Creating a Life Book For Your Adoptive/Foster Child

 

 

 

Creating Lifebooks for our children is one of those things in life that some parents follow through better than others, like sending out Christmas cards. The desire is there, we’ve pictured the outcome, we understand the appreciation it will bring others, and some have gotten as far as making a Shutterfly account. But then, before we know it, it’s December 24th, December 25th, January 1st, January 30th and we’ve convinced ourselves that next year we will do better.

I get it, life is busy, especially now that we’re parenting. But unlike Christmas Cards, that are eventually thrown away or tossed into a drawer, Lifebooks serve as  lifelong tools for our children. It connects a child with their past. It helps them make sense of their experiences, the good and painful. It’s a vehicle that facilitates discussion about the often-messy circumstances leading to their adoption, helps navigate their grief of losses and past traumas, and aids to dispel magical thinking or false beliefs that somehow they caused the separation from their birth family.  All of which, if handled correctly, contributes to strengthening a child’s positive self-identify.

Through a quick internet search, you can find a lot of wonderful resources about creating a Lifebook for your adoptive/foster child. Most of the blogs and articles are better than I could ever recreate. Here are some of the highlights that I’ve learned from my thirteen years working in the adoptions and foster care field.

 

  1. Lifebooks are not reserved for the Pinterest parent. Lifebooks are not meant to be perfect or even pretty. They are filled photos, artwork, words, historic information and journal entries. No Shutterfly account needed. Use a book were pages can be added and rearranged, such as a three-ring binder.
  2. Don’t know where to begin? Start with important dates and places. Stuck again? Search the web for template pages and ideas. Iowa’s Foster and Adoptive Parent Association IFAPA has created over seventy free life book pages for foster and adoptive families and social workers to use. http://www.ifapa.org/publications/ifapa_lifebook_pages.asp
  3. Do a little legwork. I know of one fost/adopt family whose daughter attended twelve schools in only eight years. To help fill in her story, they retrieved the names of the schools from former case workers and spent one summer visiting each school, taking photographs of the schools and asking the school offices for their daughter’s yearbook picture.
  4. Involved the masses. Contact important individuals from your child’s past and ask them to contribute notes and memories. These people may include case workers, foster parents, teachers, mentors, coaches, etc. Even if you don’t have many contacts from your child’s past, you must have had contact with a social worker who facilitated your adoption.
  5. Involve your child. The life book is for your child and in order for it to be a useful therapeutic too., they must contribute. When they are young it may be a drawing they made of their birth family. As they get older they can contribute more. They also must be allowed to handle it, carry it around, land ook at it when they please.
  6. Remain honest. A Lifebook should provide a child the truth about their own life history. The story can become more sophisticated as the child grows older. As painful as it may be, recording the reasons for the child’s adoption is important because truth dispels false beliefs that a child may otherwise have that they caused the circumstances that led them to be separated from their birth family and false guilt that may affect their self-worth. Lifebooks also allow for feelings, complicated and real, such as how much a child loves their birth parents and positive memories living with their birth family even when those parents may have been neglectful, abusive or primarily absent
  7. Leave lots of blank pages to continue to document your child’s growth, development, school progress, hobbies, and relationships etc.

The simple fact is there is no right or wrong way to make a Lifebook, but by not doing a Lifebook you’re missing a powerful way to positively impact your child’s sense of self and the way they view their past, present and future. It’s also a great way to deepen the parent/child relationship. The Christmas cards can wait until next year, your child’s Lifebook should not.

How Do You Celebrate “Gotcha Day”?

 

The term “Gotcha Day” has been used for many years by adoptive parents to celebrate the day their adopted child became part of their family.  We recognize that not everyone appreciates this term.  Some people instead call this special day “Family Day,” “Adoption Day,” or something similar.  Regardless of what you call it, this is the day that your adopted child became yours for forever.  Why is it important to celebrate this day?  It’s important to celebrate your child and to recognize that your child came to you in a very special way.  It’s important to celebrate the child’s heritage, birth country, and birth parents.  Your child establishes his identity through embracing who he is and where he came from.  Celebrating this day reveals to the child that you are aware of the culture and history of his background.  It also enables you to recognize the importance of the child’s birth parents and their love for him.  Everyone appreciates the opportunity to celebrate their child and the way their child came into their family.

