expressing themselves or still learning English when other talk focused therapies may not be helpful. Music focuses on listening to, reflecting, or creating music to improve health and well-being. Art uses drawing, painting, collage, coloring, or sculpting to help express themselves and “decode” the nonverbal messages behind the art. Sandplay uses sand/toys/water to create scenes of miniature worlds that reflect their inner thoughts, struggles, and concerns.

Who this best serves: Children, adolescents, or adults who have experienced trauma, abuse, or neglect. They are useful for anyone struggling with anxiety, depression, trauma, or on the autism spectrum.

 

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and Trauma Focused- Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

This therapy is short-term and focused on intervention in the way an individual thinks and feels and how that affects the way they behave and problem solve. It works on changing thought patterns as a way to change behavior. Trauma-focused is for focusing specifically on effects of early childhood trauma.

Who this best serves: Adolescents and adults but school age children can benefit from this therapy if they are developmentally able to do so. It takes participants who are engaged in therapy and works well with depression, anxiety, PTSD, anger, panic disorders, phobias, or eating disorders.

Trauma-focused is best with adoptees or adoptive parents with abuse histories, PTSD, depression, or anxiety as a result of incidents in childhood.

 

Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing Therapy

This is a specialized therapy that diminishes negative feelings associated with particular memories of traumatic events. It focuses on emotions and symptoms from the event and uses a hand motion technique causing eyes to move back and forth which engages both sides of the brain. This physical and emotional connection can bring deeper healing, particularly with individuals with significant trauma.

Who this best serves: Adolescents and adults with PTSD, anxiety, phobias, depression, eating disorders, schizophrenia, and stress. It can also be used with younger children with therapists who have this experience and training.

 

Special notes for adoptive parents: The adoption process can bring up difficult emotions, thoughts, or experiences from your own past. While this is painful, it is also good that this is surfacing so you are able to seek healing. You may find your adopted child is pushing buttons you did not know were there and counseling will benefit you and your parenting. We encourage you to also consider the therapies listed above for yourself while you seek services for your child.

 

This information is sources from Psychology Today. You can learn more about these types of therapies and search for counselors on their website.

 

By: Heather Sloan, LBSW

How to Manage Sibling Rivalry at Placement

Sibling rivalry is a common and typical occurrence among siblings. There is an innate desire for siblings to compete, challenge, and squabble. Children who grow up in the same home together, whether by birth, adoption or foster care learn how to manage their future relationships through these early interactions with siblings. A healthy and supportive family environment gives children opportunities to learn to resolve differences and develop stronger relationships that they can use in other areas of their lives as they grow up.

When a child joins a family through adoption they come with a history of trauma, and parents should anticipate and prepare for some difficulties in sibling dynamics. By understanding their trauma history, parents can prepare and make safety plans to address issues that may arise. For example, if a child has a history of physical abuse or has been exposed to violence, a safety plan should be in place to protect all children in the home from aggression and additional trauma.

Establishing a new sibling relationship will not necessarily come easily or effortlessly. Here are a few ways that parents can promote healthy relationships among siblings:

  • Carefully examine the motivation behind adopting and set realistic expectations. The primary reason behind adopting shouldn’t be to provide a playmate for your child. If there are children in the home already, help them to understand there may be some difficulties, adjustments, and struggles to adding a child to their family through adoption.
  • Have a plan and explain to your children how you will manage sharing attention among children. Children in the home may feel like their new sibling requires too much attention from their parents during the transition. Encourage open communication and encourage them to talk to you about their feelings.
  • Focus on creating positive early interactions between children. A good first impressions can set a relationship up for success from the beginning. Take into consideration the time of day and regular routine of the children before introducing them for the first time. Don’t introduce them to their new sibling when they are exhausted, hungry, dysregulated or distracted.
  • Reserve time each day to spend time one on one with each child. Attachment specialist encourage adoptive parents to use the 10-20-10 approach, which recommends giving each child 10 minutes of quality time and attention in the morning to start the day on a positive note, 20 minutes in the afternoon to process through any experiences from the day, and 10 minutes in the evening before bed.
  • Encourage healthy competition, playing fair, and good sportsmanship. Teach appropriate social skills such as negotiation, compromise and emotional regulations when conflicts arise.
  • Practice and model appropriate problem-solving skills and empower children to solve their conflicts independently. As children mature try to intervene less in sibling arguments allowing them to work out issues on their own.
  • If family or friends want to bring a gift for your new child, suggest that they also bring a small gift for the existing children in the home as well. Adoption is a big change for everyone in the household and a special gift or attention can help with the transition.
  • Prepare for possible developmental regression in both the current children in the household and adopted children.

