Why is Embryo Donation a Type of Adoption?

 

Did you know that embryo adoption has existed for 25 years?

National Adoption Month is recognized in November, where adoption agencies and families celebrate the beauty of adoption. However, embryo adoption is often overlooked. Why is it not considered a form of adoption even though thousands of families have participated in it for years?

Embryo donation and embryo adoption are two separate concepts, but are often confused as the same.

In typical embryo donation programs, the donor family creates embryos through IVF and can donate the remaining embryos to a family. However, the practice is not well regulated. Often clinics “in-house” will match the families and process all the paperwork. It is a hard and extensive process, and many clinics do not even find it worth the work to have an embryo donation program at their practice. The embryo cohort can be split up and often little communication or documentation is made between the donor and recipient family.

With embryo adoption, all the best practices of adoption are applied to embryo donation. In the end, the adoptive family will be receiving a child that is not genetically related to them, just like any form of adoption. Adopting families should feel prepared in how to parent their adoptive child, and placing families should feel assured that their embryos are going to a safe and loving home.

All adopting families are required to complete a home study which includes background checks, psychological evaluations, education, and home and post-birth visits. The adoption is finalized through a contract under property law.

Similarly to a domestic infant adoption, donors and recipients also choose each other and can decide the form of communication they are comfortable with. Families are given more information about each other than in a typical embryo donation program. Adopting families are given the donor family’s profile and medical histories so their adoptive child can know about their genetic background. The desire is that genetic siblings are placed together and families are encouraged to be open to discussing with the adoptive child of their adoption history.

The goal of embryo adoption is to provide safe homes for embryos who then become children. The only way to ensure the safety of the embryos is to apply the best practices of adoption.

The controversy over embryo adoption is often affiliated with the lack of knowledge about what it truly is and how it differs from typical embryo donation programs. There is also the ongoing controversy over the personhood of an embryo. Do embryos have the same rights as a child? The topic is still debated, but ultimately, the end result of any embryo donation and adoption program is a child being placed in a family that is not genetically related to them. The adopting family should be prepared to parent this child and placing families should be assured that their child is placed in a loving home.

Embryo adoption is another great form of adoption to celebrate this month. In fact, 1,000 Snowflakes babies will be born in just a few months! All these children would not have a home if embryo adoption did not exist. Join us in celebrating the families and children touched by this beautiful form of adoption.

To learn more about Snowflakes Embryo Adoption Program, visit Snowflakes.org.

Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month

 

October is recognized as Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month, with the aim to honor the millions of families who have experienced loss of children through miscarriage, stillbirth, termination for medical reasons, or infant death.

Historically, such a loss either was not recognized as significant or was just one of those things we did not talk about, even though an early miscarriage represents a profound loss for hopeful parents. It is important not only for our society to recognize and give voice to this type of loss, but also for those who have experienced it to allow themselves to grieve and to honor the children they have lost.

In 1988, President Ronald Reagan proclaimed October as Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month, stating, “When a child loses his parent, they are called an orphan. When a spouse loses her or his partner, they are called a widow or widower. When parents lose their child, there isn’t a word to describe them.”

Here are some small things you can do to honor those who have lost pregnancies and infants. Even if you have not experienced this kind of loss, anyone can participate.

  • Participate in the International Wave of Light campaign by lighting a candle at 7 p.m. (your local time) on October 15. You can share photos on social media platforms using the hashtags #waveoflight, #waveoflight2022
  • Join a walk or other remembrance activity on October 15 (Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Remembrance Day).
  • Help spread awareness through social media.
  • Ask your local government to recognize and officially proclaim October 15 Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day.
  • Wear a pink and/or blue ribbon, or tie pink and blue ribbons around trees.
  • Join a local ministry or church support group for grieving families or those facing infertility.

Many families have experienced joy after pregnancy or infant loss through the miracle of embryo adoption through the Snowflakes Embryo Adoption Program! Visit Snowflakes.org to learn more.

Prioritizing Self-Care During the Adoption Process

 

Self-care. This has become a frequent buzzword in our society. It is so wonderful to take some time for yourself for a change; to treat yourself to a bubble bath, massage, pedicure, or even a large fry at the drive through to satisfy that junk food craving. With the pandemic and the more stressful state of our country, we did better collectively at acknowledging the need to prioritize our self-care.

