Home Safe Every Night

 

Today we have a guest blog post from Billy Cuchens, an adoptive father of children from Domestic Infant Adoption and Foster Care. He shares on an important issue to consider as a transracial adoptive family. (Heather McAnear, Post Adoption Center Coordinator)

We live a couple blocks from a Baptist church which holds bible study every Wednesday for middle school and high school students. Now that Daylight Savings has begun, we let Isaac ride his bike there and back. It seems like they don’t have a firm structure or end time, because every night around 8pm, we have same negotiation about his curfew.

I typically start by texting, “Hey, Buddy. Home by 830pm.”

Most nights he just responds, “Ok.” But tonight he texted back, “Can we make it 9?”

I respond, “Sorry. I don’t want you riding your bike home in the dark.”

“But we just started the lesson.” A few moments pass, then he responds, “Please.”

He understands I’m not suspicious that he would be up to anything. But he doesn’t understand that we’re not having him ride his bike home in the dark…even if he’s only fifteen houses away. When I was a kid, it seemed like parents were always telling us to watch out for cars or don’t talk to strangers. I guess their greatest fear was that we would get hit by a driver who wasn’t paying attention, or be kidnapped. But today, at least for Laurie and me, our greatest fear is a stranger seeing our boys alone in the neighborhood, assuming they’re up to no good simply because of race and gender, and taking action.

Isaac is thirteen years old, but he’s almost six feet tall and two hundred pounds. He’s also black. He hasn’t been a discipline problem since the day he came home. But to someone who has never met him, he could be seen as a threat.

Laurie and I try explaining our fears to friends and family, and some get it. But for the most part, people seem to think we’re paranoid. Or at least overly cautious. When the Trayvon Martin shooting happened, Laurie and I were and still are terrified the same could happen to our boys. To our family and friends, Isaac is this big, lovable jokester. “Oh that couldn’t happen to him,” they say when we share some of our fears with them. “Not to Isaac, he’s a good boy.” They don’t understand that to the outside world he is not an adorable little boy anymore.

Ultimately, we don’t need people to understand that we live in a biased and scary world. Nor do we need our boys to fully understand this either. At least not yet. Isaac has an idea of who Trayvon Martin was, but really he understands our rules simply because they’re Mom’s and Dad’s rules. As time goes by, we give him the information he needs as it comes up…stay on the sidewalk, don’t put your hoodie up, etc.  But we want him to be able to live in a world where he can still maintain the innocence of youth for as long as possible.

So he doesn’t think anything’s weird when I text him while he’s at bible study, “I’ll be heading to the grocery store and then meet you at the church at 9. I’ll drive alongside you as you ride your bike home.” When I arrive, he flashes me a big grin and waves goodbye to his friends, not at all embarrassed at how ridiculous we look as we pull out of the church’s parking lot side-by-side. We ride the three streets it takes to get home together, at about ten miles an hour, and talk about our day. Then when we get home, he takes a shower and I make him a snack. As he’s getting his pajamas on, we can hear him dancing around and singing a praise and worship song. Finally he comes downstairs in his men’s XL bathrobe, gobbles the snack I made, and gives me a big bear hug. “G’night, Daddy.”

“Buddy, I think you’re big enough for ‘Dad’ now. Don’t you think?”

“Nope,” he says. “You’re always gonna be Daddy.” Then he squeezes me harder, and buries my face into his chest. And with my face smothered in his red flannel bathrobe, I say in a muzzled tone, “Sounds good to me.”

Searching : A Personal Journey of Searching For Birth Parents

 

I grew up knowing that my mom was placed for adoption when she was an infant in the late 1950s.  My grandparents were unable to have children and worked with a private attorney to adopt my mom.  We had little to no information about her birthmother, and what little we may have had, was probably speculation at best for the reasons surrounding her decision.  Growing up, Mom never had a strong inclination to search for her birthmother.  In my high school and college years, I remember asking questions about why she hadn’t looked for her because I had a strong desire to search and (let’s be honest) meet my biological grandmother one day.   But my questions were always met with the same response that she simply wasn’t interested and she knew who her family was.  She also wanted to respect my Grandmother and feared that searching for her birthmother would crush my Grandmother’s heart and cause her to feel like less of a mother in my Mom’s life.  I deeply wish that my Grandmother would have understood that completing a search, and potentially meeting a birth family member, would have never diminished or replaced her role in my Mom’s life (or mine).

