A Uganda Adoption Story

Did you know that Nightlight is not just involved in adoption but also family reunification? This sometimes happens in our US foster care programs and also in our orphanages oversees. Whenever it is possible for a child to be raised safely in their biological family, we champion that! Here is one such story from Ken and Cathy, directors of Tender Hearts Baby Home in Uganda.

“David was rescued by concerned neighbors after being abused and neglected by his mother and maternal grandmother. They claimed he was demon possessed and did not deserve to live. He was only 7 months old.

We placed him on nutritional care. He has grown to be a sweet and healthy boy. He was a darling to many in the home, in spite of him being very timid around strangers.

We were finally able to reunite David with his paternal grandparents. They were very excited to receive him and for all the love and care we had given to their grandson. Even though we miss him already, we are forever grateful that he is home with his family.
We would like to appreciate everyone who prayed for him, loved him and took care of him, especially his nanny Patricia who loved him extravagantly. God is still at work. “

Compiled by Peace Okongo and Catherine Nganda

Protecting Your Baby From Birth Defects Through Nutrition

Women who are interested in embryo adoption are clearly interested in becoming pregnant and carrying a healthy child to term.  Did you know there is something you can begin NOW that will help protect your growing child in utero?

Take folic acid.

Jennifer Hofmeister, a Physician’s Assistant in Loveland, CO recently submitted an editorial on this subject.  Jennifer tells us:

“I want to make sure that all women in Northern Colorado who can become pregnant know about a simple way to improve their health to prevent brain and spine birth defects, such as spina bifida.

Spina bifida is the most common neural tube birth defect in the United States affecting 1,500 to 2,000 babies every year. Spina bifida is characterized by the incomplete development of the brain, spinal cord and/or meninges (the protective covering around the brain and spinal cord). While children can lead active lives with spina bifida, it is a serious birth defect that can result in severe physical disabilities, and there is no cure for the disorder.

Women can lower the risk of spina bifida in their future children by simply taking one pill a day: folic acid. Studies have shown that adding folic acid to a woman’s diet significantly reduces the risk of having a child with a neural tube defect, especially if women start taking the supplement before they become pregnant.

Birth defects of the brain and spine happen in the first weeks of pregnancy, often before a woman knows she’s pregnant. If a woman doesn’t begin taking folic acid until the start of her pregnancy, it leaves a short window for her and her baby to benefit from the supplement. Even if a woman is not planning to become pregnant soon it’s best to plan ahead and start taking folic acid today.

The easiest way for women to incorporate folic acid into their diet is by taking a supplement every day. Folic acid is available as an individual supplement or as part of a multivitamin. Always check the label to make sure it contains the recommended 400 micrograms of the supplement.

Folic acid can also be found in foods such as enriched breads, pastas and cereals. For the last decade, the FDA has required that manufacturers fortify these foods with folic acid. In addition to supplements and fortified foods, women can also eat a diet rich in folate which can be found naturally in beans, peas, lentils, oranges, asparagus, broccoli and dark leafy green vegetables such as spinach and kale.

Even women who are not planning to become pregnant can benefit from getting enough folic acid every day. Our bodies make new cells every day — blood, skin, hair, nails and more. Folic acid is an important part of making these new cells. Deciding to start taking folic acid is one of the easiest healthy habits women can start today.”

So ladies, start your folic acid regiment today to protect the baby you adopt through embryo adoption tomorrow!

Learn more about embryo adoption at www.EmbryoAdoption.org.

Celebrating Read Across America Day With Your Adopted Child

With the goal of motivating children to read and ultimately creating successful and life-long learners, over 50 organizations and over three million educators partner with the National Education Association to celebrate reading and provide materials and resources to help children continue to read 365 days a year! Through much research, we have learned that “children who are motivated and spend more time reading do better in school.”

The NEA’s website offers a wealth of resources to be able to celebrate throughout the month. Look for the following exciting and helpful resources: an opportunity for families to participate in a Facebook Live Event, an article noting book recommendations written by a diverse group of children’s book authors, a fun Share Your ‘Shelfie’ Challenge, reading resources for each month of the year, and much more!

