Bonding with a New Child

When I adopted my then four-year-old daughter from China in 2008, I did not plan intentional ways to attach to her. I thought it would come naturally, like it did with my birth children. I was mistaken to think I did not need to have an idea of what to do. Shortly after bringing her home from the orphanage, I read an amazing book which changed by parenting plan. Parenting Your Internationally Adopted Child: From Your First Hours Together Through the Teen Years by Patty Cogen (2008) changed my perspective. I was reading it the first few months together and wished I had read it prior to the adoption and the multiple times I have referred back to it over the years.

I used many of the techniques Cogen refers to in her book. I had my four-year-old using a bottle to rock her to sleep and then a pacifier. I sang her lullabies and played silly finger games of Itsy Bitsy Spider. I read story books and played dress up. I pushed a stroller, took pictures, and did many of the things I had with my birth children when they were much younger biologically than four. I rebuilt the foundation to help my daughter to attach, learn the world is safe, and built trust.

There are fun ways for families to build this attachment with children of all ages. Their beginning story in life does not have to be the end of their story. Here are some suggestions for you to put into practice with your child:

  • Play games! Bring out Candy Land, Old Maid Cards, and Trouble. Roll the dice. Play games that call for the child to make eye contact with you. Do peek-a-boo with your young child.
  • Give piggy back rides to your child, play airplane on the floor or bicycle gymnastics with your child. With airplane, have your little one lay across your feet while you are on your back. Holding their hands, move the child through the air as you make sounds. And bicycle? Face each other and touch feet with your knees bent. Cycle your feet back and forth, singing a silly song of “bicycle, bicycle, who’s going to ride the bicycle”.
  • Embrace crazy hair day and let your child do your hair, or make up, or even face paint!
  • Dance & Sing – swirl around holding your child in your arms, your child standing on your feet, or do a fun hip hop. Break out the karaoke machine. Put on a dance video. Use songs that are soothing and quiet. Sing lullabies.
  • Write notes to your child. Leave a sticky note on the counter, put a love note in their lunch box, or mail them a letter. Send a meaningful text to the teen or write a loving post to the child, expressing affirmation to the child.
  • Read together. Make this a daily part of your structured routine. Get a library card and make going to the library a meaningful event for your child.

Whatever you add to your parenting to help your child attach, be attuned. Make things fun, even if they are intentional. Baking, decorating cookies, drawing, coloring, folding clothes, cleaning up their room, Legos and building forts – all activities that increase the time you spend with your child building the relationship they need to become thriving individuals and adults.

 

By: Tina Daniel, Ed.D., LPC

Encouragements for a Grieving Birth Mother

“Grief is like the ocean, it comes in waves, ebbing and flowing. Sometimes the water is calm, and sometimes it is overwhelming. All we can do is learn to swim.” –Vicki Harrison

No matter if you recently placed a child for adoption or placed a child many years ago, know that you are strong, beautiful, and courageous and there is support available to you at any time you may need it. An adoption support system is vital to help in processing emotions, struggles, and pain. You need a safe place where you can embrace yourself with a community of other courageous women who are on the same journey. A community where you don’t have to explain yourself or be fearful of what others may think. A community where you can learn to grieve, heal, and love again. You can impact your life for the better and find the courage you need, even when things get hard, by knowing that you are not alone.

“Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” Joshua 1:9

 

Here are some resources and support groups to surround yourself with community on this journey:

  1. Talk with Your Adoption Professional – We, at Nightlight have created the Post Adoption Connection Center to meet the variety of needs of those involved in an adoption. Whether you have come here to seek guidance, counsel, or connection, know that we are here to support you and extend God’s love and peace to you wherever you are.

 

  1. Brave Love- An organization that exists to change the perception of adoption through honest, informative and hopeful communication that conveys the bravery of birth mothers. BraveLove offers post-placement support groups and events around the country. You can also read inspiring stories from other birth parents on their site.

