Full of Gratitude: National Adoption Month 2018

Every Thursday in November, in honor of Thanksgiving and National Adoption Month, we featured quotes and stories from families, friends and colleagues who have been touched by adoption to ask them the question: “What are you thankful for?”

Check out some of the answers we received this year:

Thank you to our Spence-Chapin family for celebrating with us all month long. We are so thankful for each of you.

Bulgaria Adoption Story: Lee-Ann and William

Adopting a Child with Down Syndrome

Cotner-family-image

“Hi! We are the Cotner family! We are a big, fun, loud, loving, rocking family. We have six beautiful kiddos. Four were homegrown and two grew in our hearts via international adoption and they both just happen to be rocking an extra chromosome a.k.a. they have Trisomy 21 or Down Syndrome.

Our first son, Harvey, came home from Eastern Europe and completely stole our hearts. Soon after our first adoption, we knew that we wanted to adopt again, and specifically another kiddo with Down Syndrome. We knew financially that it might be easier for our family to wait a few years, but when I saw the profile of this waiting kiddo, my heart skipped a beat. I requested his file and I read it over and over. I was looking at it, yet again, when my youngest daughter Quinn said, “Oh, there he is… there’s my brother. I’ve been looking for him!” I knew he was our son and another adventure was beginning!

harrison-image

Harrison joined our family thanks to help from Spence-Chapin and our fabulous in-country team. In a beautiful coincidence, Harrison came home in October, which is Down Syndrome Awareness Month.

Parenting a child with Down Syndrome is truly a blessing. Our sons who have Down Syndrome have overcome so many obstacles that most people take for granted. Seeing them overcome and succeed has given us a new insight on life and we truly appreciate all the little and big things. They are our shining lights. There are the hard days when the struggles of Down Syndrome and prior institutional trauma can hurt your mama heart, because we want to take all their pain and struggle away. But it just makes us love them more and remember that with love and patience we can all do hard things.

Our older four children are incredible with their little brothers. They are so loving and protective, and they are the boys’ biggest cheerleaders. They loved them before they even met them, and their admiration for their brothers only grows. I always say the greatest gift we’ve ever given them was each other.

My husband, William, is active duty Army and that can add some additional hiccups, but Spence-Chapin handled it with such grace and ease. Our process was smooth, and we truly fell in love with Harrison’s birth country. The Army is incredibly supportive of adoption and we are so grateful for this. They let my husband take a substantial leave and even reimbursed some of our adoption expenses.

Every child deserves a family…. every child has worth, and we are forever thankful to be a part of the lucky few that get to have some rocking kiddos with Down Syndrome in their family thanks to adoption and Spence-Chapin!”

To learn more about adoption from Bulgaria and the children in need of families, visit: www.spence-chapin.org/bulgaria

South Africa Adoption: How to Determine Your Family’s Medical Openness

Spence-Chapin finds families for the most vulnerable children in South Africa – children with a medical diagnosis who are in need of an international adoptive family. It takes a dedicated and resourceful parent to adopt a child with special medical needs. At Spence-Chapin, we guide families in how to make an informed decision about their family’s particular medical openness and offer support and resources before, during and after their adoption. Spence-Chapin is confident that in a loving home with the right family who is dedicated to learning about, or already has experience with special medical needs, these children can thrive!

But how does a family determine if adopting a child with special medical needs from South Africa is right for them? Here are 5 places to start:

  1. Learn about the most common medical needs in South Africa.

Check out this article on the Top 10 Medical Needs in South Africa! Currently, the two most common needs our partners Johannesburg Child Welfare (JCW) see in the children in their care are: a diagnosis of HIV and unknown or unpredictable developmental delays. We are actively looking for families who feel open and prepared to parent a child with one of these two needs. You can learn more by exploring these resources specific to adoption from South Africa.  

  1. Consider the medical and developmental care children receive in South Africa.

JCW strives to provide an environment that caters to the overall development of the children in their care which includes their physical, emotional, spiritual, and educational needs. Children receive medical treatment at JCW through a partnership with Thusanani Children’s Foundation. Thusanani provides safe and modern medical care to ensure each child receives the medical and developmental care they need – HIV testing and treatment, occupational therapy, physical therapy, antibiotics, surgery, well-baby visits, etc.

