Helpful Tips for Language Adaption

 

You may have heard the terms “ESL” and “ELL”.  ESL stands for English as a Second Language.  ELL means English Language Learners.  Most children adopted internationally enter into a family whose spoken and written language is English.  This means your adopted child is an English Language Learner.  If the child is learning English; however, still has access to his native language at home, then he or she will be an ESL learner – learning a new language while maintaining his original language.  It is important to know the difference when you are speaking to your child’s new school to ensure your child receives the best instruction.

Many people who consider adoption wonder how they will communicate with a child who speaks a different language.  This can cause anxiety before and after the child joins their family.  The ability a child has to learn a new language is phenomenal and it should be noted that a lot of information, instruction and emotion can be conveyed between you and your child through gestures, faces, pointing and touching as your child transitions.

Here are some ideas shared by language teachers, adoption professionals and adoptive parents that may be helpful to you!

  • Do not demand that your child speak but rather encourage them to use speech.
  • If you use sign language, be sure to use words to go along with the signs.
  • Name objects as you walk around your home.
  • Repeat heavily used words in many different ways. “Do you want to eat?” “Let’s go eat!” “Are you ready to eat?”  “I’m hungry, let’s eat.”
  • Other children are the best teachers so allow your newly adopted child to be around other children to help learn new words through play.
  • Allowing your child to watch you and him speak into a mirror will show him the motions his mouth should make to create certain sounds. This can be a fun game!
  • There are lots excellent educational videos showing a close up look of how the mouth forms to make different sounds.
  • Should your child have trouble with certain sounds, focus on those.
  • If your child says a word incorrectly, play a game and have them try again. It is important that you not repeat this game to the point of boredom or frustration.
  • Do not change grammatical structure to make learning easier for your child. For example: “Get ball.”
  • It is okay to keep using or learn to use your child’s favorite words in his first language. Using them interchangeably with the English word will not confuse or hamper their language development.
  • Learn and use some of your child’s native language. Most parents feel that mixing their language with a few words from the child’s language helps with bonding.
  • Expose your child to people who speak his or her language. Specifically, native speakers from his/her country.  It is okay to continue phone calls to people he/she knows in the country as long as it is a positive relationship.  Most times, these opportunities should be limited.
  • If your child insists on only watching videos in their first language, you may consider allowing this as a “treat” after practicing English or watching a program in English.
  • For older children who can read, allow them to watch a movie or TV show in English with their first language in subtitles. By doing this, he can see on the screen what the words mean that he is hearing.  It also forces him to read!
  • Do not be sad at your child’s loss of their first language, likewise do not celebrate mastery of their new language.
  • It is a normal stage of development for a child to reject their former language with a desire to be “American.”

Learning some basics of your child’s first language is important!  Many have noticed that children under age six expect their parents to speak their language. They do not understand the concept of a parent coming from another country where they may not speak their language. The child assumes that if that is their parent, they should speak their language and when that does not happen, issues can follow. Many of the issues new families experience are due to miscommunication. Being able to speak, even the basics, can make a huge difference to a newly adopted child! Younger children do not feel so isolated and an older child feels respected that his new family was willing to learn his language to help increase the child’s comfort level on joining into their family.  Be prepared, an older child may laugh when you mispronounce a word!

Here are some resources for learning your child’s language:

https://www.adoptlanguage.com/

http://crunchtimelanguage.com/

Here are some articles about language development in the internationally adopted child:

http://www.colorincolorado.org/article/language-and-older-adopted-child-understanding-second-language-learning

https://leader.pubs.asha.org/article.aspx?articleid=2289686

 

–Dana Poynter

Top Three Reasons to Become a Dad Using Embryo Adoption

 

There’s a false notion in some circles of American culture that fatherhood is, well, unmanly. Changing diapers? Beneath us. Strapping on an infant in a Baby Bjorn? Emasculating (not to mention a little silly looking).

Sadly, adopting a baby is another activity that too often makes the list of unacceptable activities for men. I know. I was one of those dads—until embryo adoption upended my world.

