Home Study Spotlight: Meet Lauren Russo!

This month we talked to Lauren Russo, Coordinator of Permanency Services, about her work.

When did you start working at Spence-Chapin?
I started working at Spence-Chapin in January of 2016.

How did you become interested in adoption?
My interest in the field of adoption occurred rather organically. I always enjoyed working with children and their families within the context of my degree in psychology. Field experience allowed me to see the influence that families have in a child’s development. From there, I easily became passionate about being a part of a journey that helps to create, maintain and support families of all different types.

What is a typical workday like?
A typical work day involves a good deal of communication via phone or email with families currently in the home study process. When I’m not communicating directly with a family, I’m typically working behind the scenes, continuing the planning of their case and tracking of their documentation. Collaboration with another Spence Chapin team in order to meet the continued needs of our clients is also a typical part of my day to day work. Each day looks a little different from the one before as we continue to work with a diverse population of families and other adoption providers.

What is the most challenging part of your job?
Adoption is riddled with paperwork and my role is to assist in the tracking, supporting and processing of a family’s documentation. The home study paperwork often feels overwhelming and at times frustrating for families. Part of the complexity is that collecting documentation requires the coordination of not just a family and our agency but perhaps a third party such as a consulate, medical professionals, or reference providers. My challenge lies in helping families to understand the purpose of the required documentation, essentially how each document serves the greater purpose of helping them to complete a child-centric home study that meets all requirements and is completed to the highest of standards. Documentation is a part of the home study process that can feel difficult to tackle, but our team is here to support families throughout the process.

What is the most rewarding part of your job?
The most rewarding part of my job is being able to work with a family in the home study stage and again in the post-placement stage. After working with a family and helping them navigate the home study process, seeing one of their first family photos is amazing.

Do you have any interesting/funny stories about something that’s happened on the job?
It is always interesting and great to hear about our families connect. Whether through a Spence-Chapin event or by coincidence. I love to hear about a planned play date or how one adoptive parent was able to support another as they both encountered similar feelings, questions or experiences.

Is there a particular family that you’ve worked with that has affected you in any way?
Each family has such a unique adoption process and some are thrown a curveball or face bumps along the road of their adoption journey. In working with these families as they overcome obstacles I am reminded each day of the commitment and devotion all of my clients have to grow their families and becoming parents.

To learn more about completing your home study with Spence-Chapin email us at info@spence-chapin.org or call us at 212-400-8150.

Home Study Spotlight: Meet Sophia!

This month we talked to Sophia Gardner, LMSW, Coordinator of Permanency Services, about her work.

When did you start working at Spence-Chapin?
I started working with Spence-Chapin in October 2016.

How did you become interested in adoption?
I am the eldest and only biological child in a transracial family of eleven kids, so adoption is something that has been intricately woven into my life for a long time. Learning about and understanding the experiences of my siblings’ early lives left me with a strong desire to work in child protection. When I first began thinking about my career, I was drawn to building systems for family-based-care in countries that are continuing to utilize institutional care. And in general, I was attracted to family preservation and strengthening. I transitioned to New York City after spending time in India while completing my MSW and was thinking about how I could apply my skill sets to domestic work. Transitioning into adoption work felt very natural and sometimes I look back and wonder, how did it take me so long to get here?

What is the most rewarding part of your job?
For me, the most rewarding part of my job is the direct work that I do with families. So much of the home study experience is education and families come to adoption with a wide range of knowledge and understanding. It’s inspiring to educate families on themes like openness, identity development and being a transracial family. In particular, the arc I witness with families or individuals from when they come into home study, with an often-rudimentary understanding of these themes, to when they begin to connect the dots, to understand that everything we’re doing is child-centered, is incredibly meaningful.

What does your typical workday look like?
Something that I love about this work is the variety of what any day could look like. Primarily, I’m meeting adoptive families during their home study process, either in our office or in their home. Because the home study requires a home visit, I do a lot of traveling around New York and New Jersey. When I’m not supporting a family directly – either through home study, post placement, training or resource distribution – I’m typically writing, in a meeting, or working with my team members to brainstorm how to approach a particular scenario.

Is there a particular family that you’ve worked with that has affected you in any way?
I really love working with our international adoption kinship families. Often, in a kinship adoption, families are coming to us after experiencing a loss in the family. They need to adopt a child whom they are already related to in some way because the child is now in need of love and protection. These families are often in a place of grief, and because they are relatives of the child, may feel the home study process is particularly cumbersome. I feel a great responsibility to those families to work with them so that they can understand that adoption themes will still be present in their home, even with the familial relationships. To see families understand each theme you’re discussing and have them walk away feeling empowered, and not encumbered, is very special.

Has S-C changed you in any way? Prior to joining Spence, all my experience in adoption was in international adoption. Working across all our programs, it has been so wonderful to be exposed to the domestic side of the work that we do. I have so much respect for the work our social workers do with our birth parents and have loved being able to educate our families about open adoption.

To learn more about completing your home study with Spence-Chapin email us at info@spence-chapin.org or call us at 212-400-8150.