 

  1. On Your Feet Foundation- This organization honors and values birth parents and the choice to place for adoption. They offer many avenues of support after placement including birth mother support groups, a birth mother mentor program, and retreats throughout the year. (Empowering birth parents after adoption | On Your Feet Foundation)

 

  1. Concerned United Birthparents (CUB)– A national organization focused on birthparents experiences, healing and wisdom. They offer a yearly healing retreat that welcomes all. Concerned United Birthparents (cubirthparents.org)

 

  1. Tied at The Heart – “is dedicated to providing birth parent support.  We work to facilitate healing retreats throughout the United States. We believe that no birth parent should feel alone or unsupported in their post placement journey,” (tiedattheheart.com)

 

  1. Birth Mom Buds – A web-based, faith-based organization that provides peer counseling, support, encouragement, and friendship to birthmoms as well as pregnant women considering adoption. (BirthMom Buds | Providing Support to Birthmoms & Pregnant Women Considering Adoption)

 

  1. Birth Mother Baskets- A resource that sends gift baskets to birth mothers and matches birth mothers with peers through programs, retreats, and online Facebook groups. (birthmotherbaskets.org)

 

  1. Start a support group- If your local area does not have a support group, this may be an opportunity to start one up. Utilize creativity and skills to focus on building a community to reach others who seek healing. “Two are better than one. If either of them falls down, one can help the other up.” Ecclesiastes 4:9-10

 

By Nichole Chase

Love Language Within the World of Trauma

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

written by Natalie Burton & Deb Uber

 

Family Adoption Story: A Father’s Perspective

 

As Father’s Day approaches, we want to honor all dads, especially those who have opened their hearts and homes to adoption. When it comes to stories of parenting, fathers do not often take center stage. That is why we asked two adoptive fathers to share their experiences during and after adoption. Each faced unique struggles on their journey, but their success and words of encouragement are an important reminder of the power of a strong father.

Ryan, who was initially in our Mexico program but adopted from a dissolution, shares how experiencing hardship through his adopted daughter helped him to be more compassionate toward everyone around him.

“To me, adoption means opening your home, family, and yourself to offer love and support for a child that needs it. It’s is about putting your family and a child before yourself. I was always nervous about adoption. I feel like I barely knew what I was doing with the 2 kids I already had and I wasn’t sure if I was a good enough parent or person to handle a child that has been through the trauma that adoption brings. I still get the same feelings now at times, even 5 years into being an adoptive parent.

          “A big consideration is the cost of adoption. Adoption costs are expensive and they were very much a concern when we started looking more into adoption. We did some fundraising to help offset some of the costs. After adopting, we also took advantage of any and all adoption tax breaks that we qualified for. We were able to recoup a significant amount of the costs with just these two methods.

          “Since adopting, I have grown a lot as a parent and as a person. My daughter may have learned some things from me, but I think I have learned more from her. I have a much better understanding of how trauma affects people and I try to use it in my interactions with other people as well by trying to give people more grace because I don’t know what they have, or are currently, going through.

          “My advice to anyone wanting to adopt is to throw your expectations out the window because in my experience, expectations are nothing like reality when it comes to adoption. Some things are easier than you expected while other things are harder. If an adoptive parent is afraid he won’t be able to love a child who is not his biological child, I would say It definitely takes time and unconditional love. I don’t think any reasonable person would expect you to deeply love your adopted child when you first meet. I have found that attachment can be very hard, for both parent and child. Perseverance, patience, and communication have helped us when attachment wasn’t going well. As long as you continue to strengthen your relationship, love should come naturally.”

Joe, who adopted from Nigeria, discusses his faith as a guiding light through the ups and downs of adoption.

“From the time we started the adoption process to the time we finally brought our child home was five and a half years. The process was long and hard…. but unforgettable! We have learned that adoption is very much like a roller coaster, both in the process and in your emotions. For us, there were times we thought the process was moving along very smoothly, the never-ending paperwork was getting done and everything seems on schedule. But then, out of nowhere, something would happen and cause a delay. After a while, the pace would pick back up, sometimes even too fast! Up and down we would go.

 

“Our emotions would be on the same roller coaster as the process was. When things went great, we felt great. When things were delayed or doors were closed, we felt sad and hopeless. We have learned that this is just how the adoption process is. So, if you are going through that, you are right where you should be. You will have ups and downs, happiness and tears, excitement and fears, joy and anger. The memories of this journey will always be with you. And in the end, if you stick with it and don’t give up, you will have a precious child to share your life with, forever.

 

“For us, God specifically called us to adopt a child from Africa. We knew it was His calling. So whenever one of those delays or setbacks happened, we always reflected back on that calling. Did God still want us to adopt? Every time we asked Him, we got the confirmation to continue, despite the feeling of giving up. And we had good reason to feel that way! There were so many roadblocks and hiccups along the way. We had to switch countries from Uganda to Nigeria after a year and a half in the adoption process. We were officially matched with three children and almost matched with two or three others. We almost traveled to those countries twice. We were even matched with a child for a year, sending him letters and gifts, only to have it fail in the end. All those opportunities of adopting those children fell through, except the last one. The last child we were matched with worked out! We officially adopted our son in October of 2019 and the following year, in October of 2020, he came home!

