Adoptive Family to Adoption Social Worker: My Story

I grew up in a family where my mom, dad, and stepmom were all social workers. They worked with children and families and it was their job to provide better lives to others. Throughout my entire life, my family had instilled basic values of compassion, empathy, and benevolence. When I was in middle school, my dad and stepmom decided to enroll in a program of fostering to adopt. We took newborn babies into our home and cared for them as our own. Unfortunately, none of those placements ended in a permanent adoption that my parents were hoping for. They knew our family was not complete yet, so they made the joyful decision to adopt internationally from the Philippines

 

I remember being fourteen years old and taking part in the home study process. I answered the social worker’s questions to the best of my ability, and enjoyed talking to her about my family. I remember the social worker inspecting our house, my room, and our yard, all while asking my parents about the adoption process. I remember the deep conversations with my dad and stepmom about getting a new brother or sister and I was ecstatic for our family’s newest addition. Time continued to pass and weeks turned into months as my family anxiously awaited the paperwork to be completed. Sometimes, the wait seemed like it would last forever, and that a placement would never happen. Whenever I felt anxious about it, they encouraged me that the time would come, and that we just had to be patient. Then out of the blue when we were least expecting it, my parents got “the call”. I had a new baby brother! They booked plane tickets to the Philippines that night and left as soon as they could.

 

A couple of weeks later, I met my brother Joshua. He was a year and a half old, and as precious as I could imagine. However, because he grew up in an orphanage overseas, he was not used to the environment and new stimuli in my home of Hawaii. There was a period of adjustment for him as he got used to my family and this new place that he had never been. Joshua had never really been outside before, so he was not used to grass, trees, and nature. He was frightened during bath times since he had only received those on rare occasions. Although there were some challenges to overcome, Joshua loved the attention and love that my parents gave him, and seemed to bond quickly with them. He had never experienced such care and consideration before since he often had to compete with the other children in the orphanage. My family’s consistent love, recognition, and affection helped baby Joshua to thrive, as he grew from shy, uncommunicative, and resistant to boisterous, giggly, and friendly. With the help of a speech therapist, play therapy, and support groups for my parents; my family was able to conquer that hurdle of transition and adjustment to this new life. It wasn’t always easy—that’s for sure, but it was definitely worth it. This process and journey of adoption led me to grow a deep passion for the field. I knew that this was what I wanted to do in my future as well.

 

Fast forward to now, and I am currently getting my Master’s degree in Social Work while interning at Nightlight Christian Adoptions. I am so unbelievably blessed and grateful to be able to learn what adoption looks like on this side of things. Getting to serve birth mothers, adoptive families, and adopted children has been incredible as I get to give back to others. When families may be having a difficult time during the waiting period, I can relate with them and help them process their thoughts and emotions through it all since I have been in their shoes. If a family is having a difficult post-placement period while trying to transition and adjust to their newest addition, I can help walk them through those challenges since I have been there before as well. Sharing the same experience of adopting a child internationally has truly helped me to empathize with my clients better, and be able to see things from multiple perspectives. My family had a wonderful experience and great caseworkers through our adoption journey, and I am honored to have a chance to share the same with Nightlight clients as well.

 

If you are an adoptive family, whether international or domestic, and are in the “waiting period”- don’t hesitate to reach out to your caseworker and utilize your agency for additional support, as this period can be a trying and difficult time for your family.

written by Lindsey Nishimiya

Lindsey was our agency’s MSW intern fall 2018-spring 2019. She graduated with her masters in social work and is now an LMSW working in Waxahachie, Texas as a Child and Family Specialist for Presbyterian Children’s Homes & Services

Learning the Attachment “Dance”

 

 

Attachment is the secure bond that is created initially between an infant and their caregiver. This attachment process will begin in utero with a child’s birthmother and then be formed again with other caregivers, specifically their adoptive parents. Children have the capacity to form several attachment relationships, the important thing is those are formed with adults who will remain consistently, and lovingly, in the child’s life. Even for children adopted in infancy, there is an element of loss that the child will feel when receiving new caregivers after their birthmother. In order to have healthy, intimate attachments later in life with family, friends, and spouses, an individual has to learn healthy attachment as a child.

 

This article discusses the styles, or ways, an infant attaches to a parent as well as the ways that a parent attaches to their child. Attachment is often called a dance, corresponding movements and counter-movements between both the child and parent. Both have to participate and move in order to make this a real dance. When the child is securely attached and the parent is securely attached, this dance moves as it is supposed to. Often times because of our own difficult childhoods and the experiences your child has had with caregivers in his life, one or both parties may not have the ability to attach in a healthy and secure way. Below is an outline of secure and insecure attachments and how those impact us as adults.

Attachment Styles – Children

There are four identified attachment styles in children that predict the way they attach to their caregiver. In observational experiments in children age 18 months, called The Strange Experiment, these four styles are demonstrated and can be matched with a corresponding attachment style in their caregiver. We will first examine the four styles in children to understand these attachment styles and how that impacts the child as an adult and their attachment style.

