Honoring Your Child’s Birth Mom on Mother’s Day

 

 

 

Mother’s Day can be an emotional time for women.  Some women have lost their mothers while some have lost children, others are struggling with infertility, and some women have blessed others by way of adoption.  I was a woman who, for many years, struggled on Mother’s Day due to the pain and loss experienced during my own infertility journey.  Once I became a mother through adoption it was not lost on me that I had not come to motherhood on my own.  I would forever share that day, willingly, with my children’s birthmothers.  My husband and I set a tone in our household early on of honoring our children’s birthparents.  They were not simply a means to an end for us.  Our children’s birthmothers had won a place in our hearts that is precious and absolutely unexplainable.

 

Children adopted through international adoption may never have the experience of knowing their birthmothers.  Children adopted through domestic adoption may or may not have regular contact with their birthmothers.  In either scenario, however, it is important for families to be able to honor their birthmothers, especially on Mother’s Day.

 

One way to honor your child’s birthmother can be through the telling (and re-telling) of their adoption story.  This narrative should be shared with our children more than once.  I like to take time before we go to church on Mother’s Day to sit on the couch with my son and daughter and remind them of the moment their birthmothers shared them with me.  I remind my daughter of the special moment that her birthmother was holding her in her arms, stroking her cheek, crying.  How, in that instant, she kissed her gently and placed her in my arms and how I loved her birthmother so much that my heart ached.  My son knows that, during our adoption hearing in court, his birthmother reached out for my hand and held it as my husband was on the stand.  We were united as mothers in that moment, for him. Our children were loved and considered important, above all else.

 

Some other ideas for honoring your child’s birthmother on Mother’s Day are:

  • Purchasing a flower or plant in honor of her and planting it together
  • Sending her a homemade card with artwork by the child, along with photos and a letter
  • Creating a photo book of the past year for her
  • Sending her the child’s handprint or artwork made from the handprint
  • Releasing a balloon that contains a special note to a birthmother in another part of the world with whom you do not have direct contact

 

Make your own tradition.  Follow your child’s lead.  Some children may not want to talk about their placement or birthmother from one year to the next.  That’s okay; however, revisit it the next year because as our children grow and develop, they do become more curious and open to discussion.

 

It is so important that we allow our children the opportunity to love their birthmothers openly.  I once told my kiddos “Just like I can love both of you at one time, you can love me and your birthmother at one time.”  Make it okay.  Make it intentional.

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

Help Ian Save Adoptions

The Hinton Family wants to make sure that you are aware of the petition to the White House to save adoptions. If you haven’t already, please take time to sign it! Here’s how you can help!

Go to adoption.com or saveadoptions.org and you will see a link to sign the petition. This only takes a minute or so. REMEMBER, you must check your email to verify your signature so it will be accepted.

Also, please contact your U.S. Senators & U.S. Representative to put this on their radar. You can call, email or mail them, and you don’t have to be an expert the matter to contact them. You can let them know the following:

(1) You are concerned that inter-country adoption has declined over 80% since 2004.

(2) To increase the number of adoptions, as long as ethical, pro-adoption leadership is needed in the U.S. State Department’s Adoption Division in the Office of Children’s Issues.

(3) You oppose new fees and unreasonable rules being imposed on adoption service providers (ASP) and families by the U.S. State Department and their new accrediting entity, IAAME. These could cause some ASPs to close their doors.

Pictured is Ian and his family! He was adopted in 2014 from our Uganda Program. His mother says, “I hate to think of all the Ian’s worldwide in 5-10 years whose only alternative is inter-country adoption, and have no adoption service providers to advocate and facilitate adoptions for them, and no families to adopt them.”

Join Nightlight, the Hinton Family, and other adoption advocates in doing your part to advocate for international adoption and all the children whose prospects of having a loving family are in jeopardy.

Disabilities Awareness Month: An Adoption Story

 

 

Lilly, born in China, was welcomed into the loving arms of her mom and dad, Jenny and Daniel, at the age of 3 years.  That was nearly a decade ago, not long after I began working with the China program!  I recently reconnected with Jenny to talk about Lilly’s journey over the past ten years.   Jenny fondly recalls the excitement of being matched with Lilly.  Although they were thrilled to become parents, there were looming questions about her diagnosis which had the potential to cause great fear.  Lilly was born with spina bifida and hydrocephalus, both of which were surgically repaired in China shortly after her birth.  Jenny shared that while she and her husband were hopeful that the surgeries had been successful, they did not know the extent of damage or what her future would hold.

