Where does all the money go?

The National Council for Adoption answers this question, in a blog post.

Written by Daniel Nehrbass, Ph.D.

I was speaking on a panel about intercountry adoption recently at a conference, and during the Q&A time an adoptive mom in the audience asked, “where does all the money go?”

She was wondering in particular about how much money adoption agencies make, and the compensation of personnel. She had heard that “there’s no money in intercountry adoption” but she was skeptical. Her skepticism is understandable, since, in her words: “I spend forty thousand dollars…where did it all go?”

Click here to read the article

Adoption Issues: What is the Indian Child Welfare Act?

 

The Indian Child Welfare Act was enacted in 1978 as a response to the crisis affecting Native and Alaskan American children who were separated from their families, communities and cultural heritage.  To best understand why this law was necessary, it is important to know the practices leading up to the passage of this federal law.

In United States history, there have been a few specific events that contributed to the destruction of Native American heritage and culture, in addition to the general widespread racism that existed as a whole.

Devastation of Native American Communities

One of the first boarding schools called the Carlisle Indian Industrial School opened in 1879. It served as a model to the nearly 150 such schools which opened in the following decades. These boarding schools were government funded and served as forced assimilation. They forced the children to cut their hair, use Anglo-American names, didn’t allow them to speak their native languages, prohibited them from eating traditional Native American foods, and forced them to dress in Anglo-American clothing. They effectively separated these children from their home, families, community and culture. If the children survived the deplorable conditions at many of the boarding schools, many of them had difficulty returning to their tribes. It devastated Native American communities.

Indian Adoption Project

In the decades after WWII, hundreds of Native American children were removed from their communities and placed with white families through adoption or foster care. The dominate belief was that Native American children were better of being raised by white families.  From 1958-1967, 395 Native American children through a program called the Indian Adoption Project. The goal was to assimilate children into white culture. It aspired to systematically place an entire population of children across lines of culture, nation, and race. Ironically, this was a practice that, at the time, was generally discouraged within the adoption community. During that time, it was standard practice to match adoptees with adoptive parents who shared their race. Transracial and International adoption was uncommon at that time.

Response to Egregious Removal Practices

Leading up to the passage of the Indian Child Welfare Act, research showed that 25-35% of all Native American children were removed from their families and placed into white foster or adoptive homes. Of these children 85% were placed outside of their community even when they had a fit and willing relative available to care for them. This rate is much higher than compared to non-Native American children who were placed in foster and adoptive homes. The passage of this federal law was vitally needed to address the longstanding and egregious removal practices which specifically targeted Native American children. ICWA sets forth federal requirements that apply to state custody and adoption hearings involving a Native American child who is a member or eligible for membership of a federally recognized tribe. Currently, there are 573 Federally recognized tribes in the United States.

 

written by Regina Smith LSCW | Pregnancy Counselor & Home Study Provider

Why Isn’t Adoption Free?

Our staff at Nightlight often are asked, “Why isn’t adoption free? As wonderful as that would be, in order for an agency to process an adoption in such a way that all parties involved are assured ethical treatment, adequate training, and proper legal oversight (not to mention the cost of licensing, liability insurance, international accreditation, and ongoing professional staff training) fees are inevitable.

 

Accreditation Costs: The costs of accreditation have risen every year and many agencies have been forced to close due to the high costs, unfortunately some of those costs are passed on to the families.  Adoptive families are best served by trained and qualified staff who meet state and international requirements in the areas of education and professional licensure.  The services that families receive are getting better and better because of the education the staff is receiving and adoptive parenting training that has been developed.

 

Post Adoption Services: With an adoption agency our services do not necessarily end with an adoption finalization.  Even after the adoption we continue our support for the adoption triad.  It is always a good idea to review the fee schedule of the program that you are interested in and to discuss those fees in detail with your provider.

 

Frequently Asked Questions: A couple more common questions prospective parents have regarding adoption fees would be–

 

“Are adoption fees refundable?” Adoption fees are not typically refundable due to the fact that an agency is working on your behalf through every stage. Agencies do have exceptions for situations where a family has a disruption or a family decides to switch programs. Every agency has different policies regarding these things, so it would be helpful to discuss this questions in detail with the program coordinator.