Families choose different days to celebrate.  Some celebrate the first day the child was put in their arms.  Some celebrate the court hearing that made that child officially a part of the family.  Some celebrate the first day that their child met their whole family.  It doesn’t matter what day you choose.

In some families, the child may not be comfortable celebrating at all.  They may have negative feelings associated with the adoption process or parts of it.  In these cases, another option is to celebrate National Adoption Day (the Saturday before Thanksgiving) with family and friends.  The focus in such a celebration can be on adoption in general, and such events can help reduce the stigma surrounding adoption as well.

How do you celebrate “Gotcha Day” or “Family Day”?

The Marvin family celebrates “Family Day” by recognizing their son’s birth country.  In The Congo, people celebrate special days by purchasing Fanta Orange soft drinks in glass bottles.  The family has incorporated this tradition into their “Family Day” to give their son the ability to appreciate his culture.

The Inabinet family recently celebrated their 4-year-old son’s domestic adoption “Gotcha Day” by explaining to him in greater detail his adoption and that he has two mommies and two daddies.  The next day the adoptive and birth families came together to celebrate Preston by spending the day at the zoo together.  Preston was able to celebrate his adoptive family and still recognize and know his birth family.

Other ideas for how to celebrate this special day are as follows:

  • Create a book of the adoption journey and read the book to the child every year.
  • Look at pictures of the child’s birth family or birth country.
  • Go to a restaurant related to your child’s culture.
  • Mail a care package to the orphanage your child spent their early years in.
  • Tell your child stories of your visit to his birth country or the days leading up to his birth.
  • Be intentional on this day to create new memories and record them in a special way.
  • Plant a tree.
  • Take a picture as a family.

“Gotcha Day” or “Family Day” celebrations do not have to be elaborate, as long as they are meaningful to you and your child.

Feel Good Friday: Reunification in Uganda

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

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

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

Grace was loved by many.

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

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

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

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

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

Our Adoption Journey: Nightlight Family Testimony

 

This is the story of how we adopted our precious daughter. My wife and I had 10 years of unexplained infertility. We felt in our hearts that we needed to partner with a Christian adoption agency. Galatians 6:10 instructs us, ” … let us do good to all people, and especially to those who are of the household of the faith.” In my opinion, that means choosing to do business with brothers and sisters in Christ when we’re able, as this helps them provide for their families.  I contacted Focus on the Family, which led us to Love Basket, Inc., now Nightlight Christian Adoptions.  We had been waiting 3½ years when we finally got the call from the agency that would change our lives forever, joyfully informing us that they’d found a good adoption match and that we soon would be heading for Kansas City, Missouri. There were many friends and family members praying for us; this covering of prayer meant the world to us. 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 states, “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”

 

Some folks might say we experienced a lot of “coincidences.”  We don’t believe these were coincidences at all. We believe in Emmanuel – “God with us.” God is not an absent landlord, nor does He love us from a distance, uninterested in our lives. We give thanks and glory to God, for we experienced His goodness and grace during our 12-day journey.

 

During the week after we got the phone call, one of my favorite worship songs, which I hadn’t heard in a while, came across my newsfeed: “No Longer Slaves” by Jonathan and Melissa Helser:

 

“You split the sea so I could walk right through it. My fears are drowned in perfect love.
You rescued me, and I will stand and sing. I’m no longer a slave to fear; I am a child of God.”

