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.

Meet Elizabeth!

Here at the Modern Family Center, our mission is to provide a community that connects with and understands you and your family. And what better way to do so than to introduce you to who we are?

This month we talked to Dr. Elizabeth Studwell, Psy.D., Manager of Mental Health Services, about her work.

ElizabethStudwellWhy did you want to work at the Modern Family Center?

I specifically wanted to work at the Modern Family Center because I believe very strongly in the freedom and acceptance to have and be a part of a “Modern Family.” I want to provide support to individuals and families that find themselves feeling different than the norm. I feel very passionately about adoption and feel that it often takes extra strength to be a part of a unique family structure, whatever that might be. All children deserve a family and all families deserve to be happy and healthy.

 

What is the most challenging part of your job?

The most challenging part of my job is the consultation work that I do for foster care agencies. I help to support children whose parents have not been able to fully care for their needs.

Describe your job in 3 words.
Dynamic, rewarding, humbling

Describe your experience in mental health counseling.

I completed my doctorate in clinical psychology from The Chicago School of Professional Psychology and have been engaged in providing mental health services in a variety of settings for almost ten years. I have volunteered and worked at a residential institution in Colombia preparing children for adoption. I have provided coaching, counseling, and consulting as well as psychological assessment in variety of settings including inpatient psychiatric hospitals, outpatient clinics, behavioral day schools, and foster care agencies. I am clinically trained primarily in attachment based psychotherapy, relational therapy, cognitive-behavioral therapy and trauma focused psychotherapy.

Honoring and Celebrating Family Connections

snowflakeHolidays are a time for connecting with loved ones and provide the opportunity for time travel – we visit our past, experience the present, and set intentions for the future.

It’s easy to think about the family members we see and touch base with regularly. But what about those who were part of your child’s life before they were part of your family? It could be birth or foster families, orphanage caregivers, or early childhood friends. Even if your child was too young to remember these relationships, they are an important part of your child’s history and who they are today. Finding ways to bring their birth family, birth culture, and past into the present is important for deepening your relationship with your child.

Be imaginative about honoring those connections. The rituals and traditions you create with your child can be tangible and concrete, like putting together a Lifebook that has pictures of those important people, sending letters and cards, or setting up a visit. If you don’t have direct contact, the rituals can be symbolic. Go for a walk in the park where you first decided to adopt; eat the favorite food of that important person every Thanksgiving; collect stones from important places in your child’s life. The smallest detail can have a huge impact on your child now and in the future. Remember, be creative and make it a special tradition that is unique to your family. Your child might not like or understand the meaning of the rituals now, but it is important that you’re doing all that you can do to document and celebrate your child’s past so they can cherish it in the future. When you honor those who are connected to your child, you are honoring your children, their story, and your family’s roots.

Meet Ana Maria!

Here at the Modern Family Center, our mission is to provide a community that connects with and understands you and your family. And what better way to do so than to introduce you to who we are?

This month we talked to Ana Maria Leon Gomez, LMHC, about her work. 
A.M.LeonGomez

  1. Why did you choose to work at Spence Chapin’s Modern Family Center?

I chose to work here because I really believe in Spence-Chapin’s mission. I really feel that children’s lives change when they are adopted into a forever family. I think it’s very important that children are loved and cared for and have a family they can rely on.

 

  1. When did you become interested in a career in adoption?

I started working in the area of psychology since I was very young after I graduated from Vassar College. I then carried out my Master’s degree at the University of Manchester in England. These studies led me to open my private practice, where I came across children who were adopted and helped them with the process. Three and a half years ago I moved to the U.S from my native Honduras. I started working at Spence-Chapin as a bilingual clinician working fully in adoption.

  1. What’s a typical workday?

My workdays are very varied. Somedays I see clients at our Brooklyn or Manhattan offices. I work with families, adoptees, birth parents and individuals with different mental health issues. Other days I work as a consultant with the foster care agencies we partner with. I provide guidance and training for their staff and foster parents particularly those that are Spanish-speaking. I also provide clinical services for some of their families. My job is really very exciting and never monotonous. It comes alive every day.

