South Africa Adoption Story: Kerri and Nathan

Kerri and her daughter, Elsa

“The way our family came to be is outside of what I ever thought, or envisioned, for myself. Adoption was never something that I had thought much about, especially when it came with growing my own family. But, when I reflect, I am so thankful that my family has been built in this way. It has been built perfectly and beautifully- better than I could have ever anticipated or dreamed of for myself.

Adoption came into my and my husband’s life after struggling with infertility for several years after the birth of our son. It led us to adopt a 3-year-old girl from Ethiopia, our daughter Elsa.

After seeing the immense need of so many children who did not have a family, we knew we would one day adopt again. After a few years, we brought our son, Asher, home from South Africa. He was 2.5 years old. Soon after, we learned we were pregnant! Our children are now ages 10, 8, 4, and 1.

Kerri and Nathan’s four children

As a parent to two biological children, and two internationally adopted children, I have to say that it feels completely normal to me. I often forget that our family unit may be very different from those around us.

Adopting our children has brought me the exact same feelings as having my biological children has. Feelings of immense love, joy, protection, hope for their future, and worry (of course) about if I am doing this parenting thing right. Being a parent is a roller coaster ride – with so many emotions and ups and downs. Any child, no matter what their origin, brings the same parenting concerns.

One thing that being an adoptive mom has taught me, is that I need to be well-versed in trauma informed parenting. No matter what the circumstance, or special need, or what age a child is when they are adopted, they all have experienced great trauma in being separated from their family of origin. Having adopted children means disciplining differently. Parenting two children who have had very difficult beginnings is not easy, by any means. I feel that educating myself, and implementing a different approach to disciplining and parenting, is something every adoptive parent needs to commit to. Plus, I believe that learning these amazing parenting techniques has helped me to be a better mom to all my kids.

Having a biological child after adopting has brought up some big conversations with my kids about first families, what we call “tummy mommies and tummy daddies” – and what it means to have a parent. It has been an incredible experience to walk alongside my children as they each process their own story.

Having two African children brings a completely new perspective to our family. My entire world view has changed because of knowing my adopted children. The course of my life, the course of my husband’s life, of our biological kids’ lives, and of our extended family’s lives, have been opened to a new viewpoint through our adoptive children. We are all blessed to know Elsa and Asher and have changed for the better because of them.

Kerri, Nathan, and their four children

Because of Elsa and Asher, my life is rich and full in ways I never would have experienced. My family is Ethiopian and South African. I have gained two beautiful and diverse cultures. My family includes their heritage in each of our lives through music, food, and most amazingly, through the incredible African community we have met here, who are now like family.

We have traveled to Africa several times since starting the adoption process, and we even had a month-long stay together as a family in South Africa. The memories we made there will be cherished forever, and the kids talk about our experiences there often.

Being a mother to both biological and adoptive children is an incredible experience that I wish more people might consider. For me, it has formed the most beautiful family I could ever imagine.”

Bulgaria Adoption Story: Lee-Ann and William

Adopting a Child with Down Syndrome

Cotner-family-image

“Hi! We are the Cotner family! We are a big, fun, loud, loving, rocking family. We have six beautiful kiddos. Four were homegrown and two grew in our hearts via international adoption and they both just happen to be rocking an extra chromosome a.k.a. they have Trisomy 21 or Down Syndrome.

Our first son, Harvey, came home from Eastern Europe and completely stole our hearts. Soon after our first adoption, we knew that we wanted to adopt again, and specifically another kiddo with Down Syndrome. We knew financially that it might be easier for our family to wait a few years, but when I saw the profile of this waiting kiddo, my heart skipped a beat. I requested his file and I read it over and over. I was looking at it, yet again, when my youngest daughter Quinn said, “Oh, there he is… there’s my brother. I’ve been looking for him!” I knew he was our son and another adventure was beginning!

harrison-image

Harrison joined our family thanks to help from Spence-Chapin and our fabulous in-country team. In a beautiful coincidence, Harrison came home in October, which is Down Syndrome Awareness Month.

