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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


 

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

 

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

 

A Week in Provincetown: Celebrating Families at Family Equality Council’s 20th Family Week

This year, the Modern Family Center was proud to sponsor Family Equality Council’s “Family Week” – a joyous celebration of LGBTQ parents, their children, and their allies. Throughout the week, parents attended educational workshops, kids participated in camp activities, and our Director, Stella Cook, got to know the staff, volunteers, and families that make Family Week such an incredible community-building event.

I arrived in Provincetown with suitcases, cameras, checklists, brochures, flyers, and a wracking anxiety that I, a white, Jewish, heterosexual, middle aged social worker with nearly 2 decades of experience working with children and families, may not be welcomed by the 1,000 parents in attendance as the expert in raising children in a gay parent home.

However, within the first 24 hours of meeting the Family Equality Council staff, and after delivering my presentation “How to Talk About Our Families, to our Children & others” to a packed room, I learned two things: 1. Gay parents are actively seeking support and education to help ease the path for their children and themselves within their extended families, peers, schools, and communities, and 2. Spending a week with this group of parents and their incredible kids was going to be AWESOME.

And it was. It’s hard to describe the feeling of the first family event – a beach bonfire on a gorgeous, warm afternoon, with a diverse group of parents and their children frolicking in the water, making s’mores, and everyone simply enjoying the exhilarating freedom of being themselves. There was even a surprise proposal (he said yes!) and anyone there could literally feel the love and joy in the air.

But, for LGBTQ parents and their children, it’s not always awesome. Throughout the week, mingled in with the fun, parents shared their stories with me; extended family members who “forget” not to use derogatory language, children who are teased, bullied, or simply have no friends, schools that are far from affirming, and communities that simply don’t understand, accept, or include LGBTQ parents and their children. Additional challenges include how to help their children understand their conception stories, how to respond to questions about birth parents, surrogates, and donors, and how to find the balance of preparing children for a world that is not always welcoming of their family while not scaring their kids and exposing them to ugliness they may not yet understand.

The Modern Family Center programming during Family Week helped to bring these conversations to light. Together, we talked, laughed, cried, and laughed some more as we explored the emotional and practical nuances of raising children today. The parents I spoke to and the adorable kids I met helped assure me: the Modern Family Center exists because Spence-Chapin saw a need to support LGBTQ parents, Family Week exists because LGBTQ family advocates saw a need to normalize, celebrate, and advocate for all families, and together, we were and are making a genuine and needed difference.

I am honored to have participated, humbled by what I have learned, and even more motivated to deliver quality, affirming, emotional care, inclusive family events, and LGBTQ parent education to the incredible moms and dads that I had the pleasure to spend time with. Thank you to those who attended my workshop, stopped me on the street to talk, welcomed my family into your community, and confirmed my suspicion that attending Family Week was going to be a life changing event.

For those of you in the NYC/NJ Tristate area, we’re going to keep the fun going at our upcoming LGTBQ Family Sundae Funday, so please join us. Otherwise, see you next year in PTown!

We’re opening a new office in New Jersey!

new-jersey-nanny-taxesTo serve our New Jersey families even better, Spence-Chapin and the Modern Family Center are excited to announce that we’re expanding our locations! Our new office is located at Work and Play, 19 Prospect Street, South Orange, NJ  07079. Celebrate with us at our Grand Opening on Tuesday, October 20th from 6:00 – 8:00pm, and meet the newest member of our New Jersey team, Addie Haler, LMSW. Drop by, check out the amazing space, and learn about our services, including adoption programs, counseling, parent coaching, and social events.

You won’t want to miss our first New Jersey Bagels & Blox on Sunday, November 15th, from 10:30am – 12:30pm. See you soon!

Korean Language Immersion Program

Hosted in association with the Social Welfare Society, Inc. (SWS) and Kyunghee University, we’re offering a wonderful opportunity to live in Seoul and experience life as a university student in Korea. This is an intensive, structured 10 week program where you’ll be immersed in Korean language and culture courses five days a week, four hours a day.

Program dates: October 2 – December 11, 2015 (fall) and December 18, 2015 – February 26, 2016 (winter)

Application deadlines: August 25, 2015 (fall) and November 3, 2015 (winter)

Documents required:

  • Cover letter
  • Application
  • Copy of passport
  • 6 Passport photos

Cost: SWS subsidizes 100% of tuition but applicants are on their own for airfare, housing, and living expenses; SWS can provide a room in the guesthouse at a reduced rate.

