Q&A with a Birth Mother

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Latoya Sinclair is a birth mother who placed her son for adoption without the support of an adoption agency. Five years later, in a time of crisis, she received help through Spence-Chapin’s birth parent support group. Through this group, she has become an advocate for birth mothers and helped host Spence-Chapin’s 2016 Birth Mother Gathering. Recently, she told us she wanted to help more people by sharing her experience publicly and we are thankful she chose to speak to us. Below, Latoya speaks to Spence-Chapin Outreach Manager, Lucy Shaw, about her experience and hopes for the future.

Lucy: How do you think your experience as a birth mother has changed you?

Latoya: I feel like I grew up way too fast. It’s changed my relationships, how I interact with people, my perspective on life. Even in my career, I’ve always thought I have to do way more because I never want my son to think his birth mom never did anything with her life. I’m still changing. I deal with it every single day.

Lucy: What are some things that you think birth mothers and professionals could learn from your experience.

Latoya: There should never be a situation where a teenager is able to give up her parental rights without being legally represented. Because you are very young and your mind can be easily manipulated. And I wish more birth mothers would come out and not be afraid to say who they are. Because there are a whole bunch of adopted kids who had to come from somewhere.

Lucy: What are some misconceptions people have about birth mothers?

Latoya: I just had lunch today with one of my old counselors and she was surprised that I was getting pictures of my son. I get that a lot from people. They just don’t understand that there is still a connection. They expect people to be numb – as if the feeling of being a mother just disappears.

Lucy: Can you explain why it’s important for you to have photos of your child?

Latoya: I think I would go crazy without it! I see he’s happy and being well taken care of and that gives me peace of mind. It’s sad enough knowing that there is a kid out there that I love that doesn’t know how much I love them. But it would be even worse if every black boy I see walking down the street, I’m wondering, ‘Is he the kid I gave birth to?’

Lucy: And how do you think it’s beneficial for your son to have contact with you?

Latoya: I think it’s good for him to know where he came from. Most people have that information, so they don’t understand what it’s like. Everybody wants to see someone that they look like or are connected to in that way.

Lucy: How do you think adoptive parents could benefit from being more open?

Latoya: They will understand it will benefit this child they love so much. It’s not anything to fear.

Lucy: What types of qualities does it take as a birth parent to be in an open relationship?

Latoya: You need great communication and a willingness to be vulnerable. It is a matter of the heart – it takes being true to yourself and a lot of courage.

Lucy:  What are your thoughts on meeting your son?

Latoya: I’m keeping the door open. I don’t know how I’m going to handle seeing him. I’m leaving it up to him.

Lucy: How do you feel now about parenting?

Latoya: I’m not in the financial place or relationship to have a child right now. But I do want a child. I feel like it is okay for a child to have more than one mother. I’ve never wanted to take away from my son who he calls “mommy”. I’m more child-centered.

Endnote: As an adoption agency, we at Spence-Chapin are here to support women like Latoya and promote their voices as part of the adoption discourse. If Spence-Chapin had been involved when Latoya was pregnant, she would have received options counseling, been counseled on her rights to open adoption, and provided with an attorney at no cost. She would also have been able to choose families that wanted open adoption. Unfortunately, Latoya only found Spence-Chapin five years after she placed her son for adoption and did not have the support of an adoption professional when need it most. However, we are inspired by her strength and commitment to share her story and be a role model for others.

Read Latoya’s story here or watch Latoya describe what would have been different if she’d made an adoption plan with Spence-Chapin, below.

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Biological ParentIf you have a friend, family member or client in need of options counseling, we can help. Call us 24/7 at 1-800-321-LOVE. Contact the writer Lucy Shaw at lshaw@spence-chapin.org.

Latoya’s Story

latoyaLatoya Sinclair is a birth parent who placed her son for adoption without the help of Spence-Chapin. Five years later, she found Spence-Chapin’s support group and has become an advocate for other birth mothers. She wanted to share her story publicly and to help other women in her situation get the support and respect they deserve.

In 2005, at 15 years old, Latoya became pregnant. “I was on the track team, just an average teen.” She remembers her cousin having dreams about fish, which in Caribbean culture means someone is pregnant. She didn’t think it could be her, but her cousin convinced her to stop at the hospital while they were on the way to the supermarket. When the doctor told her she was 2 weeks pregnant, “I kind of had a blank moment,” she describes. “I didn’t really have a reaction until the next day.”

