International Adoption Travel Tips


passports on a world map

Travelling to meet your adopted child is a very exciting time in your adoption journey. You are going to finally meet and/or receive placement of your child. Though this is an exciting and joyous time, you may also find yourself experiencing a variety of mixed emotions with the joy, happiness, and excitement intermingled with times of feeling overwhelmed, anxious, fearful, and apprehensive as you prepare for this big event.  To assist you in preparing for this momentous experience here are some general international travel tips to consider.

Every child reacts differently to their first face-to-face introduction with their new parents. Their reaction will largely depend on their current stage of development. Toddlers can initially be reserved and cling to their current caretaker. Do not take the child’s behaviors personally; your child is likely scared. Be patient and let the child to come to you.  To initiate interaction with a young child, it is helpful to bend down to the child’s level and establish eye contact. A bright colored toy, or one that plays music, may captivate your child’s attention.   This is your opportunity to begin interacting with your child through discovery and play.

During these initial meetings, focus on building a connection with your child. Young children may not understand the meaning and roles of family members such as mom, dad, siblings, grandparents, etc. You may also find that your child appears to favor one parent over the other. Children in institutional settings are primarily cared for by women; with much less exposure to men as caretakers. For this reason, a child may tend to seek out only the mother for his/her needs.  On the other hand, because children are not as familiar with men as caretakers, the father may be somewhat of a curiosity and as such, children may be drawn to them. This relationship balance can be worked on once you are home by providing a daily bonding routine between the child and other parent. This can be as simple as reading a bedtime story or through interactive play with the child.

It is also important to note a child may act differently on subsequent visits or when travelling home with you. It is important to remember that a child’s behavior is triggered out of fear, grief, and loss. Ask if there is a special toy, object, or pictures from their current placement they can take with them that may provide comfort to them during this transitional period.

Travelling with young children requires planning and preparation for their anticipated needs (diapers, bottles, sippy cups, juice, drinks, change of clothes, snacks) but you will also want to have activities to keep them busy during a long trip. Suggested activities for younger children include:

  • Stickers/Sticker books
  • Color-wonder  coloring books/markers
  • Stacking cups
  • Colored pencils, sketch pads
  • Mad-Libs, puzzle books, word searches
  • Board books/Lift the flap peek-a-boo books
  • Play Doh
  • Magna-Doodle
  • Download age appropriate videos and games on your phone or I pad

When travelling with and older child or teen, take simple games or arts/craft projects that you can play or work on as a family. Ask the child what favorite places they would like to visit or foods they would like eat before leaving their current placement. Allow the child to be your guide as you explore his/her city and points of interests. Now is the time to take advantage of acquiring any cultural objects or memorabilia they would like to take with them to their new home.

Suggested travelling items to occupy school age or older children during your travel may include:

  • Download age appropriate videos and games for the child or youth. See if you can download any videos or games in the child’s language
  • Sketch pads, coloring books, colored pencils
  • Books, again see if you can find or download them in the child’s language
  • Individually packed snacks that are high in protein as well as some sweet snacks
  • Pack a small travel bag that contains small manipulatives they have not yet played with or seen.

Engaging and connecting with an older child or teen is easier in some aspects. When meeting your school age child for the first time, follow their lead. It is recommended that prior to hugging a child or older youth, to first ask for their permission. In asking for this permission, you are already teaching them about personal boundaries and that they have control of their bodies. Older children are able to entertain themselves for longer periods of times and although it can be difficult, if there is a language barrier, you can engage them in some simple conversations and needed instructions. Consider downloading a translation App for those times when you may need it. You can engage older children by asking questions about their likes and dislikes, what activities they enjoy, extra- curricular activities they may want to further explore, their friends, music, what they will miss in their current placement, favorite caretakers, talents, favorite subjects in school, future vocational plans, and what their daily routine looks like. You can also suggest they ask you questions about your family, home, neighborhood, community, the schools, weather, etc. However, this is not a time to ask questions about a child’s personal family history. Your child will disclose the more personal, intimate details of their past once they know you better and feel safe to divulge the more difficult parts of their life.

Travelling with your newly adopted children can be stressful under the best of circumstances.  You are just beginning to know your child and vice versa, there are appointments you will need to attend, documents to show, navigating around an unfamiliar environment, language barriers, and jet lag. With all of this going on, you may forget about self -care. This is the beginning of building family memories with your child. When you feel overwhelmed, it is important to take time out for yourself. When able, plan times during the day when each parent can have time alone to decompress from the stresses of the day. Check in with your spouse or support person periodically to see how each of you are doing. Give each other grace for the momentary lapses of frustration, exhaustion or when self-doubt may invade your thoughts.