As directed, they researched her medical needs and spoke to a physician specializing in international adoption.  They learned of worst case scenarios while staying cautiously optimistic.  Jenny stated it was easy to allow fear to slip in as they waited to travel.  While worrying about mobility issues, possible paralysis, cognitive deficits, future needs and surgeries, they also began thinking about accommodations that could be made to ensure she was given the best life they could provide for her.  Through it all, they trusted God would provide and pressed forward.

Lilly came to them as a tiny 28 pound 3 year old wearing 12-18 month clothing.  She could barely walk and had many other physical delays common of children coming from less than optimal care.  These deficits were quickly overcome through short term therapy. Jenny reports, however, that the personality that emerged within a few days of placement in China is the same personality Lilly exhibits today which has allowed her to overcome and flourish.

Due to the spina bifida, Lilly has some hip displacement and wears braces on her legs requiring occasional appointments at Shriners Hospital for adjustments.  Because of the hydrocephalus, she has a shunt and sees a neurologist every other year.  She also requires annual visits to an ophthalmologist to check the pressure behind her eyes.  Despite the braces, mobility is not an issue and she even cheers for an Upward basketball team!  She is actively involved in choir, musicals and theatre and does not allow her orthotics to limit her abilities. Cognitively, she is fine and does well in school.  Other than medical visits to monitor her conditions, Lilly is a typical pre-teen on the brink of celebrating her 13th birthday next month.

Jenny told me that as a parent, her greatest challenge has been advocating for her daughter medically.  While she trusts her treating specialists and referred to them as “amazing,” she also trusts her own instincts as Lilly’s mother.  She shared that the neuro department wanted to perform a procedure on Lilly’s shunt, however, Lilly was not showing any neurological symptoms to indicate intervention was needed at the time.  Despite the surgical recommendation, they made a decision together as a family to wait after learning there were more risks with having the surgery than not.  They realize that surgery may be needed in the future and will face that when the time comes.

Jenny and Daniel have also taught Lilly how to deal with curious questions from her friends as well as prying questions from others.  They have given her the confidence that her adoption story and tough beginning are HER story and she can choose to share the details or keep them private.  Her outgoing personality works to her favor in this regard.

When I asked Jenny what she would like other parents to know as they consider a special needs adoption, she said, “Disability does not mean constant illness and inabilities.”  She shared that Lilly is a very healthy child and in the past 10 years, has probably seen her pediatrician for sick visits only 3-4 times.  She also reiterated all of the positives in Lilly’s life and above all she wanted to share that Lilly had taught her and the rest of their family to persevere.  Watching Lilly navigate the hardships in her life “has been amazing to see!”  In talking with Jenny, it became clear long before she said it that, “As her mother, she makes me so proud!”

2 Timothy 1:7 For God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.

Philippians 4:6-7 Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.  And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Nutrition & Your Adopted Child

When children are adopted, they often have had trauma in their lives that can affect many aspects of their lives, with eating being one of them.  In fact, nearly 80% of children with developmental issues also have feeding issues.  So it is no wonder that our children who are adopted, who are often developmentally delayed and have experienced many issues, such as bottle propping as infants and then given mushy and limited number of foods often have eating problems.

These issues do not just apply to internationally adopted children but can be seen in children who have been in foster-care.  If your child was adopted from foster care, she may be normal weight, but she may have been deprived of certain foods, given lots of snack foods, and may not have been provided any structure around meal time.  On the other hand, if your child is from an orphanage, he may have had overly structured meal times and had to consume limited amounts of food very quickly.

In the  book Love Me Feed Me: The Adoptive Parent’s Guide to Ending the Worry About Weight, Picky Eating, Power Struggles and More ,  Katja Rowell, a medical doctor, does not so much  provide nutritional goals for the adopted  child but  she explains the best ways to establish a positive relationship between you and your child.  Food and dietary habits can become an integral part of what Dr. Rowell call the Trust Model for establishing attachment with your child.  This Trust Model helps to provide nurture as well as means of establishing healthy eating habits in your child.  You may be asking, “But what about my other kids who have not had difficult starts in life? How am I going to make meal time different for all my children?  As with any positive attachment and trust model, this model can be used with all children.

This Trust Model promotes shared power: you the parent determine when, where and what your child will eat, and your child gets to determine if and how much to eat based on what foods are there.  This allows you to decide on what nutritional foods your child can select from and where and when your child will eat, but the child gets to decide on what food to select from and how much to eat.  Now, of course, an infant, who has nearly all the power when it comes to feeding, decides the when, where and how much to eat; you, the parent, just decide on what milk to give her.

