Full of Gratitude: National Adoption Month 2018

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.

Adoption FAQ Fridays

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

7 Myths About Open Adoption

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.

An Open Adoption Story

By Lucy Shaw, LMSW and Birth Parent Outreach worker for Spence-Chapin

Dax (third from left) with three of his biological siblings and adoptive Dad, Jochen

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.

Lucy with Dax’s birth mom, Erin

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 gets older.

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.

Domestic Special Needs Adoption at Spence-Chapin: Who Chooses the Adoptive Family?

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 Scott talk 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 asap@spence-chapin.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.

Things Never to Say to a Birth Mom by Terri Rimmer

Things Never to Say to a Birth Mom
Written and Shared with Permission by Terri Rimmer

Why don’t you have another one (baby) and keep it?
You just didn’t have the confidence to be a mom.
Can I take the baby?
Give me the baby.
I’ll raise the baby.
I have a relative who’ll take the baby.
You mean you don’t want it?
So, you just don’t want to keep it?
That’s really cold.
You’re a cold-hearted person.
So, you’re just going to give it up, just like that?
Why do you care if the baby’s okay? You’re not keeping it?
Why’d you name the baby? They’re just going to rename it anyway.
I’d try to get the baby back.
You can always change your mind back, right?
Why are you doing this?
Do you just not want kids?
Do you just not like kids?
You know you can sell your baby on the black market?
You can get on welfare.
You can afford it.
I’m not a fan of open adoptions.
It’s time to move on with your life.
You’ll think about your daughter one day maybe.
That’s a selfish decision.
You can make it.
I’ll give the baby a good home.
Are you going to have any more kids?
You love this child. You should have another one (you shouldn’t have placed her for adoption).
You should have faith in God and try to be a mom anyway.

Share Your Story: Birth Parent Perspectives

Listen to Aline, Latoya, Mariah, Melissa, and Scott share their stories about making a plan for their child with the support of Spence-Chapin.

Spence-Chapin provides free, confidential, and unbiased options counseling for pregnant women & biological parents.

Aline’s Story: Birth Parent Perspectives – Watch Aline talk about the comfort she received from her Interim Care Provider.

 

Latoya’s Story: Birth Parent Perspectives – Watch Latoya talk about finding post-adoption support from Spence-Chapin.

 

Mariah’s Story: Birth Parent Perspectives – Watch Mariah talk about why she chose open adoption.

 

Melissa’s Story: Birth Parent Perspectives – Watch Melissa tell her story about how Spence-Chapin helped her through a difficult time.

 

Scott’s Story – Watch Scott tell his family’s story about how Spence-Chapin helped them find hope.

Biological Parent

Call us 24/7 at 1-800-321-LOVE. Contact the writer Lucy Shaw at lshaw@spence-chapin.org.

Q&A with a Birth Mother

latoya

Latoya Sinclair is a birth mother who placed her son for adoption without the support of an adoption agency. Five years later, in a time of crisis, she received help through Spence-Chapin’s birth parent support group. Through this group, she has become an advocate for birth mothers and helped host Spence-Chapin’s 2016 Birth Mother Gathering. Recently, she told us she wanted to help more people by sharing her experience publicly and we are thankful she chose to speak to us. Below, Latoya speaks to Spence-Chapin Outreach Manager, Lucy Shaw, about her experience and hopes for the future.

Lucy: How do you think your experience as a birth mother has changed you?

Latoya: I feel like I grew up way too fast. It’s changed my relationships, how I interact with people, my perspective on life. Even in my career, I’ve always thought I have to do way more because I never want my son to think his birth mom never did anything with her life. I’m still changing. I deal with it every single day.

Lucy: What are some things that you think birth mothers and professionals could learn from your experience.

Latoya: There should never be a situation where a teenager is able to give up her parental rights without being legally represented. Because you are very young and your mind can be easily manipulated. And I wish more birth mothers would come out and not be afraid to say who they are. Because there are a whole bunch of adopted kids who had to come from somewhere.

