Liz Cook became a Mentor in 2017 and was excited to join the Program because she has always enjoyed hearing about other’s life experiences. Liz has also volunteered with many youth non-profits over the years.
What would you like
to share about your background?
I was adopted as an infant. In fact, I was born on Thanksgiving! When I was 3 days old, I was welcomed into my home on the Upper East Side of NYC. Four and a half years later my brother was born. He was not adopted.
How did your family
share your adoption story with you?
My parents used the word adoption from the time I was a
toddler. Whenever I was curious, they had lengthy discussions and told me as
much as they knew. They were proud and thrilled with my adoption and passed
those feelings on to me. When I was twelve, my parents handed me my “adoption
folder”—anything they had that pertained to my adoption. They gave me ownership
of my interesting beginnings.
What myths or
misconceptions did you encounter as an adoptee?
I thought that I was adopted because my birth mother was an
old woman with a bunch of cats. I have no idea where I got this funny story
from. Ironically, I’m highly allergic to
cats! There’s a tendency in our society to sensationalize adoption. Sometimes
people would ask me about my “real parents.” For the most part I learned at an
early age to firmly but politely debunk the myths and misconceptions.
What has been your
experience as a Mentor?
The Mentorship program has become a family to me. Everyone has a wonderful story although some stories are painful. I’ve looked at my life story and the subject of adoption differently than I did before my connection to Spence Chapin. I feel sad that some of our kids are bullied by others because they have been adopted. I think Spence-Chapin offers a safe haven for Mentees and Mentors.
What advice do you
share with young adoptees in the Mentorship Program?
Being adopted is nothing to be ashamed of. In fact, it
should be celebrated. I want the Mentees to feel pride in telling their stories
and know that they are not alone in this journey. That’s what this Mentorship
Mentorship Program is for adopted middle and high school students. Our
program empowers adoptees through friendship, building self-confidence and
challenging them to discover and understand their adoption identities and
experiences. To learn more about joining the Program as a Mentee or Mentor,
contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or sign up for our FREE Mentorship
The term “Waiting Child” holds many meanings within the adoption community. In Spence-Chapin’s International Adoption Programs, we define a Waiting Child as a child who is in need of adoption and is ready to be matched immediately with an adoptive family. We regularly receive information from our international partners about children who are in need of immediate adoption. In this case, the child has been identified by their caretakers as a child who would thrive in an adoptive family.
We take the privacy rights of the children whom we seek to place very seriously. Spence-Chapin password-protects this page in order to protect the privacy of these children. Contact us to learn more about the Waiting Child page at 212-400-8150 or email@example.com.
Who are the Waiting Children?
There are thousands of children with special needs waiting for a family to love them. We work with our partners in Colombia, Bulgaria and South Africa to identify children who are particularly in need of loving, permanent families. In our Colombia and Bulgaria Waiting Child Programs these children are typically pre-school and school-age children, children with medical special needs, or sibling groups in need of adoption. While the reasons a child has been identified as a Waiting Child vary, there is one thing the children all have in common – they are ready to be matched immediately with a forever family.
Comparing the Traditional Adoption Process and the Adoption of a Waiting Child
Families often ask how adopting a Waiting Child differs from the traditional adoption process. While the application process and eligibility guidelines are the same, the main difference is the timeline in which families are matched with a child. In a traditional intercountry adoption process, families receive information on their child after their paperwork is submitted to the country. For a Waiting Child, a family may begin their adoption process after identifying the child who will be joining their family. Families can also request to learn more about an individual Waiting Child at any point during their adoption process. There are many pre-school and school-age children, children with special medical needs, and sibling groups in need of families who are not on our Waiting Child page.
What is the Next Step?
Spence-Chapin’s mission is to connect the children most in need of families with loving parents. We can help you explore which adoption program is right for your family. If you’d like to learn more about domestic and international adoption at Spence-Chapin, or to view profiles of Waiting Children ready to be immediately matched with an adoptive family today, contact us at 212-400-8150 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
“The way our family came to be is outside of what I ever
thought, or envisioned, for myself. Adoption was never something that I had thought
much about, especially when it came with growing my own family. But, when I reflect,
I am so thankful that my family has been built in this way.
It has been built perfectly and beautifully- better than I could have ever
anticipated or dreamed of for myself.
Adoption came into my and my husband’s life
after struggling with infertility for several years after the birth of our son.
It led us to adopt a 3-year-old girl from Ethiopia, our daughter Elsa.
After seeing the immense need of so many children who did not have a family, we knew we would one day adopt again. After a few years, we brought our son, Asher, home from South Africa. He was 2.5 years old. Soon after, we learned we were pregnant! Our children are now ages 10, 8, 4, and 1.
As a parent to two biological children, and two
internationally adopted children, I have to say that it feels completely normal
to me. I often forget that our family unit may be very different from those
Adopting our children has brought me the exact
same feelings as having my biological children has. Feelings of immense love,
joy, protection, hope for their future, and worry (of course) about if I am
doing this parenting thing right. Being a parent is a roller coaster ride –
with so many emotions and ups and downs. Any child, no matter what their
origin, brings the same parenting concerns.
One thing that being an adoptive mom has taught
me, is that I need to be well-versed in trauma informed parenting. No matter what the circumstance, or
special need, or what age a child is when they are adopted, they all have
experienced great trauma in being separated from their family of origin. Having adopted children means disciplining differently.
Parenting two children who have had very difficult beginnings is not easy, by
any means. I feel that educating myself, and implementing a different approach
to disciplining and parenting, is something every adoptive parent needs to
commit to. Plus, I believe that learning these amazing parenting techniques has
helped me to be a better mom to all my kids.
Having a biological child after adopting has
brought up some big conversations with my kids about first families, what we
call “tummy mommies and tummy daddies” – and what it means to have a parent. It
has been an incredible experience to walk alongside my children as they each
process their own story.
Having two African children brings a completely
new perspective to our family. My entire world view has changed because of
knowing my adopted children. The course of my life, the course of my husband’s
life, of our biological kids’ lives, and of our extended family’s lives, have
been opened to a new viewpoint through our adoptive children. We are all
blessed to know Elsa and Asher and have changed for the better because of them.
Because of Elsa and Asher, my life is rich and full in ways I never would have experienced. My family is Ethiopian and South African. I have gained two beautiful and diverse cultures. My family includes their heritage in each of our lives through music, food, and most amazingly, through the incredible African community we have met here, who are now like family.
We have traveled to Africa several times since starting the adoption process, and we even had a month-long stay together as a family in South Africa. The memories we made there will be cherished forever, and the kids talk about our experiences there often.
Being a mother to both biological and adoptive children is an incredible experience that I wish more people might consider. For me, it has formed the most beautiful family I could ever imagine.”
Spence-Chapin’s International Adoption Programs are in South Africa, Colombiaand Bulgaria. We are a Hague accredited organization with over 40 years of international adoption experience. Our goal is to find adoptive families for children in need and to prepare, support, and guide that family for their lifetime. Read more: www.spence-chapin.org/international-adoption/
To apply, please
submit your completed international adoption application.
Email: email@example.com Mail: Spence-Chapin, Attn: International Adoption Application, 410 East 92nd Street, 3rd Floor, New York, NY 10128
What makes Spence-Chapin unique?
