Feel Good Friday: Reunification in Uganda

It was only yesterday that we welcomed baby Grace into our home.  She was born a preemie at 7 months and her mum plus sibling both passed away at birth. She weighed only 1.2 kgs and was still very under-developed, even the hospital didn’t expect Grace to make it.  She was feeding through an ng tube and her skin was so pale.  We spent the whole night praying that she would survive.  She was severely dehydrated and needed lots of care and feeding.  We fought, prayed and believed for Grace’s miraculous survival.  Little did we know that Grace was as much determined to make it as we were.  She was a fighter.

Today we celebrate a miracle as we see grace being reunited with her biological father.  We are in awe of this great and amazing journey of hope. Grace has grown into a beautiful and happy girl who is full of energy. She is a feisty girl and will fight her way through any crisis.  She is very strong willed, fearless, and opinionated.  She has a smile which is contagious, when she chooses to show it. 

Who knew that this little girl could actually be here to tell her story?  Who knew that this tiny baby would grow into a lovely and flamboyant beauty?  Who knew that even when people give up on you, God can actually redeem and restore?

Grace was loved by many.

We are so proud of the girl she is today.  We are so thankful for what God has done and continues to do in her life.  We are so grateful to God for giving us the opportunity to change her story.  We are so grateful that our hope was not in vain.

Grace was inconsolable on the day of reunification.  It was difficult to see her in tears as we said our farewell, but we were comforted that she was in the hands of her parents who were excited and very grateful to have her home.

It was a hard day for grace and her nanny as they bid farewell

Grace will always be loved and remembered in the home.  Her smile and energy are missed every day.  God has indeed been good and we can boldly say Ebenezer. 

—-Ken and Cathy Nganda (Tender Hearts Baby Home)

The Cost: An Analogy for Adoption Part 2

Nightlight’s most expensive international program is $28,000 in program fees.  Including all travel expenses and USCIS expenses, the adoption could cost as much as $49,000.  For a domestic program through Nightlight, you would pay only $24,000 in program fees.

In order to receive this child into your home, here is what you will need to pay for:

  • You will apply with US Immigration for approval to adopt (Building Permit: The salesman told me that the company would take care of all the steps related to the building permit and the permit would be about $700 which is included in the estimate of the room.) USCIS charges families $775 to process your application plus $85 for fingerprinting for each adult member of the household.  Agencies charge a fee to evaluate the safety of your family and complete a home study which is submitted with your application, essentially “taking care of” the building permit process”.
  • You are hiring specialized workers through your agency, such as, licensed therapists, social workers, and other social services degrees to conduct home studies, evaluate children’s files, and match families with children.
  • The agency must insure that the file of the child has been fully vetted and there are no other options for this child, such as, family members who could care for him. (Quality Materials and oversight)

In addition, the agency doing the work would need to cover the cost of:

  • liability insurance 
  • accreditation costs.
  • the adoption must meet all regulation requirements (building codes) and pass a “final inspection” when you apply for your child’s US visa.
  • your agency should be available for you and your child for life. The Adoption happens in an event, but a person’s adoption journey lasts a lifetime.  If at any point in the future, you need help, we are here for you.  Is that similar to a lifetime warranty?  I’ll let you be the judge.

As I sat and considered the amount of money need to add a room to my home, I realized that while I certainly would enjoy this room, it doesn’t even compare to the joy and reward of redeeming an orphan.

What is the cost of redemption?  Christ shed his blood on the cross so that you and I could be redeemed.  He paid it all!  Redemption is costly, and it is certainly more valuable than a room added on to my house.

“I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you.”  John 14:18

The Cost: An Analogy For Adoption Part1

Last weekend I visited the local Home and Garden Show and I was so inspired by the patio rooms displayed that I made an appointment for a salesman to visit my home. After talking with him about my desires for the room, he crunched the numbers. I had figured the room would cost around $25,000. After he crunched the numbers, the first price was $81,000! He said, “I’m sure that is a bit more than you were expecting.” Of course, after all the deals and discounts, the final price was $57,000. Then we discussed some adjustments, such as, making the room smaller. Ultimately, we were able to get the price down to a meager $42,000. After he left, I ultimately decided that adding this room to my home is just not in the budget for this year. However, I started thinking about the cost of this room and the fact that no one would ever question the validity of this cost. The company has a good reputation, and the rooms are made from the highest quality materials.