Lucy: What are some misconceptions people have about birth mothers?

Latoya: I just had lunch today with one of my old counselors and she was surprised that I was getting pictures of my son. I get that a lot from people. They just don’t understand that there is still a connection. They expect people to be numb – as if the feeling of being a mother just disappears.

Lucy: Can you explain why it’s important for you to have photos of your child?

Latoya: I think I would go crazy without it! I see he’s happy and being well taken care of and that gives me peace of mind. It’s sad enough knowing that there is a kid out there that I love that doesn’t know how much I love them. But it would be even worse if every black boy I see walking down the street, I’m wondering, ‘Is he the kid I gave birth to?’

Lucy: And how do you think it’s beneficial for your son to have contact with you?

Latoya: I think it’s good for him to know where he came from. Most people have that information, so they don’t understand what it’s like. Everybody wants to see someone that they look like or are connected to in that way.

Lucy: How do you think adoptive parents could benefit from being more open?

Latoya: They will understand it will benefit this child they love so much. It’s not anything to fear.

Lucy: What types of qualities does it take as a birth parent to be in an open relationship?

Latoya: You need great communication and a willingness to be vulnerable. It is a matter of the heart – it takes being true to yourself and a lot of courage.

Lucy:  What are your thoughts on meeting your son?

Latoya: I’m keeping the door open. I don’t know how I’m going to handle seeing him. I’m leaving it up to him.

Lucy: How do you feel now about parenting?

Latoya: I’m not in the financial place or relationship to have a child right now. But I do want a child. I feel like it is okay for a child to have more than one mother. I’ve never wanted to take away from my son who he calls “mommy”. I’m more child-centered.

Endnote: As an adoption agency, we at Spence-Chapin are here to support women like Latoya and promote their voices as part of the adoption discourse. If Spence-Chapin had been involved when Latoya was pregnant, she would have received options counseling, been counseled on her rights to open adoption, and provided with an attorney at no cost. She would also have been able to choose families that wanted open adoption. Unfortunately, Latoya only found Spence-Chapin five years after she placed her son for adoption and did not have the support of an adoption professional when need it most. However, we are inspired by her strength and commitment to share her story and be a role model for others.

Read Latoya’s story here or watch Latoya describe what would have been different if she’d made an adoption plan with Spence-Chapin, below.

latoya

Biological ParentIf you have a friend, family member or client in need of options counseling, we can help. Call us 24/7 at 1-800-321-LOVE. Contact the writer Lucy Shaw at lshaw@spence-chapin.org.

Latoya’s Story

latoyaLatoya Sinclair is a birth parent who placed her son for adoption without the help of Spence-Chapin. Five years later, she found Spence-Chapin’s support group and has become an advocate for other birth mothers. She wanted to share her story publicly and to help other women in her situation get the support and respect they deserve.

In 2005, at 15 years old, Latoya became pregnant. “I was on the track team, just an average teen.” She remembers her cousin having dreams about fish, which in Caribbean culture means someone is pregnant. She didn’t think it could be her, but her cousin convinced her to stop at the hospital while they were on the way to the supermarket. When the doctor told her she was 2 weeks pregnant, “I kind of had a blank moment,” she describes. “I didn’t really have a reaction until the next day.”

Latoya recalls telling the biological father, “He was older than I was and had other relationships. So I thought it was something more than it was.” He wanted Latoya to have an abortion. At the time, it would have cost her 700 dollars. But when the time came to do it, he denied the baby was his and refused to help. “He just left me in the dark, by myself,” Latoya says.

Latoya lived with her aunt and uncle at the time and they did not want Latoya to raise a child in their house, with her being so young and the biological father being much older. Latoya’s aunt took her to see the family obstetrician and sought her advice. The doctor mentioned that she was seeing a couple who were unable to get pregnant and wanted to adopt. Latoya’s aunt arranged for a brief meeting with the couple. In the meeting, Latoya asked if she would be able to have an open adoption and see her child, and the couple said no. Latoya decided she did not want them to adopt her baby.

