My child needs a driver license, but we never got a birth certificate.  What should we do?

Driver license

In California, only ONE document proving identity and birthdate is required.  Acceptable documents include:

  1. A passport
  2. A US birth certificate
  3. Certificate of Citizenship
  4. Permanent Resident card
  5. Foreign passport with unexpired visa I-94

There are several ways to obtaining the first 3 documents.  For most adoptees, the easiest form of ID to obtain is a passport.  And that’s the easiest document to provide for the driver’s license.  See here for California requirements.

Passport

For a passport, you will need a Certificate of Citizenship (mailed to you by USCIS after the adoption).  In addition, you can provide any ONE of the following

  1. Original passport (which you used to bring your child home)
  2. Original birth certificate (which your adoption agency may have a copy of)
  3. Driver’s license

See here for passport identification documents.

Certificate of Citizenship

When your child was adopted, they were most likely also declared a citizen.  As a result, you would have received a certificate of citizenship in the mail.  If you did not save this document, you can contact USCIS and ask for a copy.  In addition, you can ask USCIS for copies of all the original documents provided for your adoption (your child’s original birth certificate, original passport).

Click here to apply for replacement certificate of citizenship

Birth Certificate

You can get a US birth certificate by any of these 3 methods

  1. Do a “re-adopt” where you finalize your adoption in the US. Contact a local adoption attorney or agency to learn about the readopt process in your state.
  2. Bring the child home on guardianship, and finalize the adoption in a US court. In this case, the you will be issued a new birth certificate.  This is only applicable to certain countries (Hong Kong, Philippines).

In the Classroom: Acknowledging Foster and Adopted Children

 

 

As parents of six children, all school aged at adoption, we realized almost immediately, that adoption would need to be addressed in the classroom. We have been very involved in our children’s education, so have dealt with a lot of teachers! For the most part, we have been blessed to have amazing, nurturing and involved teachers, who truly wanted the best for our children. However, even the best teacher, may not be aware of how to be sensitive to the issues our children may encounter with some of the material presented in the classroom.

This week, I received an email from the PTA President, who’d requested the 5th grade parents to send in their children’s baby photos for the school yearbook. It brought up such sadness for me, as I thought about the children in the 5th grade at our school and others throughout the country, that would receive this assignment or others that request information or photos from early childhood. None of my children have a single photo of them as a baby or toddler.  Our youngest son looks at the early photos I took of him when he was six and refers to them as when he ‘was a baby.’ I sent a request to the PTA President to consider eliminating baby pictures from the yearbook as it highlights those children from foster care or international adoption who are unlikely to have those special photos. I was ignored, so I had to call in to the school principal.

There are a few school assignments through the years that are used to talk about genetics, family trees or a lifeline. I remember the second grade assignment to make a lifeline of major events for each year of the child’s life. I called the teacher and reminded her that my child and another child in the class that was in the foster care system, might not feel comfortable having their lives up on the wall for open house and all to see! The teacher began to cry and was very apologetic, offering to immediately cancel the assignment.

One of my daughters did the genetics assignment in school, ignoring the fact she was adopted, and identified her brown eyes coming from me and her blonde hair coming from her dad’s side of the family! I thought it was interesting that she did not want to make her story part of the assignment. It wasn’t that she was embarrassed by her adoption, or wanted to pretend her early years with her biological family did not exist. It was just that her adoption and anything related to it, even the color of her eyes, is her business, and she chose not to share her personal story in a school assignment with her peers in the classroom.

