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.
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.”
With 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:
“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 firstname.lastname@example.org to learn more!
Over 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 email@example.com or 212-400-8150. We can provide resources about adopting and help you consider your adoption options.
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
The 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.
Whenever I sit down to write about this trip, I usually end up staring at a blank page. How can I pen down emotions that I still struggle to explain to myself? When people ask me about my trip to Korea, I show them pictures and tell them about the culture, the sites I visited, and about the children I cared for in Naju. They always respond with either, “how life changing,” or “wow, you are so lucky.” I am very lucky to have been selected to visit Korea, but my luck goes beyond that. I am lucky because I was given the opportunity to experience, if only briefly, what my life would have been like if I had not been adopted.
Life is full of “what ifs,” all life changing to various degrees. What if I had left for work fifteen minutes earlier? What if I had studied a different major in college? What if a different family had adopted me? What if my biological mother had decided to raise me? The latter thought has crossed my mind from time to time, but knowing next to nothing about her, it was difficult to imagine how different my life could have been. I was given the opportunity to read my adoption file for the first time at Social Welfare Society and learn about my biological mother. I found out that one of the reasons why she decided to give me up for adoption was because she was unemployed and did not have the financial stability to care for both of us. But what if she had decided to raise me even though life would be difficult? As I walked through a neighborhood in Seoul, lost and frustrated, that was all I could think of. Would my life have been like this? Living in an area with rundown walkups, boarded up windows, and broken, narrow streets littered with shattered soju bottles? As I walked around and gazed at my surroundings, I could not help but feel that I was face to face with a life that could have been mine given different circumstances. It was scary, saddening, and eye-opening all at once. I was lost, both spatially and emotionally, as I stared at a world I was so unfamiliar with while trying to imagine it as home.
The experience was such a shock that I believed that the trip could not hold any more surprises for me. When I arrived at Naju, I began to think more about myself as an adoptee. Growing up, my thoughts on adoption were always positive. While I often thought about what life would be like if my biological mother had kept me, I hardly ever thought about not being adopted at all. Being adopted was something that I always felt grateful for but, in a way, also took for granted. When I went to Naju and lived at Ewah with the orphans I began to wonder, what if I were never adopted? Would my life have been like little Juno, who is so trusting and innocent? The two of us got attached to one another and he quickly became my favorite child at the orphanage. He would always greet me with a smile, give me a hug, and ask me to play with him. One morning, I decided to skip breakfast and sleep in. When I woke, his caregiver told me that Juno was running around looking for me. He asked, “Did Sam-emo leave? She didn’t say goodbye. I miss her. I hope she comes back to visit me.” It made me sad that this adorable boy would miss me so much when I left, but it also broke my heart imagining the countless number of people before me that he has grown to trust leave as well, and all the people that will in the future. It is hard and painful to imagine a life where the people you meet and become attached to continuously leave. It must feel like abandonment at some point. Is he old enough to understand why? Or does he believe that he is the reason that so many people come and go? Will he grow up able to form long, stable relationships, or will he seclude himself out of fear and resentment? I hope that he grows up to be strong and self-assured, and I hope that I would have too if our places were reversed.
Even though I have finally managed to write something down I know that these stories do not even come close to expressing what I really feel. There are many stories to tell about my month in Korea, many of which are more uplifting, happy, and less complicated than what I have just written. But at the end of the day, those two experiences are the most important to me. As time passes and I begin to forget about all the places I visited while in Korea, I know that I will still remember these emotions. It is possible that all adoptees imagine what life would have been like if they were never adopted, and I have been fortunate enough to get a glimpse of that alternate world. It is something that I will never forget.
To learn more about Summer Programs in Korea visit www.spence-chapin.org/koreasummerprograms
Spence-Chapin’s mission is to find families for the most vulnerable children, including older children, sibling groups, and children with special medical needs.
As you begin to think about growing your family through adoption, one of the first steps is deciding the age of the child you will be parenting. Spence-Chapin can help you explore the reasons an older child could be a great fit for your family. We know there are some questions about older child adoption that people are often too afraid to ask, so we’ve started a list here.
- What is the age range of a child who is considered “older”?
- What are some of the differences between adopting an older child from foster care and adopting an older child internationally?
- Can we adopt an older child if we have younger children we are currently parenting?
- Can a single parent/older parent adopt an older child?
- As a single parent, can I adopt an older child who is not the same gender as me?
- Do older children have behavioral and emotional issues?
- Would we be able to have a bar or bat mitzvah for our child if we adopt an older child?
- How much will I know about my older child’s history?
- Have all older children been living in an institutional setting since birth?
- How much input does an older child have into his adoption plan?
- How can I be fully prepared to adopt an older child?
- What language will my child speak? Will my child speak or understand English?
Are these the questions that you were thinking of too? Our team can provide the answers to all these and more. Give Kara, Heather and Jamie a call – 212-400-8150.
