Ways Your Family Can Help Vulnerable Children

 

Most will agree that all children deserve to grow up in a loving and protective family. All children deserve to be fed, to receive an education, clean clothing, shoes and to sleep in a warm and safe bed at night, all basic necessities provided by a family. All children deserve the warmth, love, protection and guidance of a parent or parents. Yes, we agree. As a rule however, most people do not know the number of children worldwide who are parentless or forced to grow up in an institutionalized setting not having access to things we all agree every child should have access to.

It is estimated that there are 147 million orphaned children worldwide who have lost one or both parents. Consider this, 81.5 million Americans about 40 percent have considered adoption. If just 1 in 500 of these adults adopted, every waiting child in foster care would have a permanent family.  Seemingly, as with everything else, we become distracted or think someone else will take care of that and we go about our days or we just turn a blind eye and choose to ignore that a child somewhere is suffering. While we look away or get distracted, more children suffer and some die while in institutionalized care. While we look the other way, more children age out of institutionalized care to fend for themselves with little to no education or training and without the support of a family.  There are currently 107,000 children eligible for adoption in the U.S. foster care system and every year, about 28,000 children age out of foster care in the U.S. Many who age out are forced into criminalized behavior, such as prostitution and theft, simply to survive. Aging out of the system without preparation and a safety net affects not only the child, but also society at large. Each child that we lose whether through death or talents lost due to criminalization, we lose another potential gift to the world and society loses as a whole. We have a responsibility to these children to care for them, to nurture them and to ensure they grow into loving, educated functioning adults who can contribute to society.

In international adoptions alone, we have seen a dramatic drop. The number of children adopted to U.S. families from other countries peaked at 22,884 in 2004. In the past 18 years, the numbers have consistently dwindled every year and now are just under 2,000 adoptions annually, and continue to drop. Yet despite the decline in adoptions, the number of children in need and the need for adoptive and foster parents continue to rise. What a sad state of affairs for our children. They say a society is judged by how it treats its elders and children. What does that say for us when we sit by and allow so many children to go parentless and without families?

There are vulnerable children suffering worldwide every day. You hear about them in the news, you see them on TV. While many of these children cannot be adopted, there are many who are eligible for adoption in the U.S. and abroad, who are in desperate need of a family.

Whether you are hoping to adopt a younger child considered to be “healthy”, an older child, a sibling group or a child with special needs, there is a child out there waiting for his or her own family to call their own. A child waiting for the love and protection of a family.

If you feel you are being called to adopt, we encourage you to look at our waiting children eligible for adoption on Adoption Bridge.  Additionally, many of Nightlight’s intercountry programs are accepting new families such as Burkina Faso, Dominican Republic, Colombia and Albania. Many of our country programs have short wait times for families to be matched with a child, especially if you choose a waiting child.  If you wish to pursue adoption from foster care, Nightlight can assist adoptive parents navigate the U.S. foster care system and adoption process.   If you are unsure about adoption and want additional information, schedule a free initial telephone conference at your convenience to explore your options, by filling out Nightlight’s online interest form.

If you feel adoption is not the way that your family wants to care for the orphan, there are other ways you can be involved. By volunteering or making a donation. Nightlight is a non-profit organization. Making a tax-deductible donation provides assistance to families adopting and children in need in the U.S. and countries where we serve.

For more information on all adoption options available to families through, please visit our website or contact us.

International Spotlight: Albania

 

Albania is a small country located on the southeastern Balkan Peninsula of Europe. The country of Albania has a population of around 2.8 million people. The capitol city of Tirana is home to about 900,000 of that population. Of those 2.8 million people making up the Albanian population, around 857,000 of them are children. Of those children, 31,000 of them are currently abandoned and living in orphanages throughout the country. There are several reasons as to why children in Albania may end up in orphanages, but no matter how they found themselves there, every single one of them are in need of a loving family to help them reach their full potential. Every child that resides in these orphanages has a story, and that story includes things like neglect, abuse, and vulnerability. Even with the obstacles that have been dealt to some of these children, we know that each one of them is one loving family away from completely rewriting their story. Currently, Nightlight is the only agency from the United States working with the Albania Adoption Committee (AAC) on international adoptions. The Albania Adoption Committee is the central authority in Albania who oversees all adoptions in the country. There are other countries around the globe who work with the AAC, but Nightlight is the sole American agency. See details about our program here.