Additionally, Spence-Chapin sponsors a Granny Program at JCW to help the children develop the important socio-emotional bonds that are so important to a child’s development. Through the Granny program, children are paired with surrogate “grannies” from their local community who spend special, one-on-one time with them every day. This humanitarian aid initiative gives institutionalized children the opportunity to form important healthy attachments with a trusted adult. We see incredible progress made by children who are matched with a granny. In South Africa, the children call their grannies “gogo”! 

  1. Consult with an international pediatric specialist to make an informed decision.

It’s recommended that families considering adopting a child with medical needs consult with a pediatrician about diagnosis, treatment, and prognosis of specific conditions to consider if your family has the ability to provide the care a child will need. There are many experienced international adoption medical specialty clinics throughout the United States that are a resource for prospective adoptive families. Physicians with an international adoption specialty are familiar with common medical issues involved in intercountry adoption and many of the common needs seen in children eligible for international adoption.

Because South Africa is a signatory to The Hague Treaty on Intercountry Adoption, adoptive families benefit from a transparent and ethical process for receiving a child’s information. At the time of referral from South Africa, Spence-Chapin will provide all known social and medical history provided by JCW so a family can make an informed decision. The family will review the medical history with a Medical Specialist and support from Spence-Chapin.

  1. Gather information about resources and eligibility for services in your state and community.

Each state offers a variety of services for children with special needs through state agencies and community organizations. Free services through Early Intervention and CPSE services are offered nationally and children 0-3 may qualify when they have a developmental delay in the areas of cognitive, physical, speech and adaptive development. It can be helpful to anticipate the programs offered in the local schools as well as the State laws and regulations for special needs education.

Additionally, when considering the adoption of a child with special needs, it can be helpful to consult with other parents of children with medical needs or international adoptive families. They can be a great source of information, support, and referrals. They may be able to share their suggestions, insights, and recommendations for ways that you can strengthen your ability to parent a child with a medical need. It may also be helpful to prepare for what to expect through help from the local home study agency, special needs support groups or even online through adoption websites such as AdoptionLearningPartners.com.

  1. Ask Yourself:
  • Are you willing, and do you have the time to become informed about the realities of raising a child with special needs?
  • Do you have access to medical resources in your community that specializes in the treatment of pediatric special needs?
  • Are you able to make sure that your child takes medication or attends therapies?
  • Does your schedule allow for the time it takes to parent a child with a medical need?
  • Are you comfortable with any attention it may bring to your family?
  • Are you willing to advocate for your child in your home, school, and community?
  • Are you prepared to accept unknowns for the future development of your child and to find solutions to any challenges that may emerge?

Following the adoption of a child from South Africa, Spence-Chapin welcomes adoptive families to engage in post-adoption services through our Modern Family Center. Spence-Chapin’s Modern Family Center offers counseling, parent coaching, post-adoption support, mentorship and birthland trips. These services can be provided to families in person, over the phone or via video conferencing in all 50 states. We also invite you to attend our annual family events so you and your child can meet other South Africa adoptive families!

Children with special medical needs are waiting for adoptive families in South Africa. If you feel you might be a good match for these children, let’s talk! To learn more, send us an email to info@spence-chapin.org or call us at 212-400-8150.

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

Families often have questions about what the matching process is like in our Domestic Special Needs Adoption Program. Similar to Spence-Chapin’s Domestic Infant Adoption Program, the matching process in our Domestic Special Needs Program is driven by birth family whenever possible.

Spence-Chapin’s Domestic Special Needs Adoption Program (formerly called ASAP – A Special Adoption Program) was created when parents struggling with an unexpected diagnosis for their child came to us needing support. Since creating this unique program in 1995, we have found over 500 loving adoptive families for children with special medical needs, and we continue to work hard at expanding the benefits of adoption to more medically-fragile children and the prospective adoptive parents who want to love them.

The Spence-Chapin Way

For both our Special Needs and Domestic Adoption Programs, our counselors provide free, confidential, unbiased and culturally-sensitive options counseling for parents in crisis. Our goal is to support these families in understanding all their options and rights as well as the resources available, so they can be empowered to make informed decisions and plans for their child. This includes connecting families to early intervention services, Social Security Income (SSI), and finding additional resources to parent a child who is medically fragile.

