World Down Syndrome Day: “Leave No One Behind”

This year on World Down Syndrome Day 2019, the charge and call of action for every person with Down Syndrome and the advocates who support them is to tell the world to “leave no one behind.” Every person with Down Syndrome is capable, deserving, and worthy to live a full life with equal opportunities. In a world where many are self-focused and driven in their own paths for life, our brothers and sisters with Down Syndrome often face exclusion and discrimination and are often “left behind.” This is especially true for our waiting children.

I had the chance to sit down with an adoptive family, Ross & Tamara, currently in the process of bringing home their two-year-old daughter from South East Asia for an interview. Here is a snippet of what we discussed.

  • What should other families considering adoption know about Down Syndrome?

Down Syndrome is often looked at in a negative light, but there is life and life abundant in parenting a child with Down Syndrome. Above all, she will be our daughter first, our daughter who also happens to have Down Syndrome. Down Syndrome will be a small part of her journey here on this earth, but it will not define her journey. There are opportunities to live a full life and many children are capable of holding jobs, driving cars, and going to college. Yes, parenting a child with Down Syndrome might add more to your life with things like speech therapies, visits to the doctor, and advocating for schooling, however, parenting a child with Down Syndrome will add more to your life in other ways; filling your heart with joy, having a love for others, and caring for the least of these. A verse that we have been praying over our family has been Psalm 68: 5-6; “A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows, is God in His holy dwelling, God sets the lonely in families.”

  • When was your heart first stirred towards parenting a child with Down Syndrome?

My heart was first stirred towards parenting a child with Down Syndrome when I read the article, Where Have All the Kids with Down Syndrome Gone?. The article focuses on the increased rate of abortion when a diagnosis of Down Syndrome is given. As a pro-life family, we want to walk in truth and walk in action. If we are fighting for pro-life, we should also fight for the children that are waiting and take action to support them. For us, that means adoption, for others, that might mean advocating.   

 

  • What does your community and support system look like?

Our community does not have many families that are parenting children with Down Syndrome, however, we have found several online communities and forums that are so supportive and available to answer all of our questions. Our church community has also been very supportive! They have come alongside of us and are praying and patiently waiting for the arrival of our daughter into our community. Our local Regional Center and school district offer plenty of early intervention and educational resources that we are so excited about accessing once our daughter comes home!

 

Let’s stand beside our friends with Down Syndrome and be a part of leaving no one behind! Here are a few links to increase your knowledge of Down Syndrome and to advocate for our friends. Let us know some of your favorites!

Resources about Down Syndrome and Parenting children with Down Syndrome:

https://www.heatheravis.com/the-lucky-few-the-book

https://reecesrainbow.org/

https://www.ndsan.org/

God’s Call to Single Parenting

 

I have always known that I wanted to adopt. Like many women, I assumed that it would be after I was married. However, God had a different plan for me, and I continue to be blessed beyond anything I could have imagined. I am a single mama of two precious boys, both adopted from China. We are now in the process of adding a little princess to our family. Trusting God to build my family has been one of the most faith-building and awe-inspiring things in my life.

I work in a neonatal intensive care unit. When I was still in training, I came across a picture of my first son. God made it quite clear that he was my son. I am so thankful that God was faithful to speak loudly and clearly enough that even my feeble faith at the time could follow Him. It seemed illogical. I was in training. I was single. I was very stretched financially. And the child he showed me was a 5 year old boy. Weren’t single women supposed to adopt little girls? To top it off, this child was deaf, a special need that I wasn’t prepared for. No one in my family knew sign language and I knew that he NEEDED extended family if I was to adopt him as a single mama. Time after time, God moved mountains. Family members were learning sign language, finances came through at the last minute, and my precious son Samuel has now been home for 4.5 years. Beyond all explanation, this child who had no language for almost 6 years is now a fluent English language speaker.