Parenting a child with Down Syndrome is truly a blessing. Our sons who have Down Syndrome have overcome so many obstacles that most people take for granted. Seeing them overcome and succeed has given us a new insight on life and we truly appreciate all the little and big things. They are our shining lights. There are the hard days when the struggles of Down Syndrome and prior institutional trauma can hurt your mama heart, because we want to take all their pain and struggle away. But it just makes us love them more and remember that with love and patience we can all do hard things.

Our older four children are incredible with their little brothers. They are so loving and protective, and they are the boys’ biggest cheerleaders. They loved them before they even met them, and their admiration for their brothers only grows. I always say the greatest gift we’ve ever given them was each other.

My husband, William, is active duty Army and that can add some additional hiccups, but Spence-Chapin handled it with such grace and ease. Our process was smooth, and we truly fell in love with Harrison’s birth country. The Army is incredibly supportive of adoption and we are so grateful for this. They let my husband take a substantial leave and even reimbursed some of our adoption expenses.

Every child deserves a family…. every child has worth, and we are forever thankful to be a part of the lucky few that get to have some rocking kiddos with Down Syndrome in their family thanks to adoption and Spence-Chapin!”

To learn more about adoption from Bulgaria and the children in need of families, visit: www.spence-chapin.org/bulgaria

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.

Highlights of the 2018 Gala: An Evening Celebrating Family

gala-roomSpence-Chapin’s 2018 Gala on Thursday, May 3rd was themed, “Every child deserves a family”—a guiding principle of the organization over its 110-year history. And while the event truly reflected this concept, it presented it through the lens of creating family, highlighting the many varied and beautiful ways in which we all build family.

Hosted at the lovely Current at Chelsea Piers in New York City, the event featured a silent auction, cocktail hour and dinner overlooking the Hudson River.  Returning for his second year to preside over the evening was NBC New York’s Storm Team 4 weatherman, David Price. Opening the program with some lively quips and wit, Price then introduced Spence-Chapin’s President & CEO, Adam Cotummacio, to set the tone of the evening.

Adam C and Dave PriceMr. Cotummacio spoke about the ways in which each family uniquely creates their own special environment—maybe through a set of household rules over chores or watching tv that may seem strange to the outsider, or through traditions that are set up and done every year without question—and in this way, begins to build family, that sense of belonging and safety.

Hardie Stevens then took the stage, an entrepreneur and adoptee through Spence-Chapin. Mr. Stevens spoke about the significance of adoption as a lifelong experience and the unique ways it has shaped his view of family.

Family filmSpence-Chapin then premiered its short film, “Family,” which chronicles how Spence-Chapin helps to form loving, nurturing and permanent families through its domestic, international and special needs adoption programs; its Granny and Interim Care Programs that provide ongoing care for infants and children; and its unbiased counseling for pregnant women and birth parents as they navigate different options available to them.

Featured prominently in the film is Spence-Chapin’s very own family member, Antoinette Cockerham—an employee with Spence-Chapin for 25 years and the recipient that evening of its Lifetime Achievement Award. Ms. Cockerham, or “Toni” as she is known among friends, served as Director of Domestic Programs at Spence and helped to create hundreds of families through adoption during her tenure

Toni-awardSpence-Chapin Board President, Ian Rowe, presented the award to Ms. Cockerham and said of few words about his and his wife’s own journey in an open adoption through Spence-Chapin, and the beautiful family that they have created. In her gracious acceptance remarks, Ms. Cockerham pointed to the many challenges that still lie ahead and the important work that Spence-Chapin must continue to do, and can accomplish, with support.

CK SwettThat support became palpable as Celebrity Auctioneer CK Swett took the stage and led a direct pledge moment that helped raise $80,000 for the organization’s programs in just a few minutes. It was a spectacular outpouring of support for the work that Spence-Chapin has done in its extended history and will do in the future.