Secure

A child who is securely attached has a caregiver that consistently responds to the needs/cries of their child. This child regularly has their physical and emotional needs met and they are confident when they have a need (hungry, upset, tired, diaper change), crying will result in their needs being met.

Anxious – Avoidant

A child with anxious-avoidant attachment has a caregiver who does not respond when the infant is upset. The parent may shush their child to stop crying without meeting their needs (the reason for the crying in the first place). This child learns not to cry to get needs met and that they have to meet their needs themselves.

Anxious-Ambivalent

A child with anxious-ambivalent attachment has a caregiver who inconsistently responds when the infant is upset. This parent sometimes responds to the cries and needs of their child and other times does not. This can be for a variety of reasons, but some may be mental health issues or substance abuse in the parent. When the parent is in a good place, they respond well to their child, but they do not respond well when they are in a bad place. This child cries and is difficult to soothe in an effort to stay in the caregiver’s direct attention.

Disorganized

A child with disorganized attachment has a caregiver who is frightening/traumatic. This typically happens in situations where a child is in an abusive home. The person who is supposed to be their source of comfort when they have a need or are upset is also the person that is hurting them. The child has no clear strategy when upset and you will see very erratic behavior from them when they are upset.

Attachment Styles – Adults

It is important to understand the attachment style that we developed as children because this will directly impact our attachment relationship with our children. The duty to attach is not placed solely on a child’s attachment to you, but it is also your ability to attach to them. In studies done on attachment styles, 81% of the time a mother’s Adult Attachment Inventory (AAI) classification (listed below) predicted their classification as children. This shows a direct correlation with your childhood attachment style and your corresponding adult attachment style. When looking back through generations, 75% of the time the mother’s classification predicted their grandmother’s classification. Attachment styles can be passed down from caregiver to child to caregiver to child through a generation. You usually parent your children the way your parents parented you, good or bad. If that generational line of descendants are not securely attached, then they are passing on insecure attachment relationships to their children.

Secure

A secure adult is 1) able to give care, 2) able to receive care, 3) able to negotiate their needs, and 4) able to be autonomous. These skills are developed as infants/children in healthy attachment relationships with our caregivers. For example, if our cries were appropriately attended to, then we learned that when we speak a need, a loved one will meet that need and we can trust them to do so. If we learned that our needs are not met, then as adults we will not voice our needs or trust anyone will meet them if we do.

Avoidant – Dismissing

A dismissive adult is closed off emotionally. They are able to give physical care to a child (feed, clothe, bathe, etc.) but do not connect emotionally. They can be described as not a “huggy, touchy, or feely” person, as physical affection does not come naturally. These adults put energy/interest into objects/things rather than people.

Ambivalent – Entangled

An entangled adult can be described as intrusive with care and in relationships or they get emotionally close to someone very quickly. They do not have good and healthy boundaries in their relationships and can be seen as controlling or overbearing. They may carry anger or resentment toward their own parents that is unresolved as an adult.

Unresolved – Disorganized

A disorganized adult may engage in mental “checking out” behaviors/disassociation. They commonly have behavioral or emotional disorders or another mental health diagnosis. Their personal relationships are chaotic/confusing.

 

In the general population, among adults you will find that 60% are categorized as Secure, 18% Avoidant, 12% Ambivalent, and 10% Unresolved. Interestingly, among the foster/adoptive parent population, you will find that 15% are categorized as Secure, 40% Avoidant, 15% Ambivalent, and 30% Unresolved. There is a much higher percentage of Avoidant and Unresolved adults among foster/adoptive parents. Reasons for this could be that these adults grew up in homes where their parents did not connect/attach with them emotionally (Avoidant attachment style) or were abusive/unstable (Unresolved) and their attachment style corresponds to their parents (remember, 81% have the same attachment style as their parents.) These parents want to provide a different experience for a child that has been orphaned or placed for adoption, so they are drawn to serve and love this population of children. However, without intervention, these adoptive parents will struggle in attaching with their child, especially if their child has their own attachment insecurities, and perpetuate the cycle.

Intervention

Dr. Karyn Purvis says that we cannot take a child to a place of healing if we have not gone there ourselves. Even with children adopted at infancy, impacts of stress, substance use/abuse, or traumatic experiences in utero or during delivery will leave lasting impacts on a child in development and attachment. There are great resources to read and digest in the areas of child and adult attachment and impacts of trauma on the brain to children, especially in adoption. Three authors we highly recommend are:

 

If you would like to have an evaluation done of your adult attachment style, you can get an Adult Attachment Inventory (AAI) completed by a trained and licensed counselor or psychologist. One professional we recommend is Jim Harlow (http://www.jimharlowlpc.com/) but there are other counselors around Texas that can complete this evaluation. There are online inventories you can do, but the best results will be received by an in-person interview.

