The Questions You’re Too Afraid to Ask about Older Child Adoption

older child adoption

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.

Questions:

  • 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 info@spence-chapin.org.

 

Falling into New Routines

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.2919351865_ff71c95b_001

 

 

 

 

 

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.

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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.

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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 info@modernfamilycenter.org, or follow us on Facebook to learn more about how we can help.

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!

 

Colombia’s Changing Adoption Landscape

Associate Director of International Programs Ben Sommers recently had the opportunity to visit Bogota, Colombia to meet with our Colombian representatives and visit institutions. Here, he shares his perspective on the changing landscape of adoption in the country.  

To those individuals and entities working within child welfare, “changing landscape” is an oft-repeated refrain referring to a generalized way to understand the broad shifts that have taken place in the field over the last several decades. In more specific terms, one of the most significant developments is the ballooning number of older children, children with special needs, and sibling groups who are living in institutionalized care. For Spence-Chapin, our own organizational shift is focused around taking a proactive approach to addressing the realities of this new landscape.

Colombia offers a compelling illustration of what the new landscape looks like. I recently had the privilege of traveling to Bogota to visit with our Colombian representatives and see firsthand how the rhetoric of changing landscape translated into reality. Bogota is Colombia’s most populous city, being home to approximately eight million people. Similar to any child welfare system in any nation on the spectrum of economic and social development, stories of children coming into the protection system due to poverty, violence, neglect, and substance abuse are commonplace.

The Colombian central authority on child welfare, Instituto Colombiano de Bienstar Familiar (ICBF) has approximately eleven thousand children under its protection in the Bogota region. Of these eleven thousand children, approximately eight thousand have a legal status that allows for international adoption. The vast majority of this population of eight thousand children is made up of older children, children with special needs, and sibling groups. While international and domestic policies prioritize domestic options, the children in protection institutes grow older, explaining the growing population number. Colombia’s domestic policies are admirable in their focus on family preservation and domestic options for these children but as these long processes unfold, or when they fail to yield legitimate options, the children get older.

Colombia San MauricioWhat I saw during my visits to four protection institutions clearly illustrated this reality: the former nurseries converted to dormitory-style housing, large outside play areas with soccer fields and basketball courts, varied facilities and extracurricular programming, and large staffs of child psychologists focused on the mental well-being of the growing number of children in each institution. It should be noted that the four institutions I visited are exceptional in terms of the resources available enabling them to turn into well-run, holistic facilities. Nonetheless, despite their summer camp-esque exteriors, the children in their care almost exclusively come from difficult backgrounds where abuse, transition, and disappointment have been present. Hence, the clinical focus on mental health and the socializing focus on creating structure, routine, and normalcy.

Again, the protection institutions I visited had the resources that allowed them to create these safe and structured environments. The institutions in rural, lower income areas that are home to thousands of children are not as fortunate. Also not as fortunate is the population of children with special needs who are living within the protection system. I heard numerous stories from child welfare professionals of misdiagnoses combined with bureaucratic indifference that has led to hundreds of children being placed in institutions that are inappropriate for their specific needs. Sadly, these children lack the advocates to help them find a more appropriate environment.

Ultimately, the children I saw are being productive. They take art classes, sing Disney songs, and idolize Lionel Messi. But for them, the notions of “permanent family” and a life free of foreseeable transition are still painted in somewhat vague colors. Many of the children are able to express the agency they feel over their futures by vocalizing either directly or indirectly their desire to be a part of a permanent family. There are challenges that exist for our adoptive families who hope to adopt these children, and these children will face challenges as they navigate the most significant transition of their lives. The limited snapshot of the Colombian child welfare system I was able to glimpse shows that the “changing landscape” rhetoric is grounded in the reality of individual anecdotes and that while the specific institutions I visited have constructed environments where children are able to progress, the key element of permanency is still missing.

Family Profile: The Hoffmans

Bobby, Lucy and GehrigBobby Hoffman learned the value of family at an early age. “My father left when I was 15, but he was gone long before he actually announced his departure,” Bobby explains. As the third oldest of nine children, Bobby was tasked with the enormous responsibility of helping his mother raise his siblings.