Yet, when discussing the cost of adoption, many people question the validity of the cost. Many feel that adoption should be free or at the very least the cost should be minimal. In the mind of some, no one should be employed in the world of adoption and everyone should volunteer. Over the years, I’ve heard comments made that it is “free” to adopt through the state. This is simply not true. While the adoptive family does not write a check to the local Department of Human Services, the employees are paid and the cost of the process is covered by tax dollars. If you look at statistics regarding the average cost to care for a child in foster care annually, you will find that private adoption is actually quite inexpensive.

So, how is it that building a room for $42,000 or even $57,000 is so easily accepted but adoption costs are seen as unfair?  Let’s look at this objectively.

In order to build this room onto my home, I would need to pay for the following:

  • Building permit
  • Materials-I want the best quality of course.
  • Specialized workers for foundation, glass, roof, etc.

In addition, the company doing the work would need to cover the cost of:

  • Insurance
  • Oversight
  • Shipping materials from the manufacturing plant to my home
  • The room will need to meet all building codes and pass a safety inspection
  • The company also offers me a lifetime warranty. If anything happens to the glass 20 years from now, they will send someone out to fix it.

How does this compare to adoption? Stayed tuned and read more next week!

 

Self Care for Parents

 

No matter how you became a parent (biological or through adoption), the journey can be tough at times.  Don’t get me wrong!  I love my two children, but there are some days that I find myself drained from the consistent routine of being the cook, maid, chauffeur, counselor and referee.  Parenting requires mental and emotional endurance.  In order to stay the course, parents need to build in time for self-care.  I know what you’re thinking.  “How on earth am I supposed to do that?”  I’m going to give you some things to consider.

  • Self-care is not selfish.

We’ve all heard the saying, “you can’t give to anyone else if your tank is on empty”.  This also applies to parenting.  As a mom, we seem to make sure that everyone else is happy and well taken care of before we care for ourselves.  This does not make you a bad person; however, if this is a consistent pattern, man your battle stations for burnout.  Please know that we must prioritize ourselves and our needs.  I know it’s hard to do when your toddler is stuck to you like Velcro, but you must make time for yourself.

 

  • Create and maintain a network of support.

Family, friends, church, local support group, therapist…all of these are examples of folks who will support you should you have any parenting struggles.  Leaning on others when we feel like we are struggling as parents is a great way to find comfort and seek guidance.  Personally, I’ve leaned on my mother, sisters, cousins and co-workers for advice.   Most importantly, I’ve asked the Lord for guidance.  Matthew 11:28-29 says “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest of your souls.”

 

  • Put it in writing.

Carve out time in your schedule for yourself.  Don’t wait for an hour to two to magically “open up” on your calendar.  We all know how hectic our lives can get—church, volunteering, soccer game, swim lessons, work obligations, etc.  Before we realize it, we’re heading into Saturday exhausted and irritable.  The message is clear—physically schedule time for yourself.  Ask your spouse or babysitter to watch the kids so that you can spend some time away.  Head to the park, the movies, a great book store, the nail salon or anywhere that recharges your battery.

 

Start with carving out just 20 minutes a day for yourself and go from there.  You’ll soon see the rewards (for yourself AND your family) of how crucial “me time” can be. 

Behavior Management for the Aggressive Child Part 1

So what do you need to know in order to manage aggressive behavior? First you need to adopt a philosophy of behavior management, then provide consistency and create a predictable and therapeutic environment.

It is important for the child and the family to be fully involved in planning their “system”. All aspects of the child’s “system” must be able to be understood by the child himself. Realize that all behavior is an attempt to meet a need and therefore has meaning. Relationships between the child and parent should provide opportunities for him/her to learn and practice appropriate ways to express feelings, manage daily tasks, and get needs met. Remember, children are best served by parents and families who practice teamwork.