Spence-Chapin has been helping families adopt internationally for more than 40 years, with a strong network of skilled representatives and partners around the world. Spence-Chapin is a full-service organization, which means that we are here for you before, during and after your adoption.
In the US and around the world, the number of infants and young childrenavailable for adoption has declined due to a number of factors: reduced stigma toward single parent households, increased access to birth control, family reunification programs, in-country adoption programs, and difficult bureaucratic or political policies. At the same time, the number of older children, sibling groups and children with special needs living in institutions without parents to love them remains considerable.
is the first step to adopt internationally?
The first step in beginning to work with Spence-Chapin is to complete the international adoption application. Families may receive the application after speaking with an international adoption specialist or after attending one of our free in-person or on-line information sessions. To see a schedule of upcoming events, visit the events calendarof our website.
is a home study?
An adoption home study
is a supportive and educational process where you officially begin your journey
toward becoming an adoptive parent. Included in the home study process is
parent preparation and training as required by The Hague Convention on
Intercountry Adoption, which will be completed online or in-person with your
social worker. Through this process you will share information about yourself
and the circumstances that have brought you to your adoption. You and your social worker will discuss
topics such as forming a family through adoption, transcultural and transracial
factors, talking about adoption with your child, educating friends and family,
and medical and developmental issues. This process results in an actual
document — your adoption home study. In an international adoption, this
document is then shared with U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Services, the
country from which you have decided to adopt, and the court that will finalize
do I choose a country program?
Begin by considering
these questions: Is there a particular culture or part of the world that I
am/we are drawn to? Who are the children around the world who are waiting for
adoptive families? Will I be able to find opportunities to maintain my/our
child’s cultural heritage? Do I meet
the requirements/restrictions of a particular country? Do I
have the flexibility to adjust to the unpredictability of a particular country
and its adoption procedures? Am I prepared to adopt an older child or sibling
group? What kind of special needs are a good fit for my family? How much information
do I need to feel comfortable adopting a child?
Our adoption team is available to discuss your program
choice and guide you through your decision. Call us today at (212) 400-8150!
What is a dossier and why do I have to prepare one?
A dossier is a
collection of documents that prospective parents gather in order to adopt
internationally, which is permitted to the foreign Central Authority that will
process your adoption. In many cases,
the dossier documents must be authenticated or legalized by local and state
authorities in the United States before they can be considered legal documents.
While dossier preparation can sometimes feel complicated and overwhelming,
Spence-Chapin’s international staff members are experts in helping you to
prepare your dossier and navigating you through the international adoption
want to select the gender of my child. Is that possible?
is committed to finding homes for all children, it is our hope that families
will be open to a child of either gender.
Exceptions may be considered on a case-by-case basis.
resources are available to me once I come home?
Spence-Chapin’s post-adoption services are available to you for the lifetime of your family. We offer extensive post-adoption services, from counseling about adoption, to child development issues, discipline, and parenting coaching to get you through those tough teen years.
don’t live in New York City. Can I still work with Spence-Chapin?
Yes! We have a strong history of working with families living across the United States. For families living in the New York or New Jersey, Spence-Chapin conducts the home study preparation and training as well as coordinates the international adoption process. For families residing outside of the NY/NJ Metro area, Spence-Chapin is able to establish a partnership with a family’s local Hague-Accredited home study provider anywhere in the country to coordinate the international adoption process.
are the fundamental differences between International and Domestic adoption at
While there are many procedural and bureaucratic differences, the fundamental differences include levels of openness, how adoptive families are matched with their children, and ages of children placed. Spence-Chapin’s domestic adoption programs encourage open adoption whenever possible, while in international adoption it is not always possible to know about the child’s birth family. When children are matched with their families through international adoption, this is often done through a government body overseas or through the agency facilitators. In domestic adoption, birth parents are given the opportunity to select a family for the child and when this is not possible, thoughtful matches are made by child welfare professionals.
don’t see answers to my questions. How can I get more information?
Please contact us so we can answer your questions and help you to figure out your next steps in this adoption journey! To speak with us by phone, please call us at 212-400-8150.
If you are considering adoption but are not sure if it is the right choice for you, Spence-Chapin offers pre-adoption consultations. These meetings are designed to help individuals and couples explore their options for adoption and feelings about building their family through adoption. Consultation topics can include: understanding the adoption process; deciding if adoption is right for your family; navigating differences in readiness for adoption between partners; preparing for the unique challenges and rewards of adopting a school-age child or siblings; thinking about readiness to be a single parent; making the transition from infertility to adoption; parenting both adoptive and biological children; considering the challenges of transracial and transcultural adoption; exploring domestic versus international adoption; and assessing eligibility and program options. The one-hour consultation fee is $150/hour. — To schedule an appointment with one of our adoption professionals, please call 212-400-8150 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Every Thursday in November, in honor of Thanksgiving and National Adoption Month, we featured quotes and stories from families, friends and colleagues who have been touched by adoption to ask them the question: “What are you thankful for?”
Check out some of the answers we received this year:
Thank you to our Spence-Chapin family for celebrating with us all month long. We are so thankful for each of you.
Each Friday during National Adoption Month we are promoting a Frequently Asked Question about options counseling and adoption The Spence-Chapin Way to help everyone better understand how options counseling, including interim care, and the adoption process works at Spence-Chapin. Read all of the questions and answers below!
Question: What is Open Adoption?
Answer: Open Adoption is having some form of communication and contact between the adoptive family and the birth family over time. Today, the majority of adoptions are done with some degree of openness, with the extent and frequency of contact varying from family to family. Open adoptions have been shown through various studies to benefit all members of the adoption triad—adoptees, birth parents, and adoptive parents. At Spence-Chapin, the open adoption process is led by birth parents, who can decide what kind of communication–if any–that they want to have in the future, which can include visits, letters, emails, photos, and phone calls. Spence-Chapin helps adoptive families and birth families craft an open adoption agreement, and our social workers provide counseling and guidance during the planning process, and at any time in their lifelong journeys.
Question: What is the Adoption Triad?
Answer: Adoption triad is a term used to the three groups that make up adoption: the adoptee, the birth parents, and the adoptive parents. The adoptee is the child who is being adopted. The birth parents are the biological parents of the child. The adoptive parents are the individual or couple who adopts the child. Spence-Chapin supports all members of the adoption triad through our community programming, counseling, and support groups. We believe it is important to provide a space where all members in the adoption triad can come at any point in their lives to receive guidance, advice, counseling, and community.
Question: What is Options Counseling?
Answer: Options counseling is a free service that Spence-Chapin provides to pregnant women and women who have recently given birth who are unsure about parenting. Our social workers review all options available in a safe space where women can talk about their questions and concerns and not face judgement or bias. Spence-Chapin works with local organizations to help women access resources and assistance based on their choice. Spence-Chapin will travel to meet with women seeking counseling anywhere in New Jersey and the New York City metro area (Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens, Staten Island, Bronx, Long Island, the Hudson Valley, and Westchester).
Question: What is Interim Care?
Answer: We understand that women and their partners need appropriate time and space to make a decision about the future of their family, especially after a recent birth. Placing their newborn in Interim Care allows biological parents to continue counseling to fully explore their options while knowing their baby is being cared for by a nurturing caregiver in a loving home. Birth parents retain their legal rights while the baby is in care and are encouraged to visit their baby. Our services are free for biological parents while they take the days or even a few weeks to make a decision.
Question: Why consider Adoption?