Read Across America Day provides a great opportunity to introduce your adopted child to some great children’s books that they can relate to and enjoy!  Many are great tools to celebrate with your child their unique and beautiful adoption story. Perhaps you have a family member or friend preparing to adopt a little one—something like this would be a helpful and treasured gift. Below, we have provided some of the book titles that many adoptive families have enjoyed sharing with their children.

Children’s Books for Domestically Adopted Children:

A Blessing from Above: Patti Henderson

A Koala for Katie: Jonathan London

A Mother for Choco: Keiko Kasra

Did My First Mother Love Me: Kathryn Ann Miller

God Gave Us You: Lisa Tawn Bergren and Laura J. Bryant

Families are Forever: Deborah Capone

Horace (Reading Rainbow Book): Holly Keller

Is That Your Sister: Catherine and Sherry Bunin

Just in Case you Ever Wonder: Max Lucado

The Keeping Quilt: Patricia Polacco (September 1994)

Let’s Talk About It: Adoption: Fred Rogers

Little Miss Spider: David Kirk + A Christmas Wish

A Little Story About a Big Turnip: Tatiana Zunshine (ages 2-8)

Megan’s Birthday Tree: A Story about Open Adoption: Laurie Lears

My Special Someone: A Child’s Perspective of Adoption: Brittany and Sherry Kyle

The Mulberry Bird: Anne Braff Brodzinsky

Never, Never, Never Will She Stop Loving You: Jolene Durrant

Oliver: A Story About Adoption: Lois Wickstrom

Our Twitchy: Kes Gray and Mary McQuillan

Sam’s Sister: Juliet Bond

Tell Me Again About the Night I Was Born: Jamie Lee Curtis

Through Moon and Stars and Night Skies: Kristine Wise

 

Children’s Books for Internationally Adopted Children:

At Home in This World. . . A China Adoption Story: Jean MacLeod

Just Add One Chinese Sister: Patricia McMahon and Conor Clarke McCarthy

I Love You Like Crazy Cakes:  Rose A. Lewis

Moonbeams, Dumplings and Dragon Boats: A Treasury of Chinese Holiday Tales:  Nina Simonds, Leslie Swartz and The Children’s Museum, Boston

Waiting for May:  Janet Morgan Stoeke

Families Are Forever: Deborah Capone

Horace: Holly Keller

I Love You Like Crazy Cakes: Rose Lewis

Is That Your Sister?: Catherine and Sherry Bunin

Babies Come from Airports: Erin Dealey

 

Children’s Books for Transracially Adoption Children:

The Keeping Quilt: Patricia Polacco

Little Miss Spider: David Kirk

The Little Snowgirl: Carollyn Croll

A Little Story About A Big Turnip: Tatiana Zunshine

A Mother for Choco: Keiko Kasra

Over The Moon: Karen Katz

Seeds of Love: Mary Ebejer Peteryl

Three Cheers for Catherine the Great! : Cari Best

Through Moon and Stars and Night Skies: Kristine Wise

Adopting Embryos of a Different Ethnicity Than Your Own

Trans-ethnic adoption is an issue to be addressed in any adoption. Adopting an embryo trans-ethnically can force a couple to consider a new and very different comfort zone.

Most families do not consider a trans-ethnic adoption of embryos because they will be experiencing a pregnancy and giving birth to a child. This experience is as close to having biological children as any adoption can be. The initial reaction of most is that the children we give birth to should look like us or at least be the same ethnicity or combination thereof as the parents.  Embryo adoption is unusual enough, and to ask families to consider a trans-ethnic adoption may cause pause. A very long pause. A family’s emotional capacity could be stretched; yet, for some, trans-ethnic adoption could be the very right decision.

First, embryo adoption as with all adoptions, is not to create children for couples. As with all adoption, it is a means to allow children to grow in a loving family. Second, some embryos, as with some orphans, wait longer for a family because of their race/ethnicity. Unlike other children, they are faceless and nameless. Their cute little faces do not have the chance to say, “Yes, I look different from you, but I sure am adorable.” These embryos, like all orphans, need a family to love them.

Even for families who more than eagerly would adopt across ethnic lines, the idea of delivering a baby outside of their ethnicity would cause concern of what the experience would be like and the reaction of others.

