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

 

Five Choices for Embryos in Frozen Storage

 

Earlier this month, there was an article on the Today Show: The anguish of saying goodbye to my 25-year-old embryos.

It is sad to hear that so many embryos sit in frozen storage and forgotten, because the families who created them do not want to make a decision on what to do with them. You do not have to leave your embryos in frozen storage for over 20 years! There has not been any research done regarding the ‘shelf-life’ for frozen embryos—many healthy babies have been born from embryos 20+ years old.

Fertility clinics throughout the U.S. are very familiar with the options available to people with remaining embryos:

  1. Keep them frozen and pay the annual storage fee. This is a reasonable option for people who still plan to attempt pregnancies with these embryos. It is a poor option for people who have completed their family and have no plan to use them.
  2. Donate them for reproduction through your fertility clinic. Clinic donation programs only accept embryos created at that clinic. Not every clinic has an in-house donation program. These programs are primarily anonymous. Once you donate, you do not know who receives your embryos, how many patients received your embryos, if any children were born to those recipients, and you never know if your children have genetic siblings living nearby.
  3. Donate them for reproduction through an adoption agency. A licensed agency, like our Snowflakes Embryo Adoption Program, will follow the best practices of adoption and help you choose a recipient for your remaining embryos. The agency will provide you with peace-of-mind by vetting the potential recipients with an adoption home study. You will know if a child is born. You will have the opportunity to develop communications with the recipient so you know what is happening in the life of your children’s genetic siblings.
  4. Donate them to science. There may be researchers interested in receiving donated embryos. Ask your fertility clinic for information regarding this option.
  5. Thaw them and discard them. If you choose this avenue, the clinic will discard them for you as medical waste. Some people decide to thaw and transfer the embryos in an undedicated and untimed transfer (meaning the likelihood of the embryos implanting are very slim). Other families are interested in having their embryos buried. Arrangements for burial can be coordinated through Sacred Heart Guardians and Shelter.

If you are considering in vitro fertilization or if you have embryos in frozen storage it is important to know your options.

If you have an interest in donating embryos for reproduction, the longer you keep the embryos frozen the more difficult it is to find a willing recipient for your embryos. However, we mentioned earlier that there is no ‘shelf-life’ for frozen embryos. In the fall of 2020, the Today Show shared another story about the birth of a healthy baby girl who had been frozen 27 years!

Rest assured, we do not recommend you keep your embryos frozen 27 years before deciding what to do with them! We recommend making a choice sooner rather than later. Visit Snowflakes.org to learn more.

 

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.

 

Make Cut Out Snowflakes Day

 

 

What memories do you have as a child around this time of year? Perhaps, like me it was the family gatherings, the giving of gifts, blessing those who are not so fortunate, or just watching the snow fall. It always looked so beautiful as its gentle blanket covered the landscape. Each snowflake adding its own impact.

 

In celebration of the season, I remember cutting out snowflakes, adding glitter, and using them to add a little sparkle to my daily life. Did you ever cut out snowflakes in order to decorate for the winter season? And did you know, there is even a special day allocated to that every year. The day is called, “Make Cut Out Snowflakes Day.” This year it’s celebrated on December 27th, 2020. Imagine all around the world people are making unique paper cut outs of snowflakes.

 

Some of us only think about snowflakes during the winter months, but there is more than one meaning for the word snowflakes. Do you know another type of snowflake that while frozen inspire people to get excited about love, hope, and happiness?

 

These are the kind that exist throughout the year. Here in the U.S. its estimated that there are over a million of these types of snowflakes. Imagine a million frozen snowflakes. That’s a lot of snowflakes! If you haven’t guessed by now, I am talking about frozen embryos.

 

The idea of using the word “Snowflakes” to describe frozen embryos was coined by a company called Nightlight Christian Adoptions, who handles various types of adoptions, including embryo adoptions. In fact, it was Nightlight who started the whole idea of embryo adoption here in the United States.