Answer:This is a very personal choice and there are many reasons people have made an adoption plan for their child. Many say it’s because they aren’t ready or able to fully parent a child at this time but want to stay connected to their child. Others say they cannot provide the special care their child will need and want to find a family who can. Others choose to make a private open adoption plan instead of involvement with the public child welfare system.
Question: Who are the Adoptive Families? How are adoptive families selected?
Answer: Spence-Chapin works hard to recruit diverse families that are hoping to adopt a child. Our waiting families vary in age, background, family structure, religion, etc. After submitting an application, each family must attend several webinars and trainings to ensure that they are ready to begin the adoption process. Spence-Chapin then conducts a home study to get to know the family and their home environment more. When a birth parent is making an adoption plan, she is presented with information and descriptions of all of our waiting families and can select a family of her choice to set up a meeting with. If all goes well at the meeting, our social workers help the birth parents and adoptive family to create an open or closed adoption plan, depending on the birth parents’ preference. Spence-Chapin works closely with the birth parents and adoptive family every step of the way to placement and continues to provide lifelong guidance and support through counseling, community programming, and support groups.
Spence-Chapin has all types of waiting families! They vary in age, background, family, structure, religion, etc. They are all eager to adopt and provide a loving family to a child. You will be able to meet and connect with the people you select. Adoptive parents registered with Spence-Chapin have been screened by our social workers and prepared for open adoption. You can also browse through profiles on our website: www.spence-chapin.org/waiting-families
Research has shown that LGBTQ youth are currently over-represented in the foster care system in the United States. These tweens and teens need unconditional love and permanent homes, just like all youth. Executive Director of Creating a Family, Dawn Davenport, spends some time with Mark Lacava, Spence-Chapin’s Executive Vice President, Director of Modern Family Center, discussing fostering, adopting, and raising children who identify as LGBTQ.
Listen to the expert advice and tips in the full podcast below.
Mark Lacava has over 20 years of experience as a therapist, and has worked extensively with LGBTQ families and individuals in his career. To learn more about Mark and the counseling and support provided by Spence-Chapin, visit our Modern Family Center.
For prospective adoptive parents, the term “open adoption” may sound intimidating or confusing. What does an open adoption look like? How does it work? Is it really in the best interest of the child? To make open adoption more understood, we’ve compiled this list of Myths and Facts to help guide you through your adoption journey!
1.Myth: Not many people have an open adoption
Fact: Today, the vast majority of adoptions are open. In a study conducted by the Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute, only 5 percent of respondents in a survey said that they had a closed adoption. Of course, the type of openness in adoption varies among families, can be infrequent or ongoing, and can take the form of letters, phone calls, in-person meetings—and a lot in between.
2. Myth: The relationships between adoptive parents and birth parents deteriorate in time.
Fact: The relationships between adoptive parents, birth parents, and adoptees changes over time, and tend to ebb and flow. As long as all parties remain committed to communication and are flexible, the relationships formed are life-long and rewarding.
3. Myth: Open adoption is a form of co-parenting.
Fact: In open adoption, the adoptive parents are the sole custodians and are the ones in control of their child’s welfare. The birth parents may play an active role in the child’s life, but the legal rights remain in the hands of the adoptive parents.
4. Myth: Open adoption is confusing to children.
Fact: Children are not confused by having contact with their birth family. Even at an early age, children can understand different roles and responsibilities. Further, while all members in an open adoption are shown to benefit from the relationship, it is adoptees that benefit the most over time. Some of the benefits to adoptees include coming to terms early on with the reasons for their adoption, access to information that aids in identity formation, knowledge about their own medical histories, and a better understanding of the meaning of adoption.
5. Myth: Having contact with the birth family will be an intrusion on my family.
Fact: Surveys show that families who choose to remain in contact with the birth family report higher levels of satisfaction with their adoptions. According to the Minnesota/Texas Adoption Research Project, adoptive parents in open adoptions report a stronger sense of permanence in the relationship with their child as projected into the future, and more empathy toward the birthparents and child than those in closed adoptions.
6. Myth: Being able to communicate with and see the child will be too painful for the birth parents.
Fact: Birth parents in open adoptions with ongoing contact report less grief, regret, and worry, as well as more peace of mind, than those who do not have contact, according to the Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute.
7. Myth: There will be no boundaries. The birth parents will drop in whenever they want to see the child.
Fact: Through open communication, both parties should have a mutual understanding as to where those boundaries are. The way the open adoption looks is determined before placement, between the adoptive parents and birth parents (and the adoptee depending on his/her age), and is based on what is comfortable and practical for all involved. Birth parents and adoptive parents should both receive proper training and counseling on open adoption before making an open adoption agreement, to ensure that all parties have thought clearly and reflexively about what they want the relationship to look like. It is also important to work with a counselor or social worker to help craft the open adoption contract or agreement, and to have access to post-adoption services to work through any challenges or issues that may arise over time in that relationship.
Spence-Chapin encourages open adoption, which is why we are happy to answer any further questions you may have. Spence-Chapin offers individual and family counseling, open adoption support and guidance, and facilitates reunion meetings. Call us and let us know how we can support you and your family – 646-539-2167. We encourage to read this beautiful personal open adoption story.
Orphan Sunday is about raising awareness of the many children here and around the world who are in need of a loving and nurturing adoptive family. On November 11, 2018 Spence-Chapin will once again join the Orphan Sunday movement to help bring awareness to the need for more adoptive families! So many families are eligible to adopt – married and unmarried couples, single men and single women, LGBTQ parents, and families of all ages, income levels, and religions!
living in a children’s home or with a foster family, today we stand alongside
every child who has been disconnected from the possibility of a permanent
Spence-Chapin advocates for children in the New York Metro area and around the world through our international adoption programs in Bulgaria,Colombia and South Africa. We also offer lifelong support for children and their families through our counseling, parent coaching and post-adoption support services.
strengthening families is our top priority.
committed to the idea that all children deserve a forever family, regardless of
their age or medical condition, and we focus on finding families for the most
vulnerable children: the thousands of pre-school and school-age children,
sibling groups, and children with medical needs living in orphanages and foster
care around the world.
Join us at an event during
National Adoption Month to learn more about how you can get involved and make a
difference in the life of a child:
To learn more about domestic and international adoption at Spence-Chapin, or to view profiles of Waiting Children ready to be immediately matched with an adoptive family today, contact us at 212-400-8150 or at email@example.com.
Mary McCabe is a social worker at Spence-Chapin and a new mom through domestic adoption. With Thanksgiving and National Adoption Month on the brain, we asked her the question: What are you thankful for? “Having a child was always a dream of ours. After unsuccessful fertility treatments, we decided to adopt. My sister was adopted, and I was an adoption counselor, so it was a natural progression. I thought I knew all about adoption, but it was more than just paperwork, home studies, and clearances, it was an emotional experience. [We were] waiting for the phone call, the email, or any sign that our prayers were answered.
In September of 2017, a girl named Delia selected my husband and I to parent her unborn child. Delia asked to meet us and shared that she was due in November of 2017. The call was exciting, overwhelming and included a lot of butterflies!