For birth parents choosing adoption, we are uniquely qualified to support and guide them through the adoption planning process. Our Special Needs Adoption Program is one of the only places in NY and NJ that has expertise to support birth families and find loving adoptive families for medically-fragile infants. Sometimes we know prenatally that a baby will have a special need, other times we are contacted after the birth of the baby. We know that all birth parents have a great deal of love for their baby and want to make a plan that they feel is best for their child. When a child is born with a special needs, we look for adoptive families registered in our Special Needs Adoption Program.

Birth Parent Perspective: Watch Melissa tell her story about how Spence-Chapin helped her through a difficult time.

Ideally, birth parents can review profiles from multiple adoptive families. Some children have very severe medical conditions and it may be challenging to find multiple families for every child. When looking for prospective adoptive families, we network with other special needs organizations and advocates around the country to find supportive and loving families for children with diverse medical needs.

Additionally, some families have requests about the adoptive family, such as one or two-parent household, religious, racial, or ethnic preferences. In some cases, a birth parent may be looking for families that reflect their own heritage or cultural background. This means that not all families who are open to adopting a child may be profiled with birth parents. If a preference is known, we will often write it in the child’s online profile. Since the children are ready to be adopted immediately, birth parents are only presented with profiles of families that meet their preferences and have a current home study written by a social worker at an accredited agency in the family’s state.

Sometimes we already have adoptive families who have pre-registered with SC who can be considered. Other times we need more options for the birth family and are looking for more prospective adoptive families. Not all waiting children are photo listed on our website. It is the birth parent’s choice if their child’s photo and/or background information is shared online and each parent makes a choice that feels comfortable for them.

Because the children have special medical needs, it is important to know how and why a prospective adoptive family feels prepared to parent a child with significant medical needs. Eligibility is very flexible; we see all types of families: people who are not yet parents as well as parents of 8 or 10 children, families who live in urban, suburban, and rural areas throughout the U.S., families of different races and ethnicities, and parents of different ages. Families living in any state are eligible to apply to adopt. Overall, we are looking for loving families who are prepared and excited to adopt a child with special medical needs! Spence-Chapin supports open adoption and is seeking adoptive parents who are open to ongoing contact with their child’s birth parents, often in the form of phone calls, video chat, letters, emails, visits, and texts.

Ultimately, birth parents select an adoptive family by reviewing adoptive family profiles with their social workers. Once they have narrowed their choice to one family they would like to meet, a match meeting is held between the birth and adoptive parents with their social workers.

Birth Parent Perspective: Hear Zeke’s birth parents speak about their experience working with Spence-Chapin to make an adoption plan for their son. Zeke’s story was featured at the Spence-Chapin Gala in 2017. Learn more about his story here.

Birth Parent Perspective: Watch Scott talk about the unknowns he faced when his third child was diagnosed with Down syndrome prenatally and how he and his partner explored adoption and ultimately chose to parent their daughter.

To learn more about becoming a prospective adoptive parent through our Special Needs Adoption Program, read our Special Needs FAQ on our blog! You can also contact us at 212-400-8150 or asap@spence-chapin.org.

If you are a birth parent considering making an adoption plan, you can contact us 24/7 for free, confidential and unbiased options counseling: Call 1-800-321-LOVE or Text: 646-306-2586.

Top 10 Medical Needs in South Africa

There are thousands of children waiting for adoption in South Africa. Many of the children have special needs and need an adoptive family ready and excited to help them thrive! Families considering adopting a child with special needs have many questions, including what are the most common diagnoses?

Currently, the two most common needs our partners Johannesburg Child Welfare (JCW) see in the children in their care are: a diagnosis of HIV and unknown or unpredictable developmental delays. With this in mind, we are actively looking for families who feel open and prepared to parent a child with at least one of these two needs.

Here are the most common medical needs typically seen in the children in JCW’s care:

1.     HIV
2.     Prematurity
3.     Developmental delays
4.     Cerebral Palsy
5.     Auditory impairments
6.     Visual impairments
7.     Cognitive limitations
8.     Brain abnormalities
9.     Macrocephaly
10.   Microcephaly

By partnering with Johannesburg Child Welfare, Spence-Chapin’s focus is simple: the kids who are the most vulnerable and are in need of adoption. We are their advocates. The children are 18 months – 10 years old with an identified medical diagnosis. These children are living in JCW’s care and are cared for in nurseries with caring staff. JCW partners with a Thusanani Children’s Foundation to provide safe and modern medical care to ensure each child receives the medical care they need – HIV testing and treatment, occupational therapy, physical therapy, antibiotics, surgery, well-baby visits, etc.

