Thursday, May 27, 2010

Intentional Living

I can honestly say that I am blessed to, not only work in an office with professionals who share a common passion for adoption, but also work in a place where we have a common faith and belief that God is in control of our everyday lives. 

From a professional standpoint, this belief is what carries us through the most stressful of adoption situations and emotional ups and downs.  Our job is to provide counseling and services to the best of our ability and ensure the safety of children - not to force a parenting or adoption decision on any birth parent.  Ultimately, God is in total control and I have seen Him work out details through divine intervention to place an infant with an adoptive family; similarly, I have seen Him open doors for a birth parent who felt that they had no support to successfully parent and make a way for them to have a bright future for themselves and their child.  What a burden is lifted when we realize that we are powerless and He is powerful.

During the last year, our staff, birth families, and adoptive families have experienced a variety of sudden losses of both family and friends.  The idea that "our days are numbered" has been central to many conversations within the office.  Although grief and loss are difficult and painful to work through, this has resulted in a renewed focus to be intentional in our lives, to embrace our ultimate purpose, and to wholeheartedly strive to make every day count.  Life is too short to sit around and ponder the past or worry about what the future may bring.  We can't change the past or control the future, but we can influence the present.  Let's live every day as if it were the last and see what a difference a day makes...

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Fresh Ideas for Communicating with Birth Parents using Photographs

For most adoptive families, sending photographs and updates to birth parents via letters, pictures, video clips, etc. has become a regular part of the relationship-building process between adoptive and birth families.  However, this can become monotonous after months and months of sending groups of pictures of a posed, smiling baby or perfectly groomed family in front of a picturesque landscape.  One of our adoptive families, Jesse and Jenny, started taking pictures of themselves and their son, Elijah, with signs that simply showed his age, a simple message, etc. I absolutely love the concept and they make wonderful, artistic, frame-worthy images for the birth parents.

There are other ways to incorporate your child's personality, activities, and even temperament into the catalogue of photos.  Consider these suggestions as a starting point to taking some creative photos of small children "in action":
  • Small children are rarely still, looking at a camera - so don't stress.  Catch them on the move and from different angles (ie. photograph them taking unsteady steps from behind, walking holding the hands of a parent, running barefoot through the grass, picking dandelions, running through the sprinkler, enjoying an ice cream cone, etc.)
  • Catch the child blowing bubbles outdoors and have them blow bubbles at the camera while taking a close-up shot of their face
  • Capture a moment of them studying something new and interesting as they try to figure it out (ie. the baby and the family dog/cat studying one another, staring at an aquarium full of colorful fish, etc.)
  • Don't be afraid to show the "real" moments once in awhile by catching them in an unconventional way such as when they are snoozing, pouting, or even having a royal temper tantrum....they are just kids, right?
The main thing to remember is to have fun with it!  Send great pictures to the birth parents as they are treasured far above any other material thing that you could send, but don't always worry about sending pictures that make the child look like they are perfect all the time...that is unrealistic for even the best of children and parents.

Friday, May 21, 2010

WFL 2010 T-Shirts Are Still Available

We have a limited number of Walk for Life 2010 T-shirts still available and we would love to share them with you!  The Godparent Home girls tie-dyed children's t-shirts (above) that are all unique in patterns and color combinations.  All T-Shirts are Gildan Ultra-Cotton (Pre-shrunk) and have been tie-dyed:  sizes available are 2T, 3T, and 4T.

In addition, we have adult t-shirts available that are also Gildan Ultra-Cotton (Pre-shrunk) and are white (corporate sponsors listed on the back as well).  However, we would be happy to have them tie-dyed, by special request, if you would rather jazz it up a bit:  sizes available are M, L, and XL.

Whether you were able to join us for the Walk for Life or you were unable to be here, this is a fun way to show your support for our ministry.  The suggested donation for each t-shirt is $5 and we'll be happy to mail them to you at no extra charge.  Sizes are first come, first served, so email me at if you wish to request some t-shirts.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Watch the Mountains

Nate and Sara completed the adoption of their two children, Eden and Caleb, from Ethiopia in 2009.  Sara skillfully and beautifully documents their adoption journey in her blog, Every Bitter Thing Is Sweet.  Visit her blog and you will be blessed, encouraged, and will be able to relate to the honest feelings behind each post.  "Watch The Mountains" is being used, by permission, from her entry on May 3, 2010.

I think we’ll always wonder if certain behaviors from our children are a result of their past before they were adopted, or even a result of the adoption process itself.