 

What is Embryo Adoption? Couples who grow their family through the process of IVF often find they have more embryos than they need to build their family unit. Therefore, once their family is complete, a couple may place their remaining embryos to be adopted. This is a beautiful gift for an adopting couple who, without the placing family’s kindness, may never have had the opportunity to become pregnant and have a family they can call their own.

 

During this holiday season of love and goodwill, perhaps, you might give a thought to the million or more embryos that are just waiting to be born. Maybe you, yourself, have embryos you would like to place for adoption. Or maybe you’re someone who would like to adopt embryos, to have the opportunity of becoming a parent, and welcoming a new baby into your home. Each one adding their own little sparkle.

 

written by Jen Grams

Waiting During the Holidays: Survival Tips

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

 

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

 

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

written by Nichole Chase, LMSW | Social Services Manager

Giving Thanks During Your Adoption Journey

 

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

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

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

Research has shown that gratitude has immense benefits.

Giving thanks can:

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

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

Research on the Benefits of Gratitude

Scientifically Proven Benefits of Gratitude

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

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

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

 

written by Alicia Olsen

5 Frequently Asked Questions About Open Adoption

 

The concept of “open adoption” has become much more accepted in the last 30 years. Today, roughly 90% of adoptions are open, according to the Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute. Many families, however, still have questions and concerns about what that relationship actually looks like and what it means for them and their child. Below are a few of the most commonly asked questions when it comes to domestic adoption:

  1. What exactly is open adoption?

Open adoption is where there is some kind of direct contact between the birth family and the child and his or her adoptive family. This could include letters and pictures sent via email, text messages, phone calls, virtual meetings, or in-person visits. The amount of openness in an open adoption varies depending on the arrangement agreed upon by the birth and adoptive families at placement and the level of contact the birth family is comfortable with.

  1. Is open adoption confusing for a child?

I think this is one of the most common fears experienced by adoptive families prior to starting the adoption process– and understandably! Adoption can be a complex experience with a number of unknowns. However, studies show that when an open adoption is talked about honestly and openly, not only is it not confusing for a child but it is beneficial. When a child’s adoption story and their birth parents are discussed and/or introduced early in the child’s life, the child has a more secure and trustworthy view of themselves and their parents.

  1. Is open adoption the same as co-parenting?

Not at all. Once an adoption is finalized, the child is legally a part of your family, as if you delivered them at the hospital. You, ultimately, have say over how they are raised and their beliefs about their adoption and their birth parents. An open adoption just means that a relationship gets to be built between you, the child, and the birth family. Secondly, this birth family has chosen you to be the child’s parent for a reason. As your relationship with them develops, so does their trust and respect for you and what you decide is best for your child.

  1. What if my child grows up with an open adoption and decides they like their birth parents better?

Just as your relationship with the birth parents grows more secure over time, as does your child’s understanding of their birth parents’ role in their life. You are their parent. In an open adoption, the child grows to develop a more well-rounded perspective of who they are and where they came from. Through open communication, the child will grow to love their birth parents and establish a relationship with them as they age but it will not take away from the amount of love they have for you.

  1. What if there is a difficult situation in my open adoption and I don’t know how to handle it?

An open adoption will require difficult conversations at times, as does every important relationship. There is no guarantee that your open adoption will always be easy, but it will be worth it. Nightlight and other agencies are in place to help navigate the difficulties that can accompany adoption, including conversations about open adoption. If your family is ever confronted with a situation in your open adoption that you would like assistance navigating, we are here to help and support you.

written by Paige Lindquist

What Are Your Home Study Options For An Embryo Adoption?

Requiring a home study as part of the embryo adoption process follows the best practices of adoption.  Regardless of whether government entities recognize or regulate the adoption of embryos, the end result is that a child will be placed with parents to whom he or she is not genetically related.  The home study involves several elements, including assessment, education, and preparation.  It also provides peace of mind to the placing parents involved.

