Preparing To Travel For An International Adoption

 

 

We thought of our trip to meet and then adopt our children as our ‘first family adventure’ together! This helped when unusual circumstances occurred and we would just look at one another and say, ‘another adventure’ rather than, ‘another catastrophe!’ I truly think our attitude of being flexible and looking at the trip as an exciting adventure, helped us to stay positive with the challenges that came our way during these trips. After all, who would expect that between the morning of departure when we’d notarized ‘final’ documents, the country would change everything by the time we arrived and met with our coordinator two days later, requiring us to re-do all of our documents yet again! Or who could anticipate that the weather would change and all of the spring clothing I’d packed for us and our newly adopted children would not be warm enough to deal with the frigid unseasonable weather! Little did my husband anticipate that the street signs would not be easily found as he took his early morning jog, resulting in him getting lost and barely making his way back to our hotel in time for an important meeting.

 

Here are some tips that helped us as we prepared to travel.

  1. Learn as much as you can about the culture of the country or area you are visiting to adopt your child.
  2. Check out blogs of other adoptive parents from your child’s country, but take them with a ‘grain of salt’ as your experience may be quite different than their experience and approach to life.
  3. If you don’t know the language, learn it! Or at least learn 100 of the most common phrases. It will make your life so much easier! Most importantly, your child, unless you are adopting a teen, expects that you speak their language, as to a young child, everyone speaks the same language, don’t they?
  4. Pack as light as possible, people won’t remember what you’re wearing and that you’ve worn it previously. Make sure everything can be washed in the sink and that it is all wash and wear, mix and match. If you’ve had a kid vomit on you, you know what I’m talking about!
  5. Pack as though you’re going camping on a desert island. Some of the items that I’ve really appreciated, a flashlight, net laundry bag, zip-lock bags of every size, paper clips, plastic envelopes to hold important documents and snacks that will tide you over when you don’t feel like going out. FYI – individually packaged salami sticks although a great source of protein, will get you pulled over in security. Bring protein bars or nuts instead.
  6. Bring small toys/games that don’t require language, but can easily entertain your child when you are stuck somewhere, waiting, and need something to occupy them. Wrap these items individually as it makes them more appealing. The $1.00 bin at Target was ideal for finding small toys and activities that wrapped well.
  7. Small candies, such as Hershey’s kisses are wonderful if you need a quick treat or bribe to encourage your child to put on a seat belt or just because. Goldfish crackers also pack well and are a good treat for your child.
  8. Parenting is difficult at best when traveling in a different country. Focus instead on learning about your child and increasing your comfort level with one another. Be silly and play games together!
  9. You can’t spoil your child at this point. You are working on attachment and learning to bond as a family, so plan on cuddling and holding your child as much as he/she will allow and play games that encourage contact like peek-a-boo; catch with a blow up ball; bubbles; dance; counting games with fingers and toes; puppet play.
  10. Have fun and count your blessings!

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)

Hosting: Why it Makes a Difference

 

1995 was the first year Nightlight Christian Adoptions brought a group of children from a foreign orphanage for a hosting program. Children from a Russian orphanage had performed a wonderful program of traditional songs and dances for Ron Stoddart, Nightlight’s President, during his visit. He brought that group of children, ages 7-14, to California where they performed at churches, community parks and Disneyland. It was a success, as all of the children who came on that tour, ended up with permanent families. None of the families who hosted or saw the children perform and later adopted them, had any idea that they would be led to adopt after seeing and meeting those children. However, over the 23 years that Nightlight has sponsored tour programs, bringing well over 300 children to the US, the majority of those children have found permanent, forever families here in the US.

The intent was always to give these older children an opportunity to spend at least a few weeks in a loving, nurturing home with an intact, stable family. Even for those children who did not find their ‘forever family’, some by choice and some due to circumstances out of their control, they did have a wonderful vacation! Many of the children stay in touch with their host families long after the host experience. That is a reminder that the few weeks or month that a host child spends with the host family can be life-changing! My husband and I have hosted close to 70 children in our home over the past 23 years. It has been a wonderful experience for us and our children as we have been able to share our family with children from all over the world and learn more about their culture, while sharing ours. Our family is certainly a mixture of cultures as we adopted two of those hosted children, in addition to four others that were adopted internationally as ‘older children.’ It has been a reminder to our children about the children left behind, probably one of the reasons our children have always been such wonderful ambassadors, sharing about what it means to be adopted as an ‘older child.’