Home Study Spotlight: Meet Kristina!

This month we talked to Kristina Daley, LMSW, Coordinator of Permanency Services, about her work.

Describe your job in three words.
Creating Forever Families.

When did you start working at Spence-Chapin?
I started working at Spence-Chapin in January of 2016.

How did you become interested in adoption?
I’ve always been fascinated with adoption. As a former foster child who was raised by one family, adoption was never presented as an option. When the law changed to ensure a child does not languish in foster care like I did, I celebrated it, as there were many children who were being raised by a family that they saw as their own – but adoption was not an option until the Adoption and Safe Families Act (ASFA) made it one.

Why did you want to work at Spence-Chapin?
I enjoy working with families and children. Spence-Chapin enabled me to do both.

What’s a typical workday?
Meeting with families to conduct home study interviews, checking in with families who have adopted to assist with transitions and adjustments to parenting, and writing reports!

What is the most challenging part of your job?
Often, families come to adoption with specific expectations. For example, an older child may come with connections to birth family, possibly to another country, and to a past which did not include their adoptive family. I think this can sometimes be challenging for families to think about. Our team is here to support families throughout the process.

Is there a particular family that you’ve worked with that has affected you in any way?
We ask our parents to be open and sharing of their child’s adoption story and to maintain connections with birth families. They know that for the best interest of their child they must be open to connecting with and maintaining connections with birth parents. I enjoy my part in helping them figure out how to do this and lessen fears related to open adoption.

Has working at Spence-Chapin changed you in any way?
It has solidified my commitment to creating families whose foundation is built on empathy, being genuine and respectful.

To learn more about completing your home study with Spence-Chapin email us at info@spence-chapin.org or call us at 212-400-8150.

Meet Lauren Jiang!

This month we talked to Lauren Jiang, LMSW, Associate Director of Permanency Services, about her work.

When did you start working at Spence-Chapin?
February 10, 2014, after completing my Graduate Social Work Internship with Spence-Chapin’s post-adoption department.

Why did you want to work at Spence-Chapin?
I wanted (and still do!) to work at Spence-Chapin for its ethical approach to adoption. I could only ever see myself at an agency that welcomes all families regardless of age, race/ethnicity, religion, marital status, sexual orientation, gender identity, etc.

How did you become interested in adoption?
To me there is nothing more fundamentally influential to human development than the family you are raised in. In this field, we have the opportunity to help support healthy foundations for children, whether it’s helping to empower individuals to raise the children who are born to them, or preparing families to raise the children entrusted to them through adoption.

What’s your favorite part about being a home study social worker?
Carrying families from home study into post-placement is rewarding. It’s great to see a person’s dream to parent become a reality. I also love seeing that through the relationships we build with families that trust is established; through that trust, when the realities of parenting are hard, or if a parent is struggling with bonding with their new child, the parent feels safe coming to us with that so we can support them and help work through the challenge.

What is the most challenging part of your job?
It’s our job to dive deep with prospective adoptive parents and understand their life history in order to then talk through how that history may impact their future parenting. I think for those of us who are social workers, we came to the field with the belief that through challenges we can find strengths, and so we really work with families to build insight into how their own histories could support them as future parents.

Describe your job in three words.
Preparing & supporting families

Is there a particular family that you’ve worked with that has affected you in any way?
I think they all do. There isn’t a person in our office whose desk isn’t decorated with photos from the families we’ve help create.


To learn more about completing your home study with Spence-Chapin, email us at info@spence-chapin.org or call us at 212-400-8150.

Meet Elizabeth!

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 Dr. Elizabeth Studwell, Psy.D., Manager of Mental Health Services, about her work.

ElizabethStudwellWhy did you want to work at the Modern Family Center?

I specifically wanted to work at the Modern Family Center because I believe very strongly in the freedom and acceptance to have and be a part of a “Modern Family.” I want to provide support to individuals and families that find themselves feeling different than the norm. I feel very passionately about adoption and feel that it often takes extra strength to be a part of a unique family structure, whatever that might be. All children deserve a family and all families deserve to be happy and healthy.

 

What is the most challenging part of your job?

The most challenging part of my job is the consultation work that I do for foster care agencies. I help to support children whose parents have not been able to fully care for their needs.

Describe your job in 3 words.
Dynamic, rewarding, humbling

Describe your experience in mental health counseling.

I completed my doctorate in clinical psychology from The Chicago School of Professional Psychology and have been engaged in providing mental health services in a variety of settings for almost ten years. I have volunteered and worked at a residential institution in Colombia preparing children for adoption. I have provided coaching, counseling, and consulting as well as psychological assessment in variety of settings including inpatient psychiatric hospitals, outpatient clinics, behavioral day schools, and foster care agencies. I am clinically trained primarily in attachment based psychotherapy, relational therapy, cognitive-behavioral therapy and trauma focused psychotherapy.

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.

Meet Mark!

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 Mark Lacava, LCSW-R, Director of Mental Health Services, about his work.