  1. What is the most challenging part of your job?

The most challenging part is when I see children who have experienced trauma. Sometimes they’re so young, six or seven, and they’ve undergone trauma that an adult may not have had in their whole lifetime. It’s difficult to deal with but at the same time, when you do start working with the child and the family and their lives start changing, you know you’re doing something positive.

  1. What is the most rewarding part of your job?

The most rewarding part of my job is when you see the family improve and deal with everyday life in a more positive way. In regards to the children it´s important for them to know their story, to be able to look at it and integrate it as part of who they are. In this way I help them be happier and be more productive in their lives.

  1. How would you describe your job in three words?

Important, rewarding, and compassionate.

  1. Has working at the Modern Family Center changed you in any way?

Working here has made me grow in many ways. It’s helped me understand that there are many communities we can work with, and all these communities require different kinds of help and therapeutic interventions. I have also appreciated more the value of teamwork and how together we can achieve the goals we have set for ourselves.

Want to learn more about how our clinic can help you and your family through parent coaching or counseling? Call us at 646-539-2167.

Can we do this?

Can we do this blog post picture

How this question all parents face relates to parenting an older child

Inevitably there is a “can we do this?” moment for parents—all parents. It can occur before a child arrives. It can occur when that child is growing. It can occur if that child is a biological child. It can occur if that child is an adopted child. It can occur during easy, happy times. It can occur when there are storms to be weathered. It can occur once. Or it can occur every day. Inevitably—it will occur.

Questions we often hear prospective parents ask include:

  • Can we do this? Can we adopt? Can we raise a child who may not look like us?
  • Can we raise an older child? What about a child who was born in another country?
  • What if they have experienced trauma? Will that child be able to understand that we love him or her?

Will we be able to weather those storms?

We know that there are certain traumas that can accompany life in the child welfare system, either domestically or internationally. Sometimes the separation from biological family is itself the traumatic event and sometimes that trauma is only realized later. The knowledge of this as a possibility for their child can cause worry for parents. It can cause parents considering international or older child adoption to ask the same question other parents ask themselves every day: “Can we do this?”

At Spence-Chapin we provide families with the resources needed to make an informed decision and one that is right for each family. We support families in arriving at their answer to that inevitable question and provide continued support as that question is bound to come up again—and that’s okay.

Some helpful essential reads on older child adoption can be found here:

  • Our Own: Adopting and Parenting the Older Child by Trish Maskew
  • Parenting the Hurt Child: Helping Adoptive Families Heal and Grow by Gregory Keck
  • Parenting Your Internationally Adopted Child: From Your First Hours Together    Through the Teen Years by Patty Cogen
  • The Primal Wound: Understanding the Adopted Child by Nancy Newton Verrier

For more information about our domestic, international and older child adoption programs, please contact the Adoption Team at 212-400-8150 or info@spence-chapin.org.

To schedule a pre-adoption consultation or if you would like more information about our Adoption Support & Counseling Services, please contact Spence Chapin’s Modern Family Center at 646-539-2167 or info@modernfamilycenter.org.

Great Children’s Books Featuring LGBT Parents

Here are some of our favorite children’s books that depict same-sex headed families. We hope you enjoy! If you need help talking about your family with your child, friends, or community, we offer short-term parent coaching to help you find the right words. Are there other ways we can support you? Let us know by taking a few minutes to complete this survey.

1 2 3 A Family Counting Book, Bobbie Combs
combs, b

This delightful book celebrates today’s families as it teaches kids to count from one to twenty. All of the full color paintings depict gay and lesbian headed families.

 

 

 

Who’s in My Family? All About Our Families, Robbie Harris
harris, r

This book is fun and full of charming illustrations depicting all families. This engaging story interweaves conversations between the siblings and a matter-of-fact text, making it clear to every child that whoever makes up your family, it is perfectly normal — and totally wonderful.

 

 

 

Heather Has Two Mommies, Lesléa Newman
newman, l

Heather’s favorite number is two. She has two arms, two legs, two pets, and two mommies. As school begins, Heather sees that, “the most important thing about a family is that all the people in it love one another.”