It is important that as parents, we encourage our children to feel comfortable sharing the parts of their story that they choose to share. School assignments need to include all of the students and include them in a safe, positive manner. At the beginning of each school year, I go to the school prior to the first day, introduce myself to my child’s teacher and share that my child was adopted and had some difficult years. I suggest that my child’s story is his or her own, and that we encourage sharing only if the child chooses.  Assignments need to be sensitive to that child’s history or lack of photos, etc. recognizing that for a child from Foster Care or Adoption, their story will be far different than other children in the classroom and may not be appropriate for sharing. I also provide a wonderful article from the U.S. Department of Education, “What Teachers Should Know About Adoption.” http://qic-ag.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/08/QICAG-Education-Brochure-v041-final.pdf I’d encourage all parents to help pave the way for their child, by following these steps, meeting with the teacher prior to the school year, giving a bit of general history, strengths and challenges of your child, along with this article. It can only help your child to feel more comfortable in the classroom and hopefully avoid some of these challenges.

Lifting the Adoption Community in Prayer

 

 

Whether you are waiting for an adoption placement, or hoping to prayerfully support a family in the midst of their adoption journey, here are some practical ways to pray for the adoption community.

Pray for Rest- adoptive families spend countless hours gathering documents and preparing for a child. There are visits before placement and after placement where a caseworker assesses their home and any family members-these visits can get exhausting.

Pray for Wisdom- at times there are unforeseen circumstances that arise in an adoption application and match process. The family, caseworker, a birthmom, must work through unexpected events that require wisdom and discernment.

Pray for Finances- the financial commitment can weigh heavily on a family. Unexpected expenses with travel or medical expenses can pop up. Finances for when they are able to care for a new child can continue far beyond an adoption agency fees.

Pray for Attachment- Family bonding and attachment are important when adopting a child both before and after the adoption process. This is relevant for both infant and older child adoptions.

Pray for the birthmom- pray for her journey in this process. She may not be supported in her decision for placement or may not even know if she is certain about placement. The unknown can be scary for both sides- adoptive parents and birthparents. Pray for the relationship between birthmom and adoptive family.

Pray for the Adoption agency and state/international regulations- the caseworkers, supervisors, courts for finalizations, foreign officials, all work in different capacities within adoption. This can be an emotionally taxing and physically demanding job, filled with uncertainty and uncontrollable obstacles. Workers who make day to day decisions that affect the family long term can to be lifted in prayer.

In what ways do you pray for the adoption community?

Autism Advocacy: Fight the Good Fight for Them!

 

In March 2017 my husband, daughter and I welcomed our son/brother into our family through international adoption. Anthony and I were beyond grateful for Nightlight Christian Adoptions, our home study agency and our adoption agency, MLJ Adoptions International Inc. requiring so much education prior to traveling that gave us the tools to begin the attachment process and to help Jonathan journey down the path of healing and connection. As we settled in at home, we knew to best help Jonathan we needed further education and took a TBRI Caregiver course that gave us invaluable information and went in depth on explaining trauma and how it affects connection. We did several in home sessions with Amie Cooper, the Flourishing Families TBRI Practitioner, which took all that we had learned and really tailored it to Jonathan and our family. We saw improvements with each session.

After a year of sifting through behaviors and recognizing some that were outside of the trauma realms, we decided to have Jonathan evaluated by a psychologist. His behaviors did in fact fall on the autism spectrum. For us nothing changed by having this diagnosis but for Jonathan this meant that the world would have a better understanding on how to help him. Doors opened for Jonathan for therapies that he so desperately needed. The public school system was able to meet Jonathan where he was and give him assistance he needed.

God has truly put a dream team together that supports him in every aspect, they genuinely care for him as a whole person and us. Now don’t get me wrong, it did take some time to find the right people but you are your child’s greatest advocate in every area! Fight the good fight for them. The best advice I could give a parent would be, don’t settle and trust your instincts because this can be portrayed as an invisible disability.

Because Jonathan sees the world differently, he has taught me to slow down, to look at the details. And I have learned more about dinosaurs and the human body than I ever knew! He really likes dinosaurs and learning how things work. When I look in his eyes, I see a child that is smart, brave and strong. I am so proud of Jonathan and all that he has accomplished. With his schedule full of therapies, he works harder than most kids his age. The first time I saw him draw a flower it brought tears to my eyes, to me it wasn’t just a flower, I saw all the hours his resource teacher, OT and so many more has poured onto him helping him. How do you say thank you to those people? The people that are helping our son manage his world around him, to learn skills that for most take for granted.