Spence-Chapin is able to share the profiles of international children who are considered to be the most in need of a loving family, and who are ready to be matched immediately. The Waiting Child profiles often consist of children who are older or part of a sibling group. In order to respect the privacy of these children, the Waiting Child page has been password protected.
If you would like to hear more about our adoption programs or request the password to the Waiting Child page, contact us at 212-400-8150 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Spence-Chapin’s Modern Family Center Mentorship Program provides an opportunity for middle and high school youth to spend time with peers and adults who share the experience of adoption. These gatherings allow for deeper discussions about what adoption means. Our mentors – trained volunteers – are adoptees who know how to separate typical adolescent issues from adoption-related issues and are thrilled to be supporting young adoptees.
High School Mentors
Adopted From: Wuhan, China
Lives in: Long Island
I was born in Wuhan, China and adopted into a loving Italian and Irish family at the age of four. A few years later, my parents and I journeyed back to China and adopted my younger sister. Growing up adopted and guiding Marielle, my adoptive younger sister, through life has been a rewarding experience. In 2012, I received a B.A. from SUNY Geneseo in Communication and Mass Media. Shortly after, I attended New York Institute of Technology and graduated with an M.A. in Communication and Mass Media. While I aspire to be a broadcast journalist, I also developed an interest in interpersonal communication between adoptees and adoptive families during my undergraduate studies. I look forward to helping adoptive families experience life to the fullest from a positive perspective.
Adopted From: Columbus, Georgia
Lives in: Manhattan
I am excited to begin my first year volunteering with the Modern Family Center as a mentor. I was born in Columbus, GA and was adopted at the age of 1 1/2, growing up in Decatur, GA. I studied and received my Bachelor’s of Arts degree in Psychology from Georgetown University, in Washington, DC. I now live in New York City and am working as a certified Life Coach for young women in transition and part-time as a model. I also volunteer for an organization called Stand Beside Them, which offers coaching and mentoring services for veterans of the US military who are newly transitioning to civilian life. When I am not working or volunteering, I enjoy exercising, practicing yoga, cooking, writing, and hanging out with friends. I am overjoyed to share my journey with others touched by adoption at the Modern Family Center.
Adopted From: Binghamton, NY
Lives in: Manhattan
I was born in Buffalo, NY and adopted in Binghamton, NY at the age of 3 months, through the New York State Department of Children’s Services. I grew up near Binghamton with a younger sister who was also adopted. I have lived in Manhattan for over 20 years. I am married, with a daughter who is a college freshman. I teach English language to adult immigrants. My students are almost all from China, and they have taught me how to speak a lot of Mandarin Chinese. Also, I can play a few musical instruments. I became a mentor because I would have liked something like this when I was in high school.
Adopted From: New York City
Lives in: Queens
I am in my second year volunteering for the Mentoring Program. I was born and raised in New York City and currently work in the insurance industry. In my spare time I enjoy crafting/decorating, reading, writing, socializing with friends or just curling up on the couch and watching a funny or romantic movie. I decided to volunteer at Spence-Chapin after reading a newsletter outlining the requirements necessary for the mentor position and feeling that it was a good fit for me. I have always encouraged the youth around me to strive for success no matter what their circumstances are. I believe that there is an entire world out there filled with opportunities and that we can all achieve our dreams if we believe in ourselves.
Adopted From: Bogota, Colombia
Lives in: Manhattan
I was born in Bogota, Colombia, and adopted when I was three months old. I was raised by my parents on Long Island as an only child. I always knew about my adoption, my parents telling me from a young age that I was born in Colombia and had come here when I was a baby. I had decided early in my life that I wanted to search for my birth family and my parents were always supportive of my desire to search. This is my 8th year as a mentor and I’m excited to be back!
Adopted From: Seoul, South Korea
Lives in: Manhattan
I was born in Seoul, South Korea and am currently employed as a Human Resources Manager for Hilton Hotels. I have been actively looking to get more involved in volunteer opportunities, and the topic of adoption is something that I am very comfortable talking about and passionate about. I look forward to actively participating with all of my fellow mentors and to be a resource providing support for the young adults who t are struggling with their adoption identities.
Adopted From: Seoul, South Korea
Lives in: Brooklyn
I was born in Seoul, South Korea and was placed with my adoptive family at 6 months through Spence-Chapin. I currently work in Manhattan as an analytics consultant and enjoy international travel, writing, trying out the latest fitness crazes, and going to the movies with my husband. This is my third year as a mentor and I enjoy being a positive role model for adoptees as well as just listening to what’s on the mentees’ minds. I remembered attending Spence-Chapin programs when I was young and they provided a positive outlook on adoption in my life.