A few months ago, I was in a Starbucks waiting for my order. A young woman approached me and introduced herself. She had been on one of our earlier tours in the late 1990’s. I recognized her name and we hugged. She thanked me for bringing her on that tour! We reminisced and caught up on her life over the past 18 years. What an impact these hosting programs have had on the lives of the children and families!

Nightlight is partnering with Kidsave, a hosting organization, to bring children from orphanages in Colombia to stay with host families throughout the United States this summer. Ten children will be staying in Southern California, experiencing the ocean, bowling, museums, parks and likely Disneyland. When we ask the children towards the end of their stay about their most favorite part of their visit, we have received the same response consistently over the past 23 years. Over and over again, the children speak about the warmth and love showered on them by their host families. They certainly enjoy Disneyland and all the other activities, but it is the relationship they developed with the host family, over a period of a few weeks, that will last a lifetime! Nightlight has hosting programs during the summer and over the Christmas holiday season. Consider opening your home and heart to a child, hoping to spend some quality time with a family here in the US. Even if you are not able to host, there are other ways to participate, volunteering, donating funds towards their activities or the program itself. For those who host and volunteer, it is a wonderful opportunity to share your culture and learn about another culture, while giving a child the chance to possibly meet their forever family.

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.

What To Do If Your Agency Loses Accreditation

 

 

Today, six Hague accredited agencies lost their accreditation to do international adoption.  In the first 3 months of 2018, eleven agencies (representing 7% of all Hague accredited adoption agencies) have lost their accreditation.  In light of this alarming trend, we wanted to give some insight and advice to people who find themselves in this difficult situation.

First, be aware of what a “case transfer plan” means.  When agencies have their accreditation revoked, refused, or expired, the State Department always sends an email to prospective adoptive parents stating,

“When an agency’s or person’s accreditation or approval expires, they are responsible for transferring cases and records.  Families working with [the agency] should contact the agency directly with questions about case or record transfer. We also encourage families to review the information published by the Council on Accreditation about selecting a primary provider/adoption service provider and the accreditation/approval requirements.  The Department of State does not review or approve case transfer plans and has a limited role in their execution. We do, however, communicate with foreign Central Authorities and competent adoption authorities about the accreditation status of agencies and persons and case transfer plans, as needed.”

It is important to note that the case transfer plan does not mean any agency is required to accept your case. Agencies are becoming more reluctant to take client cases from other agencies, even when they have a case transfer plan in place.  There is fear that if the prior agency had any difficulty supervising cases, and this led to the loss of accreditation, then the new agency may have similar problems with supervision of the case.  Your agency will want to know the following information before agreeing to take your case:

  1. Are you matched with a child?
  2. What circumstances led to that child being orphaned?
  3. Can you give a copy of the official referral?
  4. What type of investigation, done by whom, has substantiated the child’s orphan status?

Unfortunately, it is unlikely that any of the money you have paid will transfer to any other agency.  Our agency has acquired the files and cases of dozens of agencies, and we have never received a penny from other agencies as a result of a case transfer plan.

But the arrangement of a case transfer plan does indicate that another agency has communicated with your agency, and expressed a willingness to review your case and consider taking you as a client.  So the agency with the case transfer plan should be your first choice in your effort to continue your adoption plan.

Second, you are entitled to a refund for post adoption report fees that you may have pre-paid.  But you are probably not entitled to a refund for any other fees.  Adoption fees are generally billed when services are rendered, and are not held in trust, nor are they refundable.  But if your agency required you to pay for post adoption reports which have not been completed, you are entitled to a refund for those fees.

Third, you may be able to receive a courtesy fee waiver from your new agency.  Although this is not a requirement, agencies often try to mitigate the difficulty of having your agency lose accreditation by offering to let you come into their program at the same fee-phase where you currently are at.

Fourth, you are likely to need an answer for “why” this is happening.  It is a complicated question with several answers, and therefore it is difficult to channel the blame in any one direction.  International adoptions have been on the decline since 2004 and agencies which have not diversified to offer many types of services are finding it difficult to stay in business.  With the projected 300% increase in the cost of accreditation for agencies under IAAME, many agencies who have already been operating in the red for several years in a row cannot envision a viable future under the new accrediting entity. Sometimes agencies lose accreditation due to alleged violation of specific Hague standards.  Agencies can fight those allegations in court, but since they are ultimately fighting the Department of State (through the accrediting entity), is often more realistic to just forfeit accreditation.