We truly believe being able to have the strong foundation established at the beginning through TBRI practices along with the help of Flourishing Families, we were able to enter into the second year advocating for Jonathan successfully as we continued to connect and grow as a family. Jonathan has already touched so many people in his life I know God has big plans for him and am humbled to be able to be his mom and to see God work in his life.

If you are a foster or adoptive family in the State of South Carolina, be sure to check out Flourishing Families and the services they provide at https://www.flourishingfamiliessc.org/

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

~Anthony and Jennifer G.

Always Hope

 

In our years of waiting to build our family, we would often lose hope that it would ever happen. We would question if the word hope even existed. And when we started seeing others build their family, we would often feel defeated and hopeless in our journey.

While we were waiting, I went on a missions trip with our church. At the end of each day, we were asked where we saw God working in our daily task. We knew the question was coming so we began to look for God working throughout the day. Our answers varied—sometimes we saw God working in a conversation with a person, sometimes it was through a kind act, or sometimes it was God creating something sacred in us individually. It became the start of something new for me–to look for God in the daily. He’s already there….but when you look for God..you see God clearer and you don’t miss a moment. You have a perspective change.

I began to write down where I saw God in the daily moments and interactions. He was in the little notes left by my husband, He was in the conversations I had with friends, and He was often found in my workplace…a homeless shelter. He was reaching me in ways I never noticed before. He was in moving in my daily and creating beauty all around me….and I finally began to see it.

As I began to see Him more clearly, I quickly saw where He was leading me. He was leading me back to hope. Step by step..….He knitted our story together. He knew our future child and her birthparents…..He already knew how our story would unfold. Seeing God and being thankful in God for what he has done, grew my confidence of what he’ll continue to do, both in the daily and in the bigger moments. This ultimately rekindled my hope. We seek Him. We thank Him. We build our hope in Him.

You have to create your own hope…and hope for me came from creating a thanksgiving spirit. When you become thankful…you become hopeful. Always. And being hopeful will completely change your perspective of the adoption process. We have to protect our view of the process, because adoption is the most beautiful adventure this mama has ever experienced. Always Hope.

Ellen and Tim Van Treuren: An Embryo Adoption Journey

One of the best ways to learn about the embryo adoption journey is to hear about the experiences of someone who has taken this approach to overcoming their infertility challenges. Ellen and Tim Van Treuren are one couple that decided embryo adoption was the right path for them to start the family they had dreamed of. And, as a wonderful gift to other couples who are considering embryo adoption, they chronicled their journey in a series of videos.

The Van Treurens begin with their introduction to Nightlight Christian Adoptions and the Embryo Adoption Program, and their homestudy experience. Ellen and Tim describe the incredible opportunity that embryo adoption provides to couples struggling with infertility, but also the challenges they faced. They share their experience with the matching consultation, getting matched and submitting adoption contracts.

They also recorded a video breaking down the shipping process. In another, Ellen and Tim provide details on the pre-transfer process they went through to prepare for their first transfer attempt, and then a post-transfer update. They go on to share their heartache after a failed first transfer, but then show determination leading up to the pre-transfer process for their second attempt. Finally, they give viewers the exciting news of a successful transfer, Ellen’s pregnancy and the impending birth of their baby boy!

The Van Treurens also answer the most frequently asked questions from people who have viewed their recordings or heard about their embryo adoption journey in an FAQ video.

Learn more about Nightlight Christian Adoptions and the Snowflakes Embryo Adoption and Donation Program by watching these interesting and informative videos and by visiting our website at www.Snowflakes.org.

What is Secondary Infertility?

 

 

Last Wednesday, social media was flooded with photos of siblings—it was National Siblings Day! Some of you may frequently remember your brothers and sisters with fondness and great memories. Others may be reflecting on the colossal efforts you have made to have civil relationships with each other.