 

 

 

The Family Book, Todd Parr
parr, t

This book celebrates all kinds of families in a funny, silly and reassuring way. It includes adoptive families, step families, single-parent families, two-mom and two-dad families, and families with a mom and a dad.

 

 

 

And Tango Makes Three, Justin Richardson & Peter Parnell
richardson, j & parnell,p

Male penguins Roy and Silo at New York’s Central Park Zoo keep putting a rock in their nest and try to hatch it. The zookeeper gives them a real egg that needs care. The penguins take turns sitting on it until it hatches, and Tango is born.

 

 

Stella Brings the Family, Miriam B. Schiffer
schiffer, m

Stella’s class is having a Mother’s Day celebration, but what’s a girl with two daddies to do? Fortunately, she finds a unique solution to her party problem in this sweet story about love, acceptance, and the true meaning of family.

Post-Adoption Books

 

Stack-of-Parenting-BooksTalking about adoption with your family can be difficult. Where do you even begin the conversation? Sometimes reading about other people’s experiences can make it easier to talk about your own. These books explore adoption, race identity, foster care, and the feelings from love to loneliness to everything in-between. They’re perfect to read as your family begins to talk about their own story.

Children Ages 0 – 5

  • We Belong Together, Todd Parr
  • A Mother for Choco, Keiko Kasza
  • Welcome Home Little Baby, Lisa Harper
  • Brown Like Me, Noelle Lamperti

Children Ages 6 – 11

  • Pancakes with Chocolate Syrup, Rebekah Barlow Rounce
  • Heaven, Angela Johnson
  • The Wanderer, Sharon Creech

Children Ages 12 – 18

  • Ninth Ward, Jewell Parker Rhodes
  • The Returnable Girl, Pamela Lowell
  • Pieces of Me, Edited by Bert Ballard

Photo Album or Early Lifebook

  • Create a small photo album
  • Don’t use original photos or irreplaceable items (if making a scrapbook)
  • Start the book with the start of the child’s life, not the start of their life with you
  • Leave blank pages as space holders where you have no information
  • Expand the book or create new books as child hits important life milestones
  • Join us for our upcoming Lifebook workshop on September 27th at 1pm.

Fall 2017 Colombia Host to Adopt Program

Host to Adopt blogpost

Spence-Chapin partners with The Foundation for the Assistance of Abandoned Children (FANA) in Colombia for a special host-to-adopt program. This is an opportunity to host a child or children in your home for three weeks over the fall before finalizing the adoption. Waiting children are boys and girls (including sibling groups) ages 11-14. Participating families must be located in the greater New York City area (includes Long Island, the Hudson Valley, New Jersey, and Connecticut).

Colombia Fall 2017 Host to Adopt Program Timeline:

  • May 15, 2017: Adoption applications are due
  • May – August, 2017: Begin home study and adoption trainings
  • August 2017: Home study must be completed, due at this time to Colombia’s child welfare Central Authority.
  • August – October 2017: Learning about the child or children family is matched with, continuing to prepare for hosting and adoption-related paperwork. Hosting dates will be decided by Colombia and announced during this time.
  • Fall (October or November 2017): Hosting time is 2-3 weeks, supported by bilingual psychologist from adoption house FANA and Spence-Chapin staff
  • December 2017 – June 2018: After hosting period, complete adoption paperwork to move forward with finalizing the adoption, estimate of 6 months though times will vary for families.
  • Summer 2018: Travel to Colombia for approximately 4-6 weeks to finalize the adoption

Contact our Adoption Team at 212-400-8150 or info@spence-chapin.org.              Ready to apply? Download the Colombia host-to-adopt application here.

We’re opening a new office in New Jersey!

new-jersey-nanny-taxesTo serve our New Jersey families even better, Spence-Chapin and the Modern Family Center are excited to announce that we’re expanding our locations! Our new office is located at Work and Play, 19 Prospect Street, South Orange, NJ  07079. Celebrate with us at our Grand Opening on Tuesday, October 20th from 6:00 – 8:00pm, and meet the newest member of our New Jersey team, Addie Haler, LMSW. Drop by, check out the amazing space, and learn about our services, including adoption programs, counseling, parent coaching, and social events.