Korean adoptees ages 18 and up are welcome to apply. Contact Dana Stallard at dstallard@spence-chapin.org or 212-360-0213. Preference will be given to those who are applying for the first time.

Global Family Day – Fun had by all!

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THANK YOU!!

Thank you for joining us on Saturday for the Global Family Day Picnic!  Nearly 200 members of the Spence-Chapin family came together in Central Park (despite the 90 degree heat) for fun, food, and time together with friends.  Thanks for making this picnic a success!

Please let us know what you thought about the event by filling out a short survey here.

Visit our website for great upcoming Spence-Chapin events and programs.

Please donate to support Spence-Chapin’s Mission!

 

 

74 Year-Old Adoptee Advocates for Open Records

From my oldest memory I always knew that I was adopted and never hid that fact. I grew up Brooklyn, graduated from Bernard M Baruch College, got married, and had two children. I was never very interested in finding out more about my adoption, but my wife and children asked me from time to time. Then about 5 years ago I was going through some old papers and came across the legal adoption papers as filed with the court. That triggered my search. The agency I was adopted through was Louise Wise, which no longer exists, and I was referred to Spence-Chapin.  I contacted Spence-Chapin and after filling out the necessary paperwork I was contacted by one of their social workers. Needless to say, I was extremely anxious to get the info. She gave me much information that I had never known and I found it very interesting. But when pressed for additional information I was told that she could not reveal anything more as she was bound by law. I told her that was archaic and ridiculous considering the current state of adoption. She agreed and told me that was it. Subsequently I tried to coordinate the information that she had given me with the US Census for 1940, but that became a huge project.

I have shared my current journey with my family – wife, daughters, and 7 grandchildren.  They are all interested in finding out about this part of my life… their lives.

As suggested by Spence-Chapin, I sent an email to the New York State senate, asking them to oppose Bill A2901a that prevents adoptees from receiving their original birth certificates:

Dear Senator, 
I have also written to you via the senate general email.

The essence of my email is that I am asking that this proposed law be changed to the original.  As presented currently A2901A will forever close the Door on my search for complete information on my adoption.  

I am 74 years old and recently (5+ years ago) came upon my formal legal adoption papers while going through my mother’s papers.

This triggered my search and with the help of Spence-Chapin learned as much about my family history as was permitted under the current law.  I was hoping that before long that the law would be changed so that I could complete the search, not only for myself but for my wife, daughters, and seven grandchildren.

I do not understand the logic behind this amendment.  Having a Judge decide with all of the pre-conditions is a sure way of preventing many people who are in search of information. 

I have never written about any piece of legislation till now.

If I could make one statement to the Legislator it would be, “walk in my shoes as well as let the sunlight in.”

Paul Pruzan (Birth Name: David Cohen, born August 29, 1940)

Let Me Know My True Name

UnknownMy name is Allie Herskovitz. I am a junior at Briarcliff High School in Briarcliff Manor, NY.  I am a varsity cheerleader, study dance, serve as a volunteer with Bridges to Community in Nicaragua, and am working on my Girl Scout Gold Award. I was adopted domestically at birth and since fourth grade I have participated in several Spence-Chapin groups.

This winter, as an English assignment, I was asked to write an editorial on any topic important to me. Just a month before I had traveled out West and met members of my birth family for the first time. I was fortunate because my mom had kept all the documents from my adoption. I was able to make the connection without much of a search. My experience was very positive in many ways; however, I had attended a Spence-Chapin reunion workshop in 2014 and knew it could be very different- and frustrating- for many adoptees. When my teacher assigned the editorial I had reunion issues on my mind, so I decided to research and write about adoptee access to U.S. birth records. What I learned has made me a strong advocate for full and open access-for every adoptee.

Imagine that you were denied access to all information about your birth. No original birth certificate. No names of your birthparents. You might not even know where or even when you were born. How might you feel? For adoptees born in forty- three U.S. states this is current law- we are denied access to our original birth records. We are banned by the state from knowing our true origins. This practice of “sealing” birth records for adoptions began in Minnesota with the intention to overcome attitudes about the shame of adoption and illegitimacy. Over time almost all U.S. states banned adoptee access. Attitudes in some states have changed in recent decades, but almost six million U.S. born adoptees are still denied their basic birth information. I am one of those adoptees and in 2015 I believe everyone deserves full access to their original birth records as a fundamental human right.