Connection and relationship building takes time. Close, healthy relationships do not develop overnight and relationships change over time. Some siblings are close when they are younger and others do not establish a good relationship until they’re adults. If there are significant concerns regarding sibling rivalry reach out to an attachment therapist.  There may be deeper issues that need to be processed. An attachment therapist can also provide more activities or suggestions on how to promote positive attachment between siblings.

By: Angela Simpson

Love Language Within the World of Trauma

 

Love languages and the knowledge of different ways to communicate love have gradually increased in popularity over the past few years. It can be especially important for children who have experienced trauma to be able to receive love in a way that they understand and can receive without fear. This can be particularly complicated when the child you are caring for may potentially have a love language that was abused through traumatic memories. Children who have experienced abuse or neglect may react differently to love languages that are spoken by their foster or parents through adoption. Here are some things to keep in mind for each love language with some alternatives that may feel more secure for a child who has experienced abuse in an area where they have a predominate love language.

As an overall reminder, young children between 0-6 rarely have a set love language and need each language to fill their bucket until a clear preference starts to show as their personality develops. This is the recommended starting point for all children and youth of all ages when they first come into your home, even the 17 year olds. Children who experienced trauma at a young age may have never had a consistent or attentive caregiver. It will be important to communicate each language consistently while you are bonding, and well after they begin to trust you and push boundaries. It may feel as if you are starting with an infant and working your way up, but this is a good sign. With safety and connection in place, often their language will develop into one or two predominate preferences. This can take years, or happen quickly depending on the child and their past experiences. If your child is rejecting certain languages, do not assume that they do not receive love that way. It is possibly a sign that they were extremely hurt before in that area, and they need extra care, attention, and patience before they will feel comfortable letting anyone touch, affirm, help, give gifts to them or spending one on one time with them again.

Physical Touch. This language has a lot of capacity for abuse, especially for children who were either neglected and left alone for significant amounts of time, or those who were physically hurt by their parents. Often kids experience both, which can make a child crave physical touch while at the same time being frightened of it and left struggling to relax when they are receiving physical contact. The goal then becomes safe touch and a lot of patience. We recommend looking through handheld therapeutic acupressure tools and helping your child pick one or two they may like to try. If deep pressure does not appeal to them they may prefer something like a paint brush or using a soft brush to make predictable circles on their arm as they relax. You may even introduce cuddling during a movie where there can be a pillow as a barrier. This provides enough felt safety while still meeting their needs. You may also want to consider a pet like a cat, dog or rabbit for some children who can cuddle something that has not caused physical harm to them in the past and keep your own touches to their shoulder or arm and only for specific purposes like when you are teaching them to cook or a sport. Be especially cautious with situations where family members may be requesting good bye hugs, as forced contact may be uncomfortable and feel unsafe for children and youth. Eventually, your child will feel more comfortable letting their guard down around specific caregivers and may request a lot of physical contact or even seem extremely needy in this area. This is a great sign! Be patient, they are catching up for lost time. Many parents intentionally will rock much older children as a reminder of the contact they should have received in infancy, but missed out on.

Words of Affirmation: Children who prefer verbal affirmation to receive love may have come from emotionally and verbally abusive homes where they were told they were stupid, selfish, or screamed obscenities at. This is particularly destructive to their self-esteem, as they can easily develop the belief that they are a bad child, unlovable, or a waste of space. Grand statements of “you are amazing” will feel fake to children who have a damaged self-esteem. Instead we recommend starting with a softer approach. When you are around your child, try pointing out exactly what they are doing, just notice it. For instance, if you are with a child who is playing with Legos, let them lead and avoid asking questions but make comments about what they are doing and mix those comments with gentle compliments. “I see you are building a ship there” “you are making your ship blue” “you are great at building Legos” “I love how gently you play with your toys”. Pick a time of the day where you can focus on using these types of statements and compliments, even 5 minutes a day. This will help with bonding while also showing them that they are seen and heard. Eventually they will become more receptive to hearing compliments to you outside of that concentrated time of play. You may be surprised at how many affirmations that it can take to start making a dent in the damage that was done before they came to your home, but it is well worth the effort. This is also important with youth and older teens, but they may be more aware that you are choosing specific times to concentrate on this, so it will need to be broken up throughout the day.