 

We encourage you to seek a path to healing for yourself if you grew up with a difficult childhood or relationship with either of your parents. Any impacts or wounds from your childhood will have lasting results that will be brought up in you as you become a parent. A child knows exactly how to find the right buttons to push in you, especially if your child has any struggles. The best thing you can do for your child is to seek healing for yourself. Our staff are here to support you and your path to healing. Everyone has some negative impacts from their childhood and openly admitting these will not disqualify you from adoption. We know counseling is used by the Lord to make you the best individual, spouse, and parent you can be and we encourage you to seek this as needed while you are adopting.

 

written by Heather McAnear, LBSW | Inquiry Specialist | Post Adoption Connection Center Coordinator 

Spirit of Openness: How it Relates to Adoption

 

 

As an adoption agency, Nightlight Christian Adoptions deeply believes in the value of open adoption and the positive impact it has on all members of the adoption triad. One of the main questions that Nightlight social workers typically receive from inquiring prospective adoptive parents is about openness and the relationship they will have with their future child’s birth family. It is a topic that we often explore in depth with families throughout the process, starting at inquiry and spanning through to post-adoption. If the idea of openness is not explored and researched properly, culture (including movies and TV shows) may lead to feelings of fear and anxiety, especially since society does not portray many parts of adoption accurately or in a healthy way. Many prospective adoptive parents have walked a painful and difficult journey prior to beginning the adoption process with an agency or attorney, and fear may be a comfortable place to settle (as it is for most of us in so many areas of our lives) as the new path to parenthood is begun. As I continue to explore the concept of openness that will be unique to each adoption with prospective or current adoptive parents, I have really begun to shift encouraging both “open adoption” and a “spirit of openness.” The purpose in this is because a “spirit of openness” can be demonstrated within the adoption triad in every adoption (embryo, domestic, foster care, international), where the practical logistics of an open adoption may not – for various reasons.

Now what can this look like? This may look like the creation of a life book (maybe even beginning with the birth mother’s pregnancy journey), open and honest conversations with the child (and almost always his/her birth family), sharing pieces of a child’s tough story as appropriate, explaining openly and kindly to the child as to why they may not have contact or any knowledge about the child’s birth family, and addressing intricate identity questions as the child begins to understand the complex, unique, beautiful, and sometimes painful journey to their adoptive parents. One of Nightlight’s domestic adoptive parents told their son a story about his birth mother every day when he went down for a nap. Before 15 months of age, he knew her name and that she is another person in his life who loves him. Of course at that age, he cannot grasp what that entails; however, he will grow up always having a memory of her being someone important in his and his family’s life – and as appropriate and healthy, he can begin to understand all that entails. Logistically, this family has not had a visit with their child’s birth mother since he was born (a few years ago) due to the birth mother not desiring visits at this point of her journey of adoption (it is so critical to remember the journey experienced by birth parents and navigating that with the child’s). However, he will always understand that his parents not only want to share his story with him, but also his parents’ desire to love his birth mother and honor her role in his life by sharing about her openly and regularly. Birth (or genetic) parents may not always desire visits or even direct contact, and there is no question that adoptive parents may have a difficult time navigating that part of the child’s story. However, the honest and open discussions will allow for the child to ask questions as he or she feels necessary and help in the journey of bridging that gap in their story.

Even in open adoptions, there may not necessarily be a “spirit of openness.” There may be certain circumstances in a birth family’s (or adoptive parents’) life or adoption journey that may lead to hard conversations and complicated contact between members of the adoption triad. But even in those moments, the adoptive parents play a key role in shaping a child’s view of his or her birth family (and, in turn, a reflection of the child’s own personal identity as a part of the biological family). In the end, many adoptees may internalize how adoptive parents reflect on their birth family – as he or she always will have a connection to them that cannot be broken or ignored or glossed over. This lack of a spirit of openness can be displayed in very simple things that adoptive parents may not even realize, such as tone/attitude when discussing the behaviors of the birth family or fear or anxiety when preparing for visits, phone calls, letters, etc. Children pick up on the smallest attitudes and fears, especially when related to their adoption story. There is no doubt that this is a difficult balance to explore, but humility, honesty, forgiveness, and grace play major roles in the journey for the entire adoption triad.

Many times, the struggle with a spirit of openness comes from a place of fear (before, during, or after the adoption). However, our Heavenly Father does not give us a spirit of fear, but of power and love and self-control (2 Timothy 1:7). Adoption is a complicated, messy, and beautiful journey for all members of the adoption triad, and a spirit of openness is going to further provide opportunities for exploration, development, and healing throughout the process for everyone. A spirit of openness about a child’s adoption and his or her birth family can always be attainable, even when an open adoption may not be (whether now or ever). In the end, the goal for all adoptive parents, birth parents, adoption professionals, etc. is whatever is in the best interest of the child.

 

written by Chelsea Tippins

Older Child and Sibling Adoption: A Good Fit For Your Family?

