Seven Ways to Find Your Biological Parents or Child

  1. If it was a closed adoption, but you know which adoption agency facilitated the adoption, you can ask them to provide a redacted report (without identifying information) that fill in many of the clues and circumstances of the adoption. This can be provided to any consenting party to the adoption (birth parent, child, or adoptive parent).

 

  1. Many states, such as California, have a Consent for Contact form that parties to the adoption (birth parents, child, adoptive parents) can fill out. If the adoption agency gets consent from the adult adoptee and the birth parent, for instance, then the agency is allowed to facilitate contact between them.  https://www.cdss.ca.gov/Forms/English/AD904.pdf

 

  1. One very successful way to find parties to an adoption is a DNA test such as Ancestry.com or 23andme.com. Make sure to add the “extended family” module to your order…not just the health or ancestry.  We are hearing amazing stories of people all over the world finding their relatives who they didn’t even know about.  It’s entirely possible the other parities to your adoption already registered on ancestry.com or www.23andme.com and are waiting to hear from you.

 

  1. The most successful method people are using nowadays is social media (Facebook). Often parties the adoption have some knowledge of at least the first names and city where people live, or even their last names.  We have heard stories of people all of the world finding each other through social media, when all other efforts failed.

 

  1. There are “Adoption Angels” also known as “searchers” who investigate the parties to an adoption for free. Do an internet search for “adoption angel” or “search angel.”  Check out www.adoptionsearch.com

 

  1. Private investigators also can be very successful at finding parties to an adoption. They do charge a fee.  Make sure to find someone who specializes in this area.

 

  1. Try an adoption database. There are many online, such as http://www.adoptiondatabase.org/

International Adoptees: How Their Birth Culture Impacts their adjustment into their adoptive family

I’ve noticed over the 25 years I’ve worked in International Adoptions, that children who are adopted by families who speak the same language or come from the same culture tend to have an easier transition to their new home and family over the first few months. They share a language and can easily communicate their needs, feelings and concerns. They also share a familiarity with foods, music, and often some family traditions. They do not have to try to figure out even the basics of conversation and adjust to a completely new environment.

 

I had a family arrive home with their toddler and they struggled to figure out why he just looked around, didn’t try to talk or smile. He seemed sad. They recalled him ‘laughing and babbling to staff’ who spoke in a language foreign to the family but familiar to the child. When I visited, a few days after they arrived home, I greeted the child in his native language and immediately got his attention. He reached out to me and laughed as I chatted to him. He did not have a huge vocabulary as a small child, but he clearly responded when I could speak a familiar language to him.

 

To a child coming into a new family and moving to a new culture, it is truly a culture shock! The child is adjusting to a new approach to life by her new parents and family. Life in a foster home or orphanage in another country is going to be very different from a home in the suburbs of Salt Lake City or Orlando. The difference in cultural experience affects each part of our lives. A child brought up on a rural farm in Iowa, will have a different experience than a child brought up in the city of New York.

 

The environments we are raised in and the culture that guides the way we move through our life experiences, affects the foods we eat, our language, the way we express our faith, how we perceive others, and the elements that help us enjoy our lives such as dance, books and music among other things.

 

We hosted an orphanage director from China in our home. Prior to her visit, I went to an Asian specialty market and purchased several pastries and some familiar fruits and vegetables, hoping that would get us through the first few days. However, I quickly learned that although she was appreciative of my efforts, these were not the foods she typically ate. We went to the market together and she picked out black sesame soup for her breakfasts, a bag of rice and several vegetables that I’d never seen before. We shared in the cooking of meals over the time she visited, learning about and enjoying one another’s foods and cultures. I now regularly use spices, and vegetables that I learned how to prepare from our lovely guest.

 

Culture not only affects the foods we eat, but also our experience of life. I remember one of my children getting a bad cold, soon after his adoption. He was very upset that I did not take him to the doctor ‘who would send him to the hospital.’ I made him chicken soup, gave him a big box of tissues and read stories to him. He was convinced the only way he would get better, would be by going to the hospital, where they would ‘cup’ his back. I looked it up; a cotton ball is lit on fire, put in a glass and then blown out as the cup is quickly put on ones back suctioning the cup on the skin. It sounded dangerous to me, but to my son, the toxins in his body were certain to ‘kill him!’ He certainly felt better following my prescribed care, not needing to go to the ‘hospital.’ I expect in the orphanage, when one child became ill, they were quickly removed from the group and isolated in a clinic, where they would not infect other children. This was the experience our son knew and expected when he became ill even in our home, not realizing that mom was able to nurture and care for him through a minor illness.