A white woman in a store with a black or bi-racial child may experience that ever-so-familiar “look” that says, “So you had a child with a man of another ethnicity! How could you?” A mother of a child adopted through embryo adoption may experience this when she delivers her child. Imagine the faces of the hospital staff, quite alarmed that a white woman is delivering a Filipino, black, Hispanic, Asian, or Native American child. The staff’s sensibilities could be further tweaked when a middle-class white woman, with a white husband, produces such a child! If you have great confidence and a sense of humor, you will be like any other trans-ethnic adoptive family— conspicuous in expressing yourselves as a multi-ethnic family.

Even if you do not adopt trans-ethnically, in an embryo adoption, as with nearly any other adoption, your child may not look like you. He may eventually tower over you; he may have brown eyes, when both you and your spouse have blue eyes. His hair may be dark and curly while yours is straight and blond. He will be your child regardless.

All children give us an opportunity to grow. They give us a chance to express God’s love and character. Adopting an embryo is a strong statement as to how you feel about pre-born life. Adopting outside of your ethnicity could be a further indication of the strength and courage you have within and how you choose to express it in word and deed.

Random Acts of Kindness Week

 

Do you find yourself feeling that wintery gloom looming and are you itching for spring? Has the cold and dreary weather caused your spirit to feel just as dreary as the weather seems outside? Sometimes we need a little challenge/encouragement to help us dump that cold swirling mix of gloom, sadness, and self-focus and fill our empty cup with a whole lot of joy. How can you do that today?

Unbeknownst to many, February 17th was Random Acts of Kindness Day and begins the Random Acts of Kindness Week. I’m not sure that this week is well-known or as celebrated as it should be, what with Valentine’s Day getting so much more attention—sharing the same week.

When did it start? Apparently, the day was founded a little while after a woman by the name of Ann Herbert, while working in a restaurant in Sausalito, California wrote the words “practice random acts of kindness and senseless acts of beauty” on a placemat in 1982 (a good-hearted antonym to the common phrase “random acts of violence and senseless acts of cruelty”). From this, bumper stickers were created with the phrase and then a book was written, compiling true stories of acts of kindness, called Random Acts of Kindness. Radio Stations began giving attention to the ideas shared within the book. Articles began to appear in almost every newspaper in the US. Towards the end of 1993, a professor in CA decided to assign his students the task of showing acts of kindness in the community. And from then on, various waves of people have continued to celebrate this special week. Headquartered in Denver, CO and founded in 1995, is a nonprofit called The Random Acts of Kindness Foundation (RAK). They believe that by “spreading kindness throughout schools, communities and homes [this] power of kindness [can] change the way people see and experience the world”.

When will you start? I think we can definitely emphasize Random Acts of Kindness Day a little more by celebrating it with our children and instilling in them the importance of showing love and a little bit of kindness to those around them. Turn your focus outward by guiding their focus outward as well! This is such a helpful tool in giving us the practical steps we need to start filling our cup back up with joy. Consider how you can teach them some wonderful principles that Jesus taught us in Scripture—that of putting others first, selflessness, noticing needs of others, bearing one another’s burdens and many aspects of biblical love found in 1 Corinthians chapter 13. Oh the good it will do your own heart while spreading love and kindness to those around you.

Need some inspiration? I love how Laura, a mom to a combination of biological, foster, and adopted children), shares on her blog called Pitter Patter Art, her tradition of celebrating Kindness Advent every year around Christmas time. The tradition started as she was experiencing deep grief over the loss of a loved one, and decided to turn her focus outward as well! She has some wonderful ideas and is very creative in how she organizes and plans each year. Laura shares some helpful ideas that can be useful in jump starting your own creative juices and get them flowing to plan a Kindness Advent of your own. This doesn’t have to happen just at Christmas, or even around Valentines Day—choose any given month to purposefully focus on others. Help your children get into a rhythm of loving on people and “throwing some kindness around like confetti”—because, when you choose to be like Christ, and choose to put others first, you will in fact experience a joy that is found nowhere else.

 

 

Looking for helpful resources to get you started?

