The Benefits of a Snowflakes Family Evaluation

 

benefitsRequiring a home study as part of the Snowflakes Embryo Adoption Program follows the best practices of adoption. Previous blogs have addressed why a home study is required and the purpose it serves. In this blog we want to address the question of how the home study process is valuable to the adoptive parent and how the benefits of a Snowflakes Family Evaluation.

When prospective adoptive parents see the list of requirements, documents, and education involved in the Snowflakes Family Evaluation (or SFE, a pre-adoptive assessment used in lieu of a home study, applicable only to embryo adoption), many feel overwhelmed. At least initially. It is also not unusual to feel a bit resentful. Common questions we hear are, “People that have biological children do not have to go through this before they have a baby… Why should I?” Or, “We are already parents and are raising our children just fine. Why do I need to do this?”

Here are three benefits of a Snowflakes Family Evaluation you should keep in mind:

Education

It never hurts to learn something new, particularly when it comes to parenting. Parenting an adopted child (even those adopted through embryo adoption) requires specific education that is not received when parenting biological children.

Preparation

Many topics are covered during the SFE and interview process that parents may not have considered or discussed with one another previously. Such as how they plan to discipline their adopted child(ren) and who they will ask to be the guardians of their children and remaining embryos if something should happen to both.

Recognition

None of us are perfect, and adoptive parents certainly are not expected to be either. The assessment involved in the SFE helps to identify the strengths and weaknesses of each prospective adoptive parent that may affect their parenting. It allows us to give a pat on the back for those strengths, as well as some goals to work on if there are weaknesses in other areas.

While this is not an exhaustive list of benefits, they are great reminders of why a SFE is beneficial to you as the adoptive family. You want to do and be the best for your future children. And so do we!

To learn more about embryo adoption and donation through Snowflakes, visit Snowflakes.org.

Snowflakes’ Families Participate in First Ever Study on Embryo Donation

 

At the American Society of Reproductive Medicine in October 2022, new research project was presented on the Psychosocial Outcomes of Children Born via Embryo Donation. The study participants included Snowflakes Embryo Adoption families, but embryo donation is the preferred terminology in the medical world.

The objective of the study was to assess parents’ perception of the psychosocial adjustment of their children born via embryo donation and their relationships.

 The hypothesis of the study were:

  • Kids born via embryo donation are psychosocially well-adjusted
  • Parents perceive good relationships with their children born via embryo donation

The conclusion? Families created through embryo donation report favorable:

  • Parent-child relationship quality
  • Child behavioral adjustment
  • Child social/emotional adjustment

Several embryo donation programs gave access to their clients/patients who had children born through embryo donation or adoption, including Snowflakes, the majority of which identified as Christian.

In summary, the report stated there is a high degree of comfort with embryo donation given disclosure rates with minimal regret. Most of the respondents were provided with home study education that explained the benefits of not keeping their embryo donation a secret – especially from their children.

Another positive finding of the research is that embryo donation does not appear to increase the risk of adverse obstetric or fetal outcomes.  

 Most of these families received education regarding how to tell their children, building relationships with their donor family, and avoiding secrecy. Isn’t it great to have some research to back-up the anecdotal evidence seen over the past 25 years?

Learn more about embryo adoption at www.Snowflakes.org.

Will Your 2023 Include Embryo Donation or Adoption?

 

Perhaps you are new to our blog, or maybe you are a faithful reader. We are glad you have found it!

The Snowflakes Embryo Adoption Program celebrated its 25th anniversary in 2022. Twenty-five years of helping families with remaining embryos place their embryos with loving adopting families. Here are some reasons to celebrate.

  • Our 1,000th baby will soon be (or has already been!) born—a reason for great rejoicing.
  • Over 9,000 embryos have been placed for adoption through Snowflakes. These are embryos of all qualities and quantities and our team works diligently to find matches for all.
  • The transfer to pregnancy success rate is 54%. Of that, 90% will result in childbirth.

More people are learning about the options of embryo donation and adoption and choosing it for building their family. Raising awareness about this unique form of adoption is the biggest challenge our organization faces. Thank you for telling your family and friends about Snowflakes! Growth in the Snowflakes program over the past eight years has been amazing.

