Meet Stella!

Here at the Modern Family Center, our mission is to provide a community that connects with and understands you and your family. And what better way to do so than to introduce you to who we are?

This month we talked to Stella Gilgur-Cook, LCSW, Director of Modern Family Center, about her work. 

Stella-2Why did you choose to work at the Modern Family Center?

When I was asked to launch the Modern Family Center, I has already been with Spence-Chapin for over a decade, working in various departments with a diverse array of clients.  I understood the crucial role that good mental health and emotional well-being has on families, and was thrilled at the the opportunity to bring those services not only to our adoption community, but to a broader range of families who have consistently faced barriers and bias to those services.  Interracial/transracial families, blended families, and LGBTQ headed-households are a few examples of the types of families who have a really hard time finding therapists and a community to connect with.  I am so proud to be a part of providing that.

What has been the most challenging part of your job so far?

When working with human beings and trying to bring positive change to their lives, there are always challenges.  Personally, transitioning from a direct service social worker to a managerial role is a constant struggle…I always prefer to see a client over writing a grant, but in reality my priorities now are much broader; I have to help seek funding to support our incredible programs, I have to support the extremely busy and skilled MFC team, and I have to create a vision for what the Modern Family Center will be 5, 10, 15 years from now.  It’s a juicy challenge that I fully embrace.

What has been the most rewarding part?

Prior to entering the world of private adoption, I had worked in foster care settings.  Over the years, I have been amazed at how different the social work practices are in regard to adoption planning, and have frequently thought there must be a way to align best practices from both fields to work together.  Over the past year, we have been working with two of the premier foster care agencies in New York City, Catholic Guardian Services and the New York Foundling, to do just that.  We are working together towards permanency and the emotional well-being of every child in care, and I can’t imagine anything more rewarding than that!

Describe your job in three words.

Hectic, exciting, and inspirational

Do you have funny or interesting stories you’d like to share?

This past summer, the Modern Family Center was a sponsor of Family Equality Council’s Family Week – this is an incredible event for LGBTQ and gender non-conforming parents, their children, and extended families and friends.  Since I was there all week to do workshops and presentations, I brought my husband and daughter along.  A funny (but also enlightening) moment came at the registration desk to check in.  The woman asked for my name and who was in my party, and I suddenly became very self-conscious about being a straight lady with my husband and biological child at an event meant to celebrate non-traditional families.  I stammered through the next few minutes, finally settling on saying I was here with my “spouse”.  It was a real moment of insight into what it feels like to be “other”, but it was also funny because of course everyone was welcoming of our family and were not going to judge me on my sexual orientation!

Has working at MFC changed you in any way?

MFC, and Spence-Chapin as a whole, has changed me in almost every way.  Over the past 14 years, I have learned about what makes the core of a family (and it is most certainly not simply biology), I’ve learned to truly pay attention to the losses we all endure in our lives and learn resiliency from those moments.  This organization has inspired me to think bigger and with an open heart; It’s not an exaggeration to say I would not be who I am if it were not for Spence-Chapin.  

Has there been a particular family that has really made an impact on you?

Every single family I have worked with has made an impact on me.  As an adoption social worker, I’ve worked with an incredibly diverse population of families, and they have all taught me something new about the work and about myself.  That being said, I do have a soft spot for what I think of as my “first families” – the families who adopted their children earlier on in my career.  Those kids are in high school and college now, and it’s a bittersweet feeling to catch up with those families every now and then.  I am so proud of these kids, and yet cannot believe I’ve been at this long enough that they went and turned into teenagers!!!

Honoring and Celebrating Family Connections

snowflakeHolidays are a time for connecting with loved ones and provide the opportunity for time travel – we visit our past, experience the present, and set intentions for the future.

It’s easy to think about the family members we see and touch base with regularly. But what about those who were part of your child’s life before they were part of your family? It could be birth or foster families, orphanage caregivers, or early childhood friends. Even if your child was too young to remember these relationships, they are an important part of your child’s history and who they are today. Finding ways to bring their birth family, birth culture, and past into the present is important for deepening your relationship with your child.

Be imaginative about honoring those connections. The rituals and traditions you create with your child can be tangible and concrete, like putting together a Lifebook that has pictures of those important people, sending letters and cards, or setting up a visit. If you don’t have direct contact, the rituals can be symbolic. Go for a walk in the park where you first decided to adopt; eat the favorite food of that important person every Thanksgiving; collect stones from important places in your child’s life. The smallest detail can have a huge impact on your child now and in the future. Remember, be creative and make it a special tradition that is unique to your family. Your child might not like or understand the meaning of the rituals now, but it is important that you’re doing all that you can do to document and celebrate your child’s past so they can cherish it in the future. When you honor those who are connected to your child, you are honoring your children, their story, and your family’s roots.

Meet Ana Maria!

Here at the Modern Family Center, our mission is to provide a community that connects with and understands you and your family. And what better way to do so than to introduce you to who we are?