Let’s face it—slowing down to actually put yourself first, can be a lot more difficult than it sounds. Especially when you are on the journey of adoption.

Whether you are adopting your child from foster care, an international program, or a set of embryos, the adoption process can be stressful for all involved. You become so wrapped up in squaring everything away, filling out the paperwork, checking things off the list, and all the emotions to process that you forget about yourself. There is a multitude of excuses we use:

                “My future child is more important”

                “Making sure that this embryo sticks are more important”

                “Making sure my child has a smooth transition is more important”

                “Having a spotless home for the home visit is more important”

You are part of the family that this child is joining. If you are running yourself ragged, your stress levels are high, and your relationship with your spouse is on edge, the process will become rocky. In addition, if these issues are unresolved before the child arrives, it could only get worse. Perhaps you will start to feel very alone and secluded on your journey while forgetting that your spouse is going through this with you. You may even lose sight of why you started this journey in the first place—to grow your family. This is supposed to be an exciting time, right?

During your journey, take some time to step back from the process to care for yourself. Get the excitement back. Go on a date with your spouse. Take a weekend road trip to the mountains. Go out for ice cream after dinner. Take a walk with your spouse around the park. Pay attention to your emotional state and get support where it is needed from a friend or therapist.

The journey to adoption in any form can be stressful. Do not add to it by not taking the necessary steps to take care of yourself. It will be much easier on you, your child, and can even help your reaction to certain situations throughout the process. Take some steps back when you are feeling overwhelmed, and take care of yourself. After all, you cannot pour into others when your own cup is empty.

Five Things to Know When Donating Embryos

 

So, you have decided to take the plunge and donate your embryos to another family! You may think the process is simple: Speak with a representative, sign some papers, and then you are done! There is so much more to the embryo donation process then some families initially realize.

Here are the top five things you should be prepared for when starting the embryo donation process:

1) You do have a choice in which embryo donation programs you work with, but not all embryo adoption or donation programs are the same.

With most embryo donation programs, you do not have a say in who receives your embryos, and because many clinics place anonymously, you will have no idea if you (or your child!) will cross paths with the baby who was born from those embryos. Snowflakes Embryo Adoption not only allows you to know whom the embryos were placed with, but also allows you the opportunity to choose the family yourself!

2) Many clinic donation programs will not take embryos that are more than five years old.

Embryos that are more than five years old typically have older protocols for thawing and transferring embryos. Consequently, many clinics and adoptive families opt not to use “older” embryos for family building. Currently, Snowflakes has adopting families who are willing to be placed with these embryos, with the help of our preferred partner clinics.

3) If you have less than three embryos, it is likely there is a cost to donate.

It costs twice as much to donate two embryos as it does to donate four embryos. When you donate, there are multiple logistics to consider, like legal paperwork, FDA donor panels, etc. In addition, the cost of administration, support, and storage. Some embryo adoption or donation programs charge you for all the fees that are incurred, while others may just need to offset some of the cost. But be aware, while you might find a program that has no fee to donate, you may also discover they do not give you much say in the donation process either.

4) You are responsible for storage and transportation costs of your embryos, until you sign the contract to release them to someone else.

United States law still regards embryos that exist outside the womb as property. Therefore, as these embryos are viewed as your property, you are responsible for storing and transporting them. This can become quite costly over time if it is taking time to find the right family for your embryos. As a result, one of the most popular questions asked is, “Is there a less expensive place I could store my embryos?” Yes! Moving your embryos to a storage facility is highly recommended. You can speak with a Snowflakes representative for more information on how to get the process started!

5) The Snowflakes program empowers placing families with confidence in choosing life for their remaining embryos.

The term “Snowflakes” was coined by Nightlight in reference to embryos–because each one is unique and frozen in time. For over 25 years, Nightlight and Snowflakes has been empowering placing families with confidence when choosing life for their remaining embryos.  For more information on donating embryos through the Snowflakes program, call our Colorado office at 970-578-9700, or visit snowflakes.org.

