Monthly Archives: November 2017

Dream4Adoption home study grant

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I recently had the opportunity to talk to Kimberly Ashbrook, the program manager at Dream4Adoption. Dream4Adoption is a new grant for families for any type of adoption. The unique thing about this grant is that while adoption grants require an approved home study to apply, this one is intended to help families have the funds they need to start a home study.

Please tell me a little about your family and how you became interested in adoption.

Our family was the standard American family for many years. A few years ago, we had a great surprise with the miracle of our little guy. What makes our story different, is this ever long dream to adopt a child.

From the very beginning of our marriage, there was a discussion about having our own children or adopting. Twenty-one years and two almost grown children later, the discussion came up again. This time it was because of a difficult pregnancy with the news that we should not try for any more children. Although it would be great to raise a child without a sibling near his age, we felt that we could fill our dream and adopt. With only boys in the house, we have optioned to adopt a girl.

What made you decide to start the Dream4Adoption grant?

The birth of Dream4Adoption was born out of two specific thoughts. First, it was based on our inability to commit to the cost of adoption along with that inability to research like we can today. Lastly, during our current adoption process, we found many grants that we did not qualify for. It was very heartbreaking to know that only certain people can get grants. It was frustrating and unfair in our opinion for some of these organizations to limit funds based on anything other than the parent(s) ability to raise a child. Understandably, there are criteria reasons to consider, like criminal history and certain health issues.

The Dream4Adoption grant came to light from our stopping point twenty-one years ago; the fear of the cost upfront. If Dream4Adoption could help fund the home study phase, how many more candidates would take the next step instead of waiting like we did?

Grants usually require a completed home study to apply. Since your grant is to be used for a home study, what is your process to make sure only serious applicants receive the funds?

Dream4Adoption has put together a pretty good application, guidelines and financial worksheets that will help in making sure serious candidates have applied. As a secondary layer, Dream4Adoption will only make the initial funds payable to the agency, lawyer, home study provider or other qualified third party. We also have a small application fee of $35 to apply, 3 references with letters and a personal essay to be included in the package.

Can individuals or families apply if they have already started or completed their home study?

The initial grant process for this cycle will allow those in the process of adoption to apply. The client must have an agency or other provider approve them. With a grant approval, Dream4Adoption will reach out to those parties identified on the application to verify approval. The client must also have their application in prior to bringing the child home. Therefore, we have left the cycle open to a larger audience to help us learn and help as many in the adoption process as we can during this cycle. We will assess what we learned and may change criteria. We are also hoping to add other programs next year to help other families, but the home study grant will be our staple.

I notice that part of your grant funding is a $500 “Welcome Home” grant. Can you tell me more about that?

Our “Welcome Home” portion of the grant is a type of bonus for making it through the process. We have thought deeply about how the grant will work and how we can make it one step better for returning families. Many families use every bit of money they have to finance the adoption process. By giving them a “Welcome Home” grant at the end, the family can take a look at the needs that have in front of them and they will have $500.00 to help. From medical costs to repayment on loans, there is always something that the family will need when they bring the child home.

Is there anything else you would like to share about Dream4Adoption?

While in the process of adoption ourselves, we decided to move forward with the charity. Even though we cannot help ourselves through the charity, it is a way to stay focused during our wait to be matched. The adoption community is pretty close and are very passionate about family.  That easily help us to pursue the charity prior to our adoption being completed.

Our goal at Dream4Adoption is to fund adoptions in any way we can. We are looking for funding around every corner we can find. We have began developing two more grants that we are contacting sources of funding for their support. To be the premier organization for funding is something that we take seriously and our board is focused on growing rapidly to help people get that Dream4Adoption. There are way too many orphans out there that need a forever family.

As our website states, we want to be an organization that is “Connecting the World, One Child at a Time”.

 

For more information or to apply, visit https://dream4adoption.org. You can find the current Dream4Adoption fundraiser Email From Santa on their homepage.

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Considering Developmental Delays as a Special Need

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“Developmental delays” is a special need commonly found in files from China. This is not a special need which has a specific diagnosis like HIV+ or albinism. Parents often have a lot of questions about what this label means. Is it a minor or more involved special need? Are these delays the sort of thing that can be overcome with the loving attention of a family and specialized therapies?

First, it’s important to note that in the early decades of international adoption, adoptive parents were often surprised to find that the babies they adopted were not meeting the normal developmental milestones. There was not a good understanding that children raised in institutions, who lack as much attention, nutrition, and stimulation as biological children, will not develop at the same rate. It was not until the late 1980’s that researchers began looking at the development of children raised in institutions. Most families beginning the process now will be probably be educated enough to know that they should expect a child raised in an institution to lose one month of development for every three months in an institution, as a very general guideline. This might look like rolling over at 6 months, sitting unassisted at 9 months, crawling at a year, and walking sometime between 18-24 months.

It is because of this that some parents have the mistaken idea that developmental delays in a file is an easy need because these are simply “orphanage delays” that the child will overcome during the first months or years home. Developmental delay in a file means the child is more delayed in development than their (already delayed) orphanage peers. I cannot stress enough that this is not a standard label slapped on to every child’s file.

Parents who are expecting minor delays which will be quickly overcome are often caught off guard when presented with a child who has delays which are much greater than anticipated. Jen writes “I had heard stories of institutionalized kids coming home to their forever family and overcoming so many of their delays. I was optimistic and ready to welcome my son into my heart and our family forever . . . Those first two weeks with him in China were confusing, stressful and scary.  Honestly, I thought my life was over. I cried every night to sleep. I even had thoughts of not bringing him home.”

