The Importance of Maintaining Birth Order When Adopting

 

There has been much debate over the years about families wishing to adopt out of birth order.  There is much research out there about birth order and personality.  Some research has even discovered that birth order can also affect a person’s academic performance, career choices and relationships as well.  So when we look at adoption and birth order it is important to keep this in mind if there are children already in the home.  Not only can adopting out of birth order impact the adoptee, it can have a huge impact on the children already in the home.

 

Displacing the Oldest Biological Child. First let’s look at which birth orders and age of children are most impacted.  Most of the research out there says that when you displace the oldest in the family this can create the biggest issues.  In other words, if you have a child that is 8 years old and you place a 10-year-old in the home that tends to cause more issues than if you place a child in the middle of a sibling set of 3 for example.  Age also affects birth order.  If you are going to disrupt birth order, doing it when the child is younger seems to have less impact.  If the child already in the home is 0-3 this seems to be the least disruptive age group.  Family size can also impact whether adopting out of birth order will be most successful.  Larger families seem to have less issues when adopting out of birth order.

 

Adoptive Child’s Birth Order. One issue that is sometimes overlooked is the birth order of the child you are going to be adopting. If the child you are bringing into your home is the oldest in their biological family and you are now placing them in the home as the youngest, this too can cause issues.  They will have already developed certain personality traits to match their place in the family and adjustment can be very difficult if they go from being the oldest and all the responsibility and roles that takes on to now being the baby in the family. You also have to consider the emotional age of the child you are adopting. In adoption we talk about chronological age but you also have to look at their emotional and developmental age. Adopted children are often emotionally and developmentally younger than their chronological age.

 

Sibling Rivalry. Some of the issues that may surface when adopting out of birth order is sibling rivalry.  Having to share parent’s attention will always be an issue when you bring a new child into the home. But if the child in the home is also feeling displaced this could cause the behaviors to be worse.  Some behaviors that are typical in these situations are children regressing and acting younger than their chronological age, throwing temper tantrums, more oppositional defiant behavior or becoming withdrawn.  If a family does decide to disrupt birth order and especially when displacing the oldest, adopting a child of the opposite sex can sometimes be better than adopting a child of the same sex.  Many families give their reason for adopting a child of the same sex is that they want their children to be “friends” and get along.  This is not even necessarily true in a family where there are 2 children close in age that are biological siblings.  There can be more competition if the children are of the same sex.  If the child you are brining into the home is the same age (or close in age) of a child already in the home this is called artificial twinning.  This can also cause a potential for competition among the children and fighting for parent’s attention.  Artificial twinning is not the same as having biological twins. Artificial twinning is also something to try to avoid but if a family does decide to do this you need to make sure you treat each child individually and not as twins.

 

The take away from this is when at all possible try to avoid disrupting birth order. However, if you are feeling strongly about adopting out of birth order, here are some thoughts:

  • Consider adopting when the child/ren in the home are younger.
  • Be aware of potential issues and consider each child’s individual personality and current birth order.
  • Prepare the current children in the home and have conversations about what it might look like when bringing a child older than them into the family. 
  • Expect an adjustment period and expect some behaviors and emotions to be larger than expected.
  • Seek support.

 

If you have questions about this topic, there are many resources out there for families including Nightlight’s Post Adoption Support Center. Reach out today!

 

written by Nicky Losse

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

 

How to Promote Your Child’s Development of Self-Regulation

Self-regulation is comprised of a variety of abilities that allow someone to understand delayed gratification, focus and shift their attention between tasks, and control one’s emotions and behaviors.  Self-regulation allows a child to resist impulsive behaviors and outbursts, cheer themselves up when feeling down, and respond appropriately to different scenarios, consequently allowing them better control over their behavior and their life.  Developing this skill takes time and practice, and as you can probably guess, directly impacts social interactions and success at school and work.

In the world of international adoption, many children spend the early years of their lives without the consistent one-on-one support and mentoring that is so important to the development of complex reasoning and thinking… directly affecting their ability to self-regulate.  However, it is never too late to teach a child self-regulation strategies.  These abilities are practiced and developed through continuous social interactions across one’s lifespan.  This is great news for all parents, as this means that self-regulation can be taught and practiced through formal and informal interactions and environments at any age.

So what can you do to help your child develop these important life skills?