Safe travels!

How to Celebrate the Holiday of Love in Different Cultures


Valentine’s Day is a commonly known holiday of love in the United States and some countries throughout Europe. Couples most often celebrate the holiday as a way to show appreciation of their relationship. Around the world, many countries have their own way of showing affection through their own cultural traditions. Although some of these holidays may not identically mirror the way the United States celebrates love, the message is ultimately the same. Whether it be love for one’s culture, love for a friendship, or the concept of love in general, most countries love to celebrate love! Celebrating the holiday of love according to your adopted child’s culture can help children stay in touch with their own roots and validate their experience of adoption. Love is universal, and can come in many forms and expressions.

Latin America

Latin Americans traditional day of love is referred to as, “The Day of Love and Friendship”, or “El Día del Amor y la Amistad”. The holiday is broadly celebrated in this region more so than any other area of the world. Latin America celebrates Valentine’s Day not only with their partner, but with their friends and family as well.

In the Dominican Republic, those who celebrate Valentine’s Day will typically exchange “cariñitos”, which are gifts of love that can be shared amongst couples, families, and friends. In the Dominican Republic, this day falls on the same Valentine’s Day as the United States. Valentine’s Day in Colombia is celebrated on the third Saturday in September. While these countries recognize romantic love, a great emphasis is also placed upon celebrating the love of family and friendship. It is a common tradition to surprise friends with small tokens of love throughout Latin America, and many will exchange anonymous gifts at home, in the workplace, at school, or between their friend groups. The tradition is similar to the concept of “Secret Santa” that Americans practice around Christmas. Families who are adopting from these regions can celebrate this holiday by helping their children design or craft small gifts and exchanging them amongst other anonymous family members and/or friends.


The modern Valentine’s Day of China can celebrated through their annual “Qizi Festival” that takes place on the seventh day of the seventh lunar month of the Chinese calendar. It literally translates as, “Evening of Sevens Festival”, and is the country’s celebration of love rooted from folklore. Common traditions on this day include stargazing of Vega and Altair stars and baking “qiǎoguǒ”, which is a traditional sweet pastry that the Chinese enjoy on this special day. If you plan to celebrate this day with your adopted child, families can invest in a telescope for a night of stargazing or set time aside to bake qiǎoguǒ with their child.

Burkina Faso

Festival of the Dancing Masks in Burkina Faso, or “The Festival International des Masques et des Arts”, is a bi-annual festival that brings Burkinabe people together from over 40 different villages. Natives from all over the country wear masks and costumes to celebrate and can be found story telling or playing music. Although there is not a direct correlation between this holiday and the traditional Valentine’s Day celebrated in the U.S., it is clear that the people here share a love for their unique culture, art, and Burkinabe traditions. Families can celebrate this day with their adopted child and help preserve their roots through mask making or wearing the traditional Burkinabe attire on this day to celebrate.


Taiwan celebrates the day of love, “Qíngrén jié,” twice a year, on both February 14 and July 7. In Taiwan, this means the country is flooded with flowers on both days. Taiwanese men will traditionally buy their significant other roses, however the colors and the number of flowers are important indicators of how serious the relationship is. Red roses represent “an only love”, 11 roses symbolize “my favorite”, and if a woman is presented with 108 roses, it usually is an indication of marriage. If you choose to celebrate this tradition with your adopted child, try taking them flower shopping, or presenting them with the option to make their own bouquet for someone else.


Happy Valentine’s Day!

International Spotlight: Bulgaria Adoption Program


The Bulgaria program at Nightlight has two routes of adoption that families can pursue. The first route is the traditional adoption process where a family will complete their home study, compile their dossier and then wait to be matched by the Ministry of Justice. This route can vary in time based on how open a family can be to age, gender, number of children and the special needs characteristics. The second route is the waiting child program where families can review children’s profiles and apply to receive provisional approval. Once the Ministry of Justice grants a family provisional approval that means no other families can apply for that specific child(ren) and the family has 6 months to complete their home study and dossier for the Ministry of Justice to officially match the family with the child they applied for.

We have many waiting children profiles on our Adoption Bridge website that we advocate for because they are harder to place due to special needs, age or sibling groups. We have had many successful adoptions of families pursuing waiting children. The waiting child program is also significantly faster than the traditional route cutting out any waiting time a family would have to be matched. The waiting child program is commonly advocating for children with severe special needs that are 5 and younger as well as sibling groups up to four children. We have many single children that are over the age of 12 that have clinically healthy waiting for their forever families. Currently, we have a lot of families showing interest in our waiting child program as they look through Adoption Bridge and see all the young faces needing homes. Our program currently has three families pursuing waiting child from ages 5 to 16.