Later that evening, Mr. Cotummacio reflected on the whole of the evening, and the integral role Spence-Chapin has been able to play in the lives of so many children and families:

“Spence-Chapin is truly a unique organization. This year’s Gala was dedicated to the work we have done serving as part of the connective tissue to thousands of families throughout our 110-year history. The event enabled us to celebrate family and open-adoption in all its intricate, loving, challenging and wonderful forms. I am forever grateful to our amazing staff and the impact they deliver each day the Spence-Chapin Way by helping to create strong families and by providing women in crisis with the support and counseling needed to make informed decisions about their options.”

Spence-Chapin is appreciative to its Gala Committee, Board of Directors, attendees and supporters for making this night successful and wonderful. Please make sure to view the photos of the event and the featured short film, “Family.”

February: Black History Month

Spence-Chapin has been a leader in African-American and Black infant adoption and recruiting African-American adoptive parents. In honor of Black History Month, we revisit the efforts made by those who have fought to break barriers, making African-American and Black children from all parts of the world a focus and a priority.

Adoption at Spence-Chapin

In the 1940’s, Gladys Randolph, former director of Social Work at Harlem Hospital, brought the issue of boarder babies languishing in her community without families to the attention of Spence-Chapin. Challenging the then-popular notion that African-American families were not interested in adoption, Spence-Chapin started a program in 1946 to respond to the crisis. Working hard to tackle this misconception, in 1953, the agency elected Mrs. Jackie Robinson, wife of the famous baseball player Jackie Robinson, to serve on the Board of Directors. She played a crucial role in recruiting African-American families and as the movement gained momentum, more illustrious Americans, including Ruth Harris (wife of political scientist and Noble Peace Prize winner Ralph Bunche), Marian Anderson (celebrated American singer), and Willetta S. Mickey (wife of Civil Rights pioneer Hubert Delaney) helped Spence-Chapin recruit African-American adoptive families.

Eleanor Roosevelt was the featured speaker for a Spence-Chapin conference in 1954. Mrs. Roosevelt was quoted in The New York Times as saying, “No matter what the color of their skin, all our children must be looked at as the future rich heritage of the country.”

In 1991, adoptive parents of African-American children formed the Spence-Chapin African-American Parents Advisory Committee, known as AAPAC. The group, which welcomes all families parenting African-American, Black, bi-racial, and multi-racial adopted children, brings families together for social networking and support. One of the positive outcomes has been the close ties formed by members and their children, and the sense of community which has evolved among families.

Today, Spence-Chapin continues our mission of finding adoptive families for all children in the New York tri-state area and abroad as well as recruiting African-American, Black, bi-racial, and multi-racial adoptive parents.  

 

Things Never to Say to a Birth Mom by Terri Rimmer

Things Never to Say to a Birth Mom
Written and Shared with Permission by Terri Rimmer

Why don’t you have another one (baby) and keep it?
You just didn’t have the confidence to be a mom.
Can I take the baby?
Give me the baby.
I’ll raise the baby.
I have a relative who’ll take the baby.
You mean you don’t want it?
So, you just don’t want to keep it?
That’s really cold.
You’re a cold-hearted person.
So, you’re just going to give it up, just like that?
Why do you care if the baby’s okay? You’re not keeping it?
Why’d you name the baby? They’re just going to rename it anyway.
I’d try to get the baby back.
You can always change your mind back, right?
Why are you doing this?
Do you just not want kids?
Do you just not like kids?
You know you can sell your baby on the black market?
You can get on welfare.
You can afford it.
I’m not a fan of open adoptions.
It’s time to move on with your life.
You’ll think about your daughter one day maybe.
That’s a selfish decision.
You can make it.
I’ll give the baby a good home.
Are you going to have any more kids?
You love this child. You should have another one (you shouldn’t have placed her for adoption).
You should have faith in God and try to be a mom anyway.