Blending

What is Blending? Blending is a concept, which uses the strengths of the family, child, and the community.
  • Physical Blending = force with force/passive resistance
  • Verbal Blending = using non threatening and supportive language
  • Non Verbal Blending = using non threatening and reassuring techniques

Let’s have a look and get a better picture of Verbal and Non-verbal blending and become familiar with the roadblocks to these types of blending.

Here are some examples of Verbal Blending below:
  • Call the Child’s name and pull them to the side rather than redirecting them in front of their peers
  • Get information by asking questions
  • Use appropriate voice, tone, and volume
  • Use non-judgmental statements or questions
  • Use “We” statements rather than “You” or “I”
What are some common Roadblocks to Verbal Blending?
  • Ordering
  • Threatening
  • Excusing
  • Lecturing
  • Preaching
  • Prying
  • Diagnosing
  • Judging
  • Yelling
  • Arguing
  • Blaming
  • Condescending
Here are some examples of Non-Verbal Blending
  • Maintain a neutral and respectful facial expression
  • Be aware of your child’s spatial preferences
  • Walk away to avoid power struggles
  • Keep your arms out front or at your sides with your hands open
  • Look at your child, but don’t stare
  • Take slow, deep, easy breaths

What are some common Roadblocks to Non-Verbal Blending?
  • Eye rolling/Neck rolling
  • Disrespectful or disinterested facial expressions
  • Pointing, crossing your arms over your chest
  • Talking to your child while engaged in another tasks rather than giving them the attention they need

Realistic Expectations

Let’s talk about realistic expectations. What are our expectations of our children and are they realistic? There can be a danger in having too high of expectations as well as having to low of expectations. See some of the effects of both below.

Danger! What happens when my expectations are too high?
  • My child feels like failure
  • I feel frustrated
  • My child’s self-esteem is eroded

Danger! What happens when my expectations are too low?
  • My child may begin to doubt all abilities
  • I may see my child as lazy or irresponsible
  • My child may cease to grow in one or more areas

Now, with all that said, let’s stick to keeping expectations realistic! How do you do this?—by understanding adolescent development and how it affects behavior, modeling through my behavior to match expectations, and adjusting my expectations to match my child as a whole.

Avoiding the Misuse of My Power

As parents, the misuse of your power can render a child powerless, feed adolescent impulse control (aggression), and aggressiveness in the child—power struggles emerge, child becomes passive or over compliant, and depending on the aggressions, resulting in them being institutionalized.

Keys to Avoiding the Misuse of Your Power
  1. Be aware of your own stress level.
  2. “I will not say “no” when “yes” is just as easy.”
  3. Analyze your own use of power.
  4. “I will not use my power as a last resort to win a struggle with my child.”
  5. Some questions to ask when faced with a struggling child.
  6. What are you doing?
  7. What are you supposed to be doing?
  8. What’s going to happen if you keep doing what you are doing?
  9. Do you want that to happen?
  10. What are you going to do now?

Is Egg Freezing the Only Solution?

Egg freezing may be used to preserve future fertility for women. Mature oocytes (eggs) are harvested from a woman’s ovaries, flash-frozen (vitrified), stored, and are later thawed to create embryos using in vitro fertilization Recently, we came across a very informative video series in which a 29 year old woman records her egg freezing experience.

It has only been recently that researchers have become more confident in successfully freezing human eggs. More women are considering it for a number of reasons:

  1. Cancer or other medical treatments: Certain medical treatments — such as radiation or chemotherapy — can harm egg numbers and quality. Egg freezing allows women to potentially have biological children in the future.
  2. IVF: After an egg retrieval cycle, some of the eggs may be fertilized for a current pregnancy attempt and other eggs may be stored for future pregnancy attempts. Embryos are created on an as-needed basis.
  3. Fertility Preservation: A woman may choose to freeze her eggs when she is young, unmarried, and just beginning her career. Then when she is ready to begin having children, eggs will be thawed, fertilized, and transferred.