Latoya’s pregnancy was a very lonely time. None of the adults in her life understood what she was going through or how to help her. She began to withdraw at home and focus her attention and energy on being an excellent student. “I would go to the doctor by myself and see everyone with their boyfriends or husbands and get very sad,” recalls Latoya tearing up a little.

Due to the age difference with the biological father, Latoya had to testify in a trial against the biological father, for statutory rape. At the end of her pregnancy Latoya decided to go back to planning with the couple she met through her doctor because she felt that she had no other choice. She didn’t know she could turn to a licensed adoption agency to help her understand her rights and options in this critical time.

After a difficult 23-hour labor, Latoya delivered her son. She was disappointed that she wasn’t the first person to hold him and felt a range of emotions while in the hospital. She was happy to have bonded with her baby in hospital, and the adoptive parents would visit often.

The year after the placement was very difficult for Latoya. “People expect you to just go on with your life,” she said, “like you didn’t just have a human being inside you.” She started her Junior year of high school without the emotional support she needed. She was depressed but her family just kept telling her to “be strong”.

While the adoptive parents did not agree to on-going contact with Latoya, they did end up sending a photo and letter through the doctor a year after he was born. Receiving this photo increased Latoya’s desire to connect with the adoptive parents and remain in contact with her son. But this has been difficult for Latoya to do on her own, not knowing how to navigate and strengthen a relationship that was never clear to her when it started. Her son is now 9, and she has seen pictures and videos of him and exchanges a few text messages with his adoptive parents once or twice a year.

Latoya’s story is still unfolding. She has finished college and has a career in government helping others that she enjoys. She continues to strive for the relationship she deserves with her son and his adoptive family.

Endnote: As an adoption agency, we at Spence-Chapin are here to support women like Latoya and promote their voices as part of the adoption discourse. If Spence-Chapin had been involved when Latoya was pregnant, she would have received options counseling, been counseled on her rights to open adoption, and provided with an attorney at no cost. She would also have been able to choose families that wanted open adoption. Unfortunately, Latoya only found Spence-Chapin five years after she placed her son for adoption and did not have the support of an adoption professional when needed it most. But we are inspired by her strength and commitment to share her story and be a role model for others.

Read Latoya’s interview with SC staff here or watch Latoya describe what would’ve been different if she made an adoption plan with Spence-Chapin, below.

latoya

Biological ParentIf you have a friend, family member or client in need of options counseling, we can help. Please call us 24/7 at 1-800-321-LOVE. Contact the writer Lucy Shaw at lshaw@spence-chapin.org

NEWS from Our Outreach Team!

family-icon

Dear reader,
We just created a new FAQ for biological parents. Read it here first!

Why should I consider adoption?

This is a very personal choice and there are many reasons people have considered making 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 choose a loving family and stay connected to their child. Others say they cannot provide the special care their child will need and want to find them a family who can. Others feel they will lose their parental rights, and would rather choose an adoptive family and maintain contact with their child.

What are the benefits of open adoption?

Open adoption is an ongoing relationship between the adoptive family and the birth family. You can decide what this relationship looks like – it may include visits, letters, emails, photos, and phone calls. Birth parents who have chosen open adoption say they couldn’t imagine it any other way. They say that being able to choose and meet the adoptive family and maintain contact is the main reason they chose adoption. They say that being able to see their child grow up in a happy, loving family is what gives them peace of mind. In addition, they say they are happy their child will understand and know their birth parents and their birth story.

How can Spence-Chapin help me with this decision?

You have the right to confidential counseling before making your decision. Every woman or couple we work with is offered FREE options counseling and is assigned their own social worker who is an experienced professional. They will advocate for you in making the decision that feels most right to you. The social worker will answer all your questions and connect you to resources, including health insurance, prenatal care, etc. We can help you fully consider all of your options and advise you on all aspects of making an adoption plan, including open adoption and your legal rights. We respect your decisions and you will never be pressured by us to make an adoption plan.

Why should I trust Spence-Chapin?