They both have taken to crawling into my arms and asking if they can “be Mommy’s baby.” This comes with requests for me to walk with them, rock them, “burp” them, hold them close and show them off.

“Please show Daddy mommy’s baby,” Caleb says.

“Of course,” I say. “Daddy, do you see that I am holding the most precious baby God has ever made … his name is Caleb Asnaka. And he’s all mine.”

Caleb’s eyes sparkle with deep contentment.

And although she demonstrates no mental delays, Eden continues to have a hard time grasping that she won’t again get to be a baby. She says often: “when I grow up and then I get to be a baby.” Does she have a sense of what she lost? Dehydrated of opportunities to be held, cuddled, nurtured?

As Caleb’s attachment has progressed … and progressed … and progressed, I am seeing more of his tender heart emerge. He cries when his sister is hurt. Any sense of fear sends him bolting to me and clawing his way up and around my neck. He gives lots of “surprise kisses.” (I’ve decided not to tell him that the warning that they’re coming negates the very surprise he plants.)

Is he so tender because of the early years of his life spent with so much uncertainty?

I don’t know that we’ll ever know the answers to these questions, but one thing I am certain of is this: being orphaned for a day–or, as with Eden, for nearly 4 years–has a profound impact on a child’s life. I can barely stand to think about what would have happened to my precious children had they not been in our home.

And there are millions of others like them. Imprinted with the DNA of God, called “His sons and daughters”, and left to starve on the streets. World-influencers, at the bottom of the food chain … forgotten.

But not by Him.

We pray in our house that God would bring the “little boys and girls without mommies and daddies into families.” But there are some not in line to be brought into families. More than some. And when we pray about them, we pray that God would be their great Daddy.

Maybe forgotten by their biological parents. Maybe forgotten by the world. Maybe overlooked by the passer-by on the street. But not by God.

While we wait on the “go ahead” for our next adoption and for some other orphan-related work He has put on our hearts, this prayer has become more frequent: God, be their Daddy.

Let the stories that emerge from these orphaned lives be ones that speak of a God who is a father to the fatherless (Psalm 86). Let the orphans of the earth rise up and call Him Father.

Our adoption has made an impact. When we look at those two lives, our measurements suggest a size-able dent. But these prayers of ours have the ability to move mountains.

So do yours.

Let us not, in our rush to “just do something”, forget that all power lies in His hands.

Our plumb line to Him is our first form of advocacy.

Nate and I love advocacy on behalf of orphans and the poor. But could it be that all those Scriptural encouragements to pray, to cry out, is where the real work begins? Evidence continues to confirm to me that the place of prayer–seeking His face and His heart, not our solutions and our plans–brings “exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or imagine.” (Ephesians 3).

Give it a week. Or a month. Or a year. Set your plans for the passion that’s burning in your heart aside. And pray. Ask God for His heart, His plans, His strategies. And listen.

And (urgh) wait.

It’s probably bigger than you ever thought, maybe more challenging, requiring you to be more anonymous while He is lifted up … but certainly a lot more fun.

Then watch the mountains.

Mark 11:22-24 So Jesus answered and said to them, “Have faith in God. For assuredly, I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, ‘Be removed and be cast into the sea,’ and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that those things he says will be done, he will have whatever he says. Therefore I say to you, whatever things you ask when you pray, believe that you receive them, and you will have them.

Monday, May 17, 2010

The Impact of Social Networking on Domestic Infant Adoption

With the increased popularity of social networking websites, comes a whole new group of considerations for those involved in the domestic adoption world as it becomes almost impossible to maintain complete privacy.  Not to say that complete privacy and anonymity is required in adoption-I believe just the opposite in most cases.  But there is a time and place for everything.  From an adoption agency's standpoint, it has made our job easier in many respects:  we can often "find" birth fathers to notify them of a potential adoption plan, we can reach out to establish communication with birth mothers who have lost their connection with the agency, and we can reconnect with birth and adoptive families who have moved and forgotten to provide the agency with updated contact information. 

These websites have become our "go-to" tools for locating people and allow us to both gain and verify information - however, there are many things that must be considered by birth parents and adoptive parents who choose to participate in social networking.

First of all, let me say that there is nothing wrong with having a social networking page, connecting with others through social networking, etc. as long as it is done responsibly, honestly, and carefully.  We have many adoptive families and birth parents who decide that these connections are the most practical way for them to stay in touch on a regular basis through short comments, photo sharing, etc.  However, we have other groups who find that this is an area of their lives that they would rather not involve in the adoption relationship and choose to continue to use conventional means of communication (visits, phone calls, email, letters).  It must be a personal choice, yet one that you consider given your very own adoption situation.

