Say This, Not That: 5 Positive Adoption Phrases

The words we use to describe adoption can have a profound impact on the way others view adopted children and families. It can also drastically impact a woman’s decision to place for adoption if she feels like she is not a “real” parent or feels negatively judged for “giving away” her baby. See below for some of the commonly misused terms in adoption and our suggestion for language that gives dignity and value to those connected to adoption.


Negative: Real or natural father/mother/parent

Positive: Biological or birth father/mother/parent

The adoption triad is an intricate set of relationships between the child, birthparents, and adoptive parents. In open adoption, each member in this relationship takes an active and unique role. The terms “real” or “natural” given to a birthparent would imply that the adoptive parent is “fake” or “unnatural” and vice versa, which is not true. While the adoptive parents are the ones who are raising the child, both the birthparents and adoptive parents play a pivotal role in a child’s life and should be recognized by terminology that assigns value to the birthparent and in turn, value to the child.

A big story in the media recently focused on Olympian Simone Biles and her parents. A commentator incorrectly emphasized that Biles’ parents were “not” her parents because they were biologically her grandparents, not the parents who gave birth to her. Biles brilliantly responded to the commentator by saying, “I personally don’t have a comment. My parents are my parents and that’s it.” Regardless of any biological link, they are her parents and that is how we should view adoptive families.


Negative: Give away/Give up my child for adoption

Positive: Make an adoption plan

Expectant mothers make an incredibly brave and loving decision when choosing adoption. The imagery of “giving away” suggests tossing aside. You can give away a sweater or a gift to someone with no regard for what happens to it but that is not the same thing as the life of a child. When an expectant mother decides to make an adoption plan, it truly is a plan, not a quick decision. She has considered the impact of this decision on herself, the birthfather, the child, other children she may have, and her family members and friends. She has taken time to find a trusted agency and met with a caseworker on many occasions to choose the best family for her child. She has felt the weight of grief and loss in her decision and still makes a selfless decision on what is truly best, not just what she is feeling.

People aren’t objects to be given away. Instead, adoption means making a customized plan to provide a forever family for a child. It is crucial that we speak about adoption in this way to convey the seriousness that women carry into making this decision for their child.


Negative: Keep my baby

Positive: Parent my baby

When used in this context, the term “parent” describes an active relationship. When a woman is making a decision between adoption and parenting, there is considerable thought given toward what her future would look like. You do not just “keep” a child, like an item put on a shelf. Parenting is an 18+ year choice full of action, responsibility, and daily care. It is important that an expectant mother understands this is a heavy choice, especially if she is not in a place at the time to accept the responsibility to be a parent.


Negative: Unwanted child

Positive: Child placed for adoption

While a pregnancy may not always have been planned, a child is always wanted.  He or she is wanted by the Lord that created them and the adoptive family that brought them into their home. The child is also very loved by his or her birthmother that made a loving plan for the child. This terminology devalues a child’s inherent worth and purpose on this earth and should never be used to describe them.


Negative: Adopted child or Adoptive parent

Positive: Child or Parent

While it is important at times to distinguish when a child is biological or adopted or between the biological parents and the adopted parents of a child, that qualifier is not necessary in every situation. Parents do not think of their children in two separate categories – adopted versus biological. They are all their children, with the same rights, love, and care given to each equally.

When we speak about adoption, we should be careful to notice when we assign those adjectives and question in ourselves why we felt the need to make the distinction. You cannot read a news article about Connor or Isabella Cruise without seeing them described as the “adopted” children of Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman. (This goes for virtually any news story about any family with adopted children.) Assigning this additional term onto a child’s story could make them feel ostracized from their family or send the message that children who have been adopted are lesser or different.


Changing the way we speak about adoption takes practice. This is an important lesson for us to learn as our words have the power to speak life over those touched by adoption and give them honor and value.


By Heather McAnear

Unborn Babies Can Recognize Human Faces. What!?!

A recent report from British scientists explains why researchers believe that unborn babies recognize faces just like newborn babies do. It has been clear for decades that newborns recognize and prefer to look at faces. This research demonstrates this ability exists before birth. By projecting simple images through the uterine wall, they were able to determine that babies in the womb turned more often to look at images resembling faces than they did other images. The capabilities of the unborn child continue to amaze scientists.