Domestic Adoption Home Studies at Spence-Chapin

Spence-Chapin supports adoptive parents pursuing a domestic independent or attorney adoption. We offer Home Study, pre-adoption training, consultations, and more. We provide adoptive families with expertise, professionalism, and the support of an entire adoption team. With over 100 years of experience in adoption, we know how to support adoptive families, birth families, and adoptees! If requested, Spence-Chapin can provide recommendations for reputable adoption attorneys in the NYC area. Overall, Spence-Chapin recommends working with an experienced adoption attorney, preferably a member of the American Academy of Adoption Attorneys.

Home Study Services

A home study is a document required for all adoptive parents and is the first step to any adoption process. Spence-Chapin has provided home studies for thousands of families adopting domestically. We have the expertise to work with you and your adoption attorney or out-of-state agency. Families can begin the home study process while they are identifying their agency or attorney. If you’re ready to get started on the adoption process, please visit our website to download our free home study application online: www.spence-chapin.org/homestudy.

Pre-Adoption Support

Throughout the adoption process, Spence-Chapin social workers and staff are available for support and information. Families can schedule one-on-one meetings to talk about their questions or concerns, such as how to manage the wait to be matched with a child, how to speak with a birth parent once connected, what to do if spouses aren’t on the same page about the adoption, navigating open adoption, and much more!

Post-Adopt Support

Regardless of how you choose to build your family, our ongoing family support is available! We offer robust post-adoption support through consultations, counseling, parent coaching, and events for parents and kids. Our post-adoption services are available to all families after your child joins your family! We offer a monthly playgroup for adoptive families with kids 0-5, an annual Halloween party, Global Family Day Picnic in Central Park, and ongoing workshops for kids and parents. We invite you to join us for these community events!

Get started with a domestic adoption today by starting the home study process! Visit our website to learn more about Spence-Chapin’s home study services or contact us at (212) 400-8150 or info@spence-chapin.org.  

International Home Studies with Spence-Chapin

 

Interested in Adopting Internationally? 

In addition to our placement programs in Bulgaria, Colombia and South Africa, Spence-Chapin also provides international home study services for families adopting from many other countries. In the past, we have supported families pursuing adoption from Ghana, Jamaica, Haiti, India, South Korea, China, Taiwan, the Philippines, and elsewhere around the world. We offer Home Study, pre-adoption counseling and more for every type of adoption.

Regardless of the country you are adopting from, all families, need to complete a home study. Spence-Chapin provides international home study services for families living in the NYC area, including New Jersey, the Hudson Valley and Long Island. We work with families living within 100 miles of New York City. Our home studies are of the highest caliber, and meet the highest legal regulations set for international adoption.

Finding a Primary Provider

In order for our team to fully review and consider your home study application, you’ll need a Primary Provider. A primary provider is a Hague accredited agency in the United States that is responsible for your international adoption. This agency will help navigate the inter-country laws and documentation you will need for your international adoption.

For international adoptions, it is very common for a family to use two adoption agencies – a home study agency & a placement agency. A home study agency provides the home study, parent preparation/training, and post adoption supervision. The placement agency  is responsible for the overseas adoption process including the child referral, travel, and dossier preparation. The two agencies work together to ensure that all parts of the adoption process meet state, federal and country requirements.

How do I Find a Primary Provider?

You can visit our website for links to helpful websites and organizations that may help you identify a primary provider for the country you are hoping to adopt from. We recommend reviewing potential Primary Providers through COA or the National Council on Adoption. The United States Department of State oversees all international adoptions to the United States and may also be a resource for you: adoption.state.gov.

Once I’ve identified a primary provider, what’s next?

Once you’ve identified a primary provider, the next step is to fill out our free Home Study application. The application is on our website and you can download it directly anytime. The Home Study Application is an opportunity for our team to get to know your family better and to learn more about the nuances of the adoption you’re hoping to pursue. After we receive your family’s application, our staff will follow up with you to schedule a convenient time to speak, to further discuss the adoption you’re looking to pursue and next steps in the process!

 

To learn more about completing your home study with Spence-Chapin email us at info@spence-chapin.org or call us at 212-400-8150.