The last reason is becoming more popular. One of the most important factors in successful egg freezing is the age of the woman. Egg quality declines as women age, so the earlier they are frozen, the more likely the eggs will survive the freezing and thawing process.

But is the process, expense, time, and risk involved worth it?

Egg freezing is costly, both financially and emotionally. Each egg retrieval cycle takes several months and some women may have to complete more than one retrieval in order to secure enough eggs for future use. The procedure to harvest eggs from the ovaries costs about $10,000, which does not include the cost of the medication and hormone injections the woman has to take for several weeks to stimulate her ovaries. After the embryos are frozen, there is an annual storage bill, averaging $600.00 a year. And when the eggs are thawed, fertilized, and transferred to the uterus through an IVF cycle, the cost ranges from $5,000 – $12,000.

Of course, there is no guarantee a woman will be able to have genetic children in the future if they freeze eggs now.

Are there other options?

Yes! There is another successful option for achieving a pregnancy in the future without incurring the expense of egg freezing. It is called embryo adoption. Embryos that have already been created IVF cycles are made available to for adoption. The adopting family uses the embryos to achieve a pregnancy and give birth. There is no expense for egg retrieval. No painful procedures. It’s affordable. It’s proven successful.

Anyone considering freezing their eggs should be aware of this option for future pregnancies. To learn more about embryo adoption, visit www.Snowflakes.org.

What is an Open Adoption Plan?

Is contact with placing families important in an embryo adoption match? How do you establish an open adoption? The Hendersons and Gassmans are embryo placing and adopting families who were matched through the Snowflakes Embryo Adoption Program. Listen as the two couples tell their open adoption story and the steps they purposefully made to build trust and love into their new family tree.

There is much fear and uncertainty regarding choosing an open adoption plan. These two families share with you their determination to overcome fear, resulting in great relationships for their children and for themselves.

Ways to Stay Sane During Infertility

Infertility is stressful. It impacts a couple on every level; emotionally, physically, spiritually, financially, and relationally. When it feels like everyone around you has children, are talking about having children, or are pregnant, you feel alone. Normal everyday things like going to the grocery store can take courage.

Here are three things that you can do in the midst of the storm of infertility to stay sane.

  • Find at least one friend that you can be completely vulnerable with. A friend who will pray for you when you’re having a bad day and who will listen as you vent your anger and frustrations. A friend who will be an encourager to you when you’re deeply devastated because of another negative pregnancy test. One faithful friend is better than many acquaintances.

 “A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.”

Proverbs 17:17 

 “A man of many companions may come to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.” Proverbs 18:24

  • Find something you enjoy and do it often. Whether it is having a cup of your favorite coffee, binge watching that Netflix show, or spending time outside. Find something simple that brings you joy which you can look forward to once per week.
  • Give yourself grace. You need to do what is best for you. At times that might involve opting out of a family function, baby shower, or birthday party. Don’t feel guilty for knowing your limits.

Remember, your identity comes from Christ, not in your ability to bear children. The Lord has good plans for you, lean into Him and allow Him to guide your steps. He loves you more than you know!

 “The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit.” Psalm 34:18 

“For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.” Hebrews 4:15

“Answer me when I call, O God of my righteousness! You have given me relief when I was in distress. Be gracious to me and hear my prayer.”

Psalm 4:1 

Check Out These Helpful Links:

Birth Parents: Brave & Intentional

 

All members of the adoption triad play a profound role when considering any child’s adoption story. Birth parents are an irreplaceable piece to the puzzle, no matter what type of adoption being considered. They give life to children who, for whatever the reason, they are not parenting. Birth parents making an adoption plan for their child are brave, selfless, courageous, and, most of all, intentional. When many of us think about adoption, the word “orphan” is often one of the first words that comes to our mind. In many instances and for many reasons, sweet children who are waiting to be adopted do fit under this umbrella, and God has miraculous plans for them. There are no unwanted children, and while they may be earthly orphans for a time, they have a heavenly Father who never fails to see them or choose them. However, in most instances, little ones placed for adoption by birth parents are not orphans. Birth parents do not consider their children orphans, and birth parents who hear the word “orphan” in reference to the child they place for adoption often disagree, as these strong and honorable birth parents are purposeful and intentional about making a plan for their sweet little ones.