Latoya recalls telling the biological father, “He was older than I was and had other relationships. So I thought it was something more than it was.” He wanted Latoya to have an abortion. At the time, it would have cost her 700 dollars. But when the time came to do it, he denied the baby was his and refused to help. “He just left me in the dark, by myself,” Latoya says.

Latoya lived with her aunt and uncle at the time and they did not want Latoya to raise a child in their house, with her being so young and the biological father being much older. Latoya’s aunt took her to see the family obstetrician and sought her advice. The doctor mentioned that she was seeing a couple who were unable to get pregnant and wanted to adopt. Latoya’s aunt arranged for a brief meeting with the couple. In the meeting, Latoya asked if she would be able to have an open adoption and see her child, and the couple said no. Latoya decided she did not want them to adopt her baby.

Latoya’s pregnancy was a very lonely time. None of the adults in her life understood what she was going through or how to help her. She began to withdraw at home and focus her attention and energy on being an excellent student. “I would go to the doctor by myself and see everyone with their boyfriends or husbands and get very sad,” recalls Latoya tearing up a little.

Due to the age difference with the biological father, Latoya had to testify in a trial against the biological father, for statutory rape. At the end of her pregnancy Latoya decided to go back to planning with the couple she met through her doctor because she felt that she had no other choice. She didn’t know she could turn to a licensed adoption agency to help her understand her rights and options in this critical time.

After a difficult 23-hour labor, Latoya delivered her son. She was disappointed that she wasn’t the first person to hold him and felt a range of emotions while in the hospital. She was happy to have bonded with her baby in hospital, and the adoptive parents would visit often.

The year after the placement was very difficult for Latoya. “People expect you to just go on with your life,” she said, “like you didn’t just have a human being inside you.” She started her Junior year of high school without the emotional support she needed. She was depressed but her family just kept telling her to “be strong”.

While the adoptive parents did not agree to on-going contact with Latoya, they did end up sending a photo and letter through the doctor a year after he was born. Receiving this photo increased Latoya’s desire to connect with the adoptive parents and remain in contact with her son. But this has been difficult for Latoya to do on her own, not knowing how to navigate and strengthen a relationship that was never clear to her when it started. Her son is now 9, and she has seen pictures and videos of him and exchanges a few text messages with his adoptive parents once or twice a year.

Latoya’s story is still unfolding. She has finished college and has a career in government helping others that she enjoys. She continues to strive for the relationship she deserves with her son and his adoptive family.

Endnote: As an adoption agency, we at Spence-Chapin are here to support women like Latoya and promote their voices as part of the adoption discourse. If Spence-Chapin had been involved when Latoya was pregnant, she would have received options counseling, been counseled on her rights to open adoption, and provided with an attorney at no cost. She would also have been able to choose families that wanted open adoption. Unfortunately, Latoya only found Spence-Chapin five years after she placed her son for adoption and did not have the support of an adoption professional when needed it most. But we are inspired by her strength and commitment to share her story and be a role model for others.

Read Latoya’s interview with SC staff here or watch Latoya describe what would’ve been different if she made an adoption plan with Spence-Chapin, below.

latoya

Biological ParentIf you have a friend, family member or client in need of options counseling, we can help. Please call us 24/7 at 1-800-321-LOVE. Contact the writer Lucy Shaw at lshaw@spence-chapin.org

Independent vs. Agency Adoption- What’s the difference?

Many individuals who are new to adoption are often confused about how an independent adoption and an agency adoption differ. When it comes to a domestic adoption, the first thing an adoptive family must decide on is whether to work on your own or work with an experienced adoption attorney or with an adoption organization. We often say that there are two different paths that end at the same point—becoming an adoptive family.

In an independent adoption, prospective adoptive families are guided by an adoption attorney. Families decide where and how to locate a potential birth mother, usually by networking, advertising, or by creating an online profile of their family. Adoptive parents are responsible for appropriate expenses related to the birth mother’s pregnancy and birth of the child; these expenses are state-specific and may include travel to and from the doctor, prenatal care, and/or hospital bills. The type of ongoing relationship between birth and adoptive families (an open adoption) is often discussed prior to the birth of the child between the parents. Many adoptive parents share that they chose the path of independent adoption to network across the entire country in order to be chosen by a birth mother. A home study is a document required for all adoptive parents and even families working with an adoption attorney will need a home study document to finalize the adoption. Spence-Chapin provides many home studies for families pursuing an independent adoption. Families are encouraged to work with an attorney with adoption experience; Spence-Chapin recommends working with a member of the American Academy of Adoption Attorneys.

