Series on Special-Needs: Down Syndrome

Spence-Chapin works to find families for children from a variety of diverse and vulnerable populations.  These populations include children with special needs.

Portrait of beautiful young girlDown syndrome is a genetic disorder in which a child has 3 copies of chromosome 21, instead of 2.[1] Worldwide, it is estimated that somewhere between 3,000 and 5,000 babies are born each year with Down syndrome. There are roughly 250,000 families currently in the U.S. affected by Down syndrome.[2] Children with Down syndrome face potential physical and intellectual delays and may be more susceptible to certain medical conditions including heart defects and difficulty in hearing.[3]

Facts and figures (and stigmas) aside, children born with Down syndrome are lovable individuals who can make wonderful additions to an adoptive family! Medical and psychological care for these children is obviously paramount because this is a disorder that is accompanied by developmental challenges. What is equally important is that these children receive love and compassion from their families.  Research suggests having a child with Down syndrome in the family can actually have positive effects on a family unit.  Another study revealed that divorce rates in families of a child with Down syndrome are actually lower, comparatively.

For those parents who can open their hearts and homes to children with Down syndrome (or another special need), we  offer support and resources Our Modern Family Center provides programs and services for all adoptive families to help navigate this lifetime process.

 

 


Father Of Ten Adopted Children With Special Needs: ‘We’ve Had An Unbelievable Amount Of Support’

We love this story from Huffington Post…..

 

 

 


In honor of Adoption Awareness Month this November, Jeremy Green joined HuffPost Live to share his story of adopting and raising six special-needs children.

Green, the father of three biological children, considered adoption after he and his wife discovered they could no longer have more kids. “We found out we could not have any more children biologically and wanted to add to our family,” he explained to host Nancy Redd. “And as we started down that road, we at first were thinking ‘healthy infant.’ But as we went through the process, we started to look at the ‘waiting children’ list. And these are kids that have special needs, that don’t match up with what anybody has checked off on their adoption paperwork saying, ‘yes, we’d accept a child with such-and-such special needs.'”

The first child they adopted, Ellie, was blind. When he first saw Ellie’s profile, Green admitted he was nervous. “I was quite overwhelmed. I said, ‘you know, blind — that’s a significant special need. We don’t know anything about that.’ But then I came to realize that nobody knows anything about raising a special-needs child, and special-needs kids are born to families all the time. And you just deal with it and you figure it out.”

“And we got Ellie, and from then on, the special need has never even really been part of the question. They’re just people.”

Green added that his children often help each other with their different needs. “Our daughter Lexi is blind, and our daughter Sophie was born without arms. Both of them were adopted at the same time, December of 2010, and they are just two peas in a pod. They go everywhere together. Lexi, again being blind, will take hold of the empty sleeve of Sophie’s shirt, and Sophie will lead her around the house, and if they need something, Lexi can reach it. So they really work together, they play together, they play make-believe together, they’re just the sweetest little couple of kids.”

As the Greens prepare to add a 10th child to their fold, the family has also received an outpouring of support from their community. “When we announced that in the spring of last year–2012, our community actually rallied around us and decided they would like to help us get into a bigger home,” he said.

“And they raised over $200,000 toward the construction of a larger home that we just moved into about two months ago. And it has made just an amazing difference for our family. So we’ve had an unbelievable amount of support.”

December 3rd is Giving Tuesday, a global initiative to inspire people to give back to the charities and causes that they celebrate.  At Spence-Chapin, we work to connect children with permanent homes, deep parental love, and a lifelong sense of security.  We can help more children find homes by alleviating all financial barriers to families looking to adopt – but we cannot do this without you!  Please participate in Giving Tuesday by making a contribution to the Spence-Chapin Annual Fund

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.

Adopting a Child with HIV

Last year we were thrilled to announce the opening of our South Africa adoption program.  Since then, we have learned more about the process, the children and the needs of the South African child welfare community.  We have learned that in South Africa, the number of children in need of families continues to grow and that these children are AIDS orphans who need families that can care for them properly.  In all, there are an estimated 3.7 million orphans in South Africa: children who are no longer babies, children with special needs and children who are part of sibling groups often remain in orphanages for years, waiting for a loving family to change their lives.