The Trust Model gives children the structure that they need as they know what to expect. And as with feeding a baby, sometimes you must take your cues from your child.   For example, younger children need to be fed more often, so they will ask for snacks more often in-between meals.  If your child is malnourished, you may need to offer your child food more often until you get to know your child’s signals as to when he is hungry.

Feeding your child with the family helps your child see others eating, sets a model of portions, and to be able to know when he is hungry and full.  At meal time, it is best to have different types of foods at the table—especially those that your child likes based on taste and texture—so that your child can have familiar foods as well as try new foods in a non-coercive setting.

Giving your child a snack—in the afternoon—or perhaps two snacks—can help a child who gets cranky in the afternoon waiting for dinner to feel more relaxed and content  Do not be concerned with a “ruined appetite” before dinner.    Your child may eat less at meal time, but as long as the snacks provide healthful foods, your child will get the nutrients he needs.

Simple but practical solutions for children who come from difficult pasts can help solve food and meal time problems.  However, some children, especially those with medical and sensory problems, may require more therapeutic assistance.  Often an occupational therapist (OT) is the first professional who may become involved, as the OT usually assesses sensory and gross and fine motor skills and the child’s ability to feed herself.  A registered dietitian (RD) may assess the child’s nutritional intake and growth patterns and if more serious steps must be taken, such as tube feedings, are necessary.   As with any type of professional who is going to provide advice and some counseling, certain factors must be taken into consideration.  A mental health counselor would be involved to assess the parents’ and child’s interactions surrounding food and may also assess attachment issues.  The counselor would also work closely with the other professionals such as an OT and RD.

If you, as a parent, are having major food issues with your child, your child’s pediatrician may not give the advice you need, unless your pediatrician is very familiar with adopted children’s needs.  Instead, you may need to consult with a pediatrician at an international clinic for a referral to a feeding clinic or OT.

If you feel that your child is growing steadily but there are still major issues surrounding  eating issues, then you may want to consult with a counselor who has experience with adoption and attachment issues and can help you use trust based approaches in helping you and your child with behavioral issues surrounding food.  If your child is having eating issues and may also have sensory and other issues related to motor skills, then  the  counselor and OT  need to be working together.  The approach needs to be parent focused as adopted children need to be attaching to their parents—not separated from them.

Rowell has a list of questions you may need to ask before working with a professional:

  • How do you help the parents integrate the skills at home?
  • Am going to be involved in the treatment plan, or am I going to be separated from my child? (Parents are the ones who ultimately work with the child.)
  • Do you use negative/positive reinforcement? (Either type of reinforcement can feel like coercion to a child and can result in a power struggle.)
  • Do you require the child to eat food she does not want or hold food in front of the child until she eats it? (This leads to a power a struggle.)
  • What resources do you suggest?

Children who have had difficult starts in life had little control in their lives and often feel shame.  So any approach that takes away power from a child (instead of offering shared power with the parent) or shames a child into eating often leads to more problems.

Bad formal therapy is worse than no therapy.    But good therapy need not be formal–it can be done by the parents if the parents can take cues from the child.  The parent can trust the child to do the eating while the child trusts the parent to be “there” for him and builds upon the relationship.

To learn more about your child’s nutritional and feeding needs, these websites provide very valuable information, tools, and even equipment:

 

  • http://adoptionnutrition.org/ This website provides information related to the nutritional needs of adopted children—even by country—as well as addresses some feeding issues such as hoarding and children who will not eat.

 

  • http://mealtimenotions.com/  This site offers stories, articles and information regarding the feeding and nutritional needs of children with special physical and sensory issues.

 

Adopting Embryos of a Different Ethnicity Than Your Own

Trans-ethnic adoption is an issue to be addressed in any adoption. Adopting an embryo trans-ethnically can force a couple to consider a new and very different comfort zone.

Most families do not consider a trans-ethnic adoption of embryos because they will be experiencing a pregnancy and giving birth to a child. This experience is as close to having biological children as any adoption can be. The initial reaction of most is that the children we give birth to should look like us or at least be the same ethnicity or combination thereof as the parents.  Embryo adoption is unusual enough, and to ask families to consider a trans-ethnic adoption may cause pause. A very long pause. A family’s emotional capacity could be stretched; yet, for some, trans-ethnic adoption could be the very right decision.