You won’t want to miss our first New Jersey Bagels & Blox on Sunday, November 15th, from 10:30am – 12:30pm. See you soon!

Meet our new 2015-2016 Mentors!

We’re excited to welcome five new mentors to our Mentorship Program.  This program empowers adoptees through friendship, building self-confidence and challenging them to discover and understand their adoption identities and experiences.


Patricia
Patricia
This is my first year as a mentor and I am so excited to be a part of this program! I was born in Armenia, Colombia and was adopted at 1.5 years old. I was raised in Washington State with two older sisters and one younger sister. My younger sister is adopted as well, but from Guatemala. I grew up in a small town where most of my friends were adopted from different countries all over the world. It was very neat to grow up in a town where adoption was important to the community. I have a strong interest working with people and majored in Psychology in college. I worked as a nanny while going to school and knew I wanted to continue working with kids and teenagers once I moved to New York. My adopted parents and I visited Colombia several years ago. I was able to see where I was born and better understand the Colombian culture. This year, my husband and I are planning another trip to Colombia and we are very much looking forward to seeing the country. We hope to adopt from Colombia someday. Until then, I am excited for the time I will get to spend with the mentors, the mentees, and to get to know you all.

Michelle
Michelle
I was adopted in New York when I was a young child. Although I faced many struggles growing up and my parents were not open at all to discussing my adoption, I have thrived, becoming a philanthropic humanitarian who gives back to the world and honors the people who have helped to transform my life. At my graduation commence ceremony, I walked twice. Once for each undergraduate degree I’d earned. It was a defining moment. I’d defied every label and diagnosis ever placed on me and in front of me. Since then I’ve traveled the world, worked for the government, went to law school, completed graduate school, and become a minister.  I love to travel, cook, exercise, sing, write, read, and learn new things. I am passionate about public speaking, team building, American Sign Language, and learning from different cultures. As a mentor in this program I hope to share, shape, influence, and empower adoptees during one of the most impressionable seasons of their life-the journey in which they discover their identities.

Marielle
MarielleI was born in China and was adopted, at the age of 7, into a loving family.  My father was Sicilian and my mother is Irish and German.  Unfortunately my father passed when I was 10 years old.  I believe that has made me the strong and compassionate person I am today.  I am 24 years old and a graduate of SUNY Geneseo.  I knew I always wanted to help people; therefore, I am currently applying to physical therapy school and hope to be admitted next year.  Presently, I work in a physical therapy practice as a physical therapy aide.  In my spare time I love to work out at the gym, ride my bike and hang out with friends.  I am looking forward to becoming a mentor this year and hope to help the mentees feel more comfortable with any issues they may have regarding their adoptions.

Jon
JonMy name is Jon and I am pleased to be with you here at Spence-Chapin. My adoption background is fairly well known compared to most that I know and I am looking forward to sharing my experiences as well as promote my positive outlook on life.  Being adopted from Chile at a very young age from the most supportive parents and family unit has helped shaped who I am today when it comes to relationships.  I work for an internet marketing firm, Taboola, as an account manager, analyzing ad campaigns and helping foster ongoing relationships between client and company. While I am away from the media/internet scene, I enjoy parks, beaches, walking, seeing as many live shows and concerts as possible, or just relaxing with some Netflix after a long week.

Dana
DanaIt’s like being late to a movie.  You know the characters, location, mood and general plot – but the whole time, you can’t help but feel like you missed an integral part in the beginning that could affect every scene. I had always known I was adopted, but wasn’t aware of its meaning until age 7 when we learned about basic genetics in school.  I can remember the specific point in time when I realized that my brown eyes weren’t my mom’s or my dad’s.  I was different than the other kids. Between being a sensitive and emotional person to begin with, coupled with having been nurtured by incredibly loving, strong, supportive parents, I have grown into an adult who values emotional connectivity to self and others. Thirty years ago, I was privately adopted from North Carolina days after my birth.  I grew up in a happy home in suburban New York where my childhood was filled with piano and horseback riding lessons, summer camp, sports – everything a child needs and wants. My mid-twenties were difficult, naturally exploring my identity as maturity set in.  I discovered that my birth mom had died years prior and that I was part of a biological family that I had never known existed.  Before I was able to search, my birth sister found me through Facebook.  I met her soon after and learned so much about my birth story and more importantly about myself. I was part of my birth family, but had also never felt more connected to my parents. I love learning about new things and have a natural curiosity about people.  I work with children in orthopedic healthcare and love art, music, TV and sports, and anything science! I am excited to form meaningful, genuine relationships with mentees and hopefully I can learn from them as well!