We met with Delia and her mother on a beautiful sunny day at a small café. We were immediately taken back by Delia’s kindness, maturity and her way of making US feel at ease. Delia and I had an immediate connection, as if we had already known each other. My husband sat quietly, afraid to say anything ’wrong’. Delia asked him if he was ‘nervous about being a father’ and he answered, ’yes.’ Delia assured him that he would be a great father. She then turned to both of us and said: “I truly feel this child was never meant for me, and after I saw your profile I knew that the baby I am carrying was always meant for you”. We all cried and hugged each other.
Two weeks later, we found out Delia was having a boy. Her due date was November 22, 2017. Then, we waited. November 22nd passed and there was no word from anyone, the 23rd and 24th passed and still nothing. We were prepared for Delia to parent, and if she did, it would have been ok with us as she was a wonderful person.
On November 25, at 10:15pm, I received a text from Delia saying, ‘I’m in labor, headed to the hospital.’ I sat staring at the text in disbelief. Was it real? Is this really happening? Am I going to be a mom? Within minutes her next text read ‘Your son was just born!’ I ran upstairs to my sleeping husband saying, “our son is born!” In shock, he jumped out of bed and began packing. Delia then texted again to say that she would see us in the morning because it was late, and our drive would be long.
The next morning, with no sleep, we drove to meet our son. It felt like forever, but when we arrived, this perfect little boy was in a crib in Delia’s room. I asked Delia if I could hold him, she said, ‘of course… he is your son. I gently picked him up, telling him how perfect he was, as my husband sat quietly in a chair. I faced our son toward him and said, “this is your son” and he began to cry. I handed our son to him and we all began to cry.
We spent two days with Delia and her family. Delia asked what we would be naming him, and we told her Michael. She said she loved the name. We headed home with Michael on November 27, 2017. We keep in touch withDelia and we look forward to seeing her in a few months.
Michael is now almost 11 months old and he is the love of our lives. We love being parents and cherish everyday with him. The list is endless of the things we love about Michael; his eyes, his smile when he laughs…He loves to snuggle and hearing him say “mama” and “dada” melts our hearts. Our lives have changed forever. He makes us better people; kinder, patient and loving people.
So, what are we thankful for? Delia, for making our dream come true.”
To read more from Spence-Chapin families, friends and colleagues touched by adoption, search #ThankfulThursday on our Facebook and Instagram accounts every Thursday throughout National Adoption Month.
A birthland trip is a trip made to an adoptee’s country of birth. A birthland trip can be made at any time in an adoptee’s life, and can be done alone, with family, or in a group. Individuals and families go on these trips for many reasons, but primarily, they serve as a way to connect an adoptee to his/her birth culture, and in so doing, engage more deeply with a part of his/her identity and past.
We spoke with Beth Friedberg, a therapist at Spence-Chapin with over 20 years of experience working with children and families, to provide some more context and advice on birthland trips.
Thinking about a birthland trip?
If you are considering a birthland trip, we invite you to speak with one of our counselors beforehand, who can answer any questions or concerns you may have. If you would like to participate in one of our group birthland trips, you can find out more here. To read more about one family’s birthland trip experience, click here.
“People go on birthland trips for a lot of different reasons, at different ages and stages in their lives,” Beth explained. “The birthland trip is a different kind of connecting to the adoption story—it’s more tangible.”
How do you know it’s the right time for a birthland trip?
“Sometimes the birthland trip is initiated by the parents because they want very much for help their children make connections to their birth culture, foster families, or birth families,” Beth said. “Sometimes it’s propelled by the kids, who have a lot of curiosity and questions about their beginnings, and they’re asking. Usually, it’s somewhere in between.”
“In our coaching at Spence-Chapin, we try to help families realize that they will never be 100% confident with their decisions—that there will always be a certain amount of worry, fear, and concerns about how it may go. We work with families to help them decide how much concern they are willing to handle.”
In thinking about the right time, Beth advises it’s important to consider what other changes are occurring in the family system in that year. If the family has just moved, the kids have recently changed schools, or something else has happened that might make it more difficult to unpack some of the issues that can come up in a birthland trip, it might be best to wait until the next year.
Beth notes that while some children initiate the idea of a birthland trip through their curiosity and questions, others may not be interested in going at first, perhaps because of fear, or just indifference. In those cases, she suggests that parents find something that already excites their child and build on that in order to engage them in the in the prospect of a birthland trip.
“If your child loves music or pop culture, expose them to popular songs or soap operas from their birth culture. If they like cooking, or food, or history, you can share those aspects of their birth culture with them. Tap into what already has meaning for your child and build their interest and curiosity on that.”
How do you prepare for the emotional impact of a birthland trip?
“At Spence-Chapin, we provide coaching to prepare” Beth explained. “One of the main things we do in coaching for a birthland trip is to step back as a way to move into the future and explore identity. We help families go back and review the adoption process and history—to go through those photos, videos, and stories—and see how your child reacts, to gauge what he or she might be ready for.”
“It’s also important for the parents to spend time thinking about that it will be like for them to go back, and thinking through what their child might ask, and working through that with the coaching before the trip, so no one is caught off guard during the trip when it might be more challenging to handle surprises.”
“Where the real learning happens, where the family’s relationship becomes closer, is in the times that may be difficult, and working through that together. That is the way relationships grow stronger—when we show up for each other.”
Did you know Colombia celebrates its own Women’s Day? In honor of Día de la Mujer Colombiana, we spoke with Carmen Elena Támara García, Spence-Chapin’s Foreign Supervised Provider in Colombia. She is an incredible woman in her own right and we wanted to learn more about her role advocating for children in need of families in Colombia and what makes this holiday so relevant today.
Carmen Elena, what is your current role? How long have you been involved in this work? I am the Foreign Supervised Provider for Spence-Chapin in Colombia. That is, the person in charge of carrying out the administrative and legal functions on behalf of adoptive families working with Spence-Chapin’s Colombia Program. I serve as a bridge between Spence-Chapin and the Colombian Family Welfare Institute (ICBF) which is the Central Authority on adoptions in Colombia, and as a liaison for the agency and adoptive families to private adoption homes here in Colombia.
I have been linked with Spence-Chapin since 2012. Before this role, I worked as the Head of Adoptions at the Instituto Colombiano de Bienestar Familiar (ICBF) since 1993 and served as the Deputy Director of Protection from 1996 – 1999. In these positions, I directed the creation of programs aimed at the establishment of rights for children and adolescents, and the coordination and design of public policies to prevent and punish abuses against minors.
What is your typical workday like? Every day I wake up with the hope of finding a family for a child who needs one. This is the motivation that inspires my work.
From early in the morning, I am in communication with organizations to answer questions and provide updates about families who have an application for adoption in process. When I receive a child’s referral or a family’s paperwork, I read all the received documentation and order the translation of documents that are necessary. Frequently, I must attend information meetings at ICBF or the private adoption houses.
When an adoptive family from the United States arrives in Colombia to meet their child, I will take care of all the logistics for their stay in Colombia and coordinate all the appointments which the family must attend to complete the adoption process. This typically includes medical appointments for the child and appointments at the United States Embassy.
As a family lawyer, I am also in charge of submitting the family’s legal request for a court date and accompanying the prospective adoptive family when they are notified of the adoption decree. This is very exciting for me!
What is the most rewarding part of your job? When I see the happiness of a child and his adoptive parents on the day of the appointment for the “Encuentro meeting.” This is a mixture of feelings for me, it is a joy with crying! Later, when I receive the post-adoption reports and I read that the child has adapted well, and the adoption was successful for their parents, as well, it is very rewarding, especially if it involves the adoption of an older child. This is like saving a life!