 

 

I have had the blessing along with my husband to have adopted 6 school aged children over the past 24 years. We knew we wanted children and as we had an active life style and both worked, we decided sibling, school-aged children made sense for our family. We enjoyed spending time with our friends who had children and as they were all school-aged, it made sense for us to adopt children in the same age range as our friends. That would ensure our children would have ‘readymade’ friends and our social group would remain the same. We also knew we wanted more than one child, so it made sense for us to pursue siblings.

We found life was much easier with siblings as they helped to entertain one another. Our children were attached and protective of one another, and because they were adopted altogether this helped them to focus on attaching to us, as their parents.

Another consideration when thinking of adopting an older child is that there are many siblings that are available for adoption. Adoption Agencies and child welfare organizations try to keep sibling children together.

We found there were many benefits of adopting siblings.

One of the most important benefits is that the children already have a bond with one another. Knowing that they have an attachment already makes it more likely that they will be able to form other attachments.

When entering the family, they will always have a buddy, someone to play with, someone who talks the same language and has shared similar experiences. If you are interested in more than one child, it truly makes sense to adopt siblings. Siblings often have a very close relationship with one another that can help them as they make the adjustment into your family. Typically one of the siblings adjusts or takes a leadership role and helps the other sibling or siblings along with their adjustment to the family.

It is less expensive to adopt siblings at the same time rather than at separate times. We adopted two sets of siblings. Our children all developed a close relationship with one another. However their relationships differ according to personality, mutual interests and distance from one another. They became siblings to one another through adoption as well as genetics.

My youngest daughter who is in her late twenties, shared with me that she was glad to have been adopted with her sister as there was someone who shared her same genetics and they would always have one another, particularly if there were any sort of medical issue. It does not take away from the relationship she has with her other siblings, it is just something special shared just between them

Interestingly, most people express the concern that an older child might struggle more with attachment, however, older children CAN attach. I’ve had people tell me an older child, “can’t attach!” That has always puzzled me, as that comment often comes from an individual who is happily married. Certainly that couple met at an ‘older’ age and then fell in love, forming a lasting attachment called marriage. Why is it so hard to consider adopting an older child?

Although attachment takes work at any age, our eldest daughter, at age 16, was absolutely the quickest of all our children to attach, as she truly wanted parents and believed that we would be able to give her what she wanted, a family who would love and care about her. I’m sure she did not account for the fact that with parents, come rules, but she accepted them. I felt at the time and still believe that rules were part of the process that let her know that we cared about her. We explained that we had rules in place, so that there were no surprises. We had our expectations and she knew what we expected from her. More importantly, we gave her unconditional love and acceptance. We acknowledged that she had a life prior to coming into our family and that was in part, what made her so special to us.

We went into our adoptions knowing a bit more about our children. All of our children came with very special gifts, unique to them. Their personalities were evident. I knew our eldest was very smart and wanted to study science and math. I knew our son was not a great student, but loved building things and was very creative. Two of our children were very athletic and enjoyed playing soccer. It helped us to build a relationship fairly quickly as we had a good idea of each child’ likes, dislikes, strengths and weaknesses. We were able to go into their adoptions already having a bond through our shared interests.

We found there were many more benefits of beginning parenting with older children. Our children were toilet trained, slept through the night and could eat the same food we ate. They were able to go to the beach, go hiking or sailing without much planning. We took a lot of road trips and they were good about packing up their clothes and toys, and enjoyed listening to classical books on tape, playing road games and exploring the country. We never could have gone on our many family adventures if we had adopted babies. As my husband and I both worked, it was also helpful that our children were in school. We were able to adjust our schedules around school hours and holidays. However, had we adopted a baby, it would have been far more challenging.

Our sons joined our family after they visited our family through one of the nightlight summer hosting programs. We had the experience of having them in our home for several weeks, realizing during that time, that we also enjoyed parenting boys (after having successfully parented four girls). Hosting gave us the opportunity to see what it was like to have a boy in our home. Hosting is a fantastic way to have an older child in your home for a period of two to six weeks, allowing both you to experience what it might be like to add that child to your family. It also gives the child an idea about what it might be like to join your family or a similar family. As a single children without biological siblings, our sons both appreciated coming into a family where they would have several siblings.

I certainly would encourage any parents who might be open to adopting an older child or siblings to consider the many amazing older children and siblings who are waiting eagerly for a family to call their own. In our family we refer to our adoptions as part of our family adventures. Could you be that family willing to take that exciting adventure of adopting an older child or sibling children?

