The Joy of Adoption. The Miracle of Life.

Heartwarming stories for the Holiday Season…

Best of Greeley Article
by Kimberly Tyson

Hannah Strege is like most American teenagers. She likes to hang out with her friends. She listens to music and watches funny YouTube videos. She’s planning where she will go to college and hopes to become a physician’s assistant. She likes to eat pizza and go to movies. Yes, Hannah is an American girl.
Hannah’s parents, Marlene and John Strege, are delighted to have their American girl!

Back in the 90’s, the Streges were wondering if they would ever have a girl or a boy as they faced the stresses of an infertility diagnosis. As they discussed treatment options with their physician. Since the advent of Assisted Reproductive Technologies (ART), fertility clinics have been assisting patients achieve pregnancy through a treatment known as in vitro fertilization (IVF). Often, more embryos are created for the IVF treatment than are eventually used by the patient, thus creating a surplus of cryo-preserved embryos. Marlene asked her clinic if they had available embryos in frozen storage.

Marlene and John had already determined that they were not comfortable with creating more embryos through IVF, especially if it meant using donated human eggs. But this idea of using embryos that were waiting in frozen storage was intriguing. Marlene decided to seek out advice from life-long friend and experienced adoption attorney, Ron Stoddart and from several spiritual advisors, including Dr. James Dobson, to determine if using donated human embryos should be considered at all.

Simply being assigned anonymously donated embryos from a fertility clinic was not the procedure John and Marlene wanted to follow. They worked with Mr. Stoddart to develop the first embryo adoption program in the world, now known as the Snowflakes® Embryo Adoption Program. The Streges and Stoddart decided to name the program Snowflakes because like a delicate snowflake each embryo is frozen, unique and a gift from God. The program was officially established in 1997 as a division of Nightlight® Christian Adoptions.
Using the best practices of adoption, the Snowflakes program helps couples who have completed their family select another couple to donate their remaining embryos to in order to give those embryos a chance to be born. Hannah is Snowflake baby #1! She was born on January 31, 1998 and placed into the wondrous and grateful arms of her parents.

Fast forward to June 3, 2017. On this day, baby Marley was born to her parents Marty and Elizabeth, a healthy 8lb, 1.3oz, 20.5” girl. While Hannah (Snowflake baby #1) was born in 1998, Marley’s embryo was created in a petri dish and frozen in 1998. She was born nearly 18 years later after her parents adopted her and gave birth to her. Marley is Snowflake baby #470.

Experiencing pregnancy and childbirth is the primary motivation of most families who choose embryo adoption over other forms of adoption. It’s also an economical alternative, often costing much less than IVF or the domestic adoption of an infant. There are over 1,000,000 embryos in frozen storage in the U.S.; not all will be donated for reproduction, but Snowflakes provides potential donors with a life-giving choice for their remaining embryos.

The Snowflakes program is managed right here in Loveland, CO, serving clients throughout the country and the world. In 2017, Snowflakes will celebrate its 20th anniversary and the birth of the 500th Snowflake baby!

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Embryo Quality: Choosing Life

How important is embryo quality? There are a variety of methods used by medical professionals to grade frozen human embryos, projecting the likelihood of pregnancy success. However, many healthy children have been born from embryos given a poor quality rating by the medical community. Dr. Jeffrey Nelson of HRC Fertility helps us gain some understanding about this frequently misunderstood topic.

These videos were produced by Nightlight Christian Adoptions and supported by grant #1EAAPA151027 from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Its contents are solely the responsibility of the authors and do not necessarily represent the official views of the Department.

Webinar: Embryo Adoption: Dispelling the Myths

Webinar: Embryo Adoption: Dispelling the Myths

Couples who have been unsuccessful at IVF will also not have success if they try to adopt an embryo. True or False? Parents don’t need to tell their children that they came from a donor conception. Adoption agencies charge exorbitant fees for embryo adoption services, the same cost as IVF. What is the truth? Let’s uncover the facts about these questions and more – ranging from the cost of an embryo adoption to the quality of embryos required by clinics assisting embryo adoptions around the country.