 

Another newly adopted child, when helping her mother make Christmas cookies, spilled the food coloring on herself. She quickly stripped down out of her clothing and climbed into the kitchen sink, where she washed the coloring off her body. Her mother looked on in amazement, wondering why her small daughter did not just go upstairs to the bathroom, where she could have used a far more comfortable bathtub. But this girl was used to bathing in the kitchen sink  in her foster home and did what was familiar.

 

A child adopted internationally comes from a culture that is typically very different from his adoptive parents. The child perceives life from the life experiences he has had. So for our children who are coming into a new culture, it can feel like they have landed on Mars and are expected to now be a Martian! It is important that as adoptive parents, we are sensitive to the fact that our children are coming to a very different environment and culture than that of their original home or stay in care.

 

Culture can also describe the emotional environment of a family. If a child comes from a neglectful or abusive family, that child will expect any future family to also be abusive, or neglectful. The child will have expectations that the new family will act similarly to past experiences. I always explain to prospective parents that it is important to define their family rules, expectations and culture as part of the home study process. It is a good exercise, as it helps the family identify what is important to them and what they need to teach their child as the child comes into their home. For a child who comes from a scary and hard place, it is critical first to provide an environment of safety. It is important that the newly adopted child feels safe in their new home.

 

I remember the first day we were home with our newly adopted children, I became distracted as I was helping them with something and the eggs boiling on the stove exploded! Fortunately no one was hurt, but there were pieces of egg everywhere! I yelled when I saw what I’d done! Suddenly our typically giggling, very busy girls were silent and ran to the sofa, where they tried to crawl underneath. I looked at them, shrugged my shoulders and told them ‘Mama made a big mistake and now had a big mess to clean up and I was such a silly Mama!’ I then began to laugh and they came out and joined me, patting my hand and then helping me clean up the kitchen. I was teaching them that even Mamas make mistakes. We can laugh about things and work together to fix problems. They were in no danger from me, and this was the beginning of their healing as they saw that life was going to be different from in their original home or orphanage. This was not a lesson learned in one instance or in a day. It was a lesson learned over many experiences over time. They learned that our home was a safe and loving place, where they would be encouraged and yes, where we all make mistakes and work together to fix them.

 

We all come to each new experience with expectations from our past. It is important to recognize with an international adoptee, that as parents, we need to seek to understand the past our children experienced and help them to adjust to their new home, life and family. As we try to incorporate some of the wonderful parts of their country of origin, photographs, music, dance, art, and foods, it will help our children to gradually take on pieces of their new culture that are comfortable and fit for them. I may never experience cupping to rid my body of toxins, but I certainly enjoy borsht and blini, two foods I’d never tasted before adopting my children and now regularly prepare in our home.

Family Adoption Story: A Father’s Perspective

 

As Father’s Day approaches, we want to honor all dads, especially those who have opened their hearts and homes to adoption. When it comes to stories of parenting, fathers do not often take center stage. That is why we asked two adoptive fathers to share their experiences during and after adoption. Each faced unique struggles on their journey, but their success and words of encouragement are an important reminder of the power of a strong father.

Ryan, who was initially in our Mexico program but adopted from a dissolution, shares how experiencing hardship through his adopted daughter helped him to be more compassionate toward everyone around him.

“To me, adoption means opening your home, family, and yourself to offer love and support for a child that needs it. It’s is about putting your family and a child before yourself. I was always nervous about adoption. I feel like I barely knew what I was doing with the 2 kids I already had and I wasn’t sure if I was a good enough parent or person to handle a child that has been through the trauma that adoption brings. I still get the same feelings now at times, even 5 years into being an adoptive parent.

          “A big consideration is the cost of adoption. Adoption costs are expensive and they were very much a concern when we started looking more into adoption. We did some fundraising to help offset some of the costs. After adopting, we also took advantage of any and all adoption tax breaks that we qualified for. We were able to recoup a significant amount of the costs with just these two methods.