In an agency adoption, prospective adoptive parents are guided by social workers. Families are encouraged to seek out an accredited or licensed adoption organization. An adoption agency provides options counseling to birth parents, and prepare families to become adoptive parents. The social workers provide the home study and all related adoption documents for the birth and adoptive families. The adoptive parents will create profiles of their family to be shown to birth parents who are making adoption plans. Depending on the agency, adoptive parents may or may not be responsible for supporting a birth parent throughout the pregnancy. At Spence-Chapin, adoptive parents are not individually responsible for financially supporting a birth parent throughout options counseling. Often, the ongoing open adoption relationship will be negotiated with the support of social workers. Adoptive parents share that they chose to work with an adoption agency for the ongoing support and guidance provided by the social work staff. Social workers are there to help each person though every step of the process as well as provide support.

Visit our website to learn more about Spence-Chapin’s domestic adoption program or contact us at (212) 400-8150 or info@spence-chapin.org.  

Preparing Children for the Colombia Host-to-Adopt Program


Spence-Chapin partners with FANA for our Colombia host-to-adopt program. This program allows families interested in adopting an older child the opportunity to host a child in their home for three weeks before committing to the adoption.

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Children in the program, who are matched with a family, gather at FANA, an adoption home in Bogota, for two weeks to prepare for their trip to the United States.  This two-week preparation process is essential in helping the children navigate their fears, expectations, and excitement about traveling to a different country and living with host families.  Even before the children embark on their flights to the U.S., many of them fly into Bogota from other cities within Colombia.  In most cases, this is the child’s first time on a plane which is both thrilling and nerve-racking!

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Many emotions can accompany this excitement.  The staff at FANA help the children make sense of these emotions.  Some children are apprehensive about leaving their home.  Some may fear being rejected by their host families and not finding an adoptive family.  Staff members do their best to empathize with these concerns, knowing that this transition is hard and that each child experiences this process through his or her own personal experience. The staff also discusses how to balance the hope of possibly being adopted while maintaining realistic expectations. The goal is to prepare the children in order for the host-to-adopt experience so that the children can enjoy their time with their American host families.

Listen to Adraina Chavez, head of Clinical Psychology at FANA.

Children have simple questions about what to expect in New York. They want to know what food they will eat, what games they will play, where they will live, and what their host families will be like.  Each host family mails a photo album to the child or children with pictures of their family, the child’s room, bed, and toys.  Because extended family is such an important component of Latin American life, children enjoy looking at the pictures of their extended host family.

FANA has found families for over 9,000 children through this process, so we know the host-to-adopt program is a successful way to connect families and older children while giving each child a voice in the adoption process.

We are seeking host-to-adopt families for next summer!

Call us today to learn more 212-400-8150.

NEWS from Our Outreach Team!

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Dear reader,
We just created a new FAQ for biological parents. Read it here first!

Why should I consider adoption?

This is a very personal choice and there are many reasons people have considered making an adoption plan for their child. Many say it’s because they aren’t ready or able to fully parent a child at this time, but want to choose a loving family and stay connected to their child. Others say they cannot provide the special care their child will need and want to find them a family who can. Others feel they will lose their parental rights, and would rather choose an adoptive family and maintain contact with their child.

What are the benefits of open adoption?

Open adoption is an ongoing relationship between the adoptive family and the birth family. You can decide what this relationship looks like – it may include visits, letters, emails, photos, and phone calls. Birth parents who have chosen open adoption say they couldn’t imagine it any other way. They say that being able to choose and meet the adoptive family and maintain contact is the main reason they chose adoption. They say that being able to see their child grow up in a happy, loving family is what gives them peace of mind. In addition, they say they are happy their child will understand and know their birth parents and their birth story.

How can Spence-Chapin help me with this decision?