Many Western countries, including England, Scotland and Israel, allow open access. In the United States, adoption regulations are delegated to the states, not the federal government, and the majority of states have laws preventing direct adoptee access to original birth documents. Starting in the 1930s and 1940s, social workers and adoptive parents encouraged states to seal records when an adoption was finalized. By 1950, most states had regulations that forever barred adoptee access. Since then, only a few states have changed their laws. Currently just seven states have completely opened their records, while several others provide for unsealing with restrictions. For example, Maryland and Iowa only allow access through a “mutual consent registry” and Nebraska allows adoptive parents, as well as birth parents, to veto unsealing.

Researching the history of U.S. adoption, I learned that over the years adoptees have been denied their records for three main reasons. The first reason, strongly promoted by some prominent adoption lobbies, has been the protection of birth parent confidentiality. According to this argument, unsealing records now would betray a promise of anonymity made at the time of the adoption. However, in the only two legal cases that have ever ruled on this claim, the courts have said open records laws do not violate privacy rights. The second reason dates from decades past when adoption was viewed as a stigma and spoken only in whispers. During the Depression and after WWII, issuing “amended” birth certificates became routine and helped to reinforce a “culture of shame that stigmatized infertility, out-of-wedlock birth, and adoption”. A third rationale is a concern for “disruption,” that sharing original birth information would disturb the lives of the adoption triad-birthparents, adoptive parents, or the adoptee. While some adoptive parents may still favor closed records for this reason, recent surveys show they are now a small minority. The International Association of Adopted People does not support any form of closed adoption, and rather than viewing open access as a disruption, states that sealed records are “detrimental to the psychological well-being of the adopted child”.

Among the public, as well as different members of the adoption community, there is a growing consensus that adoptees deserve full access. My family and I strongly support this position. We reject the age old reasons for sealing birth records. We see no valid justification for the state to deny me my original birth documents. I should have the same rights under the law as anyone else born in the United States- the right to know who I am. I should be allowed unrestricted access to my original birth certificate so I may know critical legal, medical, and genealogical information. That knowledge is part of my true identity. One organization, Adoption Find, really speaks for me when they state, “Adoptees did not sign away their rights. Identity is a human right…Adoption is not magic. Babies do not disappear into a void, never to be heard from again. We are real living, breathing people who deserve the same history, and wholeness of being that every non-adoptee takes for granted”.

Anyone favoring open access has opportunities to change state laws. At the current time, several states including Pennsylvania, Arkansas and Connecticut, have legislation under consideration that would expand adoptee access to their birth records. Citizens of these states, as well as all individuals advocating open access, can write to their state representatives. They can also write letters to their local newspapers and make donations to organizations that encourage unsealed records, such as Spence-Chapin.

According to one advocacy website, thelostdaughters.com, “what is missing the most in adoption is the truth”. Like so many American adoptees, I am not allowed by state law to see my original birth certificate. I believe it is time to get past the old arguments and to unseal every U.S. birth record. Without a change in the law, I could spend a lifetime of longing and searching for my true identity.

No fees for Personal Adoption Histories

older adopteesThe Modern Family Center at Spence-Chapin is excited to announce that we will no longer charge fees for personal adoption histories or support for first/birth and adoptive families in open adoptions wanting to re-connect.

This recent change aligns with our belief that all members of the adoption community should have the right to obtain their information and history with as few barriers as possible.

Of course, this is one small piece in a larger issue of providing access to birth records and identifying birth family information for adoptees who would like to search.  Spence-Chapin continues to advocate for a change in adoption laws to allow adoptees to have access to identifying information including their original birth certificates and identities of their birthparents.

I just want to thank you, actually I don’t think a million thank you’s would be enough. I will never forget your kindness, your compassion and your willingness and patience during the times we have spoken and for what I am and have been going through as an adoptee.  The wonderful people at Spence-Chapin will change me forever and again I can’t thank you enough for that. Thank you.    – Adoptee

Last January we joined the New York Statewide Adoption Reform’s Unsealed Initiative in the hearing on on Bill of Adoptee Rights. You can read about that experience on our blog post: Spence-Chapin supports the Bill of Adoptee Rights  and watch our testimony on our Youtube page.