Bobby went on to marry Lynn and have a son named Ryan. Lynn unfortunately succumbed to breast cancer when Ryan was just 12 years old. After some time had passed, Bobby later remarried and settled into a life with Kelly, who never had any children and was now the step-mother to his almost adult son.

Just when Bobby thought he was finished rearing children, he realized his best moments had been with children and he wanted to raise another child, specifically a child born in New York City in need of a home. Bobby explains, “I wanted my wife and I to share all the love that we had within our hearts and to give a child a caring, stable home”. With that in mind, the couple turned to Spence-Chapin and a short while later, we able to adopt baby Gehrig.

Linda, the social worker on the case, reflects, “Bobby and Kelly immediately fell in love with Gehrig upon meeting him. It was a profoundly emotional moment and was very, very sweet.” Linda recalls the Hoffmans being on cloud nine about the newest addition to their family, catering fully to Gehrig’s every need.

Tragically, the high unexpectedly became a low when Kelly passed away from a heart attack just before Gehrig’s 2nd birthday. Facing single parenthood for the second time, Bobby drew upon the strength he learned from his mother so early in life and hunkered down to raise his son.

Oftentimes out of tragedy, comes resiliency. The Hoffman FamilyGehrig is now seven and is flourishing due to the love and support of his blended family unit – Bobby, step mom Lucy, Kelly’s mother, and Lucy’s mother. Gehrig is aware of the deep courage his birth mother had in placing him for adoption and is constantly reminded of the boundless love and devotion Kelly had for him. “He knows life is good, even if it is sometimes short with many obstacles,” Bobby says.

The Hoffman family stays connected to Spence-Chapin by attending annual events such as Global Gathering and the Family Picnic. Bobby is also able to give back in a special way – through tribute giving. Instead of gifts on Gehrig’s birthdays, he encourages family and friends to donate to Spence-Chapin in honor of Gehrig. He also takes his commitment a step further by giving to the organization in honor of Gehrig’s friends’ birthdays. Bobby’s generous gifts and championing of Spence-Chapin’s mission help to provide children with a loving, permanent home such as the one he has been able to give Gehrig.

 

Spence-Chapin Partners with The Family Equality Council as an “Ally for Adoption”

Spence-Chapin is excited to partner with the Family Equality Council in their “Allies for Adoption” campaign, agreeing that every child in America deserves the chance to find a forever family. As an Ally for Adoption, we support the Family Equality Council’s efforts to eliminate barriers to adoption faced by LGBT people in every state.

We are also partnering with Parents, Family, & Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG) and the Family Equality Council by joining their Every Child Deserves a Family Coalition to support a bill currently before the U.S. House of Representatives and U.S. Senate that eliminates any state laws, practices, or procedures that exclude LGBT foster and adoptive families.

Spence-Chapin also received the Human Rights Campaign’s “All Children-All Families” Seal of Recognition in October and we continue to be fully committed to equality in adoption as we build families with partnered same-sex and LGBT singles.

allies for adoption  ECDF

Spence-Chapin Supports the NY State Bill of Adoptee Rights

We are proud to join  New York Statewide Adoption Reform’s Unsealed Initiative in supporting the passage of New York State’s Bill of Adoptee Rights (A909 in the Assembly and S2490-A in the Senate) which allows adoptees born in the State of New York to access certain records when they reach the age of 18, including their birth certificates and medical history if availableAdoption Files

We at Spence-Chapin believe that it is a fundamental right of adoptees to know their original identities as well as the identities of their birth parents. Spence-Chapin has a long history of supporting both birth mother and adoptee rights and knows that the sealed records policies of the past are inappropriate in the current adoption landscape.  The current restrictions that New York State law places on adoptees’ information are heartbreaking for adoptees and birth parents.

Spence-Chapin works with the adoption triad each day offering post adoption services: adoptees, birth parents, and adoptive parents, all who are in support of passing this bill. Regardless of the laws governing adoption records in New York State in the past we need to move forward and understand how important it is to adjust to the needs and rights of the adoption triad in present times. We have the opportunity to change the lives of these New Yorkers and we therefore urge the passage of The Bill of Adoptee Rights immediately.