This Father’s Day, you might be looking in the mirror and wondering what it means to be a man. You and your wife might be facing the daunting challenge of infertility. Or your spouse might be trying to convince you to explore embryo adoption to build your family, even though you’ve told her a hundred times it isn’t for you.

Let me offer some small assurance. Embryo adoption will forever change your definition of manhood, that’s true. But it will change you for the better. Whether you hope to become a first-time dad or to add another bouncing baby to your quiver, here are three reasons you should strongly consider becoming a father through embryo adoption.

Reason No. 1: The most fragile among us deserve the best of your strength.

Odds are good you probably aren’t a body builder, bouncer, or professional wrestler. That’s fine. Strength shows itself in many forms, most of all in families, where good dads really shine. It’s especially necessary when it comes to giving frozen embryos the best chance at life.

Consider this: Hundreds of couples who have used in vitro fertilization (IVF) to build their families are praying and working with an adoption agency to find a family to give their remaining embryos life. An embryo might only be a few days old, but for those of us who believe life begins at conception, it is also a baby with hopes, dreams and a future. What if that tiny life were part of your family? What could you accomplish together? What higher purpose could you achieve?

Reason No. 2: Now more than ever, the world needs fathers to contribute their unique gifts to children.

Boys who grow up to be men—and dads—are one of society’s most undervalued resources, according to Warren Farrell and John Gray, authors of the 2018 book, “The Boy Crisis”. In that book, they write: “Worldwide, the amount of time a father spends with a child is one of the strongest predictors of the child’s ability to empathize as he gets older.”

As a dad, you will help your children learn how to treat other people—with respect, love, and kindness. The traits you admire most in other people are traits you can have a direct role in fostering in our next generation of leaders. Embryo adoption enables you to make a difference not only in the lives of an embryo baby and the placing family from whom you are adopting, but in your community and the world. Children grow up to become what we model for them.

Reason No. 3: Because fatherhood will immediately begin reshaping your life’s priorities—for the better.

You might occasionally feel a tinge of guilt as a man. Perhaps you’re spending too much time at the office. Maybe you’d like to prioritize time with your wife, your spiritual walk or even a favorite hobby, but you simply can’t find the time.

It’s at times like these that watershed moments arrive to transform how you think about what matters most in your world. Embryo adoption might well be such a moment for you. The entry of a baby into your life forces you to rearrange your priorities. Caring for a little person means giving of your time, energy, and humility (as a dad to four, I eat humble pie for breakfast with a soup ladle). Yet it also means some of the most rewarding and inspiring moments of your life.

Embryo adoption isn’t for everyone. But if something inside of you yearns to be a dad, take the first step with your spouse. Learn a little. Ask questions. And consider the embryo babies and placing families who are looking to someone just like you to make a difference.

Nate Birt and his wife, Julie, are adoptive parents of Phoebe, a Nightlight® Christian Adoptions Snowflakes® baby. Nate blogs quarterly for Snowflakes® and is the author of “Frozen, But Not Forgotten: An Adoptive Dad’s Step-by-Step Guide to Embryo Adoption” from Carpenter’s Son Publishing. To subscribe to his email newsletter, visit www.frozenbutnotforgotten.com.  

Can Military Families Adopt?

 

 

On any given day in America, there are over 443,000 children in the Foster care system.   In 2017, 123,000 of these children were waiting to be adopted, 69,000 parents relinquished their rights and 59,400 children were adopted.1  I believe one of the most untapped resources available to make a difference in these statistics exist within our Armed Forces.  Members of the military have had to be flexible and open to change and are very committed, mission-oriented people.  As a retired Navy Chief and a former member of this unique community, service members collectively bring diversity in race, culture, ethnicity, and personality, and can be good candidates for foster and adoptive programs.