You can learn more about how you can get involved and help advocate on behalf of NYS adoptees by visiting the  New York Statewide Adoption Reform’s site

The Modern Family Center at Spence-Chapin provides personal adoption histories (non-identifying information) for agencies whose records we hold: Spence-Chapin, Louise Wise, and Talbot Perkins. We also provide search and reunion guidance, support, and counseling for all members of the adoption community. Give us a call to learn more – 646-539-2167.

Check out our upcoming events for the adoption community and register today.

Modern Family Center Grand Opening

Didn’t get a chance to make it to our Modern Family Center’s Grand Opening event? Stella Gilgur-Cook, Director of the Modern Family Center, shared these welcoming remarks with guests to outline our vision and services offered to the community. 

The Modern Family Center is here to serve the changing landscape of today’s families. We are on the frontier of how family is defined in the American experience. Adoptive families, birth/first families, multi-racial families, donor-conceived families, single parents, and gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender parents are no longer on the sidelines, but right here working with us. We are participating in a nationwide conversation of what it means to be a family, what values and traditions we uphold, and how to best raise our children.

Adoption is our expertise, and after 100 years of adoption service, we know better than anyone that it can be a double-edged sword; there is no disputing that every child deserves a family, but there’s also no disputing that adoption can create heartache. That’s why we will always have a commitment to life-long post-adoption services for every family, at every life stage.

But, adoption is not all we do. At the root of it, we know about families – families who stand out, families who are hard to define, and families who are proud to exist, but wish things could be just a little easier. Today, half of all remarriages form blended families. In the United States, nearly 6 million children have same-sex parents, while a full quarter of the children living in this country are being raised by a single parent. That’s a lot of people trying to work out having a new kind of family.

Being a modern family certainly doesn’t define who you are, but it does shape who you are. It informs where you choose to live, where you send your kids to school, who you make new friends with, and it should inform where you find the best emotional care for your family. When it comes to issues of identity, belonging, culture, or the melding of two families into one and the separation of one family into two, you want the person helping you to see past the obvious and appreciate the bigger picture. In our counseling services, groups, and kids programming, we offer a relational approach that accepts, celebrates, and most of all, understands how to help complex families grow, heal, and build the lives they want.

You want a community where there’s no need to explain or defend your family. You want competent clinicians who understand the unique aspects of your family, free of judgment. You want to know how to explain complicated stuff to your kids by saying the right thing at the right time. We’re offering all of that, and more.

Perhaps I should say what a special time this is in our society, that today’s modern families are all so special. Well, I’m not going to. Maybe somewhere else your family is special or different, but when you’re at the Modern Family Center, you are simply one of us.

I hope you’ll join us for one of our many upcoming events, like us on Facebook, or call us to find out more about what we’re doing and how we can help you family!

 

Spence-Chapin Partners with The Family Equality Council as an “Ally for Adoption”

Spence-Chapin is excited to partner with the Family Equality Council in their “Allies for Adoption” campaign, agreeing that every child in America deserves the chance to find a forever family. As an Ally for Adoption, we support the Family Equality Council’s efforts to eliminate barriers to adoption faced by LGBT people in every state.

We are also partnering with Parents, Family, & Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG) and the Family Equality Council by joining their Every Child Deserves a Family Coalition to support a bill currently before the U.S. House of Representatives and U.S. Senate that eliminates any state laws, practices, or procedures that exclude LGBT foster and adoptive families.

Spence-Chapin also received the Human Rights Campaign’s “All Children-All Families” Seal of Recognition in October and we continue to be fully committed to equality in adoption as we build families with partnered same-sex and LGBT singles.

allies for adoption  ECDF

Spence-Chapin Supports the NY State Bill of Adoptee Rights

We are proud to join  New York Statewide Adoption Reform’s Unsealed Initiative in supporting the passage of New York State’s Bill of Adoptee Rights (A909 in the Assembly and S2490-A in the Senate) which allows adoptees born in the State of New York to access certain records when they reach the age of 18, including their birth certificates and medical history if availableAdoption Files

We at Spence-Chapin believe that it is a fundamental right of adoptees to know their original identities as well as the identities of their birth parents. Spence-Chapin has a long history of supporting both birth mother and adoptee rights and knows that the sealed records policies of the past are inappropriate in the current adoption landscape.  The current restrictions that New York State law places on adoptees’ information are heartbreaking for adoptees and birth parents.