You have the right to confidential counseling before making your decision. Every woman or couple we work with is offered FREE options counseling and is assigned their own social worker who is an experienced professional. They will advocate for you in making the decision that feels most right to you. The social worker will answer all your questions and connect you to resources, including health insurance, prenatal care, etc. We can help you fully consider all of your options and advise you on all aspects of making an adoption plan, including open adoption and your legal rights. We respect your decisions and you will never be pressured by us to make an adoption plan.

Why should I trust Spence-Chapin?

At Spence-Chapin, we take a lot of care in supporting and advocating for you. We are a non-profit organization with over 100 years of experience finding loving families for children who need them and we are here to support you throughout your journey. We believe in free, unbiased and confidential support for women and couples making this decision, which is why we have separate and robust processes for working with biological parents and adoptive parents. Our social workers are available for free, unbiased, confidential options counseling in New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut. Those we work with say they appreciate our support and did not feel pressured. In fact, the majority of expectant and biological parents who meet with Spence-Chapin find the resources and support to parent.

What if I want to keep my decision confidential?

Spence-Chapin will respect your right to confidentiality in making this decision. We take your privacy and safety very seriously. If you choose closed adoption and do not want contact after an adoption, Spence-Chapin will respect your rights as well.

What types of people are looking to adopt?

Spence-Chapin has all types of prospective adoptive parents waiting to adopt. They vary in age, background, family structure, religion, race, etc. Some are big families, some are small. Some live in the city, some live in the suburbs. They all are eager to adopt and provide a loving family to a child. You will be able to meet and connect with the people you select. Adoptive parents registered with Spence-Chapin have been screened by our social workers and prepared for open adoption.

Can I hear from other people you’ve worked with?

Yes, hear biological parent perspectives on our youtube page.

Speak to an options counselor
Call 24/7: 1-800-321-LOVE
Text: 646-306-2586
Email: helpline@spence-chapin.org

Email the writer: lshaw@spence-chapin.org
blog post authorBiological Parent
 

U.S. Citizenship for an Adopted Child

Citizenship laws can be confusing for adopted people and adoptive parents. Here is information from the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) website to help you navigate obtaining citizenship for an internationally adopted person. All information represented below is from USCIS not Spence-Chapin. Learn more on their website: https://www.uscis.gov/adoption/bringing-your-internationally-adopted-child-united-states/us-citizenship-adopted-child

Documents That Generally Serve as Evidence of U.S. Citizenship for an Adopted Child

U.S. Passport* Issued by U.S. Department of State (DOS) Visit travel.state.gov for more information, including full instructions, current fees and application.
U.S. Certificate of Citizenship Issued by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) Visit uscis.gov for more information including full instructions, current fees, and application.

*All passport applicants must prove their U.S. citizenship and identity to receive a U.S. passport. A Certificate of Citizenship is generally sufficient to apply for and obtain a U.S. passport for an adopted child. If the adopted child has not received a Certificate of Citizenship, you must submit other proof of acquisition of citizenship, including a certified copy of the final adoption decree (and translation if not in English) and evidence the child met all the conditions in section 320 of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) while under the age of 18.

Note: Some federal agencies may check immigration systems to verify citizenship status. USCIS systems will not be updated with a child’s citizenship status unless the family obtains a Certificate of Citizenship.

Lawful Permanent Residence or Citizenship Upon Admission into the U.S.

Under section 320 of the INA, an adopted child will automatically acquire citizenship upon admission to the United States if he or she satisfies these conditions before turning 18:

  • Qualifies as an “immediate relative” under INA 101(b)(1)(E), (F), or (G),
  • Is admitted as a permanent resident, and
  • Is residing in the United States in the U.S. citizen parent(s)’ legal and physical custody.

INA section 320 became effective on February 27, 2001, when the Child Citizenship Act of 2000 (CCA) was signed into law.  The child must have been under the age of 18 on the effective date in order to have benefited from the CCA.

Note: If a child does not acquire citizenship from the original prospective or adoptive parents, the child may still be eligible to acquire citizenship if later adopted by different U.S. citizen parent(s), provided they meet all the requirements in section 320 of the INA.

If the child is not eligible for automatic citizenship upon admission to the United States, they will become a lawful permanent resident (LPR) and may become a U.S. citizen once all the conditions of INA 320 are met. If the requirements are not met, the child will still be an LPR and may apply for naturalization under INA 316 once eligible to do so. The chart below outlines the visa classifications, process to obtain evidence of an adopted child’s U.S. citizenship, and the documents that generally serve as evidence of U.S. citizenship for an adopted child.

