Nightlight Christian Adoptions’ Spotlight on Ron Stoddart

A visionary is a leader of excellence who sees what others do not see, who achieves for now and plans for the future, who positively impacts different generations and raises up other visionaries.

Onyi Anyado

 

This month we are honored to highlight Nightlight Christian Adoptions (Nightlight) founder and leader, Ron Stoddart.  Mr. Stoddart has been instrumental in the development and expansion of Nightlight’s adoption services for over thirty years.  Having initially established a successful domestic adoption law practice during his career, it was in the 1980’s and 1990’s when there became a marked decline in the number of birthparents choosing to make an adoption plan.  This was in part due to the number of women choosing abortion as an option to an unplanned pregnancy, as well as a societal decrease in the stigma attached to single parenting.  During this shift, it was Mr. Stoddart who had a vision and initiative to expand adoption services on a global front to include international adoptions. So, in 1992 he began facilitating adoptions from the former Soviet Union.  During this period Mr. Stoddart traveled to Russia several times a year visiting orphanages and children in need. As a result of his efforts and passion over 1000 children in need of forever families were placed in US adoptive homes during the 1990’s.  In 1994, he merged his law practice and international foundation with our organization and became the Executive Director of CAFS (Christian Adoption and Family Services), whose name later changed to Nightlight Christian Adoptions.

In his efforts to continue the expansion of international adoptions, Mr. Stoddart created a separate non-profit in 2009 that was established to organize and fund orphan host tours.  Initially serving children in Russia, the hosting program was later extended to other countries.  The first hosting tour was in 1995 and orphan hosting programs have continued into the present day with other US based adoption agencies and developing countries participating in a hosting program.  The success of the hosting program further extended into finding permanency for many children who were later adopted by their host family.

In 1997, Mr. Stoddart pondered the question “What do people do with their remaining embryos from IVF?  Is it possible that couples would donate them for adoption?”  He was intent on extending adoption best practice to embryo adoptions to include ongoing openness, a home study evaluation, and social work matching to ensure the best interests of the child were being served.  In 1998 Nightlight became the country’s first licensed adoption agency to offer embryo adoptions. In 2007 the embryo adoption program was branded Snowflakes® and today is one of Nightlight’s most vital and popular programs offering childless couples another option to grow their families.

During his tenure as the Executive Director of Nightlight, Mr. Stoddart led the merger of several other non-profit adoption agencies with Nightlight.  These mergers allowed Nightlight to further expand services in additional states, as well as the ability to offer additional intercountry programs to clients.

In 2012 there continued to be a noted decline in international adoptions.  This same year Russia closed their international adoption program, forcing Nightlight to again plan for a future of diverse services.  Mr. Stoddart retired as the Executive Director of Nightlight in 2013 and joined Nightlight’s Board of Directors.  It was during this time the Board decided to build a foster care services program and in 2013 Nightlight’s Colorado office opened its foster care program.  Today Nightlight has foster care programs in Colorado, California, Oklahoma, Kentucky, Georgia and South Carolina with other Nightlight offices following suit in planning and applying with local public child welfare agencies to offer foster care services in their communities.

Today, Mr. Stoddart continues to serve on Nightlight’s Board of Directors.  Over his career he has received many accolades for his continuous work in serving vulnerable children.   He has participated as a guest speaker on broadcasts of “Focus on the Family” and “For Faith and Family” and has served as a spokesman for numerous radio, television, newspapers and magazines for his pioneering work in exploring the ethics of embryo adoption and embryonic stem cell research.  He has developed and presented seminars on “Father – Daughter Relationships” and wrote and published the booklet “Tough Love in Action” as an aid in adoptions.

In acknowledgement of a lifetime of work dedicated to serving families and children around the world, Nightlight salutes the tireless efforts of Mr. Ron Stoddart and his visionary leadership that has led our agency to where we are today.

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.

 

 

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.

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.

 

Make Cut Out Snowflakes Day

 

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

written by Jen Grams

What is Giving Tuesday?

 

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

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

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

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

 

Written by Natalie Zickmund, BSW 

Domestic Program Coordinator and Post Adoption Coordinator

How Hosting Changed My Life

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

 

Anonymous Embryo Donation Doesn’t Work

 

In the Snowflakes Embryo Adoption Program, there are no anonymous or closed placements available. Why? Simply put, it is just not possible anymore. Thanks to the at home DNA testing kits, and the internet, individuals can easily find out if they are donor-conceived and even who their donor is.

The Donor Sibling Registry is an online resource for donor-conceived people trying to locate half or full siblings and for donors trying to locate potential offspring. The results of some searches are disturbing, such as the sperm donor who fathered over 130 children! Medical science created the need for registries such as the DSR when assisted reproductive technologies became normative.

In 2018 the DSR presented a study of 485 adult donor-conceived people and their desires to find their egg, sperm, or embryo donor. The study sought to understand the search methods used and if they were successful, what became of the potential relationship between child and donor.

Many people who are interested in donating their embryos to another family have not yet told their children how they were conceived. This adds to the difficulty of making the decision to donate their embryos and often hinders their ability to choose open communications with the adopting family. What will happen if their children discover the secret of their conception? Decisions are made based upon fear rather than what is in the best interests of the children who are born from the set of embryos.

The good news is that 85% of the survey participants were told about their conceptions by their parents. The remaining 15% searched for their information themselves or were told by someone else.

The participants used one or more methods for trying to locate/find their donor:

  • 6% used a record search
  • 1% used DNA testing
  • 2% contacted the fertility clinic/doctor/sperm bank
  • 6% used the Donor Sibling Registry
  • 6% hired a genealogist
  • 9% used other means of searching

When working with the Snowflakes program you are asked to accept using the best practices of adoption. Most of those best practices are in place to do what is in the best interests of the children – children born to the donor, children born to the adopter.

