Domestic Special Needs Adoption at Spence-Chapin: Who Chooses the Adoptive Family?

Families often have questions about what the matching process is like in our Domestic Special Needs Adoption Program. Similar to Spence-Chapin’s Domestic Infant Adoption Program, the matching process in our Domestic Special Needs Program is driven by birth family whenever possible.

Spence-Chapin’s Domestic Special Needs Adoption Program (formerly called ASAP – A Special Adoption Program) was created when parents struggling with an unexpected diagnosis for their child came to us needing support. Since creating this unique program in 1995, we have found over 500 loving adoptive families for children with special medical needs, and we continue to work hard at expanding the benefits of adoption to more medically-fragile children and the prospective adoptive parents who want to love them.

The Spence-Chapin Way

For both our Special Needs and Domestic Adoption Programs, our counselors provide free, confidential, unbiased and culturally-sensitive options counseling for parents in crisis. Our goal is to support these families in understanding all their options and rights as well as the resources available, so they can be empowered to make informed decisions and plans for their child. This includes connecting families to early intervention services, Social Security Income (SSI), and finding additional resources to parent a child who is medically fragile.

For birth parents choosing adoption, we are uniquely qualified to support and guide them through the adoption planning process. Our Special Needs Adoption Program is one of the only places in NY and NJ that has expertise to support birth families and find loving adoptive families for medically-fragile infants. Sometimes we know prenatally that a baby will have a special need, other times we are contacted after the birth of the baby. We know that all birth parents have a great deal of love for their baby and want to make a plan that they feel is best for their child. When a child is born with a special needs, we look for adoptive families registered in our Special Needs Adoption Program.

Birth Parent Perspective: Watch Melissa tell her story about how Spence-Chapin helped her through a difficult time.

Ideally, birth parents can review profiles from multiple adoptive families. Some children have very severe medical conditions and it may be challenging to find multiple families for every child. When looking for prospective adoptive families, we network with other special needs organizations and advocates around the country to find supportive and loving families for children with diverse medical needs.

Additionally, some families have requests about the adoptive family, such as one or two-parent household, religious, racial, or ethnic preferences. In some cases, a birth parent may be looking for families that reflect their own heritage or cultural background. This means that not all families who are open to adopting a child may be profiled with birth parents. If a preference is known, we will often write it in the child’s online profile. Since the children are ready to be adopted immediately, birth parents are only presented with profiles of families that meet their preferences and have a current home study written by a social worker at an accredited agency in the family’s state.

Sometimes we already have adoptive families who have pre-registered with SC who can be considered. Other times we need more options for the birth family and are looking for more prospective adoptive families. Not all waiting children are photo listed on our website. It is the birth parent’s choice if their child’s photo and/or background information is shared online and each parent makes a choice that feels comfortable for them.

Because the children have special medical needs, it is important to know how and why a prospective adoptive family feels prepared to parent a child with significant medical needs. Eligibility is very flexible; we see all types of families: people who are not yet parents as well as parents of 8 or 10 children, families who live in urban, suburban, and rural areas throughout the U.S., families of different races and ethnicities, and parents of different ages. Families living in any state are eligible to apply to adopt. Overall, we are looking for loving families who are prepared and excited to adopt a child with special medical needs! Spence-Chapin supports open adoption and is seeking adoptive parents who are open to ongoing contact with their child’s birth parents, often in the form of phone calls, video chat, letters, emails, visits, and texts.

Ultimately, birth parents select an adoptive family by reviewing adoptive family profiles with their social workers. Once they have narrowed their choice to one family they would like to meet, a match meeting is held between the birth and adoptive parents with their social workers.

Birth Parent Perspective: Hear Zeke’s birth parents speak about their experience working with Spence-Chapin to make an adoption plan for their son. Zeke’s story was featured at the Spence-Chapin Gala in 2017. Learn more about his story here.

Birth Parent Perspective: Watch Scott talk about the unknowns he faced when his third child was diagnosed with Down syndrome prenatally and how he and his partner explored adoption and ultimately chose to parent their daughter.

To learn more about becoming a prospective adoptive parent through our Special Needs Adoption Program, read our Special Needs FAQ on our blog! You can also contact us at 212-400-8150 or asap@spence-chapin.org.

If you are a birth parent considering making an adoption plan, you can contact us 24/7 for free, confidential and unbiased options counseling: Call 1-800-321-LOVE or Text: 646-306-2586.

Spence-Chapin Services to Families & Children ASKS CONGRESS TO SAVE THE ADOPTION TAX CREDIT

For more than 110 years, Spence-Chapin has been a part of thousands of American families through adoption.