Military installations have built-in support networks for military families, including substantial health-care and housing benefits and “ready-made” communities. More benefits for adoptive families include adoption reimbursements, Exceptional Family Member Program (EFMP) for children (as well as adult family members) with particular medical and/or educational needs, and New Parent Support Programs on many installations.2

We have successfully placed many children with military families over the years.  The process is similar to their civilian counterparts with some exceptions if living abroad:

Home studies Abroad: Social worker travels to servicemember location incurring additional costs to service member to cover lodging, meals and travel expenses.

  1. Pre-adoption Education: 10 hours of Hague required training, including supportive materials
  2. Home study visits and education provided within your home, conducted over a 3-day period.
  3. Follow up support provided via SKYPE and email

 

  • Some of the challenges that service members may experience that differ from the civilian population are frequent moves (PCS) and Deployments. Permanent Change of Station (PCS) moves normally last three years or longer and the entire family moves to a new location.  Deployments, on the other hand, are meant to be of a more temporary nature, generally lasting from months to years, and only the service member leaves.  This may cause delays in completing the home study, but working collaboratively with the service member, it can certainly be accomplished.
  • A deploying military family member will need to grant power of attorney to his or her spouse (or another family member, in the case of a single parent adoption), and more information about power of attorney is available on the Military OneSource website at Military One Source. The spouse or family member should also have a mailing address for the military member during deployment, as well as a method for reaching him or her in an emergency. It is a good idea for the military parent to keep his or her command informed about the adoption process to facilitate timely completion and delivery of essential documents.
  • Dual-military families and single soldiers that are adopting may also be eligible for a four-monthdeferment of deployment or change of assignment in order to complete an adoption or welcome an adoptive child into. As with the 21 days of leave, only one member of the dual military family can take advantage of this resource. And just like the leave and reimbursement benefits, an adoption deferment must be requested within the first twelve months of placement.3

If you are stationed in the United States, you are governed by the laws of that state.  For more information on the laws governing various states visit: State Laws.

If you are stationed overseas and adopting a child in the US, your adoption may be governed by the laws of your state of legal residence as well as the state where the child resides.  If you are adopting a child from another country, you will need to comply with the laws of your country of residence AND the child’s home country (if different), in addition to US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) policies.  Your adoption advisor will assist you with navigating through this process.

Some of the more frequently asked questions asked by military families are answered at the Child Welfare Information Gateway site.  The following is an excerpt from their bulletin entitled “Military Families Considering Adoption”3

  1. Am I eligible for leave when I adopt a child?

Public Law 109-163, the Fiscal Year 2006 National Defense Authorization Act, allows the Unit Commander to approve up to 21 days non-chargeable leave in a calendar year in connection with a qualifying adoption, in addition to other leave. If both parents are in the military, only one member shall be allowed leave under this new legislation. A qualifying adoption is one that is arranged by a licensed or approved private or State agency and/or court and/or other source authorized to place children for adoption under State or local law. Contact your Unit Commander’s office to determine current leave options and procedures.

The non-military parent, if relevant, may be eligible for leave under the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA), through his/her civilian employer.

  1. What benefits are available to help defray the cost of adopting?

Most types of adoptions may qualify for reimbursement when the adoption was arranged by a licensed, private adoption agency, State agency, and/or court, and/or other source authorized to place children for adoption under State or local law. Military adoption cost reimbursement includes up to $2,000 per child (or up to $5,000 for adoption of more than one child in a year) for qualifying expenses and is available to military families whose adoptions were arranged by a qualified, licensed adoption agency.

Adoption reimbursement is paid after the adoption is complete for certain qualifying
expenses incurred by the adopting family including adoption and home study fees. The National Military Family Association (www.nmfa.org) has a fact sheet, DoD Adoption Reimbursement Program, with more information on qualifying agencies and allowable expenses.

  1. Can my adopted child get medical coverage through the military?

An adopted child, including a child placed in the home of a service member by a placement agency for purposes of adoption, is eligible for benefits after the child is enrolled in the Defense Enrollment Eligibility Reporting System (DEERS). Contact the I.D. Card Facility for more information or patient affairs personnel at a specific medical treatment facility.