After graduate school, I started working in the field of adoption.  I was so amazed to see some of the advances that had been made towards sharing information in adoption – sending pictures, having visits, collecting genetic health information, etc.  As levels of openness in adoption have increased in even the last decade, I have often pondered the circumstances surrounding my mom’s placement. Who was her birthmother and what circumstances did she find herself in that made adoption her best option?  What became of her life and did she ever have more children?  Do I have aunts and uncles out there? Equally as important, I desperately wanted her to know that she made a good choice for my Mom and that she has had a good life.   And then, of course, I had other practical questions like, any chance you’ve had cancer or some other major hereditary disease we should be on the lookout for?

Starting Our Search

The day eventually came that Mom felt comfortable starting the search process.  She began by signing up on the State of Texas’s Central Adoption Registry.  Many states have a website where birthmoms, adoptees and biological siblings can voluntarily register and if a match is found, the state facilitates contact (with a little bit of pre-meeting counseling for all parties).  A short time later, Mom received a letter in the mail in response.  This letter informed us that her records were matched with her birthmother’s and that her birthmother had passed away.  The end.  No name.  No date of death.  No identifying information that would tell us anything beyond the simple fact that she was no longer here (and my dreams of meeting her were crushed). I had always pictured two outcomes from signing up on the registry – either being matched (with a living person) OR knowing nothing (because her birthmother or siblings had not signed up on the registry).  It didn’t occur to me that we would be matched AND we would know nothing further.

Our next step was to have a judge sign a court order to unseal Mom’s adoption records, which are maintained at the Bureau of Vital Statistics (BVS) in our state’s capital.  I thought this process would be like climbing Mount Everest blind folded.  I shared our situation with a friend who is an adoption attorney and he had the right connections to make this happen quickly.  He was able to do a little bit of research for us and within days a judge had signed off on an order!  He mailed it to the BVS office and we waited for a response. And we waited a little longer.  And, sadly, we are still waiting now.

I know there are other methods we could use to continue the search.  A simple Google search yields 11.2 million results for “searching for birth mother” with promises from companies to find birthparents in 3 easy steps.  For our family, we are working through the channels and at the pace with which we are most comfortable.  In my longings to have my questions answered, I have to remember that while this is my history, this is my Mom’s story.  I don’t want to press and pursue beyond her comfort level.

Things to Consider when Searching for Your Biological Family

  1. If you are thinking about searching for your biological parent or child that you placed for adoption, start with signing up on an adoption registry in the state where the child was born. While there is a small fee in some states to do this, these sites are legitimate and a simple way to be available in the event someone is searching for you too.
  2. The options for searching are growing. Court orders to unseal records may be granted or denied.  And, if granted, they still may not yield the answers you’re looking for (as in our case).  There are companies for hire and support groups alike ready to help you search.  We have not engaged in this process so while I have no recommendations to make, I caution you to do your homework on these companies and understand any fee structures before engaging their services.
  3. Have some fun with your DNA. This past Christmas, we purchased a DNA kit from Ancestry.com and learned a little more about Mom’s ethnic heritage.  It didn’t produce direct answers, but I was surprised by the excitement I felt at knowing a little more about where this side of my family comes from.  Another company, MyHeritage is also involved with DNA testing, more specifically to assist in matching biological families.  Currently, they are offering free DNA kits to those who apply and qualify through April 30, 2018.  As stated above, I caution you to do some research here too.
  4. For those of you who may have an open adoption, I would implore you to do what you can to keep the lines of communication open with birth families. Relationships between birth and adoptive families can certainly be challenging to navigate and may change in their frequency over time. However, having direct access to a birth family member who can answer questions an adopted person may not have until decades later (or, ahem, perhaps even the adopted person’s child!) is an asset.  Please know that I’m not encouraging you to maintain close contact if it puts a child in danger, or if someone is not making healthy choices.  But, if the environment is healthy, do what you can to maintain this relationship.
  5. For those considering adoption, I encourage you to work with a licensed agency. If my grandparents had worked with an agency (which I realize were not as common then as they are now), I wonder if documents might have been on file with them.  In our state, agencies today are required to maintain adoption records.  In the event they close, there are policies and procedures in place for the transfer of these records. An adoption agency will be a much easier entity to contact if information is needed.  Plus, they are also required to gather genetic health information from birth families, which is a valuable tool for you and your adopted child to have.  Adoption agencies can also help you navigate through birthparent relationship challenges that may arise.

