Rituals and Ceremonies in Celebration of Adoption

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In adoption, rituals can provide a meaningful bridge out of secrecy and shame, which have been prevalent in traditional adoptions of the past. We know children learn more from what we feel than what we way. Rituals celebrated with openness, love, and pride send a powerful message of validation to those around us, and most importantly, to the infant or child entering our family.

Pre-adoption rituals and post adoption family rituals, whether they be complex or simple contribute to family connections and integration. Rituals acknowledge feelings, define relationships, and mark transitions in our lives. Rituals strengthen feelings of entitlement to parent. Below are a couple of examples to use when planning your ceremony:

ENTRUSTMENT CEREMONY - is a ritual which includes both the birth family and the adoptive family as a way of honoring the child moving permanently from one family to another. Held in a church, at home, a garden, or even a hospital chapel, this ceremony is one in which losses and gains, joy and sadness, and the present and future are acknowledged and embraced.

Each of the participants can offer a wish and a promise to the cherished child as a way to mark this transition. It affirms our deepest joy and honor's new life with festivity and poignant intimacy. It gives new meaning to the term: "entitlement" as the baby /child is lovingly presented to the adoptive parent/parents by the birthmother/family.

THE CANDLE CEREMONY - was used at the NACAC Conference in California in 1999. It also can be held anywhere, including a support group meeting with other adoptive families. It could be celebrated on a finalization date, or even the child's birthday.

The First Candle- is lit to honor and remember birth families. This is a time to acknowledge the separation of children from their birth families and siblings through adoption. It is a time to give thanks and gratitude to birth family for our child and their gift of life. It is also a time to remember the courage and difficult decisions made by birth family.

The Second Candle - honors adopted children and adults. We celebrate those who have joined our family through adoption. They have enriched our lives, challenged us, and blessed us. They have expanded our ability to love and to give.

The Third Candle - is in honor of the adoptive parents. We recognize those who have become parents through adoption. We support and encourage you in the joy and challenges of committed parenting. We honor you as a family. We honor you for the difficult decisions you have made.

The Fourth Candle - This candle is in honor of those waiting to become parents. As a way of waiting, you learn and prepare for your child to come. May you extend yourselves to and connect with others. We stand close to you in your excitement and frustration. We support you during this difficult time and look forward to the growth and expansion of your family.

The Fifth Candle - is in honor and concern for Children Awaiting Adoption. We remember those who wait. We remember those children in foster care. We remember those children here and elsewhere who are parentless in temporary homes, orphanages, and on the street. We pray and hope for permanent loving homes for each and every one of you.

The above celebrations can be followed by a simple or sumptuous meal in which all the participants come together afterwards to visit, relax, and reflect.

Credits: Ellen Roseman

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