Much of the information parents will encounter in process like shared family stories, or even information from agencies such as this recent blog post on an agency blog, gives the impression that this is the case for most children, maybe throwing in a short line at the end about how sometimes the delays are permanent. It is important for families to consider the full range of possibilities when deciding whether or not to adopt a child with developmental delays. 

What does it mean when China uses the “developmental delays” label? There are several possibilities.

  • The child could have the developmental delay label because they have a medical diagnosis which causes those delays. Children with serious heart conditions or children with unrepaired cleft palate who are not receiving adequate nutrition are two examples of special needs where developmental delays can be an additional label in the file.
  • The child could have an undiagnosed need which causes the delays. Cerebral palsy is one condition which is sometimes diagnosed once home in children with the developmental delay label. Genetic syndromes are not commonly diagnosed in files from China, but with chromosomal testing becoming more standard, it is not unusual for children with general developmental delays to be diagnosed with a specific chromosomal deletion or duplication once home.
  • Some children really do need more individual love and care than they get in an institution to develop, even in the “best” orphanages. They have the equivalent to ‘failure to thrive.’ These children do often overcome their delays once they are placed in a family and after receiving targeted therapies.
  • Finally, some children may have lifelong developmental delays but never receive a specific diagnosis once home, even after chromosomal testing.

488047_10151353375486943_180755832_nDevelopmental delays is such a catch-all label that you cannot generalize about an outcome. Without knowing the reason a child is nonverbal, you can’t speculate whether he or she will learn to talk after speech therapy. Even children with the same diagnosis can have different outcomes. For example, about 25% of people with cerebral palsy are nonverbal. If you are open to developmental delays as a special need, you need be open to the entire range of outcomes, including the possibility that your child will need lifelong care. It is essential to have a flexible attitude and the ability to cheer on your child’s successes without comparing him or her to their peers of the same age.

Shecki from Greatly Blessed shared how her idea of what developmental delays meant versus the reality with her son:

“When considering any special need, you should think of the worst case scenario, and determine whether your family could handle that or not.

When I considered “delays,” tacked on to the end of Luke’s primary special need (which, ironically, aside from one specialist appointment has been a non issue), I thought “worst case scenario” would be that he’d still be a little behind when he was school age, and would need an IEP to help him get through school with his peers.  Never in my wildest imaginings did I think that “delays” meant he would not walk, speak, or toilet train, and that he would not be in a regular classroom at all.

The long and the short of it is, we took a risk, never really believing, or even suspecting, things would turn out as they have.”

If you are considering developmental delays as a special need, you should ask yourself some of the same general questions you would ask about any need:

  • Can we meet the medical needs of this child?
  • What are the resources in our area for physical, occupational, speech, and/or feeding therapy?
  • What is our insurance coverage for those therapies?
  • How much time do we available for medical appointments, therapies, and working with our child at home?

On an almost daily basis, someone will ask in a forum “We are reviewing the file of a 3/4/5 year old who isn’t walking/talking. Has anyone adopted a child with similar delays who overcame them?” I have to tell you that you are asking the wrong question. It does not matter how many other children overcame their delays. It only matters if this specific child will and no one in the world can tell you that. The question you to ask yourself is if you would love and cherish this child as a part of your family as they are right now, as presented in the file, or if you really only comfortable with the potentially improved child.

 

Five Reasons to (Still) Adopt from China

Last November for National Adoption Month, I gave five reasons to choose China to adopt from. Since then, two of those reasons are no longer part of the China program. I thought I should update it this year to let you know that despite recent program changes, the China program is *still* a great option.
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November is National Adoption Month! I thought I would kick off the celebration by giving some reasons why China’s adoption program might be a good fit for your family.

1. The process is streamlined and predictable. Unlike adopting from foster care, domestic infant adoption, or programs from some (but not all) other countries, the China program has a clearly defined timeline of steps. Most families will bring home a child 10-15 months after they begin the process. Many people switch to the China program after a failed attempt at adopting through another program, so the stability is appealing.

2. You have the ability to choose your child’s age, gender, and the special needs you are comfortable with. You will not be assigned a child, nor will you be penalized for declining a file which you do not feel is a good fit for your family.

3.Travel is a single two week trip and only one parent is required to travel. Some countries require multiple trips or a lengthy stay in country to complete the adoption. While this gradual approach is undoubtedly better for the child or children being adopted, the fact is that many families could not adopt if that were a requirement. China’s travel requirement is one which most families can meet.

4. The China program still has generous eligibility guidelines. While the guidelines are now more restrictive than previously, the upper age limit is 5-10 years higher than many programs. Allowing five children in the home is more than other programs such as Thailand, South Korea, or India. China’s criteria for single parents or couples with a single divorce in their marital history are more generous than the former guidelines.

5. The China program is well established and stable. Some people have been concerned that the recent changes might indicate an upcoming closure of the program. On the contrary, China has regularly made updates to their program every 3-5 years. This is one of the aspects of the program which has helped it to continue going strong for more than 20 years. Nearly 80,000 children have been adopted to the US from China, far more than any other placing country. Of the other four top placing countries, only the Korean program remains open to American parents now that Russia, Guatemala, and Ethiopia have closed.

If you are just beginning your adoption journey and found this post helpful, you might consider buying my book which has all of this information and more, including several chapters on travel.