Mark_no_title

1.Why did you want to work at the Modern Family Center?
It gives me the chance to work clinically with an adoption community that is not often highlighted or researched in the mental health field. However, there is much research and a knowledge base on children in foster care, and of course children and families in general, but very little on families that have been formed outside of what is thought of as normal or mainstream.

2. How did you become interested in adoption?
I had worked in foster care for a long time. It was always a plan of mine to learn and work in the field of adoption. You would frequently work to get a child adopted, but I learned that the end result over the years was not as successful as you would have hoped, and often the child would return to foster care. Spence-Chapin and the Modern Family Center have given me an opportunity to help make the adoption experience have an even better chance for long term permanency through trainings, counseling, and workshops for parents and families.

3. What is the most rewarding part of your job?
Helping a family or individual in crisis and helping a child find and stay in a loving home.

4. What’s a typical workday?
My work day is never the same because I work at a few different sites doing different things. Some days I am in the Bronx at a foster care agency working on crisis cases, other days I’m doing therapy at our offices in Manhattan or Brooklyn.  Other times I am working with my team, doing administrative work, or attending an event for families.

5. What’s your favorite part about working at the Modern Family Center?
The level of dedication and professionalism that everyone brings to their job. People are here because they want to be here.

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.

You can meet Mark at our upcoming parent workshop series, Parenting Teens. We’ll offer guidance on how to improve your relationship and communication with your child.

Meet our new 2015-2016 Mentors!

We’re excited to welcome five new mentors to our Mentorship Program.  This program empowers adoptees through friendship, building self-confidence and challenging them to discover and understand their adoption identities and experiences.


Patricia
Patricia
This is my first year as a mentor and I am so excited to be a part of this program! I was born in Armenia, Colombia and was adopted at 1.5 years old. I was raised in Washington State with two older sisters and one younger sister. My younger sister is adopted as well, but from Guatemala. I grew up in a small town where most of my friends were adopted from different countries all over the world. It was very neat to grow up in a town where adoption was important to the community. I have a strong interest working with people and majored in Psychology in college. I worked as a nanny while going to school and knew I wanted to continue working with kids and teenagers once I moved to New York. My adopted parents and I visited Colombia several years ago. I was able to see where I was born and better understand the Colombian culture. This year, my husband and I are planning another trip to Colombia and we are very much looking forward to seeing the country. We hope to adopt from Colombia someday. Until then, I am excited for the time I will get to spend with the mentors, the mentees, and to get to know you all.

Michelle
Michelle
I was adopted in New York when I was a young child. Although I faced many struggles growing up and my parents were not open at all to discussing my adoption, I have thrived, becoming a philanthropic humanitarian who gives back to the world and honors the people who have helped to transform my life. At my graduation commence ceremony, I walked twice. Once for each undergraduate degree I’d earned. It was a defining moment. I’d defied every label and diagnosis ever placed on me and in front of me. Since then I’ve traveled the world, worked for the government, went to law school, completed graduate school, and become a minister.  I love to travel, cook, exercise, sing, write, read, and learn new things. I am passionate about public speaking, team building, American Sign Language, and learning from different cultures. As a mentor in this program I hope to share, shape, influence, and empower adoptees during one of the most impressionable seasons of their life-the journey in which they discover their identities.

Marielle
MarielleI was born in China and was adopted, at the age of 7, into a loving family.  My father was Sicilian and my mother is Irish and German.  Unfortunately my father passed when I was 10 years old.  I believe that has made me the strong and compassionate person I am today.  I am 24 years old and a graduate of SUNY Geneseo.  I knew I always wanted to help people; therefore, I am currently applying to physical therapy school and hope to be admitted next year.  Presently, I work in a physical therapy practice as a physical therapy aide.  In my spare time I love to work out at the gym, ride my bike and hang out with friends.  I am looking forward to becoming a mentor this year and hope to help the mentees feel more comfortable with any issues they may have regarding their adoptions.

Jon
JonMy name is Jon and I am pleased to be with you here at Spence-Chapin. My adoption background is fairly well known compared to most that I know and I am looking forward to sharing my experiences as well as promote my positive outlook on life.  Being adopted from Chile at a very young age from the most supportive parents and family unit has helped shaped who I am today when it comes to relationships.  I work for an internet marketing firm, Taboola, as an account manager, analyzing ad campaigns and helping foster ongoing relationships between client and company. While I am away from the media/internet scene, I enjoy parks, beaches, walking, seeing as many live shows and concerts as possible, or just relaxing with some Netflix after a long week.