Official Random Acts of Kindness Website: Get Inspired

https://www.randomactsofkindness.org/get-inspired

Laura’s Pitter Patter Blog with Advent Ideas from 2016

http://pitterpatterart.com/kindness-advent-2017/

Laura’s Pitter Patter Blog with Advent Ideas from 2017

http://pitterpatterart.com/kindness-advent-2016/

Nightlight’s Pinterest Board: Random Acts of Kindness

https://www.pinterest.com/nightlightadopt/random-acts-of-kindness-ideas/

How We Celebrate Chinese New Year

 

Chinese New Year is upon us! February 16th marks the beginning of the Chinese New Year celebrations around the world for 2018. If you are not familiar with Chinese New Year it is an annual festival that’s not only celebrated in China but also by many other nationalities. Some celebrations last as long as 15 days so we wanted to share some special ways to observe this special holiday with your family.

Chinese New Year can be especially meaningful for families who have adopted children from China. It is so vital that adoptive parents find ways to embrace the culture of their home country and celebrate their child’s rich heritage within their home. In order to research some of the best ways to participate in Chinese New Year festivities, I turned to some of our adoptive families to get ideas of special ways they have enjoyed celebrating this time of year with their children.

One adoptive mom, Anne, shared that their church has a big annual Chinese New Year celebration. Many of the people who come wear special Chinese outfits. They decorate the fellowship hall in red and yellow-gold. At last year’s celebration one of the Chinese men in the church made over 700 homemade dumplings! They have a potluck meal in which anyone in the community that wants to come is welcome to come and join in the festivities. She shared the picture below of their special gathering and I could not help but be moved by the beautiful smiles of so many individuals and families who set aside this time to celebrate the rich foods and customs of this Chinese holiday together. I can’t help but think of each child represented and the memories that they will carry with them for the rest of their lives about how special these gatherings were.

 

Anne also recommended this book, Bringing in the New Year by Grace Lin about a Chinese American family as they prepare for the Lunar New Year. In the book each member of the family lends a hand as they sweep out the dust of the old year, hang decorations, and make dumplings. Then it’s time to put on new clothes and celebrate with family and friends. The book beautifully illustrates the fireworks, lion dancers, shining lanterns, and a dragon parade to help bring in the Lunar New Year.

Another adoptive mom, Penny, shared traditions that they have developed to celebrate Chinese New Year since welcoming three precious children from China into their family. Each year their family sets aside a day to make lanterns to hang around their home. Construction paper or decorated scrapbook paper can be used to make these beautiful and festive lanterns. Here is a link that gives instructions for making lanterns and this is a craft that will be fun for all ages.

Two of Penny’s daughters are pictured below in their traditional silk dresses. We always recommend families picking out traditional Chinese clothes when they travel to China for their adoptions and purchase clothes in various sizes for their children to enjoy as they grow! Having dresses such as these to wear for Chinese New Year celebrations (or any time they wish!) can be such a special gift for adopted children.

In addition, when their kids were younger Penny would go to their classes and read a Chinese New Year book to give her children’s classmates information about the history and customs that make this holiday so special for Chinese families. Here is a link for some great books that teach small children about this special holiday.

And lastly, Penny shared that they save some sparklers from New Years Eve and light those on Chinese New Year as well. Penny shared the following:

I was so impressed to hear from an adoptive mom who wanted to share about one way they are celebrating Chinese New year for the first time after recently bringing their son, Langston, home from China. One custom that Brandy found that they could incorporate was that of hong bao which is an iconic symbol of Chinese New Year. A Chinese red envelope is simply an ornate red pocket of paper the size of an index card that holds money and it’s customary to leave the red envelope with two tangerines by a child’s bedside on New Year’s Eve. Brandy shared that they we worked on making red envelopes to put money in for Langston’s classmates (they shared $1). Langston was so excited about making these special envelopes and about sharing this custom with his new friends.

Another adoptive mom, Amanda, shared that they are hosting their own Chinese New Year celebration at their house for several other families that they know who have also adopted from China. They are having Chinese takeout, doing crafts with the kids with red envelopes, and have planned for some other activities that pertain to Chinese culture.

If you know of other families in your community that would want to celebrate with you but are not sure about preparing a huge meal yourself then why not invite each family to bring one dish from a local Chinese restaurant? What a fantastic (and affordable!) way to celebrate with other families in your community! If you have some helpful articles or ideas you would like to share on this topic, please submit in the comments below!

