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.

 

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.

 

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

Foster and Adoptive Parent Resources

My husband and I became foster parents after only having been married a year and a half. We were in our late twenties and had no biological children. After working with kids in foster care in our professions, going through the home study process, talking with other foster families, and completing the 14+ hours of training required we thought we were somewhat well prepared. Looking back on it now 12 years later however, I see that we were so naive and clueless.

Our first placement was a teenage boy who we parented for a year and a half. Our next placement came in 2007 with a 3 year old and 6 month old- two boys who we would foster for three years and eventually have the honor of adopting in 2010.

We kept up all of the state-mandated training hours for the years we had our foster license. Some trainings were good… some not so much. We did the best we could in those early years to lead with compassion and to address hard behaviors in the best ways we knew how. Our young, starry-eyed selves thought that love would be enough to repair the past our children had endured, but time after time we were left feeling depleted and desperate realizing that it wasn’t enough.

In the past five years since I began working at Nightlight I have learned so much that would have helped me in those early years. I have learned to look beyond the behaviors into what is underneath. I have learned that past trauma can cause real changes in a child’s brain development. I have learned that traditional strategies in parenting a child with a history of abuse, neglect, trauma, prenatal exposure, and chronic stress will not be effective. These kids need more. They need us, as their caregivers, to be trauma-informed. They need us to look past the behaviors and focus on connection. They deserve to know that they are valued and worth fighting for.

Below is a list of resources that I would give to my 28 year old self before any child entered my home. Start reading, listening, and learning about how to help bring true healing to the children in your care. Keep educating yourself after they come into your home. I have thought countless times that “I wish I knew then what I know now…” there are so many things I would have handled better. I realize though, that it’s never too late. There are still so many things that we have not yet walked through with our kids that we will handle better because of the ways we work to continue educating ourselves. These are some of the best tools that I’ve found that have transformed the way that we parent. I hope they will help, encourage, and empower you as you care for the children God entrusts you with.

 

Books to Read

The links for all resources are in the titles.

Videos to Watch

***Both of the above videos expand on information first presented in The Connected Child

Podcasts to Listen To

Follow this link to a popular foster/adoption blog “Confessions of an Adoptive Parent” for a fantastic list of can’t miss podcasts for foster and adoptive parents. We also recommend Creating a Family which has a huge library of podcasts on various topics related to foster parenting, adoption, and infertility.

Conferences to Attend

  • Empowered to Connect– The Empowered to Connect Conference is a two-day event presented by Show Hope and the Karyn Purvis Institute of Child Development. It offers practical teaching in a safe and supportive community and is meant to equip families, churches, and professionals to better serve children impacted by adoption and foster care. The Empowered to Connect conference is coming up and we encourage all of our families to go if they can! It is being offered April 13-14th and you can experience this conference by attending the live event in Oswego, IL or by attending a live simulcast at a location near you!
  • CAFO– The Christian Alliance for Orphans Summit is an annual conference that inspires and equips the Church to care for orphans and vulnerable children with wisdom-guided love. Last year’s conference drew over 2,000 foster and adoptive parents, orphan advocates, pastors and professionals from 30 countries. This year’s conference will be held in Frisco, Texas on May 9- 11, 2018.

Other Helpful Resources

  • This Free, printable foster care binder to help you organize- this will help create a space for you to easily organize information for any child based in your home such as doctor’s appointments, medications administered, court hearings, visitations, etc.
  • This is a great article about what to do on your child’s first day home to help them feel comfortable and safe.
  • Your local churches! The local churches in our area have really stepped up in so many ways to serve foster families. There are churches in our community that offer support groups, a monthly parents’ night out, training, and resources such as clothes, books, toys, and furniture for families when they receive a new placement. Make some phone calls to local churches to see if they have a foster/adoption ministry.

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

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.