Dana
DanaIt’s like being late to a movie.  You know the characters, location, mood and general plot – but the whole time, you can’t help but feel like you missed an integral part in the beginning that could affect every scene. I had always known I was adopted, but wasn’t aware of its meaning until age 7 when we learned about basic genetics in school.  I can remember the specific point in time when I realized that my brown eyes weren’t my mom’s or my dad’s.  I was different than the other kids. Between being a sensitive and emotional person to begin with, coupled with having been nurtured by incredibly loving, strong, supportive parents, I have grown into an adult who values emotional connectivity to self and others. Thirty years ago, I was privately adopted from North Carolina days after my birth.  I grew up in a happy home in suburban New York where my childhood was filled with piano and horseback riding lessons, summer camp, sports – everything a child needs and wants. My mid-twenties were difficult, naturally exploring my identity as maturity set in.  I discovered that my birth mom had died years prior and that I was part of a biological family that I had never known existed.  Before I was able to search, my birth sister found me through Facebook.  I met her soon after and learned so much about my birth story and more importantly about myself. I was part of my birth family, but had also never felt more connected to my parents. I love learning about new things and have a natural curiosity about people.  I work with children in orthopedic healthcare and love art, music, TV and sports, and anything science! I am excited to form meaningful, genuine relationships with mentees and hopefully I can learn from them as well!

Staff Interview: Meet Dana!

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?

DanaThis month we talked to Dana Stallard, LMSW, Community Programming Coordinator, about her work.

  1. How did you become interested in adoption?
    I’m adopted, so it definitely was a personal thing. I had never thought about working in adoption, but I saw a posting for a position at Spence-Chapin. The agency has a really good reputation and when I had an interview I really liked the people who worked here, so I thought it would be a good fit. There are positive things about working in adoption while being an adoptee, and things that make it harder at times, as well. I think it helps to share an experience with the community that you work with, and really have that empathy and understanding as to what support services you can provide. But on the flip side, I sort of expect more of myself in working with the community, and sometimes put more responsibility on myself to be able to do more than what I’m actually able to do in my position. They may not feel I am being helpful or that I’m doing all that I can do to support them, and then I feel that extra pressure to be able to make a positive influence or difference.
  2. What’s a typical workday?
    The majority of my work is personal adoption history, so working with clients who want background information, and programming, so developing adoptee services programs, workshops, events, groups, or coordinating our mentorship program. And then there are some more miscellaneous tasks, but those are where I spend most of my time, either with preparing information for clients or actually developing and consulting programs.
  3. What is the most challenging part of your job?
    I definitely think that my work with adoptees wanting access to their birth family information is the most challenging part of the job. There are a lot of legal constraints to the work that I do, and I’m not able to share any identifying information with domestic adoptees. So if they come to the agency wanting to know more about their background or their birth family, I can only share really general information with them. I can share information that could be really helpful. I could find out about the education or health or nationality of their birth families, but adoptees ultimately want to search for their birth parents, and I can’t help them with that. Because of the legal restrictions, it feels like we’re not able to help people as much as they would want. It’s kind of an ongoing moral dilemma, like “how can we possibly help people with their ultimate goals which we’re not able to provide for them?”
  4. What is the most rewarding part of your job?
    There are a lot of really good things about working here, like being able to create a sense of belonging and community for adoptees. The Mentorship Program is my most favorite part about my position. The most rewarding part of the program for me is seeing the kids connect with one another and with the adults, and having a space where everyone in the room is adopted and has shared experiences. With kids or with adults it seems to be really memorable and has a really big impact on me when I leave an event and just want to call someone and say, “This event is going so well! The families are connecting and the kids are playing with each other.” Or just meeting an adult who has never had an opportunity to really be with other adoptees before. You’d be surprised at how many people who are forty, fifty, sixty years old, or even older, say they’ve never met another adoptee before, or they’ve never talked to someone who is adopted, or heard an adoption story. So it’s really meaningful for them to able to find that here.
  5. Describe your job in three words.
    Community, history, and identity.
  6. How has working at MFC changed you, in any way?
    It’s definitely helped me to grow and to learn more about the birth parent community which I hadn’t had any experience with. Working at Spence-Chapin and MFC has helped me to grow professionally and as a social worker. I’ve only been out of school for five years so I’m still very new in the world of professional social work, so I think it’s been really good to have colleagues that are so professional, so intelligent, and people that have worked here for so many years and are so dedicated to our mission. It’s been really good to see that model and be around so many committed social workers.

You can meet Dana at our upcoming event, Korean Cultural Connections! We’ll be joined by the Donghwa Cultural Foundation to honor your child’s Korean heritage through food, language, and a traditional tea ceremony.

Meet the Mentors!

Spence-Chapin’s Modern Family Center Mentorship Program provides an opportunity for middle and high school youth to spend time with peers and adults who share the experience of adoption. These gatherings allow for deeper discussions about what adoption means. Our mentors – trained volunteers – are adoptees who know how to separate typical adolescent issues from adoption-related issues and are thrilled to be supporting young adoptees.

High School Mentors

Name: Catherine 
Adopted From: Wuhan, China
Lives in: Long Island

Catherine I was born in Wuhan, China and adopted into a loving Italian and Irish family at the age of four.  A few years later, my parents and I journeyed back to China and adopted my younger sister.  Growing up adopted and guiding Marielle, my adoptive younger sister, through life has been a rewarding experience. In 2012, I received a B.A. from SUNY Geneseo in Communication and Mass Media.  Shortly after, I attended New York Institute of Technology and graduated with an M.A. in Communication and Mass Media.  While I aspire to be a broadcast journalist, I also developed an interest in interpersonal communication between adoptees and adoptive families during my undergraduate studies.  I look forward to helping adoptive families experience life to the fullest from a positive perspective.

