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It Takes A Village

minime0910 | Wednesday, January 26, 2011 | Links to this post | 1 Comment
By: LMI guest blogger, Erin Herman

John Lennon once famously wrote,
There's Nothing You Can Do That Can't Be Done, All You Need Is Love.

Well, that may have been true for old Lenny, but I am willing to bet he never adopted a baby as a single parent. Those of us that have been down that road know that, while love is crucial, it isn't all you need. You have to have energy, education, patience, financial stability, health, and, maybe most importantly of all, a strong support system.

The old African proverb says It Takes A Village To Raise A Child. Support systems, like villages, come in many shapes and forms. Some of us depend on sisters, brothers, neighbors and coworkers. Others rely on our church family and friends. Still others join cyber-support groups. When I began my adoption process, I knew I would need to rely on my friends and family to help ease the transition into Single Mamahood, but I had no idea how much I would come to count on my other village, my tight-knit group of Single Adoptive Moms, for support and guidance through the roller coaster of adopting and parenting as a single Mama.

We originally met three years ago through (where else?) Facebook, finding each other on our agency's fan page. When we realized we were all in the Cincinnati area, and all adopting babies from the same Central Asian country, we immediately started getting together for weekly lunches. In those early days, we would sit around nice restaurants, leisurely dawdling over coffee and salads, discussing dossiers and social workers. Flash forward to present day, where we meet every Sunday at a different kind of restaurant. It's loud, chaotic, and and not a white table cloth in sight. Yes, we now meet at a McDonald's Playland, swapping parenting tips and hand me down clothes as we simultaneously kiss boo boos and refill the juice cups of our beautiful children.


My single adoptive mom friends understand me in a way that others do not. They understand how physically, emotionally, and financially draining this alternative path to parenting can be. They understand my commitment to my child's cultural education, and my need for her to know and love her birth country. They have been there for me through the challenging times and through the rewarding ones, too. When I traveled overseas to adopt my daughter, I talked to them almost every day. From 7500 miles away, they shared my joy, and allayed my fears.

" What if she doesn't ever feel like my daughter?" I worried. "
" She will." they insisted.

And of course, we all laughed knowingly over Skype, when, just hours later, I danced joyfully around my apartment with my daughter in my arms, whistling "Yes Sir, That's My Baby." Because of course, she was.

Being a single mom is hard. We are given TWO biological parents for a reason. Someone to drive, someone to navigate. Someone to cook, and someone to do the dishes. Still, most of the time, everything goes according to plan. It is possible to independently juggle a job, a child, a house, etc. and not feel overwhelmed and exhausted. I even make it to the gym every once and a while. But then there are those days when I oversleep and the car doors are frozen shut and the dog is sick and the baby is teething. It is on those days that I reach for the phone and call my village. And they are there, without judgment or hesitation, validating me and supporting me as I navigate the I'm Not Super Mom Guilt Complex that inevitably comes with single parenting. My support system of friends has also helped me see the advantages of single parenting. As my single-adoptive-mom friend E famously says,

"Yes, single parenting is hard, but I like that I don't have to constantly compromise with someone else on all the parenting decisions. If I decide its stay-in-our-pajamas-eat-cupcakes-and-watch-cartoons Day, who is gonna stop me?!"

A valid point, but also it is important to remember that it is not a sign of her weakness or an indication of failure to reach out for assistance and support. After all, it was John Lennon who also famously wrote, I Get By With A Little Help From My Friends. While I love my Single Adoptive Mom friends, we don't agree on everything. One of us is religious, the others are not. One of us doesn't let her child watch any TV, I've been known to let my 18 month old watch a minute or two of The Bachelor (please don't tell my social worker). But we do agree on one thing. Being a single parent is the toughest job we have ever loved, we wouldn't have it any other way.

Dalton, age 3, Hannah age 1, and Kamilla, age 2, all adopted from Kazakhstan through Little Miracles.
This evening at 7:30pm Central Time, we will explore the joys and challenges of adopting the older child. Email info@littlemiracles.org for the dial-in number!

Older children are near to LMI's heart. They are the children often left behind, through no fault of their own. They are the children who want nothing more than to be loved. They know what a parent is, they want parents.

When I traveled to Kazakhstan, I was touched by two older children. As we adopted our baby, a family was there adopting an 8 year old. I'll never forget the transformation of that little girl in the month we spent together; you can see it in the photos and videos I took throughout. A child who looked at her feet and whispered the first few days was jamming with an air guitar like my now 8 year old daughter does.

The second child who touched my heart is the one who led me to my role as Program Coordinator at Little Miracles upon my return. A 4 year old boy approached me on the orphanage playground, and looked at the baby in my arms. He asked the same question over and over and over.....we looked at our translator for help. "Will you be my Mama and Papa? I want one!" That was it, folks, my lightbulb moment filled with guilt, sadness, and motivation.

Over the years, I've had the opportunity to help many families through the adoption process. Each is amazing. We can all agree that the best communications we receive from families is the recognition of new trust between a child, and the new parent.

In the spirit of preparation, education, and realistic expectations, please join in the call!!