Fifth, there is a difference between losing accreditation and going out of business.  It is possible that your agency will allow you to switch to another adoption program besides international.  For instance, they may allow you to switch to domestic, foster, or embryo adoption.  As a courtesy, they may even offer to waive part or all of the fees as a result of this change.

Finally, although the word “journey” is often associated with adoption because the experience can be difficult, long, and frustrating, it’s helpful to recognize that many people have been on the same journey with many detours but ultimately God put together the family that they had dreamed.  My wife and I accepted the referral of two girls who then changed their minds and decided to stay in permanent foster care.  Next we accepted the referral of a girl who was placed with a distant relative instead.  We were sad and frustrated, but we knew God placed adoption on our hearts and He had a child in mind for us.  We later adopted a girl from a different country than we had originally intended.  While we know God doesn’t cause bad things to happen on purpose, we do know that God works all things together for good (Romans 8:28).

If you would like more information on the current crisis in inter-country adoption policy please see www.SaveAdoptions.org.  There you can see several articles about the events that have led to the rapid decline in the number of adoption agencies and adoptions, as well as sign a petition asking the White House to address this issue.

Daniel Nehrbass, Ph.D. | President

YOU Can Help Save Adoptions

A message from the former President of Nightlight Christian Adoptions, Ronald Stoddart.

Dear Nightlight Family,

I had the privilege to lead Nightlight Christian Adoptions from 2005 to 2013 and now serve on the Board of Directors. I tried, unsuccessfully, to retire in 2013, but decided to practice law part-time in my new home in Colorado. In 2016, I became active in the fight to Save Adoptions from the over-regulation and anti-adoption attitude of the State Department.

In 1995, Nightlight was the first agency to sponsor an orphan tour to the United States when we brought a group of dancers and singers from Russia to perform in churches, concerts in the park, and Disneyland. That allowed us to find homes for more than 800 school age children from Russia who otherwise may not have had a family. The State Department’s re-interpretation of the regulations threatens to stop photo-listings and hosting programs and diminish the chances of older children to be adopted. I’m sure you share my passion for every child to have a permanent family – and you know we are using every program available to do that (domestic, international, foster care and embryo adoption). We need you to share that passion boldly with your family and friends.

Our White House Petition, accessed easily at SaveAdoptions.org, needs 100,000 signatures to guarantee a response from the White House. No one wants to think that a little extra effort on our part could have gotten us across the finish line. So, I am asking EACH of you, individually, to take responsibility for getting your family, friends, and others to sign the petition. Failure is not an option, and you truly can make a difference. Here are a few ways you can make this happen:

  1. Ask you parents, siblings, spouse, and children over 13 to sign the petition.
  2. Send a personal message to friends asking them to sign – and to share it with their friends.
  3. Share a Post from Nightlight or Save Adoption Facebook page to your personal page

And, be sure to remind everyone that they need to verify their e-mail address when they get the confirmation e-mail from the White House.

Thank you – YOU CAN MAKE A DIFFERENCE IN ONE MORE CHILD’S LIFE!

Ronald L. Stoddart

Celebrate World Down Syndrome Day

 

 

Did you realize that today is World Down Syndrome Day? Why the 21st of March, you ask? The date for WDSD being the 21st day of the 3rd month, was selected to signify the uniqueness of the triplication (trisomy) of the 21st chromosome which causes Down syndrome.

 

Nightlight has had the privilege of assisting many families to adopt children with down syndrome both domestically and internationally. You’ll love hearing from some of these kiddos family members and reading their thoughts about these precious children. We did!

 

“Being parents to Emalyn and Ryker is a huge joy. Those of us who have a child with Down syndrome consider ourselves the lucky few. Although in most ways people with DS are just like everyone else, they also exude an empathy and kindness that is hard to image unless you’ve experience it. There are sometimes struggles, but there is joy that outweighs any struggles a million times over. Daily I look at these sweet children who happen to have an extra 21st chromosome and feel immensely blessed that I get to be their mom. “—Rachael, an adoptive mom

 

“People with Down Syndrome are so awesome! Zeb has the biggest love tank and pats my back even when I’m fake crying!” – Emma Kate, Age 6

“My brother has Down Syndrome and he is a kid, just like me! I’m bigger than him but he’s cooler!!” – Hendrix, Age 8

 

 

Feeling led to adopt a child with down syndrome? Visit our Child Advocacy Website to view the profiles of children needing a forever home TODAY!