Name: Chelsea 
Adopted From: Columbus, Georgia
Lives in: Manhattan

Chelsea I am excited to begin my first year volunteering with the Modern Family Center as a mentor.  I was born in Columbus, GA and was adopted at the age of 1 1/2,  growing up in Decatur, GA.  I studied and received my Bachelor’s of Arts degree in Psychology from Georgetown University, in Washington, DC.  I now live in New York City and am working as a certified Life Coach for young women in transition and part-time as a model.  I also volunteer for an organization called Stand Beside Them, which offers coaching and mentoring services for veterans of the US military who are newly transitioning to civilian life.  When I am not working or volunteering, I enjoy exercising, practicing yoga, cooking, writing, and hanging out with friends.  I am overjoyed to share my journey with others touched by adoption at the Modern Family Center.

Name: David 
Adopted From: Binghamton, NY
Lives in: Manhattan

David I was born in Buffalo, NY and adopted in Binghamton, NY at the age of 3 months, through the New York State Department of Children’s Services. I grew up near Binghamton with a younger sister who was also adopted. I have lived in Manhattan for over 20 years.  I am married, with a daughter who is a college freshman. I teach English language to adult immigrants. My students are almost all from China, and they have taught me how to speak a lot of Mandarin Chinese. Also, I can play a few musical instruments. I became a mentor because I would have liked something like this when I was in high school.

Name:  Doreen 
Adopted From: New York City
Lives in: Queens

DoreenI am in my second year volunteering for the Mentoring Program. I was born and raised in New York City and currently work in the insurance industry. In my spare time I enjoy crafting/decorating, reading, writing, socializing with friends or just curling up on the couch and watching a funny or romantic movie. I decided to volunteer at Spence-Chapin after reading a newsletter outlining the requirements necessary for the mentor position and feeling that it was a good fit for me. I have always encouraged the youth around me to strive for success no matter what their circumstances are. I believe that there is an entire world out there filled with opportunities and that we can all achieve our dreams if we believe in ourselves.

Name: Jessica  
Adopted From:  Bogota, Colombia
Lives in: Manhattan

JessicaI was born in Bogota, Colombia, and adopted when I was three months old. I was raised by my parents on Long Island as an only child.  I always knew about my adoption, my parents telling me from a young age that I was born in Colombia and had come here when I was a baby.  I had decided early in my life that I wanted to search for my birth family and my parents were always supportive of my desire to search. This is my 8th year as a mentor and I’m excited to be back!

Name: Andrew 
Adopted From: Seoul, South Korea
Lives in: Manhattan

AndrewI am a second year mentor and am very excited to be continuing with the Mentorship program.

I was born in Seoul, South Korea and am currently employed as a Human Resources Manager for Hilton Hotels.  I have been actively looking to get more involved in volunteer opportunities, and the topic of adoption is something that I am very comfortable talking about and passionate about.  I look forward to actively participating with all of my fellow mentors and to be a resource providing support for the young adults who t are struggling with their adoption identities.

Name: Kimberly 
Adopted From: Seoul, South Korea
Lives in: Brooklyn

KimberlyI was born in Seoul, South Korea and was placed with my adoptive family at 6 months through Spence-Chapin. I currently work in Manhattan as an analytics consultant and enjoy international travel, writing, trying out the latest fitness crazes, and going to the movies with my husband. This is my third year as a mentor and I enjoy being a positive role model for adoptees as well as just listening to what’s on the mentees’ minds. I remembered attending Spence-Chapin programs when I was young and they provided a positive outlook on adoption in my life.

Name: Sara 
Adopted From: South Korea
Lives in: Manhattan

SaraI am a project engineer, designer, and leadership coach. I love live music, film, street art, and am more recently fascinated by co-housing as another way to create a greater sense of community. This will be my 6th year as a mentor. I have participated in the Middle School program and am now a mentor in the High School program. I was born in South Korea, and actually had the opportunity to travel there with my younger adoptive sister in 2008. It was an amazing experience to be connected with my birth place heritage through actual places and people and experiencing  tangible aspects of Korean culture. Ever since then, I have wanted to give back to Spence-Chapin and help create a safe space of relatedness and community for fellow adoptees. I look forward to seeing you in the Fall!

Name: Mee Jin 
Adopted From: Daegu, South Korea
Lives in: Queens

Mee JinI am entering my sixth year as a mentor. My first three years were with the middle school group and this is my third year with the teens. I was born in Daegu, South Korea and was adopted through Spence-Chapin when I was ten months old. I grew up in northern NJ with my parents and an older sister. Currently, I am adjusting to life as a new homeowner in Queens, where I live with my husband. I work for Fidelity Investments in public relations and in my free time I enjoy traveling and spending time with my family – especially my three nieces and nephew. I love being a mentor as I value the opportunity to be in a community with other adoptees, yet appreciate that everyone brings unique experiences and perspectives.