Spence-Chapin works with the adoption triad each day offering post adoption services: adoptees, birth parents, and adoptive parents, all who are in support of passing this bill. Regardless of the laws governing adoption records in New York State in the past we need to move forward and understand how important it is to adjust to the needs and rights of the adoption triad in present times. We have the opportunity to change the lives of these New Yorkers and we therefore urge the passage of The Bill of Adoptee Rights immediately.

That’s why Spence-Chapin is testifying this Friday, January 31, 2014 on the hearing on Bill of Adoptee Rights and that is why we have signed a petition to The New York State House, The New York State Senate, and Governor Andrew Cuomo.   Will you support this petition? Click here to sign.

You  can call us at 646-539-2167 to learn more about Spence-Chapin’s Personal Adoption History support.

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Update: Watch our testimony

In Remembrance of Flicka Van Praagh

flicka 3Spence-Chapin offers its heartfelt remembrance of the life and spirit of Flicka Van Praagh.  Flicka had served as the agency’s Director of the International Adoption Department from 1992-2004, having first joined the organization in 1958.

With an early interest in adoption, Flicka chose to come to Spence-Chapin for her student placement, a requisite for her MSW from Columbia University, and was offered a position after graduation. She started as a case worker in foster care in 1958 and was department head from 1961 to 1964 when she left to become Director of Social Services at Woman’s Hospital, a division of St. Luke’s Hospital Center. There she met her husband and they became the parents of a daughter and two sons. She returned to the agency in the early 1970’s on a part-time basis doing intakes and home studies that could be completed while her children were in school. She eventually came back full-time working in the international department.

Flicka made the first of many trips around the world in 1975, traveling to Seoul, Korea to implement the founding of Spence-Chapin’s first international program. She traveled extensively in Latin America in the 1980’s, working to establish programs in Chile, El Salvador, Paraguay, Peru, Colombia and Guatemala.

In 1992, Flicka became the director of the international department. She said, “In joining Spence-Chapin, I was able to see the world and visit so many wonderful places. I went to twelve countries trying to set up new programs; opening Russia, China, Moldova and Bulgaria. I found it thrilling to help waiting children from all around the world find their forever families.”

Understanding the critical impact that physical and emotional contact has during a child’s early stages of development, Flicka had the vision to establish Spence-Chapin’s first Granny Program in Bulgaria in 1998. This program’s success saw its replication in China, Moldova, Colombia and South Africa.

Flicka was loved by the many families that she helped bring together. In the New York Times online Guestbook Marth Volcker wrote, “Flicka was a wonderful person, and I am forever grateful to her for the important role she played in the adoption of our daughter. We adopted our daughter from China in 1999, and Flicka was a wonderful guide through the complete adoption process. We saw Flicka about a year and a half ago at a Spence-Chapin function, and her ability to remember and her interest in all the children she had placed in forever families was amazing.”

“We, the parents of two of the ‘in excess of 500 children’ Flicka helped place in adoption while at Spence-Chapin, would like to express our condolences to her family as well as our thanks, once again, to Flicka for guiding us through the 14 months that led up to the arrival of our then six-month and now 32 year old twin daughters, Jessie and Corey. Her spirit lives on in all of us,” wrote Jon Silbert and Bonnie McHale.

The Meo family added, “We are forever grateful and blessed to be parents because of Flicka. We were part of her last group to China. She was an amazing woman. May she rest in peace knowing the love and joy she brought to so many.”

At her retirement party in 2004, Flicka said. “In all the years that I worked with Spence-Chapin, I always carried a case load in addition to my other responsibilities because of the great pleasure and joy in working with clients and seeing them turn into families.”

For Ann Hassan, our current Director of Adoption, Flicka was more than a humanitarian. Flicka“To me, Flicka was a mentor, advisor and friend. As a young worker I idolized her, and she in turn invested in me, encouraged me and molded me into the social worker I am today. She combined grace and confidence in a way that made her a superb leader and a truly unique and special woman. She had true affection and commitment for the hundreds of families she worked with over the years, stemming I think from the immense love and pride she had for her own family and a core belief that everyone deserves to experience that kind of love. Flicka guides me in my work, and in life, and will forever live on through me and my many colleagues who learned from her for so many years.”

As parents and child welfare professionals, many of us are inspired by her work and her legacy.  As we reflect on her achievements, we struggle to find the balance of a tribute and a call to action – not to just mourn Flicka, but to learn from Flicka and continue her work. In doing so, we could elevate our focus of our common goal – that every child deserves a family.