A unique document that is specific to the Bulgaria program is call the special needs checklist and it is something that was constructed by the Ministry of Justice that lists out all common and uncommon special needs that children from Bulgaria could have. Nightlight has a special needs checklist from Bulgaria that is highlighted with specific special needs that have been seen with referrals received over the last several years. This checklist has helped beginning families determine what special needs they would be comfortable caring for as well as any special needs that they would be open to considering. The Bulgaria program also offers a scheduled phone call with our Bulgaria representative to go over the checklist with each family providing suggestions of which special needs to be open to as well as letting them know the likelihood of a timeframe to be matched if they are pursuing the traditional route.

If you are interested in learning more about the Bulgaria program or the waiting child program, please contact our Indiana office’s inquiry specialist, Savana Rowe, at Your program coordinator for the Bulgaria program is Karson Loscar and she has worked in this program for 3 years.

Peace of a Father

Last summer I took three of my sons to the Little League World Series. When we arrived, I realized how incredibly crowded this complex was and knew that it would be tough to keep my excited, always-looking-for-a-little-independence children at my side all day. So, I pointed to a specific welcome booth and told them that if we were separated, they were to find this place and I would come there to find them. Even this didn’t seem like a very good plan — there were people everywhere. But it was the best thing I could come up with. And I was also sure it wouldn’t matter anyway, because I was not letting them out of my sight!

childIt had been a good day. The sun had set. We saw some great baseball, and it was time to use the restroom (and the snack bar… again) before heading to the car. Well, the restroom had two exits, and my son Aaron went out a different door than we had all entered. After waiting for him outside for several minutes, I started to think he must be having some real trouble in there, but when I went in to check on him, he was gone. Gone into the dark, into the crowd of 30,000 people.

I planted the other two boys firmly in one place and told them not to move and started my search. I retraced all of our steps from the day, checked the bathroom again, ran through the crowd again, this time much faster and more frantically than before. Nothing. It was time to get the police and go all out on this search.

My heart was racing as I ran to find an officer, and on my way, I ran right past the welcome booth we had identified on our arrival. I had forgotten about it, but Aaron had not. There he stood, hands casually in his pockets rocking back and forth from heel to toe, probably whistling if I could’ve heard anything.

I dropped to my knees and hugged the life out of him (as he is just young enough not to be too embarrassed by this). I asked him if he was afraid. His words: “Nah. You’re my dad. I knew you’d come for me.”

1385296_10153402279045713_713493181_nTHIS IS A BIG DEAL. You see, Aaron used to be counted among the fatherless. He was adopted from Uganda about two and a half years ago. But in that time, he has learned the love, security and peace of knowing that his father would be his rescuer and protector. Aaron is no longer among the fatherless. And, only by God’s grace, Aaron is learning the love of his Heavenly Father through me, the earthly father who showed up just a few years ago. To me, this is a perfect illustration of the kind of transformation that happens when a child learns of his place in a family.



Written by guest blogger and adoptive parent Adam M. Keath, President of New Hope Uganda Ministries

Supporting the Children in Families First Act

CHIFFNightlight, the National Council for Adoption and children all around the world need your help.

The Children in Families First Act is a congressional effort to make change for children all over the world. It would improve the way intercountry adoption works – leaving less children languishing and moving more families towards thriving. It would also provide much needed attention to ensuring diplomatic and programmatic assistance is given so that children all over the world can thrive in the full spectrum of family care settings.

Congress will soon leave Washington for summer recess, leaving us with just enough time to make our voices known on Capitol Hill, move CHIFF out of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and onto the floor for a vote.

Here’s exactly how you can help, starting right now through this Friday (June 23 – June 27):

1. Send these two attached documents (What is CHIFF and Action Plan) to your staff, supporters, families, clients, and friends and;
a. Ask them to take the steps listed in the Action Plan
b. Ask them to send What is CHIFF and Action Plan to their networks and friends
2. Execute the Action Plan yourself, giving special attention to your efforts on social media
3. Post your activities to the CHIFF Facebook page

Suubi’s Story

Suubi earlyThe following is from an update from A Helping Hand, a Nightlight Affiliate office.