Searching for birth family is a unique and personal journey.  There is not a one-size-fits-all search process that works for everyone.  Our family has learned a lot about each other in this process and have grown closer as we have experienced both excitement and grief in searching for Mom’s birth mother.  We may never know this side of Heaven who she is, but we know that she made a loving decision for my Mom and we will always honor her for this.

 

What To Do If Your Agency Loses Accreditation

 

 

Today, six Hague accredited agencies lost their accreditation to do international adoption.  In the first 3 months of 2018, eleven agencies (representing 7% of all Hague accredited adoption agencies) have lost their accreditation.  In light of this alarming trend, we wanted to give some insight and advice to people who find themselves in this difficult situation.

First, be aware of what a “case transfer plan” means.  When agencies have their accreditation revoked, refused, or expired, the State Department always sends an email to prospective adoptive parents stating,

“When an agency’s or person’s accreditation or approval expires, they are responsible for transferring cases and records.  Families working with [the agency] should contact the agency directly with questions about case or record transfer. We also encourage families to review the information published by the Council on Accreditation about selecting a primary provider/adoption service provider and the accreditation/approval requirements.  The Department of State does not review or approve case transfer plans and has a limited role in their execution. We do, however, communicate with foreign Central Authorities and competent adoption authorities about the accreditation status of agencies and persons and case transfer plans, as needed.”

It is important to note that the case transfer plan does not mean any agency is required to accept your case. Agencies are becoming more reluctant to take client cases from other agencies, even when they have a case transfer plan in place.  There is fear that if the prior agency had any difficulty supervising cases, and this led to the loss of accreditation, then the new agency may have similar problems with supervision of the case.  Your agency will want to know the following information before agreeing to take your case:

  1. Are you matched with a child?
  2. What circumstances led to that child being orphaned?
  3. Can you give a copy of the official referral?
  4. What type of investigation, done by whom, has substantiated the child’s orphan status?

Unfortunately, it is unlikely that any of the money you have paid will transfer to any other agency.  Our agency has acquired the files and cases of dozens of agencies, and we have never received a penny from other agencies as a result of a case transfer plan.

But the arrangement of a case transfer plan does indicate that another agency has communicated with your agency, and expressed a willingness to review your case and consider taking you as a client.  So the agency with the case transfer plan should be your first choice in your effort to continue your adoption plan.

Second, you are entitled to a refund for post adoption report fees that you may have pre-paid.  But you are probably not entitled to a refund for any other fees.  Adoption fees are generally billed when services are rendered, and are not held in trust, nor are they refundable.  But if your agency required you to pay for post adoption reports which have not been completed, you are entitled to a refund for those fees.

Third, you may be able to receive a courtesy fee waiver from your new agency.  Although this is not a requirement, agencies often try to mitigate the difficulty of having your agency lose accreditation by offering to let you come into their program at the same fee-phase where you currently are at.

Fourth, you are likely to need an answer for “why” this is happening.  It is a complicated question with several answers, and therefore it is difficult to channel the blame in any one direction.  International adoptions have been on the decline since 2004 and agencies which have not diversified to offer many types of services are finding it difficult to stay in business.  With the projected 300% increase in the cost of accreditation for agencies under IAAME, many agencies who have already been operating in the red for several years in a row cannot envision a viable future under the new accrediting entity. Sometimes agencies lose accreditation due to alleged violation of specific Hague standards.  Agencies can fight those allegations in court, but since they are ultimately fighting the Department of State (through the accrediting entity), is often more realistic to just forfeit accreditation.