 

 “How much does an adoption cost?”  That will vary among programs and agencies. International adoption tends to be higher in fees as international travel can be expensive, and each country varies in the required number of trips for an adoption.

 

Reducing Costs: There are some things that families can consider in order to help reduce the cost of their adoption.  Some employers offer adoption benefits; you should check with your HR department.  There are various financial institutions that offer adoption loans.  Families can apply for adoption grants; we have a list of adoption grant providers on our website.  Families can take advantage of the adoption tax credit; you should consult with your tax advisor for further information.  In addition to domestic and international adoption programs families may choose to adopt a waiting child or foster a child, as those options often offer a reduced financial obligation.

 

For more information, you are welcome to schedule a call with our inquiry specialist by calling 502-423- 5780 or by emailing info@nightlight.org. We also have a great webinar that may answer more of these questions!

 

Written by Lara Kelso | MA, PLPC | Domestic Program Manager

What Does A Healthy Open Adoption Look Like?

Open adoption looks different for every family. The relationship between an adoptive family and birth family is a special relationship, in which you are connected by the child. Each adoptive family and birth family is unique and therefore, the relationships are unique. There are a few things that adoptive parents should keep in mind when thinking about what makes a healthy open adoption, regardless of what your particular relationship looks like.

 

  1. Establish Boundaries

It is important to make sure you establish a plan for openness and contact with your child’s birth family early in the relationship. If possible, you should do this before the child is even born. This will help to avoid hurtful situations in the future. You should both feel comfortable with the established plan and you should always keep your word in what you agree to, as long as it is best for the child.

Even with a solid plan, it is essential to remember that children grow up and people change. There are times where contact with birth family may ebb and flow. There may be times that you or the birth parents feel that they need a bit of time to step back from the current level of contact. This should never be viewed as a permanent change in the relationship and it is good to keep the lines of communication open so that the relationship can reopen later in the child’s life. As your child grows, you will need to take their desires into consideration and both parties should continue to respect the child’s wishes.

 

  1. Remember your role as the parent and embrace it

Regardless of what level of openness you have with your child’s birth family, you should always feel confident and comfortable in your role as the child’s parent. You are the person responsible for making decisions for them and ensuring their well-being. Do not let your insecurities get the best of you. This can be damaging to a relationship with your birth family.

 

  1. Don’t create a power struggle

            The dynamics between an adoptive and birth family can seem to create an invisible “power struggle.” Before your child is born, it can often feel like the birth mother holds the power. Once the child is placed, that power tends to shift and the adoptive family holds more of the power. This can be a negative burden placed on the relationship and you should always strive to ensure that no side feels powerless in this. Remember to never hold this power over your child’s birth family and to always keep your relationship respectful.

 

  1. Have acceptance of and grace for individuals different from yourself

Often times an adoptive family is coming from a different background than the birth family in terms of socioeconomic status, race, location, and other factors. Adoptive families should have grace and acceptance for people of different backgrounds than themselves. This is your child’s history and that should be embraced if they are to feel accepted in your home.

This can become especially important if you have adopted a child of a different race or ethnicity than yourself. As an adoptive family, you should be intentional about having individuals in your family’s life that are diverse, whether this be the church you attend, the doctor or dentist your child sees or the friends that are welcomed into your home. This can help your child feel more comfortable in their own skin. Find ways of celebrating the differences you may have with your child and allow them to see that you love their culture and embrace other people who look like them.

 

  1. Love your child’s birth family

Families need to have love and compassion for their child’s birth family. The birth family you have a relationship with will look different for every child. For some families this may only be the birth mother, others may include the birth father, and still others may include the extended family of the child. Whether this includes siblings, parents, grandparents, etc. you should always strive to love your child’s birth family and to nurture that love and connection within your child.

The child’s birth family will become like an extended part of your own family. You may have differences in opinions, but you will always have a special bond because of your child. When differences arise, one way that you can think about this dynamic is the “Slightly Annoying Grandmother Rule” (Davenport, 2017). This means that when your child’s birth family does something that you don’t understand or may not agree with, you try to think of them as you would a grandmother that did something you do not like. You may feel frustrated, but it is important to treat them with respect and not say anything that would hurt feelings and damage relationships.