 

As we were traveling to our daughter’s birth place we passed a cornfield along I-70, near Casey, Illinois where there were signs every 100 feet: World’s … Largest … Wind Chime … Next Exit. Casey is a charming little town, with finely manicured Scottish green lawns, and random “Guinness World Record” giant items (“world’s largest” wind chime, mailbox, rocking chair, etc.) on store front properties. There was a cafe that was closed but I pictured us eating here on the way back home with our baby. (I use the generic term “baby” because, since the birth mother wanted the gender to be a surprise, we still didn’t know at that point if we were getting a son or a daughter.)

 

We drove further, spending the night in Effingham, Illinois, where there is a giant white cross, 198 feet tall and 113 feet wide. It is forged out of over 180 tons of steel anchored in an enormous volume of cement, so it can withstand hurricane-force blasts of wind (up to 145 mph). At the visitor center, an older woman, Edie, prayed for us. Edie is the name of my wife’s beloved three-year-old niece. An altar stands in the chapel with an inscription that reads simply, “Trust in God.”

 

After about five hours of driving under sunny blue skies, we arrived at our attorney’s office just two minutes before our scheduled meeting. He had a calming presence, with a voice like Morgan Freeman narrating The Shawshank Redemption. The next day, we met our social worker from the adoption agency, RoNishia, who exemplified Matthew 5:16: “Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.” She was classy in both appearance and personality, with a warm smile and a voice that was gentle and soothing, yet confident. There in the hospital waiting room, the three of us joined in prayer. RoNishia sat with us for hours, answered our questions, and encouraged us during the anticipation of the birth. Finally, the word came … IT’S A GIRL! Our beautiful daughter was brought to us in a bassinet. Our tiny, dark-haired baby girl, wrapped up in a white cocoon, was handed to her mommy, and through tears of joy, my wife fed her for the first time. It was one of those moments where the demands of life are placed on hold and you are completely loving and living in the present moment. The next two days spent caring for our little one were timeless; we didn’t know what time or even what day it was, and we didn’t care. We could relate to the nurses, listening to their own stories about adoption and their children, thankful to finally be parents ourselves. When the time came to leave the hospital, I was wishing I had brought an armored Humvee. (I’m betting other first-time daddies can relate!)

 

I was anxious while waiting to begin the legal proceedings to adopt our baby. There was another couple there adopting a baby boy; they were naming him Carson. Carson is not a very common name, but it happens to be the name of my brother’s son. Incredible! I was just shaking my head at all the little “coincidences.” It was as if the Lord was saying, “Why are you still nervous? I’ve got this covered!” All legal proceedings went smoothly, but it was nevertheless humbling and nerve-wracking being asked questions by our 4-day-old daughter’s state-assigned attorney.

We visited the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception of Kansas City. Some 10,000 people witnessed the laying of the cornerstone in 1882. We were dismayed to discover that it was closed, but the cleaning lady heard me tugging at the locked door so she let us in for an unofficial tour. The beauty of the stained glass took our breath away and we had the whole sanctuary to ourselves.

Missouri law requires adoptive parents to remain in Missouri while waiting for adoption paperwork to be approved, but they may go anywhere in the state. We decided to get a head start on our trip home by driving three hours east, to St. Louis. While there, we visited the Cathedral Basilica, completed in 1914; we thought we’d been transported to Italy. Installation of mosaics in the interior began in 1912 and was completed in 1988. The mosaics collectively contain 41.5 million glass tesserae (tile pieces) in more than 8,000 shades of color. Covering 83,000 square feet (almost two acres), it is the largest mosaic collection in the western hemisphere. Next stop was St. Francis Xavier. On June 8, 1884, the cornerstone for the new church was laid. When we first arrived, we had the whole sanctuary to ourselves – again. At the altar, we prayed for the adoption paperwork to be completed, protection on our drive home and, of course, for our precious baby girl.

 

Finally, all paperwork was approved and we were released to take our daughter home. It was a five-hour drive to our hotel in Richmond, Indiana, but we stopped first at the Effingham cross. To our great joy, even though she was not scheduled to work that day, Edie was there. When my wife offered to let Edie feed our baby, her smile lit up the room! No other tourists showed up the entire 45 minutes we were there. Edie had sent a card to our home address after our initial visit, telling us that she and her prayer partner were praying for our adoption. Now she knew that those prayers had been answered.

