How to Manage and Complete Adoption Paperwork

 

When my wife and I meet new people, I love explaining what I do for work and the joy I get from helping guide families throughout their adoption process. I love sharing the adoption stories and testimonies of the families we work with, and how each have a personal and unique journey through adoption. For those looking to build their family through adoption, the process is indeed a journey; one that will be simultaneously life-giving and challenging. As with any journey, often times the hardest part is getting started.

 

I find this to be especially true with the families I work with as they begin to navigate the adoption paperwork stage of the process.  Adoption paperwork is a necessary and vital part of the adoption journey, but it can definitely feel overwhelming for families.  Even the most organized of couples tend to have a hard time keeping it all together! At Nightlight Christian Adoptions, we acknowledge the difficulty of this process, so we have compiled a few tips to help families manage, and ultimately complete, their adoption paperwork.

 

     1. Break Paperwork Down to Manageable Pieces

 

One of the biggest mistakes I see families make in the adoption paperwork phase is when they try to take on every form at once. This usually starts out with good intentions as the family is driven by their excitement to keep the ball rolling, but it is almost always met with them becoming overwhelmed. Instead, we recommend that families break their paperwork down into manageable pieces.

 

Breaking the paperwork down is a beneficial way to both organize forms and find peace of mind by putting your work into perspective. A helpful way to do this is to separate the paperwork into corresponding sections in a folder or binder. An example breakdown of this is as followed:

 

  • Agency Forms
  • Home Study Forms
  • Financial Forms
  • Dossier Forms
  • Education Forms, etc.

 

Another way to break down the paperwork requirements is to separate responsibilities between you and your spouse. You can designate who fills out each section of forms and come together on the forms that require both adoptive parents to complete. Regardless of one’s method, breaking down the paperwork into pieces helps families manage their work and prevents them from becoming overwhelmed with the process.

 

 

  1. Utilize Your Checklists

 

A helpful tool that every Nightlight office provides for families is a checklist for the supporting documents of each case stage.  Viewing the adoption paperwork broken down as a checklist allows a family to physically track their progress towards completing their required forms. We advise families to always keep these checklists handy, and to utilize their own created checklists if it helps them understand the process more tangibly. For families with children in the home, this is also a way to get them involved in the adoption process. One idea for families with little ones is to have a checklist of adoption paperwork on a whiteboard or poster board where they can help you place a sticker or draw a checkmark when and item is completed. This could be a fun way to have the whole family feel a part of the adoption process while giving you a visual of your progress.

 

  1. Make Copies of Everything You Complete

 

Often times I find that families become so focused on filling out and uploading/mailing their forms that they forget to make copies for their own records. This causes an issue later in the process when a document needs to be resent or referred to, only for the family to realize that they mailed or discarded their only copy. Several of the documents completed during the adoption paperwork phase will need to be referred to again in the process, and ensuring that your family has access to what you have already completed will save a lot of time and energy in the future.

 

Your family might choose to store everything online or through hard copies, but regardless of the method it is important to keep records of your paperwork throughout the entire adoption journey. For example, a family that is adopting internationally might think that they are finished with their paperwork once they have arrived back in the U.S. with their child. However, in reality they will need several of their documents in order to obtain the child’s social security number, U.S. Passport, and start the re-adoption process if applicable. So a good rule of thumb is to always back-up and keep record of every document you complete!

 

  1. Don’t Be Afraid to Ask For Help

 

This tip might seem like a no-brainer, but you would be surprised how frequently I hear from families who are hesitant to ask for help from their agency caseworker or adoption advisor. At Nightlight we are always willing to help walk our families through the process: from start to finish! This includes the paperwork phase, as we recognize the amount of work that is required and the confusion that comes with the process. From application, to home study, to dossier, to post adoption; whatever questions you might have regarding paperwork during your adoption journey, your Nightlight adoption advisor or caseworker is willing to help you find a solution.

So although paperwork is not the most exciting part of your adoption journey, it is something that is vital to the process. Instead of becoming overwhelmed with the amount of forms and documents, utilize the tools at your disposal to organize and manage what needs to be completed. As always, Nightlight Christian Adoptions is here to see that your journey end with you welcoming your child into a loving home.