Specific information on access and eligibility is available on the TRICARE Web site (www.tricare. osd.mil/deers/newborn.ctm) or by calling the DoD Worldwide TRICARE Information Center at (888) 363-2273.

Military benefits are available for all adopted children, not exclusively children with special needs.

  1. What other services are available for my child and family after adoption?

Child Development Programs are available at approximately 300 DoD locations, including 800 childcare centers and approximately 9,000 family childcare homes. The services may include full day, part-day, and hourly (drop-in) childcare; part-day preschool programs; before- and after- school programs for school-aged children; and extended hours care including nights and week- ends. Not all services are available at all installations.

The Exceptional Family Member Program, within the military, provides support for dependents with physical or mental disabilities or long term medical or health care needs. They will assist families who need to be stationed in areas that provide for specific medical, educational or other services that might not be available in remote locations.

Family Service Centers located on every major military installation can provide military families with information regarding adoption reimbursement and other familial benefits. Social workers may be available for family and/or child counseling. Different designations for Family Service Centers are as follows:

  • Army – Army Community Service
  • Air Force – Family Support Center
  • Navy – Fleet and Family Support Center
  • Marine Corp – Marine Corp Community Services
  • Coast Guard – Work/Life Office

Additional Resources for Military Families:

  • Child Welfare Information Gateway (www.childwelfare.gov)On this website, readers can find useful fact sheets such as Adoption – Where Do I Start?, Military Families and Adoption – A Fact Sheet, and Adoption Assistance for Children Adopted From Foster Care: A Factsheet for Families. Under the ‘Resources’ section, click on ‘Publications Search’ to find these and other topical resources easily and quickly.
  • National Military Family Association (NMFA) (www.nmfa.org)On this website, readers can find informative fact sheets such as Adoption Reimbursement Program Fact Sheet.
  • National and Regional Exchanges (www.AdoptUSKids.org; www.adoptex.org).
  • Military Spouse
  • Military One Source
  • U.S. Department of State, Intercountry Adoption

We honor our service members and look forward to partnering with you in your adoption journey!

written by CTMC Robbin Plows USNR, Ret and Nightlight Inquiry Specialist

 

1U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families, Administration on Children, Youth and Families, Children’s Bureau.  Adoption Foster Care Analysis Reporting System (AFCARS), FY 2008-2017, Submissions as of 08/10/2018

2Child Welfare Information Gateway. (2016). Working with military families as they pursue adoption. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Children’s Bureau.

2Ibid

3Child Welfare Information Gateway. (2016). Military families considering adoption. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Children’s Bureau

 

My child needs a driver’s license, but we never got a birth certificate.  What should we do?

Driver license

In California, only ONE document proving identity and birthdate is required.  Acceptable documents include:

  1. A passport
  2. A US birth certificate
  3. Certificate of Citizenship
  4. Permanent Resident card
  5. Foreign passport with unexpired visa I-94

There are several ways to obtaining the first 3 documents.  For most adoptees, the easiest form of ID to obtain is a passport.  And that’s the easiest document to provide for the driver’s license.  See here for California requirements.

Passport

For a passport, you will need a Certificate of Citizenship (mailed to you by USCIS after the adoption).  In addition, you can provide any ONE of the following

  1. Original passport (which you used to bring your child home)
  2. Original birth certificate (which your adoption agency may have a copy of)
  3. Driver’s license

See here for passport identification documents.

Certificate of Citizenship

When your child was adopted, they were most likely also declared a citizen.  As a result, you would have received a certificate of citizenship in the mail.  If you did not save this document, you can contact USCIS and ask for a copy.  In addition, you can ask USCIS for copies of all the original documents provided for your adoption (your child’s original birth certificate, original passport).

Click here to apply for replacement certificate of citizenship

Birth Certificate

You can get a US birth certificate by any of these 2 methods

  1. Do a “re-adopt” where you finalize your adoption in the US. Contact a local adoption attorney or agency to learn about the readopt process in your state.
  2. Bring the child home on guardianship, and finalize the adoption in a US court. In this case, the you will be issued a new birth certificate.  This is only applicable to certain countries (Hong Kong, Philippines).