At Spence-Chapin, we take a lot of care in supporting and advocating for you. We are a non-profit organization with over 100 years of experience finding loving families for children who need them and we are here to support you throughout your journey. We believe in free, unbiased and confidential support for women and couples making this decision, which is why we have separate and robust processes for working with biological parents and adoptive parents. Our social workers are available for free, unbiased, confidential options counseling in New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut. Those we work with say they appreciate our support and did not feel pressured. In fact, the majority of expectant and biological parents who meet with Spence-Chapin find the resources and support to parent.

What if I want to keep my decision confidential?

Spence-Chapin will respect your right to confidentiality in making this decision. We take your privacy and safety very seriously. If you choose closed adoption and do not want contact after an adoption, Spence-Chapin will respect your rights as well.

What types of people are looking to adopt?

Spence-Chapin has all types of prospective adoptive parents waiting to adopt. They vary in age, background, family structure, religion, race, etc. Some are big families, some are small. Some live in the city, some live in the suburbs. They all are 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.

Can I hear from other people you’ve worked with?

Yes, hear biological parent perspectives on our youtube page.

Speak to an options counselor
Call 24/7: 1-800-321-LOVE
Text: 646-306-2586
Email: helpline@spence-chapin.org

Email the writer: lshaw@spence-chapin.org
blog post authorBiological Parent
 

Letter from a Birth Mother

by Latoya Sinclair

July 24th is my son’s birthday. He turned 7 this year and it pains me because I know he is no longer just a baby, but a big boy who is growing into his own personality.

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What hurts me is that I am not able to hear his voice; I haven’t heard what he sounds like since he was two weeks old. I know that decisions and choices were made, and even though they were not rooted in consciousness they still help shape the present to what it is today.

If I could go back into the hands of time I would do many things differently, however reality tells me that I cannot. At this point it is up to me to make the best of a situation that is out of my control.  Now don’t get me wrong, adoption can be a joyous and wonderful choice for two parties who are rooted in the consciousness of the decision.  Anyone who says that adoption is the perfect choice for everyone involved doesn’t see the whole picture. When two sets of people who have not healed old wounds get forced together based on circumstances and outsider’s ideals, then we have a troubled mix that’s brewing.

This is why I rally for adoption services like Spence-Chapin to continue embracing the rights of birth parents. Please do not leave us out of adoption conversations. We need all the services and support we can get and we need to be included. Many times I hear individuals in the adoption community state that they are afraid to hurt first mothers by opening an invitation to adoption events, but this is what is needed in order to close the painful gap that many birth parents feel. For many of the women who call themselves birth mothers, if they are invited and included in the conversation, then the adoption community as a whole will see a positive healing change. We are stronger as a community than we are as individuals, so we should embrace and work in harmony with everyone who is connected to adoption.

“I want you to know”: A Birthmother’s Letter

Birth mothers rights have been evolving over the past decades, from fully closed adoptions where birth mothers had no information about their child, to today’s adoption practices of openness and ongoing communication between birth and adoptive families.  Sheila placed her child at a transitional time when adoptions were still closed, but birth mothers were able to select an adoptive family.  Here, she bravely shares her thoughts and feelings about what this experience has been like for her.

 

I am Sheila and I am a birth mother.

I want you to know that my daughter was conceived in love within a beautiful relationship.  I want you to know that allowing my child to be adopted altered my very being forever.  I want you to know that I did not want to give her away; I wanted to protect her and love her and give her a beautiful life.  My child should have known me and how much I loved and still love her.

I want you to know that as a scared young woman who was given two alternatives…abortion or adoption.  No one talked to me about how I might be able to raise my child.  I wish I knew then the woman I would become.  I am and was strong enough and resourceful enough to raise my child, but no one ever told me that!  I wish I had had confidence and self- esteem; I doubted myself and didn’t think I was good enough or smart enough to care for another human being.  I had nothing materially, but I had love.  I want you to know that if I could turn back time, I would change the day I signed those papers and gave a part of myself away.  But, at the same time, I don’t want to diminish the importance of her family and the life she has lived.

