Facing the Unknowns in Adoption

 

If 2020 has taught us anything, it’s that life is unpredictable. Unpredictability and unknowns often leaves us uneasy and uncomfortable. This causes us to find ourselves trying our best to control situations because control leads to more security and less anxiety. It’s our human nature to desire a clear picture of how things are going to happen, but the truth is, adoption is an unpredictable process and no two cases or situations are the same.

 

As a social worker in the domestic adoption field, here is some advice I would give to potential adoptive families:

 

  1. Prepare for every situation.

When working with prospective adoptive families, sometimes I hear them say things like, “I don’t even want to think about the possibility of the expectant mother changing her mind because it’s too hard to think about.” Instead of this mind set, I want to encourage any potential adoptive families to prepare for the outcome of the expectant mother choosing to parent, because it does happen, and that should be celebrated and not dreaded. Before birth. expectant mothers can make an adoption plan, but this plan cannot become concrete until she signs relinquishments. It is important to understand the struggle and hardships the expectant mother is going through while she makes this decision and love her through the process despite what the outcome may be.

 

  1. Be flexible and understanding.

When you are going through the adoption process, your social worker is not going to be able to tell you exactly how things are going to happen, because even they do not know how things will unfold. Adoption is a fluid process and although we can do our best to educate and prepare for the birth and hospital time, there is no way to clearly know how that time will look. For example, before birth, an expectant mother might make a tentative hospital plan stating she does not want to spend time with the baby, but post-delivery, she may decide she wants the baby in her hospital room.  Don’t be alarmed by this kind of change, but be understanding of the mother’s wishes and desires. Changes like this does not necessarily mean the mother is choosing to parent, but she may realize time with the baby is the best thing for her emotional and mental health. It is helpful to remember that she is the child’s legal mother until relinquishments are signed, and it is our job to best support her in any way possible.

 

  1. Realize that when you are struggling, she is as well.

Adoption is scary for potential adoptive parents, but it is scary for the biological parents as well. While you are thinking about your lack of control in the situation, the expectant mother often feels the same way. Many women pursuing an adoption plan are in crisis situations, feeling out of control of their life as they never thought this would be a chapter in their story. This can be terrifying and they often fear that the adoptive family will not like them, will not love their child as their own, and the post adoption plan and contact they are being promised will not come to fruition. As a potential adoptive parent, make it your goal to get to know the expectant mother and ease some of these fears for her. Often, this will also make you more at peace with the situation as you get to know and love her during the process.

 

With all this being said, here is one thing that you can rest assured in- everything will work out and will fall into place the way God intended it to. Despite the fears and unknowns in adoption, take peace in the fact that God has already written your story, and He knows the exact plans for you and your family. The staff of Nightlight Christian Adoptions is excited and honored to walk through your adoption journey with you and support you in any way that we can.

 

What is This ICPC Thing?

 

One of the best things about adopting through Nightlight is that families have the opportunity to be selected by an expectant parent in any one of our ten offices across the country.  To think that you live in OK and might be considered as an adoptive family in South Carolina is an exciting thought, and brings hope of expanded possibilities. Some families might say it’s also one of the hardest things.  Why? Not because they hesitate one second to travel to get that precious baby  or taking off work a bit longer, but the wait to come home….that long, no specific time period, sit in a hotel room in an unknown city process known as ICPC.  Maybe taking a more focused look at the process will help make it more understandable–and therefore, tolerated a bit easier when the time comes.

 

The ICPC (short for the Interstate Compact on the Placement of Children) has been around since 1950’s when it became evident that moving children from one state to another for the purpose of foster care or adoption, needed some safeguards.  Its goal was to shut down improper, illegal or incomplete processes that left children in new states without proper support, permanency plans or legal parents.  By 1990, every state and the Virgin Islands had passed laws creating ICPC regulations.  So, technically, it is a compact between the states, not a federal law.  It applies to children sent out of state for adoption, foster care, treatment or residential centers.  Every state has a Compact Administrator (generally a staff in the state office) who oversees the coming and going of children between states, and assures that the legal work is done properly and the documents are in place to assure the placement is being done legally and in the best interest of the child.