 

–by Rhonda Jarema

Needs of Children Adopted Internationally

 

In International adoption, the term “special needs” encapsulates a wide variety of characteristics and diagnoses. Special needs not only includes those in wheelchairs, with missing limbs, etc.; it also includes those with learning difficulties or emotional and behavioral difficulties. Most children who join their family through adoption have some sort of special need, or at least may initially demonstrate a special need due to institutionalized living. When a prospective adoptive parent begins the adoption process, they will be asked to review a list of characteristics of the child they wish to adopt. This list is extensive and can be quite overwhelming. Unless a prospective adoptive parent has a background in the medical field, they may be unfamiliar with many of the listed diagnosis. The list includes familiar health issues like asthma and diabetes but also includes less known health issues like strabismus, raised angioma and nevuses. Nightlight recommends that prospective adoptive parents consult an international adoption doctor to decide what special needs their family is able to handle. When adopting internationally, it is important to establish a relationship with an international adoption clinic or physician. Once a family receives a referral of a specific child, the child’s medical reports should also be reviewed by an international doctor. Nightlight also recommends that once the child arrives home they visit an international adoption clinic.

 

A child in need of a family is likely not perfectly healthy. The child may have some behavior issues, be malnourished, have food insecurities, struggle with attachment, and possibly have infectious diseases or parasites. Living in congruent care does not leave a child unscarred, healthy, and without needs. My daughter was characterized as “healthy” in her referral and when you look at her she has all of her limbs and looks perfectly healthy but she has many invisible special needs that affect her daily living. Some examples of invisible special needs that may not be identified in an orphanage but are commonly diagnosed in children from hard places include: ADHD, sensory processing disorder (SPD), Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD), anxiety, food hoarding, Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD), and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

 

Special needs are also identified differently among international adoption country programs. For example, in Burkina Faso and Peru adopting a child over the age of 6 is considered “special needs,” while in Ukraine a child will not be entered on the international adoption registry until the age of 5. Some countries like Bulgaria have a list of waiting children who are in need of families. Many times, these children on a waiting list have more significant needs, are older or are part of a large sibling group. Depending on your family you may be able to meet the needs of these children. If so, please contact the program director of the country you’re interested in adopting from to get more information.

 

The characteristics of children living abroad who are in need of families are different now than they’ve been in the past. Infant adoptions are rare and typically the process takes much longer if an adoptive parent is not open to many special needs. However, making the decision to adopt a child with special needs must be something the whole family is comfortable with. Each family will need to determine what level of additional needs they are capable and comfortable accepting and are willing to provide services for their child. We recommend that you research and talk to an international adoption doctor to make the best choice for your family.

 

 

This post was republished with permission from Angela Simpson at MLJ Adoptions International.

Helpful Tips for Language Adaption

 

You may have heard the terms “ESL” and “ELL”.  ESL stands for English as a Second Language.  ELL means English Language Learners.  Most children adopted internationally enter into a family whose spoken and written language is English.  This means your adopted child is an English Language Learner.  If the child is learning English; however, still has access to his native language at home, then he or she will be an ESL learner – learning a new language while maintaining his original language.  It is important to know the difference when you are speaking to your child’s new school to ensure your child receives the best instruction.

Many people who consider adoption wonder how they will communicate with a child who speaks a different language.  This can cause anxiety before and after the child joins their family.  The ability a child has to learn a new language is phenomenal and it should be noted that a lot of information, instruction and emotion can be conveyed between you and your child through gestures, faces, pointing and touching as your child transitions.

Here are some ideas shared by language teachers, adoption professionals and adoptive parents that may be helpful to you!

  • Do not demand that your child speak but rather encourage them to use speech.
  • If you use sign language, be sure to use words to go along with the signs.
  • Name objects as you walk around your home.
  • Repeat heavily used words in many different ways. “Do you want to eat?” “Let’s go eat!” “Are you ready to eat?”  “I’m hungry, let’s eat.”
  • Other children are the best teachers so allow your newly adopted child to be around other children to help learn new words through play.
  • Allowing your child to watch you and him speak into a mirror will show him the motions his mouth should make to create certain sounds. This can be a fun game!
  • There are lots excellent educational videos showing a close up look of how the mouth forms to make different sounds.
  • Should your child have trouble with certain sounds, focus on those.
  • If your child says a word incorrectly, play a game and have them try again. It is important that you not repeat this game to the point of boredom or frustration.
  • Do not change grammatical structure to make learning easier for your child. For example: “Get ball.”
  • It is okay to keep using or learn to use your child’s favorite words in his first language. Using them interchangeably with the English word will not confuse or hamper their language development.
  • Learn and use some of your child’s native language. Most parents feel that mixing their language with a few words from the child’s language helps with bonding.
  • Expose your child to people who speak his or her language. Specifically, native speakers from his/her country.  It is okay to continue phone calls to people he/she knows in the country as long as it is a positive relationship.  Most times, these opportunities should be limited.
  • If your child insists on only watching videos in their first language, you may consider allowing this as a “treat” after practicing English or watching a program in English.
  • For older children who can read, allow them to watch a movie or TV show in English with their first language in subtitles. By doing this, he can see on the screen what the words mean that he is hearing.  It also forces him to read!
  • Do not be sad at your child’s loss of their first language, likewise do not celebrate mastery of their new language.
  • It is a normal stage of development for a child to reject their former language with a desire to be “American.”