First things first. Teach your child about different emotions and how to identify and label them.  This might entail pictures of different faces, voicing your feelings out loud as they come up, and helping your child to verbally label theirs.  Facilitate discussions with your child about these emotions, for example, “Did you throw that toy because you were frustrated?” and help them formulate appropriate responses, “What else could you do if you’re feeling frustrated?”  This provides a gateway to brainstorming appropriate ways to react in future scenarios.  Try asking pointed questions to allow your child to arrive at an appropriate response, such as, “Could you ask for help?” or “What if you tried to play with this toy instead?”

Strategy Tool Box. When self-regulating, it’s important for children to have a “tool box” with different strategies for calming themselves down.  These strategies take time to test out and practice, as different strategies will work for different children, but here are a few calm-down techniques to teach to your child:

  • Take a mental/physical break: walk away from the situation, find a quiet place to sit and breathe, read a book, listen to music, walk a lap around the room
  • Take a spiritual break: pray, use deep breathing exercises, practice a yoga pose
  • Engage in a sensory experience: draw, cuddle under a weighted blanket, play with playdough
  • Engage in positive self-talk: repeat a short, affirming phrase or mantra
  • Seek social support: talk to an adult or friend, ask for help

 

Self Talk. A major contributor to good self-regulation is a child’s use of self-talk.  Through self-talk, children repeat various lessons and sayings from adults to themselves when making decisions and reacting to different situations.  To support your child’s use of self-talk, break down different scenarios to them, talking them through how you analyze and think about a situation, and provide them with short and simple rules and coping skills that they can repeat to themselves when needed, such as, “When I get mad, take a deep breath” or “I can have dessert after my homework is done”.

Simple Play. Children learn many life lessons through simple play.  Even older children and adolescents benefit from one-on-one play with an adult.  This is a great time to model appropriate interactions and reactions with your child, and to exhibit different coping skills.  For example, during pretend-play, your child might pretend that a doll or loved one passes away.  This is an excellent time to verbally walk through appropriate processing and response to grief with a statement such as, “Oh no, I’m so sad that my puppy died, I’m really going to miss him, I think I need a hug”.  With older children, similar lessons can be learned through more age-appropriate scenarios, such as playing and losing at a game or role-playing different scenarios, “Oh man, I really thought I was going to win!  But that’s okay, I can’t win every time.  Hopefully I win next time!” and “How could you respond if you try really hard at a game but lose?”

Model. Children learn from what they see and experience.  Make sure to regulate your own emotions when disciplining and interacting with your child.  It is okay to vocalize “I’m really upset right now, I need to walk away and count to ten to calm down before we talk”.  Do your best to stay calm and maintain a firm and even tone when disciplining or redirecting a child.  This helps with modeling, as well as maintaining a safe and positive environment that your child feels comfortable making mistakes and learning in.

Adjust Expectations. When disciplining and speaking to your child, it is always important to respect and listen to them.  Pay close attention to their attempts at communicating and validate their emotions and concerns, regardless of how they express them.  It can be easy to forget the developmental level that your child is thinking and reacting at, but adjust your expectations as necessary to meet their current level, rather than the level you want them to be functioning at.

Clear Limits and Expectations. Children need regular reminders of rules and expectations and benefit from immediate, specific, and direct responses when their behaviors are out of line.  Rather than only focusing on what your child should not do, follow-up with redirecting the child to appropriate activities that meet their needs and offer simple choices for them to choose from.  This teaches your child what acceptable options they have and gives them some control over their life.  For example, “We don’t scream in the house because it hurts our ears, but if you want to use your voice we can sing a song, or you can play and scream outside”.

Shower with Praise. Keep in mind that learning these important skills is a challenging task and takes years to develop and fine-tune.  It is easy for children and adolescents to grow weary, so be sure to shower your child in praise and celebration as they successfully navigate tasks and situations appropriately.  Offer mental breaks and opportunities for your child to choose the activity when you see them getting frustrated or tired, alternating challenging tasks with fun activities.

Importance of Environment. The environment can have huge impacts on a child’s behavior and development.  Many emotional outbursts stem from your child feeling a lack of control but there are many things you can do to avoid this:

Investigate triggers and make accommodations. If your child has more difficulty regulating their emotions and behaviors in certain environments, cue into what could be causing this and make environmental accommodations.

  • Is there a TV or radio in the background that is distracting or overwhelming your child? Turn it off or find a quiet place for your child to go to.
  • Are bright lights or UV lights over-stimulating? Many children with sensory processing disorders and sensory sensitivities react negatively to artificial lighting and benefit from natural lighting provided by windows or soft-white lightbulbs.
  • Does your child have a harder time regulating their behaviors when exposed to loud noises or busy hustle and bustle? Consider noise-cancelling headphones, or a weighted blanket or object to ground and comfort them when exposed to these stressful triggers.