 

Now, back to the “waiting to go home” process.  Because of the need for each state to approve the move of a child from one state to another, it is required that the child not leave his state of residence until that work has been done.  Let’s a couple lives in Kentucky and they are chosen to adopt a child in Missouri.  They travel to Missouri and are able to be there for the birth of their daughter.  What a wonderful experience to see that birth and be able to take her home from the hospital.  They return to their hotel room, very happy and longing to go home where they can see their family, who eagerly awaits their return.  But things are now at work in the background that will determine when they can go home.  The agency will have prepared some paperwork as before the baby’s birth, including the home study and all supporting documents.  But, we have to wait other documents, such as medical records. The last documents to be completed are the legal consent forms by the birth mother.  Once all the paperwork is collected, it is sent to the ICPC office of the sending state (where the child currently resides).  They review it and approve.  Sometimes they have questions, or ask for additional documents.  Once approval is given, they send it on to the receiving state, where the child will be residing.  That office does the same thing—reviews to make sure all documents are in order. The agency knows when each step is taken.  We are notified when the sending state approves, and also when the receiving state approves.  We’ve learned over the years of doing ICPC, that anxious adoptive parents making calls to check on the progress, or complain because it’s taking too long, is just not successful and actually interferes with the process.  ICPC offices are frequently handling many cases at one time, and they need to focus on their reviews.  We know from our experience that these workers are diligent and very aware that the families are in hotels waiting to leave. They work even harder when big holidays are coming and families are really anxious to leave.  These are the reasons we can’t tell you exactly how long it will take—there are several things we can’t control after the placement, but we do our part of submitting the paperwork as quickly as we can.  As soon approval is given by both states, families are free to leave immediately.

 

In the meantime, the families that plan ahead to be in their “temporary home” for several days fare the best.  So, make the best of it!

Here are some ideas for how to get through:

 

  • Plan to focus and enjoy just being together with your new little family member, whether you’re in a hotel or sitting in the hospital.  These times can enhance bonding and allow for lots of attention and nurturing for the baby.

 

  • Learn some things about the city you’re in, and explore as much as you can, especially if you arrive before delivery day.  This will help pass the time and can become a part of the birth story you will have to tell your child.

 

  • Bring books or computers or things to do in those quiet moments when the baby is sleeping (if you’re not asleep yourself!) It’s a good time to reflect on the journey that you’ve been on and the life ahead of you.  Take lots of pictures and videos, send them out so family can see what you’re doing each day.

 

  • Never hesitate to ask the staff of the office where you are about anything you need–locations of grocery stores, baby stores, restaurants, parks, places to go, and attractions unique to that city.

 

  • Once you are home, life will get very busy and we hope the memories of your entire experience will be a positive one, especially those days and moments created by waiting through the ICPC process.

written by Debbie Nomura, LCSW | Executive Director – OK Office

Waiting During the Holidays: Survival Tips

The holidays are a time for merriment, cheerful moments, and spending time with loved ones. But for those who are waiting to adopt, the holidays may be a difficult or painful reminder of what is missing.  Waiting to adopt can be hard at any time during the year, but it can be particularly difficult during the holiday season. “Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need.” Matthew 6:33 NLT. Here are some things to try as you wait to adopt during the holidays.

  1. Start a new tradition- Putting off creating new holiday traditions because you’re waiting to adopt can be depressing. There is no need to wait! This holiday season, make new memories and start a few fresh family traditions that you’ll look forward to year after year. Bake cookies on Christmas Eve, take a drive in your pajamas to look at holiday lights, have a s’more’s and cocoa night. Creating new traditions as a couple now allows you to have more time to enjoy them together.

 

  1. Taking an adoption “breather”- Taking a step back to think about things other than your adoption process can give you some time to relax and rejuvenate. Hang out with friends or family, read a book, go for a hike, check out a National park, bake, watch a movie. Give yourself time to breathe, and when you are ready to think about adoption again you will come back with a renewed perspective.

 

  1. Self-Care, Self-Care, Self-Care – exercise, take a bath, get enough sleep, eat good food. Buy yourself a gift, go out for a spa day. Channel your energy into doing something nice for yourself. You deserve it.

 

  1. Start a journal- You may consider journaling as a way to express your emotions or save it to give to your child one day to show your feelings while you waited for them to join your family.

 

  1. Do something kind for others- No matter what time of the year it is; random acts of kindness can benefit everyone. They can positively impact others and they are great for the soul. Donate items from your home, send someone flowers for no reason, let someone check out before you in the grocery store line, volunteer at a local shelter or soup kitchen, cook someone a meal. The list is endless. Also, let others be kind to you.