I want you to know, through my blinding grief, I picked her parents carefully.  I was told of what a gift I was giving to another family.  All these years, I have prayed for them and felt like a part of their family from afar.  I wish her family would open their hearts to me.  I don’t want their thanks, I don’t want them to be grateful to me,  I just want them to know me  and perhaps pray for me, too.  I have this feeling that we may be able to have a pretty decent relationship.  I was drawn to them for a reason, and all my prayers brought them to my daughter for a reason.  If this all was meant to be for the good of her life and the richness of her family, then so be it.  I can cope with my loss, but I want you to know that I pray that door will open.  I am not a criminal or a stalker, which is the first thing everyone thinks when a birthmother seeks a connection with her child.  We all share something very beautiful, very natural and very strong.  I want to celebrate and honor that – together.

I want you to know that I didn’t know the depth of love I would feel for my first child.  The day she was born, I held her and talked to her and kissed her and hugged her and never wanted to let her go.  After I gave birth, no one told me what it would feel like to be a mother…I felt it later… overwhelming and unconditional love but she was gone and I couldn’t get her back.  I want her to know that I love her deeply.  While that may be strange to hear from someone she doesn’t know, it is the one absolute truth of my life.  That feeling didn’t go away over time, and was not replaced.  I have had four children since my first daughter was born and the feeling never diminished – it only grew.

Adoption may be right for some, and I hope it was good for my child.  I want you to know it completely altered who I am and the way that I live.  My daughter is in my thoughts every moment of the day.  I want to feel the touch of her hand.  I want to know her likes and dislikes, the similarities we may share and all about her that is unique and individual.  I want to know about her childhood, her favorite places, and fondest memories.  I want to share something with my child.  I want my child to wish these things too.  I want her to have all of her questions answered.  I don’t want to be an intruder in her life – but to be seen as someone who has a big heart for her – another person to love and be loved.

I want my children and my cousins and friends and aunts and uncles to know that I have another child; my first child.  My children deserve to know the truth and to know their sister and to share in friendship and love with her.  I can no longer go on denying her…I worked too hard to bring her into this world.  What kind of person am I that I deprived them of my first beautiful child?

I want you to know that for the majority of my life, I never knew another birth mom.  I thought I was the only one – the very bottom of the barrel – a terrible, awful person.  When I finally got the courage to join a birth mother support group, I was surprised by what I found.  Our group at Spence-Chapin is a casual and comfortable atmosphere that includes the most beautiful, strong and intelligent group of women.  We simply share our experiences and help one another.

I want you to know that we know we are being judged.  Not only do we judge and punish ourselves our entire lives, but society judges us as well.  There is still a negative perception of our existence, our motives and the “who” that we are.   We are very concerned with what society labels us as, how adoptive families perceive us, and what our children believe about us.  We want you to know we are not heartless, dirty, thoughtless and selfish.   We love our children – we long for our children and we need to be valued, understood and welcomed into the adoption conversation.  We are just like you – people with struggles and successes, failures and  accomplishments.

I want you to know that I am pretty wonderful today  because of all that I have experienced, endured, accomplished and contributed to life – all of it!  Everything!  My child deserves to know me and I deserve a chance to know her! I know I don’t have the right to call her my child, my daughter, but what other word expresses the closeness, the importance and the bond that she is…?

 

Our 15th Annual Birth Mothers’ Gathering

As a first time coordinator for the Birth Mothers’ Day Gathering, I knew I would be responsible for shaping an event that meant a great deal for many women and families. I am somewhat new to Spence-Chapin, and adore working for the organization, so it was an honor to be able to delve into the project.  It wasn’t just an opportunity for event-planning, but an opportunity to be involved with a ritual that stands against the societal stigmas applied to birth mothers and adoption, to educate an outside community that a child is never “given up” and Birth Mothers never give up the love they feel for their children.

On the surface, the event was certainly beautiful, but the real evening occurred somewhere else, somewhere more private and more unique.  Each woman – some with friends, family, their children, some alone – came with a different story.  As an observer, it was an honor to see the strength and power that made up the room. It made me want to be a better person, to find the same grace and humility many of the Birth Mothers showed in the face of extreme sorrow.