Embryo adoption allows a couple to experience pregnancy and childbirth, and gives remaining embryos in frozen storage an opportunity to be born. Learn more at

This is a 4-D ultrasound of a unborn baby tracking the stimulus. CREDIT: KIRSTY DUNN & VINCENT REID

Why are international adoptions on the decline?

Each year when the US Department of State issues a report on the previous year’s intercountry adoption figures, the media covers the story of the decline in adoption.  From 2008 to 2016, the number of intercountry adoptions declined from 24,000 to about 5000 completed cases.  That represents an 80% decline in 8 years.  Many people ask (and theorize), “Why the decline?”  We think it’s important for adoptive parents to know the answer to this question, and what is not the answer to the question.   Below are the top reasons that we have identified as contributing to the decline in international adoption:

False Narrative

Adoption Prevents Trafficking.  In the US, 60% of victims of trafficking were former foster youth, according to the FBI.  The instance of children in foreign orphanage who age-0ut and become victims of trafficking is even higher.  But a false narrative has emerged among the intelligentsia.   People who oppose adoption, for a variety of reasons, have successfully linked the idea of adoption and trafficking in the public narrative.  This is despite the fact that the US Department of State cannot point to a single case where a child was adopted for the nefarious purpose of trafficking.  And the notion that such a case exists is absurd.  Traffickers wouldn’t go thorough the legal process of adoption…it’s too cumbersome.  the just snatch kids.  The reason the false narrative persists is that there are some instances of corrupt practices in adoptions, such as forged documents or extortion payments.  Yet there is a substantive difference between corruption and trafficking.  The specific existence of a corrupt practice does not negate the fact that the child is a real orphan in need of adoption, and that the family adopting plans to provide a permanent loving home.  While every instance of corruption should be addressed, it is inaccurate and unfair to link those practices to trafficking.

Hague requirements

Some of the policies in the Hague Adoption Convention have reduced the number of children who could legally be adopted (regardless of whether they need to be adopted).  For instance, the convention requires a “paper trail” to establish the identity of children and their history of legal custody.  This would require the presence of a birth certificate, and court decrees about custody.  But many children who live in developing nations do not have birth certificates or court decrees.  While the requirements make sense, they do pose an insurmountable hurdle for some children to be adopted.    Another requirement of the Hague Convention is to make every effort for a child to be adopted in their home country. This means that in most countries the length of time a child stays in the orphanage is extended by an entire year!  The children are one year older, but almost none of them get adopted in their home country.  As a result, children experience the negative effects of sustained institutionalization.  And some parents are less likely to adopt since the age of children who are adoptable is increasing as a result of this requirement.

Naïve policy

There is a notion among professors and political elites that “children belong in their country of birth.”  This notion has affected policy by foreign countries who have restricted the number of adoptions, or put in place requirements that make adoption practically impossible.  For instance, in 2016, Uganda enacted a 1 year residency requirement.  In order to adopt from Uganda, you must live there for a year.  This obviously reduces the number of parents willing or able to adopt.  The policy was supposed to be in the best interest of children. But it is hard to see how children are better served by living in orphanages instead of families.  This naive policy includes the notion that children should be adopted domestically in their foreign country.  Our foreign worker in Kyrgyzstan said about this policy, “Very good on paper.”  It is naive because, as our Uganda foreign worker said, “There is not a family in all of Uganda who is not already taking care of multiple family members.  True, Ugandans are great about taking care of their extended family, but now we are already taxed to the breaking point.”  A further element of this naive policy is that we should always pursue reunification.  Those who work with abandoned and neglected children know otherwise.  One of our foreign workers attempted reunification and the birth mothers said, “Do you think we abandoned in ignorance?”  In cases of abuse and neglect, reunification is often not desirable.   Yet naive policy makers miss this point.

Nationalism or Political Games

The shutdown of adoptions from Russia is the result of a political game.  Russia retaliated against the US after congress passed the Magnitsky Act in 2011.  The Magnitsky Act implied that Russian officials were human rights violators.  In order to save face, or to retaliate, Russia immediately banned adoptions to the United States.  This resulted in thousands fewer adoptions each year.