Has there been a child or family that has made an impact on you in some way? I remember with special affection each of the adoptive families that I have had the opportunity to accompany in the process. I admire each of them for their capacity to give love, sometimes in the face of difficult situations.
The families that adopt siblings have left an indelible mark on me. I am shocked by the way they handle more than one child at the same time, with a smile for each one, without complaining, without showing fatigue, without glimpsing problems, feeling that with love everything is arranged.
I also remember a 13-year-old girl who, the day she met her adoptive parents, told them: “You are more beautiful in person than I had seen you on Skype. I hope to be the best daughter, the best person and the best professional. I want to take care of you in your old age, to repay you for what you are doing for me.” These words touched me deeply and I have not been able to forget them.
What does Colombian Women’s Day mean to you? Every November 14th since 1967, Colombian Women’s Day is celebrated. On this date, the heroic Policarpa “La pola” Salavarrieta is commemorated. It should be noted that Policarpa was an intelligent and brave woman who fought against the Spanish Crown at the beginning of the 19th century. She was executed by the Council of War during the Spanish Reconquista in 1817 for her role as a spy supporting the cause of independence for Colombia.
The date and original significance of the celebration are unknown by most Colombian citizens, but on this special date it is necessary to recognize all Colombian women for their spirit, hard work, perseverance, character, courage and the struggle that has characterized them.
In this important moment in which we find ourselves, I think active participation by women in political processes is essential. There are significant contributions women make in our post-conflict country that will enhance the integration of gender perspectives and the development of our democracy.
What main change would you like to see for young girls in the next generation? One of the most important challenges facing Colombia today is being able to design strategies that will open new opportunities for young people and reduce the deep disparity in living conditions that exist throughout the country.
I am convinced that one of the most effective ways to combat inequality is through education, science, technology, innovation, entrepreneurship and culture. That implies that all young girls should have the possibility of making the transition from the educational sector towards decent and quality employment.
I want to see young girls in the next generation empowered with their rights, exercising their obligations with full awareness of their potential to contribute to their own society.
Is there a powerful woman you admire most? I admire all the women who have human quality. Human quality has nothing to do with intellect, knowledge, money or physical appearance, but with virtues such as kindness, simplicity, humility and solidarity. These women often go unnoticed, and in many cases, have had a life full of difficulties – but still they are grateful for life. It is a true privilege and I feel very fortunate when I meet this type of woman.
I admire coherent, honest women who fight to carry out their dreams and who spend time and effort totally unconditionally for the welfare of others.
“Hi! We are the Cotner family! We are a big, fun, loud, loving, rocking family. We have six beautiful kiddos. Four were homegrown and two grew in our hearts via international adoption and they both just happen to be rocking an extra chromosome a.k.a. they have Trisomy 21 or Down Syndrome.
Our first son, Harvey, came home from Eastern Europe and completely stole our hearts. Soon after our first adoption, we knew that we wanted to adopt again, and specifically another kiddo with Down Syndrome. We knew financially that it might be easier for our family to wait a few years, but when I saw the profile of this waiting kiddo, my heart skipped a beat. I requested his file and I read it over and over. I was looking at it, yet again, when my youngest daughter Quinn said, “Oh, there he is… there’s my brother. I’ve been looking for him!” I knew he was our son and another adventure was beginning!
Harrison joined our family thanks to help from Spence-Chapin and our fabulous in-country team. In a beautiful coincidence, Harrison came home in October, which is Down Syndrome Awareness Month.
Parenting a child with Down Syndrome is truly a blessing. Our sons who have Down Syndrome have overcome so many obstacles that most people take for granted. Seeing them overcome and succeed has given us a new insight on life and we truly appreciate all the little and big things. They are our shining lights. There are the hard days when the struggles of Down Syndrome and prior institutional trauma can hurt your mama heart, because we want to take all their pain and struggle away. But it just makes us love them more and remember that with love and patience we can all do hard things.
Our older four children are incredible with their little brothers. They are so loving and protective, and they are the boys’ biggest cheerleaders. They loved them before they even met them, and their admiration for their brothers only grows. I always say the greatest gift we’ve ever given them was each other.
My husband, William, is active duty Army and that can add some additional hiccups, but Spence-Chapin handled it with such grace and ease. Our process was smooth, and we truly fell in love with Harrison’s birth country. The Army is incredibly supportive of adoption and we are so grateful for this. They let my husband take a substantial leave and even reimbursed some of our adoption expenses.
Every child deserves a family…. every child has worth, and we are forever thankful to be a part of the lucky few that get to have some rocking kiddos with Down Syndrome in their family thanks to adoption and Spence-Chapin!”
A mother reflects on her family’s transition at home after adopting her daughter from South Africa.
“I keep meaning to write a post about how well we’re all doing. I wake up each day with resolve to sneak away and write about Kurhula’s progress – the letters she’s learning, the pounds she’s gaining, the friends she’s making, and all the other ways she is thriving after seven months home. But lately, by the time her breakfast eggs have left the pan, she’s usually already initiated at least one epic power struggle. Despite all the progress she’s made (or, perhaps maybe because of all the progress) we’ve entered a trying phase of Kurhula testing her boundaries. Every boundary. Over and over. This has resulted in some loooong days, folks…with lots of foot stomping, arm crossing, and eye glaring pouts. It turns out our little girl has quite a stubborn streak! And she knows how to push my buttons faster than any child I’ve ever taught. By the end of each day, I usually opt for chocolate and puppy snuggles on the couch rather than writing a blog post about how well we’re all doing.
questioning myself a lot lately, wondering if I’m getting this whole
“motherhood thing” right. As I sit in the hallway outside her open
door and watch her cry on her bed for the third time in one day, I can’t help
but wonder if I’m doing right by her. But then, inevitably, her sobs always
turn to a whimper, and soon after, I usually hear her whisper, “Mama,
I’m sorry. I feel bad…” That’s when I open my arms and welcome her into
my lap, and we both take a minute to just breathe each other in again. This is
how we’ve ended most days this month. And although it’s hard and exhausting, I
know it’s what she needs right now. She’s testing us to make sure we mean what
we say, to figure out if we really are going to keep her safe, and if we truly
are here forever no matter what. Just last night she nodded
her head emphatically and said, “Mama, you still love me even when I make
the big, BIG Consequence Choices.” Yes, baby, even then.
last seven months have presented us all with a very steep learning curve. And
although some days are harder than others, I am so proud of our little family
and the ways in which we’re growing together. Speaking of growing, it
seems our little baby really has turned into a young girl! She’s gained 4
pounds and grown 3 inches since coming home.
She still begs to be carried around in
the Ergo (or “the pouch” as she calls it), but Kurhula now has a
collection of scooters and bikes that she likes to zip around on during family
walks. She loves her pets and smothers them in kisses and hugs throughout the
day. And when we visited her doctor today for a blood draw (which has always
resulted in tears and screams in the past), Kurhula calmly put on her
headphones, turned up the volume on her favorite Shakira song, and gritted
her teeth while the nurse inserted the needle into her arm.
I must laugh when I think back to our initial impressions of Kurhula, when all we had to go by were her referral photos and a few video clips. We thought she was delicate. We really did. We had no idea what a firecracker she’d really turn out to be. Anyone who meets Kurhula quickly learns that there is nothing fragile about our girl. In fact, she defines the word “fierce.” And although that means I’m probably in for at least twenty more years of epic power struggles, I wouldn’t have it any other way.”