 

written by John Hewitt, M.Div.| Home Study Coordinator

In the Classroom: Acknowledging Foster and Adopted Children

 

 

As parents of six children, all school aged at adoption, we realized almost immediately, that adoption would need to be addressed in the classroom. We have been very involved in our children’s education, so have dealt with a lot of teachers! For the most part, we have been blessed to have amazing, nurturing and involved teachers, who truly wanted the best for our children. However, even the best teacher, may not be aware of how to be sensitive to the issues our children may encounter with some of the material presented in the classroom.

This week, I received an email from the PTA President, who’d requested the 5th grade parents to send in their children’s baby photos for the school yearbook. It brought up such sadness for me, as I thought about the children in the 5th grade at our school and others throughout the country, that would receive this assignment or others that request information or photos from early childhood. None of my children have a single photo of them as a baby or toddler.  Our youngest son looks at the early photos I took of him when he was six and refers to them as when he ‘was a baby.’ I sent a request to the PTA President to consider eliminating baby pictures from the yearbook as it highlights those children from foster care or international adoption who are unlikely to have those special photos. I was ignored, so I had to call in to the school principal.

There are a few school assignments through the years that are used to talk about genetics, family trees or a lifeline. I remember the second grade assignment to make a lifeline of major events for each year of the child’s life. I called the teacher and reminded her that my child and another child in the class that was in the foster care system, might not feel comfortable having their lives up on the wall for open house and all to see! The teacher began to cry and was very apologetic, offering to immediately cancel the assignment.

One of my daughters did the genetics assignment in school, ignoring the fact she was adopted, and identified her brown eyes coming from me and her blonde hair coming from her dad’s side of the family! I thought it was interesting that she did not want to make her story part of the assignment. It wasn’t that she was embarrassed by her adoption, or wanted to pretend her early years with her biological family did not exist. It was just that her adoption and anything related to it, even the color of her eyes, is her business, and she chose not to share her personal story in a school assignment with her peers in the classroom.

It is important that as parents, we encourage our children to feel comfortable sharing the parts of their story that they choose to share. School assignments need to include all of the students and include them in a safe, positive manner. At the beginning of each school year, I go to the school prior to the first day, introduce myself to my child’s teacher and share that my child was adopted and had some difficult years. I suggest that my child’s story is his or her own, and that we encourage sharing only if the child chooses.  Assignments need to be sensitive to that child’s history or lack of photos, etc. recognizing that for a child from Foster Care or Adoption, their story will be far different than other children in the classroom and may not be appropriate for sharing. I also provide a wonderful article from the U.S. Department of Education, “What Teachers Should Know About Adoption.” http://qic-ag.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/08/QICAG-Education-Brochure-v041-final.pdf I’d encourage all parents to help pave the way for their child, by following these steps, meeting with the teacher prior to the school year, giving a bit of general history, strengths and challenges of your child, along with this article. It can only help your child to feel more comfortable in the classroom and hopefully avoid some of these challenges.

Lifting the Adoption Community in Prayer

 

 

Whether you are waiting for an adoption placement, or hoping to prayerfully support a family in the midst of their adoption journey, here are some practical ways to pray for the adoption community.

Pray for Rest- adoptive families spend countless hours gathering documents and preparing for a child. There are visits before placement and after placement where a caseworker assesses their home and any family members-these visits can get exhausting.

Pray for Wisdom- at times there are unforeseen circumstances that arise in an adoption application and match process. The family, caseworker, a birthmom, must work through unexpected events that require wisdom and discernment.

Pray for Finances- the financial commitment can weigh heavily on a family. Unexpected expenses with travel or medical expenses can pop up. Finances for when they are able to care for a new child can continue far beyond an adoption agency fees.

Pray for Attachment- Family bonding and attachment are important when adopting a child both before and after the adoption process. This is relevant for both infant and older child adoptions.