          “Since adopting, I have grown a lot as a parent and as a person. My daughter may have learned some things from me, but I think I have learned more from her. I have a much better understanding of how trauma affects people and I try to use it in my interactions with other people as well by trying to give people more grace because I don’t know what they have, or are currently, going through.

          “My advice to anyone wanting to adopt is to throw your expectations out the window because in my experience, expectations are nothing like reality when it comes to adoption. Some things are easier than you expected while other things are harder. If an adoptive parent is afraid he won’t be able to love a child who is not his biological child, I would say It definitely takes time and unconditional love. I don’t think any reasonable person would expect you to deeply love your adopted child when you first meet. I have found that attachment can be very hard, for both parent and child. Perseverance, patience, and communication have helped us when attachment wasn’t going well. As long as you continue to strengthen your relationship, love should come naturally.”

Joe, who adopted from Nigeria, discusses his faith as a guiding light through the ups and downs of adoption.

“From the time we started the adoption process to the time we finally brought our child home was five and a half years. The process was long and hard…. but unforgettable! We have learned that adoption is very much like a roller coaster, both in the process and in your emotions. For us, there were times we thought the process was moving along very smoothly, the never-ending paperwork was getting done and everything seems on schedule. But then, out of nowhere, something would happen and cause a delay. After a while, the pace would pick back up, sometimes even too fast! Up and down we would go.

 

“Our emotions would be on the same roller coaster as the process was. When things went great, we felt great. When things were delayed or doors were closed, we felt sad and hopeless. We have learned that this is just how the adoption process is. So, if you are going through that, you are right where you should be. You will have ups and downs, happiness and tears, excitement and fears, joy and anger. The memories of this journey will always be with you. And in the end, if you stick with it and don’t give up, you will have a precious child to share your life with, forever.

 

“For us, God specifically called us to adopt a child from Africa. We knew it was His calling. So whenever one of those delays or setbacks happened, we always reflected back on that calling. Did God still want us to adopt? Every time we asked Him, we got the confirmation to continue, despite the feeling of giving up. And we had good reason to feel that way! There were so many roadblocks and hiccups along the way. We had to switch countries from Uganda to Nigeria after a year and a half in the adoption process. We were officially matched with three children and almost matched with two or three others. We almost traveled to those countries twice. We were even matched with a child for a year, sending him letters and gifts, only to have it fail in the end. All those opportunities of adopting those children fell through, except the last one. The last child we were matched with worked out! We officially adopted our son in October of 2019 and the following year, in October of 2020, he came home!

 

“The adoption process is so complex and difficult to understand that we just need to trust those people that know what they are doing and trust in God that He will see it through.”

 

 

In these fathers’ accounts of the rewards and hardships of their adoption processes, the need for perseverance is a clear theme. Setbacks can be discouraging, and you may find that you have much room to grow once you are united with your adoptive child. This June, take time to appreciate the fathers in your life who give so much of themselves for their families.

 

co-written by Julie Conner & Casey Kutrip

Foster Parents Who “Get Too Attached”

As a private foster care and adoption agency, the staff at Nightlight Christian Adoptions have heard many express the fear of “getting too attached” to foster children placed in their home. This fear is real, scary, and full of tension: the worry that the family will grow to dearly love, bond, and attach to a child who is very likely (and hopefully) returning home to his or her biological family. This fear is one for foster families to sensitively navigate as they process what this means for their family as they live in tension with these children and/or teenagers in their home, but also one to embrace for the sake of children in care so that maybe they may grieve a little less.

Children in foster care have experienced unthinkable trauma, simply by being placed into foster care. Children come into care at no fault of their own, and many may not have experienced the kind of love, stability, and security that a family is supposed to provide but may not be able to just yet for a multitude of reasons. The inherent loss in foster care is so deep and raw for these children, as they are removed from their home, their biological family, and much of the time, their community, teachers, friends, and pets. Sometimes, they are even separated from their siblings. Foster parents have a unique opportunity to fill the gap for these children and families. And it is always the perfect opportunity to “get too attached” to these children.