Longer Processing time

If each adoption used to take 1 year, and now it takes 2 years, then rather quickly we will see the number of completed adoptions each year decrease.  With the advent of the Hague Convention, and other accreditation requirements (by the Department of State, or by foreign countries), we have seen the length of time it takes to adopt double.  As a result, fewer adoptions occur each year.  One way that foreign nations could decrease the wait time, while remaining compliant with the Hague convention, is to create a database registry of children in care.  Limiting the wait time to one year, children could be made available for domestic adoption or foster care, while their legal documents and case is compiled.  At the end of that year, these children would be immediately available and legally ready for international adoption.  This would keep kids from spending years in institutional care.

US Department of State Restrictions

The United States Department of State has identified certain countries that it will not accept adoptions from.  These countries include Cambodia, Guatemala, and Nepal.  Each of those countries is willing to cooperate in adoption, and for Americans to adopt their orphaned children.  The prohibition, therefore, is one-sided.  The rationale from the US government is that those countries do not have a sufficient system to ensure that adoption cases are free of corruption.  For fear that some cases may be suspect, the Department of State has halted ALL adoptions cases.

Not money

Money is sometimes blamed for the decline in adoption.  We have not seen this to be the case.  The increasing cost of adoption, and the recent recession are both supposed to have affected adoption numbers.  But adoption professionals understand that people who have a clear calling to adopt abroad, or who are struggling with infertility, are more concerned about building their family than they are about money.  The cost imposes a frustrating or difficult burden, but not an insurmountable one.  Families are so driven to adopt, that they make a way.  We have not seen a reduction in the number of inquiries or applications we receive throughout the decline of adoption.  We have only seen an increase in the length of time that it takes to adopt, which means fewer cases per year.

Not the cost and difficulty of accreditation

The number of accredited agencies has declined by 30% in just the last 5 years.  This is a result in a drastic increase in the cost of Hague accreditation, and the increasing difficulty to meet accreditation requirements.  While these barriers have put agencies out of business, we do not think that directly affects the number of completed adoptions.  It is possible for adoptive families to switch agencies, and that would mean a longer wait time.  But ultimately, it is the number of children who meet foreign or US adoption requirements which determines the number of adoptions.

People mistakenly liken adoptions to language involving markets, such as “supply and demand.”  But the true answer is policy.  The number and trajectory of completed adoptions rises and falls on policy.

Daniel Nehrbass, Ph.D. | President

Virtual 5K Run

Nightlight Christian Adoptions – Virtual Run

Adoption is Love Made Visible

What is this event? A 5-K run for participants everywhere to join us on November 11, 2017, to raise support and awareness for orphan children to find forever homes. Run to establish a PR, get with friends, or take your family for some fun activity –just cover the distance any time that day! You can be a part, no matter where you live.

Can’t make the date? Run the distance at other times, or in 2 or 3 outings—whenever it works for you—you will still get a runner’s packet!

Benefits: Nightlight Christian Adoptions helps children who need families in the US and in 16 countries. Your registration helps support the programs that find families and changes the lives of children forever.

Cost: $25

What Do You Get? The first 200 participants receive a custom medal, running bib, “Walk, Run, Adopt” sticker, and arm bracelet. They will be sent to you as soon as your registration is received.

How to Register: Click here to sign up

Run – Walk – Adopt

Americans Still Confused About Abortion 45 Years After Roe vs. Wade

Abortion is always a hot topic of discussion during political races. In 1973, the Supreme Court made a ruling about abortion in the well-known Roe v. Wade decision.

After nearly 45 years of ready-access to abortion services, it seems reasonable that Americans have developed a clear and consistent view of abortion. Recent research by the American Culture and Faith Institute demonstrates the opposite may be reality. 

Nightlight is a pro-life adoption agency. We believe in helping children in all stages of their biological development, from the pre-born (embryo adoption) to the infant and older child (domestic/foster/international adoption).