 

The Albania Adoption Committee does like to prioritize keeping children in country through domestic adoption programs. Often times, the children that are adopted domestically are the younger and healthier children. If the AAC cannot place a child domestically in country, that is when they will free the child up for international adoption. Generally, children that are available for international adoption have some sort of special need, developmental delay, are older in age, or have a combination of these. One thing that makes Nightlight’s Albania program so unique in comparison to other programs, is that we can get referrals of younger children with more mild to moderate special needs. We often get referrals from the AAC of children ranging in ages from 2-15, children with mild to severe special needs, as well as sibling sets.

 

Another notable point about the Nightlight program is that it is a relatively short program in the realm of international adoptions. The time frame we are currently seeing from start of adoption to adoption completed, is around 2 years. Also in the program, we currently have two waiting children who have been referred to us by the AAC that we are actively searching for families for. You can view the profiles of these two children through Nightlights’ Adoption Bridge webpage. To view the profiles of our available children in Albania, you can click on the waiting children icon located at the top of the Adoption Bridge home screen. Then in the “Search Children” box located on the left hand side of the screen, you can refine the search by choosing Eastern Europe under the “New Locations” tab. All children located in Albania will have an “A” located in front of their name. If you are interested in learning more about a waiting child in our Albania program, you can contact Anna Lee (anna@nightlight.org) and she can provide you with the child’s full file to review.

 

Since we have just recently wrapped up a great year full of blessings in the Albania program, we found it fitting to highlight some of the accomplishments here. In the year of 2022, the Albania program saw five children come home with their forever families and another five children get officially matched! It was a joy-filled year for the program with many reasons to celebrate!

 

We are hopeful to continue to grow the Albania program in the coming years. If you are interested in joining the program, you can contact Anna Lee through email at anna@nightlight.org or call our Kentucky office at (859)-263-9964. Families that apply in the month of January will receive a $500 grant toward their adoption fees.

International Spotlight: Dominican Republic

 

Dominican Republic’s population has been steadily increasing each year. In 2020, the country’s population was roughly 11 million people with a poverty rate of 15.2%, meaning that 1.7 million of Dominican Republic’s people were living in poverty. The majority of Dominicans living in poverty also live in rural areas with little access to care and resources (macrotrends.net). Socioeconomic inequality among women, corruption, natural disasters, and an increasing population seems to be the main causes of poverty in the country (borgenproject.org). Among this poverty-stricken population are thousands of children that become neglected, abused, or abandoned every year due to the family’s inability to provide proper care for their children. These children are in need of safe, loving and nurturing homes; however, most of them find themselves institutionalized until they age out or are adopted. Typically, the Dominican Republic will prioritize domestic adoption before a child becomes eligible for international adoption. Dominican children that are not adopted domestically are then placed for international adoption by Consejo Nacional Para La Ninez Y La Adolescencia, (CONANI). CONANI is Dominican Republic’s central adoption authority, or the entity that oversees the adoption of children in need of families.

All children who become eligible for international adoption in the Dominican Republic have some type of medical or psychological need. Mild to severe special needs range in each age group. However there are older children and sibling groups that are considered special needs, but may not have a medical or psychological need.  These children are considered harder to place. Typical needs of children who are eligible for international adoption include blood related disorders, meningitis, diseases of the eyes, asthma, autism, and children with neurodevelopmental and/or psychomotor delays. Medical care for certain conditions may not be available in Dominican Republic’s health care system, as a result it is not always easy for the country to provide the sufficient care for children with significant needs. While the country’s healthcare system is the most advanced in the Caribbean, it is still not suitable for children in need of ongoing treatment and routine check-ups (borgenproject.org).

Currently, Nightlight’s Dominican Republic program has thirty-three children waiting for a forever family that are eligible for international adoption. The files of these children are available for potential adoptive parents to view on Nightlight’s Adoption Bridge website. Children eligible for international adoption from Dominican Republic have “DR” listed within their name on the website. Although Nightlight cannot post children’s photos on this website, the country does allow for limited access to children’s information online that includes general descriptions accompanied by their age and any identified needs. Eligible families can view their full file with photos upon request by e-mailing samantha@nightlight.org. Children listed on the website are immediately eligible for adoption once a family’s dossier is submitted to the country and they are matched by CONANI.

