Among the children with special needs waiting to be adopted, children with Hepatitis B face many challenges. Hepatitis B is a blood-borne infection that can be spread to a child from his or her birthmother.
This disease can cause damage to the liver and can affect the body’s immune response. Although a serious infection, Hepatitis B is “vaccine-preventable” and treatable. Currently in the U.S. the two approved treatment options for children with chronic hepatitis B are: (1) Intron A (interferon alpha) and (2) Epivir-HBV (lamivudine).
Understandably, prospective adoptive parents often have reservations about adopting a child who is infected with Hepatitis B and may have questions about how this infection will affect their lives as well as the life of their child. Symptoms for chronic Hepatitis B which include jaundice, fever, liver enlargement, and abdominal pain but the good news with this infection is that due to developing immune systems, many babies and children do not ever experience these symptoms.
The first step an adoptive parent can take is to make sure that everyone in the family is already vaccinated for the virus and screened. An adopted child who is infected should be regularly seen by a doctor and treatment options should be thoroughly explained. Hepatitis B is common in areas of certain countries but it is treatable. Adoptive parents should always contact a family physician with any concerns or medical questions—follow-up is key.
The Modern Family Center at Spence-Chapin also provides informational and support services for parents who adopt children with Hepatitis B. We are honored to work with parents who adoptchildren with special needs and recognize that, although it is a big undertaking, these children are receiving the love and care they deserve.
What You Need to Know about Hepatitis B
Spence-Chapin Modern Family Center
Spence-Chapin works to find families for children from a variety of diverse and vulnerable populations. These populations include children with special needs.
Down syndrome is a genetic disorder in which a child has 3 copies of chromosome 21, instead of 2. 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. 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.
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.
If you’re reading this, it’s most likely because your mom or dad sent it your way. But don’t stop reading yet. First think of what you’re most excited about as you get ready for college.
Got it? Well, as exciting as going off to college can be, it can also be a really nerve-wracking experience. Forget about everything you need to pack; how are you going to manage making friends, getting good grades, and living away from home for the first time?
You may be wondering what adoption has to do with all of this. Maybe you didn’t spend a lot of time thinking about your adoption when you were younger, but as you’ve grown older, you’ve dealt with issues other teens haven’t, and you may be wondering if it has to do with you being adopted. You’re not alone! Graduating from high school and transitioning to college is a major life event, and you may find yourself thinking about your identity, independence, fitting in, and the idea of family in new ways.
College is your time to figure out who you are! You’ll want to find ways to get involved, build community and meet other adoptees or students that share your birth culture or nationality. You may be nervous about fitting in with those groups, having to explain your family to a new set of people, or simply being homesick.
Summer’s here… but Kindergarten’s near!
Going off to kindergarten and starting a new school can be stressful for any child, but for your adopted child, there may be even more resistance and anxiety surrounding new experiences, change, and adjustment. While the change may be many months away, you should start talking about it now as it can take kids a long time to get excited about such a big transition!
According to studies cited in Raising Adopted Children [Quill, 2002], the pressures of transitioning to a new school might emphasize your child’s core adoption issues such as feelings of rejection and loss. As a result, he or she may feel some anger or mistrust towards you or the other important people in their lives, as well as question the permanency of your family. Sometimes adopted children are able to talk about these fears, but more often than not, they are unable to articulate what is really bothering them.
Although it is common for adoption issues to arise during school transitions, not all adopted kids experience anxiety or challenges in the same way. By being self-aware, sensitive, and helping to build confidence, you can ensure that your child has the solid foundation he or she needs to have a positive school experience! To help support your child, you can:
- Talk to him or her about expectations and reaffirm the concept of your family’s permanency despite new changes that may be occurring.
- Emphasize what is going to remain the same and help to establish consistent routines like taking the bus each day, having an afternoon snack, or doing homework together after dinner.