Provide a structured and predictable schedule and routine.  Walk your child through this routine often and give them warnings ahead of time to remind them of what comes next, “After we eat breakfast, we need to brush our teeth then go to school” and “After this TV show is over it’s time to work on your homework”.  For some children, it’s best to have a printed or picture schedule that they can refer to throughout the day or week.

 

Helping your child learn to self-regulate will ultimately benefit you, your child, and their overall well-being, happiness and success throughout their life.  Remember that the more your child practices regulating themselves, the easier it is for them to interact appropriately in various scenarios.   To ensure their ultimate success, offer numerous opportunities for your child to think through and talk about their emotions and interactions, and provide boundless, loving support.  With time and patience, you can pave the way for your child’s future successes.

 

For further information on self-regulation and parenting tips, check out the following resources:

https://positivepsychology.com/self-regulation/

https://raisingchildren.net.au/toddlers/behaviour/understanding-behaviour/self-regulation

https://www.foothillsacademy.org/community-services/parent-education/parent-articles/self-regulation-difficulties

 

 

Trends in Special Needs Adoptions

Why are there less “healthy” children or mild identified special needs available for international adoption?

Many families come into adoption wishing to adopt a young, healthy child and it is sometimes disappointing when they realize that this is not usually possible. Families sometimes look to international adoption because they want to adopt help a child in need. I have often had families ask me where there is the most need and my answer is always the same; we need families who want to adopt waiting children, which means children with special needs and older children. Why be a waiting family when you can adopt a waiting child?

The first thing I want to explain is how a child becomes available for international adoption.

  1.  Child is abandoned, removed from home due to abuse/neglect, or sent to orphanage after death of biological parents.
  2. The first thing that happens:  orphanage and authorities look for biological family to care for the child.
  3. If biological family is not found, then the authorities look for a domestic family to adopt the child.
  4. If a domestic family is not found, then the child is available for intercountry adoption.

 

This means that the children who are available in ANY country for international adoption are children who are older.  Most biological and domestic families are willing to adopt younger children who have no special needs.  This also means that even if a younger child is available that the child will have some type of special need that is not acceptable to biological or domestic families or requires more medical care than is available in the country. Domestic adoption has become more frequent in other countries which is why international adoption has changed over the years.

Even if a child is physically healthy, many of these children have emotional needs that may require them to see a therapist.  The children have undergone a lot of trauma in being separated from biological family, being raised in an orphanage, and then leaving the only life they have ever known.  Some children struggle to attach or bond to their adoptive families initially.  It takes a lot of time and work on behalf of the family for the child to feel secure in their adoptive family.

Please visit AdoptionBridge.org to see the children currently available through many of our programs. Below are some children currently waiting in our programs:

We also would encourage you to research some special needs further. A good resource for this is http://www.adoptspecialneeds.org/. Many families also seek the opinion from a doctor when looking over the list of special needs. You can either contact your pediatrician or seek out a clinic that specializes in international adoption (contact us if you need help locating one).

Keep in mind that there are many countries where it is possible to adopt older children or younger children with special needs who are not able to advocate for the children on Adoption Bridge. There are many waiting children in these countries as well. Some of these would include India, Burkina Faso, and more.

 

 

Will COVID-19 Cease International Adoption?

 

Borders closed and lockdown began. When the COVID-19 pandemic hit early last year many countries suspended their foreign adoption programs as borders closed and lockdowns began. While many view this as a reaction to the inability to travel, it was also necessary as many countries temporarily closed courts and adoption central authorities – or determined how to move cases forward with new work-from-home protocols. Countries with weak infrastructures, particularly the third world countries we work in, were truly challenged by this due to lack of technology and processes that required in person contact. We had many families whose cases came to a standstill while others were impacted by additional quarantine time in country–requiring safety protocols such as testing prior to travel.

Accommodations were made. Some countries made adjustments that loosened some of their adoption requirements. For example, Haiti accommodated the required bonding time between the adoptive parent and child through virtual meetings. A Jamaica family also had their court process take place over Zoom.

COVID-19 will not cease intercountry adoption. Intercountry adoption is an emotional journey for parents so understandably many of the unknown obstacles from COVID-19 were, and continue to be, difficult for families working to bring their child home. But COVID-19 will not cease intercountry adoption. It is apparent that adoption central authorities and other countries’ commitment to working toward the best interest of children who need families has not waivered.