Additionally, there is a $500 grant available to the next family that adopts a waiting child from the Dominican Republic. If you are interested in adopting a child who is not on Adoption Bridge, we ask prospective adoptive parents to be open to children that are at least 6 or 7 years of age and/or have moderate special needs. Generally, sibling groups and older children eligible for adoption are generally healthy. To learn more about this program, you can submit an inquiry form here, and our Inquiry Team will reach out to share more.

Setting Expectations in International Adoption

 

Families approach adoption with their own hopes, desires, and expectations, whether they know a little or a lot about the process. It is always good to recognize your initial expectations and consider how realistic those are. Below we have outlined common expectations that families carry into international adoption and provide some perspective that should we

 

Initial Expectation: There are so many children in orphanages around the world that there is a need for families to adopt children under the age of 3 in international adoptions.

While there are many children in orphanages or children’s homes around the world, not all of these children are eligible for adoption.  Countries must go through a process before children are eligible for adoption.

  • Biological family members are asked if they can raise the child.
  • If biological family members are not an alternative, the country will need to receive permission from the adoption authority in the country and/or the court system in order for the child to be considered an orphan and eligible for adoption.
  • Once a child is eligible for adoption, a family living in the country where the child lives is sought to complete an adoption. Keeping the children in their country of origin is important.
  • If no family in the country is found, then the child is eligible for intercountry adoption.

Reality:  Children available for intercountry adoption in most countries are older or have a special needs and need additional care.  We want families to be open to minor to moderate special needs.  We also want families to be open to children up to the age of 6 years old, and in some countries even older.

 

Initial Expectation: My adoption should move through the steps quickly.

Your adoption is important and your international program coordinator is working behind the scenes on your adoption daily.  It is important to remember that she is also working on other adoption cases daily.  Each case is in a different stage and different work and steps are required to move each family through the process.  The attorney is working on your behalf but they also has many other cases to manage.  The Central Authority wants the child to be adopted but staff shortages and poverty prevent things from being done in a timely manner.  The court is often overwhelmed – not only with adoption cases but other family court cases or even criminal cases. All of these factors can affect how your case moves through the steps.

Reality:  Your adoption is important and you are not forgotten by our staff. Your case is moving forward, even if you do not “see” those moves and changes on a daily basis.  It is good to reach out occasionally to your adoption coordinator to check in on the status of your case, but giving the coordinator time to work and to encourage country representatives is also necessary.

 

Initial Expectation: Getting the official referral is near the end of the process.

Getting the official referral of a child is exciting.  All the work you have done in home study and education and paperwork has culminated to this point of having a picture and knowing the name of the child you will adopt.  You are ready to fly to another country and bring home your daughter or son.  But it isn’t that easy.  There are still multiple steps to take such as:

  • Receiving USCIS approval for the adoption
  • Completing the fostering period or bonding period as required by the country.
  • Scheduling a court date in the country which can take months to receive
  • Attending court and waiting for the official ruling to be issued
  • Receiving all the documents necessary to register the adoption and to obtain the visa.

Reality:  Each step of the International Adoption Process is one step closer in bringing your child home but each step takes time.  Exercising patience is important because these steps ensure that the process is completed correctly and ethically.

 

Initial Expectation: My travel time in the foreign country should line up perfectly with the timeline given by my agency.

The timeline given by your agency is an estimated timeline.  Your agency does not have control over foreign country entities, holidays, office closures, etc.  An estimated timeline is given so that you have an idea of the steps in the process.  Delays must be expected.  Americans have the most difficult time waiting.  Most other cultures know that delays happen and they take these delays in stride.  Americans tend to become frustrated, angry, and upset, many times expecting the adoption agency or representative in country to fix the delay.  These are things that are not in our control.

Reality:  Your timeline is an estimate and a view of the steps needed to complete your adoption.  Your adoption agency and the country representatives are doing all that they can to ensure that the adoption is completed as quickly as possible while recognizing the country culture and requirements.

 

Initial Expectation: I have extenuating circumstances and should be able to obtain an expedited adoption procedure.

In the world of International Adoption there are very few extenuating circumstances that would make the process go faster.  Your job or your time away from family is not considered extenuating circumstances.  We have had families beg for expedited services for a terminally ill child to be brought home for medical attention to be given quickly only to be told that they must go through the process everyone else goes through. Even adopting a relative often does not change the process you will go through.

Reality:   Your adoption provider cares about you and your family.  The adoption process does not change for anyone.  All steps must be completed.  Exceptions or expedites are rare.