 

When adopting embryos, whether through an adoption agency or another entity, a home study is often required.  In addition to a domestic home study, Nightlight Christian Adoptions offers another option, the Snowflakes Family Evaluation (SFE).  Here are some things to consider when comparing the home study and SFE:

 

  • Cost:  Managing expenses is an important consideration for adoptive families.  The cost of home studies varies greatly and is often influenced by the cost of living in the region where you live, as well as the supply/demand factor.  You may be able to find an agency who will complete a home study for $1,200, while others charge $3,000 or more plus travel expenses.  Many agencies also charge a separate application fee.  The fee for an SFE is $1,500 plus travel expenses.  There is no application fee.
  • Availability: The SFE is offered to all families, regardless of what state or country they live in.  Traditional domestic home studies must be performed by an adoption agency that is licensed in your state of residence.
  • Modification: Some adoption agencies will permit a home study to be amended for the purpose of a domestic or international adoption if, for example, you begin the embryo adoption process and later decide to switch to a different adoption program.  The SFE cannot be modified to support any other type of adoption.
  • Timeline: The amount of time it takes to complete the SFE is mostly controlled by the adoptive family and their speed in gathering and completing the necessary paperwork.  It is possible to complete the process in 1-2 months, but the average is 3-4 months.  The time it takes to complete a domestic home study varies greatly depending on the agency you use and the state in which you live, but is generally a longer process.
  • Number of visits: Every state has different home study requirements, and that includes the number of face-to-face visits that home study providers must make before they can complete a home study.  Most states require 2-4 separate visits for a licensed home study.  The SFE requires only one home visit with an SFE provider, which can often help speed up the overall timeline of your adoption process.
  • Paperwork: SFE paperwork is similar to what is used in a home study, since we follow an adoption model.  However, it is often a smaller amount than what’s required for a home study and the requirements are more flexible since we aren’t having to follow the regulations of any government entity.

written by Beth Button 

Adopting Embryos Created with an Anonymous Donor

 

Even though embryo adoption has been around for more than two decades, sometimes this kind of adoption can be a bit of a brain bender. But when you consider that life begins at conception, embryo adoption is such a beautiful way to build your family and rescue embryos from being frozen in time and space. At the beginning of a couple’s embryo adoption process, oftentimes the idea that the embryos are created through the placing family’s egg and sperm begins to form in their minds.

What surprises many adopting families is learning that nearly 50% of donated embryos are created through donor egg or sperm.

But if you put yourself in the shoes of the placing family, this decision is not so surprising. The desire to build a family can be extremely strong. Perhaps a family has gone through three rounds of IVF with no success, and the doctor advises them to consider using a donor egg. Many infertile couples continue their journey with a resounding YES! to donor egg and/or sperm.

What are the Pros and Cons for adopting couples thinking about adopting embryos created with a donor?

PROS:

  • Due to the average age of the donor, these embryos are typically more rigorous in achieving pregnancy.
  • Careful screening of donors for genetic, medical, and psychological issues is done.
  • You will receive a donor profile from the fertility clinic as part of the matching process.
  • Many adopting couples’ hearts and minds are put at ease when they realize that children have been born to the placing family resulting from these embryos.

CONS:

  • Discovering the identity of the donor can be difficult, as anonymity is still common-place in the fertility world.
  • The donor’s health history is not updated after the time of the donation.

What are some special considerations to keep in mind when adopting embryos created with a donor?

  • Work to understand the placing family’s motivations. Start by remembering your own grief work around not being able to have a genetic child and your own family building expectations.
  • Know you can choose to not adopt embryos created with anonymous donors, but be prepared for a longer matching time.
  • It is your responsibility as a parent to build a solid foundation for your child by telling them their whole story. You don’t want your child to learn about their beginnings from someone else.
  • There are resources available to you to help you explain to your child about their beginnings.