  • 28% average increase year-over-year in families choosing to adopt embryos
  • 27% average increase year-over-year in the number of babies born
  • 25% average increase year-over-year in families choosing to place embryos

Family stories are one of the best ways to communicate the benefits of embryo donation and adoption. Part of our 25th anniversary celebration has been to invite families to submit their stories to us. You may find another family’s story resonates with you and your circumstances.

In 2023, we thank those of you who have chosen the path of embryo donation or adoption. We want to welcome those of you who are considering embryo donation or adoption. Call us! 970-578-9700. We will listen to your questions and clearly communicate the way embryo adoption may be the adoption path for you.

We hope to speak with you soon!

How to Talk to Your Snowflake about Their Origins

 

“You cannot start a relationship on a lie and expect a high level of openness in return.” ~ A Snowflakes Embryo Adoption Mother

It is natural to be curious about our origins; and with programs such as Ancestry DNA and 23andMe, it has never been easier to get our hands on this information. This can be a great tool for discovering distant relatives or learning about your heritage. For those who are adopted, it can open a completely new world by answering questions and filling in the biological gaps. Unless the adopted person does not know that they are adopted…

Embryo adoption through the Snowflakes Program is a wonderful choice for family building! From pregnancy to bringing a newborn baby home, you get to experience all the joys and trials that any parent goes through. It can be easy to slide the fact that you adopted your child as an embryo under the rug. After all, you carried the child for nine months, gave birth, and have all of the photo evidence to prove it. While you can keep this private information from the cashier at Walmart, the soccer coach, and Gladys down the street, the most important person who needs to know that your child was adopted as an embryo, is your child.

It can feel very intimidating, and maybe you are just not sure where to begin. We recommend starting the second you bring your little one home from the hospital. There are two reasons behind this:

  • Your child will never remember a moment you sat them down to tell them they were adopted. (Children who are sat down and told “at an age where they can understand adoption” tend to look back on that conversation as a traumatic experience as opposed to the adoption being normalized throughout their childhood.)
  • You can get a feel for the words, themes, and methods you want to use to explain the story as your child grows. You might find it easier to use language young children may grasp more easily or find yourself using the actual terms; whichever one works best for you is great!

You might also find making a Lifebook for your adopted child to be helpful. Explain that you needed help having a baby, so a generous family whose family was complete placed their baby seed with your family. Include photos of the donor family, the day of the transfer, your child as an embryo, ultrasounds, pregnancy, and the baby. This is a great resource for adoptees that they can carry with them throughout life and look back on!

Children’s books are also great! What is better than normalizing their story by reading a book before bed? Snowflake Babies, Made with Love, The Pea That Was Me, and many others are wonderful stories that explain embryo adoption in ways that children can easily understand.

It is incredibly important to let embryo-adopted children know their origins. Secrets do not stay secrets, and that is especially true today with access to genetic testing at the tip of our fingers. When secrets do come out, relationships may become damaged as a result. Children may be left wondering, “My story is so taboo that we do not talk about it? Are my parents that ashamed of me?”

It can also be difficult as a parent of an embryo-adopted child, with thoughts of what will happen once the floodgate opens that they are biologically related to someone else. How will they react? Will they wish to go live with their genetic parents rather than us?

While these are normal fears to have, DNA does not make a family—love does. You will always be your child’s parents, not the man and woman who share DNA with them.

The most encouraging story we found on the subject is the story of Ingrid von Oelhafen, an infant abducted from Yugoslavia during World War II by German Nazis. When Ingrid was older, she began searching for her biological parents. After a lot of searching, she finally located them, but she said it made little difference in her life. Her memoir ‘Hitler’s Forgotten Children’ ends with this quote:

“It is enlightening to find our roots, but we are what we become through the lives we’re given.”

Talk to your children about the hard things and they in turn will talk to you about the hard things. Stay open and honest with your children, and respect them enough to tell them the truth—especially when it comes to their genetic origins. While it will be enlightening, it will not change whom they identify as their true family—you!

To learn more about embryo donation and adoption through the Snowflakes Embryo Adoption Program, visit Snowflakes.org.

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.