Within the first year of coming home, Samuel began to pray for a brother. I should have known then what was coming! I wasn’t ready AT ALL. We had just moved to a new state where I knew no one so that Samuel could attend a school for the deaf. But God was moving. One year later, I began the process to adopt again, I thought this time for a little girl. Once again, I had no idea how God was going to do this, financially or otherwise. Three days later, a friend texted me the picture of a little boy, asking if I had seen him on the advocacy websites. On that same day, my agency called with a referral for a little girl, exactly the age and a manageable special need that was on my heart. A few minutes later, I stood at my computer and I saw the most beautiful, perfect little face pop up on my screen. She was a vision and I knew instantly that she wasn’t mine. I sobbed and sobbed. What was wrong with me? My heart kept pulling to the little boy in my text message. Seriously God? TWO BOYS? As a single mama? I thought for sure I was not hearing correctly. I called my agency back and asked for time to pray. Three days later, I called to decline the little girl’s file and accept the little boy’s but my faith-walk wasn’t over yet. This time God didn’t “write on the wall”. This time, it was a still small voice that I really wanted to drowned out. But HE gave me courage to walk forward. That most precious little boy was in my arms in FIVE AND A HALF MONTHS! Start to finish, this was the fastest journey I had ever heard about. God provided social supports and the necessary finances in the way only God can do. Once again, He provided where I saw no way. And my Averey? He is the cuddliest, most affectionate child I have ever met. He is the perfect, funny, light-hearted balance to my serious, determined first son. They are the family only God could build.

Then in September of 2017, Averey started praying for a little sister. It took awhile for his brother to come around, but then they ganged up on me. And here we are, at another cross-roads. I have no more idea what God has in store this time than I did the other times. Samuel has graduated from the school for the deaf and both boys are attending a public school for the first time this year. We were able to move to a smaller community closer to friends and family and things have settled into a nice even pace again.

Like with Samuel and Averey, God led to my daughter. Our precious little girl (“little sister” as we refer to her at home) is waiting for us in China and we are well on our way to bringing her home. God has shown Himself already in a million ways like only He can. It gets harder each time to figure out the finances of adoption. I have expired my retirement, I just bought my first house ever with zero down and am still paying on my college loans. It seems risky at worst, unwise at best, but I have seen HIM through this process more clearly than I ever have before. He has changed me, shaped me, and molded me through the stretching of my faith. He has built a village around us and continues to do so. I continue to pray for His guidance and His provision. It is a scary thing, walking into adoption as a single parent. I watch my boys sleeping at night and am in awe that I get to co-parent them. They love to tell people who ask, “My daddy is God.” I guess that pretty well sums it up.

 

— Amber (Adoptive Mom)

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

Why You Should Stop Waiting and Switch to the China Special Needs Program

If you have you been waiting for a “healthy” referral from China or are signed up to receive a referral from another country and have been waiting, you may want to consider making a change.  Last year, 2,040 children entered the United States through Intercountry adoption from China.  China remains the largest Intercountry adoption program and the majority of these children are children with special needs.  However, let’s talk about what China considers special needs versus what we here in the US consider special needs.

In the United States, when we hear the term “Special Needs” we usually think of a child in a wheelchair or in a special classroom.  For the sake of adoptions, please know that special needs can certainly encompass those children, but more often than not, these children have a medical condition which made them “undesirable” in China.  First, China does not have a good support system for families who have a child with special needs. Secondly, because of their one-child policy history, most parents desire a “perfect” only child. Any medical condition, even the most minor, will cause the child to be abandoned.  This means children are available for adoption who have repairable heart conditions, cleft lip/palate, club feet, were born premature, have thalassemia, and various other repairable or manageable conditions.

China classifies their children into “Special Focus” and “non-Special Focus”.  Typically, Special Focus children have more moderate to severe special needs and the CCCWA gives us up to 3 months to match those children with families.  The non-Special Focus children are usually younger and have more minor special needs.  The CCCWA only gives us 3 weeks to match these children with families and they can only be matched with families who are logged-in and who have a valid home study and USCIS approval.