Last stop before our hotel was Casey, Illinois; I was determined to eat at the café that had been closed on our way west. This time it was open, and we ate together as a family. My wife’s favorite comic book character is Wonder Woman. How often do you see a poster depicting Wonder Woman for the women’s restroom? Unbelievable, but there it was! The real reason I had wanted to revisit Casey was because I had read about a Christian businessman who built Guinness World Record attractions to revitalize the town. He and other Christians bought most of the store fronts so the creations could be placed on private, not public, property. He placed a scripture on each one, knowing tourists would see them and be exposed to God’s Word. Eleven days earlier, I hadn’t noticed the star of David and the Christian fish symbol on the side of the giant wind chime. You can see these creations at www.bigthingssmalltown.com

 

It rained almost the entire last leg of the drive; a five-hour drive turned into seven hours. We passed two overturned tractor trailers that were heading west. Only four months prior, we had bought a used Lincoln MKZ hybrid; we were thankful for the comfortable and safe ride home with an impressive 44mpg.  As I was telling a neighbor about our trip, she said, “All you needed was a rainbow.” I grinned from ear to ear as I showed her this picture I took on our way home.

On Sunday, June 25th, 2017, we took our darling girl to Church for the first time. During communion, there was a worship song that I never heard before called “There is a Cloud” by Elevation Worship.

“Hear the word roaring as thunder with a new future to tell, for the dry season is over.
There is a cloud beginning to swell. Every seed, buried in sorrow, You will call forth in its time.
You are Lord, Lord of the harvest, calling our hope now to arise. We receive Your rain.”

 

The pastor titled his sermon “Joy,” and he showed a video of a song I’d never heard before, but which begs for a smile, “Old Church Choir” by Zach Williams.

 

When the valleys that I wander turn to mountains that I can climb
Oh, you are with me, never leave me
Oh, ’cause there ain’t nothing, there ain’t nothing gonna steal my joy
(except a dirty diaper :))
I got an Old Church Choir singing in my soul.

 

I saved the best for last. Listed here are the birth mother’s requirements for the adoptive parents, in her own handwriting:

 

 

 

We paid our house off last year, have precisely two pets, and have a close family. My wife and I are very active (we got to see a lot of places during the waiting stage of the adoption process). We didn’t have a gender preference listed, but deep inside my wife really wanted a baby girl. The one sentence that I read over and over was, “I want this child to be a longed-for gift or answered prayer.” Coincidence? Not a chance.

 

There is a difference between giving up and giving in to feelings of defeat and accepting the reality of one’s circumstances and moving on. I am so very proud of my wife. There were many tears and frustrations in our struggle with infertility, but instead of allowing herself to become jealous or resentful of people close to us who were able to have children, she poured out love and generosity on them instead. The apostle Paul wrote this in his letter to the Philippians: “… I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am. I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” (Philippians 4:11-13)

 

We prayed, and in His perfect time, the Lord answered. Praise His holy name.

 

Nightlight’s Hosting Program: An Adoption Story

Did you know that Nightlight was the very first adoption agency to do hosting?  In the early 90’s Nightlight brought over a tour group of older children from Russia. Today’s Feel Good Friday story is brought to you by hosting.

Over Christmas 2009, I was working in the South Carolina office and we were assisting a hosting agency to bring over a group of children from Ukraine.  While the children were in the air between Ukraine and the US, one of the family’s backed out of hosting.  I sent out an urgent e-mail to families who had inquired with us.  One family sent the e-mail to the youth pastor at their church.  Bucky and Julie Rogers were youth pastors at the time, and they had previously adopted two children (one child through domestic adoption and one child from Guatemala).  They had only adopted babies and had no intention of adopting an older child.  However, because they were youth pastors, they figured they could do a good job hosting.