 

By: Jen Grams

Embryo Adoption Grants and Scholarships

 

Starting the embryo adoption journey through the Snowflakes program can be very exciting, but the financial component can take people by surprise. Adopting embryos does indeed have a cost, but the good news is that there are grants, scholarships, and loans out there that can help fund your fees for the adoption process, fertility treatments, and both!

See below for our compiled list of grants and scholarships that can help you through your embryo adoption journey!

  • Baby Quest Foundation Grants: This grant is awarded two times a year, between the amount of $2,000-$16,000. It can be applied to the embryo adoption process and is open to all who are permanent residents of the U.S.
  • Cade Foundation Family Building Grant: This grant is offered twice per year—spring and fall. Awards up to $10,000 per funded family to help with costs of medical infertility treatments. Applicants must have a diagnosis of infertility from their doctor and must be legal, permanent U.S. residents.
  • Footprints of Angels: Footprints of Angels is a nonprofit organization supporting women impacted by recurrent miscarriages and infertility. This grant states it will cover the costs associated with third-party reproduction, which includes embryo donation and adoption. Applicants must be citizens or legal residents of the U.S. and have a diagnosis of infertility certified by a medical provider.
  • The Hope for Fertility National Grant: This grant can be applied to the embryo adoption process, FET expenses, and blood work and tests. It cannot be applied to expenses for travel or medication. The grant is available to couples who are married, legal residents of the U.S., and have been officially diagnosed with infertility by a medical professional.
  • Gift of Parenthood: This grant helps couples and individuals struggling with infertility achieve their dreams of becoming parents through fertility assistance grants ranging from $8,000 to $15,000, available four times a year. This grant can be applied to embryo donation or adoption expenses. All applicants must be uninsured for fertility treatments, and treatments must occur at a Snowflakes partner fertility clinic that is a member of SART.
  • Nightlight Foundation Grant Program: Nightlight Foundation (formerly “Babushka Fund”) assists families who might not otherwise be able to afford the costs of adoption for a child who might not otherwise be adopted. A grant committee will review applications and make awards of $500 to $5,000 (with an average gift of $1000) to prospective adopting families. This grant could be available to Snowflake’s families who are adopting embryos through the Open Hearts Program.
  • Adoption Bridge: While this is not specifically a grant, this can be a great resource for raising funds that any grants may not cover. Nightlight’s crowdfunding website is where you can tell your embryo adoption story, post pictures, and videos, and keep people informed about what’s going on. You can accept donations from your friends and family, and these funds are sent directly to Nightlight.

This is not an extensive list, but it is a great way to start your research! Nightlight also offers all clients the opportunity to connect with our Family Resource Specialist who assists families in identifying funding resources for their adoption fees.  To learn more about embryo adoption or donation through Snowflakes, visit Snowflakes.org.

By: Paige Zapf

Traditional Home Study vs Snowflakes Family Evaluation

 

When you are adopting embryos through the Snowflakes embryo adoption program, there are two options you can choose from to fulfill the home study requirement of this program:  a traditional home study or a Snowflakes Family Evaluation (SFE).  When deciding between these two options, there are several factors to consider.  Among them are cost, the overall timeline, the adoptive family’s location and accessibility to home study providers, and whether the adoptive family may consider switching from embryo adoption to another type of adoption if their embryo adoption doesn’t result in a successful pregnancy and birth.

 

One benefit of the SFE is that the cost is almost always lower than that of a traditional home study.  Since only one face-to-face home visit is required and the paperwork is generally less intense, it also tends to be a faster process than that of a home study.  Third, each of our 10 Nightlight offices has multiple SFE providers who can travel to meet with families regardless of what state or country they live in, whereas home studies have to be performed by a licensed home study agency in the adoptive family’s state of residence.  It is also advantageous to a family to work with professionals who are well-trained in all things embryo adoption rather than a home study agency that is unfamiliar with this type of adoption.