Gifts from Nightlight

Hand made custom nightlight with hand painted logo

Custom Nightlight








Hand made glass ornament with Snowflakes® emblem, hand painted

Snowflakes® Ornament

NCA International Adoption Statistics


Year International Adoptions Disruptions  Dissolutions Percentage of Placements in Tact # of Parents who Applied to Adopt
2016 64 1 1 97% 87
2015 78 0 0 100% 85
2014 59 0 0 100% 83

The number of orphaned was estimated in 2009 by UNICEF at 168,000,000.  It is believed that at least 10% of these children are double-orphaned (both parents have died).  In order for children to be available for adoption, their identity and case history must be proved…this is the greatest hurdle in making children available for adoption.

Ariana Joy: the Gift we Prayed For


In December 6, 2015, our family welcomed the greatest gift we could have ever hoped for. That was the day our daughter, Ariana, entered our lives — and our hearts. But really, this isn’t our story. It’s the story of a remarkable, independent, curious and joyful child from a small village in China.

Ariana was born on Christmas Day 2012. A few days after her birth, she was discovered in the reeds by the bank of a river, where she had been abandoned. When she was found, she weighed less than two pounds.  Ariana is a survivor with a courageous and joyful heart, as we have found over this past year.

Ariana spent the first year of her life in an orphanage in China. At the age of one, she moved into a foster home where she was cared for by a loving and kind foster family.  Her foster mother was full of life and clearly loved are future daughter. Ariana was diagnosed with a heart condition, low birth weight, possible learning disabilities. Ariana’s heart turned out to be stronger than anyone knew.

While Ariana was living with her foster family, our own family was searching for the perfect child to share our home and our love. This search began soon after the birth of our third son, Cooper. Jaime and I had always wanted a daughter, and I wanted to experience the kind of unique, close relationship I’ve been fortunate enough to have with my own mother.

After much praying and soul-searching — and learning from other families who had adopted — Jaime and I decided that we had room in our home and our hearts for another child. We wanted to provide a family to someone who did not have a family of her own. There are an estimated 153 million orphans worldwide in need of a loving family and a home. If we didn’t do this, then who would?

We considered adopting a child from the United States, but after careful consideration decided to search for our daughter overseas. By adopting domestically, we knew we would open our family to the possibility of someday losing our daughter. We didn’t want to put ourselves or our three sons through that heartbreak. Each family builds itself in its own unique way. We chose to adopt a special needs child from China to be part of our family forever.

Choosing to adopt wasn’t just a personal decision for us; it was also a spiritual calling. We recalled passages from the Bible that spoke to us and reassured us we were doing Gods work. God draws near the brokenhearted (Psalm 34:18), extends grace generously (2 Corinthians 9:8), and loves lavishly (1 Jon 3:1). We considered Christ’s death and resurrection, how this miracle serves as an invitation to all of us to turn to God as our Heavenly Father.

We read in Ephesians 2:13 about God’s desire to bring near those who are far away, and in 1 Peter 3:18 about how God wants to bring us home to Him. We saw in our adoption of Ariana a reflection of this homecoming, and a connection to God’s love for all of us whom He considers His children. We encourage other families with strong marriages, financial resources, and abundant love to heed the call to share their families’ blessings with a family-less child as well.

After heading the spiritual call to adopt, we decided to go through a non-profit organization called Nightlight Christian Adoptions. And thus began the three-year process of finding and adopting a little girl from China. We completed extensive counseling, evaluations, and stacks of paperwork. And then one day — when we were least expecting it — we received an email and a photo of a beautiful little girl with bright, intelligent eyes and an infectious smile. We had a match!

Now began the process of finalizing the adoption paperwork and making travel arrangements for the arduous trip to China. At first, we weren’t going to bring our three sons with us on this long journey. But then we heard our boys praying for their new sister, asking God to make sure she was warm, that she had enough to eat and that someone was hugging and loving her.  Their prayers brought tears to my eyes, so simple and so perfect for our future daughter.  Those were exactly the things that mattered.  We instantly knew that our boys had to be a part of this incredibly important moment for our family, that they needed to be there too when we first met our daughter and their sister. It was the best decision we could have made.

We flew into Beijing on Dec 4. After a few days doing touristy things, anxiously biding time until we could meet our daughter, it was time to fly to the town of Guiyang. We thought we’d have another day to prepare for her; we wanted to bring her toys and look our best. But we ended up driving straight to the adoption agency from the airport — un-showered, unprepared, unbelievably tired but incredibly excited.