Spence-Chapin finds families for the most vulnerable children in South Africa – children with a medical diagnosis who are in need of an international adoptive family. It takes a dedicated and resourceful parent to adopt a child with special medical needs. At Spence-Chapin, we guide families in how to make an informed decision about their family’s particular medical openness and offer support and resources before, during and after their adoption. Spence-Chapin is confident that in a loving home with the right family who is dedicated to learning about, or already has experience with special medical needs, these children can thrive!
But how does a family determine if adopting a child with special medical needs from South Africa is right for them? Here are 5 places to start:
Learn about the most common medical needs in South Africa.
Check out this article on the Top 10 Medical Needs in South Africa! Currently, the two most common needs our partners Johannesburg Child Welfare (JCW) see in the children in their care are: a diagnosis of HIV and unknown or unpredictable developmental delays. We are actively looking for families who feel open and prepared to parent a child with one of these two needs. You can learn more by exploring these resources specific to adoption from South Africa.
Consider the medical and developmental care children receive in South Africa.
JCW strives to provide an environment that caters to the overall development of the children in their care which includes their physical, emotional, spiritual, and educational needs. Children receive medical treatment at JCW through a partnership with Thusanani Children’s Foundation. Thusanani provides safe and modern medical care to ensure each child receives the medical and developmental care they need – HIV testing and treatment, occupational therapy, physical therapy, antibiotics, surgery, well-baby visits, etc.
Additionally, Spence-Chapin sponsors a Granny Program at JCW to help the children develop the important socio-emotional bonds that are so important to a child’s development. Through the Granny program, children are paired with surrogate “grannies” from their local community who spend special, one-on-one time with them every day. This humanitarian aid initiative gives institutionalized children the opportunity to form important healthy attachments with a trusted adult. We see incredible progress made by children who are matched with a granny. In South Africa, the children call their grannies “gogo”!
Consult with an international pediatric specialist to make an informed decision.
It’s recommended that families considering adopting a child with medical needs consult with a pediatrician about diagnosis, treatment, and prognosis of specific conditions to consider if your family has the ability to provide the care a child will need. There are many experienced international adoption medical specialty clinics throughout the United States that are a resource for prospective adoptive families. Physicians with an international adoption specialty are familiar with common medical issues involved in intercountry adoption and many of the common needs seen in children eligible for international adoption.
Because South Africa is a signatory to The Hague Treaty on Intercountry Adoption, adoptive families benefit from a transparent and ethical process for receiving a child’s information. At the time of referral from South Africa, Spence-Chapin will provide all known social and medical history provided by JCW so a family can make an informed decision. The family will review the medical history with a Medical Specialist and support from Spence-Chapin.
Gather information about resources and eligibility for services in your state and community.
Each state offers a variety of services for children with special needs through state agencies and community organizations. Free services through Early Intervention and CPSE services are offered nationally and children 0-3 may qualify when they have a developmental delay in the areas of cognitive, physical, speech and adaptive development. It can be helpful to anticipate the programs offered in the local schools as well as the State laws and regulations for special needs education.
Additionally, when considering the adoption of a child with special needs, it can be helpful to consult with other parents of children with medical needs or international adoptive families. They can be a great source of information, support, and referrals. They may be able to share their suggestions, insights, and recommendations for ways that you can strengthen your ability to parent a child with a medical need. It may also be helpful to prepare for what to expect through help from the local home study agency, special needs support groups or even online through adoption websites such as AdoptionLearningPartners.com.
Are you willing, and do you have the time to become informed about the realities of raising a child with special needs?
Do you have access to medical resources in your community that specializes in the treatment of pediatric special needs?
Are you able to make sure that your child takes medication or attends therapies?
Does your schedule allow for the time it takes to parent a child with a medical need?
Are you comfortable with any attention it may bring to your family?
Are you willing to advocate for your child in your home, school, and community?
Are you prepared to accept unknowns for the future development of your child and to find solutions to any challenges that may emerge?
Following the adoption of a child from South Africa, Spence-Chapin welcomes adoptive families to engage in our post-adoption services. Spence-Chapin offers counseling, parent coaching, post-adoption support, mentorship and birthland trips. These services can be provided to families in person, over the phone or via video conferencing in all 50 states. We also invite you to attend our annual family events so you and your child can meet other South Africa adoptive families!
Children with special medical needs are waiting for adoptive families in South Africa. If you feel you might be a good match for these children, let’s talk! To learn more, send us an email to firstname.lastname@example.org or call us at 212-400-8150.
By Lucy Shaw, LMSW and Birth Parent Outreach worker for Spence-Chapin
For National Adoption Month, I’m excited to share my
personal story of open adoption with you all. As an adoptive mom in an open
adoption and as a social worker focused on Birth Parent outreach at
Spence-Chapin, I have a unique perspective on adoption that I think is
important to share. Adoption is such an integral part of my life and something
for which I am so grateful and proud.
My husband and I adopted our son Daxton (Dax) in 2014. He’s
now four years old! When we decided to adopt, we began working with an adoption
attorney, and within six months of completing our home study, we had connected
with Erin, Dax’s birth mom when she was about two months pregnant.
From that moment on, we truly never looked back. It seemed like things were destined to be as soon as we started talking to Erin. We drove Pennsylvania from NYC to meet Erin for the first time in January 2014. She even invited us to meet her and go with her to get her first ultrasound to find out the gender of the baby! What do you know, the day we started driving was the day Snowstorm Hercules pummeled the east coast! We had to pull over on the side of the road several times due to heavy snowfall, but we kept trudging along because we were so insistent that we were going to make it to this appointment, no matter what. And I’m so glad we did! I still have the ultrasound photo today saved!
I’m so thankful for having this chance to visit Erin while
she was pregnant because it set the stage for a genuine and trusting
relationship going forward. Throughout this journey of getting to know each
other, Erin has been an open book. We could see right away that she had the
best intentions and was an incredibly brave, honest, strong and trusting woman.
She shared her story of why she was considering adoption with us and we could
see firsthand what a kind and loving mother she was to her four other children.
We could also see how hard it was to be a single mom raising children, while
trying to work full-time and complete her education so she could make a better
life for her family.
As Erin’s due date began to approach, she kept us involved
every step of the way. She included us in her birth plan and introduced us to
her other children and her best friend. She also allowed us to be by her side
in the hospital when she gave birth! She was amazing at the hospital – she let
me cut the umbilical cord and let us hold Daxton for skin to skin contact while
she also bonded with him and breastfed him throughout the time we were in the
hospital. We just followed her lead.
Daxton was born on May 6, 2014 and that weekend we
celebrated my first Mother’s Day with Erin, Dax’s birth siblings and Erin’s
best friend in Pennsylvania – as we were hanging out, barbecuing and watching
Daxton sleeping happily in his car seat, I continued to be in awe of Erin’s
grace and generosity in sharing this event with us.
Since Dax’s birth, Erin continues to show her kindness,
resilience and strength in so many ways. And I often see these qualities in
Daxton too, like the way he interacts with everyone he meets in such a friendly
and confident way. From the moment he could smile and wave, he’s been making
friends with almost everyone he meets.
