What I Wish You Knew: A Birthmom Testimony

I grew up having a fairytale idea of how my life would turn out. I was going to be happily married, a stay at home mom with 6 children, I would have a huge yard with a tire swing and life would be perfect. In reality, I was married… and divorced. Twice. I was blessed with being a stay at home mom for 10 years to 5 amazing children.

 

One of the most important things to me as a mom was to be involved with my kids and provide them with a safe, loving, fun and comfortable home life and to be available to them as much as possible. That became more challenging after becoming a single mom with joint custody and needing to go to work to provide for them. The circumstances were far from perfect, and there were ups and downs, but I worked jobs that allowed me to be home with them when they weren’t at school and I was able to attend most of their school and sporting events. Being a mom, in my opinion, is the most important ‘job’ ever and I always wanted to be the best at it, but I made many mistakes along the way. One of the biggest mistakes I made was not showing them the importance of putting God first. I ‘believed’ in God and I had been ‘saved’, but I had not invited God to be a part of my life. I wanted to live a life pleasing to God, but I still wanted to be in control and do things my way.

 

I was 41 years old, I was not married, 3 out of 5 of my kids were teenagers and still at home, I was expecting my first grandchild… AND I became pregnant. It was not a part of ‘my plan’, but it was part of a bigger plan that I would see unfold in the coming years. I knew every child was a blessing from God. I tried to embrace and welcome the news of becoming a new mom again, but I was consumed with feelings of guilt and shame (for allowing myself to be in this situation). I was anxious and worried (what would my family and friends think)? I was filled with fear (how was I going to raise a baby by myself, could I physically, emotionally and financially meet all of her needs?)

 

I had never felt so alone. Each day brought new fears and worries. I prayed daily, asking God to give me strength and peace and guidance. Every time the thought of adoption came into my mind, I pushed it away. I had heard many amazing adoption stories, but those were other people’s lives, other people’s stories… what kind of ‘mom’ would I be after having 5 children to even consider placing her for adoption? But, what kind of life would she have with me?

 

She was due in September and it wasn’t until July that I reached out to the Nightlight Christian Adoptions. A lot of faith, fear, heartache, tears, prayers and love were involved in the decision to consider adoption and not raise my daughter myself.

 

I changed my mind and my opinions about adoption a lot, during the pregnancy and after. I realize as prospective adoptive parents, you’ve had your own fears and worries and difficult trials that as a birth mom I have never experienced. The adoption journey has a lot of unknowns on both sides. Be patient, be supportive… ask questions, but understand if we aren’t ready or able to answer them. Be open and honest and be yourself – be real.

 

I was fearful that there were no perfect parents for my daughter, but I realized I was far from perfect. I learned to trust God and let Him lead. He chose the perfect family for my daughter. There will always be unchartered territory, on the birth mom’s side and the adoptive parents’ side – journey it together. You don’t have to have all the answers right now.

 

The greatest gift I received from the adoptive parents in my situation, was their acceptance of me and the amazing way they showed their love, their kindness and their gratitude. They helped change my view of birth moms in adoption. I am not a ‘bad’ or ‘unloving’ or ‘selfish’ person. I love enough to want more for the daughter, that I myself could not provide.

 

I originally did not want an open adoption. They were respectful of my decision while gently making it clear that they were there if I changed my mind, and they made great efforts to include me as little or as much as I chose to be involved, without making me feel pressured. We now have an open adoption and being a part of their lives has been a blessing I could have never imagined. I do not have regrets; I do not worry or live in fear for my daughter. I know she is cared for and loved by so many and with the exact mom and dad and family God planned for her.

 

I am praying for each and every one reading this, praying for birth parents, praying for adoptive parents, praying for the children who are a blessing no matter how they come to be a part of their chosen family.

 

“’For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the LORD, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.’” Jeremiah 29:11

 

–written by a Brave Birthmom

Adult Adoptees’ Perspective on Interracial Adoption

 

The Debate on Interracial Adoption: Since the 1970s, there have been debates in America on whether children of one race should be adopted by parents of another. One camp argues that children adopted interracially lose their sense of identity and culture, while the other claims that regardless of race, it is positive because these children are finding homes. So, what do adult adoptees have to say about their experiences with being adopted by parents of a different race?