Middle School Mentors

Name: Lacey
Adopted From: Seoul, Korea
Lives in: Manhattan

LaceyI am looking forward to my second year as a mentor. I was born in Seoul, Korea, and adopted through Spence-Chapin at the age of three months. My parents say they knew I was meant to be theirs because my birthday falls on their wedding anniversary. From the moment I heard about this program, I knew I wanted to be a mentor because when I was a child growing up in a time and place where adoption was not commonplace, my parents started an organization called G.I.F.T. (Gathering International Families Together), and it meant a lot to me to meet other families who knew and understood how special it is to be adopted. I currently work as a Research Editor for All You magazine, a Time Inc. publication. I’m looking forward to the coming year, and can’t wait to meet everyone!

Name: Sarah 
Adopted From: Seoul, South Korea
Lives in: New Jersey

SarahI am about to serve in my 6th year as a mentor in the Spence-Chapin Mentorship Program. I was born in Seoul, South Korea and adopted when I was 3 months old.  I am currently an attorney at an intellectual property law firm in NYC. I enjoy spending time with my cat and jogging around Central Park. I enjoy participating in the mentorship program because it provides everyone with the opportunity to engage in thoughtful discussion about adoption.

Name: Sophia 
Adopted From: La Ceiba, Honduras
Lives in: Queens

SophieI am about to participate in my second year of the Middle School Mentorship Program with Spence-Chapin! I was born in La Ceiba, Honduras and when I was just 10 months old I was adopted and brought to the United States. I grew up in the Midwest with a wonderful family and eventually moved to New York to attend college. I love to swim, read, dance, play my flute, sing, and eat good food! I’m excited to be a part of this program because growing up I never had a mentor of my own. I feel that it will be a very rewarding experience for me and the mentees!

Name: Daniel 
Adopted from: South Korea
Lives in: New Jersey

DanI love life, and I love supporting others in how they love life. I’m an adoptee from South Korea who currently resides in Wayne, New Jersey, and I’m grateful for all the love and opportunities my mother and father have given me. I teach people from all over the world how to have deeper, richer, and more fulfilling relationships, whether with friends, family, or even people they’ve just met. I’m also an AcroYoga enthusiast, a musician, and an overall fun-loving adventurous soul. Being an adoptee in my mid-twenties, it seems like I’m having some of my deepest realizations yet, so naturally, mentoring young people who share a similar experience feels like a new chapter in my life. I’m excited to connect with, support, and even learn from my mentees in whatever time we spend together.

Name: Jessi 
Adopted From: New York
Lives in: New Jersey

JessiThis is my first year at as a mentor at Spence-Chapin. I grew up in Tenafly, New Jersey and was adopted from New York. I want to be a mentor because I know first hand how hard it can be to grow up as an adopted child. I also know that talking with someone who is older than you and is also adopted can be very insightful and help you figure yourself out. After I went into reunion with my birth parents and biological siblings, I worked with a social worker who specialized in adoption. Through this I was able to find myself and become the person I am today. I plan to further my education in this area by attending graduate school for social work and specializing in adoption.

Please contact Katie Rogala at krogala@spence-chapin.org or 646-539-2167 if your child is interested in participating in our Mentorship program.

Spence-Chapin General Counsel Yekaterina Trambitskaya, Esq. Joins the American Academy of Adoption Attorneys

Kate TrambitskayaWe are thrilled to announce that Yekaterina (Kate) Trambitskaya, Esq., Spence-Chapin General Counsel, was recently accepted into the American Academy of Adoption Attorneys. The American Academy of Adoption Attorneys is a national association of approximately 340 attorneys who practice, or have otherwise distinguished themselves, in the field of adoption law. The Academy’s work includes promoting the reform of adoption laws and disseminating information on ethical adoption practices.

Kate has been an attorney practicing law in the fields of child welfare and adoption since 2006. Kate has advocated for children for nearly seven years in her work in the litigation unit of the Administration for Children’s Services (ACS), prosecuting child abuse and neglect cases. In her one year here at Spence-Chapin, Kate has worked on the many complex issues of today’s adoption landscape: birth father rights, Post Adoption Contract Agreements (PACA’s) for domestic adoptions, Hague requirements for international adoptions and adult adoptee rights to access unsealed records.

Around the office, our running joke is that on paper Kate is a lawyer, but in her heart she is a social worker like the rest of us! The passion, determination, and commitment that Kate has displayed toward every birth family, adoptive family, and child who passes through our doors is a testament to the very notion that every child deserves a family, and every family deserves the right to make the best decisions for their child.

When asked why it was important to her that she be accepted into the Academy, Kate told us, “The most useful legal and ethical feedback, advice, and guidance has always come from the AAAA member attorneys. They have always been eager to teach and always available to assist me in our work. I am hoping to further expand my knowledge and understanding of our field, learn from the most experienced adoption attorneys in this country, and help Spence-Chapin contribute to the next generation of adoption reforms and ethical practice.”