Obtaining a Certificate of Citizenship

If the adopted child does not qualify for a Certificate of Citizenship upon admission, you may still apply for one if your child satisfies the eligibility requirements. You must follow different processes to apply for a Certificate of Citizenship, depending on whether the adopted child will reside inside or outside of the United States with the U.S. citizen parent.

  • General Eligibility: (Please refer to the chart below for more specific guidance.)
    • The adopted child meets the definition of child under INA Section 101(b)(1)(E), (F) or (G);
    • The child is under 18 years of age when all conditions are met; and
    • The child must have at least one U.S. citizen parent (by birth or naturalization).
Child Will Reside Inside the U.S.

(Pursuing U.S. Citizenship under INA Section 320)

Child Will Reside Outside the U.S.

(Pursuing U.S. Citizenship under INA Section 322)

How to Obtain a Certificate of Citizenship

File Form N-600, Application for Certificate of Citizenship.

Additional Requirements:

  • The child is residing in the U.S. in the legal and physical custody of the citizen parent after being lawfully admitted for permanent residence.

Note: Please refer to the Form N-600 filing instructions for information about required evidence, fees and where to file. If the adopted child received an IH-3 or IR-3 visa and met all of the INA 320 requirements upon admission to the U.S., the child will receive a Certificate of Citizenship automatically and it is not necessary to file Form N-600.

How to Obtain a Certificate of Citizenship

File Form N-600K, Application for Citizenship and Issuance of Certificate Under Section 322.

Additional Requirements:

  • The U.S. citizen parent (or a U.S. citizen grandparent, if applicable) meets certain physical presence requirements;
  • The child is residing outside of the United States in the legal and physical custody of the U.S. citizen parent (unless the parent is deceased);
  • The child is temporarily present in the United States after being lawfully admitted, and maintains such status; and
  • Child under age 18 takes the Oath of Allegiance before a USCIS officer, unless waived.

Note: On the Form N-600K, petitioners may request a specific USCIS office or preferred city and state for interview, as well as a preferred interview date that is at least 90 days after filing the Form N-600K. After USCIS receives and processes the form, USCIS will send an appointment notice to the family to appear for an interview at a domestic USCIS field office on a particular date.  The family may apply for a B-2 visa or other available nonimmigrant visa for the child to travel to the U.S. and must pay the required fee. A nonimmigrant visa is not needed if the child obtains an immigrant visa, and is admitted as an LPR, but will not be residing in the United States.  The family may apply for the visa at the same post that processed their adoption case or apply at another post if they currently live in a different country.

Children of Armed Forces/Military Service Members and U.S. Government Employees

  • The adopted child of a U.S. citizen armed forces member who is accompanying their parent abroad on official orders may be naturalized without having to travel to the United States for any part of the process if he or she qualifies under INA 322.
    • Additionally, a U.S. citizen parent who is a member of the armed forces may count any period of time they resided abroad on official orders as physical presence in the United States.
  • An adopted child of a member of the armed forces or U.S. government employee issued an IR-3or IH-3 will be eligible for automatic issuance of a Certificate of Citizenship upon admission even if he or she intends to return abroad; provided all of the other conditions under INA 320 are met.
  • An adopted child of a member of the armed forces or U.S. government employee issued an IR-2 visa will not automatically be issued a Certificate of Citizenship but the parent may file a Form N-600 after admission or Form N-600K (even if they intend to return abroad), provided that all of the other conditions under either Section 320 or Section 322 of the INA are met.

*NOTE: The information on this page is meant to be a general guide. The charts provide an overview of citizenship issues related to adopted children and this page is not a definitive policy document. The facts of individual cases will be reviewed and adjudicated on a case-by-case basis. This page is not intended to, does not, and may not be relied upon to create any right or benefit, substantive or procedural, enforceable at law or by any individual or other party in removal proceedings, in litigation with the United States, or in any other form or manner.  Last Revised 9/2/2016.

Above is information from the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) website to navigate obtaining citizenship for an internationally adopted person. All information represented is from USCIS not Spence-Chapin. Learn more on their website: https://www.uscis.gov/adoption/bringing-your-internationally-adopted-child-united-states/us-citizenship-adopted-child.