 

Here are a few other links with helpful hints about ways to celebrate Chinese New Year within your family and communities:

https://chinesenewyear2018.com/

https://www.leadtochina.com/travel/adoption-resource/how-to-celebrate-chinese-new-year-for-adoptive-families-202

Honoring Your Child’s Culture and Heritage

As we are celebrating Black History Month in February, it seemed timely to discuss ways that foster or adoptive parents can honor their child’s culture, heritage, and racial identity. This is not only something that is recommended for transracial families, but it is essential. Children have a deep desire to know their history and to have a strong sense of identity in who God made them. It is our responsibility as their parents to not only discuss issues related to race but to instill a sense of pride in our child regarding their rich heritage.

I recently got in touch with one of our adoptive families who welcomed their sweet, beautiful Eden into their family as a newborn over two years ago. When I asked Eden’s mother about the biggest lesson they’ve learned in becoming a transracial family, Ashley shared the following:

We have learned the importance of continuing to learn and being intentional! It’s so important to celebrate our daughter’s heritage. We want to honor the unique beauty God has given her while at the same time showing her “mirrors,” or people who look like her. We have chosen to be intentional in honoring our daughter’s culture and heritage. It won’t happen naturally, so it is something we have to seek out to make it a regular part of our lives. Do your homework! Have books, dolls, and resources in your house that honor his or her heritage. Follow social media accounts that celebrate or mirror your child’s culture. But most importantly, find actual people! Is there a festival in your town? A restaurant? A more diverse playground? A place of worship? Go! Make new friends! 

 

This transracial family life is a journey. I don’t have the advantage of having growing up in [my child’s] culture. There’s no way I could learn a lifetime of history, information, or hair care in a day. (Although, I could try! Hello, YouTube!) But give yourself grace. That’s where those newfound friends can be invaluable! If I take the posture of a student, I’ve yet to find someone who isn’t willing to teach, share, or encourage.

What honest, heartfelt, and beautiful advice! The fact is that honoring your foster or adoptive child’s culture or heritage is something that every parent needs to prioritize in their home and within their family. Some elements will come easier than others. There are times that you will feel out of your comfort zone. There are times when you will want to seek out proud and successful men or women of color for advice on how to raise your son or daughter. Asking for help in this way can be scary, but the reward can be so great.

In speaking with Eden’s mother, Ashley regarding the hardest lesson their family has learned in becoming a transracial family she shared the following:

It took having a child of a different race to care deeply about racial tension, divides, and injustices… And the evolution in my heart doesn’t automatically mean my family and friends have evolved, too. If you’re like me, you’ve read, studied, and listened to all the podcasts on transracial adoption. Chances are your friends and family have logged zero hours doing the same. Give them some grace, too. Sometimes- most of the time- this friction means having hard conversations to share what you’ve learned or how their words could be insensitive to your child. Sometimes (hopefully rarely) it means distancing yourself from some friends. Working toward unity is worth the effort! 

Do you have questions related to celebrating your child’s heritage or culture? Are there specific elements of this topic that you would like to address more directly? Please give us feedback so that we can share information that will be helpful to you.

Other resources you may find helpful are as follows:

Young Adult Transracial Adoptees Talk about Adoption– A podcast from the perspective of the adoptee. The host interviews four black adoptees in their twenties who were raised by white parents about their experience with transracial adoption.

Transracial Adoption: Talking About Race– an article regarding the importance of talking about race with your adopted child, including a link to the podcast “Transracial Adoption: Doing It Well.”

Raising a Child of Another Race– An article about instilling racial pride in adopted kids

Books on Transracial Adoption– this is a list of books that discuss issues related to transracial adoption.

Adopting Embryos Who Are a Different Ethnicity Than You

Our openness to adopting a child of a different ethnicity than our own really began years ago, when we knew God was putting Japan on our hearts. At the time, we didn’t realize that this growing interest in Japanese culture and love for Japanese people would have anything to do with adoption, let alone embryo adoption. Years later, as we prayed about whether God wanted us to adopt, we also prayed about who God would have us adopt. We felt led to consider the possibility of adopting from a family with Japanese heritage.