COID-19 has strengthened our resolve: If anything, the pandemic has strengthened the adoption communities’ resolve to work harder for waiting children. We have been successful in matching more waiting children and moving families through the home study and dossier process. It seems as though the time at home has allowed parents to make a decision to adopt and focus on the plethora of paperwork required. We are very optimistic that we will see travel restrictions lifted and processes moving at a more normal pace by summer.

The time to adopt international is NOW. Orphans are mentioned in the bible over 40 times which tells us there will unfortunately always be children who need safe and nurturing families. We are called to take care of these children because, for whatever reason, they have become orphaned from their biological family. If ever there was a time to adopt internationally, it is now. This is the perfect time to prepare, start a home study process and review waiting child profiles. While the effects of the pandemic may slow the process, delay travel, or worse, add risk to the process, we cannot become apathetic toward the needs of children all over the world.

Learn more about how to help. Intercountry adoptions have declined by 87% in the past 15 years while the number of orphans in the world has increased to over 140 million*. The pandemic adds another layer to this juxtaposition that potentially increases children’s need for families both domestically and abroad. At the least, please visit www.saveadoption.org/the-crisis and learn more about how you can help intercountry adoptions to the United States continue to place children who have not been able to find families in their own countries.

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

Racial Reconciliation and Adoption

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

–Heather McAnear Sloan, Director of Post Adoption Connection Center

Adult Adoptees’ Perspective on Interracial Adoption

 

The Debate on Interracial Adoption: Since the 1970s, there have been debates in America on whether children of one race should be adopted by parents of another. One camp argues that children adopted interracially lose their sense of identity and culture, while the other claims that regardless of race, it is positive because these children are finding homes. So, what do adult adoptees have to say about their experiences with being adopted by parents of a different race?

Kiana’s Experience: On the Archibald Project’s 48th episode, Race & Adoption Advice from Adult Adoptees, Kiana speaks about her experience with being a black child adopted and raised by a white, single mother (https://www.thearchibaldproject.com/). Kiana was adopted at age two with two other girls from her orphanage. She grew up in a community that had many adopted children, so her family unit seemed normal to her until the age of five. When Kiana began Kindergarten, children asked why she did not look like her mother; it was difficult to constantly explain that she was adopted and know what level of detail she needed to share. Thankfully, Kiana’s mother encouraged open communication with her daughters about adoption, and together they came up with a plan on what to say to the other kids.

Kiana’s mother made an effort to incorporate Haitian culture into their daily life. Every Haitian Independence Day, the family would cook traditional Haitian food, fly their national flag, and celebrate. They had dance parties to Haitian music and even attended an annual summer camp with other adoptees from their orphanage. Although she speaks fondly of these memories, Kiana explains that interracial adoption is complicated. As an adult, she is most uncomfortable around black individuals because she fears them calling her “white washed.” She continues by saying, “it feels like you are standing at two tables (black and white), and you don’t have a chair at either one.”

My friend, Dante*: It has been over a decade since I met my friend, Dante. Our friendship has been close, and I am immensely grateful that he chose to share his adoption story with me…and all of you! At the age of five, Dante was adopted from Guatemala along with his younger sister, Agostina*. They were adopted by a white couple in the American Midwest.

This time was scary for Dante as he was in a foreign place and did not speak the same language as his adoptive parents. However, as with Kiana, experiencing this transition with a sibling made it much easier. Over time, Dante and Agostina began to trust and bond with their new parents. His parents took a different approach than Kiana’s as they chose not to incorporate Guatemalan culture into their children’s lives. Although Dante regrets losing his Spanish speaking skills, he still embraces his Guatemalan culture as an adult. Dante loves listening to Guatemalan music and learning about the country. Overall, adoption has been a positive experience for him, and he is extremely grateful that his parents made the decision to adopt. Dante reported, “I am thankful for my parents and everything they have given me. Without them, I would have likely ended up in a gang or participating in illegal activities because of where I came from. Instead, I have a good life.” Dante desires to adopt children of his own some day because he “has seen how adoption can change someone’s life for the better.”