Korean Language Immersion Program

Hosted in association with the Social Welfare Society, Inc. (SWS) and Kyunghee University, we’re offering a wonderful opportunity to live in Seoul and experience life as a university student in Korea. This is an intensive, structured 10 week program where you’ll be immersed in Korean language and culture courses five days a week, four hours a day.

Program dates: October 2 – December 11, 2015 (fall) and December 18, 2015 – February 26, 2016 (winter)

Application deadlines: August 25, 2015 (fall) and November 3, 2015 (winter)

Documents required:

  • Cover letter
  • Application
  • Copy of passport
  • 6 Passport photos

Cost: SWS subsidizes 100% of tuition but applicants are on their own for airfare, housing, and living expenses; SWS can provide a room in the guesthouse at a reduced rate.

Korean adoptees ages 18 and up are welcome to apply. Contact Dana Stallard at dstallard@spence-chapin.org or 212-360-0213. Preference will be given to those who are applying for the first time.

Staff Interview: Meet Dana!

Here at the Modern Family Center, our mission is to provide a community that connects with and understands you and your family. And what better way to do so than to introduce you to who we are?

DanaThis month we talked to Dana Stallard, LMSW, Community Programming Coordinator, about her work.

  1. How did you become interested in adoption?
    I’m adopted, so it definitely was a personal thing. I had never thought about working in adoption, but I saw a posting for a position at Spence-Chapin. The agency has a really good reputation and when I had an interview I really liked the people who worked here, so I thought it would be a good fit. There are positive things about working in adoption while being an adoptee, and things that make it harder at times, as well. I think it helps to share an experience with the community that you work with, and really have that empathy and understanding as to what support services you can provide. But on the flip side, I sort of expect more of myself in working with the community, and sometimes put more responsibility on myself to be able to do more than what I’m actually able to do in my position. They may not feel I am being helpful or that I’m doing all that I can do to support them, and then I feel that extra pressure to be able to make a positive influence or difference.
  2. What’s a typical workday?
    The majority of my work is personal adoption history, so working with clients who want background information, and programming, so developing adoptee services programs, workshops, events, groups, or coordinating our mentorship program. And then there are some more miscellaneous tasks, but those are where I spend most of my time, either with preparing information for clients or actually developing and consulting programs.
  3. What is the most challenging part of your job?
    I definitely think that my work with adoptees wanting access to their birth family information is the most challenging part of the job. There are a lot of legal constraints to the work that I do, and I’m not able to share any identifying information with domestic adoptees. So if they come to the agency wanting to know more about their background or their birth family, I can only share really general information with them. I can share information that could be really helpful. I could find out about the education or health or nationality of their birth families, but adoptees ultimately want to search for their birth parents, and I can’t help them with that. Because of the legal restrictions, it feels like we’re not able to help people as much as they would want. It’s kind of an ongoing moral dilemma, like “how can we possibly help people with their ultimate goals which we’re not able to provide for them?”
  4. What is the most rewarding part of your job?
    There are a lot of really good things about working here, like being able to create a sense of belonging and community for adoptees. The Mentorship Program is my most favorite part about my position. The most rewarding part of the program for me is seeing the kids connect with one another and with the adults, and having a space where everyone in the room is adopted and has shared experiences. With kids or with adults it seems to be really memorable and has a really big impact on me when I leave an event and just want to call someone and say, “This event is going so well! The families are connecting and the kids are playing with each other.” Or just meeting an adult who has never had an opportunity to really be with other adoptees before. You’d be surprised at how many people who are forty, fifty, sixty years old, or even older, say they’ve never met another adoptee before, or they’ve never talked to someone who is adopted, or heard an adoption story. So it’s really meaningful for them to able to find that here.
  5. Describe your job in three words.
    Community, history, and identity.
  6. How has working at MFC changed you, in any way?
    It’s definitely helped me to grow and to learn more about the birth parent community which I hadn’t had any experience with. Working at Spence-Chapin and MFC has helped me to grow professionally and as a social worker. I’ve only been out of school for five years so I’m still very new in the world of professional social work, so I think it’s been really good to have colleagues that are so professional, so intelligent, and people that have worked here for so many years and are so dedicated to our mission. It’s been really good to see that model and be around so many committed social workers.