Fifth, there is a difference between losing accreditation and going out of business.  It is possible that your agency will allow you to switch to another adoption program besides international.  For instance, they may allow you to switch to domestic, foster, or embryo adoption.  As a courtesy, they may even offer to waive part or all of the fees as a result of this change.

Finally, although the word “journey” is often associated with adoption because the experience can be difficult, long, and frustrating, it’s helpful to recognize that many people have been on the same journey with many detours but ultimately God put together the family that they had dreamed.  My wife and I accepted the referral of two girls who then changed their minds and decided to stay in permanent foster care.  Next we accepted the referral of a girl who was placed with a distant relative instead.  We were sad and frustrated, but we knew God placed adoption on our hearts and He had a child in mind for us.  We later adopted a girl from a different country than we had originally intended.  While we know God doesn’t cause bad things to happen on purpose, we do know that God works all things together for good (Romans 8:28).

If you would like more information on the current crisis in inter-country adoption policy please see www.SaveAdoptions.org.  There you can see several articles about the events that have led to the rapid decline in the number of adoption agencies and adoptions, as well as sign a petition asking the White House to address this issue.

Daniel Nehrbass, Ph.D. | President

Easter: Where Our Hope Rests

 

 

It was Good Friday two years ago that we landed on U.S. soil completing the adoption of our first child.  We had endured a long and grueling wait to bring him home, and we were met with a joyous celebration that Easter weekend as friends and family welcomed us home.  Since then, we settled in as a family of three, hosted an older child over the winter holidays, adopted that child, moved cities, and then began settling in as a family of four.  That Good Friday marked the beginning of a journey into parenthood for me that will forever shape and change the way I see Jesus and the celebration of Easter.

 

Sacrifice

In parenting, there is sacrifice.  You learn to meet another human’s needs, and many times, you find that those are not convenient, easy, or desirable for you.  Lately, I have begun to realize we have taken on a role that will ask more of me than I ever thought I could give.  A role that will change and evolve over time in such a way that it is impossible to plan for what the next season will bring.  In our case, it has begun to sink in that we have invited our children’s hearts, including all their wounds, into our previously peaceful home, and our children have begun to let us enter into a journey with them that feels often like a war.  We battle for their trust, we battle for their health, we battle for healing in their brains, and ultimately, we battle for their hearts and souls.  We battle against our own selfishness, we battle against the temptation to disconnect for self-protection, we battle to trust that God will sustain us in this calling, and we battle to choose love and grace in the face of rejection and defiance.  When we stop to rest, we sit with our thoughts and feelings and realize we have battle wounds, and we trust that our God can heal those too.

We trust He can heal our family’s wounds because He has gone before us in sacrifice.

“For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” 2 Corinthians 5:21

For our sake, Jesus chose to trade all that was good to become that which is void of good.  Unlike humans, He is omniscient and all-knowing (Isaiah 46:9-10; Romans 11:33), so He knew fully and entirely the cost and pain of what He was choosing.  There was no ignorance in His choice.  He chose to love by sacrificing Himself, so that we could have His righteousness.  He chose to pour out His blood, so that we might be saved from the wrath of God (Romans 5:9).  So when my battle wounds are a result of my own sin, He chooses to bandage and cover them in His love instead of letting me anguish in the full consequence of death that they deserve.  His sacrifice has afforded my healing.

 

Power

Power is a theme in my home.  Who is the boss?  Who has authority? Can this authority be trusted?  It often feels as if it is not just my children and myself present in this struggle, but an invisible third party from their pasts, named Trauma, vying for power and authority.  Thankfully, the One that has power and authority over trauma is trustworthy.  He has power over the emotions that often roll like tidal waves within me as I parent, and He can be trusted to calm the chaos in my own heart and ultimately my home.  In some mysterious way, His power is made perfect in my weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9), and what a relief that is in the days when I feel so weak!