Should I Incorporate the Culture of My Child’s Home Country in Our Lives?: The answer to this is… it depends. When a child is adopted, especially from a foreign country, they need to process their new life circumstances and decide what their identity is going to be. They often experience an inner battle between the culture of their homeland and that of their new home. Kiana recommends that adoptive parents give their children space to feel and process all of the emotions that come with creating a new sense of self. She said her mother did a good job of not taking it personally when Kiana pushed her away during these times. In addition, children in a sibling group may not react the same way to this process. For instance, Kiana enjoys learning about her heritage and visiting Haiti, while her sister has little interest in those pursuits. It is important that adoptive parents give their children opportunities to stay invested in their birth country’s culture. From that point, each child can decide whether he or she would like to learn about their heritage or fully embrace an American lifestyle. No path is wrong, and neither indicates that the adoptive parents are not doing a great job at raising their children.

Conclusion: It is difficult to state which side of the debate is correct. Both adoptees above said there were complications with interracial adoption, but also indicated that their experiences were overall positive. Based on these cases, a successful and healthy interracial adoption can be achieved by adoptive parents who 1) support open communication and 2) present opportunities to incorporate the child’s culture if he or she is interested in pursuing it.

*Names have been changed for anonymity

 

written by Heather Berry

How Hosting Changed My Life

My family was part of the first host program at Nightlight in 1995. It really was a unique program, the first of its kind, as school-aged children from overseas orphanages were being offered an opportunity to visit the United States. Ron Stoddart, Nightlight’s founder, brought over 12 children from a Children’s Home in St. Petersburg, Russia, ages 7-14 years old.  The children performed their version of The Little Prince at venues across Southern California.

 

We had actually only been home with our daughters, adopted from the same Children’s Home, 2 months earlier, so were dealing with our own adjustment as new parents. We agreed to host two 7-year-old little girls from the group of children our eldest daughter had belonged to at that orphanage. It was a wild 2 weeks! It brought up some issues with our daughters as their friends told them they would be going back to Russia and not to believe us that we were their ‘forever family.’ We did a lot of talking, processing of feelings and reassuring our daughters that they truly were here to stay. We became close friends with all the other families involved. It was an amazing experience!

 

We continued to host over the next 23 years, having over 75 children in our home! Nightlight had several years where there were two tours, summer and winter. After the first few years, I began to work at Nightlight and also took on the responsibility for the tour program. We hosted children from China, Colombia, Kyrgyzstan, Latvia, Russia, Taiwan and Ukraine. It was a fun experience for our children, as they got to practice their Russian and Spanish or learn words from yet another language. We enjoyed experiencing another culture, as we tried new foods, listened to different music and heard their stories. Ron named the tours, ‘”Every Child Has a Name’” at remind us that each child has a story uniquely their own.

 

We brought the 10-year-old soccer champion team from St. Petersburg Russia one year. It was fun to take the children to different places and see their faces as we went to the beach, Costco, Disneyland or a real, manicured soccer field for the first time. The boys were used to playing with a ball made of tape and on a rocky playground. They didn’t have any equipment. Through families and sponsors, we sent them back with soccer cleats, balls, uniforms and a wonderful sign with all of their names. They were so excited!

 

Most of our tour programs over the first 15 years were performance tours. The children performed traditional folk dances and their National Anthem, having prepared prior to their visit. The first performance, the children would be very shy. However, with each performance, as they received applause and tokens of appreciation, the children blossomed!  They enjoyed sharing their culture with the appreciative audiences.

 

Each child came to the US with a small backpack, sometimes with one or two sets of clothing and a toothbrush, but more often, empty. They left with rolling suitcases and character backpacks stuffed to the brim with clothing, new toys and school supplies. We knew everything would be shared with the other children at the children’s home once they returned, so sent clothing, toys and supplies that would be enjoyed by children of all ages.

 

We saw the tour program as a way to advocate for older children hoping for adoption, we also saw it as a way to learn more about other cultures, share our home with children who may not have had a positive family experience. The children experienced having a story read to them before bed, cooking together and going swimming in the ocean. We kept in touch with some of the children, some for a brief time until they were adopted. We continue to stay in touch with others, long past the time they visited. One even stayed with us as she completed an internship for her university, at Nightlight.

 

The majority of the children did find their ‘forever family.’ However, for those who were not adopted, they had a wonderful vacation where they got to experience a loving family who cared about them and shared their family life. They left with memories that would last them a lifetime. As our 4 daughters grew up, we found we had room for two more children and adopted our sons. We did not anticipate adopting again after our first four daughters, however hosting brought us our boys.  Hosting changed our lives in so many ways, leaving us with so many wonderful memories and best of all, our sons!

 

written by Rhonda Jarema | Executive Director, California Office Nightlight Christian Adoptions