 

 

  1. Pray and talk to God- Taking time to go somewhere quiet and pray and meditate is something every soul needs. Once we take these moments each day we feel more peaceful and possess the strength in our hearts to truly appreciate our “present”. Thankfully, when you bring God into everything you do, you can’t help but rejoice at all times. “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing.” -1 Thessalonians 5:16-17

 

  1. Be honest with yourself (and others) – It’s okay to feel sad, be honest with yourself and others. Do not feel obligated to attend every holiday event you are invited to. It is okay to decline. Talk with your spouse or a close friend or family member about how you are feeling. It is also okay to enjoy the time spent catching up with family and friends or creating new traditions. Sometimes just talking about your feelings can provide the relief needed to take a step forward.

written by Nichole Chase, LMSW | Social Services Manager

Giving Thanks During Your Adoption Journey

 

It can sometimes be challenging to choose an attitude of gratitude when you are on the path of adoptive parenting.  Adoption inherently involves loss and grief, and the wait to bring your child home can seem unbearable.  How can we focus on giving thanks as we go through this stressful process?

Consider taking a few moments each day to identify something for which you are grateful.  Here are some possibilities:

  • Birthmothers who choose life for their unborn child.
  • Your current or future child.
  • Your support circle: friends, family, neighbors, coworkers…. Those who surround you with practical help and a listening ear.
  • Your adoption agency or attorney.
  • Your spouse.
  • Your parents and how you were raised.
  • Your child’s birth or genetic parents. No matter how you adopt, your child has birth/genetic family.  Your child would not be the special blessing he or she is without those key people.
  • Personal growth and healing throughout the adoption journey.
  • Additional time with your spouse dedicated to strengthening your marriage.
  • Grant agencies or other financial donors.
  • Friends you have made while on this journey.
  • Employment that grants you stability.
  • Your home and community.
  • Your health and physical wellbeing.
  • Family traditions.

Research has shown that gratitude has immense benefits.

Giving thanks can:

  • Improve Physical Health.
  • Decrease Depression and Anxiety.
  • Improve Sleep Quality.
  • Help Relieve Stress.
  • Enhances Empathy.
  • Improves Self-Esteem.
  • Increase Energy.
  • Feel Good.

Here are few other interesting articles about how giving thanks can benefit you.

Research on the Benefits of Gratitude

Scientifically Proven Benefits of Gratitude

Are you interested in developing an ongoing practice of gratitude?  If so, consider the variety of exercises provided by Positive Psychology, from journaling to making a collage or gratitude rock, to learning how to do a gratitude walk.

There are many books available specific to the benefits of gratitude and developing your own gratitude practice.  One that is fairly popular in the Christian community is One Thousand Gifts.  This list of children’s books can also help you teach your little ones to give thanks.

If you are in a season of contemplation, waiting, parenting, or supporting others who are pursuing adoption, gratitude can benefit all of us.  Find something that you are grateful for today.

 

written by Alicia Olsen

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

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

Racial Reconciliation and Adoption

 

Reconciliation is at the center of the gospel. 2 Corinthians 5:18-19 says, “All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ, God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation.”

Jesus Christ was sent to this world to reconcile our sinful selves to God and call us to the ministry of reconciliation. Reconciliation means “to restore to friendship or harmony.” Christ first restored our relationship and harmony with God and now offers this same act as a ministry for us to participate in with others. Reconciliation is the very act of adoption – we were brought into God’s family after our brokenness was restored through Christ.

We see much division across our nation due to differences in perspectives and experiences. This spans across values, politics, faith, and racial issues, just to name a few. God calls us to walk in harmony with others and seek reconciliation. He calls us to see value in those that may look, act, or believe differently than us and not to separate ourselves. One of those areas is racial reconciliation, which has come to the forefront of our nation’s attention. For transracial adoptive families, you have been confronted with many feelings, fears, and concerns as racial tensions now confront us. As a world, we are challenged to consider what it means to seek harmony when any of our community is hurting and in need. What should reconciliation look like?

The process of reconciliation should first look like opening and evaluating your heart, mind, emotions, and actions, through guidance by the Holy Spirit. Laying yourself before God and praying along with David in Psalm 139:23-24, “Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.” As God reveals sin in our thoughts, words, and deeds, we can ask Him first for forgiveness and then turn to seek forgiveness and harmony from any that we have hurt. How might this look in a racial reconciliation context? We can allow God to examine our hearts for any judgments, prejudices, or racist thoughts, words, or deeds.

Being surrounded by our culture that has been permeated with racism, these thoughts can creep inside us, often without our realization. God can reveal these to us through prayer, reading books that address racism, listening to the voices of people of color around us, and examining our hearts. When we as individuals can do this, it plays into the greater movement of our society seeking harmony and restoration with others that have been wronged. We can seek harmony with our brothers and sisters of color around us and speak to others through our ministry of reconciliation.