Jesus does not just have power over trauma and sin, but even over death itself.  He showed this when He rose from the dead.

“For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures” 1 Corinthians 15:3-4

If His is the power that can raise the dead, then His is the power I need each day.  Power to restore me when I am weary, and power to forgive me when I fail.  Even when my authority cannot be trusted, His always can.  I am learning over and over that what my children need most is not for me to use my power perfectly, but to share with them about the Parent who always uses His power perfectly.

 

Hope

It is not just that Jesus has power over death, but that He offers the hope of resurrection to all those who believe (1 Corinthians 15:20-22).  He offers hope for this life and eternal life.  He asks us to recognize Him as Savior and King, and when we do, He invites us into His presence immediately and forever.

Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation.  The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” 2 Corinthians 5:17

So there is incredible hope that Christ can one day make my children new creations.  Because my husband and I believe that we need Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection, there is hope that He now lives in us, and is working in us for His will and good pleasure (Galatians 2:20, Philippians 2:13).  He is redeeming people throughout the world, and He is teaching us how to love like He loves.

“For to this end we toil and strive, because we have our hope set on the living God, who is the Savior of all people, especially to those who believe.” 1 Timothy 4:10

Our hope rests in Him and what He has done.  Our hope rests in the only One who can sustain us through the valleys through which He sovereignly leads us.  Our hope rests in the permanence of His blood to triumph over all that is broken, including death.  Easter is a joyous celebration of His incredible, redemptive, and perfect love in which all of our hope can rest.

 

Help Ian Save Adoptions

The Hinton Family wants to make sure that you are aware of the petition to the White House to save adoptions. If you haven’t already, please take time to sign it! Here’s how you can help!

Go to adoption.com or saveadoptions.org and you will see a link to sign the petition. This only takes a minute or so. REMEMBER, you must check your email to verify your signature so it will be accepted.

Also, please contact your U.S. Senators & U.S. Representative to put this on their radar. You can call, email or mail them, and you don’t have to be an expert the matter to contact them. You can let them know the following:

(1) You are concerned that inter-country adoption has declined over 80% since 2004.

(2) To increase the number of adoptions, as long as ethical, pro-adoption leadership is needed in the U.S. State Department’s Adoption Division in the Office of Children’s Issues.

(3) You oppose new fees and unreasonable rules being imposed on adoption service providers (ASP) and families by the U.S. State Department and their new accrediting entity, IAAME. These could cause some ASPs to close their doors.

Pictured is Ian and his family! He was adopted in 2014 from our Uganda Program. His mother says, “I hate to think of all the Ian’s worldwide in 5-10 years whose only alternative is inter-country adoption, and have no adoption service providers to advocate and facilitate adoptions for them, and no families to adopt them.”

Join Nightlight, the Hinton Family, and other adoption advocates in doing your part to advocate for international adoption and all the children whose prospects of having a loving family are in jeopardy.

Disabilities Awareness Month: An Adoption Story

 

 

Lilly, born in China, was welcomed into the loving arms of her mom and dad, Jenny and Daniel, at the age of 3 years.  That was nearly a decade ago, not long after I began working with the China program!  I recently reconnected with Jenny to talk about Lilly’s journey over the past ten years.   Jenny fondly recalls the excitement of being matched with Lilly.  Although they were thrilled to become parents, there were looming questions about her diagnosis which had the potential to cause great fear.  Lilly was born with spina bifida and hydrocephalus, both of which were surgically repaired in China shortly after her birth.  Jenny shared that while she and her husband were hopeful that the surgeries had been successful, they did not know the extent of damage or what her future would hold.

As directed, they researched her medical needs and spoke to a physician specializing in international adoption.  They learned of worst case scenarios while staying cautiously optimistic.  Jenny stated it was easy to allow fear to slip in as they waited to travel.  While worrying about mobility issues, possible paralysis, cognitive deficits, future needs and surgeries, they also began thinking about accommodations that could be made to ensure she was given the best life they could provide for her.  Through it all, they trusted God would provide and pressed forward.