The idea of adopting a child with a different ethnicity was exciting, but also raised some inevitable questions. Would our child wish we shared the same ethnic background? Would ethnic differences only add to the potentially complex feelings faced by the child?

Confirmation came to both of us in different ways, through scripture verses and a sermon. We both felt God saying that when He puts a family together, ethnicity isn’t a hindrance. In a beautiful photo – from a sermon PowerPoint – of babies of all different ethnicities sitting together, God seemed to clearly speak to our hearts that He sees each one as His child, and He has a home for each child. We felt completely at peace from that point forward. God had answered our biggest questions and shown us His heart for adoption.

We were so thrilled when there was a genetic family with Japanese heritage that was interested in us! We loved reading about them and knew right away that they were the ones for us.

During the pregnancy and with the birth of our daughter, we have felt such a strong bond of love with her – a bond that would be no stronger had she been our genetic daughter. We are both so proud to be her parents. We are grateful to God for how He has put our family together, and every day we enjoy the blessing of our precious daughter.

Strengthening Your Marriage

 

As many people have experienced, children can put stress on a marriage relationship.  In fact, research shows that marriage satisfaction decreases after a couple has their first child.  Adopting a child, can create even more pressure on a marriage.  You may have already experienced infertility or other losses that has created stress.  You may also be anxious as you wait for a child, which is often out of your control.

Then, of course, once the child enters the home, there are the concerns related to the child and the child’s background. Because any adopted child has some uncertain background concerns, you are required to take pre-adoptive education.  This education will include attachment-informed parenting.  Such training is to help you improve the relationship with your child and help your child to heal from trauma, including the trauma caused by pre-natal injuries such as exposure to drugs/alcohol and maternal stress, and in addition to the more obvious traumas such as abuse and neglect.

While you are learning more about attachment-parenting, you can use this same type of training to also improve your marriage. Not only is a stronger marriage always better for the child who will enter your home, but the way that you improve your marriage can also be the means by which you can be a better parent to your adopted child.  In fact, the marriage counseling that has been scientifically proved to be the most effective is called Emotionally Focused Couples Therapy, and was developed by Susan Johnson.  Dr. Johnson is perhaps the foremost expert on attachment and marriage, and her book Hold Me Tight, and accompanying workbook, provide an easy to understand and step by step means to creating a closer more loving relationship.  If each spouse is more connected to each other, this leads to each one also becoming more securely attached.

For those wanting a book from a more Christian-based perspective, there are two excellent books by the Yerkoviches How We Love and How We Love Our Kids.  The first book provides attachment-based marriage strategies, and the latter, attachment parenting skills.  This husband and wife team compels us as Christians to look at our past to heal our futures.

Another book, specifically designed to help couples draw closer together and weather any storm and written from a Christian perspective, is Safe Haven Marriage by Archibald D. Hart and Sharon Hart Morris.  Certainly adopting a child from difficult circumstances can create some serious demands, and you will want to be well-prepared to navigate calmly the unexpected pressures.

The connection between having a strong marriage and being effective parents to an adopted child goes beyond just creating a stable home environment.  A strong marriage can create two securely attached individuals who can help their child to also become securely attached. An adopted child—especially one from a difficult past—cannot become any more securely attached than the parents.

Therefore, even if you did not have an ideal past, which may have resulted in your being less than securely attached, you can change to become what is called an “earned” securely attached person. There is further good news.  If you become securely attached as a result of the marriage and individual changes you make, studies show that you will be even a more empathetic parent than if you did come from a healthier background.   The even better news is that your adopted child is more likely to become securely attached.  Remember your adopted child can only become securely attached if you, the parents, are securely attached as well.

Learning to become a more empathetic listener and responder not only will bring you more aligned in what the Gospel calls us to be to others, but will also allow you to become more securely attached—meaning our families can also be stronger.

As with the effort that you have invested into adopting a child, improving your marriage will take time and resources.  And like adopting a child, there are priories that needed to be rearranged.

 

 

 

*If you would like to begin today to learn some practical  strategies that have  incorporated attachment-based  methods into their marriage, take a look at some of the book suggestions above and maybe even consider visiting the Smalley Institute  https://www.smalleyinstitute.com/  which provides a free couples communication course.