We stay in touch with Erin in many ways – we keep each other
updated on Facebook and Erin’s always one of the first to like any of the posts
I have about Daxton or parenting. I know she’s always thinking of us and we’re
always thinking of her as well. We also visit each other about once or twice a
year. For Dax’s 4th birthday, she came to NYC with all the kids and baked three
gorgeous cakes for our party. She always goes above and beyond our expectations
during these visits.
Overall, I feel so lucky to have this relationship with Erin
and am happy that Dax will grow up knowing his birth mother and his birth siblings
and be able to answer all the questions he may have about his identity as he
Parenting may be one of the hardest jobs on earth, but for me being in an open adoption is one of the easiest things about being a parent. I know there are going to continue to be challenges, tough conversations, and ups and downs in the years to come, but I’m not worried about answering questions about adoption with Dax or anyone else. In that area, I know without a doubt, with Erin’s help, we have honesty, love and resiliency to guide us.
Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is the most common disorder affecting children, according to the American Psychiatric Association. It affects approximately 10% of children worldwide, and about 2.5% of adults. ADHD is caused by both environmental and genetic factors, and it is believed that this is why the incidence of ADHD is higher in adopted individuals than the general population.
The environmental factors contributing to ADHD include prenatal alcohol or drug exposure, prenatal maternal smoking, low birth weight and lead poisoning. Approximately 40% of children with ADHD will have a parent with ADHD, generally the father; however, not all children born to parents with ADHD will have ADHD. For children adopted from group home settings such as an orphanage, there is a greater risk of being diagnosed with ADHD.
When symptoms resembling those of ADHD are observed, it is important to speak with a professional to rule out other medical problems that may be the cause, such as hearing problems.
Remember as well that all children daydream, are over active, and have emotional outbursts from time to time. It’s part of growing up. With a child who has ADHD, these symptoms occur more often and can be harder to deal with and last longer. That is why it is so important to implement effective discipline techniques and help your child build skills to manage their behavior.
Here are 5 Tips to best support your child:
1. Give Reminders to Manage
Transitions during the day can prove to be a struggle for
all children, but those that have adoption as part of their history and those
with symptoms of ADHD can have a particularly challenging time. To help children better manage the
transitions during the day, remember to give reminders of upcoming transitions. For example, “In 15 minutes we are going to
put pajamas on to start getting ready for bed!” Children with ADHD can benefit
from having a consistent schedule.
Remember to give fair warning when the schedule will be different.
2. Use Eye Contact
When giving directives to your child, kneel to their level,
get eye contact and talk to them. Check in to make sure they are clear about
what is happening next. This ensures you
have their attention and they have heard what you said. It also helps to avoid a situation where you
need to yell or raise your voice to communicate your message.
3. Acknowledge and
Not knowing what to do when big feelings come on can be tough for kids who will be quick to act. As a parent, you can help by teaching feelings and labeling them when you see them. Acknowledge the feeling you see in your child first, then you can work with them to address the behavior.
4. Using Time Ins
(Not Time Outs)
A Time Out is when a child is told to go somewhere alone (to face a wall or go to a different room) for a period of time to cool down. Traditionally, parents are told to withhold attention from their child during the duration of the Time Out. During a TimeIn, a caregiver kindly asks a child that is going through a stressful or difficult moment to sit with him/her in order to process feelings and cool down.
Both Time Ins and Outs are used to give a child a moment away from whatever troubling situation occurred to compose themselves, reflect and prepare to re-join. The benefits of Time Ins are that they allow the caregiver to model and coach the child through calming down. For children who join their family through adoption, this difference is important as it does not require them to be physically (and emotionally) separated from a caregiver or re-experience feelings of loss or rejection. For children with ADHD time ins give them the support with emotional regulation- something they often are not able to do on their own. Remember time ins are a time for quiet and calming- discussions about the misbehavior can come later when everyone is calm.
Responsibility for Mistakes
Children have their mistakes pointed out all the time. Model for them what it looks like to take
responsibility for a mistake. Think back
to those times when you didn’t handle your big feelings the way you would have
liked or when transitions (getting everyone out of the house on time in the
morning) made you angry or frazzled.
Give yourself a chance to do it differently the next time and give your
child the opportunity too.
Spence-Chapin provides a holistic and personalized ADHD treatment plan for your child by partnering with parents, educators, school psychologists, and school counselors. We can help transform your child’s behavior and strengthen your entire family. Call us at 646-539-2167 or e-mail email@example.com to schedule a free consultation.
Gyulnara Barnett has been connected to Spence-Chapin’s Adoption Mentorship Program for more than 10 years. After a fantastic experience as a Mentee from 2007 to 2009, Gyulnara became a Mentor in 2017. During a recent panel presentation at Spence-Chapin’s Adoption Fair, she shared her experience as an adoptee and a Mentor.
What would you like to share about your background?
Although I was adopted from Russia, my entire birth family is Kazahk, so that’s my ethnic origin. I was raised in Nyack, NY and when I was 4 years old, my parents adopted a younger brother who is also from Kazakhstan. I reunited with my birth mother when I was in college. We had been writing letters back and forth to each other since I was 13, but during my junior year in college we both happened to be living in Turkey at the same time and were able to meet.
How did your family
share your adoption story with you?
My family was very open about adoption. There was never a time that I didn’t know I was adopted. Partially that was because my parents are white, and it was obvious that I didn’t look like them. We read lots of bedtime stories together about adoption when I was growing up. My parents came to do presentations to my class where I could get to talk about Russia. We also celebrated my Happy Adoption Day every year.
What myths or
misconceptions did you encounter as an adoptee?
There are a lot of myths about adoption, but luckily the conversation has changed a bit since I was growing up. People are now much more open to talking about adoption. One myth is that people think I should feel lucky to have been adopted. But I feel grateful that my parents are my parents just in the same way that a non-adoptive family would feel grateful to feel supported and loved. Adoption is a process that families go through, it’s not just my own process or my brother’s. Together we’re all grateful for each other. It’s unique in a certain sense in that we’re a non-traditional family because we’re an adoptive family. But my parents are just my parents. My brother is just my brother. Sometimes people don’t understand that just because I’m adopted doesn’t mean I have any less of a connection to my parents and family.
When did you get
connected to Spence-Chapin’s Mentorship Program?
When I was around 10 or 11, my parents heard about Spence’s Mentorship program through a family friend who was also an adoptive family and connected us to Spence. They thought the Program would be a terrific opportunity for me to meet and connect with other adoptees.
What did you gain
from being in the Mentorship program as a young adoptee?
It was a chance for me to meet older adoptees in their 20s, 30s, and 40s. When I was a young child, I knew some other adoptive families, but they were all adopted children. The conversation about adoption is often focused on children, but as an adopted child it was powerful to get to know and connect with older adoptees as well as younger adoptees from a broad range of experiences. The Mentors created a safe space where everyone could connect and learn from each other while participating in fun activities such as ice skating. I was able to share my experience with other adoptees my age and gained confidence sharing my adoption story with others.
What has been your
experience as a Mentor?
I became a Mentor because I was excited to pay it forward and support middle and high school adoptees explore their adoption identity with other adoptees who share similar experiences. This Program really helps everyone to build a strong adoption community and to enrich their lives through the support and openness at Spence-Chapin. I’m very proud to be adopted. I feel lucky to know a lot of adoptive families and to be part of a beautiful community of adoptees who come from all walks of life.
What advice do you
share with young adoptees in the Mentorship Program?