Please join us in congratulating Kate on this terrific achievement. We look forward to working even closer with our friends in the Academy, and continuing to provide Academy members’ clients with thorough, high quality adoption services to support every member of the adoption triad. From birth parent counseling, adoptive parent preparation, training and home studies, to post-placement services that include adult adoptee counseling, support groups and search & reunion guidance, we are poised to serve our adoption community better, together.

Illinois Outreach Trip

Associate Director of Outreach Katie Foley describes her recent trip to Illinois to meet with FamilyCore, prospective adoptive families, and a current Spence-Chapin family. 

As the Associate Director of Outreach, my favorite part of my work is getting to meet incredible communities of families across the country. When I travel I’m always reminded of the dedication of adoption professionals to their families and how remarkable adoptive families are! This October, I drove over 200 miles in just two days and it was worth every mile to meet the committed staff at FamilyCore, prospective adoptive families, and a current Spence-Chapin family.

On Tuesday, October 22nd, I had the opportunity to meet with the adoption staff at FamilyCore, an agency which serves families in the Peoria, Illinois greater area. FamilyCore serves parents and families with a diverse range of services, including counseling, adoption, and foster care. FamilyCore’s professional counselors and staff provide a wide selection of expertise to help meet the special needs of the community, including a special focus on single parents. Spence-Chapin is thrilled to partner with FamilyCore for international adoption services.

During our meeting, we focused on Spence-Chapin’s international adoption programs in Bulgaria, Colombia, and South Africa and how Spence-Chapin is working to eliminate traditional barriers to adoption, including agency fees. FamilyCore staff shared how they prepare families for international adoption with a balance of in-person meetings and online education. After our afternoon together, we headed to the Forrest Hill United Methodist Church for an information meeting. The meeting was a unique opportunity for prospective adoptive families to hear from both the home study agency (FamilyCore) and the placing agency (Spence-Chapin) about the current landscape of adoption and the children most in need of a loving family – older children, their siblings and children with special needs.

On Wednesday, October 23rd, Tracy, a parent in the process of adopting from the Spence-Chapin South Africa program, agreed to partner with me to be an information meeting HOST.  Host Outreach for Spence-Chapin Together is an opportunity to introduce Spence-Chapin adoption programs to your community and to help find loving and permanent families for the most vulnerable children waiting around the world. HOST families are an integral part of Spence-Chapin’s mission to find families for the waiting children around the world.  Tracy and her son Isaac welcomed me into their home on Wednesday for dinner before the information meeting. It was fantastic to meet them both! It was an honor to spend the evening with Tracy and to learn more about her family.  As a HOST, Tracy helped me organize the meeting in Urbana, IL on the 23rd. She emailed an invitation to local adoptive families, posted on facebook, and sent the meeting details to adoption professionals in her community, such as adoption attorneys. Thank you Tracy!

Although I’ll be taking a break from traveling for the holiday season, I look forward to my next trip in the New Year.  Stay tuned for my next destination- maybe I’ll be coming to visit your community!

Farewell to Linda Wright

After 18 years at Spence-Chapin, Director of Development Linda Wright, retires. In a touching letter, she reflects on her time spent in the organization and gives thanks to those that were fundamental in the success of the development department.

646_LindaWrightWeeding through my piles and files these past few weeks has been a trek down memory lane!

Time and time again many of you have demonstrated your commitment to Spence-Chapin. You have supported the agency financially and phoned other families to enlist their support of our Annual Fund. You have served on committees – African-American Parents Advisory (AAPAC), International Parents Advisory (IPAC), and Long Island Families Together (LIFT); May’s Birth Parent Gathering; Annual Theatre and Adoptionship Benefits; 55th Anniversary of African-American Adoptions at The Studio Museum in Harlem, KOREA35 and CHINA20. You have shared ideas, time, energy and connections as we developed outreach strategies and planned program celebrations, family get-togethers, and fundraisers. And, so the list goes on and on and on.

Of course, as a Development professional, I usually measure achievements with numbers, and particularly those preceded with dollar-signs. Over the last 18 years we – you the star performers; me simply stage manager — have kept Spence-Chapin fiscally strong and ready to respond to new opportunities and changing needs with creativity and kindness. The total contributed during this period exceeds $35 million, a sum derived from several initiatives.

The Spirit of Spence-Chapin Annual Fund, launched in the fall of 1996, has raised nearly $10 million for general operating support. Events to fund Adoptionships for prospective families needing assistance with adoption costs produced almost $600,000. The annual Theatre Benefit, which began in the 1950s, continued to draw together new and old friends who contributed $2.2 million to enable more children to come home. Support for our Granny Program and other relief efforts overseas has reached $1.3 million and now 234 children in orphanages in Colombia, China, Moldova, and South Africa get daily one-on-one attention from 82 loving Grannies who were recruited from local communities. And, our historic Campaign for the Second Century garnered $14.5 million to secure Spence-Chapin’s work for another 100 years.