These children likely have many unmet needs (educational, physical, emotional, psychological, etc.). Predominately, these children need caregivers who can provide attachment and consistent, loving care, no matter how short a period these children remain with their foster parents as their biological families work hard to bring their kids home to them. The reality is that children in foster care may not have had the opportunity to experience the kind of care they need. Foster parents can show children, the most vulnerable of our population, what it means to be a family, to have attachment, and to receive unconditional love, with the hope that their biological family will be able to do it very soon.

All children need attachment, especially those who have experienced trauma. Their relationships with their caregivers are the blueprint for all future relationships in their life. It teaches them how to interact with the world and others around them. And for a foster parent to step in, fill the gap, and pour into these children the way they truly can – the results are lifelong and eternal. Foster children are one of the most vulnerable populations in our society, and we all have a duty to step in for our most defenseless and stand in the gap, no matter how long.

Foster care is messy, but oh so necessary because sometimes families are broken and need help to get back on their feet. Foster care is also costly, as families pour into littles who may not stay. And these children deserve for others to fill these needs for them when their parents cannot for a period of time. Imagine the impact for generations to come, to love on children and families and be an instrument of impacting families in true, lifelong ways. When these children leave, they carry with them the time spent in a safe, secure home where their little souls were dearly loved and a picture of what family can truly mean. In the end, for these children and teenagers, we have a duty to risk our hearts to break so that their hearts can break a little less.

In no way does this diminish or negate the very real feelings of loss that foster parents will feel when children leave. But if we don’t do it for these children, who will? Ultimately, the grief that is so real, so raw, is always, always worth it for the children who already have lost so much.

 

Identifying Signs of Post-Adoption Depression

Much like the “fourth trimester” of pregnancy (also known as Post-Partum Depression), Post- Adoption Depression can sneak up on families during what seems like the happiest time in a couple’s life. Post- Adoption Depression can happen after a family welcomes an adopted child into their home, especially when reality does not meet expectation. Attachment and bonding do not always happen instantly, with biological children or children that have been adopted. New parents can be laden with negative feelings, like some of those listed below, and can often feel very alone during this time. It is estimated that approximately 65% of adoptive mothers experience symptoms related to Post- Adoption Depression Syndrome (PADS). Listed below are some signs that you or a loved one might be battling PADS and some suggestions for what you can do!

Signs of PADS:

  • Losing interest or enjoyment in activities you once loved
  • Difficulty concentrating or making decisions
  • Fatigue or loss of energy
  • Difficulty sleeping or increased need for sleep
  • Significant weight changes
  • Excessive guilt
  • Feeling powerless, worthless, or hopeless
  • Irritability, frustration, or anger
  • Feeling inadequate or undeserving
  • Retreating from friends, family or others sources of support
  • Suicidal thoughts or ideation

Fighting PADS:

  • Take time for you!
    • You cannot take care of someone else if you are not taking care of you. Take care of yourself however you see fit- enjoy a healthy meal, spend time with friends, get fresh air, or participate in any other self-care that leaves you feeling a little more like yourself.
  • Remember you are not alone
    • Find other adoptive couples who have experienced what you are going through. Many of our families complete an activity with an “alumni family” as part of their educational instruction, so you already know at least one person who can help!
  • Give yourself time to bond with your child
    • Attachment and bonding are not always instant in adoption. Be patient with yourself and with your child and allow that process to happen at its own pace.
  • Ask for help
    • Never be afraid to speak up and ask for help for you and your family. Call your social worker, your best friend, your preacher, your Nightlight contact, or a licensed professional to help you today. You don’t have to be in a crisis or at a breaking point to ask for help.

Most importantly, if you or someone you know is dealing with Post-Adoption Depression, I’d like to leave you with this:

“If you are suffering with bonding issues or Post-Adoption Depression Syndrome, there is something you need to hear: There is nothing wrong with you. Bonding issues or PADS have no bearing on your worth as a parent. You are capable of this. There is nothing to be ashamed about. There is hope. You are not alone. This is not the time to duck and run. This is the time to dig deep, make a plan, assess and re-assess, pour your time into this, and fight for your child. You’ve got this, and there’s light at the end of the tunnel. Keep pushing forward, knowing you’re not alone.” – Melissa Giarrosso

 

 

No matter what problems you’re dealing with, whether or not you’re thinking about suicide, if you need someone to lean on for emotional support, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255

Other Resources:

https://www.adoptionstogether.org/blog/2013/01/07/why-arent-i-happy-recognizing-post-adoption-depression-syndrome/

https://adoption.com/overcoming-post-adoption-depression-syndrome

 

Trans-racial Adoption Support

With over 60 years of experience navigating adoption, Nightlight has created this booklet to help adoptive families learn how to navigate trans-racial adoption from a Christian perspective.

