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:

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  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

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.

Cultural Differences

Larry Taunton, a historian of soviet society, wrote a book called The Grace Effect, where he looks at the price these nations paid by removing God from their culture for nearly a century.  One effect of the decidedly atheist society was a change in how orphans are viewed, and how altruism is viewed.  In many former soviet countries, orphans are considered the lowest “caste.” They are treated with contempt.  It would be a mistake for Americans who adopt from abroad to think that the workers from their child’s orphanage would be blessed and pleased to see how much these kids are thriving in their new homes.  On the contrary, the reaction of some people abroad to the new lives of adopted children is one of jealousy and anger.  And for others, the reaction is pure suspicion.  It is unfathomable for some people why Americans would take an orphaned child into their home.   Since this type of altruism is so outside of their worldview, they can only envision nefarious motives.  So suspicion, contempt, and jealousy are factors that make some foreign countries develop a negative policy and attitude toward adoption.

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