That’s why Spence-Chapin is testifying this Friday, January 31, 2014 on the hearing on Bill of Adoptee Rights and that is why we have signed a petition to The New York State House, The New York State Senate, and Governor Andrew Cuomo.   Will you support this petition? Click here to sign.

You  can call us at 646-539-2167 to learn more about Spence-Chapin’s Personal Adoption History support.

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Update: Watch our testimony

The Mongillos Home Makeover

Spence-Chapin parents Bob and Barbara Mongillo are truly one of a kind! Bob and Barbara have six biological children and have selflessly opened their home and hearts to 13 special needs children, many of them coming from our ASAP program. In this episode of the home makeover show ‘George to the Rescue’, George surprises the Mongillos with a bathroom renovation and a few more surprises. We can’t think of a more deserving family!

In Remembrance of Flicka Van Praagh

flicka 3Spence-Chapin offers its heartfelt remembrance of the life and spirit of Flicka Van Praagh.  Flicka had served as the agency’s Director of the International Adoption Department from 1992-2004, having first joined the organization in 1958.

With an early interest in adoption, Flicka chose to come to Spence-Chapin for her student placement, a requisite for her MSW from Columbia University, and was offered a position after graduation. She started as a case worker in foster care in 1958 and was department head from 1961 to 1964 when she left to become Director of Social Services at Woman’s Hospital, a division of St. Luke’s Hospital Center. There she met her husband and they became the parents of a daughter and two sons. She returned to the agency in the early 1970’s on a part-time basis doing intakes and home studies that could be completed while her children were in school. She eventually came back full-time working in the international department.

Flicka made the first of many trips around the world in 1975, traveling to Seoul, Korea to implement the founding of Spence-Chapin’s first international program. She traveled extensively in Latin America in the 1980’s, working to establish programs in Chile, El Salvador, Paraguay, Peru, Colombia and Guatemala.

In 1992, Flicka became the director of the international department. She said, “In joining Spence-Chapin, I was able to see the world and visit so many wonderful places. I went to twelve countries trying to set up new programs; opening Russia, China, Moldova and Bulgaria. I found it thrilling to help waiting children from all around the world find their forever families.”

Understanding the critical impact that physical and emotional contact has during a child’s early stages of development, Flicka had the vision to establish Spence-Chapin’s first Granny Program in Bulgaria in 1998. This program’s success saw its replication in China, Moldova, Colombia and South Africa.

Flicka was loved by the many families that she helped bring together. In the New York Times online Guestbook Marth Volcker wrote, “Flicka was a wonderful person, and I am forever grateful to her for the important role she played in the adoption of our daughter. We adopted our daughter from China in 1999, and Flicka was a wonderful guide through the complete adoption process. We saw Flicka about a year and a half ago at a Spence-Chapin function, and her ability to remember and her interest in all the children she had placed in forever families was amazing.”

“We, the parents of two of the ‘in excess of 500 children’ Flicka helped place in adoption while at Spence-Chapin, would like to express our condolences to her family as well as our thanks, once again, to Flicka for guiding us through the 14 months that led up to the arrival of our then six-month and now 32 year old twin daughters, Jessie and Corey. Her spirit lives on in all of us,” wrote Jon Silbert and Bonnie McHale.

The Meo family added, “We are forever grateful and blessed to be parents because of Flicka. We were part of her last group to China. She was an amazing woman. May she rest in peace knowing the love and joy she brought to so many.”

At her retirement party in 2004, Flicka said. “In all the years that I worked with Spence-Chapin, I always carried a case load in addition to my other responsibilities because of the great pleasure and joy in working with clients and seeing them turn into families.”

For Ann Hassan, our current Director of Adoption, Flicka was more than a humanitarian. Flicka“To me, Flicka was a mentor, advisor and friend. As a young worker I idolized her, and she in turn invested in me, encouraged me and molded me into the social worker I am today. She combined grace and confidence in a way that made her a superb leader and a truly unique and special woman. She had true affection and commitment for the hundreds of families she worked with over the years, stemming I think from the immense love and pride she had for her own family and a core belief that everyone deserves to experience that kind of love. Flicka guides me in my work, and in life, and will forever live on through me and my many colleagues who learned from her for so many years.”