After being grilled by a very concerned, thorough and caring foster mother (we must have met her approval!), we finally got to meet Ariana face-to-face. She was just as excited as we were, and couldn’t stop giggling. She immediately gravitated toward Cooper our youngest and starting playing with him as though they had been friends since birth. She instantly connected with all our boys, and the feeling was mutual. It was a great day — one year ago today!

We spent that entire first day with Ariana, getting to know each her and introducing ourselves. We discovered that she loves books — more so than toys. When the new-ness of everything finally hit her, Ariana started to cry. It was Jaime who was able to console and sooth her to sleep by singing her Bible songs (“Jesus love me. this I know…”).

Over the next few days, we encountered a number of obstacles that nearly prevented Ariana from coming home with us as planned. For starters, her passport had the wrong baby photo. Then, during her health screening, it was discovered that she was running a fever. We thought, oh no is this the beginning of her special needs.  Without a proper passport and a clean bill of health, we couldn’t leave China with Ariana. So we waited, and prayed. Throughout this time, we got to know our daughter even better and fell completely in love with her.

God answered our prayers, and Ariana’s passport came through. Her fever was gone by the time we went back to the doctor for her second health exam. And before we knew it, our newly extended family was on the very long plane ride back to Huntington Beach. I won’t lie, the flight wasn’t easy. But we made it home — together.

Of course, when I say “home,” I actually mean a hotel room. Our house had experienced significant flood damage and was unlivable. While the repairs were being completed, we spent two weeks in a nearby hotel  —  Ariana thought that was where we actually lived. The upside to this temporary nomadic lifestyle was that we didn’t have to worry about the day-to-day chores of housekeeping, washing dishes, mowing lawns and cooking meals. Instead, we could focus all of our attention on helping Ariana feel loved as a part of our family.

We finally moved back into our home on Christmas Eve, just in time for Ariana’s first birthday with us. And what a gift she has been. She has quickly adapted to our chaotic, noisy home that is filled with energy and with love. And she holds her own with three older bothers. We’ve come to love her endless curiosity about everything, her sense of wonder, and her independent streak.

She is such a happy child, filled with a joy that spreads to those around her. She’s got Jaime wrapped around her little finger, and she’s definitely daddy’s girl. But I also cherish the special relationship I’ve developed with Ariana as her mother — just as I have with my own mother. Our friends and family have been instrumental in supporting us throughout this entire journey, and in welcoming Ariana to her new home. We couldn’t have done this without the love and help of the people in our lives.

We are a true family of six now, and it feels as though Ariana has always been here — as though she was meant to be here. We are blessed to report that despite being labeled as a special-needs child, she is as healthy as can be — no heart condition has surfaced. We honestly didn’t know what to expect when we brought Ariana home. Finding and adopting Ariana required a leap of faith, and God completely took care of everything. She’s the perfect fit for our family.

Occasionally, well-meaning people will tell me how lucky it is that we adopted her and gave her a loving home and family. Actually, we believe it’s the other way around. That we are the blessed ones to have found her. Ariana has enriched our lives in so many ways. She is the child we prayed for, and a gift we are so very thankful for.

Thank you for allowing us to share Ariana’s story, and for joining us in welcoming her home. Today, Ariana will have been with us for exactly one year. Your prayers made this dream possible.  You are our friends and family, we can’t think of anybody else we’d like to share and celebrate this special anniversary with us.

Blessings to All,

The Ramirez Family

Adoptee Legacy Fund

Nightlight Adoptees

Nightlight announces the creation of an “Adoptee Legacy Fund.” This is a fund where adopted people can give back to the mission of getting every child into a loving family. To make a donation, simply click here and select “Adoptee Legacy Fund” in the drop down menu. The best part is….adoptees get to choose where the money goes! The fund will be used for

• Adoption scholarships
• Orphan host program tour
• Aid to a specific orphanage

Each year, we will ask contributors to vote on where to send the funds.
We hope this sparks the beginning of a lifetime of sacrificial support for the cause of adoption.