Watch Webinar >

Hobbs’s Story

Mommy! Daddy! – For a decade we dreamed of hearing those words.  In 2005, our beautiful Guatemalan born daughter, Kaili, made our dream a reality.   Parenthood was all we had imagined and more.   In 2010, we began the process again with the country of Panama.  The program was newly formed so we expected a slower process.   What no one could predict was the amount of time it would truly take.  As the years rolled by, we prayed continually for the child we knew God had planned for us.   I will admit there were times we questioned ourselves, wondering if we should keep up the hope of another child. We finally made the heartbreaking decision to stop the adoption process. We decided no more home study updates, no more fingerprinting, and no more expense.  On September 22, 2015, a few short months after we had decided to discontinue, God revealed His plan.  We got the miracle call!  After 4 years of waiting for a referral, when we had decided to discontinue, when there was no “reasonable explanation” for how it happened, we learned that there was a child in Panama waiting for us.  We sobbed as we soaked in the miracle of our new daughter.  As if time hadn’t taken long enough, another 5 months slowly passed before we could kiss her sweet cheeks in person.  It had been such a long wait but our journey was far from over.   We were expected to stay in country 3-4 months to finalize her adoption.  However, on numerous occasions foreign politics prevented our case from moving forward.  We would take one step forward and 2 steps back.   Eight months later, we finally returned home with our beautiful 2-year-old, Kaya.    In all, our journey spanned six and half years.  It wasn’t what we had planned but in the end as we peer into her smiling chocolate eyes, we know God’s timing is perfect.  …….Damon and Meridith Hobbs.

Wait for the Lord; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the Lord! Psalm 27:14

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Snowflakes Pages

Nightlight Christian Adoptions is in the process of building some new pages to highlight our Snowflakes embryo adoption and donation processes. Stay tuned for easy to access information.

On September 8, 2016, the US Deprtatment of State issued new rules that will severely limit intercountry adoption.  So far, over 30 Hague accredited agencies have signed a letter expressing that they wish these rules to be abandoned.  You can sign the petition and read more at www.saveadoptions.org 

CONCERNED UNITED STATES INTERCOUNTRY ADOPTION AGENCIES
ACCREDITED BY THE COUNCIL ON ACCREDITATION
UNDER THE HAGUE CONVENTION ON INTERCOUNTRY ADOPTION

September 20, 2016
The Honorable John Kerry, Secretary of State
The Honorable Michele Thoren Bond, Assistant Secretary, Bureau of Consular Affairs
Department of State, United States of America
Washington, DC 20522

RE: 81 FR 62321; 22 CFR 96; Document Number 2016-20968

Dear Secretary Kerry and Assistant Secretary Bond,

The undersigned adoption agencies, accredited by the Council on Accreditation under the Hague standards on intercountry adoptions, respectfully request that the proposed rules published by the Department of State on September 8, 2016, be withdrawn immediately. The proposed rules, which we believe are unnecessary and discriminatory against accredited adoption agencies and foreign child welfare officials, represent an attempt by representatives of the State Department to exercise subjective and anti-adoption influence and control over the field of intercountry adoption. The rules fail to identify what problems or issues they seek to address, are an effort to control rather than regulate intercountry adoptions and create conflicts in law that cannot be resolved.

We have seen the number of intercountry adoptions decline by 75% since 2004 and the proposed rules would further restrict adoptions, leaving hundreds of thousands of children who may otherwise be adopted with no hope for a family. These proposed rules hurt orphan children and remove what little hope they have for a family. The Department of State should be an advocate and champion for these vulnerable children around the world and not promulgate regulations that will leave these children in a worse position. We favor sound, ethical and transparent intercountry adoption practices.

Our primary objections to the proposed rules include, but are certainly not limited to:

1. Through the Country Specific Accreditation (CSA) category, the rules create a two-tier accreditation system with a “super accreditation” for certain countries with as-yet undefined subjective standards to be determined at a later date and subject to discriminatory application to favored agencies. Foreign countries have no input into whether their country would be subjected to such a “super accreditation” process for agencies which have already been accredited here in the United States and may have also already been licensed to work in their countries. This rule is a blatant abuse of power.
2. Requiring prospective adopting families to complete foster family training at the state level, with no cost to the family, is a naïve and ill-conceived approach to improving current training requirements for families. Just a few calls made to foster care officials across the nation reveal that opening foster family training to intercountry adopting families at no cost is an entirely unrealistic expectation and the uniform reaction was shock at yet another federal government mandate with no funding. Moreover, the lack of access to foster family training provided by the states will certainly extend an already lengthy adoption process, thereby extending the time period that vulnerable children remain institutionalized causing them further harm. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, the kind of additional child specific training which would benefit families is not even available through foster family training.
3. The Department of State seeks to impose potentially unlimited and uninsurable liability on agencies for supervising individuals in foreign countries when the level of supervision and control is neither legally allowable (in the case of foreign attorneys or government-run orphanages) nor possible. The current regulations require agencies to carry a minimum of $1 million of professional liability insurance. Discussions with insurers have verified that the cost of insurance for expanding coverage to include individuals or organizations in foreign countries is more than financially prohibitive but would drive the cost of intercountry adoption higher and would probably not even be available.
4. In an attempt to further control the activities of agencies in foreign countries, the proposed rules seek to broaden the activities which are subject to agency supervision to include individuals such as interpreters, guides and drivers under the guise of the word “facilitating” an adoption. “Facilitating” remains undefined in the proposed regulations and leaves it open to the broad, unfettered discretion of the Department and the accrediting entity.
In an unprecedented overreach, the proposed rules also seek to fix the compensation of in-country workers assisting the adoption agencies and adopting families. Rather than simply requiring disclosure, so that prospective adopting families can compare the amounts due for all parts of an adoption, the Department of State seeks to determine what is “reasonable” without any prescribed methodology, guidance, input or supervision, again giving the Department discretion exceeding the scope permissible by law. There is no assurance that foreign workers assisting one agency will be restricted to the same compensation of workers assisting another agency; another path for the subjective, inequitable treatment of agencies. Nowhere else in federal regulations does the government seek to set a maximum level of compensation, and it should not be permitted here.
5. Unlike the initial Final Hague Rules, published February 15, 2006 after 2 ½ years of consultation with the adoption community, adoption agencies, and experts from a wide variety of disciplines, the proposed rules issued on September 8, 2016 offer no rationale or need for rule changes and demonstrably will result in the further decline in the number of intercountry adoptions. It is a proposed solution for a problem that either has not been identified publicly or simply does not exist.