First, embryo adoption as with all adoptions, is not to create children for couples. As with all adoption, it is a means to allow children to grow in a loving family. Second, some embryos, as with some orphans, wait longer for a family because of their race/ethnicity. Unlike other children, they are faceless and nameless. Their cute little faces do not have the chance to say, “Yes, I look different from you, but I sure am adorable.” These embryos, like all orphans, need a family to love them.

Even for families who more than eagerly would adopt across ethnic lines, the idea of delivering a baby outside of their ethnicity would cause concern of what the experience would be like and the reaction of others.

A white woman in a store with a black or bi-racial child may experience that ever-so-familiar “look” that says, “So you had a child with a man of another ethnicity! How could you?” A mother of a child adopted through embryo adoption may experience this when she delivers her child. Imagine the faces of the hospital staff, quite alarmed that a white woman is delivering a Filipino, black, Hispanic, Asian, or Native American child. The staff’s sensibilities could be further tweaked when a middle-class white woman, with a white husband, produces such a child! If you have great confidence and a sense of humor, you will be like any other trans-ethnic adoptive family— conspicuous in expressing yourselves as a multi-ethnic family.

Even if you do not adopt trans-ethnically, in an embryo adoption, as with nearly any other adoption, your child may not look like you. He may eventually tower over you; he may have brown eyes, when both you and your spouse have blue eyes. His hair may be dark and curly while yours is straight and blond. He will be your child regardless.

All children give us an opportunity to grow. They give us a chance to express God’s love and character. Adopting an embryo is a strong statement as to how you feel about pre-born life. Adopting outside of your ethnicity could be a further indication of the strength and courage you have within and how you choose to express it in word and deed.

How We Celebrate Chinese New Year

 

Chinese New Year is upon us! February 16th marks the beginning of the Chinese New Year celebrations around the world for 2018. If you are not familiar with Chinese New Year it is an annual festival that’s not only celebrated in China but also by many other nationalities. Some celebrations last as long as 15 days so we wanted to share some special ways to observe this special holiday with your family.

Chinese New Year can be especially meaningful for families who have adopted children from China. It is so vital that adoptive parents find ways to embrace the culture of their home country and celebrate their child’s rich heritage within their home. In order to research some of the best ways to participate in Chinese New Year festivities, I turned to some of our adoptive families to get ideas of special ways they have enjoyed celebrating this time of year with their children.

One adoptive mom, Anne, shared that their church has a big annual Chinese New Year celebration. Many of the people who come wear special Chinese outfits. They decorate the fellowship hall in red and yellow-gold. At last year’s celebration one of the Chinese men in the church made over 700 homemade dumplings! They have a potluck meal in which anyone in the community that wants to come is welcome to come and join in the festivities. She shared the picture below of their special gathering and I could not help but be moved by the beautiful smiles of so many individuals and families who set aside this time to celebrate the rich foods and customs of this Chinese holiday together. I can’t help but think of each child represented and the memories that they will carry with them for the rest of their lives about how special these gatherings were.

 

Anne also recommended this book, Bringing in the New Year by Grace Lin about a Chinese American family as they prepare for the Lunar New Year. In the book each member of the family lends a hand as they sweep out the dust of the old year, hang decorations, and make dumplings. Then it’s time to put on new clothes and celebrate with family and friends. The book beautifully illustrates the fireworks, lion dancers, shining lanterns, and a dragon parade to help bring in the Lunar New Year.

Another adoptive mom, Penny, shared traditions that they have developed to celebrate Chinese New Year since welcoming three precious children from China into their family. Each year their family sets aside a day to make lanterns to hang around their home. Construction paper or decorated scrapbook paper can be used to make these beautiful and festive lanterns. Here is a link that gives instructions for making lanterns and this is a craft that will be fun for all ages.

Two of Penny’s daughters are pictured below in their traditional silk dresses. We always recommend families picking out traditional Chinese clothes when they travel to China for their adoptions and purchase clothes in various sizes for their children to enjoy as they grow! Having dresses such as these to wear for Chinese New Year celebrations (or any time they wish!) can be such a special gift for adopted children.

In addition, when their kids were younger Penny would go to their classes and read a Chinese New Year book to give her children’s classmates information about the history and customs that make this holiday so special for Chinese families. Here is a link for some great books that teach small children about this special holiday.