Parent Coaching Tips from Beth’s Corner: How to Promote Attachment

Through attachment building activities, an affectionate and emotional tie is created between parents and children. Here are some tips from one of our parent coaches, Beth Friedberg, LCSW, about how to promote attachment with your adopted child.

  1. Create a sense of safety – Let the child know that they will always be loved for who they are and not for their actions and that love has no conditions. Reassure them that they are safe.
  2. Set predictable daily routines – Clear expectations provide structure and reduce stress. Things like mealtimes and bedtimes build trust in parent-child relationships. Consistent and dependable times for a parent to meet a child’s needs is the cornerstone of the attachment process.
  3. Be in control – Children thrive when their parents provide daily routines. Chaotic and unpredictable behavior can generate anxiety, distress, and insecure attachment. Set understandable and logical limits for your child for inappropriate behaviors and develop disciplinary strategies. When a child knows that an adult is “in charge,” they are better able to attach.
  4. Play connection-building activities – Attachment play is done with the intention of connecting. It often involves laughter and can be initiated by parents or children. Teach your child a new skill, make a craft, bake the perfect cake, play a game of catch, a round of cards, hide and seek, etc. Patterned movement, mirroring activities, alternating reading aloud, trading hand massages, feeding each other, etc. are all wonderful ways to build trust, intimacy, and attachment.

Want to learn more parenting tips?

CALL US TODAY TO GET THE SUPPORT YOU NEED

646-539-2167

How to Adopt from South Africa from Anywhere in the United States

Adoption from South Africa opened to American families in 2013. Since then, Spence-Chapin has been one of just two U.S. agencies approved by the South African Central Authority – and we have been actively finding families ever since!

In South Africa, young children with medical and developmental needs as well as siblings who are considered medically healthy are waiting to be matched with families. All types of parents can adopt from South Africa – married couples, unmarried couples, LGBTQ parents, single women, and single menFamilies residing anywhere in the United States can adopt from South Africa.

Let’s outline the steps to adopting from South Africa through Spence-Chapin. Spence-Chapin has paperwork experts and we joke that we haven’t lost someone to paperwork yet! Our team is here to guide adoptive parents through each step and make sure the i’s get dotted and the t’s get crossed.

For families living in the NY/NJ Metro area, Spence-Chapin conducts the home study preparation and training as well as coordinates the adoption process from South Africa. For families residing outside of the NY/NJ Metro area, Spence-Chapin is able to establish a partnership with a family’s local Hague-Accredited home study provider anywhere in the country to coordinate the adoption process from South Africa.

How to Adopt through Spence-Chapin’s South Africa Adoption Program

  1. Application:

The first step is to submit an adoption application. An international adoption application can be downloaded for free from Spence-Chapin’s website. When Spence-Chapin receives a family’s application for the South Africa Adoption Program, our adoption team reviews your family’s background to ensure eligibility requirements set by the country are met. Applications are reviewed weekly at Spence-Chapin by our Adoption Team. The purpose of the application is for Spence-Chapin to gain a full view of your family and the child you intend to adopt. This information allows Spence-Chapin to begin to assess eligibility for adoption programs and set expectations for the rest of the adoption process.

Once a family has completed the application phase, Spence-Chapin welcomes your family into the program.

Adoptive families will apply to both Spence-Chapin and their home study agency. If you have not yet located an agency in your area, Spence-Chapin can assist you with finding a reputable home study agency that can provide Hague Home Study preparation and training. If you have already begun the home study process, Spence-Chapin will connect with your local agency to ensure proper licensure and Hague Accreditation. The two agencies will sign an agreement to work together.

  1. Home Study and Dossier Preparation:

Once an adoptive family is officially moving forward with an adoption from South Africa, Spence-Chapin will provide guidance to your local social worker on any home study recommendations to meet the requirements of South Africa and our partners, Johannesburg Child Welfare (JCW). Throughout the home study process, families will learn about core adoption issues and prepare to adopt a child with special needs. Prior to finalizing a home study, Spence-Chapin will review the document and provide feedback to the local social worker.