You can meet Dana at our upcoming event, Korean Cultural Connections! We’ll be joined by the Donghwa Cultural Foundation to honor your child’s Korean heritage through food, language, and a traditional tea ceremony.

Adoption Lifestages

Not all kids develop their adoption understanding at the same time, but there are some commonalities that can help parents understand how to support their child.

AdoptionLifestagesWe offer programs, as well as short-term parent coaching to help you get the ball rolling on these important but sometimes difficult conversations.

Global Family Day – Fun had by all!

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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.

74 Year-Old Adoptee Advocates for Open Records

From my oldest memory I always knew that I was adopted and never hid that fact. I grew up Brooklyn, graduated from Bernard M Baruch College, got married, and had two children. I was never very interested in finding out more about my adoption, but my wife and children asked me from time to time. Then about 5 years ago I was going through some old papers and came across the legal adoption papers as filed with the court. That triggered my search. The agency I was adopted through was Louise Wise, which no longer exists, and I was referred to Spence-Chapin.  I contacted Spence-Chapin and after filling out the necessary paperwork I was contacted by one of their social workers. Needless to say, I was extremely anxious to get the info. She gave me much information that I had never known and I found it very interesting. But when pressed for additional information I was told that she could not reveal anything more as she was bound by law. I told her that was archaic and ridiculous considering the current state of adoption. She agreed and told me that was it. Subsequently I tried to coordinate the information that she had given me with the US Census for 1940, but that became a huge project.

I have shared my current journey with my family – wife, daughters, and 7 grandchildren.  They are all interested in finding out about this part of my life… their lives.

As suggested by Spence-Chapin, I sent an email to the New York State senate, asking them to oppose Bill A2901a that prevents adoptees from receiving their original birth certificates:

Dear Senator, 
I have also written to you via the senate general email.

The essence of my email is that I am asking that this proposed law be changed to the original.  As presented currently A2901A will forever close the Door on my search for complete information on my adoption.  

I am 74 years old and recently (5+ years ago) came upon my formal legal adoption papers while going through my mother’s papers.

This triggered my search and with the help of Spence-Chapin learned as much about my family history as was permitted under the current law.  I was hoping that before long that the law would be changed so that I could complete the search, not only for myself but for my wife, daughters, and seven grandchildren.

I do not understand the logic behind this amendment.  Having a Judge decide with all of the pre-conditions is a sure way of preventing many people who are in search of information. 

I have never written about any piece of legislation till now.

If I could make one statement to the Legislator it would be, “walk in my shoes as well as let the sunlight in.”

Paul Pruzan (Birth Name: David Cohen, born August 29, 1940)

Mentorship Celebration

DSC_0156With summer approaching, our Mentorship Program is winding down a successful eighth year! However, before school breaks for the summer, our mentors, mentees, and their families participated in our first ever year-end Mentorship Celebration. Over a delicious lunch, we enjoyed photos and videos from the years’ events, honored our four graduating seniors (Emily, Lillia, Elena, and Pooja, who have collectively been with the program for over 10 years!) and acknowledged the incredible efforts and commitment of our volunteer adult mentors!