Learning some basics of your child’s first language is important!  Many have noticed that children under age six expect their parents to speak their language. They do not understand the concept of a parent coming from another country where they may not speak their language. The child assumes that if that is their parent, they should speak their language and when that does not happen, issues can follow. Many of the issues new families experience are due to miscommunication. Being able to speak, even the basics, can make a huge difference to a newly adopted child! Younger children do not feel so isolated and an older child feels respected that his new family was willing to learn his language to help increase the child’s comfort level on joining into their family.  Be prepared, an older child may laugh when you mispronounce a word!

Here are some resources for learning your child’s language:

https://www.adoptlanguage.com/

http://crunchtimelanguage.com/

Here are some articles about language development in the internationally adopted child:

http://www.colorincolorado.org/article/language-and-older-adopted-child-understanding-second-language-learning

https://leader.pubs.asha.org/article.aspx?articleid=2289686

 

–Dana Poynter

God’s Call to Single Parenting

 

I have always known that I wanted to adopt. Like many women, I assumed that it would be after I was married. However, God had a different plan for me, and I continue to be blessed beyond anything I could have imagined. I am a single mama of two precious boys, both adopted from China. We are now in the process of adding a little princess to our family. Trusting God to build my family has been one of the most faith-building and awe-inspiring things in my life.

I work in a neonatal intensive care unit. When I was still in training, I came across a picture of my first son. God made it quite clear that he was my son. I am so thankful that God was faithful to speak loudly and clearly enough that even my feeble faith at the time could follow Him. It seemed illogical. I was in training. I was single. I was very stretched financially. And the child he showed me was a 5 year old boy. Weren’t single women supposed to adopt little girls? To top it off, this child was deaf, a special need that I wasn’t prepared for. No one in my family knew sign language and I knew that he NEEDED extended family if I was to adopt him as a single mama. Time after time, God moved mountains. Family members were learning sign language, finances came through at the last minute, and my precious son Samuel has now been home for 4.5 years. Beyond all explanation, this child who had no language for almost 6 years is now a fluent English language speaker.

Within the first year of coming home, Samuel began to pray for a brother. I should have known then what was coming! I wasn’t ready AT ALL. We had just moved to a new state where I knew no one so that Samuel could attend a school for the deaf. But God was moving. One year later, I began the process to adopt again, I thought this time for a little girl. Once again, I had no idea how God was going to do this, financially or otherwise. Three days later, a friend texted me the picture of a little boy, asking if I had seen him on the advocacy websites. On that same day, my agency called with a referral for a little girl, exactly the age and a manageable special need that was on my heart. A few minutes later, I stood at my computer and I saw the most beautiful, perfect little face pop up on my screen. She was a vision and I knew instantly that she wasn’t mine. I sobbed and sobbed. What was wrong with me? My heart kept pulling to the little boy in my text message. Seriously God? TWO BOYS? As a single mama? I thought for sure I was not hearing correctly. I called my agency back and asked for time to pray. Three days later, I called to decline the little girl’s file and accept the little boy’s but my faith-walk wasn’t over yet. This time God didn’t “write on the wall”. This time, it was a still small voice that I really wanted to drowned out. But HE gave me courage to walk forward. That most precious little boy was in my arms in FIVE AND A HALF MONTHS! Start to finish, this was the fastest journey I had ever heard about. God provided social supports and the necessary finances in the way only God can do. Once again, He provided where I saw no way. And my Averey? He is the cuddliest, most affectionate child I have ever met. He is the perfect, funny, light-hearted balance to my serious, determined first son. They are the family only God could build.

Then in September of 2017, Averey started praying for a little sister. It took awhile for his brother to come around, but then they ganged up on me. And here we are, at another cross-roads. I have no more idea what God has in store this time than I did the other times. Samuel has graduated from the school for the deaf and both boys are attending a public school for the first time this year. We were able to move to a smaller community closer to friends and family and things have settled into a nice even pace again.

Like with Samuel and Averey, God led to my daughter. Our precious little girl (“little sister” as we refer to her at home) is waiting for us in China and we are well on our way to bringing her home. God has shown Himself already in a million ways like only He can. It gets harder each time to figure out the finances of adoption. I have expired my retirement, I just bought my first house ever with zero down and am still paying on my college loans. It seems risky at worst, unwise at best, but I have seen HIM through this process more clearly than I ever have before. He has changed me, shaped me, and molded me through the stretching of my faith. He has built a village around us and continues to do so. I continue to pray for His guidance and His provision. It is a scary thing, walking into adoption as a single parent. I watch my boys sleeping at night and am in awe that I get to co-parent them. They love to tell people who ask, “My daddy is God.” I guess that pretty well sums it up.

 

— Amber (Adoptive Mom)

Human Trafficking: What Part Can You Play in Prevention & Spreading Awareness?