Kiana’s Experience: On the Archibald Project’s 48th episode, Race & Adoption Advice from Adult Adoptees, Kiana speaks about her experience with being a black child adopted and raised by a white, single mother (https://www.thearchibaldproject.com/). Kiana was adopted at age two with two other girls from her orphanage. She grew up in a community that had many adopted children, so her family unit seemed normal to her until the age of five. When Kiana began Kindergarten, children asked why she did not look like her mother; it was difficult to constantly explain that she was adopted and know what level of detail she needed to share. Thankfully, Kiana’s mother encouraged open communication with her daughters about adoption, and together they came up with a plan on what to say to the other kids.

Kiana’s mother made an effort to incorporate Haitian culture into their daily life. Every Haitian Independence Day, the family would cook traditional Haitian food, fly their national flag, and celebrate. They had dance parties to Haitian music and even attended an annual summer camp with other adoptees from their orphanage. Although she speaks fondly of these memories, Kiana explains that interracial adoption is complicated. As an adult, she is most uncomfortable around black individuals because she fears them calling her “white washed.” She continues by saying, “it feels like you are standing at two tables (black and white), and you don’t have a chair at either one.”

My friend, Dante*: It has been over a decade since I met my friend, Dante. Our friendship has been close, and I am immensely grateful that he chose to share his adoption story with me…and all of you! At the age of five, Dante was adopted from Guatemala along with his younger sister, Agostina*. They were adopted by a white couple in the American Midwest.

This time was scary for Dante as he was in a foreign place and did not speak the same language as his adoptive parents. However, as with Kiana, experiencing this transition with a sibling made it much easier. Over time, Dante and Agostina began to trust and bond with their new parents. His parents took a different approach than Kiana’s as they chose not to incorporate Guatemalan culture into their children’s lives. Although Dante regrets losing his Spanish speaking skills, he still embraces his Guatemalan culture as an adult. Dante loves listening to Guatemalan music and learning about the country. Overall, adoption has been a positive experience for him, and he is extremely grateful that his parents made the decision to adopt. Dante reported, “I am thankful for my parents and everything they have given me. Without them, I would have likely ended up in a gang or participating in illegal activities because of where I came from. Instead, I have a good life.” Dante desires to adopt children of his own some day because he “has seen how adoption can change someone’s life for the better.”

Should I Incorporate the Culture of My Child’s Home Country in Our Lives?: The answer to this is… it depends. When a child is adopted, especially from a foreign country, they need to process their new life circumstances and decide what their identity is going to be. They often experience an inner battle between the culture of their homeland and that of their new home. Kiana recommends that adoptive parents give their children space to feel and process all of the emotions that come with creating a new sense of self. She said her mother did a good job of not taking it personally when Kiana pushed her away during these times. In addition, children in a sibling group may not react the same way to this process. For instance, Kiana enjoys learning about her heritage and visiting Haiti, while her sister has little interest in those pursuits. It is important that adoptive parents give their children opportunities to stay invested in their birth country’s culture. From that point, each child can decide whether he or she would like to learn about their heritage or fully embrace an American lifestyle. No path is wrong, and neither indicates that the adoptive parents are not doing a great job at raising their children.

Conclusion: It is difficult to state which side of the debate is correct. Both adoptees above said there were complications with interracial adoption, but also indicated that their experiences were overall positive. Based on these cases, a successful and healthy interracial adoption can be achieved by adoptive parents who 1) support open communication and 2) present opportunities to incorporate the child’s culture if he or she is interested in pursuing it.

*Names have been changed for anonymity

 

written by Heather Berry

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

 

 

Adoption Through the Eyes of a Father

My wife and I felt called to adoption for quite some time, but the process always seemed daunting, and fraught with uncertainty. After completing long years of medical school and residency, along with having two children during the process, our family finally had more time together, and life started to feel pretty “comfortable.” However, we did not feel complete, and we knew we wanted to add another child; we just did not know how. Adoption weighed heavy on our hearts, but we were still plagued by doubts and insecurities. We feared the unknown and we held tight to our newly found, and long-awaited, sense of “comfort.”