That evening, many women bravely shared their stories and brought the room to tears and laughter. One of those women came up to the front of the room toward the end of the evening and shared the following words with us.  They served as a reminder to every person in the room; being a birth mother means being a mother from afar, of finding the inner strength to love patiently, to protect oneself while unthinkably vulnerable, and to always remember; whatever our path, we are all just human and must cope with all that life offers – good, bad, and everything in between.

 – Lisa Marie Basile, Spence-Chapin Administrative Assistant

Birth Mothers’ Day Reflection

I had the good fortune to go to South Africa last October.  It’s a country I love, partly because it has taught me there is always hope in the face of unrelenting adversity, and the people live that conviction with pride in what they have overcome and they joyfully embrace life in the midst of challenges that could bring us to our knees.   At the end of this last trip, I reveled in the spectacular view of the gorgeous Western Cape all the way down the peninsula to the Cape of Good Hope.   And this time, unlike other occasions where I simply assumed I’d be returning, I wondered if I would go back again. It made it all the more precious for me as I savored every detail of the landscape.

When I thought about sharing tonight, I thought about that image of my taking off from Cape Town, and about not taking things for granted.  You see, I was diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer exactly one year ago. I’ve only shared this with a few people, and don’t choose to broadcast it or to have it define me.  But we’re sisters. I’m not keeping secrets and I have things to say.

Right now I’m well. My treatment is not debilitating, and I hope I will still have some good years ahead of me.  So, while I do visit some dark spaces, I choose to have this great opportunity to experience how exquisite life really is every minute without taking it or any of my relationships for granted.

And that brings me to today.  I’m obviously at a critical juncture in my life.  Of course we all are all the time without knowing it, or paying it much heed. But I know in my bones, literally, that life is lived day by day, from present moment to present moment. That’s a good thing.

When my son found me, I woke up to grace, to learning by following his lead, walking on many eggshells to be sure, but respecting his handling of his various mothers and extended family, watching him mature in his marriage and parenting of his children, and I grew more patient, putting him first always, allowing time to guide us, a virtue that doesn’t come easily to me.  And I learned gratitude, for a young man and his family who welcomed me into their lives.

With nineteen years of relationship now, and my new life journey, things are deepening. Love is less tentative.  We can sign off with “I love you” without feeling awkward, and I’ve seen my incredible son just show up in so many ways where words are optional.  And that generosity extends to the parents who treasure him, as it was never more apparent for me than when his dad searched all over the house to gather boyhood pictures of his son to make an album for me at Christmas.  In a funny way, I couldn’t be happier in my life now that I don’t take a minute of it for granted.

I do know I’m particularly fortunate to have this relationship — that things aren’t always so rosy.  But, regardless, as I’ve been learning to focus more closely on what is important and what isn’t, I see that we all have choices all the time about how to respond to the good and the hurts in our lives, whether they be trivial or profound — whether people exceed our expectations or disappoint us. We have the choice to see who we really are, to make something of ourselves, to love and ask for forgiveness, to forgive ourselves and others like there IS no tomorrow, to not waste time sweating  the small stuff or even the not so small stuff, to choose to heal and abandon anger and regret, to choose to search if we want to, to do our emotional homework to handle possible outcomes, to be someone we respect and our children can respect even when there is no contact, to do so much more than just survive.

All of us, birth moms, first moms, those of us pushed to relinquish, or those having more choice but nevertheless feeling there was no other way out, those in closed, semi-closed, or open adoptions, those in reunion, those who aren’t or can’t be — all of us,  in the words of The Song of Bernadette, “torn by what we’ve done and can’t undo,” — know we are mothers, mothers of children we couldn’t parent, but mothers always, who celebrate the birth of our children. We know we have been unbearably strong.  We may need to whisper it first to ourselves, but then we can proclaim it to the universe and know we are heard.  Just don’t take anyone or time itself for granted.