What is Secondary Infertility?

 

 

Last Wednesday, social media was flooded with photos of siblings—it was National Siblings Day! Some of you may frequently remember your brothers and sisters with fondness and great memories. Others may be reflecting on the colossal efforts you have made to have civil relationships with each other.

Siblings Day is a day of celebration, but it is also a day to acknowledge that not everyone has an easy time getting to a baby, let alone a sibling for their child!

Infertility does not exclusively occur with couples who are trying to start a family for the first time. Some are still facing infertility, even after they have brought a child into their home. They may desperately wish to give their child a sibling but it ends up being more difficult than they realized. This is called secondary infertility. According to the Mayo Clinic, secondary infertility is the inability to successfully achieve pregnancy or carry a baby to term after previously having a child.

Secondary infertility can come as a shock to many couples. And there are several emotions that come with the diagnoses: grief, guilt, shame, and even depression. However, through embryo adoption, a couple can still have hope to successfully expand their family.

Celebrating National Siblings Day does not look the same for every family. Siblings are more than just blood and DNA. There is no right way to grow your family—just look through some social media posts to see the countless unique ways families’ across the country celebrate their siblings. If you want more information on growing your family in a unique way, visit Snowflakes.org to learn more.

Adoption from a Sibling’s Perspective

 

My brother came home on my 5th birthday! He was the best birthday present! Admittedly, I was a bit disappointed he was too little to play school, play dolls or go to the park. He had a beautiful smile and I didn’t mind even when he cried or needed a diaper change. He was ‘my’ baby brother! My sister was born almost 2 years later. Although she and I look very much alike and share the same genetic make up, my brother is just as much my sibling! I loved having younger siblings most of the time. However when doing something embarrassing, like playing with their food at a restaurant or acting annoying, I would ask my parent ‘what they were thinking, having more children?’ It never really occurred to me that there was any difference in my siblings. Either they were annoying or cute, sometimes together and sometimes separately. But, I never questioned our relationship. As adults, we don’t always agree on issues, but we love one another and stand up for one another.

Our children are not all biologically related, yet they are siblings. They all share us as parents. At times like me, they have ups and downs with their siblings. Alliances and arguments occur between siblings just as they do between political entities. When our girls were little, I once heard them arguing and was heading towards their room to intervene, when I heard one of them say, ‘We need to fix this fast or Mama will come in and make us talk!’ I turned around to let them resolve their differences. There can be rivalry between siblings if they are close in age, are jealous of a family relationship or just because they are siblings. Just as I had to get used to having 2 siblings, so my children have adjusted to our successive adoptions and new siblings added to our family.

It is important to plan and recognize that adoption affects all members of the family. Home grown children will have to adjust to the new adoptee just as the new adoptee will have to get used to and develop a relationship with all family members. It’s like a jigsaw puzzle, where you have to figure out where each person fits in your family, just as you determine where each piece of the puzzle fits. Adjustment and acceptance takes time, effort and a commitment to love and family. It does not happen right away, but with time, shared experiences and a lot of patience and encouragement.

 

Below are some some articles about siblings and adoption. I hope you find them helpful!

 

Articles:

The Influence of Adoption on Sibling Relationships – British Journal of Social Work Vol 47, issue 6.

https://academic.oup.com/bjsw/article/47/6/1781/4554334

Rivalry with an Adopted Sibling – Regina Kupecky, Adoptive Families journal

https://www.adoptivefamilies.com/adoption-bonding-home/rivalry-with-newly-adopted-sibling-older-child/

The Sibling Connection – Lois Molina, Adoptive Families journal

https://www.adoptivefamilies.com/parenting/sibling-relationships-biological-or-not/

Welcoming a New Brother or Sister Through Adoption  by Aleta James 

 

Some good children’s books on adoption and sibling relationships:

‘A New Barker in the House’ by Tomie dePaula

Bringing Asha Home by Uma Krishnaswami

 

Discussing Adoption Through Story Books

 

Finding just the right adoption book for your child can be daunting. When my daughters –who are now 28 and 31 years old– were young, there were very few books from which to choose, and quite frankly, I found the content very narrow. For example, one book told how a mommy bunny placed her baby bunny for adoption due her not being able to care for her little baby bunny. Some parents felt the book presented mommy bunny needing to make an adoption decision based solely on her lack of financial resources. A woman’s lack of funds then begs the question, as pronounced by one little adoptee, “Mommy, why didn’t you just send my birth mother money?” While it is true that finances often play a factor in a women’s decision to make an adoption plan, there are many reasons why an expectant women and her partner may choose not to parent. Addressing why an adoption plan is made is often avoided in adoption books. Some books just tell the joy of the adoptive parents and the child. Some topics, such as abuse and neglect, may be too delicate to overtly state in a book directed at the very young; while stories of Chinese adoptions must either tackle or avoid the issue of abandonment.

With so many books from which to choose, how do you, as a parent, decide which ones are appropriate for your child and her particular situation and her age? Predicting how your child may react to a book can be complicated.

First, you want to consider your child’s adoptive relationship with you. For example, your child may not be legally adopted by you. If your child is in a guardian or relative placement, then a book that discusses various family compositions, without mentioning adoption, may be appropriate, such as The Family Book by Todd Parr.

If your child is or has been in foster care, you may want to read Murphy’s Three Homes: A Story for Children in Foster Care by Jan Levinson Gilman. To learn more about other books that address issues of loss, grief, shame, confusion, fear and attachment for children in foster care, visit this YouTube Review of Books for Children in Foster Care.

For those who have adopted an infant, Tell Me Again About the Night I Was Born, by Jamie Lee Curtis, is a favorite. This book tells the story of the parents’ excitement of getting a call to receive their newborn infant. The focus is on the parents and the baby. It really could be a book about any baby entering a family—If only the mom had been in labor instead. It does not address adoption issues, and could be a first book for small children in which you with your child can begin the adoption discussion.

When wanting to share what makes your child unique, you can reach for One Wonderful You by Francie Portnoy. The author states, “You are unique because you are a wonderful blend of two families…”

Shaoey and Dot, by Mary Beth and Steven Curtis Chapman, is narrated by a ladybug who accompanies a baby abandoned in China who is then be placed in an orphanage, adopted, and then flown home with her parents. The ladybug shares its feelings and could be a springboard for discussing other strong and sensitive emotions with your child.

 

There is a plethora of books available. So before you present a book to your child, read it first. Also, see what comments/reviews are written regarding the book. As noted, there are YouTube and other platforms to learn more about each book.

 

Although many of the children’s books do not address serious topics, this does not mean your child is not thinking about his birth parents or why he was placed for adoption, abandoned, or removed from his birth parents. These are tough subjects, so make story time very special by creating a cozy and secure setting—free of distractions. Leave plenty of time to talk out questions and feelings your child may have. If you quickly read such a book—especially just before bed—your child may still have some unresolved feelings that can make sleep difficult.

 

As you read books—not necessarily just adoption books—start with the simple. If a book has lots of words and fewer pictures, and may be more than your child can absorb, you can just pare it down. Even non-adoption books can be used to bring up feelings related to having parents, losing parents, as well as proper parental care, and being neglected. Asking questions in a calm and tender way, can help elicit thoughts and feelings from your child that he may not otherwise share.

 

Here are ways to introduce adoption topics to your child at each stage:

 

Pre-school. You can start with the Three Little Bears—a non-adoption book. There is a mommy and daddy, and baby bear. Discuss with your child what the mommy may be thinking. Ask such questions as, “Why would mommy and daddy bear want baby bear’s porridge to be ‘just right’”? Such questions can lead the child, who may have come from a difficult past, to discuss what it may be like to have little food or not to have a mommy who carefully fed her child. You could ask your child, “How do you think the mommy bear fed her little cub?” Then you, as the parent, can show your child how you may have fed her if she were your little bear. You may also discuss with your child how you are sad you could not be there to have fed her porridge when she was just a tiny little bear.