Adopted From: South Korea
Lives in: Manhattan
I am a project engineer, designer, and leadership coach. I love live music, film, street art, and am more recently fascinated by co-housing as another way to create a greater sense of community. This will be my 6th year as a mentor. I have participated in the Middle School program and am now a mentor in the High School program. I was born in South Korea, and actually had the opportunity to travel there with my younger adoptive sister in 2008. It was an amazing experience to be connected with my birth place heritage through actual places and people and experiencing tangible aspects of Korean culture. Ever since then, I have wanted to give back to Spence-Chapin and help create a safe space of relatedness and community for fellow adoptees. I look forward to seeing you in the Fall!
Name: Mee Jin
Adopted From: Daegu, South Korea
Lives in: Queens
I am entering my sixth year as a mentor. My first three years were with the middle school group and this is my third year with the teens. I was born in Daegu, South Korea and was adopted through Spence-Chapin when I was ten months old. I grew up in northern NJ with my parents and an older sister. Currently, I am adjusting to life as a new homeowner in Queens, where I live with my husband. I work for Fidelity Investments in public relations and in my free time I enjoy traveling and spending time with my family – especially my three nieces and nephew. I love being a mentor as I value the opportunity to be in a community with other adoptees, yet appreciate that everyone brings unique experiences and perspectives.
Middle School Mentors
Adopted From: Seoul, Korea
Lives in: Manhattan
I am looking forward to my second year as a mentor. I was born in Seoul, Korea, and adopted through Spence-Chapin at the age of three months. My parents say they knew I was meant to be theirs because my birthday falls on their wedding anniversary. From the moment I heard about this program, I knew I wanted to be a mentor because when I was a child growing up in a time and place where adoption was not commonplace, my parents started an organization called G.I.F.T. (Gathering International Families Together), and it meant a lot to me to meet other families who knew and understood how special it is to be adopted. I currently work as a Research Editor for All You magazine, a Time Inc. publication. I’m looking forward to the coming year, and can’t wait to meet everyone!
Adopted From: Seoul, South Korea
Lives in: New Jersey
I am about to serve in my 6th year as a mentor in the Spence-Chapin Mentorship Program. I was born in Seoul, South Korea and adopted when I was 3 months old. I am currently an attorney at an intellectual property law firm in NYC. I enjoy spending time with my cat and jogging around Central Park. I enjoy participating in the mentorship program because it provides everyone with the opportunity to engage in thoughtful discussion about adoption.
Adopted From: La Ceiba, Honduras
Lives in: Queens
I am about to participate in my second year of the Middle School Mentorship Program with Spence-Chapin! I was born in La Ceiba, Honduras and when I was just 10 months old I was adopted and brought to the United States. I grew up in the Midwest with a wonderful family and eventually moved to New York to attend college. I love to swim, read, dance, play my flute, sing, and eat good food! I’m excited to be a part of this program because growing up I never had a mentor of my own. I feel that it will be a very rewarding experience for me and the mentees!
Adopted from: South Korea
Lives in: New Jersey
I love life, and I love supporting others in how they love life. I’m an adoptee from South Korea who currently resides in Wayne, New Jersey, and I’m grateful for all the love and opportunities my mother and father have given me. I teach people from all over the world how to have deeper, richer, and more fulfilling relationships, whether with friends, family, or even people they’ve just met. I’m also an AcroYoga enthusiast, a musician, and an overall fun-loving adventurous soul. Being an adoptee in my mid-twenties, it seems like I’m having some of my deepest realizations yet, so naturally, mentoring young people who share a similar experience feels like a new chapter in my life. I’m excited to connect with, support, and even learn from my mentees in whatever time we spend together.
Adopted From: New York
Lives in: New Jersey
This is my first year at as a mentor at Spence-Chapin. I grew up in Tenafly, New Jersey and was adopted from New York. I want to be a mentor because I know first hand how hard it can be to grow up as an adopted child. I also know that talking with someone who is older than you and is also adopted can be very insightful and help you figure yourself out. After I went into reunion with my birth parents and biological siblings, I worked with a social worker who specialized in adoption. Through this I was able to find myself and become the person I am today. I plan to further my education in this area by attending graduate school for social work and specializing in adoption.
For many of us, fall is a time for new beginnings. New school schedules and childcare routines are set in motion and our kids are pulled into a whirlwind of school activities, sports, clubs, and classes. Often, it’s not just the kids who are getting geared up for something new — many adults cycle with the academic calendar and look to fall as the time to begin new projects or academic pursuits and to set new goals. During those last sleepy days of summer we are in high gear coordinating and planning for an exciting fall.
Scheduling is important because it provides routine and predictability. Most of us need schedules to help manage our time and know what’s coming next. Kids, and especially kids who have been adopted at an older age, tend to do well with regular, clear, and predictable schedules. Changes in routine happen, when they do, remember to give your kids extra reassurance and appropriate information about why change is happening and how you’ll work through it together.