Orphaned children face a dismal future and those remaining in orphanages are the demographic most at risk for trafficking. We ask that the Department of State demonstrate a commitment to adoption as an effective means of protecting vulnerable children and keeping their hope alive by immediately withdrawing the proposed rules.

Sincerely,

Signed and endorsed by the listed Endorsing Agencies Below

Cc: Office of Legal Affairs, Overseas Citizens Services, U.S. Department of State, CA/OCS/L, SA-17,

Floor 10, Washington, DC 20522-1710

Endorsing Hague Accredited Agencies

ABC Adoption Services, Inc.
Across the world Adoptions
Adoption Associates
Adoption by Shepherd Care
Agape of Central Alabama
A Helping Hand Adoption
Amazing Grace Adoptions
America World Adoption Association
Building Arizona Families
Carolina Adoption Services
Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Arlington, Inc.
Catholic Charities Center for Family Services, Baltimore
Christian Adoption Services, NC
Cradle of Hope Adoption Center
Embracing Children Adoption Services
Embraced by Grace Adoptions
Family Connections, Inc.
Generations Adoptions
Great Wall China Adoptions / Children of All Nations
Homestudies and Adoption Placement Services
Hope’s Promise
Hopscotch Adoptions, Inc.
International Child Foundation
Joshua Tree Adoptions
Little Miracles Adoption Agency
Michael S. Goldstein, Esq
New Beginnings International Children’s and Family Services
New Horizons Adoption Agency, Inc.
Nightlight Christian Adoptions
Open Door Adoption Agency, Inc.
Premier Adoption Agency, Inc.
Small World, Inc.
The Gladney Center for Adoption
Vista Del Mar Adoptions
Wasatch International Adoptions
West Sands Adoptions
World Links International Adoption Agency
More agencies to come soon…we’re just getting started.

Other Endorsing Organizations

KidSave

Harvard Law School Child Advocacy Program

A Different Perspective on Disruption

A Different Perspective on Disruption

 

When I began working in the field of adoption, I brought with me my experience as a father of two adopted children.  That experience told me adoption is forever. In fact, I swore this to the judge.  I had difficulty with my children adopted from the foster care system, but I never wavered in my family-forever mindset.  With that mindset I began leading an adoption agency and heard about families who were disrupting, dissolving, or re-homing.  My understanding of the matter was simple…it’s wrong.  My adoption was forever, my promise to the judge was forever, and my definition of adoption means forever.  I harbored only judgment and resentment for families who would disrupt.  It was not a complicated issue.

I am a pretty opinionated person, and I can’t recall many issues where I have reversed my thinking.  But I heard John Bergeron speak at a conference about disruption. His words etched in my memory, “there are times when the needs of the child are not a good fit for the abilities of the parents.”  John reversed my thinking on disruption.

You see, I not only entered the field of adoption as an adoptive father, but with a Ph.D. in pastoral counseling.  John’s words matched with my experience in family counseling.  In our democratic society we would like to think that all couples have equal parenting abilities.  But this is simply not the case.  We speak of people having “their plate full.”  But the truth is, people have different size plates.  Some parents are simply more skilled than others.  Some children present more difficult than others.  Not every couple is skilled enough to meet the needs of every child.