South Africa is a signatory to the Hague Treaty on Intercountry Adoption so adoptive families have the benefits of the Hague Treaty, which is designed to ensure that international adoption is a transparent, ethical process with an established infrastructure to protect and support children and families.

It’s recommended that families considering adopting a child with medical needs consult with a pediatrician about diagnosis, treatment, and prognosis of specific conditions to consider if your family has the ability to provide the care a child will need. There are many experienced international adoption medical specialty clinics throughout the United States that are a resource for prospective adoptive families. Our team may be able to make a recommendation for a medical specialist near you – give us a call to speak more!

There are millions of children around the world living with HIV who are waiting for a family. Years ago, immigration laws prohibited HIV+ children from being adopted into American families. After advocacy efforts, legislation was passed allowing for the intercountry adoption of these children. There are many families open to adopting a child who is HIV+ and have the resources to provide the medical care and love an adoptive family can provide!

Are you considering adopting a child with special needs? Children in South Africa are waiting for you! It takes a special type of parent to adopt a child with medical needs. We’re here for you before, during, and after your adoption to provide information and support to your family!

To learn more about adoption and parenting a child with special needs from South Africa, check out our South Africa Resources or reach out to us to speak more.

Special Needs Adoption FAQs

Since 1995, Spence-Chapin has found adoptive families for 520+ children with special needs. Spence-Chapin is currently accepting applications from families who are open to adopting a child with significant medical needs. To be considered as a prospective adoptive family please complete our free pre-application send us a copy of your current home study (completed within the past 12 months), conducted by a licensed adoption agency. In order to reduce barriers to special needs adoption there are no professional service fees for special needs adoptions. Read more: www.spence-chapin.org/asap

Emailasap@spence-chapin.org
Fax: (888)-742-6126
Mail: Special Needs at Spence-Chapin, 410 East 92nd Street, 3rd Floor, New York, N.Y. 10128

Frequently Asked Questions:

I would like to be considered as an adoptive parent. What’s my first step?
Please share a copy of your current home study and complete the Spence-Chapin online pre-application. Please email your home study and/or family profile to asap@spence-chapin.org.

Unfortunately, families without a current home study are unable to be considered.

Since the children are ready to be adopted immediately we need families that are ready to adopt.

Complete the free online pre-application here: www.spence-chapin.org/asap

I’ve emailed my home study and submitted the pre-application. What’s next?
All families who have completed the online pre-application and emailed their current home study are considered active prospective adoptive families. We will contact you if your family is a potential match for a current or future waiting child. We will provide status updates regarding the adoption process on our website within the child’s profile. All available information about a child is on our website. Spence-Chapin will keep a home study on file for as long as it is current and keep the family in mind for any future situations.

When will I hear from the social workers?
We will provide status updates on our website within the child’s profile. Due to the volume of emails, we are unable to respond to every email about a waiting child. Please stay in touch with Spence-Chapin through our newsletters, facebook, and twitter. Keep up with waiting babies through our website.

What kind of home study do I need?
You will need a current home study written by a social worker at an accredited agency in your home state. We ask for an agency home study because it’s important for families to be connected to ongoing support and services. You can submit any home study you currently have and if you are chosen we may have additional questions and ask for it to be updated depending on the child’s situation.

The children needing adoptive families are born with a wide variety of medical needs and we are looking for adoptive families who are open to severe medical conditions. Please indicate in your home study and the pre-application the types of medical conditions your family is open to and share the resources which will allow a child thrive in your family.

I need more information- what else can you share?
Everything that we are able to share at this time is available on our website. If information changes or more becomes available, we will update the website. If a diagnosis sounds unknown or you are unsure about prognosis we encourage you to speak with a pediatrician. It is not possible to visit with the child before being identified as the adoptive family.

How much will this cost?
In order to reduce barriers to special needs adoption there are no professional service fees for this adoption program. There is no cost to submit the online pre-application and be matched with a child. Costs to consider include home study, travel to NYC for the placement, post-placement reports, and adoption finalization. If a two-parent household then both parents are required to travel to the Spence-Chapin offices for the placement and should expect to stay in NYC metro area for about 1 week.