 

Even if the author of an adoption books tends to avoid difficult topics, you can later bring more negative aspects of a child’s life into the story. For example, after reading in the story of Tell Me Again About the Night I Was Born, for the zillionth time, you may ask, “Why do you think the baby is going to a new mommy and daddy?” From there you can discuss reasons why a child may be placed for adoption. You can ask, “How do you think the baby’s birth mother and father may have been feeling that night?”

 

School-Age: At this stage some of the picture story books may be too “babyish” for your child, but you can use them as a way to snuggle and have the child read to you. Ask your child questions about the various characters and what they may be feeling. “What are some reasons why the baby was carefully placed in a basket and left where people could find her?” “What do you think it was like for a baby or child to be in an airplane going to his new home?”

 

Middle-School: This is a time when you address more serious and negative issues about adoption. In fact, by this time most children should know their full adoption history—regardless of how difficult their past. You may want to read one page while your child reads another page so the reading is a shared experience and feelings can be discussed.

One such book is Pictures of Hollis Wood, a Newbery Honor, written by Patricia Reilly Giff. The fictional story notes:

Hollis Woods

is the place where a baby was abandoned
is the baby’s name
is an artist

is now a twelve-year-old girl
who’s been in so many foster homes she can hardly remember them all.

 

High School into Young Adulthood:

 

By this time, teenagers are selecting their own books. However, issues may arise and you may feel the need to have a book that helps you with the complex conversations. One such book is Telling the Truth to Your Adopted or Foster Child, by Betsy Keefer and Jayne E. Schooler.

 

Regardless of what books you read or even if you make up your own stories and revisit your child’s lifebook, what matters is that you consider your child’s feelings, you discuss serious topics, you are empathic and sensitive to your child’s past, and you help your child know that while the past may not have been “normal,” your child is viewed by you as a precious person who can have fulfilling and blessed future.

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

Frozen, but Not Forgotten – A Story about Embryo Adoption

 

Nate Birt and his wife Julie adopted frozen embryos through Nightlight’s Snowflakes Embryo Adoption Program in 2017. In 2018, Julie gave birth to their adoptive daughter, Phoebe, from those little frozen embryos. Birt’s new book, Frozen, But Not Forgotten, provides potential adopting families with everything they need to know about the embryo adoption process. This is their testimony of their adoption experience.

I never expected to adopt. The concept wasn’t completely foreign—my wife, Julie, and I had discussed the possibility of adopting or fostering before we were married. But three years into building our family, we welcomed our first biological son, then a second, then a third.

Our interest in embryo adoption began with Julie’s work as a researcher in an obstetrics lab. As part of her studies, she witnessed firsthand the amazingly complex design of each embryo. We also knew of families within our circle of friends who had successfully adopted embryos. To be honest, the concept struck me as odd the first time I heard about it. When I suggested to my wife that we try for a fourth child, she replied, “Yes, but only through embryo adoption.”

Her comment took me off guard, and more than that, the conviction with which she said it. I’m not sure why. It shouldn’t have been a surprise given our history and our support of an adoption-funding organization that has helped many friends. I’m ashamed I didn’t appreciate the gift and honor of adoption back then.

I do now. More than ever.

Many families face infertility and remain steadfast in their faith throughout what I can only imagine must be a heart-wrenching journey. So why had God given us three of our own—yet planted the seed of adoption in our hearts? The answer was simple. We loved our biological children dearly, yet having come from large families, we had even more love to give.

By adopting embryos (we were blessed with three), we could give these children a chance at life. We made it clear to our prospective placing family in our letter of introduction that we had overflowing hope for these precious souls.

“Who knows what they might grow up to become—and how they might change the world for good,” we wrote.