Suubi or Joan, as most of you know her, first came into the Tender Hearts Baby Home on August 5, 2012. The baby’s home directors named her Joan Suubi. Suubi in Lugandan means hope. We were told that Suubi had been abandoned by her mother to her father. Her father then abandoned her to his brother. Suubi’s uncle then contacted the local authorities and Suubi was placed at Tender Hearts Baby Home. Later through investigation, we learned that Suubi was born healthy but was later physically abused by her step-mother in Uganda. We also learned Suubi’s real birth date which meant she was almost 3 years old when she entered the baby home.

Upon entering Tender Hearts, Suubi was malnourished and very developmentally delayed. She was believed to be about 2 years old at the time (actually almost 3 years old). Her delays included not being able to crawl, stand, walk, or turn herself over. She could not sit up on her own and her limbs were completely stiff. Joan moved her right hand a little, but her left hand was stiff and at her side at all times. Joan’s medical tests revealed that she was also blind.

Thanks to the donations from Vivian’s Hope, Suubi was able to begin physical therapy right away. Though it was painful for her at times, she was a trooper. Immediately we began seeing improvements. Suubi began to move her limbs more easily and also began sitting up better on her own.

In the photo above you can see that Suubi is using both her left and right hand to play with toys and pushing herself forward in her chair, reaching for these items.

On March 7, 2013, Suubi was matched with a waiting adoptive family! She was placed with them on June 26, 2013 and arrived home in the U.S. on 8/3/13 almost exactly one year after being placed at Tender Hearts. Suubi’s family has an amazing story to tell about how they were led by God to adopt her as well, but I will let them share their story in their own words. Be on the lookout for their testimony soon.

Suubi nowAlthough Suubi was never without her heavenly father, Suubi is no longer fatherless. Below she is playing with her daddy.

“God sets the lonely in families…” Ps. 68:6a

Suubi’s story is of one of grace and mercy and certainly one of hope. Thank you to all of you for your continued support of Tender Hearts through prayer, mission teams, and giving.

Although Suubi’s story is particularly powerful, hers is only one of many lives changed through the work Ken and Cathy are doing. Please consider giving toward the monthly budget of Tender Hearts Baby Home and please talk to your church about monthly support as well. We need your help to change more lives!

To learn more about the Tender Hearts Baby Home in Uganda, please visit the Nightlight website.

2013 Summer Reunion Picnic

Nightlight Summer PicnicThe following is one of our favorite stories from the Nightlight Summer Reunion Picnic. This year’s Summer Picnic is set for this Saturday, July 20th. For more information or to register, please visit the 2013 Summer Picnic Page of our website.

By Suzanne Murray

It was three years ago that Peter and I attended our fourth Nightlight picnic. Ever since joining the Nightlight family in 2000, we always made a point to attend the picnic and all other activities we could possibly participate in. Three years ago we were so proud of ourselves for listening to God’s calling not to pursue Snowflakes for our second adoption, but to pursue an international adoption.

We had just completed our homestudy and were waiting and praying for a referral of a child as young as possible (because we had done the big thing and given up the chance of being pregnant and having a newborn, so we wanted to at least make sure our referral was as young as possible), when we attended our 4th Nightlight picnic. Over the years we joyfully watched the visiting Russian children perform and thought to ourselves, “Oh, they are cute,” but never felt a calling to adopt any of them. It was at this picnic that we were socializing and trying to make new friends who might have adopted internationally, when someone announced that the visiting orphans would be performing on the stage. I suddenly could not breathe! We were standing right in front of the stage. I looked at Peter and told him we needed to move to the other side of the park immediately. He asked why, and I explained, “Because we are going to fall in love with one of these kids, and we are not adopting older. We are adopting a baby!” I took Peter’s hand and moved across as far as possible to the other side of the park. All the while, Peter was asking what was wrong with me, because for the past three years we had always watched the children perform. Why was this year different? We didn’t learn until 8 months later, when meeting our sweet daughters Anya and Galina, that Anya was one of the girls performing on tour during the summer picnic.

I have admittedly at times mourned the loss of not having them in our lives from birth. Missing a sweet infant, that doesn’t talk back or roll their eyes at you in disagreement. But this past summer, God spoke very clearly to my heart about all the wondrous blessings of adopting an older child, and I thought I would share a recent one. It was the last day of Vacation Bible School for Galina. They were having an 11:00 a.m. service, with the ending being the children in each grade singing a few songs. They told me Galina’s class was performing at 11:50 am. I was watching my sister’s three kids under the age of three, plus Mary who is four. There was no way I was going to make it. My plan was to put the babies in bed at 12 and head out for the end of VBS at 12:15 to pick up Galina and her cousin, leaving Anya, age 14, to babysit the sleeping ones. Yesterday, Galina asked me twice if I were going to see her sing and I had to tell her both times that I couldn’t.