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Humans are the Image of God

Genesis 1:27 “So God created mankind in His own image”.

This is the basis of our equality, beauty, and worth. It is important for children to be taught this to help them understand the value of their own race, and the value of races that are different from their own.

Remind your child that they are not defined by their appearance. In Acts 17:26-29, Paul preaches to the Athenians, “God made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth… we are all God’s offspring… descended from one person.” Your child is a human being like everyone else.

 

Handling discussions about racism

In the words of experts Beth Hall and Gail Steinberg, “Address [your] child’s needs without apologizing for being white.” You do not need to apologize for being white any more than your child does for their race. Far from an apology, it is a thing of planned beauty by God.

Think of the words of the prophet in Isaiah 43: 5-7, “I will say to the north, ‘Give them up!’ and to the south, ‘Do not hold them back.’ Bring my sons from afar and my daughters from the ends of the earth – everyone who is called by my name, whom I created for my glory, whom I formed and made.”

Remember that institutions cannot be guilty of sin: it is only individuals who are guilty. Focus on institutions absolves individuals of guilt. Since institutions cannot repent, the focus on institutions implies that racism is a permanent fixture. But if racism is an issue of individual sin, then your child is not a permanently oppressed victim. Instead, they are the observer of someone else’s sin.

Set the example that we oversee our own attitudes. Whether or not to be a victim is up to us. We can choose to go through life laughing or crying.

 

Before an Adoption takes place

Consider your family members who will also be a part of the family when you adopt. Some people have decided not to adopt transracially, after determining their parents, the grandparents-to-be, are unlikely to ever accept their child. Others have determined the same sad reality but decided not to care what the grandparents-to-be will think.

This is a decision you will have to make. But if it helps, remind your relatives of Leviticus 19:34, “The foreigner residing among you must be treated as your native-born. Love them as yourself, for you were foreigners in Egypt. I am the Lord your God.”

Consider your neighborhood. Some families have moved to different neighborhoods out of sensitivity to their child’s needs to be accepted and to be around a greater amount of cultural diversity. Know that this will make your adoption public. You must be okay with that. Decide now what your response will be to comments from strangers about your adoption. Will you say something funny? Defensive? Instructive?

Have a sense of humor. It will do everyone well.

Consider more than the required number of trips to their country of origin, both before and after an adoption takes place. Your child will probably ask for this, so start thinking about it early on. Especially when your child is mature enough to process and appreciate the trip, make it happen.

 

Preserving Culture

Preserve elements of culture. Culture includes food, clothing, music, language, and holidays. Learn to speak some of the phrases and teach them to your children if they do not remember/never learn. Learn to cook the food even if they don’t remember/never experienced it. Read books or visit websites that come from their culture. Celebrate the holidays.

Culture also includes things like worldview, values, religion, relationship dynamics, expectations people have of one another, and the view of individual versus collective autonomy and responsibility.

Become familiar with these more complex issues and share with your child when age appropriate.

Do not be threatened by your child’s desire to connect with their race, ethnicity, country, and culture of origin. This is a good thing. But do not feel compelled to insist they pursue this more than your child desires to.

Communicate with the birth family. Or, if not practical, available, or advisable, then communicate with extended in. If that is not possible, then communicate with people from the community/country of origin. By communicate, we mean through social media and the exchange of gifts, letters, photos, etc.

Spend time with people of the same ethnicity. Preferably, find a church with someone of your child’s ethnicity, and even peers that can be friends. Or find an older mentor. Meet with someone online. Seek out someone who they can see looks like them.

 

Self-Esteem and Race

Increase racial self-esteem the same way you increase self-esteem in general: showering them with praise, giving them autonomy to make their own decisions, finding something at which they excel, and letting them thrive at it. Tell them you love them. Give them hope that they will be successful.