 

Ultimately, we decided to fast for clarity and wisdom; and God answered in remarkable ways, as we know only He can. Our story leading to adoption is long and detailed, and one we love sharing, but it was during this time He made it undeniably clear our family was called to adoption. God had reminded us that we are not called to a life of “comfort,” rather we have been called to a life of purpose, regardless of the challenges that lie ahead. We have been called to exercise our faith through action, even during times of doubt and uncertainty.

 

Following our fast, we began our home study process, and started making our family profile book. Within a couple months we became a “waiting family,” and several months later we received the call we had been selected. Later that day we held our girl, Hayden Grace, for the first time, and our family was forever changed. Our “gotcha day,” also just so happened to be my birthday; so, every year we have plenty to celebrate.

 

I imagine every adoptive parent has their faith tested and refined throughout their adoption journey, and ours is no different. Over Hayden’s first year, she battled multiple health issues, each one testing our faith in new ways, and each one resurrecting more insecurity and doubt. Yet, through every storm, God calmed our unrest, and reminded us of His greater purpose and of His steadfast presence. Looking back, we cannot believe our fears almost led to missing out on our sweet Hayden. Well-intentioned friends and family often say, “she is so lucky to have you,” and my wife and I feel that statement could not be further from the truth. We are the ones who needed her, and we are infinitely grateful she is family.

 

Hayden just turned one, and she’s far too young for the difficult conversations of identity, grief or any other challenging topic that comes with adoption. Her older siblings have already started asking some pretty hard questions, hopefully helping to start prepare us for what is to come. We know there will likely be difficult conversations ahead, but as we have experienced time and time again, He will be there every step of the way.

 

written by an adoptive father  |  submitted by Lara Kelso

The Honor of Being a Social Worker

I have had the privilege and the honor of serving as an adoption social worker for nine years, seven with Nightlight. I have been able to walk with some families through their most joyous of seasons and have climbed with some families over their highest of hurdles. As a social worker, I often joke with families at the beginning of their process that I will become a member of their family through their whole process of adoption. I often sit with families through their home study process and know all of the nitty-gritty details of their lives. As a social worker, I regularly have the honor to talk with families while they are waiting in the hospital when their profile has been chosen by an expectant parent and they are anxiously awaiting the arrival of a baby. I have sat beside a family when their adoption situation did not pan out in the way we all had hoped for. As a social worker, I have had the privilege of sitting with families when they review their  referral of a precious child that will be joining their family. When a family arrives home with their child, I have the incredible blessing to sit down with families and discuss how their family can best meet the needs of the child entering their home.

 

One of my greatest joys as a social worker is seeing adoptive families come together and creating relationships of their own. I am a firm believer in helping prospective adoptive families build their community. Families need other families to walk through the adoption process with. When families have an established adoption-centered community, it helps their children to grow stronger bonds with their parents and to have a firmer understanding and development of their own identity. I have the privilege to teach a class called, “Life Long Issues in Adoption” for our local office. One of the sections we cover is ‘identity.’ In the class, we do an activity that creates a visual of the prospective adoptive family’s community. I encourage the class members to look around the room and see if anyone else’s community looks like theirs. From this class and other in-person classes, we get to see families creating friendships with one another, taking steps to further build their adoption community. In our California office, we also host a Nurture Group for families with children ages five and under. Imagine a room full young children, tons of sensory play items, and lots of snacks. This is one of my favorite days of the month! The group is child-centered, but often a safe place for adoptive families from all of our programs to continue to share their adoption stories in a safe place and gain support. As a social worker, I not only get to walk families through their home study process, but I have the privilege, honor, and blessing to watch their family grow, bond, attach, and develop year after year.

 

written by Amanda Schaffert, MSW | Adoption Social Worker

It’s 2020: Why Are We Still Afraid of Adoption Telling?

 

This blog was originally published on LavenderLuz.com.

How do I tell my child he’s adopted? And when?

Rant: I’m frustrated that these questions still come up (and surprised because my readers are adoption-savvy, so I start thinking everyone is). Who is preparing adoptive parents for adoption telling? And who should be preparing them? What can we do for the current and next generation of adoptees to help them own their story from their very beginning?

The move toward openness in adoption started in the 1980s, which means for more than 40 years we have been morphing from shame, secrecy, and walls of closed adoption => to => truth, disclosure, and doors of open adoption.