When her dad arrived home from work, she asked him as well. There was such a look of disappointment when he said no, he couldn’t make it.

I arrived at church ready to pick up the girls. I went to her classroom and it was empty. I walked over to the church and our pastor was talking to the kids. Next thing I know Galina and her group went up and began singing….evidently they were running late and so I was able to see her perform. She was singing and doing the sign language to the song when she made eye contact with me and SMILED FROM EAR TO EAR! She couldn’t stop smiling the whole time and was singing her heart out…..tears began to flood my eyes and stream down my face. She looked so angelic and adorable up on stage…..I literally began thinking of the 14 childless summers prior to becoming a mom and just kept thanking Jesus for the wonderful gifts he has bestowed me with….and began realizing that with babies you have to wait years for the awesome milestones of your 8th grader bringing home a report card with a 3.67 GPA (even though she didn’t speak English two years ago), the awesome experience of buying your 14 year old a pretty dress for her first dance, watching your child play volleyball (or any other sport), and finally watching your child sing their heart out for Jesus and smile ear to ear because they see you….THEIR MOM! With babies, you wait forever for these moments. Adopting older I got to experience them sooner!

I love MY KIDS!


Welcome Home Keath Family!

Keath Family

Adam, Melanie, Owen, Cooper, Aaron and Enoch

Adam and Melanie initially were interested in adopting children under the age of four years old. When they heard about two brothers in Uganda named Aaron (approximately age 7) and Enoch (approximately age 5), they committed their decision to prayer. They felt the Lord calling them to adopt these boys. They immediately began the work of having their home study updated and educating themselves about adopting older children. Adam and Melanie arrived home with Aaron and Enoch on May 15, 2013. They have seen favor and miracles all along their adoption story. Below is Adam’s account of their day in court:

“Court was miraculous today…literally. We waited about 2 hours past our scheduled time and then saw the judge for another 2+ hours. It was the first time anyone from our agency had gone before him, and admittedly there were some nerves. But, our lawyer is the best in the biz, all the witnesses showed up (even the child’s ailing grandmother and their previous caretaker from Juba). That in itself is a miracle. But what was most amazing was that the judge turned out to be best friends with our babies home director’s late parents…he was in disbelief that this man was standing before him that he could literally remember the day of his birth, the place his parents met and had watched him play as a child. He got to share with the judge his story and passion for beginning his ministry and the judge said that he intended to actually visit the baby home in the future. He was serious about it and this was a shocking circumstance, and an emotional one at that. What is even more amazing is that the director’s affidavit was placed on the top of the stack in error, and had it been filed properly the judge never would have seen it or known he was even in the room. Praise God. He orchestrated this from the beginning the meeting and from that point forward, the whole crowd had favor with this man. The testimony of the woman from Juba was emotional. She loves these boys so much that she traveled to Kampala just to be here and it turns out she was the only person other than Melanie (this is Adam writing by the way) and the director that the judge chose to interview. Her story almost brought him to tears. You must realize all of this is very out of the ordinary. This was God from the first word.

Additionally he was very pleased with our effort to engage the boys’ Buganda culture. He literally thanked us and referred to this case as “the best of the best.”

We are so grateful for the prayers of hundreds that we would find favor that day. They were so obvious!

It was also so good to meet and be loved on by people who have known our boys. We got to take many pictures and will have an amazing story to tell them one day! These are beautiful people, most of whom have nothing, that have sacrificed everything for the good of our kids since their mother died. Praise God for them!

And praise Him with us for this significant connection between this new judge and our baby home. This is no doubt a really big deal moving forward for the incredible ministry we are affiliated with.”

Nightlight Christian Adoptions: Colorado State License Renewed

LovelandCongratulations to the Nightlight Colorado adoption agency professional staff!

On Tuesday of this week the state of Colorado adoption licensing division visited our offices for their annual review of our services. The licensing staff completed a thorough examination of our adoption services over the past year and makes note of any areas of deficiency needing correction or improvement. We a pleased to report that our Colorado adoption office was found to have zero, none, nada issues at this time, and we passed with flying colors!

Our Colorado adoption offices in Loveland and Aurora will continue to provide you with excellent domestic, international, embryo adoption and home study services. We also provide post adoption counseling services throughout the state.

New developments are also on the horizon for Nightlight. At the end of this year we are excited to announce that Nightlight Colorado will begin serving children in foster care.

Contact us here in Colorado at 970-663-6799 or email

Nightlight will continue its illustrious 54 year history of serving families in Colorado, South Carolina, California, Kentucky and throughout the nation for years to come.