Below are some practical tips for birth parents and adoptive families to help you enjoy the benefits of social networking without the added stress.

  • Make all privacy settings restrictive so you have as much control as possible regarding who can gather the information that you make available to others.  Ensure that you must "approve" any individual who wishes to gain access to this information. 
  • If you allow your page to be "searched" on the site, keep in mind that it may not be difficult to find your page by searching your first name and general geographical location.
  • For birth parents, only post pictures that you would be comfortable with the adoptive family and child viewing and vice versa.  Keep in mind that posts made by you or others reflect on your character and don't be afraid to delete things posted by others if you feel they are questionable.
  • Choose a setting to keep your photo albums private so that only your approved "friends" can view the photos.  This is often an overlooked setting and may be totally separate than the privacy settings for the rest of your profile.
  • It is not uncommon for an adoptive family's extended family or friends to make friend requests of the birth mother, etc.  Be sure that any "new connections" between both families are disclosed and agreed upon by the birth parent and adoptive parents. 
  • For adoptive parents, also be respectful and mindful of other birth parents that you may know through adoptive family connections.  Be careful not to step on toes or overstep boundaries.
  • Remember that there is no way to completely protect information about yourself on the internet.  Therefore, if you feel really nervous about your information being available, social networking may not be for you at this stage of your life or adoption process.
With the increasing openness between birth parents and adoptive families, networking can be a great tool and can be very beneficial to each party.  However, it is best to have an established relationship on which to launch from into a social networking relationship.  I do recommend that "waiting adoptive families" and birth parents in the process of selecting an adoptive family make these personal connections by other means until all parties mutually agree to opening up their social networking pages.  Feel free to share other questions or ideas about this topic, we'd love to learn from you too!

Friday, May 14, 2010

Reminder - Local Colors Festival Tomorrow

The Local Colors Festival is tomorrow in Roanoke, Virginia at Elmwood Park from 11:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. and is free for the whole family!  Local Colors is an organization in the Roanoke Valley (Virginia) that celebrates diversity and promotes multi-cultural understanding through education, services, and events. Representatives of many countries come together with native foods, music, costume, dance and performances for a unique cultural celebration! If you're looking for something to do this weekend, this is a wonderful place to spend a sunny Saturday with your family.  The schedule of events is available as well as parking information on the Local Colors Website.

I recommend that you arrive hungry so you can sample the food available and bring a nice blanket or lawn chairs to camp out in the park and watch the performances that take place all day on the main stage. My husband and I have had the opportunity to attend portions of the event for the last 3 years and I highly recommend it for adults and children of all are sure to have a great time - hope to see you there!

Walk for Life - May 1, 2010

The Walk for Life to benefit the Liberty Godparent Foundation (Liberty Godparent Home & Family Life Services) was held on a bright, sunny, warm Saturday earlier this month!  We were blessed to have hundreds of participants which included adoptive families, former residents, birth families, waiting adoptive families, members of the Board of Directors, teams from local businesses, and friends from the community members.  We were thrilled to have some folks travel in from out-of-state just to join us for the day! 

It was a day filled with fun for the whole family and everyone had a blast enjoying the hay rides, big bounces, face painting, snow cones, making tie-dye t-shirts, clown, and lots of good food and friends!  We want to say thank you to each of you who invested in our ministry by raising support for our organization.  Please enjoy some of our photos from the day on the sidebar....

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Could "Foster to Adopt" be Right for You?

Our guest blogger today is Elizabeth who, along with her husband (Paul), provided foster care for their children prior to becoming an adoptive family.  They are now the busy parents of Cailyn (age 12), Brian (age 11), and Brandon (age 9).   

As I sit hear watching my children as they pamper me on Mother’s Day, I must reflect on how lucky I am to be a Mother of three beautiful children that God hand selected just for me.

I started praying for children at age 15. I asked my parents to adopt one of the babies from the Liberty Godparent home (then called “Save a Baby” home) for me to raise…of course they did not even consider it. I knew then that all I wanted to be was a housewife and mother. Through the years, I realized God had other plans for me, however I claimed Matthew 6:33 as my life verse: “But seek ye first the kingdom of God and His righteousness and all these things shall be added unto you”. I knew one of two things were going to happen, God would provide me the children I longed for or he would take the desire away.

When Paul and I were married in 2003, I knew I had fertility issues and that we would have to go through some difficult processes to be able to have children, what I wasn’t prepared for was that he was not as excited about the process as I was and his attitude was more of “if it happens it happens”. I read something about fostering foster children in our local newspaper and the idea hit me. If we can foster children in respite (temporary situations) he will see how fun it is to have kids around and then he will want to put forth the effort in fertility treatments.