But time alone doesn’t mean all adoptive parents and hopeful adoptive parents have gotten the message of dealing in truth and openness. The adoption professionals who are launching these moms and dads into the world of adoptive parenting are not, as a group, doing a good enough job preparing their paying clients to parent with openness and disclosure (there are definitely some exceptions).

adoption telling from a wall to a door

Prospective parents, though, may bear the ultimate responsibility for learning about current best practices in adoptive parenting. But how can they know what they don’t know? A blind spot is, by definition, a thing you can’t see is there.

Recurring Evidence That Parents Don’t Know When & How to Disclose

A few times a month, someone will ask in a social media adoption group WHEN is the best time to tell their child they were adopted. And WHEN to disclose information about that child’s birth family. We’re not talking about an advanced course in “open adoption” — facilitating actual contact — but merely the basic disclosure that the child’s origin story has an extra element in it: adoption. That the child has first parents.

And that we can talk about it all.

Why Can’t Parents Talk About Adoption?

Time and time again, I hear this from well-meaning parents: We’re waiting until our child is ready to hear.

What I hear behind the words, though, is this: We’re waiting until we’re ready to tell.

But becoming ready doesn’t necessarily happen automatically, which creates a big problem for the whole family, not least of all the adoptive parents.

Sorites: A Paradox

Relevant here is the concept of sorites, a term I learned a few years ago from a New York Times‘ Ethicist column headlined “Should a Sibling Be Told She’s Adopted?”

‘Sorites’ (saw- RAHY-teez)’ — from the Greek for ‘‘heap’’ — is the name of a philosophical paradox. A grain of sand isn’t a heap, and adding one more grain can’t make it a heap, and as you add grains of sand, you reason that another grain can’t turn your pile into a heap. Yet at some point, a heap is what you have. In the temporal realm, there’s an analogous problem. Very often, it won’t do any harm to wait one more day to do something. So you put the deed off until, at some point, you’ve waited too long.

Sorites sins can creep up on well-intentioned people. Maybe your wife meant to tell you, when you first started dating, that she once had a fling with your brother, but the time never seemed right. There was no particular moment when she crossed the line from permissible deferral to culpable silence. A decade later, though, a spiny eel wriggles in her stomach whenever she thinks about it. She prays you never find out.

Sorites sins can rock relationships.

— Kwame Anthony Appiah, NYT Ethicist columnist in 2016

The Effect of Not Telling

Never mind the causes of why some parents can’t (or won’t) talk about adoption. They are numerous, individualized, and because they are in the past, they can’t be changed.

But the effects can be known and mitigated. And this leads to a deeper point than merely figuring out when and how to tell:

Whatever is keeping adoptive parents from telling is probably hindering their ability to parent effectively in other ways.

Because when parents are not disclosing something so big and integral to a child, they are not able to build a fully trusting relationship with him/her. Lies of commission and omission are likely to be devastating to the person they care about, once they realize that parents knew and did not/could not tell.

Not being able/willing to tell can also mean parents are having a difficult time dealing in What Is, in accepting the whole story of how the child came into the family, of the existence and validity of another set of parents — all in an effort to keep their own fears and insecurities at bay. If there is denial going on in one place, there may be denial going on in others (see the 1956 study listed in Resources, below). This compromises the ability to be truthful, which hinders the ability to build trust.

Adoption Telling is in the Best Interest of Parents!

When children sense they cannot trust their parents, they are more susceptible to looking for connections elsewhere. This can manifest in so many nightmarish ways, and as you can imagine can lead to lots of problems for the child and parents.

As I’ve said before, as the tween/teen years approach, parents are going to want to have a clear and trusting channel of communication between them and their adolescent. There really is no other true power in parenting during this stage. Grounding and withholding things can only go so far. Trust and connection are vital for making it through the turbulent tween/teen years in a trusting and connected way (adoptive parents: if you’re not already in this Facebook group, consider joining).

As one wise and experienced parent said in an online group, disclosing early and fully is “so much EASIER. No big reveal, no nervousness, no confusion, no sense of betrayal, no lies. Just the truth.”

What do you think? How should adopting parents find out best practices, and who should be tasked to make sure they do? With a focus on a solution (and not just on placing blame), please offer your ideas for progress for better adoption telling in the comments.