 

It is important for families to have a realistic expectation of the adoption procedure.  Your program coordinator will begin setting those realistic expectations in the inquiry and application process.  It is important for you to know that to us – every adoption is important and we are working hard to move you through the process so that your child can come home.  Delays are inevitable.  The process takes time.  Patience is key.  Devote this time to preparing your life and your home for your child.  Place your faith and trust in God who desires the orphan to be in a family.

International Adoption Program Spotlight: Bulgaria

 

Bulgaria is located in Eastern Europe and is one of our popular programs. We have successfully assisted with bringing home many children from Bulgaria for over 10 years. The children that are available for adoption from Bulgaria are of Roma descent meaning they have dark hair and olive skin tone. The age ranges of children available are from 1 to 16 years. There are sibling groups available in Bulgaria as well that range from 2-4 siblings. There are children within Bulgaria that have special needs that can be mild, moderate or severe. The most common special needs that we see from children in Bulgaria are prematurity, low birth weight, congenital heart conditions and strabismus (lazy eye).

Recently, Bulgaria has worked to help strengthen the intercountry adoption protocols and decreasing the delay in registering children for international adoption. There have been countless children that have missed their chance to be adopted due to the delay in registration. Fortunately, some older children were adopted at the last minute and now are living happily in the United States. However, some children were not as lucky and will live out their days in a group home until they turn 18 and are forced to face the adult world on their own.

At Nightlight, we advocate for the children of Bulgaria by posting waiting children profiles on our website, Adoption Bridge. This allows families to inquire about waiting children that are harder to place due to their age, special needs, or sibling group size. There are many children from Bulgaria that need their forever families to find them and pursue them for adoption. The Bulgaria program is very simple and does not have many requirements. You can adopt as a single or married couple, there are no restrictions with mental health, requires both parents to travel on just the second trip, and has two avenues of pursuance for adoptions (waiting children or traditional route).

Contact our Bulgaria Program Coordinator, Karson Loscar at karson@nightlight.org, to learn more about the children, the program, and how to get started.

How the Beauty of Easter Reflects Adoption

 

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

What does scripture say?

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

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

What does this mean to me?

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

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

 

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

Abba my Father,

has adopted me . . .

into His royal family

so I could be . . .

 

An heir to salvation,

a daughter of light

a child that brings

to Him great delight.

 

I’m no longer an orphan,

I’m no longer a stray

I’ve inherited a room

in His mansion I’ll stay.

 

Abba my Father,

has adopted me . . .

into His royal family

so I can be free . . .

 

Free from the guilt,

of my wandering ways

free from the darkness

that once filled my days.

 

The adoption became final,

that day on the Cross

when Jesus died for me

and all those who are lost.

 

Abba my Father,

has adopted me . . .

into His royal family

so I might see . . .

 

See His glory,

in the middle of my pain

see His grace fall

like sweet drops of rain.

 

The inheritance is mine,

I’m claiming my right

and now I have privilege

to His power and might.

 

Abba my Father,

has adopted me . . .

into His royal family,

I willingly flee . . .

 

Reference

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

 

By: Paige Burch

Adopting a Child Internationally with Special Needs

The landscape of international adoption has changed throughout the years, with most countries focusing efforts to place children who are considered hard to place. A special needs adoption is defined as adopting a child with an additional need, a sibling group, or an older child. How it is defined can vary from country to country. Definitions and references to special needs can be vastly encompassing and wide ranging.  Hard to place children can include older children sometimes starting as young as five or six years’ old who are considered “healthy” or children in sibling groups of varying ages.  Sibling groups can be siblings of two, three or even four children that the country’s adoption authority does not want to separate, but who cannot be easily placed with a family. Finally, special needs can also include children with medical needs ranging from slight and correctable medical needs to more severe and lifelong medical needs to children exhibiting behavioral, emotional issues or developmental delays.

Sadly, a child with special needs can be categorized and statistically have a much smaller chance of finding a forever family. They are just as deserving as other children, but for many reasons, prospective adoptive families seek to adopt younger and healthier children. All countries have children who have been orphaned, and are considered hard to place. I have personally seen these children in each country I have visited and in every orphanage and am sadden when I realize some of these children will never realize a family and will age out of the orphanage to a life with little hope.