Reflecting on Birth Parents and Placing a Child in Adoption

As a social worker in the International Department at Spence-Chapin, I’ve been enlightened by so many aspects of adoption: the way hearts of adoptive parents can break, heal, stretch, and grow; the tenacious resiliency of children; and the conflicted governments who don’t always recognize the fate they hold in their hands. But, I had not, amazingly, ever met birth parents in the process of placing their child in adoption.

When Leslie Nobel, my colleague from the Birth Parent Department, asked me to be a Russian translator for a couple who were making an adoption plan for their son, I agreed with great distress. I was very willing to assist the family, but my first generation immigrant Russian had been rusting away in a corner while I moved ahead with my life. I didn’t even know how to say “adoption” and had to immediately call my mother for help: “adocharyt” (to make one a daughter, docha means daughter) or “asinovyt” (to make one a son; sin means son).

Meeting Vlad and Maria was a surprising experience.  They are extremely attractive and look like they could be a pair of figure skaters. In the United States on a work visa when Maria gave birth,  they had intended to parent their child. I learned that the country in which they reside could not possibly address their son’s special needs, and he would be exposed to a difficult and unfulfilling life.  They visited with their baby, cried often at the loss of not being able to raise him, but knew that adoption was the right choice.  I sat through several meetings with them, tripping my way over the language that was once my mother tongue.  I’ve often wondered, about the birth parents of our kids born overseas.  The adoption process cloaks the identities of birth parents, gives us snippets of information from which we can only create scenarios; Due simply to circumstances of timing and geography, I got to know this couple. Although it’s not entirely fair, I couldn’t help imagining Maria and Vlad’s story layered onto the stories of all the children I have helped to place.  This quiet, unassuming couple became the large voice of silent international birth parents.  As we spoke, I witnessed many of the same emotions as I do with adoptees and adoptive parents — regret, loss, confusion, relief and hope.

This all culminated with the honor of attending the child’s placement, and watching the sometimes awkward and sometimes heart-warming moments between the two families.  At feeding time, there was confusion as to who would give the bottle—each mother was trying to accommodate the other.  I had to repress tears when the adoptive mom gave Maria a beautiful necklace holding their son’s birthstone.  I had to repress laughter as the dads tried calling each others’ cell phones so they could program the numbers.  The reception was lousy, and ultimately they both ended up side-by-side at the window, phones high up overhead, trying to connect the two phones that were inches apart.  Both wives were cracking up and taking pictures.

Soon, it was time to go and a heavier mood took over. Talk of Skyping and nearest airports changed to everyone admiring the baby, and finally, handing him to his birth parents for goodbyes. There were tears, of course, but there were also smiles. We walked out to the elevator and Vlad and Maria left to grieve in private.

That day, my adoption world both grew and shrank. It grew because I was given the opportunity to have a new and invaluable experience, and shrank because the differences between international and domestic adoption are not so stark as I had believed them to be. Yes, how the adoption happens is different, but in many ways it is just a matter of geography. No matter where in the world a child who needs a family is born, all adoptions have the same players. They form what we in the adoption world call the triad – the birth family, the child, and the adoptive family.  I learned that when the birth parent piece is missing from the picture, it is our responsibility to put it back into its rightful place.

Supporting Women and Families Across the Pregnancy Spectrum

Cori Lohser, Spence-Chapin’s Community Advocacy and Outreach Program Manager, discusses Building Connections Across the Pregnancy Spectrum hosted by the Adoption Access Network (AAN)

Ok, stop me if you’ve heard this one: “A community health worker, an adoption professional and a Planned Parenthood social worker all walk into a conference room…” This isn’t actually the beginning of a joke, but the scenario at an incredibly successful conference hosted on November 5 by the Adoption Access Network, a project of Spence-Chapin. We welcomed close to 100 participants representing all points along the pregnancy services spectrum, from adoption to abortion to prenatal care to labor and delivery.