If you would like to make a donation to continue Flicka’s work, we would welcome a tribute gift in her honor or call Mary Connolly, 212-360-0204.

 

You can read our remembrance to Flicka online at the NY Times.

 

National Adoption Month CharityBuzz Auction

Charity Buzz_AM_ShoppingSpence-Chapin is thrilled to join families, adoption advocates, policy makers, judges and volunteers who all come together and celebrate adoption in communities large and small across the nation.

At Spence-Chapin, we are celebrating with our Charitybuzz online auction.  Visit our auction site to browse and bid on…

  • Meet Michael Franti & Spearhead And Introduce Them On Stage At The Concert, Plus 2 Tickets To The Show, Vip Passes, And Entry To The After-Party
  • 2 Club Level Seats To The See NY Jets Host The Oakland Raiders Dec. 8 With Parking Pass
  • Meeting And Newsroom Tour With Roy Sekoff, Founding Editor Of The Huffington Post And President And Co-Creator Of Huffpost Live.
  • Framed Photo By Spence-Chapin Adoptee Yasmine Arman, “I Can See A Widow From A Mile Away”

The holidays are right around the corner, so make Spence-Chapin’s National Adoption Month Online Auction your one-stop shop as you search for the perfect gifts for family and friends.  Your bids will get you great rewards – the perfect gift and the knowledge that you have helped a child find the stability and deep parental love that every child deserves across the nation.

Help make the auction a success..!

  • BID on an auction item!
  • TELL YOUR FRIENDS. The success of this online auction depends on spreading the word to as many people as possible. We need your help.
  • SHARE our site with your contacts on  Facebook and Twitter.

 

Merryl Klein’s Farewell

It is with a heavy heart that we announce Merryl Klein’s retirement after 24 years of extraordinary service to Spence-Chapin.

Merryl began working for Spence-Chapin in August, 1989 as the Director of the Child 545_SpenceDay1_20081114_MerrylLMCare department.  In 1994, the organization was faced with a situation in which an infant was abandoned in its care, was diagnosed with AIDS.  Unwilling to place this child in a foster home, which was the common practice at that time, Merryl was able to find the infant a home in Texas with a pediatric nurse who specialized in AIDS care.  It was from this experience that Merryl, and then Executive Director Kathy Legg, developed a pilot program for finding homes for hard-to-place infants.

Merryl headed this program, aptly called A Special Adoption Program (ASAP), and remained an integral part of it throughout her tenure at Spence-Chapin.   What began as a pilot program envisioned by Merryl, is now the foundation of Spence-Chapin’s mission in domestic adoption today.

Since 1995, Spence-Chapin’s domestic special needs program has placed more than 300 infants with loving families. These babies come from diverse backgrounds and have a variety of issues ranging from risk of developmental delays to serious medical conditions.  In 2011, Senator Kirsten Gillibrand acknowledged our ASAP program’s efforts by honoring it with a Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute Angel in Adoption™ Award.

While we prize Merryl’s extraordinary achievements in the field of adoption, it is her heartfelt dedication to the children and their families that makes us admire her most.  Throughout her time at Spence-Chapin, Merryl has provided thoughtful and personalized care and attention to each child and family she’s worked with.  Moreover, she approaches her work with the utmost passion and commitment.

As the organization transitions to focusing on the children most in need of families – older children, their siblings and children with special needs – Merryl has been a strong supporter knowing well that, now more than ever, the ASAP program will garner an even higher awareness.

Merryl, and the work she’s done at Spence-Chapin, is an inspiration to her co-workers, many of whom consider her a mentor with an endless wealth of knowledge.  We wish her the best of luck in all of her future endeavors; we have no doubt she’ll make a positive difference wherever she goes.

Spence-Chapin Earns HRC Foundation’s “All Children – All Families” Seal of Recognition

Every child deserves a family. It’s a notion that has always driven the very concept of adoption. Connecting children with permanent homes, deep parental love, and a lifelong sense of security — that’s why we do what we do.

Spence-Chapin has a proud history of building families with partnered same-sex couples and LGBT singles.  We are fully committed to equality in adoption and are proud of the many children we have placed in loving, stable, same-sex households. Working with the Human Rights Campaign was a honor. HRC lead our team through a comprehensive framework to meet specific benchmarks that help further develop our welcoming, supportive and affirmative atmosphere for LGBT foster and adoptive parents. LGBT, adoptionThe end result was meeting the required criteria for fully inclusive policies and practices in working with the LGBT community and earning the HRC All Children – All Families” Seal of Recognition.