On November 2, 2017, The House of Representatives shared their proposal “Tax Cuts and Jobs Act”, which excluded the Adoption Tax Credit. Since 1997, American parents have relied on the adoption tax credit to help them adopt children in need of permanent families. Without the adoption tax credit, it will be much harder and more expensive for families to adopt. It will be more difficult to find forever families for the children who are waiting to be adopted and deserve a permanent family. This important tax credit has enjoyed bi-partisan support as many Congress members recognized the need to promote adoption for children without permanent families.

We ask our Congress members to share our belief that Every Child Deserves A Family and to preserve the adoption tax credit to make it possible for families to adopt.

Spence-Chapin asks their community to join in advocating for the adoption tax credit and sharing the urgency of this issue. We are proud to be a member of the Save the Adoption Tax Credit working group and support the advocacy efforts to save the adoption tax credit. #SaveTheATC #foreverfamilies #spencechapin

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.

Modern Family Center Grand Opening

Didn’t get a chance to make it to our Modern Family Center’s Grand Opening event? Stella Gilgur-Cook, Director of the Modern Family Center, shared these welcoming remarks with guests to outline our vision and services offered to the community. 

The Modern Family Center is here to serve the changing landscape of today’s families. We are on the frontier of how family is defined in the American experience. Adoptive families, birth/first families, multi-racial families, donor-conceived families, single parents, and gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender parents are no longer on the sidelines, but right here working with us. We are participating in a nationwide conversation of what it means to be a family, what values and traditions we uphold, and how to best raise our children.

Adoption is our expertise, and after 100 years of adoption service, we know better than anyone that it can be a double-edged sword; there is no disputing that every child deserves a family, but there’s also no disputing that adoption can create heartache. That’s why we will always have a commitment to life-long post-adoption services for every family, at every life stage.

But, adoption is not all we do. At the root of it, we know about families – families who stand out, families who are hard to define, and families who are proud to exist, but wish things could be just a little easier. Today, half of all remarriages form blended families. In the United States, nearly 6 million children have same-sex parents, while a full quarter of the children living in this country are being raised by a single parent. That’s a lot of people trying to work out having a new kind of family.

Being a modern family certainly doesn’t define who you are, but it does shape who you are. It informs where you choose to live, where you send your kids to school, who you make new friends with, and it should inform where you find the best emotional care for your family. When it comes to issues of identity, belonging, culture, or the melding of two families into one and the separation of one family into two, you want the person helping you to see past the obvious and appreciate the bigger picture. In our counseling services, groups, and kids programming, we offer a relational approach that accepts, celebrates, and most of all, understands how to help complex families grow, heal, and build the lives they want.

You want a community where there’s no need to explain or defend your family. You want competent clinicians who understand the unique aspects of your family, free of judgment. You want to know how to explain complicated stuff to your kids by saying the right thing at the right time. We’re offering all of that, and more.

Perhaps I should say what a special time this is in our society, that today’s modern families are all so special. Well, I’m not going to. Maybe somewhere else your family is special or different, but when you’re at the Modern Family Center, you are simply one of us.

I hope you’ll join us for one of our many upcoming events, like us on Facebook, or call us to find out more about what we’re doing and how we can help you family!

 

What is an Adoption Subsidy?

The New York State Adoption Subsidy is designed to help adoptive families parent and finalize the adoption of children with special needs that include medical issues, as well as children who are the most vulnerable (e.g. sibling groups).

New York provides this assistance in the form of basic, special or exceptional monthly stipends that vary based on the special needs of a child.  Some counties in New York State determine a child’s rate of pay based upon the family’s income, while other counties do not. This assistance is only available for children born in the United States.

SpecialNeeds_istockphotoChildren placed through the Spence-Chapin ASAP program may be eligible for subsidy assistance. Families in our ASAP program will have the assistance of our staff in applying for SSI for a child prior to adoption finalization. If the child is approved, they will be Title IV-E eligible. After the Social Security Administration makes their determination, our staff will work with the adoptive family to apply for the adoption subsidy. This includes working with the family to gather medical and specialist reports supporting a working diagnosis of the child, as well as creating a social history report which gives the subsidy worker a narrative of the child’s life and how their medical special needs affect their day-to-day activities. Our staff will help families apply for a basic rate of subsidy if a child is hard-to-place and has no medical issues.

After adoption finalization of a child that has been approved for subsidy, our staff will work with the family to submit a non-recurring expense reimbursement up to the amount of $2,000. This expense reimbursement is meant to curb the costs related to finalizing an adoption and includes attorney fee and post-placement supervisory reports.