Relevant Resources

Thanks to TAO for those last two.

Lori Holden, mom of a teen son and a teen daughter, blogs from Denver. Her book, The Open-Hearted Way to Open Adoption: Helping Your Child Grow Up Whole, is available through your favorite online bookseller and makes a thoughtful anytime gift for the adoptive families in your life. Lori was honored as an Angel in Adoption® in 2018 by the Congressional Coalition of Adoption Institute.

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

Adoptive Family to Adoption Social Worker: My Story

I grew up in a family where my mom, dad, and stepmom were all social workers. They worked with children and families and it was their job to provide better lives to others. Throughout my entire life, my family had instilled basic values of compassion, empathy, and benevolence. When I was in middle school, my dad and stepmom decided to enroll in a program of fostering to adopt. We took newborn babies into our home and cared for them as our own. Unfortunately, none of those placements ended in a permanent adoption that my parents were hoping for. They knew our family was not complete yet, so they made the joyful decision to adopt internationally from the Philippines

 

I remember being fourteen years old and taking part in the home study process. I answered the social worker’s questions to the best of my ability, and enjoyed talking to her about my family. I remember the social worker inspecting our house, my room, and our yard, all while asking my parents about the adoption process. I remember the deep conversations with my dad and stepmom about getting a new brother or sister and I was ecstatic for our family’s newest addition. Time continued to pass and weeks turned into months as my family anxiously awaited the paperwork to be completed. Sometimes, the wait seemed like it would last forever, and that a placement would never happen. Whenever I felt anxious about it, they encouraged me that the time would come, and that we just had to be patient. Then out of the blue when we were least expecting it, my parents got “the call”. I had a new baby brother! They booked plane tickets to the Philippines that night and left as soon as they could.

 

A couple of weeks later, I met my brother Joshua. He was a year and a half old, and as precious as I could imagine. However, because he grew up in an orphanage overseas, he was not used to the environment and new stimuli in my home of Hawaii. There was a period of adjustment for him as he got used to my family and this new place that he had never been. Joshua had never really been outside before, so he was not used to grass, trees, and nature. He was frightened during bath times since he had only received those on rare occasions. Although there were some challenges to overcome, Joshua loved the attention and love that my parents gave him, and seemed to bond quickly with them. He had never experienced such care and consideration before since he often had to compete with the other children in the orphanage. My family’s consistent love, recognition, and affection helped baby Joshua to thrive, as he grew from shy, uncommunicative, and resistant to boisterous, giggly, and friendly. With the help of a speech therapist, play therapy, and support groups for my parents; my family was able to conquer that hurdle of transition and adjustment to this new life. It wasn’t always easy—that’s for sure, but it was definitely worth it. This process and journey of adoption led me to grow a deep passion for the field. I knew that this was what I wanted to do in my future as well.

 

Fast forward to now, and I am currently getting my Master’s degree in Social Work while interning at Nightlight Christian Adoptions. I am so unbelievably blessed and grateful to be able to learn what adoption looks like on this side of things. Getting to serve birth mothers, adoptive families, and adopted children has been incredible as I get to give back to others. When families may be having a difficult time during the waiting period, I can relate with them and help them process their thoughts and emotions through it all since I have been in their shoes. If a family is having a difficult post-placement period while trying to transition and adjust to their newest addition, I can help walk them through those challenges since I have been there before as well. Sharing the same experience of adopting a child internationally has truly helped me to empathize with my clients better, and be able to see things from multiple perspectives. My family had a wonderful experience and great caseworkers through our adoption journey, and I am honored to have a chance to share the same with Nightlight clients as well.

 

If you are an adoptive family, whether international or domestic, and are in the “waiting period”- don’t hesitate to reach out to your caseworker and utilize your agency for additional support, as this period can be a trying and difficult time for your family.

written by Lindsey Nishimiya

Lindsey was our agency’s MSW intern fall 2018-spring 2019. She graduated with her masters in social work and is now an LMSW working in Waxahachie, Texas as a Child and Family Specialist for Presbyterian Children’s Homes & Services

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

Understanding Birthmother Grief

In my career as a licensed clinical social worker, I have been honored to counsel women walking through the process of grief after placing a baby for adoption.  One such woman, Mary (name and information used with permission) captured her journey in a heartfelt essay entitled “The Beautiful Side of Grief,” which she wrote shortly after the adoption of her daughter:

 

“How lucky I am to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard.”