Pray for the birthmom- pray for her journey in this process. She may not be supported in her decision for placement or may not even know if she is certain about placement. The unknown can be scary for both sides- adoptive parents and birthparents. Pray for the relationship between birthmom and adoptive family.

Pray for the Adoption agency and state/international regulations- the caseworkers, supervisors, courts for finalizations, foreign officials, all work in different capacities within adoption. This can be an emotionally taxing and physically demanding job, filled with uncertainty and uncontrollable obstacles. Workers who make day to day decisions that affect the family long term can to be lifted in prayer.

In what ways do you pray for the adoption community?

Always Hope

 

In our years of waiting to build our family, we would often lose hope that it would ever happen. We would question if the word hope even existed. And when we started seeing others build their family, we would often feel defeated and hopeless in our journey.

While we were waiting, I went on a missions trip with our church. At the end of each day, we were asked where we saw God working in our daily task. We knew the question was coming so we began to look for God working throughout the day. Our answers varied—sometimes we saw God working in a conversation with a person, sometimes it was through a kind act, or sometimes it was God creating something sacred in us individually. It became the start of something new for me–to look for God in the daily. He’s already there….but when you look for God..you see God clearer and you don’t miss a moment. You have a perspective change.

I began to write down where I saw God in the daily moments and interactions. He was in the little notes left by my husband, He was in the conversations I had with friends, and He was often found in my workplace…a homeless shelter. He was reaching me in ways I never noticed before. He was in moving in my daily and creating beauty all around me….and I finally began to see it.

As I began to see Him more clearly, I quickly saw where He was leading me. He was leading me back to hope. Step by step..….He knitted our story together. He knew our future child and her birthparents…..He already knew how our story would unfold. Seeing God and being thankful in God for what he has done, grew my confidence of what he’ll continue to do, both in the daily and in the bigger moments. This ultimately rekindled my hope. We seek Him. We thank Him. We build our hope in Him.

You have to create your own hope…and hope for me came from creating a thanksgiving spirit. When you become thankful…you become hopeful. Always. And being hopeful will completely change your perspective of the adoption process. We have to protect our view of the process, because adoption is the most beautiful adventure this mama has ever experienced. Always Hope.

The Reason I Became a Social Worker

When I was 11 years old, I was watching a television program about a child who had been abused.  That child was talking with an adult, likely a social worker, though I was not familiar with the term at the time.  I knew right then that I wanted to do what that woman was doing.  I wanted to help children, but I had no idea what that would look like.  When I went to college, I started as a psychology major.  Psychology was the only field I was aware of that would get me to my goal.  At my university the psychology degree was very research based.  As I began studying in that field, it just didn’t fit.  I went to see my college advisor and she said, “Describe to me what you want to do.”  After I told her, she said, “It sounds to me like you want to do social work.”  To which I answered, “What’s that?”

She sent me to the social work department at the university to meet with the dean.  After talking with the dean, I knew that this was the right fit.  As I continued in my studies, often when I would tell others what I was studying, they would make a face or comment on how little money I would make in that field.  Those things didn’t matter to me.  I just knew that God had called me to help people and social work was the best way for me to do that.

Over the years, I have worked for child protective services, community development, therapeutic foster care, adoption, and I even did a short stint in hospice.  I have gained a lot of experience and dealt with some extremely difficult situations, but I have never regretted my decision to pursue social work. Social work is not easy.  It is often a thankless job with low pay, high caseloads, and high stress.  If you know a social worker, take the time to thank her or honor her this month (Social Work Month).  Let her know that she is appreciated.

In my very first social work job after college, I attended a training where the person instructed all of the attendees to begin a “warm fuzzy file”.  She said that we would have discouraging days and we would need to keep reminders of all of our good days.  I took her advice, and I have traveled from job to job with that file.  I now have a Masters in Social Work and have been working in the field for 21 years.  My “warm fuzzy file” is stuffed to overflowing, and I am so grateful for that trainer’s advice.  Whenever I am feeling discouraged, I pull it out and read notes and look at photos.  It helps me to continue and not give up.