__ Pan Xue with pig art June 2011Lately, we have had much success in matching many of our families who are waiting for children with special needs, and because we have expanded our One to One partnerships and are now working with 3 orphanages, we anticipate receiving an increased number of files for children who would be considered non special focus.  These are the children who can only be matched with logged in families who have a valid immigration approval.  We want to encourage those of you waiting in the China traditional program or waiting in another country program with Nightlight to consider the special needs program.  If you are in this position, please contact us to discuss.  Nightlight desires to place waiting children into waiting families and does not desire to see families waiting in other programs.  Because of this, we are willing to credit these NCA transferring families with fees already paid to another NCA program, as much as possible, toward fees due in the China program.

For those of you who have a dossier logged-in through the traditional program, we encourage you to update your home study and apply for a new I-800A USCIS approval so that if we receive files of children with minor special needs, we can at least call you and tell you about them.  As of now, we are prohibited from matching a child with a family if the family does not have the proper government approvals to be matched.   China places this restriction because they want the children to come home to a family as soon as possible.

It can take 3 to 4 months to update your home study and immigration approval for China.  If you are also completing a dossier for China, it will likely take 4 to 6 months to get your dossier logged in so that you are ready to accept a referral.  Don’t delay getting started as soon as possible.

Once you make the decision this is something you will consider, we will have you complete a Medical Conditions Checklist and provide information to help you research various special needs which are commonly seen from China.  You and your family would have an opportunity to review these medical conditions and mark those you would be willing to consider.  When we received the file of a child which meets your preferences, we will call you to discuss and you will have the opportunity to review the file prior to accepting or declining the referral.

If you would like to discuss the possibility of switching to the China Waiting Child program from either the traditional China program or another NCA adoption program, please call or e-mail Stephanie@nightlight.org or Hannah@nightlight.org.

Spina Bifida Occulta: Part II

bigstock_Adorable_Asian_Baby_With_Spark_938600Spina Bifida Occulta (SPO) is considered the least detrimental of the Spina bifida disorders, and is estimated to affect 10-20% of the population, so clearly many people have the disorder and do not know. The children from China or other countries who have no symptoms would not be classified as having special needs. However, there are types of SPO that do have symptoms.

These are the main categories of Spina Bifida Occulta

  • Thickened filum terminal: The spinal cord is too thick.
  • Fatty filum terminale: There is fatty tissue at end of the spinal cord.
  • Diastematomyelia (split spinal cord) and diplomyelia: The spinal cord is split in two and this split is often caused by a piece of bone.
  • Dermal sinus tract: The spinal cord and the skin on the back are connected by what looks like a band of tissue.
  • Tethered spinal cord in which the end of spinal cord is attached in the wrong way and, therefore, becomes stretched
  • Dipomyelomeningocele and lipomeningocele where the spinal cord is attached to a fatty tumor [1] Continue reading

New Home Study and Post-placement Requirements for China Adoptions

The  China Centre for Children’s Welfare and Adoption released some new home study and post-placements requirements. These new guidelines and regulations for the home study go into effect as of October 1, 2011; and those regarding post placement visits and reports apply to families who receive Notice of Coming to China for Adoption after August 1, 2011.

personwritingHome Study

First, you must have a home study completed by a Hague accredited adoption agency. Please contact Nightlight before you begin the home study process so we can advise you as to the selection of a home study agency. (As a Hague accredited agency, Nightlight provides adoption home study services in Southern California, Colorado, and South Carolina.)

China also requires certain applicants — anyone who has a history of alcohol or drug abuse, has experienced emotional loss or trauma or abuse, or is in counseling — to provide a psychological report as part of the home study process. The type of report required and the contents are not specified:  it will be up to the home study provider to determine the type of evaluation that the family may need. For example, emotional loss is a common experience — especially among those who have gone through infertility and possibly miscarriages — and the home study provider will want to address these issues with the couple. If someone has experienced serious trauma and abuse, then it may be more appropriate for counseling to be recommended if certain issues have not been resolved.

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China changes course: singles are now able to adopt

international-infant 082412This week we received two breaking news items from China. The first is that the CCAA, as of February 15, 2011, is now referred to as the China Centre for Children’s Welfare and Adoption (CCCWA).