Two years after beginning our adoption journey, we welcomed little Phoebe into our lives. (She was the one of which survived the thaw.) We committed to our incredible placing family that we would maintain an open adoption with regular correspondence and the possibility of an in-person visit in the future. Little did we know they lived less than two hours from our home, creating a perfect environment for nurturing a close relationship as our daughter grows up.

In short order, we began exchanging emails, following each other on social media, and generally sharing encouragement. Within two months of Phoebe’s arrival, our placing family had invited us over for a barbecue. It was a celebration I will never forget—of a family who loved its embryo babies so much that it kept them safe until the right time to place them; of our growing family finding its way with adoption; and of a strawberry-blond baby girl who fulfilled my wildest dream of being a daddy to a daughter.

Embryo adoption, as I imagine is true with any adoption, comes with risk and can be emotionally taxing. But if you seek children and the chance to demonstrate and receive love like never before, I urge you: Pursue it.

That clump of cells is a person. And that person will forever change your world for the better.

To learn more about the Snowflakes Embryo Adoption Program, visit Snowflakes.org or call our Colorado office at 970-663-6799.

Ways to Love a Birth Mom

All the chocolate has been consumed. All the flowers purchased and delivered. All the cards and kind messages relayed to loved ones. As February is drawing to an end, what better time to reflect on what it looks like to love others well in the coming year. As adoptive parents, you often have special people to love that would not have otherwise crossed your paths if it weren’t for adoption. Whether you are still waiting to meet your child’s birth mother or whether you’re walking through life with her already, here are some practical ways you can actively and genuinely love the women in your lives that made the sacrificial choice of adoption and, thus, have become a special part of your family.

  1. Pray. Pray daily for your child’s birth mother. Pray that she would grow in wisdom. Pray that she would know God’s presence and be comforted by His great love for her. Pray that she would be strengthened by His spirit and that any shame or guilt would be laid to rest through Christ’s love and fondness for her. Set aside a special time each day—maybe the hour your child was born or the hour you first met your child’s birth mother—to specifically and earnestly pray for her.
  2. Give. Give your time, especially. Give a listening ear. Give a photo when you promised to send one. Give a special gift on certain days throughout the year. Give validation where it is needed. Birth mothers experience a variety of different thoughts and emotions that are often hard for them to process and express. Validate her fears when they are expressed to you. Validate her sadness and grief. Validate her efforts to remain connected with your child. Validate her value and worth as an individual. Validate her gifts and talents as they become evident to you.
  3. Pay attention. Whether you already know your child’s birth mother or are just beginning to get to know her, take time to understand what makes her feel loved, valued, respected, and cherished. Does she respond well to words of affirmation or prefer receiving gifts? Does she enjoy spending quality time or appreciate acts of service? Be attentive to her needs as an individual and seek to meet them in notable ways. Write a note to her detailing what you love or value about her. Send a bouquet of flowers to her unexpectedly one day. Speak to her as a friend. Really pay attention to what she says and value the opportunity to learn from her.
  4. Do what you say you’re going to do. Birth mothers have often had people in their lives make promises that are left unfulfilled. You can imagine how wounding that can be over time. Overcommitting can often lead to even more heartbreak, grief, and rejection for birth mothers. That is why it is absolutely crucial to avoid overcommitting and only say what you’re actually willing to do. Let your yes be your yes, and your no be your no. If you say you’ll send pictures, send them as you promised. If you agreed to meet up before the birth, make time to meet her! If you told her you would write a letter a few times a year, make sure the letters make it to her.
  5. Empathize. Social researcher, Dr. Brené Brown, made an important distinction when saying that empathy fuels connection, whereas sympathy drives disconnection. Connection is always the goal—for adoptive parents, birth parents, and children. So, when listening to the stories, thoughts, or feelings of these courageous women, try focusing on empathizing—feeling with them rather feeling sorry for them. For more on the distinction Dr. Brown makes and why empathy holds so much more power when connecting with not just birth mothers, but also others with whom we interact each day, I would encourage you to watch this short video.