This month we talked to Ana Maria Leon Gomez, LMHC, about her work. 
A.M.LeonGomez

  1. Why did you choose to work at Spence Chapin’s Modern Family Center?

I chose to work here because I really believe in Spence-Chapin’s mission. I really feel that children’s lives change when they are adopted into a forever family. I think it’s very important that children are loved and cared for and have a family they can rely on.

 

  1. When did you become interested in a career in adoption?

I started working in the area of psychology since I was very young after I graduated from Vassar College. I then carried out my Master’s degree at the University of Manchester in England. These studies led me to open my private practice, where I came across children who were adopted and helped them with the process. Three and a half years ago I moved to the U.S from my native Honduras. I started working at Spence-Chapin as a bilingual clinician working fully in adoption.

  1. What’s a typical workday?

My workdays are very varied. Somedays I see clients at our Brooklyn or Manhattan offices. I work with families, adoptees, birth parents and individuals with different mental health issues. Other days I work as a consultant with the foster care agencies we partner with. I provide guidance and training for their staff and foster parents particularly those that are Spanish-speaking. I also provide clinical services for some of their families. My job is really very exciting and never monotonous. It comes alive every day.

  1. What is the most challenging part of your job?

The most challenging part is when I see children who have experienced trauma. Sometimes they’re so young, six or seven, and they’ve undergone trauma that an adult may not have had in their whole lifetime. It’s difficult to deal with but at the same time, when you do start working with the child and the family and their lives start changing, you know you’re doing something positive.

  1. What is the most rewarding part of your job?

The most rewarding part of my job is when you see the family improve and deal with everyday life in a more positive way. In regards to the children it´s important for them to know their story, to be able to look at it and integrate it as part of who they are. In this way I help them be happier and be more productive in their lives.

  1. How would you describe your job in three words?

Important, rewarding, and compassionate.

  1. Has working at the Modern Family Center changed you in any way?

Working here has made me grow in many ways. It’s helped me understand that there are many communities we can work with, and all these communities require different kinds of help and therapeutic interventions. I have also appreciated more the value of teamwork and how together we can achieve the goals we have set for ourselves.

Want to learn more about how our clinic can help you and your family through parent coaching or counseling? Call us at 646-539-2167.

Meet Samantha!

Samantha

  1. Why did you choose to work at the Modern Family Center?
    Adoption has always been really close to my heart. My youngest brother, Nico, is adopted. We brought him home from Guatemala when he was seven months old, and I’ve always admired my mom for how much she’s advocated for in the adoption world. Thinking about how adoption changed my family for the better, I wanted to see what I could do as a social worker in adoption.
  1. What has been the most challenging part of your job so far?
    Transitioning from a student to a full-time employee has challenged me to grow in my confidence as a social worker, and luckily I’m surrounded by a lot of great people who have experience in the field and can support me in that transition. Another challenging part is speaking to clients and families on the phone about their stories, and feeling thankful that they’re so brave and so willing to open up to you on the phone. I try to focus in and listen because they really are giving you their whole story. I think that’s really brave and I admire that about them.
  1. What has been the most rewarding part?
    Working with the families. To see them have a community, and envisioning their community ten years from now, twenty years from now, and the fact that they have each other makes me so warm inside like, “Oh my gosh, they’re all best friends!” Just the fact that these kids can have another person who’s adopted and share that experience with them is wonderful. Especially for the parents too, seeing their kids build that community and have that support network within each other.
  1. Describe your job in three words.
    Joy, curiosity, family.
  1. Do you have funny or interesting stories you’d like to share?
    A highlight of this past summer has been going to Camp Clio, a camp for adopted kids. The funniest thing that happened there was the day we had to kayak to this sand bar to hang out with the kids. The camp people basically just handed Mark, Director of Mental Health Services at MFC, and me this kayak and he was like, “Yeah, we got this, we got this!” When we get in he tells me, “You know, I’ve never actually done this before” and I was just like, “Mark! Are you kidding me?!” It was four miles each way! It was really funny, we were laughing the whole way, the kids were singing songs, and it was just a really good way to bond with them.
  1. Has working at MFC changed you in any way?
    MFC has definitely helped me grow and continue that curiosity of learning. I’m surrounded by a really great team. They all care so much about what they do and they all care for each other; it’s an amazing support system. Working at MFC reminds me every day how I feel very grateful for every social worker and every lawyer and every agency and every entity that helped my family adopt my brother. This job has opened my eyes to what a journey adoption is for everyone involved.
  1. Has there been a particular family that has really made an impact on you?There’s a family I’ve done a couple of post-placement visits with, and the daughter receives every service she could possibly need, between physical therapy, occupational therapy, special help in school, speech and feeding. Her mom has had to fight for her daughter to get all the services she needs. To see how much she believes in her kid reminds me that there are people in this world who want to be phenomenal parents – and they absolutely can be! Adoption is such a beautiful way to build your family, and to see that bond is a beautiful thing.