The greater news, however, is that single women are now permitted to adopt from China.  Years ago, when single women could adopt, there were quotas for each agency. Now there are no restrictions as to the number of single women who can adopt.  The CCCWA is now permitting single women to adopt the 2,000 or so Special Focus Children – children who have been waiting for a family for more than 60 days.

The requirements for singles are nearly the same as they are for married couples. In addition, the CCCWA knows that these children who are older or have special needs will require more attention and, therefore, requires that single women indicate the extra resources they have in place. Most of the requirements are in line with Nightlight’s conditions as well as good social work practice.

Adoptions from China to the US were at an all-time high in 2005, with nearly 8,000 children finding homes. In 2009, 3,000 children were adopted by US citizens from China.  As we are all aware, back in 2005 more babies and non-special needs children were being placed for adoption. Continue reading

Making the Decision to Adopt a Child with Clubfoot: Part IV

chinese_crawling_boyAfter reading about clubfoot and the treatment and outcome for these children, you may then be considering if you have the resources to adopt a child with clubfoot.  As nearly all of us would answer if we gave birth to a child with clubfoot, we would definitely be prepared to do what it takes to see that our child got the treatment necessary.

In adopting a child, this can-and-will-do attitude is a plus.  But adoption does include choices, and when you are considering adoption,  knowing what will work with your family’s lifestyle  can make the transition of having a new child in the home much easier. After all, children who come from an orphanage or foster home into new adoptive families can have other adjustment issues as well.

When adopting a child with clubfoot, you may plan on taking your child to an orthopedic specialist, but if your child also has more serious  attachment issues, your child may need  much more of your time than you anticipated. The type and level of care may be different than what you first envisioned.

So here are some questions you may want to ask if you are considering adopting a child with clubfoot:
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Clubfoot: Pre-Adoption Assessment of a Child Referral–Part III

young-asian-doctor-filling-out-medical-chartIn the past two blog posts, we discussed what clubfoot is, the types, and the treatments. Certainly what causes clubfoot may impact the type of treatment your child will receive.  So how do you know the severity of clubfoot your child may have?

What treatment, if any, has the child already had in China? What medical services will your child need once here in the US? And how well will your child fare after receiving castings or surgery?

These are all questions you should ask when presented with a referral of a child with clubfoot. At Nightlight, we will answer as many of these questions as possible. Often we may not have all the information on a child, but we can usually get more as it is always our goal to provide our families with all the information present.

Also, you will want to have a child‘s pictures and medical reports sent to an international medical specialist. There are many health care professionals who provide evaluation services as well as post-adoption services once your child is home. Nightlight has an extensive list of health care providers—some who provide assessment services. Contact Michelle@nightlight to send you this list. For a child with clubfoot, you may want someone whose specialty is clubfoot to evaluate your child’s referral pictures and medical report.

Once a physician looks at your child’s record and sees their pictures, the doctor may have more specific questions. This may require our China coordinator to contact the orphanage staff to gather further information– if the information is available. Continue reading

Clubfoot: Treatments – Part II

clubfeet in castsLast week we discussed what causes clubfoot.  Depending upon what caused the clubfoot and the severity of the clubfoot, there are different levels and types of treatment.  For example, if a child has clubfoot because of the child’s position in the womb, then the foot may be adjusted through physical therapy. Nearly all children with clubfoot are treated with serial castings and braces.  Those who have other complications, such as spina bifida, may need surgery.  Yet, one study showed even children with other medical issues may be able to be also treated through castings and braces, [reference 1] although some studies show that they probably need more intensive treatment. [2]

Treatment usually begins at 1 week old to 2-and-a-half years old.[2]  Most children are treated with the Ponseti method, which involves serial castings.  These are casts that are put on every week to few weeks; each time the castings go on, they slowly change the position of the foot. [1]  For example, a child may have 6 castings done between one and 3 months old.  Of course, if your child is in China, he may not be receiving such treatment.

Once the series of castings are done , the child will usually wear a foot adjunction brace to keep the foot in proper position — much as people wear retainers after having braces on their teeth.  Like a retainer, these shoe braces are initially worn nearly all the time and then just at night. Continue reading