 

 

 

 

 

Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Galatians 6:9

Called To Adoption: Where To Start?

 

It’s the start of a brand new year, and among your other goals, adoption comes up. Many couples feel called to adopt, either from discussing it for years, because of an infertility journey, or sometimes after hearing a touching story about a child and their forever family. Since this is a common time of year for planning, adoption may be something you are wanting to consider more seriously.

 

Talking about adoption, and starting an adoption process are two very different things. So how do other people go from dreaming, to achieving their goals?

 

Step 1: Research the different types of adoption

If you haven’t looked into it yet, there are many different avenues for adoption. Each one unique with different pro’s, con’s, costs, and timelines. You may want to get a basic overview (hyperlink: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oCg7-2WPoOM&t) about each of the options before further researching. It may help to start with simple questions like what age of child you are hoping to adopt, or whether or not you will be available to travel for an adoption process.

 

Step 2: Pick up your phone and call for more information

While it’s tempting to try to gather as much information as you can through the internet, it can also take a lot of time and lead to misinformation. Agencies have trained staff who are available to answer your questions, and help you decide if an adoption program may be the right fit. Chances are there might even be some questions you haven’t thought of yet that they can catch you up on.

 

Step 3: Pray together and narrow your options down

With a basic understanding of the types of adoption you could consider, and your questions answered, you are now in a place to discuss and pray about what program may be right for your family. This can be a vital stage in the process that you won’t want to skip over. Seeking God and making sure that everyone is on the same page will save a lot of stress down the road. It’s natural to feel nervous about starting such an important journey, but make sure you also have peace about it.

 

Step 4: Get started

This can look different from program to program, usually it means filling out an application. Adoption can be a paper intensive process, so it helps to stick your toe in the water before jumping in. You will have plenty of work ahead, but the end result is an incredibly important little person that is waiting to meet you. They are worth every step of the process.

 

If you would like more information about different adoption programs, talk through your questions with our trained staff at (502)423-5780, or fill out our inquiry form. (hyperlink: https://nightlight.mysamdb.com/SAM/Fm/ApplicationForm_Preliminary_NL_Edt.aspx)

New Year Resolutions

 

As we approach a New Year, thoughts and conversations around resolutions are inevitable. Whether we resolve to go to the gym more, worry less or finally plant that garden, most of us face January 1st with motivation and resolve to conquer the impossible. And most of us know that by March (if we’re lucky) that motivation has been drained and life has somehow gotten in the way of bringing the full resolution into reality. So why does that happen year after year?

 

I would argue we each get in the way of ourselves.  Never did I involve God in my resolution until a few years ago. I decided my resolution would simply be: Less of me, more of Him. It was the hardest resolution I have ever made, but certainly the most effective, educational and life changing. First I had to figure out where, when, and how this resolution would take place. Every day, all day? What would that look like? Did I need to become Mother Theresa? Then I remembered 1 Thessalonians 5:17: Pray without ceasing. To me that verse means including Him in all things, big or small, all day long. So I did my best to start with that.

 

With that in mind and habit, I allowed God to form HIS resolutions in me. It became less about what I wanted to change, but more about discovering what He wanted to change within me, around me and for me. The burden of a new resolution became less about goals and more about BEING who my Father wanted me to be.

 

In this New Year, we challenge you to simply press in to the relationship you have with your heavenly Father. We know from 2 Corinthians 5:17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come; The old has gone, the new is here!  It is truly a miracle that we have opportunity to renew ourselves by simply stepping into a relationship with Christ – either for the first time or deeper into the on we have. No membership fees, no diets, no degrees required.

 

Happy New Year to all of our Nightlight families and extended community! May 2019 bring you abundant blessings and joy to all.

Adoption Support: What Is Helpful from Family and Friends?

So… you are parents and you’re in your home loving on your baby.  Friends and family are excited and want to celebrate with you, however, they may not quite know how to support you during this time.  They may wonder if it’s okay to stop by, deliver a meal or offer to babysit.  They may have additional questions as to what you need.  While I’m an advocate of telling people what you need, not all people hear when there’s a baby involved!  Let’s look at a few ways family and friends can support you while you bond and spend time snuggling with your little one.