Most children placed through our pilot Adoption from Foster Care (AAFC) program are also eligible to receive an adoption subsidy.  Children who were formerly in foster care receive their subsidy rate based on the level of care they were in prior to be adopted. Families who adopt through the pilot AFFC will have Spence-Chapin staff assistance in applying for adoption subsidy prior to finalization. All children previously in foster care are Title IV-E (Medicaid) eligible.

An adoption subsidy makes it possible for many families to consider adopting the children who have been waiting the longest for adoptive parents. Because of our commitment to finding permanent families for the world’s most vulnerable children, and the many costs associated with adoption, Spence-Chapin has reduced the financial barriers to adoption in an effort to support families who open their lives and hearts to a school-age child, a sibling group, or a child with special needs.

 

Nia Vardalos, Not So ‘Instant’ Mom

The thing about Nia Vardalos’s book, “Instant Mom,” is that I want to push it onto people. Lots of people. People who have looked at my family and said, “Oh, we’ve thought about adoption.” People who I kind of suspect might, for one reason or another, be thinking about adoption. People who I, in my status as she-who-knows-best-about everything, think should maybe be thinking about adoption. (I would never really do that.)

Ms. Vardalos is, of course, an actor and screenwriter, and now, the mother of one daughter through adoption. She is also a veteran of fertility treatments — lots of fertility treatments. Every fertility treatment I’ve ever heard of and some I hadn’t. She went back again and again, to a self-punishing degree, and emerged grievingadoption and without a baby — an experience she does not gloss over. She may tell you that her daughter is her destiny, but she will not tell you that she enjoyed getting there.

Even after Ms. Vardalos and her husband closed the chapter on infertility treatments, she came slowly to adoption, and even more slowly to the foster adoption program. She had misconceptions about who the children were and how the process worked, she told me, which made her reluctant. “For one thing, I thought in foster adoption, the children came to live with you for a while, then went back home, or might go back home,” she said. “I wasn’t aware of all the children who are already legally emancipated from their families.”

She also thought all, or at least most, of the children in a foster adoption program would have unmanageable problems. “But you know, some children have issues, some don’t — just like any children, biological, or adopted from anywhere,” she said. “That’s just life. “

“But I’m an average person who reads the news and listens to the stories, and of course, fear sells,” Ms. Vardalos said. “Even though I’m surrounded by happy adoptive families, I had only absorbed the negative ones. I’m a middle child Canadian, and I wasn’t looking for trouble. I’m not proud of it, but I want to be honest about it. I had fears.”

Those fears, and what happened after she put them aside, are the subject of Ms. Vardalos’s book, and of her new role as an advocate for foster adoption. Hers is the rare honest look at the adoption of a slightly older child — a child with a history; a child with memories; a child with reason to be angry about her life up until now, but without the ability to understand or put words to that anger. Her daughter, Ilaria, was almost 3 years old when she went to live with her new family — old enough to be confused and to grieve, and to take some of that grief out on her unprepared new mother and father.

Because I, too, am the adoptive parent of a slightly older child (my younger daughter was almost 4 when she came to us), every word of “Instant Mom” rang true for me, as Ms. Vardalos and her husband get through the difficult first days and weeks and find a way into their daughter’s heart. I asked her to describe the first few days after they took Ilaria home, and she laughed — a big, friendly laugh at how she used to be — and then got serious.

“We were suddenly and overwhelmingly in over our heads,” she said. “We were not equipped to help this poor, scared child with anything other than words we weren’t sure she understood, and caresses and kisses that she wouldn’t allow — and she was mad. She was really mad, and I understood. We would say it. ‘This must make you really mad. This must be really confusing.’ ”

Ms. Vardalos describes how they slowly helped Ilaria find enough confidence to relax, enough belief in them to sleep, and enough trust in her new family to speak and eventually to love. Of her choice to begin her life as a parent with a child who was past infancy and babyhood, she said: “I realized I didn’t necessarily see us with a baby. There are benefits to adopting a toddler. They can tell you what’s wrong. And — everything we did with our daughter was a first. Her first tooth fairy. Santa. If you adopt a 16-year-old, you teach them to drive for the first time. If you’re looking for firsts, there are always firsts.”

“Instant Mom” is the book I wish I’d had as we traveled that same road with our youngest daughter. If you have ever considered bringing a child who isn’t an infant into your family, it’s the book you’ll want to read. And if you just enjoy a good, honest memoir, whether it’s an experience you’ll ever share or not (hello, “Eat Pray Love”), it’s the book for you, too.
By KJ DELL’ANTONIA

Credit: NYTimes.com