 

While you are completing your home study with the local agency, Spence-Chapin’s document specialist will provide step-by-step guidance on putting together the dossier for South Africa. A dossier is the packet of paperwork that an adoptive family will submit to be considered as potential adoptive family in South Africa. Every country determines the documents that are required in a dossier and the Spence-Chapin team are experts at preparing the South Africa dossier paperwork. The document specialist reviews each document to ensure accuracy and provides assistance on authenticating documents on the state, US government and consulate/embassy levels. When a dossier is complete, the family sends it to Spence-Chapin for a final review and Spence-Chapin will submit the dossier to JCW in South Africa.

Once the dossier is submitted, the family is officially waiting to be matched with a child in need of adoption!

  1. Child Referral:

Spence-Chapin and the local social worker will provide support to the family during the wait for your child’s referral. The wait time to be matched with a child is approximately 12-18 months after dossier submission. A referral is the packet of paperwork the South African social workers compile about a child in need of adoption. It includes the child’s known social and medical history. When the referral arrives, Spence-Chapin will send the family all information and photos provided by JCW on the child. The family will review the medical history with a Medical Specialist and support from Spence-Chapin. Spence-Chapin will communicate the family’s decision about moving forward with an adoption to JCW’s social worker. When this much-anticipated time comes, families decide whether or not they are ready to make an unconditional, lifelong commitment to another person whom they may never have met! Spence-Chapin’s adoption team is available to the family to discuss questions, concerns, and more as the family makes this decision.

  1. Travel:

Once a family has accepted a child referral, Spence-Chapin will prepare the family for travel to South Africa! The Spence-Chapin team will schedule a meeting to prepare for and review all the details of the trip and how to complete the adoption. Adoptive families should expect to stay in the Johannesburg area for 2-4 weeks to complete the adoption. Families will be fully escorted in South Africa by JCW social workers to all the official appointments throughout their trip. While in South Africa, families can communicate remotely with Spence-Chapin staff by phone and email as well as receive ongoing contact with social work staff from JCW. Fortunately, English is one of the official languages of South Africa and so it is very common to read and speak English throughout Johannesburg. Parents are welcome to bring children, family, or close friends on the trip.

  1. Post Adoption:

Upon arrival home, an adoption from South Africa will be considered full and final under South African law and the children will be granted full U.S. citizenship. Spence-Chapin will provide instructions to families on obtaining all documents related to the adoption, including the certificate of U.S. citizenship, passport and social security card.

After homecoming, families will complete post-adoption reports with their local social worker. Spence-Chapin will guide your local social worker on the post-adoption requirements for South Africa and submit reports and photos to JCW.

Following an adoption from South Africa and for the lifetime of your family, Spence-Chapin welcomes adoptive families to attend annual events, travel to NYC to visit the agency and to engage post adoption services through our Modern Family Center. Spence-Chapin’s Modern Family Center offers parent coaching and post adoption support, over the phone or via video conferencing in all 50 states.

If you are interested in more information about adoption from South Africa, please visit us online, email us at info@spence-chapin.org, or call us at 212-400-8150.

Expert Information: Adoption and ADHD

Research tells us that children who were adopted have a higher rate of ADHD as compared to children who were not adopted. Spence-Chapin has a long history of providing support services to the adoption community and developed an ADHD and emotional regulation treatment plan to meet the needs of children with ADHD and their families.

WHAT IS ADHD

ADHD or Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder is a brain disorder that exhibits high levels of inattentiveness, impulsivity, hyperactivity, and emotional dysregulation in multiple settings.

TREATMENT

The affected population can improve with treatment and stable environment. Spence-Chapin’s licensed professionals use evidence based assessment tools, provide parents with behavioral management training, and offer educators child-specific classroom interventions and techniques. They provide a holistic and personalized ADHD treatment plan for every child and maximize its effectiveness by partnering with parents, teachers, school psychologists, and school counselors. Spence-Chapin can help your child develop the skills and self-esteem necessary to manage ADHD with little to no medication.

TIPS AND TOOLS FOR PARENTS

Your child can’t manage ADHD alone.