Who picks the adoptive family? Am I eligible to adopt?
Eligibility is very flexible; we see all types of families: people who are not yet parents as well as parents of large families, families who live in urban, suburban, and rural areas throughout the U.S., families of different races and ethnicities, and parents of different ages. Families living in any states are eligible to apply to adopt.

Overall, we are looking for loving families who are prepared and excited to adopt a child with special medical needs! Whenever possible the birth family chooses the adoptive family. Because the children have special medical needs, it is important to know how and why a prospective adoptive family feels prepared to parent a child with significant medical needs. Spence-Chapin supports open adoption and is seeking adoptive parents who are open to ongoing contact with their child’s birth parents, often in the form of phone calls, video chat, letters, emails, visits, and texts.

Where do the children come from?
All of the children are born in New York, New Jersey, or Connecticut Spence-Chapin offers free, unbiased options counseling to women and their partners in the NYC metro area. Sometimes birth parents know prenatally that a baby will have a special need, other times we are contacted after the birth of the baby.

You can watch two videos on our special needs adoption webpage from birth parents of children with special needs. You’ll hear Melissa talk about how when her daughter was diagnosed with Down syndrome Melissa and her husband did not feel ready to provide her with the parenting she needed. They made an open adoption plan. You’ll also hear Scott talk about the unknowns of when his third child was diagnosed with Down syndrome prenatally and how he and his partner explored adoption and ultimately chose to parent their daughter. The same diagnoses with different outcomes and our social workers are here to support all birth parents in exploring their options. www.spence-chapin.org/asap

Not all waiting children are photo listed on our website. It is the birth parent’s choice if their child’s photo and/or background information is shared online and each parent makes a choice that feels comfortable for them. Sometimes we already have adoptive families who have pre-registered with SC who are able to be considered. Other times we are in need of a more options for the birth family and looking for more prospective adoptive families.

If I’m chosen as the adoptive parent what are my next steps?
The social worker will be in touch about gathering a current family profile from your family and to discuss the logistics of meeting the birth family in a match meeting, either in-person or through video chat. You’ll receive the any additional information that has become available and review medical history with your pediatrician. After the match meeting you’ll speak to your social worker about if you’re ready to move forward with the adoption and the same for the birth family. Our team will plan placement of the child to your family.

When will a child be placed with me?
I wish this was simpler to answer! There are so many factors that go into an adoption placement that this is very difficult to predict and there is no guarantee that a child will be placed with your family through this adoption program. We encourage you to network with other agencies or advocacy groups once your home study is completed. Whenever possible biological parents chose the adoptive family. Some biological families have requests about the adoptive family, such as 1 or 2 parent household, religious, or racial preferences. This means that not all families who are open to adopting a child may be profiled with all biological parents. If a preference is known, we will often write it in the child’s online profile.

Who are the children? What are special needs?
The children are infants and young children in the NYC metro area who have been diagnosed with a medical condition or are at significant risk for developing a severe medical condition. The children are born in New York, New Jersey, or Connecticut and are from diverse racial and ethnic backgrounds. The infants and children in need of adoption have a variety of special needs, from significant developmental issues to serious medical and congenital conditions.

The conditions usually require therapeutic and/or medical interventions during the child’s entire life. These non-correctable conditions can include:

  • Genetic Disorders
  • Brain Anomali
  • Neurological Disorders
  • Rare Syndromes
  • Cardiac and Pulmonary Disorders
  • Shortened Life Span
  • Excessive Drug and/or Alcohol Exposure
  • Significant Risk of Psychiatric Disorders

Many children are eligible for Early Intervention Services, Social Security Disability, Adoption Subsidy, and Medicaid.

When Doctors believe that a child’s prenatal environment will most likely lead to developmental delays or other medical needs then that child will be placed with adoptive parents ready for special needs. This includes significant prenatal drug or alcohol use, or extreme prematurity.

Where will I finalize the adoption?
It is case-by-case. Some cases need to finalize in NY or NJ, others can be finalized in your home state. If you are called about a child, it would be an important question to ask about a specific situation.

Where is the child living?
Infants may be living with our volunteer interim care families, receiving treatment in the NICU, or pediatric hospital, or living with biological family. When writing about a child’ situation on our website we try to indicate where the child is currently living.