Lilly came to them as a tiny 28 pound 3 year old wearing 12-18 month clothing.  She could barely walk and had many other physical delays common of children coming from less than optimal care.  These deficits were quickly overcome through short term therapy. Jenny reports, however, that the personality that emerged within a few days of placement in China is the same personality Lilly exhibits today which has allowed her to overcome and flourish.

Due to the spina bifida, Lilly has some hip displacement and wears braces on her legs requiring occasional appointments at Shriners Hospital for adjustments.  Because of the hydrocephalus, she has a shunt and sees a neurologist every other year.  She also requires annual visits to an ophthalmologist to check the pressure behind her eyes.  Despite the braces, mobility is not an issue and she even cheers for an Upward basketball team!  She is actively involved in choir, musicals and theatre and does not allow her orthotics to limit her abilities. Cognitively, she is fine and does well in school.  Other than medical visits to monitor her conditions, Lilly is a typical pre-teen on the brink of celebrating her 13th birthday next month.

Jenny told me that as a parent, her greatest challenge has been advocating for her daughter medically.  While she trusts her treating specialists and referred to them as “amazing,” she also trusts her own instincts as Lilly’s mother.  She shared that the neuro department wanted to perform a procedure on Lilly’s shunt, however, Lilly was not showing any neurological symptoms to indicate intervention was needed at the time.  Despite the surgical recommendation, they made a decision together as a family to wait after learning there were more risks with having the surgery than not.  They realize that surgery may be needed in the future and will face that when the time comes.

Jenny and Daniel have also taught Lilly how to deal with curious questions from her friends as well as prying questions from others.  They have given her the confidence that her adoption story and tough beginning are HER story and she can choose to share the details or keep them private.  Her outgoing personality works to her favor in this regard.

When I asked Jenny what she would like other parents to know as they consider a special needs adoption, she said, “Disability does not mean constant illness and inabilities.”  She shared that Lilly is a very healthy child and in the past 10 years, has probably seen her pediatrician for sick visits only 3-4 times.  She also reiterated all of the positives in Lilly’s life and above all she wanted to share that Lilly had taught her and the rest of their family to persevere.  Watching Lilly navigate the hardships in her life “has been amazing to see!”  In talking with Jenny, it became clear long before she said it that, “As her mother, she makes me so proud!”

2 Timothy 1:7 For God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.

Philippians 4:6-7 Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.  And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

YOU Can Help Save Adoptions

A message from the former President of Nightlight Christian Adoptions, Ronald Stoddart.

Dear Nightlight Family,

I had the privilege to lead Nightlight Christian Adoptions from 2005 to 2013 and now serve on the Board of Directors. I tried, unsuccessfully, to retire in 2013, but decided to practice law part-time in my new home in Colorado. In 2016, I became active in the fight to Save Adoptions from the over-regulation and anti-adoption attitude of the State Department.

In 1995, Nightlight was the first agency to sponsor an orphan tour to the United States when we brought a group of dancers and singers from Russia to perform in churches, concerts in the park, and Disneyland. That allowed us to find homes for more than 800 school age children from Russia who otherwise may not have had a family. The State Department’s re-interpretation of the regulations threatens to stop photo-listings and hosting programs and diminish the chances of older children to be adopted. I’m sure you share my passion for every child to have a permanent family – and you know we are using every program available to do that (domestic, international, foster care and embryo adoption). We need you to share that passion boldly with your family and friends.

Our White House Petition, accessed easily at SaveAdoptions.org, needs 100,000 signatures to guarantee a response from the White House. No one wants to think that a little extra effort on our part could have gotten us across the finish line. So, I am asking EACH of you, individually, to take responsibility for getting your family, friends, and others to sign the petition. Failure is not an option, and you truly can make a difference. Here are a few ways you can make this happen:

  1. Ask you parents, siblings, spouse, and children over 13 to sign the petition.
  2. Send a personal message to friends asking them to sign – and to share it with their friends.
  3. Share a Post from Nightlight or Save Adoption Facebook page to your personal page

And, be sure to remind everyone that they need to verify their e-mail address when they get the confirmation e-mail from the White House.