As parents and child welfare professionals, many of us are inspired by her work and her legacy.  As we reflect on her achievements, we struggle to find the balance of a tribute and a call to action – not to just mourn Flicka, but to learn from Flicka and continue her work. In doing so, we could elevate our focus of our common goal – that every child deserves a family.

If you would like to make a donation to continue Flicka’s work, we would welcome a tribute gift in her honor or call Mary Connolly, 212-360-0204.

 

You can read our remembrance to Flicka online at the NY Times.

 

NPR Podcast: Love is a Battlefield

The NPR podcast This American Life is known for delving deep into personal lives to share stories which allow us to better understand our community and our national culture.

In 2006, NPR Mental Health Correspondent Alix Spiegel shared a story about adoption and resilience. On Love is a Battlefield Heidi Solomon and her son Daniel describe Daniel’s transition from a Romanian orphanage into a loving adoptive family in the Midwest. Attachment and love are at the center of the podcast as it details the struggles of the Solomon family as they seek out appropriate therapy, support, and education for their son and themselves at the Attachment and Bonding Center of Ohio.

The true beauty of the story is shown, both in the parents’ patient understanding of how to bond with their son, and in their firm belief that their son had the ability to move beyond his history of profound neglect.

Listen to Love is a Battlefield online.

A Sister’s Gift

There are many ways to give back to Spence-Chapin. Maya, daughter of Spence-Chapin adoptive parents Jill and Keith, donated all the money from her bat mitzvah to Spence-Chapin in honor of her brother Jaden. Director of the Modern Family Center Stella Gilgur-Cook describes her experience with Maya and her family:

Many, many years ago I had the pleasure of supporting Jill and Keith with the adoption of their son, Jaden. As a home study social worker, I found Keith and Jill warm, open, positive, and managing their international blended family with grace and maturity.

In that process, I learned a great deal about them, and one of their favorite topics was Keith’s daughter Maya. Living overseas with her mother and visiting Keith and Jill as often as possible on school breaks, I had to wait a while to meet her, but in the meantime was regaled with stories of their smart, sweet daughter, and how much she wanted a little brother or sister.

maya lender and famFinally after much calendar wrangling and perhaps an alignment of the moons and stars, I was able to go out and meet Maya. Now it’s hard to say if this really happened or I just felt like it happened, but I seem to recall that about 30 seconds after meeting Maya, I was getting one of the warmest and sincerest hugs I’ve ever received. She struck me then as a child who was wise for her years, and understood the reality that children face when they do not have parents. When I heard about the work that Maya did on behalf of Spence-Chapin and the children we support, I immediately thought back to that kind, sweet, caring girl I met all those years ago, and could see the influence her parents and her brother’s adoption had on her.

It has been a pleasure knowing this family and knowing Maya. We thank Maya for the special gift that she has given that will support more children in the years ahead.

 

December 2nd is Giving Tuesday, a global initiative to inspire people to give back to the charities and causes that they celebrate. At Spence-Chapin, we work to connect children with permanent homes, deep parental love, and a lifelong sense of security. We can help more children find homes by alleviating all financial barriers to families looking to adopt – but we cannot do this without you! Please participate in Giving Tuesday by making a contribution to the Spence-Chapin Annual Fund

Family Profile: Scott and Tari

Scott and Tari knew shortly after they were married that they wanted to build their family through adoption. After giving birth to two girls, they began the process of adding to their family. They are now the parents to 12 amazing children; 4 biological and 8 through adoption!

Some of their children have learning challenges and require extra help, but for the most part, they had never thought of parenting a child with special needs. However, in the summer of 2012, they learned about a baby that was to be born with severe disabilities. They knew in their hearts that he was meant to join their family. A day after their family was selected by the birth/first mother, they were told that their baby boy had been born.

Their sweet baby boy would only live 3 months before he passed away. During his short life, he endured many surgeries and medical procedures. Caring for this baby instilled in Scott and Tari’s hearts a desire to adopt another child that may have special needs. As their broken hearts began to mend, they once again began the process of adoption.

Tari came across Spence-Chapin’s website and saw our program for special needs adoption. On the waiting child page was Olivia, a baby girl with severe medical disabilities that was in need of a family who could care for her properly. After discussing it with Scott, they started the application process, and this past winter they brought Olivia home. Today, Olivia is thriving in her new home surrounded by her loving parents and brothers and sisters.