  • Get educated – learn from videos, books and articles, informative websites, and more!

Spence-Chapin’s Modern Family Center helps parents learn about ADHD and other conditions that accompany it.

  • Reward good behaviors and discourage destructive ones.
  • Make a routine and stick to it. Consistency is key.
  • Break tasks up – taking small 20-30 minute breaks during homework time can make a huge difference.
  • Prepare for the next day – ensure everything is ready to go in the morning. This will keep your family organized and on time. We’re committed to supporting and advocating for children with ADHD and their families. Watch our interactive ADHD training video to learn more.

We Celebrate Clara Spence

“Throughout our Nation’s history, American women have led movements for social and economic justice, made groundbreaking scientific discoveries, enriched our culture with stunning works of art and literature, and charted bold directions in our foreign policy.”

In 2009, Martha Ulman, Clara Spence’s grand-daughter, wrote an article for the New York State Historical Association chronicling the history of her grandmother’s achievements as a pioneer in adoption in New York. We can think of no better way to acknowledge the women who shaped social justice than to honor our own founder and adoption advocate Clara Spence. This is an excerpt from Martha Ulman’s article:

Clara_Spence resizedClara Spence achieved her work during the pivotal decades 1900-1920, when there were many people with socially progressive ideas. Some approached the problem of the discrepancy between the rich and the poor from the bottom up. They personally went into the slums and worked with the problem firsthand. Clara Spence chose to approach the problem from the top by preaching to the children of the richest New Yorkers the moral and ethical virtue of service so that they, in their adult life, would make a difference in improving the conditions of those less fortunate. Although many of her students went own to serve in their communities, the area for which they are best known is that of adoption and the creation of their nursery, which merged with that of Henry and Alice Chapin in 1943. Known today as Spence-Chapin Services to Families and Children, the organization continues to serve the needs of children of all creeds, colors, and nationalities.

Born in Albany, New York, in 1859, Clara Spence was a member of the middle class. She graduated from Boston University’s School of Oratory in 1879, after which she attended London University where she honed her acting skills. She came to New York City originally aspiring to be an actress but, upon the death of her mother in 1883, she shifted her talents to teaching at private schools for girls. In 1892, she founded her own school in a brownstone at 6 West Forty-Eighth Street. It was in this school that Clara Spence began a nursery for abandoned babies.

The treatment of orphans before the 1890’s followed a dreary route from institutional care to indentured service or, in the case of thousands of children in Charles Loring Brace’s orphan trains, relocation to families hundreds of miles from their homes. There, as Marilyn Holt notes in her book, “The Orphan Trains: Placing Out in America”, they were often valued for their labor potential rather than accepted as members of the family. Clara Spence offered adoption as an alternative to institutionalization or relocation. Adoption, which we now take for granted, was an anomaly at a time when to adopt a non-relative was consider a brave and bizarre act, because of genetic uncertainty and social stigma. Clara Spence dedicated herself to the cause of abandoned infants and introduced her students to adoption as a new and fulfilling form of social work.

In January 1909, the White House Conference on Dependent Children adopted fourteen resolutions all aimed at replacing the institutional method of child care with home care. The next month Clara Spence personally adopted a one-year-old girl from the Children’s Aid Society. The judge had no objection to her application even though she was a single parent nearing the age of fifty. Six years later in 1915, Clara Spence adopted a little boy. Her partner, Charlotte Baker, adopted a girl in 1911 and a boy in 1914, completing what was one of the first single-sex adoption families.
Clara Spence - Central Park, February 1911

It was Ms. Spence’s personal involvement that inspired her students, who witnessed the transformation of babies who came from institutions and were “built up” for adoption on the top floor of her school. As a result, in 1915, the alumnae of the school opened the Spence Alumnae Society nursery through which several hundred babies were placed in adoptive homes. In 1921, Clara Spence brought thirteen children from Great Britain to the United States to be adopted into American families, anticipating what has today become a vast network of international adoption. By her willingness to defy public opinion and risk social ostracism, Clara Spence not only managed to make adoption an accepted practice, but one that became the method of choice for hundreds of families. It was largely because of her work and influence that New York became recognized as a leader in child welfare and adoption in particular.