Focus on unity and similarity. Most racial rhetoric today divides. But the Gospel unites. In Galatians 3:28, Paul says, “There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” The Gospel unites, while the world divides. The Gospel focuses on our oneness, while the world is teaching us to focus on differences. The prevailing lens of the media sees the world in terms of the oppressed and oppressors (this is the fundamental tenant of Marxism). But the Gospel sees Christ, and the one-people he died for.

Tell them they are beautiful. Do it every day. Make sure they know it. And remind them that their beauty is a part of the promise of heaven. Three times in Revelation we are told that the Church triumphant will be comprised of people from every tribe, tongue, people, and nation, (Rev. 5:9; 7:9; 1:11).

 

Parenting

Listen to your child. Some children may feel no loss at all over their racial identity. The degree to which your child identifies with race will vary. Do not assume. Tell your child that you are here to listen to them.

Understand that being a small ethnic minority affects dating. Your child will wonder whether they should or will be attracted to someone of the same race, or a different race.

Hair is not a trivial issue. If you are raising black children, know that hair care is different and that you will need to learn more about this subject. You may need to go to an expert salon.

Know there is a struggle to fit in. Transracially adopted children universally express this experience, so do not be oblivious or dismissive. It will happen.

Your child will hear disparaging comments sometimes. Be prepared for it. Tell your child what racism is, so they know it when they hear it. This will help them put the burden on the other person, rather than on themselves. Remind them that some people are toxic. Assure them that they deserve to be treated with dignity.

 

Self-Care

Join a support group or a group of friends who have adopted transracially. If one does not exist in your city, then do it online. You will need to share your experience, struggles, and advice.

Do not compare your child to others. This is good advice for every parent. It’s good advice, especially, for adoptive parents. But it is good advice for transracial adoptive parents.

Be solution-focused, rather than problem-focused, as if there are no solutions and nothing will ever change. Instead, create the attitude that we are not here to point fingers or cast blame, but we are all part of the solution. Have hope in the future.

—Daniel Nehrbass, President

Challenges and Strengths of Those with Autism

ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder) is a developmental disorder that affects communication and behavior. Known as a “spectrum” disorder, there is wide variation in the type and severity of symptoms in individuals. Every individual exhibits different characteristics and patterns; therefore, various challenges can arise throughout adolescence and young adulthood as they go through changes in their lives. While this can present some challenges, it can also show great potential for excellence in many areas of life. Here are some potential challenges and strengths for autistic people.

Challenges:

  • Verbal and nonverbal communication (i.e., difficulty communicating own thoughts and feelings, difficulty processing and retaining information, difficulty reading or using facial expressions/social cues)
  • Social Differences from peers (i.e., difficulty making and keeping friends, difficulty understanding social behaviors of others, difficulty empathizing)
  • Imaginative and Cognitive Rigidity (i.e., difficulty coping with routine changes, struggles to engage in play beyond their interests, sensitivity to sound, sights, and textures)

Strengths:

  • Often can focus intently for long periods on a subject that is of interest
  • Often have advanced learning and memory ability
  • Excel in identifying patterns and memory recall
  • Often display a distinctively imaginative and expression of ideas
  • Less likely to judge others based on social status, career, accomplishments

It is essential for autistic people and their families to identify both their challenges and strengths. By identifying their challenges, the individual and their family can find the best resources and services to address their challenges and allow them to grow as much as possible. Identifying their strengths will allow them to find hobbies, organizations, and jobs that they enjoy and will enable them to shine! Everyone can face various challenges throughout their lives, so it is important to utilize our strengths and support systems to preserve and overcome those challenges.

Here is an article, https://www.trade-schools.net/articles/jobs-for-autistic-people,  with a list of jobs from a variety of industries that can be a good fit for autistic people. These jobs include being a software developer, a photographer, a librarian, a data analyst, and a video game designer. The key is to identify the strengths of the individual and to find a job that showcases their talents. This article also includes tips on how to prepare those with autism for getting a job. This includes ways to prepare, ways to explore unique programs, and ways to ask for what you need from employers.

 

 

Other resources that may be helpful:

Autism in the Teen Years: What to Expect, How to Help | Interactive Autism Network (iancommunity.org)

Autism in Teenagers (verywellhealth.com)

The Unique Challenges for Teenagers on the Autism Spectrum | HuffPost Life