Changes in caregivers, mealtimes, and sleep schedules, and challenges at school and with peers can often create stress for our kids (and sometimes for us parents too). There is a lot of build up in the beginning of the school year and for some this increase in expectations and pressure can be a little scary. Your child may seem more anxious and fearful than usual. Pay extra attention to how your children manages these transitions.
Here are a few tips for managing stressful times of transition:
- Put things in writing for you and your kids. Keep a family calendar that keeps track of everyone’s schedule and highlight special events in a way that everyone can understand.
- It sounds obvious, but making sure that everyone is well fed and hydrated can really help to steady moods and prevent meltdowns — this goes for both kids and parents. This is especially important if kids have after school sports or activities. Pack a healthy late afternoon snack, or have snacks ready as soon as they get home.
- Family meals are critical, but sometimes it’s just not possible for the entire family to sit down together. When this is the case, try to sit with your kids for dessert, a cup of tea, or a late night snack to have the experience of sharing a “meal” together (and put away those cell phones!).
Remember that each person has a very different sense of how much activity is comfortable and how to transition from one event to the next. For instance, some kids love to be continuously busy, transition from school to sports to homework without any down time and can snack on-the-go. Others may need a break between activities and do better with encouragement during transitions.
As parents, it is important to tune in to our kids and learn how best to support them during these especially busy seasons. If your family needs extra support, the Modern Family Center at Spence-Chapin offers parent coaching, counseling, and workshops. Give us a call at 646-539-2167, email email@example.com, or follow us on Facebook to learn more about how we can help.
Got it? Well, as exciting as going off to college can be, it can also be a really nerve-wracking experience. Forget about everything you need to pack; how are you going to manage making friends, getting good grades, and living away from home for the first time?
You may be wondering what adoption has to do with all of this. Maybe you didn’t spend a lot of time thinking about your adoption when you were younger, but as you’ve grown older, you’ve dealt with issues other teens haven’t, and you may be wondering if it has to do with you being adopted. You’re not alone! Graduating from high school and transitioning to college is a major life event, and you may find yourself thinking about your identity, independence, fitting in, and the idea of family in new ways.
College is your time to figure out who you are! You’ll want to find ways to get involved, build community and meet other adoptees or students that share your birth culture or nationality. You may be nervous about fitting in with those groups, having to explain your family to a new set of people, or simply being homesick.
Sound like a lot to think about? That’s where we come in! Join us and other adoptees for our “Off to College” workshop on Thursday, July 17th from 6:00p.m. – 8:00p.m. to get connected, share expectations and fears, and get ready for the most memorable years of your life!
Summer’s here… but Kindergarten’s near!
Going off to kindergarten and starting a new school can be stressful for any child, but for your adopted child, there may be even more resistance and anxiety surrounding new experiences, change, and adjustment. While the change may be many months away, you should start talking about it now as it can take kids a long time to get excited about such a big transition!
According to studies cited in Raising Adopted Children [Quill, 2002], the pressures of transitioning to a new school might emphasize your child’s core adoption issues such as feelings of rejection and loss. As a result, he or she may feel some anger or mistrust towards you or the other important people in their lives, as well as question the permanency of your family. Sometimes adopted children are able to talk about these fears, but more often than not, they are unable to articulate what is really bothering them.
Although it is common for adoption issues to arise during school transitions, not all adopted kids experience anxiety or challenges in the same way. By being self-aware, sensitive, and helping to build confidence, you can ensure that your child has the solid foundation he or she needs to have a positive school experience! To help support your child, you can:
- Talk to him or her about expectations and reaffirm the concept of your family’s permanency despite new changes that may be occurring.
- Emphasize what is going to remain the same and help to establish consistent routines like taking the bus each day, having an afternoon snack, or doing homework together after dinner.
- Talk to your child about handling unwelcome questions about adoption or being different from their peers. If you are unsure how to help your child respond, join us for our How to Talk to Young Children about Adoption workshop. (LINK)
- Have Spence-Chapin connect with your child’s school to ensure their teaching environment accepts and values the way all families are created, especially those formed through adoption. Schools should be sensitive to all cultures and languages in the classroom, especially for children adopted internationally and transracially. If your child’s school could benefit from increased adoption sensitivity, we are happy assist! Our “Adoption in Schools” workshop is available to your school at no cost.
For more insight about this topic, tune in for our FREE upcoming webinar, “Off to Kindergarten” on Tuesday, August 12th, from 6:30p.m. – 7:30p.m.
After 18 years at Spence-Chapin, Director of Development Linda Wright, retires. In a touching letter, she reflects on her time spent in the organization and gives thanks to those that were fundamental in the success of the development department.