While your family may not initially think that an older child or a child with medical needs is something that you are open to, it is worth researching.  You may be surprised the medical needs of some of the children that results in them being placed on a special needs waitlist or on Nightlight’s waiting child site, Adoption Bridge.  Children with a medical need may be younger children and considered special needs due to correctable medical conditions such as cleft lip or palate, being born to a mentally ill birth mother, hepatitis, positive for the Sickle Cell trait as well as more serious illnesses such as HIV, Sickle Cell disease, epilepsy or limb deformities. Medical needs are wide ranging and should be researched fully before a family commits to being open to a child with a specific or medical need.

In most countries, the adoption authority does not want to split sibling groups. This can mean that one older sibling, or the size of the sibling group prevents multiple children from ever experiencing the love and commitment of a family. While it does take a special family to adopt siblings of two children or more, it meets a critical need in international adoption, and allows the sisters and brothers to remain together. In several of our international adoption programs, families who have been open to adopting a sibling group of two, three or even four children have been matched quickly, and the children have been considered healthy.

For families considering adopting older children, children with known medical needs or a large sibling group should not only have done research about the needs that the children potentially have, but should also have a strong support system and fully understand how the needs of the adopted children will impact their family.

Nightlight believes that every child deserves a loving and permanent family, regardless of their age, gender, ethnicity, number of siblings or health status. We are specifically seeking families to adopt a child with special or medical needs in many of our programs, including adoption from Bulgaria, Dominican Republic and Burkina Faso.  Nightlight’s Ukraine and Colombia programs are focused on older children and sibling groups and both countries offer hosting programs.

Where to begin? Adoption Bridge connects harder to place children with loving adoptive families willing and able to meet their needs.

To make a donation to help a family overcome the financial barriers of adopting a child with special needs, please visit our donation page or Adoption Bridge.

 

By: Sonja Brown

Introducing: International Adoption from the Dominican Republic

Nightlight Christian Adoptions is happy to announce we were licensed to work in the Dominican Republic on May 6th, 2021 and are currently accepting applications for families looking to adopt internationally. Children available for adoption range from young toddlers to children in their teens and are of mostly Hispanic or bi-racial decent, some children may be of Haitian decent. About every 2 months, Nightlight receives a list of about 80-90 special needs children in need of a forever home and family. We have identified the most adoptable children and limited information on these children are available at: https://adoptionbridge.org/waiting-children/.

Typical special needs of children in the Dominican Republic include children with medical needs which range from mild or correctable to severe.  The special needs list also includes older children ages 6 or older, some with and some without mild or severe special needs. HIV, eye diseases, and asthma are some of the common medical needs of children our agency is referred from the Dominican Republic. Sibling groups are also available for adoption.

As we continue to receive new files of children, Adoption Bridge will continue to be updated. Those who have a completed dossier are eligible to receive the full list of the children. Additionally, the program accepts applicants for those seeking relative adoptions as well as families who want to pursue a traditional match of a child from CONANI, Dominican Republic’s central authority. For more information, about this program and eligibility, please visit our web page for the Dominican Republic. Since the opening of the program, Nightlight has focused on the needs of children placed in orphanages. The institutionalization of Dominican children is due to a variety of factors, including but not limited to; poverty, abandonment, the inability for a parent or guardian to provide proper care, and/or the death of a parent or guardian. These reasons and others are the primary reasons why a child is left without a family.

Socio-economic inequality is high for those who live in the Dominican Republic, and the employment rate for woman of the country is only 33%. Additionally, children and women of the Dominican Republic do not have equal access to education. Improper sanitation to produce goods, natural disasters, and crime are also leading causes of poverty in the country. According to World Food Programme, quality of health services are inadequate and poverty affects 40% of the Dominican Republic, with 10.4% living in extreme poverty. There are roughly 200,000 children in the Dominican Republic are considered orphans and the number continues to grow alongside the COVID-19 global pandemic. Children living in poverty are vulnerable to child labor, trafficking, exposure to crime, malnutrition and disease. Additionally, urban orphanages traditionally don’t have access to adequate schooling and it is often not a priority of caretakers to provide schooling for these children.

It is a goal of Nightlight to change the life of these children and provide children with forever families while advocating for adequate welfare for Dominican Republic’s vulnerable children. If you are interested in adopting from the Dominican Republic or would like to inquire about the program, please contact Samantha Brown at samantha@nightlight.org or call 317-875-0058.

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