“Working with Spence-Chapin has been the best experience,” Tari says. “We have worked with many different agencies and the staff at Spence-Chapin have been the most compassionate and caring that we have ever worked with. We could tell they truly love what they do…helping children!”

A Helping Hand in Bulgaria

adoption bulgariaGuest post from Lizanne C., a Spence-Chapin adoptive parent.

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I waited what felt like an eternity for the phone call. I was emotionally and financially invested in what would be the most meaningful event in my life – the adoption of my little boy. The long journey was frustrating and the waiting was a real test of my endurance and patience.

But then, I got THE call. I had to drop everything quickly – my job, my family, my friends, and my life as I knew it.

Adopting as a single mom,  I flew to Bulgaria the first time alone. I was very anxious about navigating in a foreign land about which I knew virtually nothing. After a touchdown on Bulgarian soil, I could only hope that my street smarts, my intellectual wherewithal, and the good Lord would guide me rather than my emotions.  But, like the poem, “Footprints in the Sand”, there was ANIDO. During what could have been the most difficult, frustrating, and frightening experience in my life, ANIDO was there to carry me.

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A Tribute to Fatima Kelly and Her Family

SavvySupporter_Tribute Family_Kelly

Our family (Velda, Joel, Mom and Camille).

When Fatima Kelly passed away last winter, her children wanted to do something special to honor their mother’s memory. “It was a no-brainer. When all was said and done, our mom was a wonderful mother, first and always. I went online to try to contact Louise Wise [who placed me with my parents], and was surprised to learn that they had dissolved a few years ago. Which is how I found Spence-Chapin,” says son Joel. “We asked friends and family to consider making a donation in lieu of flowers. We were thrilled with the response.”

Joel shares a snapshot of their family life:

“My mom and dad (adoptive parents) are African American. They were raised in North Carolina and moved to New York City right before WWII. Mom and dad married in 1946. After moving to New York, dad worked for the NYC subway and later the NYC Department of Corrections. Mom was an assembly worker at a camera factory in Queens until I was 6 years old or so, then became a full-time stay-at-home mother. Our dad had the build and coloring of Dr. Martin Luther King; mom was about 5’2” and fair skinned and, if I must say so myself, a real ‘looker’ in her day.

“I was born in Brooklyn in 1954. As I understand from information I received from Louise Wise Services, my birth mother was Jewish and blonde; my birth father was African American. I have never met them, and I’m not sure he ever knew she was pregnant as they were not married. I was adopted by mom and dad in 1956 or so. I have two sisters, Velda and Camille, also adopted, who are multi-racial like me. Louise Wise was involved in Camille’s placement: first as a foster child, then years later when she was adopted. Louise Wise also placed four other foster kids with the family – two brothers, and later a brother and sister. They each stayed with us for a few years before moving back with their families.

“Velda and I grew up in Queens, then later on Long Island. Our parents consistently stressed the importance of education, and battled with local school boards in the 60’s to ensure that we had quality teachers and the opportunity to attend the best schools. Despite her petite stature, mom’s energy was boundless and she spent weeks during many

summers camping alone in the woods with us (and often with many of our friends, too), just to keep us active and out of trouble. Our family moved to Uniondale, NY in 1964. Mom and dad continued to be very active in everything we did at school: they attended our plays, concerts and basketball games and (unfortunately) every PTA conference, too. Dad was typically busy with work, working shifts around the clock. Mom helped us with homework and, once she couldn’t, found tutors for us. She worked at our schools from time to time until Velda and I graduated from high school. They moved back to North Carolina in 1973 after dad retired.

Our parents’ focus on education paid off, I guess. Velda is a concert violinist with the Detroit Symphony. Camille has been a manager at Bank of America for many years. I received my law degree from Georgetown and now am a partner at Jackson Lewis, one of the premier employment law firms in the country. My wife and I live in Studio City outside Los Angeles.

Our dad passed in 1980. Mom was active well into her 80s and took great pride in later years in all of our accomplishments and successes. Mom passed on February 5 at age 89. She is buried in NYC.”

Professional Training in Adoption

IMG_0010We know that the need to continually grow as a professional is important not only for self-fulfillment and an increase commitment to one’s profession, but also to ensure that our skills and knowledge are constantly honed and refined to better inform our work.