Time and time again many of you have demonstrated your commitment to Spence-Chapin. You have supported the agency financially and phoned other families to enlist their support of our Annual Fund. You have served on committees – African-American Parents Advisory (AAPAC), International Parents Advisory (IPAC), and Long Island Families Together (LIFT); May’s Birth Parent Gathering; Annual Theatre and Adoptionship Benefits; 55th Anniversary of African-American Adoptions at The Studio Museum in Harlem, KOREA35 and CHINA20. You have shared ideas, time, energy and connections as we developed outreach strategies and planned program celebrations, family get-togethers, and fundraisers. And, so the list goes on and on and on.
Of course, as a Development professional, I usually measure achievements with numbers, and particularly those preceded with dollar-signs. Over the last 18 years we – you the star performers; me simply stage manager — have kept Spence-Chapin fiscally strong and ready to respond to new opportunities and changing needs with creativity and kindness. The total contributed during this period exceeds $35 million, a sum derived from several initiatives.
The Spirit of Spence-Chapin Annual Fund, launched in the fall of 1996, has raised nearly $10 million for general operating support. Events to fund Adoptionships for prospective families needing assistance with adoption costs produced almost $600,000. The annual Theatre Benefit, which began in the 1950s, continued to draw together new and old friends who contributed $2.2 million to enable more children to come home. Support for our Granny Program and other relief efforts overseas has reached $1.3 million and now 234 children in orphanages in Colombia, China, Moldova, and South Africa get daily one-on-one attention from 82 loving Grannies who were recruited from local communities. And, our historic Campaign for the Second Century garnered $14.5 million to secure Spence-Chapin’s work for another 100 years.
I am grateful to all of you for your generosity and conviction that Spence-Chapin deserves your support. I believe we have given Mary Connolly, my successor, a solid foundation for advancing Spence-Chapin’s development program. The thread that binds the Spence-Chapin community together is the belief that every child deserves the unconditional love and nurturing that comes from a permanent family. It is a community willing to extend itself to ensure that Spence-Chapin is here to find and prepare the families eager to welcome a child into their homes and hearts.
This magic happened for 3,022 children during the past 18 years. The children traveled from China, Korea, Vietnam, Thailand and Cambodia; from Russia, Bulgaria and Moldova; from Colombia, Ecuador, Paraguay, and Guatemala; from South Africa and the Democratic Republic of the Congo to become part of a family in the USA. Our local babies didn’t journey thousands of miles to reach their new homes but, as their birth parents struggled to plan for their futures, they received tender care from our interim volunteer families – another special group in our community.
Today at least 132 million children worldwide are homeless or live in institutions, many of them orphaned or abandoned. In the USA, nearly a half a million children are in foster care, and over a quarter of them are eligible for adoption. Spence-Chapin is their hope for a family, for a future that will allow them to thrive in a loving, safe home. Our challenge individually and as a community is to find the wherewithal for that to happen. During and before my arrival at Spence-Chapin, more than 20,000 have been touched by many of you – some very directly and very immediately. I have enjoyed watching your children grow up, and I have personally benefited from your generosity and friendship. I take a bit of each of you with me and for that – and so much more – I Thank You!
When you adopt a child, you are giving him/her the wonderful gift of a home. However, with all of the love that you have to offer also comes the responsibility of being willing to discuss his birth parents at some point in his life. For many parents, this can be a challenging task; it can be even harder for the child.
Most adoptive parents understand that their child not only needs and deserves knowledge of how their family was created through adoption, but also that this knowledge must be provided in a way that will give the child the pride and self-respect every person needs as a foundation in life.
Years ago, parents thought that they should wait until the child was old enough to talk about the adoption. We now know that this way can do more harm than good as many adopted children are finding out about their adoption from other people and feeling betrayed.
Adopted children often have many questions about their heritage and they should be answered by their adoptive parents when they are asked. I have worked with foster and adopted children and families for more 15 years, and every child I have counseled has had questions about their biological family starting at a young age. Some younger children are often unsure whether they should bring up their birth parents to their adoptive parents, in fear that it will hurt their feelings or that it will cause anger and they will be abandoned once again. In some cases their fears are real, while in others they are not.
Prior to adolescence, children are extremely curious about their adoption stories. Although they question the circumstances that led to their adoption, most of them seem to accept the answers calmly – See more at:
Some of the questions adopted children ask are, “Did my mom and dad love me? Did my mom and dad love each other? Why did they put me up for adoption?” These are all valid questions which need to be answered to ensure that the child feels secure.
Adoptive parents have said to me, “I know that I have to talk to my daughter or son about the adoption, but where do I begin?” I think it is best to begin when the child is very young and is able to cognitively understand language — usually at around 1 ½ to 2 years of age. You want to be able to tell your child about the adoption often. Also, if you are married or in a relationship, you want to make sure that both parents agree on the same story. This will make the experience less complicated and stressful for your child. I always encourage parents to practice what they are going to say to the child before talking. It builds parents’ confidence and prepares them for questions. And be prepared — they will have lots of questions!
Here are a few more tips for talking to a child about their adoption.