SC Recognizes Douglas & Christen Driscoll for Receiving an “Angels in Adoption Award”

SC_FavIcon-2015SPENCE-CHAPIN SERVICES TO FAMILIES & CHILDREN RECOGNIZES DOUGLAS AND CHRISTEN DRISCOLL FOR RECEIVING AN ‘ANGELS IN ADOPTION AWARD’

Douglas and Christen Driscoll, were recently honored with the Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute’s 2015 Angels in Adoption award in Washington, D.C. The Driscoll’s were nominated for the award by Spence-Chapin and selected for the award by Sen. Charles Schumer.

Sen. Charles Schumer selected Spence-Chapin adoptive parents Douglas and Christen Driscoll for their outstanding advocacy in adoption. The Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute (CCAI), which orchestrates the Angels in Adoptionprogram, honored the Driscoll family at an awards ceremony on October 6th and gala on October 7th in Washington, DC. Angels in Adoption™ program highlights ordinary

Spence-Chapin adoptive parents, Douglas and Christen Driscoll, are a remarkable couple and devoted parents to their children. After having five biological children, Douglas and Christen started working with Spence-Chapin by opening their home to provide interim care for children with special needs. Through this work, their desire to expand their family through adoption blossomed. They have since adopted five beautiful sons. The two youngest Driscoll children were adopted through Spence-Chapin’s – special needs program. Linda Alexandre, Spence-Chapin’s Associate Director of Special Needs, remarked “Christen and Doug are dedicated advocates and loving parents for their children. We are thrilled that they have been honored as Angels in Adoption.” Doug and Christen love being parents and feel blessed to have had the opportunity to be chosen as their children’s parents.

On Tuesday, October 6th, the Driscoll family met with Sen. Charles Schumer and received their Angels in Adoption award. Sen. Charles Schumer acknowledged their dedication to adoption and advocacy for children with special needs.

The Angels in Adoptionprogram is CCAI’s signature public awareness campaign and provides an opportunity for all members of the U.S. Congress to honor the good work of their constituents who have enriched the lives of foster children and orphans in the United States and abroad. Each year, more than 140 Angels are honored through the Angels in Adoptionprogram. “The Angels in Adoptionprogram is unlike any other program in the Nation’s Capital. Because of it, almost 2,000 ‘Angels’ have come to share with Washington their adoption experience and left with a renewed excitement of all that adoption makes possible,” said Kathleen Strottman.

The Angels in Adoptionprogram was established in 1999 as a Congressional press conference to honor outstanding individuals. Since then, the program has developed into a yearlong public awareness campaign culminating in an extraordinary awards gala and celebration in Washington, DC.


 

About Spence-Chapin Services to Families & Children
Spence-Chapin is an adoption and family service agency bringing over 100 years of experience in finding families for children. Spence-Chapin’s fundamental belief is that Every Child Deserves A Family. To underscore this commitment, Spence-Chapin has eliminated many financial barriers for families who consider embarking on the adoption journey. Through their Modern Family Center, Spence-Chapin has broadened their impact and provides support, workshops, and counseling services for: birth parents, adoptive parents, families formed through adoption, teens, children with special needs, and adoptees at every life stage.

 

For further information, please contact: Molly Supinski, 212-360-0245, msupinski@spence-chapin.org

 

Can we do this?

Can we do this blog post picture

How this question all parents face relates to parenting an older child

Inevitably there is a “can we do this?” moment for parents—all parents. It can occur before a child arrives. It can occur when that child is growing. It can occur if that child is a biological child. It can occur if that child is an adopted child. It can occur during easy, happy times. It can occur when there are storms to be weathered. It can occur once. Or it can occur every day. Inevitably—it will occur.

Questions we often hear prospective parents ask include:

  • Can we do this? Can we adopt? Can we raise a child who may not look like us?
  • Can we raise an older child? What about a child who was born in another country?
  • What if they have experienced trauma? Will that child be able to understand that we love him or her?

Will we be able to weather those storms?

We know that there are certain traumas that can accompany life in the child welfare system, either domestically or internationally. Sometimes the separation from biological family is itself the traumatic event and sometimes that trauma is only realized later. The knowledge of this as a possibility for their child can cause worry for parents. It can cause parents considering international or older child adoption to ask the same question other parents ask themselves every day: “Can we do this?”

At Spence-Chapin we provide families with the resources needed to make an informed decision and one that is right for each family. We support families in arriving at their answer to that inevitable question and provide continued support as that question is bound to come up again—and that’s okay.

Some helpful essential reads on older child adoption can be found here:

  • Our Own: Adopting and Parenting the Older Child by Trish Maskew
  • Parenting the Hurt Child: Helping Adoptive Families Heal and Grow by Gregory Keck
  • Parenting Your Internationally Adopted Child: From Your First Hours Together    Through the Teen Years by Patty Cogen
  • The Primal Wound: Understanding the Adopted Child by Nancy Newton Verrier

For more information about our domestic, international and older child adoption programs, please contact the Adoption Team at 212-400-8150 or info@spence-chapin.org.

To schedule a pre-adoption consultation or if you would like more information about our Adoption Support & Counseling Services, please contact Spence Chapin’s Modern Family Center at 646-539-2167 or info@modernfamilycenter.org.