At the end of the year, we like to look back and reflect on what we’ve accomplished. When we asked our teens “What is the best part of the mentorship program?” the themes we heard most often are:
• “Learning there are others like me and feeling connected, sharing stories and finding kindred spirits”
• “Meeting other adopted teens who don’t know me from school so I could talk about whatever I wanted”
• “Getting to meet other people who are adopted and being able to have fun and discuss adoption”
• “Meeting other people who know how it feels to be adopted”

One of our graduating seniors is Lilia, born in Bulgaria and adopted at the age of 2. She is preparing to head off to Johnson and Wales University in the fall to study Sports Management, and has been a dynamic, energetic, and positive addition to the program. Before she heads off on her next adventure, Lillia wanted to share her feelings about being in the Mentorship Program:

DSC_0163“I really loved being part of the mentorship group. It was great meeting so many kids and adults and sharing our adoption stories. It was important for me to make friends with other adoptees. We did a lot of fun activities-Chelsea Piers Sports Complex, a scavenger hunt, ice skating, and games in Central Park… I am also hoping to plan a trip to Bulgaria sometime in the future!”

When we hear these words and sentiments, we know we are providing a necessary and important program for the adoption community. Mentorship is a key support to many adoptees in forming healthy identity, having a safe and inclusive place to explore genuinely difficult feelings, and bringing all members of the adoption constellation together in support of our young people. This program continues to grow, and to be an inspiration to our staff, our mentors, and of course the young people themselves.

Interested in having your child join the 2015-2016 Mentorship Program? This program is open to adoptees who will be enrolled in middle school and high school this fall. Contact Dana Stallard, LMSW, Adoptee Services Coordinator at 212-360-0213 or dstallard@spence-chapin.org to learn more!

Adopting a Sibling Group

SiblingsBlogPostOver 85% of families in the United States include at least one sibling. Siblings are the longest and most significant relationship most of us will have over the course of our lifetimes.  For many children, being adopted with their siblings provides continuity and mutual support during what can be an exciting and overwhelming time.

For children in need of adoptive families, being adopted with a sibling has immeasurable benefits. Not only is there is a positive impact on children’s initial adjustment period with a family, but children adopted with their siblings also experience lower anxiety and higher overall mental wellness. Siblings support and understand each other’s stories in a unique way, helping each other make sense of new life experiences. Children who have siblings often learn to build strong relationships and develop healthier attachments to others as well. Families can help maintain this powerful connection by adopting a sibling group.

We have seen many sibling groups in need of families in our Bulgaria, Colombia and South Africa adoption programs. We share the belief with our partners that there is incredible value in keeping siblings together. Our in-country partners are committed to keeping siblings together whenever possible and have minimal additional fees for adopting sibling groups.

There are many joys and unique challenges that come with adopting a sibling group. Questions to consider include:

  • Do I want a large family?
  • For those currently parenting: How would your family dynamic change by adopting a sibling group?
  • Does my family have the ability to welcome two or three new members at the same time? Does my family have the capacity and resources to provide one on one time with each child in the sibling group?

As you explore if adopting a sibling group could be right for your family, contact us at info@spence-chapin.org or 212-400-8150. We can provide resources about adopting and help you consider your adoption options.

References:
Adopt US Kids. Ten Myths and Realities of Sibling Adoptions. Link: https://www.adoptuskids.org/_assets/files/NRCRRFAP/resources/ten-myths-and-realities-of-sibling-adoptions.pdf

Child Welfare Information Gateway. (2013). Sibling issues in foster care and adoption. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Children’s Bureau. Link: https://www.childwelfare.gov/pubPDFs/siblingissues.pdf

Creating A Family Radio. Adopting Siblings: Special Issues to Consider. Link:  http://creatingafamily.org/adoption-category/adopting-siblings-special-issues-consider

 

Let Me Know My True Name

UnknownMy name is Allie Herskovitz. I am a junior at Briarcliff High School in Briarcliff Manor, NY.  I am a varsity cheerleader, study dance, serve as a volunteer with Bridges to Community in Nicaragua, and am working on my Girl Scout Gold Award. I was adopted domestically at birth and since fourth grade I have participated in several Spence-Chapin groups.