 

“The adoption process is so complex and difficult to understand that we just need to trust those people that know what they are doing and trust in God that He will see it through.”

 

 

In these fathers’ accounts of the rewards and hardships of their adoption processes, the need for perseverance is a clear theme. Setbacks can be discouraging, and you may find that you have much room to grow once you are united with your adoptive child. This June, take time to appreciate the fathers in your life who give so much of themselves for their families.

 

co-written by Julie Conner & Casey Kutrip

Identifying Signs of Post-Adoption Depression

Much like the “fourth trimester” of pregnancy (also known as Post-Partum Depression), Post- Adoption Depression can sneak up on families during what seems like the happiest time in a couple’s life. Post- Adoption Depression can happen after a family welcomes an adopted child into their home, especially when reality does not meet expectation. Attachment and bonding do not always happen instantly, with biological children or children that have been adopted. New parents can be laden with negative feelings, like some of those listed below, and can often feel very alone during this time. It is estimated that approximately 65% of adoptive mothers experience symptoms related to Post- Adoption Depression Syndrome (PADS). Listed below are some signs that you or a loved one might be battling PADS and some suggestions for what you can do!

Signs of PADS:

  • Losing interest or enjoyment in activities you once loved
  • Difficulty concentrating or making decisions
  • Fatigue or loss of energy
  • Difficulty sleeping or increased need for sleep
  • Significant weight changes
  • Excessive guilt
  • Feeling powerless, worthless, or hopeless
  • Irritability, frustration, or anger
  • Feeling inadequate or undeserving
  • Retreating from friends, family or others sources of support
  • Suicidal thoughts or ideation

Fighting PADS:

  • Take time for you!
    • You cannot take care of someone else if you are not taking care of you. Take care of yourself however you see fit- enjoy a healthy meal, spend time with friends, get fresh air, or participate in any other self-care that leaves you feeling a little more like yourself.
  • Remember you are not alone
    • Find other adoptive couples who have experienced what you are going through. Many of our families complete an activity with an “alumni family” as part of their educational instruction, so you already know at least one person who can help!
  • Give yourself time to bond with your child
    • Attachment and bonding are not always instant in adoption. Be patient with yourself and with your child and allow that process to happen at its own pace.
  • Ask for help
    • Never be afraid to speak up and ask for help for you and your family. Call your social worker, your best friend, your preacher, your Nightlight contact, or a licensed professional to help you today. You don’t have to be in a crisis or at a breaking point to ask for help.

Most importantly, if you or someone you know is dealing with Post-Adoption Depression, I’d like to leave you with this:

“If you are suffering with bonding issues or Post-Adoption Depression Syndrome, there is something you need to hear: There is nothing wrong with you. Bonding issues or PADS have no bearing on your worth as a parent. You are capable of this. There is nothing to be ashamed about. There is hope. You are not alone. This is not the time to duck and run. This is the time to dig deep, make a plan, assess and re-assess, pour your time into this, and fight for your child. You’ve got this, and there’s light at the end of the tunnel. Keep pushing forward, knowing you’re not alone.” – Melissa Giarrosso

 

 

No matter what problems you’re dealing with, whether or not you’re thinking about suicide, if you need someone to lean on for emotional support, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255

Other Resources:

https://www.adoptionstogether.org/blog/2013/01/07/why-arent-i-happy-recognizing-post-adoption-depression-syndrome/

https://adoption.com/overcoming-post-adoption-depression-syndrome

 

Book Review for Birth Moms

 

Once the holidays settled, I was able to dive into an amazing story of a young mom’s journey of adoption- Finding Hope: A Birthmother’s Journey into the Light. I would like to start off by saying this book is also a quick read and you will not be able to set the book down until it is finished. You will cheer on this mom in her low points and even more in her high points. This book is written by Hope O Baker who continues to advocate for birth parents on this journey through conferences, social media, and other outlets. In this book you will follow Hope through her pregnancy, placement, family struggles, mental health, and more.

 

Hope tells us how it was difficult knowing which family to choose to parent her baby when she was looking through adoption profile books. She stated, “.., but it didn’t click,” until seeing the profile book of the family she ultimately chose to adopt her baby. It is often that expectant parents look through a number of books and no connection is felt. When Hope brings light to this part of her journey it brought reassurance that this is a good read for not only expectant moms, but also prospective parents to understand. She shows us the ups and downs of her feelings through this process. She gives us an opening to the anxious feelings that come with selecting a family for her son.