Now some may object that “biological families don’t dissolve just because the needs of the child aren’t a good fit for the skills of the parents.”  But this is not the case.  The instance of international adoptions dissolving is lower than dissolutions of other types of families.  Every foster placement involves the dissolution of a biological family…where the biological parents are not prepared to parent.  Every voluntary domestic adoption involves a birthmother and birthfather, who recognize that they are not prepared to parent and make a decision regarded as heroic.  Parents often foster children with the complete intent of adoption, but as the adoption progresses over the next year they decide the placement is not a good fit. This is a disruption.

Some may say that John’s statement that “the needs of the child are not a good fit for the abilities of the parents” is a euphemism.  Perhaps a euphemism for “horrible parents” or “horrible kid.”  But in our work with dissolution, we have made a surprising observation.  Dissolution often causes children to thrive.  It is a tragedy, but it is not the type of tragedy people think or assume.  There is a tragedy in a family’s hopes and expectations being shattered.  There is a tragedy in a child failing to find permanence.  But in EVERY case where Nightlight has participated in dissolution, the child has found a better placement.  We wouldn’t participate if this were not the case.   In other words, dissolution can be in the best interest of the child.  Who would want a child to remain in a situation where they are despised, or misunderstood, or unable to have their needs met?

A simple observation illustrates that dissolution can be not only a “comparative good,” (the lesser of two evils) but a great improvement for children.  Many dissolutions begin with an adoptive family no other children at home, and the new adoptive family has four, six, or more children in the home.  A typical dissolution involves an older couple who becomes accustomed to living alone, but grieve over being childless.  The presentation of a child in their home comes with a “reality check” that their expectations about parenting were unrealistic.  Having children turns out not to be what they envisioned.  The typical replacement family has several children, often by adoption, and finds parenting the child to be less challenging than the previous family.  This is for several reasons: the second family is more experienced, they have “a larger plate,” (more parenting skills), a distinct calling, more realistic expectations about children, and a lifestyle adapted to having children.

At Nightlight, we have a dissolution prevention plan.  We believe dissolution should be prevented. This plan includes actions before the adoption occurs, such as extensive education requirement, creation of a post-adoption support plan, discussion of realistic expectations, and gaining knowledge about the specific child to be adopted.  The dissolution prevention plan also includes actions after the family begins to struggle, such as offering respite care, connection with doctors, counselors, and special educators, offering free counseling with our social workers, connection with other experienced adoptive parents, adoption support group, and provision of other educational materials.

But at times it becomes clear that a child is far more likely to thrive in a replacement family.  For this reason, we do not have a conviction that dissolution is always wrong, or that it should never occur.   If people assume that “the child is the problem,” then they also mistakenly assume that the dissolution could have been prevented if the family had more preparation or more information about the child in advance (and perhaps weeded out the child from eligibility for adoption).  And if people assume “the couple is the problem” then they mistakenly assume the dissolution could have been prevented if the home study weeded them out.  But what if the FIT is the problem?  What if the child is likely to thrive with one couple, but not with another? In rare instances it will only become clear after the placement that the skills of the parents are not a good match with the particular needs of that child.  In these cases, surprisingly, you will see social workers who advocate FOR dissolution.  Tragic in one, regard, but a great opportunity for the child and improvement in their welfare.

Daniel Nehrbass, Ph.D. | President

Help Nightlight Christian Adoptions Win $20K!

Comcast Innovations for EntrepreneursHave you heard?! Nightlight has been chosen as one of 30 finalists in Comcast’s Innovations 4 Entrepreneurs contest! We need your help to be chosen as a one of six Grand Prize Winners that will win $20,000!

We entered the contest to gain funding that can help make the process of adopting easier for potential parents. Not only would we be able to help potential parents complete the adoption process online, we’d help them prepare for their adopted child by introducing an online education process. In order to meet these goals, we need to gain access to some existing software programs, which can often be expensive. And with that, we’d like to be able to customize the software to include some embryo adoption-specific enhancements.

At Nightlight, we’re all about helping more babies be born out of frozen storage with our Snowflakes Embryo Adoption Program. We also work to raise awareness about embryo adoption through the Embryo Adoption Awareness Center, which Nightlight runs. With more than 600,000 embryos in frozen storage in the U.S., our goal is to help them become the children they were meant to be, which we do by matching donor parents with adopting parents through an open adoption process.

So how can you help? Visit cbcommunity.comcast.com/i4e/vote, and vote daily through May 13, 2016. Only one vote per person, per day will count to help us out, so help us spread the word through social media!

Learn more about Comcast Business’ Innovations 4 Entrepreneurs contest online, and see our full essay on the voting page. Thank you for your vote!