What is a Birthland Trip and Should Your Family Do One?

A birthland trip is a trip made to an adoptee’s country of birth. A birthland trip can be made at any time in an adoptee’s life, and can be done alone, with family, or in a group. Individuals and families go on these trips for many reasons, but primarily, they serve as a way to connect an adoptee to his/her birth culture, and in so doing, engage more deeply with a part of his/her identity and past.

We spoke with Beth Friedberg, a therapist at Spence-Chapin with over 20 years of experience working with children and families, to provide some more context and advice on birthland trips.

Thinking about a birthland trip? 

If you are considering a birthland trip, we invite you to speak with one of our counselorsbeforehand, who can answer any questions or concerns you may have. If you would like to participate in one of our group birthland trips, you can find out more here. To read more about one family’s birthland trip experience, click here.

“People go on birthland trips for a lot of different reasons, at different ages and stages in their lives,” Beth explained. “The birthland trip is a different kind of connecting to the adoption story—it’s more tangible.”

How do you know it’s the right time for a birthland trip?

“Sometimes the birthland trip is initiated by the parents because they want very much for help their children make connections to their birth culture, foster families, or birth families,” Beth said. “Sometimes it’s propelled by the kids, who have a lot of curiosity and questions about their beginnings, and they’re asking. Usually, it’s somewhere in between.”

“In our coaching at Spence-Chapin, we try to help families realize that they will never be 100% confident with their decisions—that there will always be a certain amount of worry, fear, and concerns about how it may go. We work with families to help them decide how much concern they are willing to handle.”

In thinking about the right time, Beth advises it’s important to consider what other changes are occurring in the family system in that year. If the family has just moved, the kids have recently changed schools, or something else has happened that might make it more difficult to unpack some of the issues that can come up in a birthland trip, it might be best to wait until the next year.

Beth notes that while some children initiate the idea of a birthland trip through their curiosity and questions, others may not be interested in going at first, perhaps because of fear, or just indifference. In those cases, she suggests that parents find something that already excites their child and build on that in order to engage them in the in the prospect of a birthland trip.

“If your child loves music or pop culture, expose them to popular songs or soap operas from their birth culture. If they like cooking, or food, or history, you can share those aspects of their birth culture with them. Tap into what already has meaning for your child and build their interest and curiosity on that.”

How do you prepare for the emotional impact of a birthland trip?

“At Spence-Chapin, we provide coaching to prepare” Beth explained. “One of the main things we do in coaching for a birthland trip is to step back as a way to move into the future and explore identity. We help families go back and review the adoption process and history—to go through those photos, videos, and stories—and see how your child reacts, to gauge what he or she might be ready for.”

“It’s also important for the parents to spend time thinking about that it will be like for them to go back, and thinking through what their child might ask, and working through that with the coaching before the trip, so no one is caught off guard during the trip when it might be more challenging to handle surprises.”

“Where the real learning happens, where the family’s relationship becomes closer, is in the times that may be difficult, and working through that together. That is the way relationships grow stronger—when we show up for each other.”

Global Family Day – Fun had by all!

IMG_5285

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!

 

 

Family Story: Chris and Mary

Davila family

Photo by Jess Rotenberg Photography – www.jessrotenberg.com

Chris and Mary share their story of adopting their daughter from South Africa.

The Davila family knew they wanted to grow their family through adoption after a mission trip to Liberia brought them face to face with the children who were in need of family. They wasted little time after their realization that adoption was right for them. Two years later were able to adopt their daughter Arri from Ethiopia. Another two years flew by, and they knew they were ready to adopt again.

After years of searching for the right program, Chris and Mary finally decided that the South Africa program at Spence-Chapin was a perfect fit for their family. According to Mary, they came to this conclusion because they were encouraged by the answers that they got about the South Africa program. They liked that the children placed internationally tend to fall into a more vulnerable category of having special needs, being older, or being part of a sibling group. And also “we were encouraged by Spence-Chapin’s enthusiasm about the program and their honesty about the adoption process.”

One of Chris and Mary’s most memorable moments in the adoption process was when they received “the call”. They had been matched with a 20 month old little girl! A few months later they travelled to South Africa with their four year old daughter on what they describe as a transformative trip for their family.

“We are so grateful that our whole family was able to be in South Africa together. We were welcomed with open arms and made so many friends there. We met our daughter, Etta, on our first full day in country and it was love at first sight. Etta took to our older daughter, Arri, in a heartbeat, and one of our most cherished memories is the sight of Arri taking Etta by the hand, walking her out of her care center for the last time, and into the arms of our forever family.”

The Davila family was struck by the commitment of the staff to the children in their care at Johannesburg Child Welfare (JCW), Spence-Chapin’s partner agency in South Africa. Mary says that their social worker was “a saint who advocates tirelessly for the children and also manages to be 100% on top of all of the paperwork involved in an adoption.” They took comfort in knowing that their social worker would be by their side in every meeting in South Africa and that she knew their daughter: her personality, likes, and dislikes. She was available to answer questions at any hour of the day and clearly loved the children.

Chris and Mary have been home with Etta for about eight months. They describe Etta as “playful, hilariously funny, and sweet, sweet, sweet. “ According to Mary, their family transition has been very smooth.

“We are so grateful to Spence Chapin for helping us grow our family. Words cannot express our gratitude.”

To learn more about adoption from South Africa, please visit our South Africa program page or contact us at info@spence-chapin.org.

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.