It’s okay to feel like you want to search for your birth parent. It’s okay to feel like you don’t fully understand where you fit within your family. It’s okay to feel a little bit different sometimes. Just knowing that these feelings are okay and normal can be supportive. Often, people think of adoption as something that happens when you’re very young. You get adopted, you’re raised with a family and then you go off to be an adult. But adoption is a journey. When I was younger, I used to wonder why I wasn’t a normal kid just like anyone else. Why did people stare at me and my brother while we’re walking with our parents? I tell Mentees in the Program that adoption is a complex journey that changes throughout your entire life. Different ages come with different exciting adventures as well as challenges.
Spence-Chapin’s Adoption Mentorship Program is for adopted middle and high school students. Our program empowers adoptees through friendship, building self-confidence and challenging them to discover and understand their adoption identities and experiences. To learn more about joining the Program as a Mentee or Mentor, contact Katie Rogala at KRogala@spence-chapin.org or call 646-539-2167.
Every year, on September 17th, the United States celebrates “Constitution Day” or “Citizenship Day.” Today, Spence-Chapin celebrates all people who are United States Citizens or who are taking steps to become U.S. Citizens – and we reflect on the many children who have gained U.S. Citizenship through intercountry adoption by U.S. Citizen Parents!
As you celebrate the day your child joined your family and think about the unique rights your child has through their U.S. Citizenship, it can be interesting to reflect on the history that has allowed for citizenship to be granted to adopted children of U.S. citizens. The United States is a country created and strengthened by its many U.S. Citizens who were born around the world. In honor of today’s holiday, we encourage you to join us in thinking about, celebrating, and learning more about the rights and responsibilities of U.S. Citizens – while also remembering and celebrating your child’s distinct background, culture and country of origin.
Intercountry Adoption at Spence-Chapin
Spence-Chapin currently works in three countries around the world to connect families and children through inter-country adoption. All three of the countries we work in: Bulgaria, Colombia and South Africa, are signatory to, and have ratified the Hague Convention on Protection of Children and Co-operation in Respect of Intercountry Adoption (The Hague Adoption Convention). The United States has also signed on to The Hague Adoption Convention and therefore all American parents adopting internationally will meet Hague requirements for the adoption process. The Hague Treaty is designed to ensure that international adoption is a transparent, ethical process with an established infrastructure to protect and support children and families.
Spence-Chapin’s work in Hague countries is intentional, in that the process for acquiring U.S. Citizenship for your adopted child is one that is based on full and final adoptions being completed in the convention country. When all the official adoption paperwork is complete, your child will travel back on an IR/IH-3 Visa and upon entry into the U.S., your child will be granted automatic U.S. Citizenship based on your family’s U.S. Citizenship.
Families adopting through Spence-Chapin’s international adoption programs typically receive automatic Certificates of Citizenship in the mail about 60 days after their arrival to the U.S. and can also secure U.S. Passports for their child immediately after arriving home with their adopted child.
If You Have Questions About Your Child’s Citizenship:
The United States Department of State oversees all intercountry adoption to the United States and we encourage families to visit their website to receive the most up-to-date information regarding intercountry adoption and citizenship status.
Families often have questions about what the matching process is like in our Domestic Special Needs Adoption Program. Similar to Spence-Chapin’s Domestic Infant Adoption Program, the matching process in our Domestic Special Needs Program is driven by birth family whenever possible.
Spence-Chapin’s Domestic Special Needs Adoption Program (formerly called ASAP – A Special Adoption Program) was created when parents struggling with an unexpected diagnosis for their child came to us needing support. Since creating this unique program in 1995, we have found over 500 loving adoptive families for children with special medical needs, and we continue to work hard at expanding the benefits of adoption to more medically-fragile children and the prospective adoptive parents who want to love them.
The Spence-Chapin Way
For both our Special Needs and Domestic Adoption Programs, our counselors provide free, confidential, unbiased and culturally-sensitive options counseling for parents in crisis. Our goal is to support these families in understanding all their options and rights as well as the resources available, so they can be empowered to make informed decisions and plans for their child. This includes connecting families to early intervention services, Social Security Income (SSI), and finding additional resources to parent a child who is medically fragile.
For birth parents choosing adoption, we are uniquely qualified to support and guide them through the adoption planning process. Our Special Needs Adoption Program is one of the only places in NY and NJ that has expertise to support birth families and find loving adoptive families for medically-fragile infants. Sometimes we know prenatally that a baby will have a special need, other times we are contacted after the birth of the baby. We know that all birth parents have a great deal of love for their baby and want to make a plan that they feel is best for their child. When a child is born with a special needs, we look for adoptive families registered in our Special Needs Adoption Program.
Birth Parent Perspective: Watch Melissa tell her story about how Spence-Chapin helped her through a difficult time.
Ideally, birth parents can review profiles from multiple adoptive families. Some children have very severe medical conditions and it may be challenging to find multiple families for every child. When looking for prospective adoptive families, we network with other special needs organizations and advocates around the country to find supportive and loving families for children with diverse medical needs.
Additionally, some families have requests about the adoptive family, such as one or two-parent household, religious, racial, or ethnic preferences. In some cases, a birth parent may be looking for families that reflect their own heritage or cultural background. This means that not all families who are open to adopting a child may be profiled with birth parents. If a preference is known, we will often write it in the child’s online profile. Since the children are ready to be adopted immediately, birth parents are only presented with profiles of families that meet their preferences and have a current home study written by a social worker at an accredited agency in the family’s state.
Sometimes we already have adoptive families who have pre-registered with SC who can be considered. Other times we need more options for the birth family and are looking for more prospective adoptive families. Not all waiting children are photo listed on our website. It is the birth parent’s choice if their child’s photo and/or background information is shared online and each parent makes a choice that feels comfortable for them.
Because the children have special medical needs, it is important to know how and why a prospective adoptive family feels prepared to parent a child with significant medical needs. Eligibility is very flexible; we see all types of families: people who are not yet parents as well as parents of 8 or 10 children, families who live in urban, suburban, and rural areas throughout the U.S., families of different races and ethnicities, and parents of different ages. Families living in any state are eligible to apply to adopt. Overall, we are looking for loving families who are prepared and excited to adopt a child with special medical needs! Spence-Chapin supports open adoption and is seeking adoptive parents who are open to ongoing contact with their child’s birth parents, often in the form of phone calls, video chat, letters, emails, visits, and texts.
Ultimately, birth parents select an adoptive family by reviewing adoptive family profiles with their social workers. Once they have narrowed their choice to one family they would like to meet, a match meeting is held between the birth and adoptive parents with their social workers.
Birth Parent Perspective: Hear Zeke’s birth parents speak about their experience working with Spence-Chapin to make an adoption plan for their son. Zeke’s story was featured at the Spence-Chapin Gala in 2017. Learn more about his story here.
Birth Parent Perspective: Watch Scotttalk about the unknowns he faced when his third child was diagnosed with Down syndrome prenatally and how he and his partner explored adoption and ultimately chose to parent their daughter.
To learn more about becoming a prospective adoptive parent through our Special Needs Adoption Program, read our Special Needs FAQ on our blog! You can also contact us at 212-400-8150 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you are a birth parent considering making an adoption plan, you can contact us 24/7 for free, confidential and unbiased options counseling: Call 1-800-321-LOVE or Text: 646-306-2586.