Spence-Chapin has spent over 100 years finding innovative ways to fulfill Clara Spence’s legacy. Our expertise has consistently expanded the benefits of adoption to more children and the prospective parents who want to love them.

Just as Clara Spence responded to the need in her time, our work is focused on serving women and families who need help planning and building strong, loving families. We are driven by the simple and fundamental belief: every child deserves a family. Through our Modern Family Center, we provide counseling and community services that help these new families succeed. We can create more permanent, loving families just as we’ve always done.

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.

SC Recognizes Douglas & Christen Driscoll for Receiving an “Angels in Adoption Award”

SC_FavIcon-2015SPENCE-CHAPIN SERVICES TO FAMILIES & CHILDREN RECOGNIZES DOUGLAS AND CHRISTEN DRISCOLL FOR RECEIVING AN ‘ANGELS IN ADOPTION AWARD’

Douglas and Christen Driscoll, were recently honored with the Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute’s 2015 Angels in Adoption award in Washington, D.C. The Driscoll’s were nominated for the award by Spence-Chapin and selected for the award by Sen. Charles Schumer.

Sen. Charles Schumer selected Spence-Chapin adoptive parents Douglas and Christen Driscoll for their outstanding advocacy in adoption. The Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute (CCAI), which orchestrates the Angels in Adoptionprogram, honored the Driscoll family at an awards ceremony on October 6th and gala on October 7th in Washington, DC. Angels in Adoption™ program highlights ordinary

Spence-Chapin adoptive parents, Douglas and Christen Driscoll, are a remarkable couple and devoted parents to their children. After having five biological children, Douglas and Christen started working with Spence-Chapin by opening their home to provide interim care for children with special needs. Through this work, their desire to expand their family through adoption blossomed. They have since adopted five beautiful sons. The two youngest Driscoll children were adopted through Spence-Chapin’s – special needs program. Linda Alexandre, Spence-Chapin’s Associate Director of Special Needs, remarked “Christen and Doug are dedicated advocates and loving parents for their children. We are thrilled that they have been honored as Angels in Adoption.” Doug and Christen love being parents and feel blessed to have had the opportunity to be chosen as their children’s parents.

On Tuesday, October 6th, the Driscoll family met with Sen. Charles Schumer and received their Angels in Adoption award. Sen. Charles Schumer acknowledged their dedication to adoption and advocacy for children with special needs.

The Angels in Adoptionprogram is CCAI’s signature public awareness campaign and provides an opportunity for all members of the U.S. Congress to honor the good work of their constituents who have enriched the lives of foster children and orphans in the United States and abroad. Each year, more than 140 Angels are honored through the Angels in Adoptionprogram. “The Angels in Adoptionprogram is unlike any other program in the Nation’s Capital. Because of it, almost 2,000 ‘Angels’ have come to share with Washington their adoption experience and left with a renewed excitement of all that adoption makes possible,” said Kathleen Strottman.

The Angels in Adoptionprogram was established in 1999 as a Congressional press conference to honor outstanding individuals. Since then, the program has developed into a yearlong public awareness campaign culminating in an extraordinary awards gala and celebration in Washington, DC.


 

About Spence-Chapin Services to Families & Children
Spence-Chapin is an adoption and family service agency bringing over 100 years of experience in finding families for children. Spence-Chapin’s fundamental belief is that Every Child Deserves A Family. To underscore this commitment, Spence-Chapin has eliminated many financial barriers for families who consider embarking on the adoption journey. Through their Modern Family Center, Spence-Chapin has broadened their impact and provides support, workshops, and counseling services for: birth parents, adoptive parents, families formed through adoption, teens, children with special needs, and adoptees at every life stage.

 

For further information, please contact: Molly Supinski, 212-360-0245, msupinski@spence-chapin.org

 

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.

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!

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!

 

 

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!