Where does adoption fit into the narrative of racial reconciliation? Adoption can move us in the right direction, but this is done through changes in our hearts: not simply through the act of adoption. Transracial adoption does not fix underlying problems. A family adopting a child of a different race or ethnicity into their family will not automatically rid them or others of prejudice. When the adoptive parents open their hearts to reconciliation as they consider adopting a child of another race, He can show you any places of racial prejudice inside you to rid from your heart and mind, as discussed above. Adopting a child from another race or culture will naturally bring up conversations and comments from friends and family that will allow you an opportunity to speak the truth and confront any of their prejudicial beliefs, whether conscious or subconscious. These conversations allow others to learn about someone else’s experience that differs from their own and challenges them to understand. These are changes that can come from our experiences in adoption and can impact the greater sins of racism around us if you are mindful to do so.

Recognizing the joys and true challenges of bringing a child from another race into your home is imperative. Our desire at Nightlight is to help guide our adoptive families in this journey through education and support. We are growing the resources we have available to transracial adoptive families and hope you keep checking back on the blog for more information in parenting your adopted child.

–Heather McAnear Sloan, Director of Post Adoption Connection Center

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

The Importance of Honoring Communication Wishes of Birth Parents

 

We all know, keeping an agreement, any agreement, is important for the simple sake that it’s a measure of your integrity and moral character. Another helpful question to explore maybe this, “How do I establish a post adoption communication agreement with birth parents that will allow me to act in the highest degree of integrity and honor and is most beneficial to my child?

 

Your child, as they grow, will learn your true character through how you treat others. Additionally, your child is an extension of both you and their birth family. How you treat their birth family may be interpreted by your child as, “this is how they feel about me.”

 

Here are a 7 few tips that will help put you on the right path.

 

Examine yourself. Long before the matching process you need to ask yourself, “What are my feelings towards open adoption and continued contact with birth parents?” If feelings of fear or anxiety begin stirring in your heart, it is time to take a pause and look at the root of these feels. Maybe you have unaddressed fears of being rejected by your child or your child favoring their birth parents over you.  Don’t be afraid to discuss these fears with your adoption social worker. They welcome these questions and will help you work through them. Once these fears and anxieties are addressed you’ll be better prepared to have beneficial conversations about openness with birth parents.

 

Start the conversation about openness as early as possible. It’s important to talk about the level of openness you are all comfortable with during and after the adoption even before you are in an official match.  Talking openly and truthfully about everything lays the foundation of an open communication. This may feel stressful and awkward at first, but it is the best way to establish boundaries and expectations from the beginning.

 

Continue ongoing communication throughout the pregnancy to build a level of comfort with the birth parents. The Doors stated it well in their song lyric “People are strange when you’re a stranger”. The strangeness and awkwardness you may feel towards a birth parent (and they feel towards you) only has a chance to subside with time spent communicating and getting to know each other. Hopefully during this time parties are building a mutual respect. This doesn’t mean asking them personal intrusive questions but instead getting got to know their likes and interests. Just having more exposure to each other over time is likely to make you both feel more comfortable.

 

Know your limits. Don’t promise to more contact than what you are really ready to commit to, just to have the birth parents like you more. You are making a commitment for 18 plus years.

 

Understand the post adoption contact can and will change. One of the key characteristics to a successful adoptive parent is the ability to be flexible. Understand that during the course of your child’s life the communication from the birth parent may ebb and flow, depending on several variables.  If they haven’t had contact with you in a few years and then return, don’t scold them but welcome them back and begin a conversation. (

Additionally, if a birth parent hasn’t been able to commit to their communication agreement, it doesn’t mean you have a pass to break your terms of the agreement. Try to be as consistent as you can. Again, your child is watching you J)

 

Know not to take things personally. You may have established what you thought was a great open relationship with your child’s birth parents only to have them discontinue communication with you or they ask for more contact then what you both originally established. If you are abiding to the communication guidelines clearly established in the beginning, you should not fear that a birth parents’ absence is about you or that you need to abide to their wishes for increased contact.

 

Never hesitate to reach out to your adoption agency for advice. Lastly, if communication between birth parents and adoptive parents become contentious, it’s never too early for either party to reach out to an adoption professional or the adoption agency to ask for help and mediation. It’s much better to involve a third party when the conflict first arises then wait until it escalates.

 

 

These are simple and basic tips to assure that a post adoption communication agreement with your child’s birth parents can be established and sustained throughout your child’s life. Although it seems to be the exception and not the rule, I have spoken to birth parents who had signed an agreement of an open adoption, but then the adoptive parents cut off communication. This is heartbreaking. Remember, a birth parent’s decision was not made from a lack of love. She chose you because she felt that you would raise her child better than she could at that point in her life.

 

Written by Michelle Alabran

 

*For more information about why Nightlight believes that open adoption is in most cases the healthiest choice for all involved in the adoption triad, click here.