When I took the call about our first foster experience, he was at work. They asked if we could keep three kids for three weeks until their biological mother could take them back. I prayed about it, looked at my schedule and said, “sure, we can handle three kids for three weeks”. When Paul got home from work I told him and he said “Are you crazy? Three kids?” I knew most of the time the kids would be spending with me because Paul was working second shift and I was working from home.

The kids ran into my house and immediately reeked havoc! They were all sick and very hungry. I then found out they had only been in foster care for 3 weeks and we were their 4th placement. They were full of energy, had never been disciplined properly and soon learned what a “time out” was. Cailyn was the mothering older sister (at 7 years old) of two hyper, Brian (age 6) and Brandon (almost 4 and not yet potty trained). I told Paul we could not give up on these kids, because it seemed like everyone else was. They were quite challenging, and Paul quit work to stay home with them so we could better meet their needs.

Three weeks turned into three months and I began to realize the kids were not going back to their biological home, after a couple of visits from the biological Mom, she told me social services were making her jump through too many hoops and she was going to sign away her rights.

A few weeks after they came to live with us, we were on our way to the “Walk for Life” and I was trying to explain to them why we were walking and raising money for the Godparent home. Cailyn said, “Elizabeth, we never would have known anything about Jesus or God if we had not come to live with you”. They were like little sponges soaking up everything they learned in church and I was so busy trying to meet their physical needs I did not even realize their spiritual needs, thankfully, God knew what they needed and our church provided it for them. By the time our adoption was final, they were not the same kids, they were calm, well disciplined and they have a heart for Jesus.

We still have our challenges as no family is perfect, but we could not have produced three more beautiful children, inside and out. I finally have my kids, in God’s timing, not mine and He picked them out just for me!

Saturday, May 8, 2010

A Message To Birth Mothers...

This simple, yet heartfelt, message to birth mothers was written today by Beth, adoptive mom of Eli.  This adoptive mom "gets it"...

Today is "Birth Mother's Day."  I hope that every birth mom out there is blessed today.  You truly have shown me what unconditional love is.  So, Happy Birth Mother's Day to any lady who has lovingly placed their child in the hands of another woman.  I am a mom today because of you.  "Thank You" doesn't seem like enough.  To Eli's birth mom - You are honored in our lives today & everyday.  God bless all Birth Moms!

Friday, May 7, 2010


What is "Grace"?  It's God's unmerited favor.  It's kindness shown to us that we don't deserve.  As we head into this weekend, let's remember the grace that God has extended to each of us and look for ways to show grace and mercy to others. We are remembering birth mothers and mothers this weekend...each of you have roles that are irreplaceable!

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

National Foster Care Month

May is National Foster Care Month and a time to recognize some very special families in our community and communities across the United States.  Family Life Services has 8 foster families in the Lynchburg, Virginia area that provide transitional care for infants between the time that they are entrusted to our agency by the birth parents and the time that the child is legally adopted by the adoptive parents.  Their job is to love, care for, nurture, protect, and fully provide for an infant until the child either reunites with his or her birth mother or joins an adoptive family.  They are a vital part of our organization and we appreciate the work that they do.  If your family has been positively impacted by a special foster family, take the time during this month to send a note, card, picture, flowers, or some way of letting them know that you haven't forgotten them - I guarantee they have not forgotten about you!

Here's a link to President Obama's Proclamation from April of 2010.   National Foster Care Month spans various aspects of foster care and recognizes foster families who serve children and youth on a much larger scale with public or private organizations.  One statistic tells us that there are 463,000 American youth in the foster care system that need a stable, happy, loving home during times when their biological families are unable to provide the needed care for them.  You can make a difference by getting involved and it could change a lifetime!

Monday, May 3, 2010

Simple Reflections - Hannah Grace

One of our talented local photographers, Rhiannon Horsley with Simple Reflections Photographic Art, had partnered with Family Life Services to offer an Adoption Photography Package to any of our adoptive families.  Eric and Heidi decided to have their first family photos taken while they were still in Virginia, following the placement of Hannah Grace.  Click on Hannah Grace to view a few of the shots from that evening.

In case you missed it, details about the packages offered by Simple Reflections Photographic Art are available on a recent blog post or you can email and I will send you a document with the information that you will need to consider this option for your family.

Thanks, Rhiannon, for capturing the simple beauty of this special time in the lives of Eric, Heidi, and Hannah Grace!
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