 

These are just a few suggestions for maintaining a healthy open relationship with your child’s birth family. There are many resources that can help you to better understand open adoption. The more you understand this concept, the easier it will be for you to decide what would be most comfortable for you. I recommend reading more about open adoption on our website HERE. I would also recommend reading The Open Hearted Way to Open Adoption by Lori Holden.

 

References:

Davenport, D. (2017, September 2). My #1 Secret Tip for a Successful Open Adoption. Retrieved from https://creatingafamily.org/adoption-category/1-secret-tip-successful-open-adoption/

Top Ten Tips for a Successful Open Adoption. (2019, June 3). Retrieved from https://creatingafamily.org/adoption-category/top-ten-tips-successful-open-adoption/

Jordan, L. (n.d.). How Do I Establish Healthy Boundaries in My Open Adoption? Retrieved from https://adoption.org/establish-healthy-boundaries-open-adoption

 

written by Rebecca Tolson | | International Program Assistant & Inquiry Specialist

How Can I Love My Child’s Birth Mother Through Her Grief?

 

“I can’t imagine how you’re feeling right now.”

“What a hard decision you are making.”

“Thank you for trusting us with your baby.”

“You are so brave.”

“I admire your strength.”

 

These are all statements that one might hear being said to a birth mother in the hospital or at placement. How many of us have stood in that moment and wished we had something better to say than the typical “thank you” or “I can’t imagine”? How many birth mothers have wished there was something that could be said that would make the whole situation hurt just a little bit less? As I have had the opportunity to walk alongside birth mothers throughout their pregnancy and placement experiences, I have learned that you can just never be fully prepared for how differently each and every birth mother will feel during the placement process. Some cry, others rejoice, some are disengaged, and others decide that adoption is no longer the choice they wish to make. No matter what emotions are being shown on the birth mother’s face, there is grief involved. This grief feeling may not hit immediately, but it will.

 

As adoptive families and adoption caseworkers, we have the incredible opportunity to support birth mothers through this grief. While all of the above statements are true and the birth mother is strong, brave, selfless, and worthy of admiration, what are some things we can remember about her and ways we can support her through her grieving? Remember that she just went through the 9-month experience of carrying your baby inside of her body and loved that baby enough to choose life. Remember that she just spent “X” number of hours giving birth to a baby that she is choosing not to bring home with her. Remember that this experience is painful and remember that she is incredible.

 

No one has all of the answers in regard to making the pain of adoption go away. No one can pinpoint exactly how each birth mother and adoptive family will feel and respond to the placement of a child, but here are some pieces of advice I would give to adoptive families during all phases of the adoption process:

 

  • Respect your birth mother’s wishes. She is trusting you to care for her child for the rest of his or her life, and while you have the tremendous joy and responsibility of being the baby’s parents, she will also ALWAYS be his or her parent too. The power of DNA is strong and respecting a birth mother’s tie to her child is necessary for both the child’s growth and the birth mother’s growth. Send the pictures that you promised, post or mail the update that you said you would write, make that visit happen even if it is not the most convenient for your schedule. Your birth mom/birth family is worth it!
  • Encourage her to seek support. If your birth mother has a wonderful support system or if she has no one, encourage her to continue healthily processing her emotions and feelings toward the placement of your baby.
  • Tell her you are thinking of her. Even if you do not have the most open of relationships, she wants to feel special, known and remembered (we all do!) so keep trying. Just because your birth mother is not comfortable with contact or gifts right now, that does not mean the door is closed forever. Send your letters and pictures to the agency for the day that she does decide she is ready to know your family and build a relationship with you and your child.
  • Build a genuine relationship with healthy boundaries. While this is easier said than done, be open and honest with each other about your desires for this relationship and do not promise more than you can provide. Set a schedule for picture updates, texting, visits, etc. This relationship is ongoing, so make a plan with your caseworker and your birth mom regarding how everyone’s voices can be heard and how you can ensure that all involved know what to expect for the days ahead.