And lastly, Penny shared that they save some sparklers from New Years Eve and light those on Chinese New Year as well. Penny shared the following:

I was so impressed to hear from an adoptive mom who wanted to share about one way they are celebrating Chinese New year for the first time after recently bringing their son, Langston, home from China. One custom that Brandy found that they could incorporate was that of hong bao which is an iconic symbol of Chinese New Year. A Chinese red envelope is simply an ornate red pocket of paper the size of an index card that holds money and it’s customary to leave the red envelope with two tangerines by a child’s bedside on New Year’s Eve. Brandy shared that they we worked on making red envelopes to put money in for Langston’s classmates (they shared $1). Langston was so excited about making these special envelopes and about sharing this custom with his new friends.

Another adoptive mom, Amanda, shared that they are hosting their own Chinese New Year celebration at their house for several other families that they know who have also adopted from China. They are having Chinese takeout, doing crafts with the kids with red envelopes, and have planned for some other activities that pertain to Chinese culture.

If you know of other families in your community that would want to celebrate with you but are not sure about preparing a huge meal yourself then why not invite each family to bring one dish from a local Chinese restaurant? What a fantastic (and affordable!) way to celebrate with other families in your community! If you have some helpful articles or ideas you would like to share on this topic, please submit in the comments below!

 

Here are a few other links with helpful hints about ways to celebrate Chinese New Year within your family and communities:

https://chinesenewyear2018.com/

https://www.leadtochina.com/travel/adoption-resource/how-to-celebrate-chinese-new-year-for-adoptive-families-202

Strengthening Your Marriage

 

As many people have experienced, children can put stress on a marriage relationship.  In fact, research shows that marriage satisfaction decreases after a couple has their first child.  Adopting a child, can create even more pressure on a marriage.  You may have already experienced infertility or other losses that has created stress.  You may also be anxious as you wait for a child, which is often out of your control.

Then, of course, once the child enters the home, there are the concerns related to the child and the child’s background. Because any adopted child has some uncertain background concerns, you are required to take pre-adoptive education.  This education will include attachment-informed parenting.  Such training is to help you improve the relationship with your child and help your child to heal from trauma, including the trauma caused by pre-natal injuries such as exposure to drugs/alcohol and maternal stress, and in addition to the more obvious traumas such as abuse and neglect.

While you are learning more about attachment-parenting, you can use this same type of training to also improve your marriage. Not only is a stronger marriage always better for the child who will enter your home, but the way that you improve your marriage can also be the means by which you can be a better parent to your adopted child.  In fact, the marriage counseling that has been scientifically proved to be the most effective is called Emotionally Focused Couples Therapy, and was developed by Susan Johnson.  Dr. Johnson is perhaps the foremost expert on attachment and marriage, and her book Hold Me Tight, and accompanying workbook, provide an easy to understand and step by step means to creating a closer more loving relationship.  If each spouse is more connected to each other, this leads to each one also becoming more securely attached.

For those wanting a book from a more Christian-based perspective, there are two excellent books by the Yerkoviches How We Love and How We Love Our Kids.  The first book provides attachment-based marriage strategies, and the latter, attachment parenting skills.  This husband and wife team compels us as Christians to look at our past to heal our futures.

Another book, specifically designed to help couples draw closer together and weather any storm and written from a Christian perspective, is Safe Haven Marriage by Archibald D. Hart and Sharon Hart Morris.  Certainly adopting a child from difficult circumstances can create some serious demands, and you will want to be well-prepared to navigate calmly the unexpected pressures.

The connection between having a strong marriage and being effective parents to an adopted child goes beyond just creating a stable home environment.  A strong marriage can create two securely attached individuals who can help their child to also become securely attached. An adopted child—especially one from a difficult past—cannot become any more securely attached than the parents.

Therefore, even if you did not have an ideal past, which may have resulted in your being less than securely attached, you can change to become what is called an “earned” securely attached person. There is further good news.  If you become securely attached as a result of the marriage and individual changes you make, studies show that you will be even a more empathetic parent than if you did come from a healthier background.   The even better news is that your adopted child is more likely to become securely attached.  Remember your adopted child can only become securely attached if you, the parents, are securely attached as well.

Learning to become a more empathetic listener and responder not only will bring you more aligned in what the Gospel calls us to be to others, but will also allow you to become more securely attached—meaning our families can also be stronger.

As with the effort that you have invested into adopting a child, improving your marriage will take time and resources.  And like adopting a child, there are priories that needed to be rearranged.

 

 

 

*If you would like to begin today to learn some practical  strategies that have  incorporated attachment-based  methods into their marriage, take a look at some of the book suggestions above and maybe even consider visiting the Smalley Institute  https://www.smalleyinstitute.com/  which provides a free couples communication course.

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