Thank you – YOU CAN MAKE A DIFFERENCE IN ONE MORE CHILD’S LIFE!

Ronald L. Stoddart

Celebrate World Down Syndrome Day

 

 

Did you realize that today is World Down Syndrome Day? Why the 21st of March, you ask? The date for WDSD being the 21st day of the 3rd month, was selected to signify the uniqueness of the triplication (trisomy) of the 21st chromosome which causes Down syndrome.

 

Nightlight has had the privilege of assisting many families to adopt children with down syndrome both domestically and internationally. You’ll love hearing from some of these kiddos family members and reading their thoughts about these precious children. We did!

 

“Being parents to Emalyn and Ryker is a huge joy. Those of us who have a child with Down syndrome consider ourselves the lucky few. Although in most ways people with DS are just like everyone else, they also exude an empathy and kindness that is hard to image unless you’ve experience it. There are sometimes struggles, but there is joy that outweighs any struggles a million times over. Daily I look at these sweet children who happen to have an extra 21st chromosome and feel immensely blessed that I get to be their mom. “—Rachael, an adoptive mom

 

“People with Down Syndrome are so awesome! Zeb has the biggest love tank and pats my back even when I’m fake crying!” – Emma Kate, Age 6

“My brother has Down Syndrome and he is a kid, just like me! I’m bigger than him but he’s cooler!!” – Hendrix, Age 8

 

 

Feeling led to adopt a child with down syndrome? Visit our Child Advocacy Website to view the profiles of children needing a forever home TODAY!

www.AdoptionBridge.org

New Life & New Beginnings: An Adoption Story

 

As we welcome the first day of spring we enter the season for rebirth, growth, beauty, and all things new. The journey of adoption brings hope and new beginnings to families and their child.

The Meares family recently brought their daughter Cana home from a small Eastern Asian country. At Cana’s farewell party, one of her caregivers gave a letter to Cana’s new family. Included in the letter were some verses written by Paul in Philippians. “Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 3:13-14.

The caregiver then went on to explain that Cana’s life had turned a page now. Though her story started with pain and hardship, she now has a forever family to walk alongside her. The letter encouraged Cana to press on toward Christ in the new life that she has been given. Cana is not the only one who has been given this new life with a forever family though.

This is a new beginning for the Meares family as well as their family has grown and changed for the better. Cana’s mother shared:

“Our lives have dramatically changed in the best way. Adoption is not easy, but in the challenges, we have this opportunity to pursue Christ and cling to Him in a way that we never had before. Cana is a daily reminder of God’s grace in our lives and a beautiful picture of this new life and journey that God has brought us to. We are more alive than ever before as we see the hope and goodness that we have access to in Christ. He makes all things new and this new journey is one that we are humbled and excited to take with Him.”

Nutrition & Your Adopted Child

When children are adopted, they often have had trauma in their lives that can affect many aspects of their lives, with eating being one of them.  In fact, nearly 80% of children with developmental issues also have feeding issues.  So it is no wonder that our children who are adopted, who are often developmentally delayed and have experienced many issues, such as bottle propping as infants and then given mushy and limited number of foods often have eating problems.

These issues do not just apply to internationally adopted children but can be seen in children who have been in foster-care.  If your child was adopted from foster care, she may be normal weight, but she may have been deprived of certain foods, given lots of snack foods, and may not have been provided any structure around meal time.  On the other hand, if your child is from an orphanage, he may have had overly structured meal times and had to consume limited amounts of food very quickly.

In the  book Love Me Feed Me: The Adoptive Parent’s Guide to Ending the Worry About Weight, Picky Eating, Power Struggles and More ,  Katja Rowell, a medical doctor, does not so much  provide nutritional goals for the adopted  child but  she explains the best ways to establish a positive relationship between you and your child.  Food and dietary habits can become an integral part of what Dr. Rowell call the Trust Model for establishing attachment with your child.  This Trust Model helps to provide nurture as well as means of establishing healthy eating habits in your child.  You may be asking, “But what about my other kids who have not had difficult starts in life? How am I going to make meal time different for all my children?  As with any positive attachment and trust model, this model can be used with all children.