Soon after opening this program we met Megan and Cameron.adoptive family Already experienced parents (2 sons adopted from Ethiopia and Uganda), Megan and Cameron felt their family was still not quite complete.  As the couple started to look into their options, one theme kept rising above the rest; in blogs and forums and from their own hearts came the idea of adopting a child with HIV.  As Megan put it, “We did not know much about HIV – I knew that Magic Johnson had HIV. That’s about it.”  But soon they learned more – a great deal more.  They learned that with the right medication, children can have happy lives with a normal life expectancy.  They even learned that, despite the stigma the disease still carries, the CDC (Center For Disease Control) has actually removed HIV from its list of communicable diseases. Knowing this, the couple approached Spence-Chapin to adopt a child from South Africa diagnosed with HIV.  They are now in the process of completing the paperwork and hope for a child match soon.

Megan and Cameron know that in the future, their choice to parent a child with HIV HIV Quotewill be questioned.  They know they have a journey ahead to educate their community and to line up the resources their child will need to live a full life.  When asked what it is about their family that led them to this choice, when so many others tend to overlook these children, the couple seemed surprised by the question.  Says Megan, “I don’t think our family is any different; I just think we have been given the proper education.  We have the information, so we do not fear the HIV stigma. This is something all families can learn!”

As with many of the other international programs in which we work, we see children who are waiting for a family longer than any child should have to.  Children born with the HIV virus have the opportunity to lead long, full and healthy lives, but only if the child welfare and medical communities join forces to provide the care and permanency that every child deserves.  As we grow our South Africa program, our commitment to these children is stronger than ever.  With education, advocacy and adoption, we hope to provide every child with what Megan and Cameron hope for their future child: “We want people to love our child as a person first.  We want them to see that our child is in no way diminished or stigmatized and with no asterisk beside his or her name.”

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Adoption from South Africa

Megan and Cameron now… 2 sons from Ethiopia and Uganda, and a daughter from South Africa.

 

A Special Needs Adoption Story

You will never see a child with a bigger smile or a sunnier countenance than Alex.  Even though he was was born prematurely and developed severe medical issues, he seems to think being pushed in a swing is pure heaven.

Alex never came home from the hospital where he was born or from the interim institution that cared for him after that.  His birth parents visited him often at Elizabeth Seton Hospital, hoping that somehow Alex could improve to the point where he would come home with them.  But in the end, they made the difficult decision that Alex should be freed for adoption.  He was by then, in adoption parlance, an “older” child at age 4.  This is when Spence-Chapin first learned about Alex, who would not be permanently placed for nearly two more years.

Alex’s journey was far longer than any of the other special needs babies placed through Spence-Chapin because of several factors.  There was the on-going hope of the birth parents that they would be able, at some point, to properly care for him.   Another factor was the very real difficulty of his continuing medical condition.  When Alex’s information was put up the ASAP website here, there were fewer responses than usual.  He was no longer a baby but now a child of 4. His special needs remained, and would remain, severe.  Nevertheless, a special couple came forward, a same sex couple who wanted to take Alex home and love him but were not able to move ahead because of a medical emergency.

AlexAlex had to wait even longer because of more medical difficulties not his own.  The Mongillo family, well known to us at Spence-Chapin, was very interested in Alex but just when they were to act on adopting him, one of their other children – a baby of two suffering from leukemia – became much sicker and it was determined to hold off on the placement until the Mongillo’s were able to resolve the needs of their baby who was in crisis.  Alex remained at Elizabeth Seton.

AAlexlex didn’t leave the hospital until he was six-years-old.  But, at last, at the end of March of this year, Alex finally went home to his own forever family, the extraordinary Mongillo’s of Long Island.  The family has adopted several times from Spence-Chapin and their home and their hearts seem always open to a child in need.  Each of the children placed in this home has blossomed, making progress far beyond what doctors had predicted.  The household is calm and loving and everyone agrees that Alex will thrive there too and attain every bit of his potential growth and then some.The Mongillo’s will stay in touch with Alex’s birth parents, visiting with them and allowing them to take comfort and joy in Alex’s bright future.  It is truly a happy ending for Alex – and for us.

 

 

Adopting International Special-Needs Children

Traditional adoptions from foreign countries, including China, can take many years, but the wait time for a referral through this program is dependent on a families openness and the current children waiting. It is expected that wait for a referral is significantly less than the current wait for referral in the traditional China adoption program.

There are thousands of children with special needs waiting for a family to love them. The China Waiting program has both boys and girls looking for forever families. Many of the children available through this program have minor or correctable issues such as cleft palate or vision issues while others’ needs are more complicated.

 

Learn more by visiting our China Waiting page.