Several of those best practices include:

  • Encouraging open communications between the placing and the adopting families. The two families, not Snowflakes, mutually agree upon the level and frequency of the communication.
  • Respecting privacy and not supporting secrecy.
  • Completing a family evaluation.
  • Permanent records storage by the agency.

There are many ways for your children to discover the truth about their conception. Why not have the source of that truth be you, the people who love them the most?

Learn more about embryo donation through the Snowflakes program, visit Snowflakes.org.

 

written by Kimberly Tyson

Easing the Home Study Jitters: What the Home Study Really Involves

 

My husband and I were asked to share about our experience with the home study process. It’s definitely a big part of adoption and can cause anxiety looking at it from afar. We were happy to provide our first-hand experience and hope it encourages you, wherever you are in your adoption journey.

Jay and I had gone to some foster-to-adopt classes before moving forward with domestic adoption, so we had heard about the dreaded home study and how intense it is. Going into our home study with Nightlight we expected it to be similar to what we had heard from the state. We thought our house and our lives would be picked apart and dissected for flaws. Thankfully we were completely wrong.

We had Katherine as our home study coordinator, she is so kind and made the process as comfortable as it could be. I don’t want to sugar coat it, there is quite a bit involved in a home study with paperwork and taking classes but as far as the part where you are interviewed and your house is “studied” it was nothing like we expected. We actually looked forward to having Katherine over and “chatting” because that’s what it felt like, a conversation. It was fun to talk about the future, how we would parent, our goals and aspirations for ourselves and our family. We never felt judged by any of the questions asked, it was clear that they were meant to make you dig deeper and really think about what is involved in parenting a child. Our favorite question to answer was, “What do you think will make your spouse a great dad/mom?” This was asked during our one-on-one interviews and later that day Jay and I talked about what our answers were, it got us even more excited and confident in our choice to pursue adoption.

We also expected our house to need a lot of adjustments based on the requirements of the state for foster care. With Nightlight it was just about making sure there was no glaring safety hazards, we didn’t have to show a lockbox for medication or have every inch of the house baby-proofed. They make it clear that they trust you to have your house ready for a little one when the time comes.

The process definitely takes dedication but if you’re pursuing adoption you already have the dedication you need. Nightlight will be there to support you from beginning to end and afterwards you’ll even be a bit sad that it’s over, except that you’re one BIG step closer to bringing your baby home!

 

Submitted by Katherine Calvin, MA | Home Study Coordinator

Written by the ‘K’ Family | NCA Adopting Family

How to Spread the Word About Embryo Adoption

 

For the past twelve years, I have been working for Nightlight Christian Adoptions. All of my focus has been on raising awareness and participation in embryo donation and adoption. The most discouraging words I hear on any given day are, “I’ve never heard about this before. You need to be doing more to help people know about this wonderful adoption choice!”

Yes. We do.

Today we are going to focus on our BEST voice for letting other people know—YOU!

Why are you our best voice?

  • Because you may have successfully placed your remaining embryos for adoption.
  • Because you may have adopted embryos and given birth to your child.
  • Because you know people who are facing infertility and would be delighted to know about this adoption choice.
  • Because whether you know it or not, you know people who have remaining embryos and would love to help them be born.
  • Because the more people like you who are telling other people, the more people know.
  • One in eight couples are diagnosed with infertility in the United States.

Here are some ideas for helping you engage with people around you. If you would like to talk with me about one of these ideas, or another fabulous idea you have, please contact me in our Colorado office.

  1. Forward the monthly Snowflakes Newsletter to everyone in your email distribution list. There is a super-easy ‘Forward to a Friend’ button at the bottom.
  2. When you send out your Christmas cards/photos/letters this year attach this Snowflakes badge. There are many online services that will allow you to create personalized stickers.
  3. Participate on a Snowflakes Facebook Live session to share your donation or adoption story and answer questions from new inquirers.
  4. Create a vlog series of short, interesting, engaging videos for YouTube, allowing you to uniquely record and share your embryo donation or adoption journey.
  5. If you live near one of our ten Nightlight state offices, work with that office’s staff to be the keynote at an informational adoption seminar specifically on embryo adoption.
  6. Take your Snowflake baby back to your fertility clinic to introduce your baby and encourage the Reproductive Endocrinologist, Embryologist, Donor Coordinator, Nursing staff—everyone—to proactively promote Snowflakes among patients, both donation and adoption.
  7. Choose six (or more) churches in your community. Go visit. Talk with the church secretary. See if you can talk with the pastor or schedule an appointment for later. Ask if there is a specific person in the church who is passionate about adoption and talk with them.
  8. Submit your family’s embryo donation or adoption story to be included on our Family Story pages on the Snowflakes website (please email [email protected] to learn how to submit your story).
  9. Create a 15-30 second video that can be used in our social media advertising campaigns.
  10. Send us photos of your Snowflakes babies, along with a completed photo release form, to use in our awareness efforts!
  11. Talk with your employer’s human resource department and ask to have any adoption benefits apply to embryo adoption. (Proctor & Gamble provides this benefit to their employees.)
  12. Reach out to your local media outlets—newspapers/T.V./radio, to ask if they would be interested in your embryo donation or adoption story. Human-interest stories are a valuable tool for grabbing the attention of their audience.

Written by Kimberly Tyson

Learn more about embryo adoption at Snowflakes.org and EmbryoAdoption.org.