This Trust Model promotes shared power: you the parent determine when, where and what your child will eat, and your child gets to determine if and how much to eat based on what foods are there.  This allows you to decide on what nutritional foods your child can select from and where and when your child will eat, but the child gets to decide on what food to select from and how much to eat.  Now, of course, an infant, who has nearly all the power when it comes to feeding, decides the when, where and how much to eat; you, the parent, just decide on what milk to give her.

The Trust Model gives children the structure that they need as they know what to expect. And as with feeding a baby, sometimes you must take your cues from your child.   For example, younger children need to be fed more often, so they will ask for snacks more often in-between meals.  If your child is malnourished, you may need to offer your child food more often until you get to know your child’s signals as to when he is hungry.

Feeding your child with the family helps your child see others eating, sets a model of portions, and to be able to know when he is hungry and full.  At meal time, it is best to have different types of foods at the table—especially those that your child likes based on taste and texture—so that your child can have familiar foods as well as try new foods in a non-coercive setting.

Giving your child a snack—in the afternoon—or perhaps two snacks—can help a child who gets cranky in the afternoon waiting for dinner to feel more relaxed and content  Do not be concerned with a “ruined appetite” before dinner.    Your child may eat less at meal time, but as long as the snacks provide healthful foods, your child will get the nutrients he needs.

Simple but practical solutions for children who come from difficult pasts can help solve food and meal time problems.  However, some children, especially those with medical and sensory problems, may require more therapeutic assistance.  Often an occupational therapist (OT) is the first professional who may become involved, as the OT usually assesses sensory and gross and fine motor skills and the child’s ability to feed herself.  A registered dietitian (RD) may assess the child’s nutritional intake and growth patterns and if more serious steps must be taken, such as tube feedings, are necessary.   As with any type of professional who is going to provide advice and some counseling, certain factors must be taken into consideration.  A mental health counselor would be involved to assess the parents’ and child’s interactions surrounding food and may also assess attachment issues.  The counselor would also work closely with the other professionals such as an OT and RD.

If you, as a parent, are having major food issues with your child, your child’s pediatrician may not give the advice you need, unless your pediatrician is very familiar with adopted children’s needs.  Instead, you may need to consult with a pediatrician at an international clinic for a referral to a feeding clinic or OT.

If you feel that your child is growing steadily but there are still major issues surrounding  eating issues, then you may want to consult with a counselor who has experience with adoption and attachment issues and can help you use trust based approaches in helping you and your child with behavioral issues surrounding food.  If your child is having eating issues and may also have sensory and other issues related to motor skills, then  the  counselor and OT  need to be working together.  The approach needs to be parent focused as adopted children need to be attaching to their parents—not separated from them.

Rowell has a list of questions you may need to ask before working with a professional:

  • How do you help the parents integrate the skills at home?
  • Am going to be involved in the treatment plan, or am I going to be separated from my child? (Parents are the ones who ultimately work with the child.)
  • Do you use negative/positive reinforcement? (Either type of reinforcement can feel like coercion to a child and can result in a power struggle.)
  • Do you require the child to eat food she does not want or hold food in front of the child until she eats it? (This leads to a power a struggle.)
  • What resources do you suggest?

Children who have had difficult starts in life had little control in their lives and often feel shame.  So any approach that takes away power from a child (instead of offering shared power with the parent) or shames a child into eating often leads to more problems.

Bad formal therapy is worse than no therapy.    But good therapy need not be formal–it can be done by the parents if the parents can take cues from the child.  The parent can trust the child to do the eating while the child trusts the parent to be “there” for him and builds upon the relationship.

To learn more about your child’s nutritional and feeding needs, these websites provide very valuable information, tools, and even equipment:

 

  • http://adoptionnutrition.org/ This website provides information related to the nutritional needs of adopted children—even by country—as well as addresses some feeding issues such as hoarding and children who will not eat.

 

  • http://mealtimenotions.com/  This site offers stories, articles and information regarding the feeding and nutritional needs of children with special physical and sensory issues.