www.AdoptionBridge.org

Tender Hearts Grand Opening Celebration

I am not even sure where to begin.  The trip to Uganda last week and the grand opening of Tender Hearts Baby Home was overwhelming to say the least.  First, I want to thank all the mission team members from Nightlight’s team and Grace Life Fellowship for working so hard to get the final touches complete before the event.  Everyone worked so hard.  Over 200 people attended the event.  A few attendees were from the US, but many were from the local community.  Those in attendance included probation officers, police officers, friends and family of the Ngandas, church members, grandparents of children adopted through Tender Hearts into the US, and families who had been reunited with their children.  All in all, it was a great day and a great celebration!  We all sat back in amazement observing what God has done since 2009, when I made that first trip to Uganda and met Ken and Cathy for the first time.  We want to give God all the glory and honor.  He is able!

Uganda 1

The Entrance Gate to the Baby’s Home

Uganda 2

Twenty-three team members from two teams

In Uganda, when you are excited about something, you dance!

Uganda 4

Ken and Cathy honored all of the Tender Hearts staff.

Uganda 5

A few of the children performed for us.

Uganda 6

Ken and Cathy gave speeches and thanked everyone who had helped bring the Baby Home to this point.

Uganda 7

One story that really touched my heart was of a father whose son had gone missing for 10 months.  He had left his son in the care of relatives while he traveled.  When he returned, the relatives told him they had abandoned the boy because they thought he would not be returning.  He searched for him for 10 months.  He went to radio stations and ran advertisements to no avail.  That young boy is named Alex.  He is 6 years old.  Alex was found by local police and sent to Tender Hearts.  He was old enough to tell his caretakers some things about his family.  The social workers were able to locate his grandfather who called his father.  Alex’s father spoke at the grand opening and said, “Can you believe that these people cared for my son for 10 months, and they did not ask me to pay anything?”

Uganda 8

Alex and his Dad

Their story is one of many reunifications that have happened in Uganda through Tender Hearts.  In 5 years, they have had 90 children come through their doors.  Of those 90 children, 18 have been adopted into loving homes in the United States.  Tender Hearts is currently carrying for 28 children.  Thank you Ken and Cathy for your heart for children and for answering God’s call to care for orphans.

Life is a Gift

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Click to zoom in

Most people rarely consider our very life as a work of God. In fact, we rarely think about life at all (we’re born, grow up and die). Many folks sadly believe an unborn baby isn’t a human life. Atheist Richard Dawkins tweeted back in 2013 that an unborn baby is less human than a pig! [March 13, 2013].

As Christians, we affirm what God’s Word reveals to us about when a baby becomes human life. Scripture tells us that God knows us before He forms us in the womb (Jeremiah 1:5). In Psalm 139:13-16 says,

You made all the delicate, inner parts of my body
and knit me together in my mother’s womb.
Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex!
Your workmanship is marvelous—how well I know it.
You watched me as I was being formed in utter seclusion,
as I was woven together in the dark of the womb.
You saw me before I was born.
Every day of my life was recorded in your book.
Every moment was laid out
before a single day had passed. [New Living Translation]

God clearly instructs us that unborn babies are human at the time of conception. Are some people really more human than others? Of course not! God’s Word is clear: everyone, even unborn babies, are made in the image of God. That’s the message our culture needs to hear as America this month ponders the devastating effects of the 1973 Roe v Wade U.S. Supreme Court Decision which legalized abortion: the loss of over 55,000,000 human lives to abortion. Today join us in prayer and action to create a more life-affirming nation, promoting alternatives to abortion, and changing the culture that sees abortion as necessary.

The Famous, the Adopted

What do Nelson Mandela, Faith Hill, Steve Jobs and Nancy Reagan all have in common? Of course, they’re all famous and have left a mark on the world in one way or another. But there’s one thing that you may not know about them – they’re all adopted.

There’s another person you may have heard of, but you may not know that he was adopted – Bill Clinton. The 43rd President of the United States has been quoted as saying, “Adoption gives children who have been orphaned, abandoned, or abused a precious second chance at happiness; a chance to love and be loved and to reach their full potential in a secure, supportive environment.”

This video, created by CatholicVote shows people that have reached their full potential because of adoption. It’s one of our favorites.

We’ll never know for sure where each of these people would be had they not been adopted, but it’s safe to say that they might not be where they are now. These visionaries, revolutionaries, innovators leaders, communicators, achievers, and thinkers all ended up being the people they are, partially because of the people who adopted them. It makes you wonder, what the estimated 153 million orphans in the world will achieve in their lives. Just imagine.