The “All Children – All Families” initiative, launched in 2007, promotes policies and practices that welcome LGBT foster and adoptive parents. The program seeks to enhance LGBT cultural competence among child welfare professionals and educate LGBT people about opportunities to become foster or adoptive parents to waiting children. To date, ACAF has over 60 participating agencies across the country, and has awarded 34 seals of recognition.

Nia Vardalos, Not So ‘Instant’ Mom

The thing about Nia Vardalos’s book, “Instant Mom,” is that I want to push it onto people. Lots of people. People who have looked at my family and said, “Oh, we’ve thought about adoption.” People who I kind of suspect might, for one reason or another, be thinking about adoption. People who I, in my status as she-who-knows-best-about everything, think should maybe be thinking about adoption. (I would never really do that.)

Ms. Vardalos is, of course, an actor and screenwriter, and now, the mother of one daughter through adoption. She is also a veteran of fertility treatments — lots of fertility treatments. Every fertility treatment I’ve ever heard of and some I hadn’t. She went back again and again, to a self-punishing degree, and emerged grievingadoption and without a baby — an experience she does not gloss over. She may tell you that her daughter is her destiny, but she will not tell you that she enjoyed getting there.

Even after Ms. Vardalos and her husband closed the chapter on infertility treatments, she came slowly to adoption, and even more slowly to the foster adoption program. She had misconceptions about who the children were and how the process worked, she told me, which made her reluctant. “For one thing, I thought in foster adoption, the children came to live with you for a while, then went back home, or might go back home,” she said. “I wasn’t aware of all the children who are already legally emancipated from their families.”

She also thought all, or at least most, of the children in a foster adoption program would have unmanageable problems. “But you know, some children have issues, some don’t — just like any children, biological, or adopted from anywhere,” she said. “That’s just life. “

“But I’m an average person who reads the news and listens to the stories, and of course, fear sells,” Ms. Vardalos said. “Even though I’m surrounded by happy adoptive families, I had only absorbed the negative ones. I’m a middle child Canadian, and I wasn’t looking for trouble. I’m not proud of it, but I want to be honest about it. I had fears.”

Those fears, and what happened after she put them aside, are the subject of Ms. Vardalos’s book, and of her new role as an advocate for foster adoption. Hers is the rare honest look at the adoption of a slightly older child — a child with a history; a child with memories; a child with reason to be angry about her life up until now, but without the ability to understand or put words to that anger. Her daughter, Ilaria, was almost 3 years old when she went to live with her new family — old enough to be confused and to grieve, and to take some of that grief out on her unprepared new mother and father.

Because I, too, am the adoptive parent of a slightly older child (my younger daughter was almost 4 when she came to us), every word of “Instant Mom” rang true for me, as Ms. Vardalos and her husband get through the difficult first days and weeks and find a way into their daughter’s heart. I asked her to describe the first few days after they took Ilaria home, and she laughed — a big, friendly laugh at how she used to be — and then got serious.

“We were suddenly and overwhelmingly in over our heads,” she said. “We were not equipped to help this poor, scared child with anything other than words we weren’t sure she understood, and caresses and kisses that she wouldn’t allow — and she was mad. She was really mad, and I understood. We would say it. ‘This must make you really mad. This must be really confusing.’ ”

Ms. Vardalos describes how they slowly helped Ilaria find enough confidence to relax, enough belief in them to sleep, and enough trust in her new family to speak and eventually to love. Of her choice to begin her life as a parent with a child who was past infancy and babyhood, she said: “I realized I didn’t necessarily see us with a baby. There are benefits to adopting a toddler. They can tell you what’s wrong. And — everything we did with our daughter was a first. Her first tooth fairy. Santa. If you adopt a 16-year-old, you teach them to drive for the first time. If you’re looking for firsts, there are always firsts.”

“Instant Mom” is the book I wish I’d had as we traveled that same road with our youngest daughter. If you have ever considered bringing a child who isn’t an infant into your family, it’s the book you’ll want to read. And if you just enjoy a good, honest memoir, whether it’s an experience you’ll ever share or not (hello, “Eat Pray Love”), it’s the book for you, too.
By KJ DELL’ANTONIA

Credit: NYTimes.com

Spence-Chapin presents child welfare training to ICBF and Colombian child advocates.