 

Enjoy your baby and enjoy building a relationship with their birth mother. You have embarked on one of the sweetest and difficult journeys a family can choose to take, and it will be worth it! It will not always be easy, and you will not always be comfortable, but listen to your birth mother, think about her, respect her, and love her- no matter what! She will grieve and you will grieve for her. Continue to pray for her every day and speak highly of the incredible woman that gave your baby life.

 

written by Phoebe Stanford | MSW intern

Understanding Birthmother Grief

In my career as a licensed clinical social worker, I have been honored to counsel women walking through the process of grief after placing a baby for adoption.  One such woman, Mary (name and information used with permission) captured her journey in a heartfelt essay entitled “The Beautiful Side of Grief,” which she wrote shortly after the adoption of her daughter:

 

“How lucky I am to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard.”

 

“Grief. Mourning. Bereavement. There are countless different words to try and describe something that is utterly indescribable, and none of them really pinpoint exactly what grief is. Grief is not the movies. Grief is not Hollywood, where you hold a black umbrella and shed a few tears in the rain at a funeral. It’s not walking around donned head to toe in dark colors. It is not a simple psychological process of five clean-cut stages.

 

“Grief is waking up every single morning and asking yourself if you’re in a dream. Grief is hearing people talk, but you find yourself not really listening anymore. It’s walking into a grocery store completely fine, and leaving barely holding your tears in. Grief is the constant stream of “would haves,” “should haves,” and “could haves” playing through your thoughts. It’s getting to the end of the day and realizing that you’re not really living, you’re just going through the motions. Grief is that ever-present indefinable ache in the bottom of your heart. It is the constant feeling of exhaustion that no amount of sleep can alleviate. Grief is the time when tears take the place of words.

 

“But grief, in a sense, is beautiful.

 

“There is beauty in the process of grief. It comes after the shock, after the initial sting to your heart. It might take months, it might take years, but the beauty will reveal itself. The beautiful side of grief is found in the reassurance and understanding in the words you can now lend to those who are walking the path you once walked. The comfort of, “I know how you feel,” or “I understand what you’re going through,” now replace the blind guesses of, “I’m sure this is hard,” and “I can’t imagine how heartbreaking this is.” The beautiful side of grief is found in the supportive friendships that have risen from the ashes of tragedy. The beautiful side of grief is seen in the ability of those who have traveled an unbearable path to hold the hands of those who are being forced down the same lonely road.

 

“When you are faced with a heartbreak so unbearable it brings you to your knees, you are also faced with two choices: to let that heartbreak consume your every thought and action until it kills you, or to act in the same love that you had for that person and use your experience to be the guiding lamp for those now embarking on that dark journey.

 

“If you have ever grieved over the loss of someone, consider yourself lucky. Yes, read that line again. Consider yourself lucky. You are lucky to have had something so precious, so special, a type of love so genuine, that you have a reason to grieve. Without that kind of raw love, there would be no grief.

 

“In my eyes, the best way to pay that type of love forward is to show it to those who need it the most, and coming from firsthand experience, those who are grieving need understanding and genuine acts of love more than anyone else. Those acts of warmth and affection from those who have mourned the same loss as you, who have carried the same burden as you, are the very stepping stones that lead you from the suffocating depths of grief into the joyful light of remembrance. If you have the rare chance to pave these stepping stones for someone, why wouldn’t you?

 

“I was once told that grief is like treading water in the ocean. Sometimes you’re doing just fine, and you can handle the waves that come at you. It takes effort, but you’re getting by. Then other times, a wave will come out of nowhere, catch you off guard, and you’re pulled under into the dark and cold depths once again. What is so important is that we keep treading, we keep fighting, and we come back to the surface no matter how hard or exhausting it might be. What is important is that we don’t give up on our own life in remembrance of someone else’s. All we can do is to take grief one wave at a time, and, if given the opportunity, help others stay afloat along the way.”

 

Mary put her experience and the words she wrote into action by counseling and mentoring birthmothers who were considering adoption, including Taylor, the birthmother in the Nightlight video entitled “Journey’s Story.”  Mary states she was propelled to help others because of the love she had for her daughter and the experience she gained in processing her adoption decision. As Mary faced her pain and reached out to others, she emerged stronger.  Like many brave birthmothers, she has journeyed to the beautiful side of grief.