This winter, as an English assignment, I was asked to write an editorial on any topic important to me. Just a month before I had traveled out West and met members of my birth family for the first time. I was fortunate because my mom had kept all the documents from my adoption. I was able to make the connection without much of a search. My experience was very positive in many ways; however, I had attended a Spence-Chapin reunion workshop in 2014 and knew it could be very different- and frustrating- for many adoptees. When my teacher assigned the editorial I had reunion issues on my mind, so I decided to research and write about adoptee access to U.S. birth records. What I learned has made me a strong advocate for full and open access-for every adoptee.

Imagine that you were denied access to all information about your birth. No original birth certificate. No names of your birthparents. You might not even know where or even when you were born. How might you feel? For adoptees born in forty- three U.S. states this is current law- we are denied access to our original birth records. We are banned by the state from knowing our true origins. This practice of “sealing” birth records for adoptions began in Minnesota with the intention to overcome attitudes about the shame of adoption and illegitimacy. Over time almost all U.S. states banned adoptee access. Attitudes in some states have changed in recent decades, but almost six million U.S. born adoptees are still denied their basic birth information. I am one of those adoptees and in 2015 I believe everyone deserves full access to their original birth records as a fundamental human right.

Many Western countries, including England, Scotland and Israel, allow open access. In the United States, adoption regulations are delegated to the states, not the federal government, and the majority of states have laws preventing direct adoptee access to original birth documents. Starting in the 1930s and 1940s, social workers and adoptive parents encouraged states to seal records when an adoption was finalized. By 1950, most states had regulations that forever barred adoptee access. Since then, only a few states have changed their laws. Currently just seven states have completely opened their records, while several others provide for unsealing with restrictions. For example, Maryland and Iowa only allow access through a “mutual consent registry” and Nebraska allows adoptive parents, as well as birth parents, to veto unsealing.

Researching the history of U.S. adoption, I learned that over the years adoptees have been denied their records for three main reasons. The first reason, strongly promoted by some prominent adoption lobbies, has been the protection of birth parent confidentiality. According to this argument, unsealing records now would betray a promise of anonymity made at the time of the adoption. However, in the only two legal cases that have ever ruled on this claim, the courts have said open records laws do not violate privacy rights. The second reason dates from decades past when adoption was viewed as a stigma and spoken only in whispers. During the Depression and after WWII, issuing “amended” birth certificates became routine and helped to reinforce a “culture of shame that stigmatized infertility, out-of-wedlock birth, and adoption”. A third rationale is a concern for “disruption,” that sharing original birth information would disturb the lives of the adoption triad-birthparents, adoptive parents, or the adoptee. While some adoptive parents may still favor closed records for this reason, recent surveys show they are now a small minority. The International Association of Adopted People does not support any form of closed adoption, and rather than viewing open access as a disruption, states that sealed records are “detrimental to the psychological well-being of the adopted child”.

Among the public, as well as different members of the adoption community, there is a growing consensus that adoptees deserve full access. My family and I strongly support this position. We reject the age old reasons for sealing birth records. We see no valid justification for the state to deny me my original birth documents. I should have the same rights under the law as anyone else born in the United States- the right to know who I am. I should be allowed unrestricted access to my original birth certificate so I may know critical legal, medical, and genealogical information. That knowledge is part of my true identity. One organization, Adoption Find, really speaks for me when they state, “Adoptees did not sign away their rights. Identity is a human right…Adoption is not magic. Babies do not disappear into a void, never to be heard from again. We are real living, breathing people who deserve the same history, and wholeness of being that every non-adoptee takes for granted”.

Anyone favoring open access has opportunities to change state laws. At the current time, several states including Pennsylvania, Arkansas and Connecticut, have legislation under consideration that would expand adoptee access to their birth records. Citizens of these states, as well as all individuals advocating open access, can write to their state representatives. They can also write letters to their local newspapers and make donations to organizations that encourage unsealed records, such as Spence-Chapin.

According to one advocacy website, thelostdaughters.com, “what is missing the most in adoption is the truth”. Like so many American adoptees, I am not allowed by state law to see my original birth certificate. I believe it is time to get past the old arguments and to unseal every U.S. birth record. Without a change in the law, I could spend a lifetime of longing and searching for my true identity.