 

There are also circumstances where it might be beneficial to complete a traditional home study instead of an SFE.  Some couples who apply with Snowflakes may already have a completed home study.  Others may find a local home study provider whose fees are lower than those associated with an SFE.  The main benefit of doing a home study is that if the adoptive couple plans to switch to another adoption program if their embryo adoption isn’t successful, this home study may be modified or updated to use for domestic, foster, or international adoption, whereas the SFE is only valid for embryo adoption.

 

Our Snowflakes team is always happy to discuss these options with you and help you decide the best home study option for your family.

How the Beauty of Easter Reflects Adoption

 

During this Spring season, we see flowers blooming and everything that was dead during the winter months sprouting to new life. For Christians, it is also the time of surrender and sacrifice through the reminder of Easter and the weeks and traditions leading up to it, such as Ash Wednesday, Good Friday, and Palm Sunday. But what does this time have to do with adoption, and how can we think of adoption in the terms of the cross?

What does scripture say?

In John 3:3, Jesus says, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” Because of the cross, and Jesus sacrificing His life for our sins, we are able to be born again and are given a new life. In adoption, children are also able to begin a new life as a child in your family. Adoption is a picture of how brokenness on earth, and our humble beginnings, can be made beautiful and used for good.

We are reminded again in Psalm 37:18 of God’s provision and care; “Day by day the Lord takes care of the innocent, and they will receive an inheritance that lasts forever.” Through adoption, children receive an inheritance on earth. Through a relationship with Christ, we have all received an eternal inheritance and life with Jesus.

What does this mean to me?

With this in mind, Easter can be a time of celebration; a celebration of warmer weather, of Christ’s resurrection and of your child becoming a new part of your family, whether their adoption occurred weeks, months, or many years ago. One way to honor your child during this time is through pointing out the consistencies in their own stories with the story God wrote for us as believers in Jesus and his death on the cross.

For those of you who are still waiting for your adopted child, who are currently fostering, or maybe you are just about to begin the process, Easter is a beautiful reminder to all of us of our worth and the freedom we have in Jesus because of his resurrection. Because of Him, we are all accepted into a forever family in heaven. That alone is a reason to celebrate with a heart full of gratitude.

 

I want to end this with a section of a poem by Deborah Ann called Abba – My Father;

Abba my Father,

has adopted me . . .

into His royal family

so I could be . . .

 

An heir to salvation,

a daughter of light

a child that brings

to Him great delight.

 

I’m no longer an orphan,

I’m no longer a stray

I’ve inherited a room

in His mansion I’ll stay.

 

Abba my Father,

has adopted me . . .

into His royal family

so I can be free . . .

 

Free from the guilt,

of my wandering ways

free from the darkness

that once filled my days.

 

The adoption became final,

that day on the Cross

when Jesus died for me

and all those who are lost.

 

Abba my Father,

has adopted me . . .

into His royal family

so I might see . . .

 

See His glory,

in the middle of my pain

see His grace fall

like sweet drops of rain.

 

The inheritance is mine,

I’m claiming my right

and now I have privilege

to His power and might.

 

Abba my Father,

has adopted me . . .

into His royal family,

I willingly flee . . .

 

Reference

Ann, Deborah. “ABBA My Father.” CHRISTian Poetry, 31 May 2013, https://poetrybydeborahann.wordpress.com/2013/05/31/abba-my-father/.

 

By: Paige Burch

What if we are Catholic…can we still pursue embryo adoption?

“We are solving a problem that already exists.”

This is the simple answer we give for why embryo adoption is permissible, even if one has reservations about in vitro fertilization.  In fact, since embryos are human beings, then not only is embryo adoption permissible: it is actually obligatory!

The Catholic Church takes a firm stance on in vitro fertilization (IVF): it’s a non-starter for infertile Catholic couples. The church issued a document in 1987 called the Donum Vitae (DV), or “The Gift of Life,” which clearly outlined its stance on alternative family building methods. The document stated that if technology aided a couple in achieving pregnancy, it was okay. If it replaced the marital act that led to pregnancy, though, it wasn’t – so that ruled out IVF as an option for Catholic couples facing an infertility diagnosis.

But where does that leave embryo adoption?