 

If you know a woman considering adoption or struggling with the inevitable grief that comes when we say goodbye to someone we love, please consider referring her to one of the talented counselors and social workers at Nightlight. Processing emotions, negative thoughts, and unhealthy or ineffective behaviors can be extremely helpful within the therapeutic process. Nightlight can also connect birthmothers with others, like Mary, who have walked this path before them. Research has demonstrated that having a support system is crucial for grief work and emotional health. Nightlight is committed to the care of the brave women and men who are choosing adoption for their child.

 

written by Megan White, MSW, LCSW | Executive Director, Florida

Pediatric Cancer Awareness Month: Caleb the Healed One

 

Every once in a while in this field, you meet a family who really touches your heart.  The Jones-Moreno family is one of those families.  When going through the adoption process, there are always delays and difficulties, especially in international adoption.  Alex and Shunna were always patient, gracious, and positive throughout it all.  Alex and Shunna are determined to show the love and light of Jesus in all their interactions and talking with them was always an encouragement to me.

They arrived home from Uganda with their son Caleb in January of 2015.  Caleb was 4 years old.  Alex and Shunna met Caleb through their ministry Reach Up Reach Out, a ministry they started to support widows and orphans in Uganda.

Earlier this year, Caleb was diagnosed with pediatric cancer.  Caleb is now 9 years old.  He has undergone surgery and several rounds of chemo.  There have been many miracles in Caleb’s battle and Alex and Shunna continue to give God the glory for each and every gift.  Caleb has about 8 more rounds of chemo ahead of him. So far, he has been handling the treatments well.  Throughout this difficult time, Alex and Shunna have remained committed to Reach Up Reach Out, continued to let the joy of Jesus reign in their hearts, and have truly been an inspiration to me and the entire Nightlight team.

September is Pediatric Cancer Awareness Month, and I want to honor Caleb during this month and raise awareness for him and the many other children battling cancer.  Please join me in praying for Caleb who has been renamed by his parents during this time as Caleb the Healed One.  If you do not know what to pray, here is a simple prayer you can pray over Caleb each day.

One of the biggest events of Reach Up Reach Out Ministries is their annual Christmas party in Uganda.  Caleb is scheduled to complete treatment before then and everyone is praying he will get to go.  He loves getting to see his friends and serving children in need.  If you would like to support the Jones-Moreno family financially to help offset the cost of Caleb’s medical bills, you can do so on the Go Fund Me Page.  If you would like to support Reach Up Reach Out and the projects they have, you can read more about their work and make a donation on their website.  https://www.reachupreachout.org/

For all the children and families facing this battle, we stand with you in prayer.  May God heal every child.

 

Written by:  Lisa Prather, LMSW

Vice President of Operations

How to Talk to Donor Conceived Children About Their Story

 

Adoptive parents are often anxious about how to talk to their adopted child about his or her adoption story. And if your child was adopted through embryo adoption, the conversation can seem even trickier to navigate. Even if parents have been very intentional to always speak of adoption in a positive light, there’s always a nagging worry about whether they’re talking about adoption too often or too little, if they are sharing too much or too little, and if the things they are saying are all of the “right” things. Following are some tips for making these conversations a little less apprehensive:

• Talk about adoption/donor conception with the child early and often. Even before they are verbal, you can practice telling children their story. That way, when they are old enough to grasp the concept and have questions, you are well-prepared for the conversation.
• Always relay the message that you are open to discussing any questions your child may have. Many adoptees and donor-conceived children have expressed that they don’t ask questions about their origins because they are afraid of upsetting their parents.
• Don’t ignore or speak negatively of the donor parents.
• Acknowledge (and don’t minimize) the loss issues your child might be experiencing that are associated with donor conception and/or adoption.
• Don’t be afraid to seek resources or support, whether through counseling, books, other adoptive parents, support groups, or other means.
• Create a Lifebook and utilize children’s books to help explain the process to your child.