 

Saroo was lost. He panicked at first and then started to wander through India by himself at just five-years old. In the 2016 film Lion, Saroo is depicted as hungry, disheveled, with a blank stare behind his big-brown eyes. He’s completely alone and vulnerable. At one point, a group of men try to kidnap him along with other children living on the street. Later, Saroo senses that a woman and another man trying to befriend him are not safe either. He manages to escape them too.

It’s a heart-wrenching story, and a reminder that the human trafficking industry preys on the most vulnerable. People who have adverse childhood experiences, who experience homelessness, and undocumented immigrants are the most vulnerable to exploitation. Human trafficking can seem like an overwhelming and distant problem, but awareness can make a difference. January is Human Trafficking Prevention Month. Right now is a great time to consider a few simple steps we can take to stop human trafficking. Steps that can make an impact.

Begin to understand the problem.

The United States Department of Homeland Security defines human trafficking as modern-day slavery that involves the use of force, fraud, or coercion to obtain some type of labor or commercial sex act. It’s estimated that there are over 40 million men, women, and children from all over the globe – including the United States – who are currently trapped in modern-day slavery. It can take the form of sex trafficking, forced labor, forced marriage, child soldiers, or debt bondage.

Learn the warning signs.

There can be warning signs that someone is trapped. Victims might experience poor living conditions, poor mental health, poor physical health, or lack of control. Are they fearful or submissive? Do they have visible marks or bruising? Are they living with their employer? Are they not in possession of identification documents or lacking access to them? Are they unable to speak for themselves when asked questions? Do they have tattoos or branding that signify ownership? When we think something is wrong, we can make a report to social services. The National Human Trafficking hotline is 1-888-373-7888. Help is available.

Decrease demand.

When it comes to forced labor, we can buy less and buy from second-hand retailers which is more than your local thrift shop these days. This decreases the demand for quickly produced, cheap goods. We can also support ethical brands, brands that employ survivors, and look for the fair trade label on products we purchase. There are even companies like DoneGood which recommend ethical shops to empower consumers or apps like Good On You to help us find what we need while following our convictions. What we spend money on is an indication of our values.

Seek justice.

We can promote, make donations, and volunteer for organizations that are making a real difference in local communities and around the world. Just one example is International Justice Mission (IJM) which combats slavery, trafficking, other forms of violence against the poor by rescuing and restoring victims, holding perpetrators accountable, and transforming broken public justice systems. We have a voice. At the government level, there is legislation that can protect victims and hold traffickers accountable. A resource for learning more about current legislation related to human trafficking is Polaris Project.

Participate in awareness campaigns.

Wear Blue Day is on Friday, January 11th when people can simply wear blue in acknowledgment of human trafficking victims and survivors. The National Sexual Violence Resource Center asks participants to post pictures on social media with the meaning behind this act of solidarity for them. Dressember is a campaign when advocates wear a dress every day during the month of December to raise awareness and funds for several organizations in the fight against human trafficking.

Adopt.

We know that stressful or traumatic childhood events including abuse or neglect, and homelessness create more vulnerability to exploitation. Youth in group homes are actively recruited, and social workers are trained to recognize the signs of recruitment. At-risk children long for family. Adoption can protect children and young people who are the most vulnerable to human trafficking.

Like all stories of adoption Saroo’s story is emotional and layered. A couple from Australia adopt Saroo from an orphanage, and as a young adult he begins to explore his origins. The movie walks us through an incredible, inspiring, positive healing process with closure – which we know is not always the case for everyone. But it also shows how one life could have taken a very, very dark turn if not for the investment of the man who noticed him on the street and took him to authorities, the people who prepared him for adoption, and the couple who adopted him into their family.

National Down Syndrome Awareness Month

Jay and Kait Lakhani are currently in the process of adopting a little girl from China. They have named her Joanna.  Joanna was born with Down syndrome.  Ironically, after a 16 month journey, Jay and Kait will be traveling to bring her home at the end of October.  October happens to be National Down Syndrome Awareness month!  Down syndrome is the most common chromosomal condition, occurring in 1 of every 700 births here in the United States.  Although we do not know the statistics for births in other countries, this special need is particularly close to my heart due to the sheer number of children we advocate for with this diagnosis.  Each of these children need a loving home where they can have access to the love of a family and medical care they deserve.

Jay and Kait felt a calling to adopt, even before they married. They have a history of working with the fatherless as they lived in Uganda for a time and worked in orphan care while living there. Having both worked in the medical field, Jay and Kait are aware of many complicated medical needs and were called to care for a child who cannot care for themselves. When they first began exploring adoption, they knew that they wanted to adopt a child that was harder to place. They were seeking to give a home to a child that would not have a home otherwise.

They began considering adoption from the country of China and specifically a child born with Down syndrome.  China’s shared list currently has 3,570 files on it and a huge number on that list contains files of children with Down syndrome. This condition is not unique to China. There are children throughout the United States and all over the world in need of a loving family willing to care for them. Many websites advocate specifically for children with this condition because the need for families to parent these children is so great. The National Down Syndrome Adoption Network works to connect families with children available for adoption domestically and through the foster care system.  Reece’s Rainbow advocates for children with Down syndrome and other special needs as well.  You can search for waiting children available through Nightlight’s programs by visiting Adoption Bridge.