Siblings Day is a day of celebration, but it is also a day to acknowledge that not everyone has an easy time getting to a baby, let alone a sibling for their child!

Infertility does not exclusively occur with couples who are trying to start a family for the first time. Some are still facing infertility, even after they have brought a child into their home. They may desperately wish to give their child a sibling but it ends up being more difficult than they realized. This is called secondary infertility. According to the Mayo Clinic, secondary infertility is the inability to successfully achieve pregnancy or carry a baby to term after previously having a child.

Secondary infertility can come as a shock to many couples. And there are several emotions that come with the diagnoses: grief, guilt, shame, and even depression. However, through embryo adoption, a couple can still have hope to successfully expand their family.

Celebrating National Siblings Day does not look the same for every family. Siblings are more than just blood and DNA. There is no right way to grow your family—just look through some social media posts to see the countless unique ways families’ across the country celebrate their siblings. If you want more information on growing your family in a unique way, visit Snowflakes.org to learn more.

Adoption from a Sibling’s Perspective

 

My brother came home on my 5th birthday! He was the best birthday present! Admittedly, I was a bit disappointed he was too little to play school, play dolls or go to the park. He had a beautiful smile and I didn’t mind even when he cried or needed a diaper change. He was ‘my’ baby brother! My sister was born almost 2 years later. Although she and I look very much alike and share the same genetic make up, my brother is just as much my sibling! I loved having younger siblings most of the time. However when doing something embarrassing, like playing with their food at a restaurant or acting annoying, I would ask my parent ‘what they were thinking, having more children?’ It never really occurred to me that there was any difference in my siblings. Either they were annoying or cute, sometimes together and sometimes separately. But, I never questioned our relationship. As adults, we don’t always agree on issues, but we love one another and stand up for one another.

Our children are not all biologically related, yet they are siblings. They all share us as parents. At times like me, they have ups and downs with their siblings. Alliances and arguments occur between siblings just as they do between political entities. When our girls were little, I once heard them arguing and was heading towards their room to intervene, when I heard one of them say, ‘We need to fix this fast or Mama will come in and make us talk!’ I turned around to let them resolve their differences. There can be rivalry between siblings if they are close in age, are jealous of a family relationship or just because they are siblings. Just as I had to get used to having 2 siblings, so my children have adjusted to our successive adoptions and new siblings added to our family.

It is important to plan and recognize that adoption affects all members of the family. Home grown children will have to adjust to the new adoptee just as the new adoptee will have to get used to and develop a relationship with all family members. It’s like a jigsaw puzzle, where you have to figure out where each person fits in your family, just as you determine where each piece of the puzzle fits. Adjustment and acceptance takes time, effort and a commitment to love and family. It does not happen right away, but with time, shared experiences and a lot of patience and encouragement.

 

Below are some some articles about siblings and adoption. I hope you find them helpful!

 

Articles:

The Influence of Adoption on Sibling Relationships – British Journal of Social Work Vol 47, issue 6.

https://academic.oup.com/bjsw/article/47/6/1781/4554334

Rivalry with an Adopted Sibling – Regina Kupecky, Adoptive Families journal

https://www.adoptivefamilies.com/adoption-bonding-home/rivalry-with-newly-adopted-sibling-older-child/

The Sibling Connection – Lois Molina, Adoptive Families journal

https://www.adoptivefamilies.com/parenting/sibling-relationships-biological-or-not/

Welcoming a New Brother or Sister Through Adoption  by Aleta James 

 

Some good children’s books on adoption and sibling relationships:

‘A New Barker in the House’ by Tomie dePaula

Bringing Asha Home by Uma Krishnaswami

 

Understanding the Adoption Tax Credit

 

Has anyone you’ve ever known (perhaps even you) had a deep and sincere desire to grow their family through adoption, but its price tag was so overwhelming and discouraging that they concluded there is no way I could EVER afford to adopt?