Another main focus that Hope speaks to us about is the struggles with her mom throughout her journey of adoption. In the book you follow along with the arguments and uncertainties of their relationship. This can be seen in many stories of expectant parents. There may be a family member that does not understand an expectant parent’s wishes or the expectant parent is left wondering how to tell their family about their plan of adoption. When reading along through Hope’s story it is evident that the people who the expectant parent(s) chooses to be a part of their journey could benefit from Finding Hope. I do not want to give everything away, but there is a happy ending!

 

Hope lets the readers in on her struggles with substance abuse and mental health. Hope was doing great in her career by making strides and friends at her job, but inside she was struggling with depression, alcohol, and drugs. We hear about a moment in her story where she knew she needed to find better coping strategies or she would not be able to get out of what she was experiencing. Through the journey of her drug and alcohol abuse, she is frank and honest with the readers. We see the realness in how it can take over as a coping mechanism.

 

Finding Hope: A Birthmother’s Journey into the Light is an empowering story and should be read by expectant parents, loved ones of expectant parents, and parents waiting to adopt. Hope is open and honest about her joys and falls of her journey from finding out she was pregnant to where she is now. Hope states “I’m still broken, but I see those cracks as opportunities.”

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.

 

Creating Your Profile Book: 5 Steps to Putting Your Best Foot Forward

 

 

As a family adoption advisor and pregnancy counselor, I get the unique opportunity of working with both adopting families and expectant mothers. It gives me great joy to be a bridge between families and moms, and also gives me a chance to help the two understand each other’s perspectives just a bit more. These two worlds are brought together during the profile viewing and matching processes.

This part of the process can be nerve-wracking for families and expectant mothers alike! As someone that has had the opportunity to review many families’ profile books, and also sit with expectant mothers as they view them, I have come up with five tips to help families create a successful book and put their best foot forward.

Remember that authenticity is key. While the visual appeal of your profile book is very important, remember that the goal of your profile book is to show the expectant mother what life for her baby would be like as part of your family. While it is great to include professionally done family photos you may have or selfies of your lovely faces, it is important to have photos of you being yourselves and enjoying regular family life. Include candid photos, photos of visiting the park, walking the dog, or baking in the kitchen; include put-together photos, casual photos, fun photos, and photos of normal, average life alike. This type of variety shows the down-to-earth humanness of your family, and will make your book feel relatable. Authenticity opens up the door to connection!

Embrace Vulnerability. Putting your life on display for a stranger who is making a big decision to see may feel daunting and overwhelming, but I encourage you to be vulnerable as you create your book. There are a number of reasons why expectant mothers will select family profiles, but many times whether or not the expectant mother feels a connection to the family plays a significant role in this process. There are many wonderful, loving families waiting to adopt, but your story is uniquely yours – share it! Expectant mothers will view many profiles and see photos of many different families, but your story is what sets you apart and makes you unique.

Create a Design that Catches the Eye. While the content of your book is most important, the design and layout of your book can at times be almost equally important. Your profile book shows the expectant mother who your family is, and we want to see you put your best foot forward. If design is not your forte, don’t stress! There are companies, such as Kindred + Co. and Little Ampersand Co., who create custom or semi-custom profile books from start to finish. These companies create lovely, appealing books that are designed with expectant mother’s perspectives in mind. If going this route is not for you, viewing example profile books or browsing Pinterest for inspiration is a great way to create your own book with a little bit of design help from those that have done this before.

Know that your story matters.  Share who you are! Your childhood, love story, interests, faith background, passions, hearts for adoption, thoughts about each other, and day to day life are part of who you are and who you’ll be as parents. This provides more opportunity for connection, and gives expectant mothers an even greater glimpse into who you are. There are many factors and details that may lead an expectant mother to her decision when it comes to choosing a family, but often times it comes down to these details.

Have Fun! While creating your profile book may feel overwhelming or stressful, try to have fun with it and embrace this unique opportunity to creatively share who you are as a family. No family is perfect, and creating profile books is not a contest amongst families; being your authentic selves will go far. You are absolutely not alone; our team is excited to assist you as you prepare to create your profile book and will help you throughout this process. No matter how you choose to create your book, your book and your story will connect with the right expectant mother. Though creating your profile may feel daunting at first, I pray that you are able to have fun and embrace this opportunity of sharing your story!

 

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