1. Always be willing to talk about the adoption with your children. The more open you are about it, the more comfortable the child will be.
2. Keep the conversation age-appropriate. When a child is younger, use a story telling technique (Fisher, 2000) and keep the language simple. As the child ages and becomes more mature, more sophisticated language can be used.
3. Be honest but don’t scare the child. If you don’t know something, then say, “I don’t know.” If the child was a product of rape for instance, “You don’t want to start out by saying your mommy and daddy loved each other very much,” says Lois Melina, author of Making Sense of Adoption and Raising Adopted Children. “You can say something that would imply that their parents didn’t know each other very well.”
4. Help your child learn how to express their emotions about being adopted. This can be done not only through talking but through drawing or making a life book.
Addressing the adopted child’s past is the key to helping them move towards a bright future.
– By Dr. Sue, who is a clinical psychologist and professor of psychology at Temple University and an expert in parenting, foster care and child abuse. This article was originally posted on montgomerynews.com
Birth mothers rights have been evolving over the past decades, from fully closed adoptions where birth mothers had no information about their child, to today’s adoption practices of openness and ongoing communication between birth and adoptive families. Sheila placed her child at a transitional time when adoptions were still closed, but birth mothers were able to select an adoptive family. Here, she bravely shares her thoughts and feelings about what this experience has been like for her.
I am Sheila and I am a birth mother.
I want you to know that my daughter was conceived in love within a beautiful relationship. I want you to know that allowing my child to be adopted altered my very being forever. I want you to know that I did not want to give her away; I wanted to protect her and love her and give her a beautiful life. My child should have known me and how much I loved and still love her.
I want you to know that as a scared young woman who was given two alternatives…abortion or adoption. No one talked to me about how I might be able to raise my child. I wish I knew then the woman I would become. I am and was strong enough and resourceful enough to raise my child, but no one ever told me that! I wish I had had confidence and self- esteem; I doubted myself and didn’t think I was good enough or smart enough to care for another human being. I had nothing materially, but I had love. I want you to know that if I could turn back time, I would change the day I signed those papers and gave a part of myself away. But, at the same time, I don’t want to diminish the importance of her family and the life she has lived.
I want you to know, through my blinding grief, I picked her parents carefully. I was told of what a gift I was giving to another family. All these years, I have prayed for them and felt like a part of their family from afar. I wish her family would open their hearts to me. I don’t want their thanks, I don’t want them to be grateful to me, I just want them to know me and perhaps pray for me, too. I have this feeling that we may be able to have a pretty decent relationship. I was drawn to them for a reason, and all my prayers brought them to my daughter for a reason. If this all was meant to be for the good of her life and the richness of her family, then so be it. I can cope with my loss, but I want you to know that I pray that door will open. I am not a criminal or a stalker, which is the first thing everyone thinks when a birthmother seeks a connection with her child. We all share something very beautiful, very natural and very strong. I want to celebrate and honor that – together.
I want you to know that I didn’t know the depth of love I would feel for my first child. The day she was born, I held her and talked to her and kissed her and hugged her and never wanted to let her go. After I gave birth, no one told me what it would feel like to be a mother…I felt it later… overwhelming and unconditional love but she was gone and I couldn’t get her back. I want her to know that I love her deeply. While that may be strange to hear from someone she doesn’t know, it is the one absolute truth of my life. That feeling didn’t go away over time, and was not replaced. I have had four children since my first daughter was born and the feeling never diminished – it only grew.
Adoption may be right for some, and I hope it was good for my child. I want you to know it completely altered who I am and the way that I live. My daughter is in my thoughts every moment of the day. I want to feel the touch of her hand. I want to know her likes and dislikes, the similarities we may share and all about her that is unique and individual. I want to know about her childhood, her favorite places, and fondest memories. I want to share something with my child. I want my child to wish these things too. I want her to have all of her questions answered. I don’t want to be an intruder in her life – but to be seen as someone who has a big heart for her – another person to love and be loved.
I want my children and my cousins and friends and aunts and uncles to know that I have another child; my first child. My children deserve to know the truth and to know their sister and to share in friendship and love with her. I can no longer go on denying her…I worked too hard to bring her into this world. What kind of person am I that I deprived them of my first beautiful child?
I want you to know that for the majority of my life, I never knew another birth mom. I thought I was the only one – the very bottom of the barrel – a terrible, awful person. When I finally got the courage to join a birth mother support group, I was surprised by what I found. Our group at Spence-Chapin is a casual and comfortable atmosphere that includes the most beautiful, strong and intelligent group of women. We simply share our experiences and help one another.
I want you to know that we know we are being judged. Not only do we judge and punish ourselves our entire lives, but society judges us as well. There is still a negative perception of our existence, our motives and the “who” that we are. We are very concerned with what society labels us as, how adoptive families perceive us, and what our children believe about us. We want you to know we are not heartless, dirty, thoughtless and selfish. We love our children – we long for our children and we need to be valued, understood and welcomed into the adoption conversation. We are just like you – people with struggles and successes, failures and accomplishments.