Sasha was 13 years old at that time.  He arrived and won all of our hearts.

I remember even the van driver (bringing the children from the airport) told me that he was her favorite of the group.  Within 2 days, Bucky and Julie called and wanted to know exactly what they needed to do to adopt Sasha.

Fast forward to travel, Mount Eyjafjallajökull erupted bringing air travel over Europe to a halt.  This happened the very day that Bucky and Julie were scheduled to fly to Ukraine.  They rebooked their flight to Germany and the gate agent told them that he could not guarantee that once they got to Germany they would be able to get to Ukraine. Julie told the gate agent, “If you get me to Germany, I’ll find a way to get to my son!

Sasha has grown into such a loving, respectful, young man who loves Jesus and his family.  Bucky and Julie are now full time missionaries in Uganda, and Sasha has spent a lot of time there as well.  Sasha is now 21 years old and getting married this fall.  A few weeks ago, Sasha sent me a message on Facebook asking for my home address.  I said, “Is it time for wedding invitations?” and he responded that it was.  I am so thrilled to be invited to witness this young man’s wedding.  He has been a blessing to all of us since his arrival here, and I am so humbled that God used me in a small way to change his story.  I am also especially overwhelmed by the fact that this is the first child that I have helped in the adoption process who is now old enough to get married.  I guess that means there are more to come.  I’m getting up there.  Hosting programs are a lot of work and sometimes stressful, but there are so many more children just like Sasha who would not have found a family otherwise.  This is why we do hosting and why we do what we do each day!

—Lisa Prather, LMSW | Vice President of Operations

For more information about our Hosting Programs, please contact Natalie by emailing her at natalie@nightlight.org.

Foster Parent Appreciation Month: Testimony from Katie & Brad

 

Brad and I found out a couple years ago it would most likely not happen that we would have children. Was it sad? Yes. Was it the end? NO! God chose this path for our lives and we could not imagine it any other way now! We always talked about adoption even before we were married, so this was not a hard decision to make. When we met with our agency we were determined to do domestic adoption. Foster Care was not at the front of the list. However, while speaking to our agency, God was changing our minds in that very moment! Brad and I looked at each other and Brad said I think we should do foster care. I looked at him and said I agreed! And really the rest is history.

 

After all the paperwork and home study we were ready for children. We were placed with 2 little people almost immediately. We loved them and were thrilled to have them in our home. After about 3 months in our home they went back to live with their bio parents. People have asked me: was it hard? Of course it was, but God is so gracious and loving. He gives us the strength we need.

 

 

After about 2ish weeks, we had our second placement. Now this is where it gets long and crazy. But I will say we have 4 beautiful children in our home and we are blessed to get them all in a 9 month period of time! I know crazy!!!! But I LOVE it! I wouldn’t change any of it. Watching God provide, watching God work, watching God change their little lives, watching God change our lives! What a wonderful/crazy life God has chosen for us!

 

That all being said. It’s not easy! But God provides such grace and mercy to us. We don’t always do it right, but His mercy is new every morning!

 

We have a lot of people say: I could never do foster care! And my reply is: Yes, you can! Is it easy to love children who have no home? Yes! Is it easy to let them go back to their bio parents? Not always. Is foster care needed? Most certainly!

 

There are over 400,000 children in the foster Care system in the US! Isn’t that a shocking number. That’s 400,000 children that need to be shown the love of God! 400,000 children that have no idea what a functioning, stable home looks like. 400,000 children that need us to show them that their story doesn’t have to continue to be a nightmare. That God is the one who can shine His glorious light in their lives. But how will they know that if we don’t get involved?

 

Please consider foster care and the change you can make in a child’s life. It wasn’t about growing our family for Brad and I. It may have started that way but God showed us it is about giving these precious children a home that they wouldn’t normally have. The benefit is that someday we may be able to adopt our wonderful children!

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.

 

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.”

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 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.