In order to ensure the successful placement of older children and sibling groups it is critical that all professionals involved in the adoption process are informed by the best current research and are all working out of the same paradigm to maximize success.  Spence-Chapin licensed social workers traveled to Bogota, Colombia at the end of September to present trainings to Instituto Colombiano de Bienestar Familiar/Colombian Family Welfare Institute (ICBF)  staff and Colombian child welfare advocates who are key in facilitating domestic or international adoption of older children and sibling groups. The training focused on maximizing potential success of placement for older children and sibling adoption. adoption training

School-age children, those who are 8 years old and older at time of placement, are the most overly represented population in orphanages worldwide. However, the fears, unknowns, and myths surrounding the adoption of older children discourage many prospective parents from exploring this option. Currently, close to 8,000 children in Colombia, ages 10 and older, are waiting for a family.

The professionals involved in the adoption process have an important role in preparing the child and the people involved with the child before the child is adopted. The extent to which the child is prepared for adoption has significant impact on easing the transition and maximizing successful incorporation into the family. Using available resources and strategies based on the child’s developmental levels, and current psychological understanding regarding attachment, have been found to be successful in alleviating the child’s anxieties, minimizing the stress associated with change and maximizing incorporation into a new family.

The Instituto Colombiano de Bienestar Familiar/Colombian Family Welfare Institute (ICBF), established in 1968, provides care services for children, adolescents and families, especially those under threat, insolvency or violation of their rights, and is Colombia’s central authority for adoptions.

A Response to Re-Homing News Stories

The recent news stories on “re-homing” adoptees are very disturbing; no child should have to suffer the trauma of being separated from their birth family and then again from their adopted family.

AdopteeWhile upsetting, it is important to understand that these articles are not about adoption practices. The transfers referred to in the recent press happened outside of procedures and safeguards set forth for adoption. In many ways these eye-opening events underscore the need for additional safeguards to be put in place for all children, whether they were born to the family looking to find them a new home, or adopted internationally or domestically. Federal/State child protection laws need to be improved so children are protected from this and other child-trafficking practices.

What these stories do highlight is the need for family assessment, parent preparation and post-placement support.  We know that adoption is a lifelong commitment and that it is important that families always have access to post-adoption services.  “Adoptive families work hard to support their adopted children despite the inevitable challenges that will arise,” said Emily Forhman, Spence-Chapin’s Executive Director. “Having access to qualified adoption clinicians who can counsel parents as well as children is a key component to creating healthy families.” Given the right training and post-placement support, virtually all adoptive parents will be able to provide their children with the permanent and loving home they so deserve.

It is the responsibility of adoption agencies to ensure that parents are properly vetted, trained, and supported and every agency must embrace this responsibility seriously.   In the rare situation where an adoptive placement can’t be permanent, the child’s best interests should be paramount.  The agency(s) involved with the placement of the child with the disrupting family should take on the responsibility of finding a suitable and permanent home for the child; under no circumstances should a family be in a situation where they need to privately transfer the custody of an adopted child to a stranger.

The articles spotlight a real problem and we deplore these situations and the unspeakable hardships that have befallen these children.  At the same time, we are always concerned when the press sensationalizes the circumstances of a handful of misguided families.  The unfortunate reality is that most people gather their information about adoption from hearsay or biased media outlets and tragically, their mistaken views add to the growing number of children left without families and stigmas that adopted persons and their families face to this day.

Note to families:
Despite their critical importance, there is little to no dedicated federal funding for post-adoption services.  Please contact your congressional leader and ask then to make post-adoption services funding a priority.
http://www.congressmerge.com/onlinedb/cgi-bin/leadership.cgi

Internet and Adoption Surveys

7K0A0129The Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute needs your help on an unprecedented study, and it will only take 15-20 minutes of your time.

The Internet and social media are forever changing adoption – and our lives – yet we know little about their impact on the millions of people who are affected. The Adoption Institute is launching a new study seeking relevant information from adopted persons, adoptive parents, birth/first parents and adoption professionals. Your feedback will be important as the adoption field works to shape thoughtful, humane and ethical laws, policies and practices.

It’s quick, it’s easy and it’s important; just click here. This survey follows up on the Institute’s 2012 report, “Untangling the Web”.

Just Holding on Through the Curves

This article was written by Cris Beam and posted on NYTimes.com on August 29, 2013. Cris Beam, who lives in New York, is the author of “To the End of June: The Intimate Life of American Foster Care.” Continue reading