I want you to know that I am pretty wonderful today because of all that I have experienced, endured, accomplished and contributed to life – all of it! Everything! My child deserves to know me and I deserve a chance to know her! I know I don’t have the right to call her my child, my daughter, but what other word expresses the closeness, the importance and the bond that she is…?
This message is from New York State Citizens’ Coalition for Children who started the petition “Governor Andrew Cuomo: NYS Should Fund Statewide Post Adoption Services”.
We met with a staff person in Governor Cuomo’s office on December 19 to discuss the need for post adoption services (PAS) in all areas of the state for all families and future funding options for PAS. We shared that the Office of Children & Family Services estimates that 609 of the children in foster care were previously adopted (this is a low estimate as NYC doesn’t not currently collect this data despite the fact that it is a federal requirement to do so).
The good news is that NYSCCC believes that the Governor’s office understands the unique mental health of the children. Unfortunately, with NYS facing a $1billion dollar short fall in next year’s budget it appears doubtful that PAS will be in the Governor’s proposed budget. We emphasized that there will be savings for NYS if PAS is enacted statewide with a decrease in children in foster care and residential treatment. With an average cost of foster care of $56,000/child, we believe that an $8 million statewide post adoption services would pay for itself if 2.5 children per county moved from foster care to a permanent family. This does not take into account the savings from less residential treatment placements. We encouraged the Governor’s office to look at using Title IV-B Subpart 2 funding and the millions of dollars saved by the federal government picking up a larger share of adoption subsidies (money which is supposed to be reinvested in child welfare!) as well as review how other states are funding PAS.
With the Governor’s budget not being submitted until mid-January there is still time to make our voices heard. Please call Governor Cuomo at 518-474-8390 (press option 3 to speak to a person, not a recording) and tell him how important post adoption services are to children and their families! Feel free to call as many times as you want and to have your friends call too. There is money available for post adoption services; NYS just needs to make it a priority.
View the petition.
I love the show “Parenthood”. I love the characters, the family dynamics, the twists and turns of inter-weaving inter-generational lives playing out themes of marriage, raising kids, inter-racial families, and more recently, the adoption of a school-aged child.
Julia and Joel, after experiencing a heart wrenching loss when their domestic infant adoption falls through, decide to approach their local social services agency and open their home to any child that may need one. Seemingly a day later, with no preparation, a social worker rings their doorbell in the dead of night and brings them Victor, a cute, quite, and mysterious 8 year old boy.
Two episodes into the season, we see Joel and Julia, with no visible assistance from any social worker, trying to integrate their new son into their lives. Or, rather, walking on eggshells around him while trying to act like everything is normal. Julia alludes to some reading that she’s doing (good) and that they have to establish trust and help him feel like part of the family (also good), but we also see Victor spending entire days lying on the couch, shooting whipped cream into his mouth straight from the can, and watching violent reality TV shows (not so good), all while ignoring the family activities going on around him. Finally, after a series of upsetting events, Joel and Julia argue about how best to manage Victor, to which Julia, defeated, finally states “I feel like I’m waiting to love my son”.
FINALLY, a genuine moment in this story – for many adoptive parents, and certainly for those adopting school-aged children, this is such a common feeling. However, the guilt and fear of judgment prevents many families from sharing these feelings with their social workers and support systems. While it is understandable that this is a scary thing to approach (“If I don’t love him now, will I EVER love him?” is a common thought that families struggle with), it is essentially important, when bonding and attaching with a new child, to keep a few key things in mind:
- Love takes time. Everyone needs time to get to know each other and build genuine emotional bonds that will last a lifetime. If you don’t feel “in love” it does not mean that you or the child are doing something wrong. In fact, this can be looked at as a good thing – if a child has had multiple placements and many disappointments, she has built healthy defenses by learning to distance herself until she feels secure. Use that time to show her that you are trustworthy – providing consistent, kind, and thoughtful parenting with healthy limits, expecting nothing in return, is the clearest way to tell a child that you will be there forever, no matter what.
- Affection takes time. Those first days, weeks, or even months, it may not yet feel right to have a hug or a snuggle on the couch. Instead, a quick pat on the head might do, or kicking around a soccer ball in the yard can be a shared physical activity without the intensity of physical contact. Find that balance between smothering and distancing – maybe insist on holding hands to cross the street (appropriate for any child under 5), braid their hair, or play Twister. Be creative and don’t forget to have some fun – it’s hard for a child to want to snuggle with you if you look angry or tired!
- Talk about it to the right people. Find your right outlet – other adoptive parents, your social worker, a supportive therapist, your spouse, partner, or best friend. Use good judgment; if an acquaintance has given you the message that she thinks the adoption of your child was a bad idea, that’s probably not the person to share your feelings with.