- Talk to your child about handling unwelcome questions about adoption or being different from their peers. If you are unsure how to help your child respond, join us for our How to Talk to Young Children about Adoption workshop. (LINK)
- Have Spence-Chapin connect with your child’s school to ensure their teaching environment accepts and values the way all families are created, especially those formed through adoption. Schools should be sensitive to all cultures and languages in the classroom, especially for children adopted internationally and transracially. If your child’s school could benefit from increased adoption sensitivity, we are happy assist! Our “Adoption in Schools” workshop is available to your school at no cost.
For more insight about this topic, tune in for our FREE upcoming webinar, “Off to Kindergarten” on Tuesday, August 12th, from 6:30p.m. – 7:30p.m.
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!
Associate Director of International Programs Ben Sommers recently had the opportunity to visit Bogota, Colombia to meet with our Colombian representatives and visit institutions. Here, he shares his perspective on the changing landscape of adoption in the country.
To those individuals and entities working within child welfare, “changing landscape” is an oft-repeated refrain referring to a generalized way to understand the broad shifts that have taken place in the field over the last several decades. In more specific terms, one of the most significant developments is the ballooning number of older children, children with special needs, and sibling groups who are living in institutionalized care. For Spence-Chapin, our own organizational shift is focused around taking a proactive approach to addressing the realities of this new landscape.
Colombia offers a compelling illustration of what the new landscape looks like. I recently had the privilege of traveling to Bogota to visit with our Colombian representatives and see firsthand how the rhetoric of changing landscape translated into reality. Bogota is Colombia’s most populous city, being home to approximately eight million people. Similar to any child welfare system in any nation on the spectrum of economic and social development, stories of children coming into the protection system due to poverty, violence, neglect, and substance abuse are commonplace.
The Colombian central authority on child welfare, Instituto Colombiano de Bienstar Familiar (ICBF) has approximately eleven thousand children under its protection in the Bogota region. Of these eleven thousand children, approximately eight thousand have a legal status that allows for international adoption. The vast majority of this population of eight thousand children is made up of older children, children with special needs, and sibling groups. While international and domestic policies prioritize domestic options, the children in protection institutes grow older, explaining the growing population number. Colombia’s domestic policies are admirable in their focus on family preservation and domestic options for these children but as these long processes unfold, or when they fail to yield legitimate options, the children get older.
What I saw during my visits to four protection institutions clearly illustrated this reality: the former nurseries converted to dormitory-style housing, large outside play areas with soccer fields and basketball courts, varied facilities and extracurricular programming, and large staffs of child psychologists focused on the mental well-being of the growing number of children in each institution. It should be noted that the four institutions I visited are exceptional in terms of the resources available enabling them to turn into well-run, holistic facilities. Nonetheless, despite their summer camp-esque exteriors, the children in their care almost exclusively come from difficult backgrounds where abuse, transition, and disappointment have been present. Hence, the clinical focus on mental health and the socializing focus on creating structure, routine, and normalcy.
Again, the protection institutions I visited had the resources that allowed them to create these safe and structured environments. The institutions in rural, lower income areas that are home to thousands of children are not as fortunate. Also not as fortunate is the population of children with special needs who are living within the protection system. I heard numerous stories from child welfare professionals of misdiagnoses combined with bureaucratic indifference that has led to hundreds of children being placed in institutions that are inappropriate for their specific needs. Sadly, these children lack the advocates to help them find a more appropriate environment.
Ultimately, the children I saw are being productive. They take art classes, sing Disney songs, and idolize Lionel Messi. But for them, the notions of “permanent family” and a life free of foreseeable transition are still painted in somewhat vague colors. Many of the children are able to express the agency they feel over their futures by vocalizing either directly or indirectly their desire to be a part of a permanent family. There are challenges that exist for our adoptive families who hope to adopt these children, and these children will face challenges as they navigate the most significant transition of their lives. The limited snapshot of the Colombian child welfare system I was able to glimpse shows that the “changing landscape” rhetoric is grounded in the reality of individual anecdotes and that while the specific institutions I visited have constructed environments where children are able to progress, the key element of permanency is still missing.