Who Participates: Birth parents, adoptive parents, adoptee

Materials: Plaster for handprints, leaves, drawings, photos, and other meaningful objects for mosaic

The Ritual: An "entrustment" ceremony gives birth and adoptive parents the opportunity to pray, make vows, and share hopes for their child's future. Pact: An Adoption Alliance, which works exclusively with children of color, offers one example on its website.

Rebecca Weller, who created the ritual, incorporated the ethnic heritages of the birth and adoptive parents and the child in the rite she did for her adoptive son, Samuel. Her entrustment ceremony was reminiscent of a traditional Nigerian naming ceremony, in which relatives from both sides of the child's family -- in this case the birth and adoptive parents -- chose names for the baby. The naming was planned so that different parents were asked to choose either first or middle names for the boy. Vows written by both sets of parents followed. Parents were also encouraged to reflect on the child's ethnic background and on their hopes for his future.

Weller said, "Just as many streams--known and unknown, small and large--contribute to a river's strength and course, so too the course of this life to come will be shaped, in part, by its many tributaries. Samuel is a birth child; he is an adopted child. He is African-American, Latino, and Caucasian; he is Roman Catholic, Baptist, Protestant, and Jewish. He is the son of Yvonne and James, and of Robyn and Brian. He is little brother to Elliot and as well, to Joelle, Pablo, Jarrett, Bethany, and Alice. Perhaps he will have Yvonne's lovely voice, or James's ready laugh. Perhaps he will have Brian's humor or Robyn's love of words or Elliot's sense of joy. We hope he will be blessed with all of these and more."

Candles were then lit to "celebrate the brightness of this new life." A Jewish prayer, the Shehekiyanu, was recited to commemorate a new beginning. The prayer reads, "Praised are you, O Lord God of us all, King of the universe, for giving us life, for sustaining us, and for enabling us to reach this season."

Finally, each set of parents created a mosaic to mark the ceremony. First, the parents cast their hands in plaster and then helped Samuel make a handprint. These molds were then decorated with leaves, drawings, photos, and other meaningful adornments. Each set of parents then took a mosaic home as a keepsake.

The Meaning: This ceremony allows both birth and adoptive parents to feel assured that the child will be raised with an understanding of the many religious, racial, and ethnic heritages that coexist within him or her.

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