And if that’s you, I truly understand.  Unfortunately, adoption is expensive and many of us do not have unlimited funds to be able to afford adoption. But before you decide that adoption isn’t an option because of the price, I implore you to educate yourself on the financial resources available to adoptive families, especially the Adoption Tax Credit. The Adoption Tax Credit can help families reduce their federal tax liability and greatly offset the costs of the adoptive process. For adoptions finalized in 2018, the adoption tax credit is up to $13,810 per child.

There is a lot of information on the web about the Adoption Tax Credit. Below are a few creditable resources that I want to share with you. It’s a spring board to your understanding of the tax credit.…And now for the mandatory legal disclaimer.…I’m in no way, shape or form, a tax professional nor am I endorsing any of the links. Please consult your tax professional for how you can receive the maximum benefits from the Adoption Tax Credit….and now, on with the show.

 

Here are a few online informative articles about the 2018 Adoption Tax Credit:

  • North American Counsel on Adoptable Children (NACAC): Adoption Tax Credit 2018:

https://www.nacac.org/help/adoption-tax-credit/adoption-tax-credit-2018/

  • Considering Adoption: How to Claim the 2018 Tax Credit:

https://consideringadoption.com/general/2018-adoption-tax-credit

  • The IRS:

https://www.irs.gov/taxtopics/tc607

 

 

Here are two YouTube videos that I found informative:

  • Rules for Claiming 2018 Adoption Tax Credit – How Can I Claim the Adoption Tax Credit?

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kjF9bIbIml8

  • The Adoption Tax Credit // Explained Simple By A Foster Mom

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=09L0xJVlG_g

 

 

Please do not let the sticker shock of adoption or your lean financial portfolio be the only reason you do not pursue adoption. Do your research, talk to financial professionals and, if God has etched it onto your heart, never say never!

 

“The greatest legacy one can pass on to one’s children and grandchildren is not money or other material things accumulated in one’s life, but rather a legacy of character and faith”– Billy Graham

Discussing Adoption Through Story Books

 

Finding just the right adoption book for your child can be daunting. When my daughters –who are now 28 and 31 years old– were young, there were very few books from which to choose, and quite frankly, I found the content very narrow. For example, one book told how a mommy bunny placed her baby bunny for adoption due her not being able to care for her little baby bunny. Some parents felt the book presented mommy bunny needing to make an adoption decision based solely on her lack of financial resources. A woman’s lack of funds then begs the question, as pronounced by one little adoptee, “Mommy, why didn’t you just send my birth mother money?” While it is true that finances often play a factor in a women’s decision to make an adoption plan, there are many reasons why an expectant women and her partner may choose not to parent. Addressing why an adoption plan is made is often avoided in adoption books. Some books just tell the joy of the adoptive parents and the child. Some topics, such as abuse and neglect, may be too delicate to overtly state in a book directed at the very young; while stories of Chinese adoptions must either tackle or avoid the issue of abandonment.

With so many books from which to choose, how do you, as a parent, decide which ones are appropriate for your child and her particular situation and her age? Predicting how your child may react to a book can be complicated.

First, you want to consider your child’s adoptive relationship with you. For example, your child may not be legally adopted by you. If your child is in a guardian or relative placement, then a book that discusses various family compositions, without mentioning adoption, may be appropriate, such as The Family Book by Todd Parr.

If your child is or has been in foster care, you may want to read Murphy’s Three Homes: A Story for Children in Foster Care by Jan Levinson Gilman. To learn more about other books that address issues of loss, grief, shame, confusion, fear and attachment for children in foster care, visit this YouTube Review of Books for Children in Foster Care.

For those who have adopted an infant, Tell Me Again About the Night I Was Born, by Jamie Lee Curtis, is a favorite. This book tells the story of the parents’ excitement of getting a call to receive their newborn infant. The focus is on the parents and the baby. It really could be a book about any baby entering a family—If only the mom had been in labor instead. It does not address adoption issues, and could be a first book for small children in which you with your child can begin the adoption discussion.