Andrea Jacobs
Mom to Haley and Mitchell, Kazakhstan Little Miracles

When Looks Matter

Anne Bentley | Monday, January 17, 2011 | Links to this post | 2 Comments

We all know looks don't matter . . . until they do. Adopted or not, we begin to evaluate our parents more critically from a young age noticing our similarities and differences. I remember thinking, I couldn't possibly be the child of my biological parents. Even though we shared obvious physical characteristics, I wasn't so sure we did. And we certainly didn't act alike. So how could I possibly be related?

Our Kazakh daughter, adopted in 2007, has been pointing out and comparing our physical traits since her third birthday. One day, she proudly announced she looked just like her daddy since both share brown hair and brown eyes. It was clear then she could only see the similarities. A few months later she cried because she didn't have polka dots (freckles) like mommy. Telling her how lucky she was to have clear, beautiful olive skin wasn't much help at the time. Later she started to notice our not so subtle differences in hair, eye and skin color. She never said it with sadness, just interest. Maybe I missed an opportunity to tell her about her birthmother then and how they looked alike, but it didn't feel like the right time or something she could really understand yet. Teaching her about embracing everyone's differences, from the curls in their hair to the glasses on their face or skin color seemed more important and relevant at the time.

Approaching the glorious age of four brought all kinds of new questions with it. Sure, we'd talked about her adoption since the time she'd come home with us and experiencing her sister's adoption helped everything sink in. But her fascination with her own looks and how they differed from ours seemed to be at the forefront of her curiosity. I’d begun to notice her hard stares when Asian families were nearby and waited for the question, "why do I look more like their family than mine?" I attempted to address it, although it never came - not until recently when she asked, "do I look like the nannies that took care of me at the baby house?" I quickly pulled out her adoption photos and showed her that she resembled a few of them and the Kazakh people in general, but also let her know that no one else in the world looks just like her. She's one of kind. We all are. Individuality aside, I think it's reassuring to her just knowing others look like her. It’s possible I’ve missed some underlying psychology here, but I tend to think at four her view’s a little more simplistic (for now anyway). Given her new comfort level with her visual identity, she's now very quick to let us know when someone looks like her. All good news for her exploratory nature.

Looks can matter to parents too. I had this preconceived notion of what I thought my children would look like before I knew I couldn't physically have them. It was hard to surrender that fantasy, but I did. I think a lot parents go through this and carry feelings of guilt for letting our minds take us there. For me personally, adopting our children helped erase that longing. I can't imagine my children looking any other way or more beautiful for that matter. I know that telling someone this is vastly different than experiencing it. But I think you'd be hard pressed to find an adoptive family that didn't feel the same. Our children are our children regardless of who delivered them. Connectivity of physical appearance has nothing to do with the bonds that form between us.

So whether you have an adopted child or you're talking about adopting a child that doesn't look like the rest of your family, talk openly about your differences and embrace them early on. Once you've acknowledged and celebrated your family’s uniqueness - skin color, eye color and ethnicity become another set of features that make your family your beautiful family.

--Melanie Hill
The Hill family adopted 2 girls from Kazakhstan
The North American Council on Adoptable Children (NACAC) is hosting a series of webinars about the federal Adoption Tax Credit, beginning in January 2011. During these webinars, participants will learn the steps they will need to take to file for the U.S. federal adoption tax credit, whether they adopted in 2010 or as far back as 2005. NACAC’s staff, Josh Kroll, will explain the credit, how it recently became refundable, and what parents need to do to take advantage of the credit. The session will focus on families who adopted children with special needs from foster care but will be applicable to all adoptive families as well.




Adoption Notice: Ukraine

Anne Bentley | Thursday, January 13, 2011 | Links to this post | 0 Comments
January 12, 2011

U.S. Embassy Kyiv has learned the proposed bill to place a moratorium on intercountry adoptions in the Ukrainian
parliament has once again been postponed. There has been no announcement of a rescheduled date.

In order to best prepare for all possibilities in Ukraine, Embassy Kyiv encourages any prospective adoptive parents with cases currently open in Ukraine to contact the U.S. Embassy Kyiv Adoption Unit (kyivadoptions@state.gov) with their case status and contact information. The Embassy maintains a listserv to communicate with U.S. citizen prospective adoptive parents and will use this to send updates as information is available.

The U.S. Embassy Kyiv and the Department of State will continue to post updates on their websites as new information is available.
Join us on Tuesday, January 18 at 7:30 p.m. Central time as we discuss the joys and challenges of adopting a child in this age group. As many countries have fewer young children to adopt they are focusing on finding homes for the overlooked orphans--those who are age 5 and older. Andrea Jacobs will lead this discussion and we will also hear from a family who recently adopted a 6 year old boy through LMI. Please send and email to info@littlemiracles.org with the subject "OLDER CHILD" to join this teleconference.
Happy New Year! I hope 2010 treated you well and that 2011 will be even better. If you are still planning on starting an adoption we have a great teleconference coming up on January 11 at 7:30 p.m. Central time.

Adoption research is overwhelming! Join LMI's Andrea Jacobs as she discusses the criteria impacting your adoption decisions: current overall timelines, time spent in-country, ages of children available, ethnicity, referral method, etc. The goal is to find the right adoption program and, ultimately, your child. There will be a question and answer question following the teleconference, too.

If you would like to sign up for this teleconference please send an email to info@littlemiracles.org with the subject: GETTING STARTED. We look forward to hearing from you!