 

“Grief. Mourning. Bereavement. There are countless different words to try and describe something that is utterly indescribable, and none of them really pinpoint exactly what grief is. Grief is not the movies. Grief is not Hollywood, where you hold a black umbrella and shed a few tears in the rain at a funeral. It’s not walking around donned head to toe in dark colors. It is not a simple psychological process of five clean-cut stages.

 

“Grief is waking up every single morning and asking yourself if you’re in a dream. Grief is hearing people talk, but you find yourself not really listening anymore. It’s walking into a grocery store completely fine, and leaving barely holding your tears in. Grief is the constant stream of “would haves,” “should haves,” and “could haves” playing through your thoughts. It’s getting to the end of the day and realizing that you’re not really living, you’re just going through the motions. Grief is that ever-present indefinable ache in the bottom of your heart. It is the constant feeling of exhaustion that no amount of sleep can alleviate. Grief is the time when tears take the place of words.

 

“But grief, in a sense, is beautiful.

 

“There is beauty in the process of grief. It comes after the shock, after the initial sting to your heart. It might take months, it might take years, but the beauty will reveal itself. The beautiful side of grief is found in the reassurance and understanding in the words you can now lend to those who are walking the path you once walked. The comfort of, “I know how you feel,” or “I understand what you’re going through,” now replace the blind guesses of, “I’m sure this is hard,” and “I can’t imagine how heartbreaking this is.” The beautiful side of grief is found in the supportive friendships that have risen from the ashes of tragedy. The beautiful side of grief is seen in the ability of those who have traveled an unbearable path to hold the hands of those who are being forced down the same lonely road.

 

“When you are faced with a heartbreak so unbearable it brings you to your knees, you are also faced with two choices: to let that heartbreak consume your every thought and action until it kills you, or to act in the same love that you had for that person and use your experience to be the guiding lamp for those now embarking on that dark journey.

 

“If you have ever grieved over the loss of someone, consider yourself lucky. Yes, read that line again. Consider yourself lucky. You are lucky to have had something so precious, so special, a type of love so genuine, that you have a reason to grieve. Without that kind of raw love, there would be no grief.

 

“In my eyes, the best way to pay that type of love forward is to show it to those who need it the most, and coming from firsthand experience, those who are grieving need understanding and genuine acts of love more than anyone else. Those acts of warmth and affection from those who have mourned the same loss as you, who have carried the same burden as you, are the very stepping stones that lead you from the suffocating depths of grief into the joyful light of remembrance. If you have the rare chance to pave these stepping stones for someone, why wouldn’t you?

 

“I was once told that grief is like treading water in the ocean. Sometimes you’re doing just fine, and you can handle the waves that come at you. It takes effort, but you’re getting by. Then other times, a wave will come out of nowhere, catch you off guard, and you’re pulled under into the dark and cold depths once again. What is so important is that we keep treading, we keep fighting, and we come back to the surface no matter how hard or exhausting it might be. What is important is that we don’t give up on our own life in remembrance of someone else’s. All we can do is to take grief one wave at a time, and, if given the opportunity, help others stay afloat along the way.”

 

Mary put her experience and the words she wrote into action by counseling and mentoring birthmothers who were considering adoption, including Taylor, the birthmother in the Nightlight video entitled “Journey’s Story.”  Mary states she was propelled to help others because of the love she had for her daughter and the experience she gained in processing her adoption decision. As Mary faced her pain and reached out to others, she emerged stronger.  Like many brave birthmothers, she has journeyed to the beautiful side of grief.

 

If you know a woman considering adoption or struggling with the inevitable grief that comes when we say goodbye to someone we love, please consider referring her to one of the talented counselors and social workers at Nightlight. Processing emotions, negative thoughts, and unhealthy or ineffective behaviors can be extremely helpful within the therapeutic process. Nightlight can also connect birthmothers with others, like Mary, who have walked this path before them. Research has demonstrated that having a support system is crucial for grief work and emotional health. Nightlight is committed to the care of the brave women and men who are choosing adoption for their child.

 

written by Megan White, MSW, LCSW | Executive Director, Florida