When wanting to share what makes your child unique, you can reach for One Wonderful You by Francie Portnoy. The author states, “You are unique because you are a wonderful blend of two families…”

Shaoey and Dot, by Mary Beth and Steven Curtis Chapman, is narrated by a ladybug who accompanies a baby abandoned in China who is then be placed in an orphanage, adopted, and then flown home with her parents. The ladybug shares its feelings and could be a springboard for discussing other strong and sensitive emotions with your child.

 

There is a plethora of books available. So before you present a book to your child, read it first. Also, see what comments/reviews are written regarding the book. As noted, there are YouTube and other platforms to learn more about each book.

 

Although many of the children’s books do not address serious topics, this does not mean your child is not thinking about his birth parents or why he was placed for adoption, abandoned, or removed from his birth parents. These are tough subjects, so make story time very special by creating a cozy and secure setting—free of distractions. Leave plenty of time to talk out questions and feelings your child may have. If you quickly read such a book—especially just before bed—your child may still have some unresolved feelings that can make sleep difficult.

 

As you read books—not necessarily just adoption books—start with the simple. If a book has lots of words and fewer pictures, and may be more than your child can absorb, you can just pare it down. Even non-adoption books can be used to bring up feelings related to having parents, losing parents, as well as proper parental care, and being neglected. Asking questions in a calm and tender way, can help elicit thoughts and feelings from your child that he may not otherwise share.

 

Here are ways to introduce adoption topics to your child at each stage:

 

Pre-school. You can start with the Three Little Bears—a non-adoption book. There is a mommy and daddy, and baby bear. Discuss with your child what the mommy may be thinking. Ask such questions as, “Why would mommy and daddy bear want baby bear’s porridge to be ‘just right’”? Such questions can lead the child, who may have come from a difficult past, to discuss what it may be like to have little food or not to have a mommy who carefully fed her child. You could ask your child, “How do you think the mommy bear fed her little cub?” Then you, as the parent, can show your child how you may have fed her if she were your little bear. You may also discuss with your child how you are sad you could not be there to have fed her porridge when she was just a tiny little bear.

 

Even if the author of an adoption books tends to avoid difficult topics, you can later bring more negative aspects of a child’s life into the story. For example, after reading in the story of Tell Me Again About the Night I Was Born, for the zillionth time, you may ask, “Why do you think the baby is going to a new mommy and daddy?” From there you can discuss reasons why a child may be placed for adoption. You can ask, “How do you think the baby’s birth mother and father may have been feeling that night?”

 

School-Age: At this stage some of the picture story books may be too “babyish” for your child, but you can use them as a way to snuggle and have the child read to you. Ask your child questions about the various characters and what they may be feeling. “What are some reasons why the baby was carefully placed in a basket and left where people could find her?” “What do you think it was like for a baby or child to be in an airplane going to his new home?”

 

Middle-School: This is a time when you address more serious and negative issues about adoption. In fact, by this time most children should know their full adoption history—regardless of how difficult their past. You may want to read one page while your child reads another page so the reading is a shared experience and feelings can be discussed.

One such book is Pictures of Hollis Wood, a Newbery Honor, written by Patricia Reilly Giff. The fictional story notes:

Hollis Woods

is the place where a baby was abandoned
is the baby’s name
is an artist

is now a twelve-year-old girl
who’s been in so many foster homes she can hardly remember them all.

 

High School into Young Adulthood:

 

By this time, teenagers are selecting their own books. However, issues may arise and you may feel the need to have a book that helps you with the complex conversations. One such book is Telling the Truth to Your Adopted or Foster Child, by Betsy Keefer and Jayne E. Schooler.

 

Regardless of what books you read or even if you make up your own stories and revisit your child’s lifebook, what matters is that you consider your child’s feelings, you discuss serious topics, you are empathic and sensitive to your child’s past, and you help your child know that while the past may not have been “normal,” your child is viewed by you as a precious person who can have fulfilling and blessed future.