Birth parents making this decision do not take it lightly, wherever they are in their life. They not only have the courage to make the first contact with the adoption agency, but they also spend time considering the best openness plan for them and their child, the qualities they desire in an adoptive family, and the specific family who will raise, love, support, and nurture their child. The impact and magnitude of this decision is not lost on birth parents, as they search through families’ profiles books and videos and pray for their heart to point them in the direction of one family or another. No matter the amount of time a birth parent spends creating her adoption plan for her child, it is called a “plan” for a reason. Birth parents give life to little ones and choose to place them in another family’s arms, heart, and home.

It is no secret that adoption exists because of brokenness. When speaking with adoptive families and birth parents, I often refer to it as a “beautiful mess” as we make a plan for the little ones to come, and they truly appreciate the analogy—as we are all human and make mistakes on the journey of adoption. It is a beautiful, messy, sensitive, and somehow perfect ride as adoptive and birth families come together to make plans for little ones. Jody Landers’ popular quote about adoptive parenting paints a profound picture of adoption: “A child born to another woman calls me mom. The magnitude of that tragedy and the depth of that privilege are not lost on me.”

Birth parents are brave, and most importantly, they are intentional.

Hosting: Why it Makes a Difference

 

1995 was the first year Nightlight Christian Adoptions brought a group of children from a foreign orphanage for a hosting program. Children from a Russian orphanage had performed a wonderful program of traditional songs and dances for Ron Stoddart, Nightlight’s President, during his visit. He brought that group of children, ages 7-14, to California where they performed at churches, community parks and Disneyland. It was a success, as all of the children who came on that tour, ended up with permanent families. None of the families who hosted or saw the children perform and later adopted them, had any idea that they would be led to adopt after seeing and meeting those children. However, over the 23 years that Nightlight has sponsored tour programs, bringing well over 300 children to the US, the majority of those children have found permanent, forever families here in the US.

The intent was always to give these older children an opportunity to spend at least a few weeks in a loving, nurturing home with an intact, stable family. Even for those children who did not find their ‘forever family’, some by choice and some due to circumstances out of their control, they did have a wonderful vacation! Many of the children stay in touch with their host families long after the host experience. That is a reminder that the few weeks or month that a host child spends with the host family can be life-changing! My husband and I have hosted close to 70 children in our home over the past 23 years. It has been a wonderful experience for us and our children as we have been able to share our family with children from all over the world and learn more about their culture, while sharing ours. Our family is certainly a mixture of cultures as we adopted two of those hosted children, in addition to four others that were adopted internationally as ‘older children.’ It has been a reminder to our children about the children left behind, probably one of the reasons our children have always been such wonderful ambassadors, sharing about what it means to be adopted as an ‘older child.’

A few months ago, I was in a Starbucks waiting for my order. A young woman approached me and introduced herself. She had been on one of our earlier tours in the late 1990’s. I recognized her name and we hugged. She thanked me for bringing her on that tour! We reminisced and caught up on her life over the past 18 years. What an impact these hosting programs have had on the lives of the children and families!

Nightlight is partnering with Kidsave, a hosting organization, to bring children from orphanages in Colombia to stay with host families throughout the United States this summer. Ten children will be staying in Southern California, experiencing the ocean, bowling, museums, parks and likely Disneyland. When we ask the children towards the end of their stay about their most favorite part of their visit, we have received the same response consistently over the past 23 years. Over and over again, the children speak about the warmth and love showered on them by their host families. They certainly enjoy Disneyland and all the other activities, but it is the relationship they developed with the host family, over a period of a few weeks, that will last a lifetime! Nightlight has hosting programs during the summer and over the Christmas holiday season. Consider opening your home and heart to a child, hoping to spend some quality time with a family here in the US. Even if you are not able to host, there are other ways to participate, volunteering, donating funds towards their activities or the program itself. For those who host and volunteer, it is a wonderful opportunity to share your culture and learn about another culture, while giving a child the chance to possibly meet their forever family.