In asking several adoptive parents how they either received support or would have liked to receive support, I compiled a list of things to consider as your family and friends champion you and your child:

  • DO pray!
  • DO accept our decision to adopt without question and how we choose to share about our personal life and decisions.
  • DO accept our choice of a child regardless of their race, heritage or age.
  • DO offer practical help if you don’t mind giving us your time.
  • DO respect that we need bonding time with our child.
  • DO respect our parenting style.
  • DO speak of the birth family with favorable words – We want to honor them with our words and our actions. Speaking negatively of our child(ren)’s biology can transfer to them.
  • DO be willing to learn and educate yourself about adoption.
  • DO show our child unconditional love.
  • DON’T feel sorry for our adopted child.
  • DON’T tell us that now that we’ve adopted we’ll get pregnant with a child of “our own”.
  • DON’T make demands for our time and attention during our adjustment to this new phase.

One adoptive mother’s story:  When we brought our child home (directly from the hospital) we had very few items.  We struggled for years with infertility and it was too painful to have baby items in our home.  Our child was born a month early (we had no idea of gender prior to birth) so we stopped at Babies R Us (while traveling home) to get what we needed.  Upon arriving home, I borrowed from friends (bottles and necessary items) to get through until a baby shower was planned.  I think everyone thought we must have everything that we needed (despite being registered at Babies R Us!) because at the baby shower we received only clothes and small items.  In addition, not one person brought us a meal or offered to help out in any other way.  I also didn’t get paid maternity leave!  We were not angry, we never expected anything from anyone, but I was hurt.  For years I had been supportive, excited, and giving (of time and resources) when my friends welcomed their children into the world.  In fact, when I confided in one friend about how sleep deprived I was she stated “well, isn’t this what you wanted?”.  This was what I wanted, but I was tired!  Everyone thought I should spring right in to motherhood, but I didn’t.  I was struggling terribly (with what later was pointed out to me, by an adoption worker, as post adoption blues).  I didn’t feel worthy of being my baby’s mom.  I would stay awake at night wondering if his birth mother was hurting, missing him.  I wondered if he missed her.  If I would ever be good enough.  I was sad, confused, and felt guilty during what should have been one of the happiest times of my life.  So… support me, on my terms.

Let’s work together to help those in the adoption community as they begin this wonderful stage of the journey! Be aware, and be sensitive/understanding and look for ways you can help, so that these new parents feel empowered and prepared to welcome home their new little one.

Navigating the Summer for Children Needing Structure

 

Summer is a time of freedom, relaxation, and rejuvenation. For some of our children, the shift from a well-structured school day to the unstructured nature of a relaxed lazy summer day at home can bring on anxiety and stress. As you prepare for summer, here are some tips and ideas to add some structure to your long relaxing days.

 

Create A Family Calendar

Creating a family calendar will not only keep you organized, but will allow your family to know what to expect each day. Think of first adding in the daily monotonous tasks like chores and naps, and then add the fun activities. Display the calendar in a place where everyone can see it. Giving your child the freedom to choose activities in their week will allow them to feel as though they have some control over the days to come. This will help to lessen their anxiety and give them a sense of understanding what the expectations of the day are. Having a family calendar with input from everyone will also allow you to minimize the battles you may face when it comes to choosing an activity.

 

Taking the calendar idea a little further, you can create a chart for daily tasks that you would like your child to complete. For instance, use pictures of items to signify each task that the child usually completes. Use a picture of a toothbrush to symbolize brushing their teeth, a shirt to symbolize getting dressed, and a bed to symbolize making their bed. Even if the child typically completes these tasks each day during the school year, they may benefit from having a visual of structured activities when they first wake up in the morning and what they are expected to accomplish.