 

written by Beth Button

50 Benefits of Snowflakes

 

Why work with the Snowflakes Embryo Adoption Program? People who are inquiring about placing or adopting embryos for achieving a pregnancy are often confused about using an embryo adoption agency or a fertility clinic. Is the Snowflakes program right for you? After you read through this list, call us. Our knowledgeable staff will listen and answer your questions about placement or adoption.

1. Established in 1997, the Snowflakes program is the oldest and most experienced embryo adoption agency in the world.
2. The program was established to assist families with remaining embryos select an adopting family for them.
3. We accept all embryos regardless of quality or quantity.
4. Snowflakes provides a positive option for adoption an infant and a shorter timeline.
5. Over 650 babies have been born into adopting families through the Snowflakes program.
6. We receive new sets of embryo donations every week.
7. As needed, we help families connect with a counselor to discuss their embryo placement.
8. Our streamlined processes insure accurate and quick services.
9. We always have embryos available for matching.
10. Our placing parents are required to follow FDA rules and regulations for embryo placement.
11. Snowflakes has an easy to use access system for infectious disease testing, required by the FDA.
12. Our adopting families are all evaluated by a rigorous home study process.
13. The time-tested Snowflakes processes provide both placing an adopting family’s peace-of-mind.
14. The cost of our program has not increased in over 10 years!
15. Our agency, Nightlight Christian Adoptions, has been in business for 60+ years and we apply the best practices of adoption to our Snowflakes program.
16. Our team consistently receives high survey scores for listening and caring for you.
17. We accept all applications without discrimination.
18. Our team provides inquirers with a balance of truth and hope.
19. We encourage open communications between placing and adopting families.
20. Our requirement to collect medical records adds to the security of the placement.
21. We provide our families with a secure listening ear and a safe place to grieve.
22. Regular examinations and changes to our program processes speed you to your goal.
23. We are people of integrity who care about providing you with high quality service.
24. Surveys of families who have completed the program give the highest ratings 98% of the time.
25. Snowflakes team members are always seeking ways to improve the program.
26. We provide education to our clients, doctors, clinics and other adoption agencies.
27. Placement and adoption are paper-intensive services and our team helps you identify and complete all necessary documents to keep you moving forward.
28. Our contracts are legally sound for the placement of embryos from one family to another.
29. Our team does not use computer-generated matching, but matches based on family preferences and profiles.
30. Our pre-matching interview confirms your preferences in a match; no matches are ever forced.
31. We do not allow for closed or anonymous adoptions—both placing and adopting families have the security of knowledge.
32. A frequent refrain from our matched families is “it was a perfect match!”
33. Our care toward your family continues with assistance even after the placement/adoption is final.
34. We manage all aspects of embryo placement, including the possibility of what happens to remaining embryos in the adopting family.
35. Snowflakes maintains a permanent record of the placements and adoptions.
36. All-inclusive, competent, and valuable services at a low-cost.
37. Snowflakes maintains a positive, world-wide reputation.
38. Our team provides personal service and timely communications.
39. We have positive relationships with fertility clinics throughout the U.S.
40. Many of our referrals for both placing and adopting families are from their doctor or clinic.
41. We provide resources to support clients before, during, and after the placement or adoption.
42. Our adopting families receive three generations of placing family medical history.
43. We provide assistance in finding positive options for all inquirers.
44. The Snowflakes program offers a holistic approach to the placement and adoption of remaining frozen embryos.
45. Nightlight is a child-centric agency, focused on assisting the placing parents, the adopting parents, and the full-genetic siblings in both families.
46. We help families connect with one another helping them leave a legacy to their children.
47. We encourage direct communication between families for the sake of all parties involved: children and adults.
48. When necessary we are able to coordinate communication between families who are working to build a future direct communications relationship.
49. Our team prays for and with our families every week.
50. Snowflakes coordinates and arranges for safe shipment of embryos between storage facilities.

 

Want to know more about Snowflakes? Give us a call at 970-663-6799 and ask for our experienced inquiry specialists who will walk you through the adoption process. You can also email us at info@snowflakes.org. With the Snowflakes program, you CAN give birth to you adopted child!

 

–The Snowflakes Team