I am grateful to all of you for your generosity and conviction that Spence-Chapin deserves LJW_Retirement (SKasowitz-Director)your support. I believe we have given Mary Connolly, my successor, a solid foundation for advancing Spence-Chapin’s development program. The thread that binds the Spence-Chapin community together is the belief that every child deserves the unconditional love and nurturing that comes from a permanent family. It is a community willing to extend itself to ensure that Spence-Chapin is here to find and prepare the families eager to welcome a child into their homes and hearts.

This magic happened for 3,022 children during the past 18 years. The children traveled from China, Korea, Vietnam, Thailand and Cambodia; from Russia, Bulgaria and Moldova; from Colombia, Ecuador, Paraguay, and Guatemala; from South Africa and the Democratic Republic of the Congo to become part of a family in the USA. Our local babies didn’t journey thousands of miles to reach their new homes but, as their birth parents struggled to plan for their futures, they received tender care from our interim volunteer families – another special group in our community.

Today at least 132 million children worldwide are homeless or live in institutions, many of them orphaned or abandoned. In the USA, nearly a half a million children are in foster care, and over a quarter of them are eligible for adoption. Spence-Chapin is their hope for a family, for a future that will allow them to thrive in a loving, safe home. Our challenge individually and as a community is to find the wherewithal for that to happen. During and before my arrival at Spence-Chapin, more than 20,000 have been touched by many of you – some very directly and very immediately. I have enjoyed watching your children grow up, and I have personally benefited from your generosity and friendship. I take a bit of each of you with me and for that – and so much more – I Thank You!

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Interim Care Provider Kim Sava in Real Simple Magazine

Kim Sava lives by an uncommon philosophy: Keep only what you use, make peace with imperfection, and (seriously) help those in need. Her beautiful home is a snapshot of her spirit.
By Marjorie Ingall

Loving and Letting Go

With a newborn in one arm, Kim talks about the volunteer work that she has been engaged in for the last four years. “I think I’m officially called an ‘interim care provider,’ ” she says, spreading a blanket on the floor to change the diaper of her current charge. The adoption agency that she is involved with, Spence-Chapin, brings newborns to Kim for anywhere from a week to three months, to give birth mothers time to make an informed decision. “I went through the same background checks and training as an adoptive parent would,” she says. Kim has had more than two dozen babies stay with the family, sometimes two at a time. Is it hard to give them back? Kim answers right away: “It’s the deal,” she says, lifting the baby. “And I knew the deal.”

Opening Her Heart—and Her Home

Kim’s twin sons, Declan and Wesley, age 13, are sweet to the babies but only as interested as any busy, social seventh-grade boys would be. Some of the little girls in the neighborhood, however, flock to the house. “I live a block from the school, so between the boys’ friends and the girls coming to hold the babies, my place is always swarming with kids,” says Kim. Are the newborns disruptive to family life? “There’s not a whole lot of screaming going on,” she says. “They really just want to be held.”

Read the entire article here.

A Day in the Life: Interim Care Provider

From the moment she gets a call from Spence-Chapin about a newborn coming into care, Carmela Grabowski goes into mommy mode. “I put fresh linens on the bassinet, clean the car seat, make formula, sterilize the pacifiers, change out all the diapers from size 2 to 1, and sort the clothes depending on the season and the gender of the baby.”

Carmela has been an interim care provider with Spence-Chapin since 2009, and has cared for 32 infants. This wife and mother of a 21-year-old son and a 19-year-old daughter, both adopted, gives us a sneak peak of life as an interim child care provider. “I start my day around 6:00am with a feeding, changing the baby’s diaper. Baby is back down for a nap, and I then clean up the house, do laundry and shower. Around 9:00am, I give her/him the second bottle. I keep the baby up for about an hour– swinging, playing, cuddling when it’s down for a nap number 2. I take this time to work in my private office ‘til noon, and then I start making lunch for my husband and daughter. If it’s a day when the baby has a doctor’s appointment or a visit with her birth parents, we get on the road around 9:15am.

“In the afternoon, when I prepare dinner, the baby is in the swing keeping me company in the kitchen. By 6:00pm, the family sits down together for dinner and everyone takes turns interacting with the baby while we eat. At 8:00pm, it’s ‘Bath-Bottle-Bed. I usually stay awake until midnight, waiting for the baby’s next feeding, and of course, some more cuddling. Then, I’m up every 3-4 hours for late night feedings and diaper changes.”

“I’d tell anyone who wants to do this [interim care], that you have to understand that it takes up a lot of time and a lot of work. But, it’s most rewarding. You just get so much out of it. Adoptive parents often keep in touch. I keep a photo album with all the pictures they send me of the babies I’ve cared for. It’s the best thing I’ve ever done.

 

Spence-Chapin’s Interim Child Care Program is one of the last of its kind.  It began over 70 years ago as a valuable service for birth parents by giving them time after delivery – free from pressure – to make a decision about their child’s future.

Experienced care providers, supervised by our child care department, look after the babies in their home for several days or weeks after hospital discharge. Birth parents retain their legal rights and can visit their babies during this period.  Spence-Chapin’s board-certified pediatricians examine all infants in our care after hospital discharge; give them regular exams during their stay; and perform a discharge exam on the day they leave to go home.

You can learn more by visiting our website.