While the reason these embryos exist in the first place has been condemned by the Catholic Church, it also takes the stance that all children are worthy of love and respect no matter how they were conceived. Father Thomas Williams addressed this controversial issue in an interview with Catholic.org. In the interview, he states that the question should not be how these children came into existence, but what we can do now to help them.

“Given the current state of medical science,” Father Williams says, “the only thing that can be done to save the lives of those persons is gestation in a woman’s womb. Most women aren’t called to make this sacrifice, but those who feel called should not be discouraged from doing so.”  You can read the full interview with Father Williams for more information on the moral and theological implications of embryo adoption.

Noted Catholic ethicist, Dr. Elizabeth Rex, has written extensively on the permissibility of Snowflakes®, noting that embryo adoption does not violate the sacred bond of marriage, and fulfills our obligation to save human lives. She says of Donum Vitae, “the human embryo must be treated as a person from the first instant of its conception (DV I.1) and it also declares as ‘licit’ and even ‘desirable’ all therapeutic procedures that ‘are directed toward [the human embryo’s] healing, the improvement of its condition of health, or its individual survival.’ (DV I.3).”  If Donum Vitae sees as desirable all procedures which are directed toward an embryo’s survival, then surely embryo adoption is permissible.

We have recorded a video about the Catholic View of Embryo Adoption presented by two Catholic doctors.

–Daniel Nehrbass, Ph.D.

Dangers of Waiting to Donate your Embryos

 

Headlines state, “Baby Born from Embryo Frozen for 27 Years.” We all read in awe, marveling over the circumstances that allowed this to happen. If you have frozen embryos in storage, this might be the moment you begin considering the possibility of donating your embryos to another couple.

You might now be thinking, “well, my embryos have only been frozen for 5 years, I have plenty of time!” Coming from years of experience in the embryo adoption field, we would encourage you to challenge this assumption. Although research shows that children can still be born from older embryos, the chances a fertility clinic will allow the embryos to be transferred are unpredictable.

One major roadblock that occurs when trying to donate older embryos is the receiving clinic’s willingness and ability to thaw and transfer them. The science behind thawing and freezing embryos is constantly changing, growing, and improving. This can make it difficult when embryologists attempt to thaw older embryos. Most embryos frozen before 2012 were frozen using a method called ‘slow-freezing.’ After 2012, most were frozen using ‘vitrification,’ which is much safer and more effective. Because of this shift in freezing methods, most clinics do not train their embryologists on slow-freezing anymore. This makes it difficult to find a clinic willing to thaw and transfer the embryos, even if a willing adopting family is found.

Another issue with waiting to donate your embryos is found in the lack of medical records prior to 2012. Many clinics tend to destroy records after 5-10 years, and others place records into long-term storage, which are then difficult to find. These medical records, including important embryology information, are essential in the donation process. Not having these important documents when attempting to donate your embryos can unfortunately be detrimental to success.

If you are contemplating donating your embryos, please consider these risks as they wait for their fate in frozen storage. They are the siblings to your children, and lives worth preserving and living. Don’t wait to give your embryos a chance at life!

By: Kaelah Hamman

Season of Giving

Christmas is a time of excitement. Stores are bustling, shoppers are busy, and there is a sense of anticipation in the air as we prepare for the holidays with friends, family, food, and gift-giving. In the back of your mind, you think again about your frozen embryos sitting in storage…

Is this the season to give the ultimate gift of a family to those who cannot have a family themselves?

 Perhaps you are unable to use all of the embryos you have created using IVF, and now the thought of discarding them or donating them to science does not seem like the right choice anymore. But there are other choices—gifting them to another family! Embryo donation through the Snowflakes Embryo Adoption Program allows families who are complete to give their remaining embryos to another family so they may complete their own family like you! You created the embryos in the first place to hopefully become a living, breathing baby. You can still choose life for your embryos!

Christmas is a reminder that family and kindness are of utmost importance. Seeing loved one’s faces light up from an exciting gift is often more gratifying than receiving a gift yourself. Embryo donation through Snowflakes empowers you to have a choice in the family who received your gift of embryos. Choose to give the greatest gift of life to not only a family but your embryos.

To learn more about the donation process, visit Snowflakes.org.