Quality Time: Is your child stuck to you like a little barnacle and afraid to be alone? They may have missed out on a lot of quality time as they moved home to home in foster homes with a ton of kids, group homes, or orphanages. Often these group settings have few caregiver and a lot of kids who need care, so a healthy need for quality time and attention becomes a fear that they will not have their needs met if they are ever left alone. Usually parents underestimate the amount of concentrated quality time that a child needs to fill their bucket, 15 minutes a day per parent. For these kids, schedule that time in and make it a priority that you will sit down with them to play for 15 minutes, even if you need to use a timer. Put your phone and other distractions away and let them lead the play, comment on what they are doing, affirm them, go along with their goofy antics. That consistent 15 minutes a day will have a bigger impact on them than you may realize. With it, they will be more open to you scheduling in your own self-care where you can step away for a mommy or daddy break and your own 15 minutes of rest. With patience and time their fears of not having their needs met will shift to trust.

Acts of Service: Neglect is one of the biggest factors for children who have experienced abuse in this particular love language. If your child is parentified, it is a good sign that this language is of particular importance to them. They may have had a parent who completely ignored their needs, and so they turned to meeting others needs and caring for them in the hopes that it would earn them love and safety so that their own needs could finally be met. They are likely to be particularly combative about anyone doing things for them, because their trust has been so damaged in this area. One of your first steps is to acknowledge all of the hard work that your child has done to care for those around them, because it is likely that their siblings and past caregivers took it for granted. Take time to do those extra touches that parents do for younger children, especially for older kids who can reasonably do these things on their own. Make homemade lunches for them, help clean their room when they aren’t looking, and sit next to them while they are working on their homework to offer assistance. They may not show that they appreciate this, but it speaks louder than you may believe. These are often the kids that don’t show their trauma, or get forgotten because they are so busy taking care of everyone else, and aren’t showing their need in an obvious way. In reality they need their love language spoken just as much, if not more than the kids that they were always taking care of.

Gifts: This language is consistently misunderstood in adults and children, so taking time to understand what that language is about is particularly important. Gifts as a love language is more about having something tangible to know that someone was thinking of you when you were not physically around, and that they care enough to listen and know what you like. This is not about the cost, it’s about the “I was thinking about you”. There is particular room for abuse of this love language as abusive caregivers may have used gifts as an apology for abuse, or even in grooming. In those situations, gifts that were supposed to be about “I care about you” were really about “I want something from you, and I know you like this”. This can be devastating to the psyche of a child who may come to believe that the only way they can receive love is to please their caregiver regardless of if that causes them physical and emotional harm. This also can create a lot of manipulative tendencies in children who are simply trying to get their needs met and feel loved.

Parents of children from hard places should focus on small gifts given consistently over time, and do not stop providing love this way when your child has messed up. This doesn’t have to cost anything, try picking a flower for them, painting a small rock, drawing a picture for them, or even taking them to the dollar store to pick their own gift out. You will want to avoid rewarding manipulation, and instead give these gifts when they are least expecting it and are entirely removed from difficult or good behaviors. The main goal is consistently speaking this language in small ways with no strings attached.

Children who have dealt with trauma often feel as if it is their fault. This causes a loss of self-esteem and eventually, the child may believe that they cannot be loved. Love languages are a way to show you care, you are there for them, and that they are loved. In the beginning, the child who does not believe they can be loved, will be hesitant with you and become potentially suspicious as to what you are doing. Don’t take it personally, be consistent, be patient, encourage self-esteem, and be emotionally and physically available for them. We recommend working with a reputable therapist if possible as you work through each love language, especially if you child finds a specific love language to be triggering.

Our favorite kids tool for speaking all of these love languages? Melissa & Doug Scratch Art Notes can be used for safe physical touch (helping kids learn to sketch things out, soft touches on the shoulder or sitting close by a child while you sketch together), Words of Affirmation (encouraging notes left all around the house or in lunch boxes) Quality time (drawing together), acts of service (little notes left behind after you helped do a chore they don’t always enjoy), and gifts (little drawings or gifting a card and scratcher for them to play with at school in their free time).

 

written by Natalie Burton & Deb Uber

 

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.

 

Will COVID-19 Cease International Adoption?

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

5 Frequently Asked Questions About Open Adoption

 

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

  1. What exactly is open adoption?

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

  1. Is open adoption confusing for a child?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

written by Paige Lindquist

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

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