Building Connections Across the Pregnancy Spectrum, was envisioned by our Outreach and Advocacy Team as a productive conference for skill-building, conversation and networking for professionals across the country who work with pregnant women and families making decisions about pregnancy and parenting. It was also the first opportunity to highlight the exciting work of our Adoption Access Network to a larger group of professionals.

Planning for the conference began nearly a year ago, and grew out of our sense (shared by Planned Parenthood and the independent clinics that we work closely with through the Network) that individual providers working in the fields of adoption, abortion and parenting rarely get an opportunity to connect and share experiences with their counterparts working in other fields. In the course of our work on the Adoption Access Network, we’ve heard from professionals time and again that they or their staff feel uncertain about the alternate options available to the women they serve. They also feel ill-prepared to counsel patients regarding these options or to offer additional resources and referrals for those who want to explore a particular option more fully.

This in fact was the impetus for Spence-Chapin’s launching the Adoption Access Network close to two years ago. We knew there was a real need for information and training amongst abortion and family planning providers about adoption, as well as a real shortage of pro-choice adoption agencies to which they could feel comfortable making referrals. The work of the Network therefore centers around giving these professionals the tools and resources necessary to effectively integrate the adoption option into their practice. And, it mobilizes other like-minded adoption resources around the country who can partner with their local health centers. The Adoption Access Network has been extraordinarily well-received and gained the attention of policy makers, the media and other stakeholders because it recognizes a simple yet critical fact: the decision to terminate a pregnancy, place for adoption or parent are all reproductive choices; and all choices to which women have the right to unbiased access.

The November conference was a perfect representation of this shared ideal. It was facilitated by Grayson Dempsey, founder of Backline (a hotline for women needing support around pregnancy decisions) and a renowned speaker on options counseling. Participants began by engaging in a values clarification exercise in which they were asked to explore their own beliefs and biases around various pregnancy options. They then went on to discuss an array of topics including the difficult questions posed by clients.There was a fascinating brainstorming session in which participants described their vision of a world in which pregnant and parenting women and families are fully supported.

As one conference attendee put it, “Today acted as a catalyst to get my brain going to creatively integrate the concept of the pregnancy spectrum (in my work with patients). Thank you for taking the time to organize this conference. It was invigorating and educational.”

Finding Birth Family Online

There was an excellent feature on ABC News on June 25th about how Facebook is impacting the world of adoptive and birth families.  As I pointed out in my article in Adoptive Families magazine on the same topic, individuals now have access to each other without the support or preparation that can be so helpful in negotiating these new relationships.  While openness is a wonderful opportunity for all members of the adoption triad to know each other and understand their shared path, relationships are never easy and often fraught with emotional landmines.  Teenagers are particularly prone to jumping in rather than slowly building these relationships.  Parents need to keep communication going about what their kids are feeling and wanting to do in relationship to their birth family.

Rita Taddonio, LCSW
Director, Spence-Chapin Adoption Resource Center

Recent Articles By and About Birth Mothers

Amy Silverman, Spence-Chapin’s Assistant Director of Birth Parent Services, recommends recent articles by and about birth mothers in Newsweek and The New York Times.

“I am all too aware of the stigma and misunderstanding experienced by our birth parent clients.  The general public continues to have outdated notions of adoption.  Few people realize that ethical agencies like Spence-Chapin provide extensive options counseling so that those who can find a way to parent their children are able to make that choice.  For those that cannot, choosing an adoptive family and providing information, as well as staying in touch, are possible ways that they can demonstrate their love for their children.

Raina Kelley’s Birth Moms Deserve Our Respect in Newsweek addresses the myths and stereotypes that prevent some pregnant women from considering adoption as a viable option, and keep those that have made this decision in the shadows.  Amy Seek’s Open Adoption: Not So Simple Math is a very personal story, published in The New York Times Magazine, about her experience as a birth mother in an open adoption.  Birth parents are unique in their circumstances, personality, and their experience of the impact of their choice.  The best way to dispense with the myths and stereotypes is by confronting the realities of birth parents’ lives.  I encourage everyone involved or interested in adoption to read these articles.”