 

 

Create A Meal Plan

Creating a meal plan will allow your child to visualize what they will be eating for their meals each day. Get the children involved! Let your child help you look through cookbooks, make a shopping list, and help you prepare the meals. If this seems overwhelming to give your child that much freedom, you can come up with a pre-made meal plan and allow your child to choose the days for each meal. You can post the meal plan in the kitchen where it will be easily seen by all members of the family. We all know that when there is a less structured environment, meal schedules and healthy eating are the first things to go. Having a structured meal plan with snack options listed will give your child options of pre-approved snacks. This way you are not having to spend so much time in the kitchen trying to come up with quick snacks to feed a disregulated child.

 

 

Join a Summer Camp

If you do not have the opportunity to stay home with your children during the summer, joining a summer camp is a great way to add structure to your child’s summer schedule. Most summer camps offer a relatively routine and structured schedule. There are loads of community opportunities and church activities that offer low cost summer camps. Joining a summer camp will allow your child to have some structure to their day without the pressure of receiving a grade. Most camps are based on completing a special project or playing games and are not based on merit or grades.  Keep an eye out for next week’s blog that will describe summer camp ideas in more detail!

 

Create An Activity Jar

Not a fan of the calendar idea and desire a little less structure? Create an activity jar for whenever your child may tell you that they are bored or if they begin to act out from a lack of routine or structure. In an age where it is so easy to hand a screen to your child in that moment, it is important to create opportunities for a child to build their own structure in play. To make an activity jar, take an empty jar and fill it with slips of paper with approved activities on each slip. For example, you can mix easy chores, short exercises, or fun activities on each slip of paper. Make sure you have all the items needed to complete each task. Allow your child to choose a few slips of paper and pick their favorite one. This will allow space for your children to learn to express creativity, problem solve, and use their imaginations to complete the tasks.

Honoring Memorial Day With Your Family

 

I’m an “Army Brat.” If that term is unfamiliar to you, it’s a common description of a child who has a parent in the U.S. Army. “Army Brats” are often born in another country, or a small town in the middle of nowhere, U.S.A.  We move around a lot, make fast friends, say goodbye to those friends and make new ones in the next town. We understand each other and feel a sense of pride in our unusual lifestyle. We also learn a great deal about honor, respect, loyalty and commitment. Most importantly, we learn to remember those who lost their lives serving our country.

Having lived for a time near our nation’s capital, my family visited national monuments, attended military band concerts, watched Memorial Day TV specials and proudly hung our flag on the front porch. I still spend that day grateful that my father, an Army officer, survived two wars. However, many are not so lucky. My mother lost an uncle during wartime. Therefore, we always kept in mind the sacrifice that so many men and women have made for our country. I fear that although, logically, most people know the meaning of Memorial Day, some look at it as a long weekend and the start of summer.

Therefore, just as I am a member of the “Army Brat” club, I am also a member of “God’s Army.” In fact, we all are members of “God’s Army.” We were adopted, by Him, to fight the good fight of our Lord Jesus. His sacrifice has made it possible for us to have eternal freedom, much like the sacrifice of those who died for our country. So, here are some ways your “Army” can honor Memorial Day this year!

  1. Pray for those who have given their lives for our freedom. Pray also for their families.
  2. Create a special PowerPoint or other media presentation to share with family, on social media or in your church.
  3. Light a special candle in your home to honor the fallen. Re-light that candle each year.
  4. Hang a flag both inside and outside your home. Have your family create a short ceremony for hanging the flags.
  5. Lay a wreath. Find a place in your community to pay tribute to fallen veterans, whether it is at a cemetery, a veteran’s memorial, or a city building.
  6. Remember active duty troops. Make a habit of praying for them daily.
  7. Do a project for active duty troops. Make military care packages. Purchase small items to mail to troops serving overseas.
  8. Take part in a community service day. Dedicate your community service to those who have died for our freedom and for those who are bravely serving our country.
  9. Learn about issues affecting veterans. Help create awareness about the physical and mental health concerns veterans have after serving during wartime.

Your family can begin a new tradition by observing Memorial Day in a special way. Not only will you enjoy valuable family time, you can help remind others that just as God sacrificed His son, many have sacrificed their lives, so we can be free.  Freedom comes at a price. May we never take that for granted.