Adopting a child with an identified medical condition can be scary. There are many unknowns in the process regardless of your child’s medical needs. Kait shared some of her fears about their upcoming adoption. She is worried about how this will impact the life of her biological children. Jay and Kait have a son and a daughter that are very young.  When they bring Joanna home, they will have 3 children all within 9 months age of one other – toddlers at that!  Another fear are the unknowns associated with international adoption. It is not always easy to have the most up to date information when you are adopting internationally. There is a lot they will not know about Joanna until they bring her home and have her fully evaluated by medical professionals.  Of course, like all international adoptive parents, Kait worries that their happiest day – the day they finally meet Joanna – will be her hardest because Joanna will be leaving everything she has ever known. Finally, Kait stated they are going into this adoption knowing they will likely provide care for Joanna for the rest of their lives.

While there are many fears that go along with adopting a child with a special need, there are even more things to look forward to.  Jay and Kait are excited to parent Joanna and seeing her life follow God’s special plan he has laid out for her. They want to show her, each day, how wonderful and wanted she is. Of all things, Kait wants to make sure that Joanna knows how much she is loved. She hopes she will understand that God did not make a mistake when he made her and that she is perfect the way she is. They also look forward to raising their three children together and have already started teaching their other children that everyone is created with different needs and that Joanna’s needs are going to be different from theirs.  They also look forward to their children growing up together, learning from one another and hopefully becoming the best of friends.

We are thrilled that God has called this special family to adopt Joanna and we know that he has a special plan for her life. She will grow up in a home where she is loved unconditionally. I encourage you to read a short story, Welcome to Holland, by Emily Perl Kingsley. She gives a great metaphor for parenting a child with special needs.  If you are interested in adopting a waiting child, visit Adoption Bridge, or call one of our Inquiry Specialists at (502)423-5780 to learn more.

Preparing To Travel For An International Adoption

 

 

We thought of our trip to meet and then adopt our children as our ‘first family adventure’ together! This helped when unusual circumstances occurred and we would just look at one another and say, ‘another adventure’ rather than, ‘another catastrophe!’ I truly think our attitude of being flexible and looking at the trip as an exciting adventure, helped us to stay positive with the challenges that came our way during these trips. After all, who would expect that between the morning of departure when we’d notarized ‘final’ documents, the country would change everything by the time we arrived and met with our coordinator two days later, requiring us to re-do all of our documents yet again! Or who could anticipate that the weather would change and all of the spring clothing I’d packed for us and our newly adopted children would not be warm enough to deal with the frigid unseasonable weather! Little did my husband anticipate that the street signs would not be easily found as he took his early morning jog, resulting in him getting lost and barely making his way back to our hotel in time for an important meeting.

 

Here are some tips that helped us as we prepared to travel.

  1. Learn as much as you can about the culture of the country or area you are visiting to adopt your child.
  2. Check out blogs of other adoptive parents from your child’s country, but take them with a ‘grain of salt’ as your experience may be quite different than their experience and approach to life.
  3. If you don’t know the language, learn it! Or at least learn 100 of the most common phrases. It will make your life so much easier! Most importantly, your child, unless you are adopting a teen, expects that you speak their language, as to a young child, everyone speaks the same language, don’t they?
  4. Pack as light as possible, people won’t remember what you’re wearing and that you’ve worn it previously. Make sure everything can be washed in the sink and that it is all wash and wear, mix and match. If you’ve had a kid vomit on you, you know what I’m talking about!
  5. Pack as though you’re going camping on a desert island. Some of the items that I’ve really appreciated, a flashlight, net laundry bag, zip-lock bags of every size, paper clips, plastic envelopes to hold important documents and snacks that will tide you over when you don’t feel like going out. FYI – individually packaged salami sticks although a great source of protein, will get you pulled over in security. Bring protein bars or nuts instead.
  6. Bring small toys/games that don’t require language, but can easily entertain your child when you are stuck somewhere, waiting, and need something to occupy them. Wrap these items individually as it makes them more appealing. The $1.00 bin at Target was ideal for finding small toys and activities that wrapped well.
  7. Small candies, such as Hershey’s kisses are wonderful if you need a quick treat or bribe to encourage your child to put on a seat belt or just because. Goldfish crackers also pack well and are a good treat for your child.
  8. Parenting is difficult at best when traveling in a different country. Focus instead on learning about your child and increasing your comfort level with one another. Be silly and play games together!
  9. You can’t spoil your child at this point. You are working on attachment and learning to bond as a family, so plan on cuddling and holding your child as much as he/she will allow and play games that encourage contact like peek-a-boo; catch with a blow up ball; bubbles; dance; counting games with fingers and toes; puppet play.
  10. Have fun and count your blessings!