At the end of episode 2, Julia and Victor have a little breakthrough – he is emotionally vulnerable, she promises help, follows through on it, and is rewarded with a conversation and an awkward hug. Not monumental when it comes to raising an 8 year old boy, but I was sitting on my couch, excited for these characters and all the adoptive families I have worked with, for that one moment, where even in its tiny doses, they can start to feel the love they’ve been waiting for.
Stella Gilgur-Cook, LCSW, Assistant Director of Outreach, Spence-Chapin Services to Families & Children
From the moment she gets a call from Spence-Chapin about a newborn coming into care, Carmela Grabowski goes into mommy mode. “I put fresh linens on the bassinet, clean the car seat, make formula, sterilize the pacifiers, change out all the diapers from size 2 to 1, and sort the clothes depending on the season and the gender of the baby.”
Carmela has been an interim care provider with Spence-Chapin since 2009, and has cared for 32 infants. This wife and mother of a 21-year-old son and a 19-year-old daughter, both adopted, gives us a sneak peak of life as an interim child care provider. “I start my day around 6:00am with a feeding, changing the baby’s diaper. Baby is back down for a nap, and I then clean up the house, do laundry and shower. Around 9:00am, I give her/him the second bottle. I keep the baby up for about an hour– swinging, playing, cuddling when it’s down for a nap number 2. I take this time to work in my private office ‘til noon, and then I start making lunch for my husband and daughter. If it’s a day when the baby has a doctor’s appointment or a visit with her birth parents, we get on the road around 9:15am.
“In the afternoon, when I prepare dinner, the baby is in the swing keeping me company in the kitchen. By 6:00pm, the family sits down together for dinner and everyone takes turns interacting with the baby while we eat. At 8:00pm, it’s ‘Bath-Bottle-Bed. I usually stay awake until midnight, waiting for the baby’s next feeding, and of course, some more cuddling. Then, I’m up every 3-4 hours for late night feedings and diaper changes.”
“I’d tell anyone who wants to do this [interim care], that you have to understand that it takes up a lot of time and a lot of work. But, it’s most rewarding. You just get so much out of it. Adoptive parents often keep in touch. I keep a photo album with all the pictures they send me of the babies I’ve cared for. It’s the best thing I’ve ever done.
Spence-Chapin’s Interim Child Care Program is one of the last of its kind. It began over 70 years ago as a valuable service for birth parents by giving them time after delivery – free from pressure – to make a decision about their child’s future.
Experienced care providers, supervised by our child care department, look after the babies in their home for several days or weeks after hospital discharge. Birth parents retain their legal rights and can visit their babies during this period. Spence-Chapin’s board-certified pediatricians examine all infants in our care after hospital discharge; give them regular exams during their stay; and perform a discharge exam on the day they leave to go home.
You can learn more by visiting our website.
Like adoptive families headed by heterosexual parents, gay parents and their children have to have conversations about the validity of their family, and how to deal with prejudice and questions from people outside the family. Our family workshop on April 24th 6:30pm-8:30pm will focus on the particular issues LGBT adoptive parents have to navigate with their children.
Starting June 18th, Spence-Chapin will be hosting a Gay Adoptive Parent Support Group. Same-sex couples have the added complexity that cross-gender parenting can bring. This group will offer practical advice and support for gay parents raising adopted children. The group will meet the third Monday night of each month from 6:30 pm-8:00 pm. Register now.
Spence-Chapin’s Adoption Resource Center provides the building blocks, education, and support that adoptive families may need at different life stages.
On Saturday April 28th we will be hosting a mini-conference day at the Yonkers Public Library in Westchester, NY. Adoptive families and those considering adoption, will have the opportunity to participate in workshops with a trained social worker. Our workshop topics will be:
- Building Resilience in our Children – one of the best gifts we can give.
- Different kids, Different Stories – helping your children cope with life’s disparities and discussing these differences in a positive way.
- Adult Adoptees Share Their Stories – sharing their unique insights into the ways that adoption has impacted their lives.
We will also host an Information Meeting where those who are considering adoption can learn more about the options in International and Domestic adoption, what the current climate of adoption is, and how to make an informed decision about the type of child you could welcome into your family.
Spence-Chapin is hosting a four-day training, geared for therapists and social workers, in the treatment of children with trauma-attachment problems.
Early deprivation, neglect, abuse, significant early health problems and hospitalizations, repeated moves, or more than one year in an orphanage can create attachment problems that require specialized treatment. This workshop, led by Dr. Arthur Becker-Weidman, will provide therapists and other professionals with an opportunity to learn and practice effective treatment methods for trauma-attachment disordered children.
Attendees will earn a Certificate of Attendance for 34 CEUs. Learn more at www.spence-chapin.org/dyadicdevelopment .