In the field of adoption and more pointedly in counseling adoptive families, it is imperative that clinicians and practitioners keep abreast of the current methodologies and professional trainings to ensure families are cared for at the highest level.

This week  Spence-Chapin is hosting the Attachment and Trauma Center of Nebraska’s NYC course on Integrative Team Treatment for Attachment Trauma in Children: EMDR and Family Therapy.  Our staff and other clinicians from the area are participating in a 3-day workshop that will give them better tools to treat children with a history of attachment trauma.

IMG_0007EMDR and Family Therapy Integrative Model: Treatment for Attachment Trauma in Children is a research-based program for children with a history of attachment disruptions and/or trauma who are exhibiting behaviors associated with Attachment Disorder .  This treatment views attunement, relationship, and trauma resolution as the keys to healing children exhibiting behaviors that are destructive to relationships within a family. The belief is that these behaviors are rooted in fear and driven by negative beliefs related to past traumas and disrupted attachments. The EMDR Integrative Team Model training teaches a team approach to help affected children and their families.

As our Spence-Chapin clinicians take part in this workshop, they will leave with additional skills in their repertoire that will help them to better serve older children adopted from the foster care system.

Upcoming Korean Cultural Programs in NYC

The Korean Cultural Service NY (KCSNY) often has exhibitions, film screenings, and performing arts events at its New York building as well as at various locations throughout the city.  Visit their events page for a calendar of upcoming events.

Padak
Of particular interest to Spence-Chapin Korea families with young children is an upcoming screening of Korea’s version of Finding Nemo.  The film will be screened next Tuesday, Jan. 29 at 7PM.  Admission is free and the theater is easily accessible by subway.  Visit the event page to find out more.

Open Stage
KCSNY is also hosting a three-day series of dance exhibitions which fuse contemporary and modern Korean styles of dance.  “Open Stage” provides a platform for artists and performing groups to showcase their talents to the public.  The event will be held over three days, next Wednesday Jan. 30-Friday Feb. 1 at KCSNY.

Padak Poster

“Padak – Korea’s version of Finding Nemo”

The Adjustment Process: One Family’s Story from Korea – Part II

Korean AdoptionThis is the second part of a reflective piece that was written by a mother who recently returned from Korea to meet her child.  She shares about how she personally reconciled and dealt with some of the difficulties adoptive parents can face in the period of adjustment.

Our social worker came for her first visit and noticed that he was refusing to make eye contact with us, but especially with me.  For about a month after we returned home he still preferred my husband.  She told us from the start that I needed to be the main caregiver during the bonding process, but that I really needed to step up my game now.  While bottle feeding, I would offer toys by putting them in front of my eyes to encourage eye contact. I would also raise treats to my eyes before offering then to him when feeding. At bath time when I would rub lotion on him I would let him rub lotion on my arms too.  All these things were to try to get him to bond with me.  As soon as we came home, we put an air mattress in his room and slept with him at night.  I enjoyed rocking him before bed and singing to him, especially when he would start singing, “up above the world so high” from Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star.  I at least knew he was listening.

Four months later people ask us if we are adjusted.  My answer is always “no.”  I look back and feel like we have made progress, but I also know that we have a way to go.  Our son has substituted the face rubbing for rubbing our arms.  He has to do this when he falls asleep at night and wakes up several times a night moaning/crying and reaches through the bars of his crib for my arm.  I am still in his room after four months.  Our social worker said this could take a year or so for him to be fully adjusted.  She said he is bonded, but he has a fear that we are going to leave, so he wakes up making sure we are there.  This breaks my heart that my toddler, while asleep, wakes up to makes sure that we are still there and haven’t left him!!!  He now looks us both in the eyes and he will play alone longer than he used to.  There are still times when he cries and throws a fit to be held or to grab our arm.  The difficult part is distinguishing between when he is just being a toddler and when is he dealing with loss?

After three months of being at home with him, my husband and I have both started back to work and are now dropping him off at a friend’s house three days a week.  This transition has went well for him.  He usually cries a little when I leave, but she said by the time I reach my car, he stops.  When my husband picks him up, he will greet him but then go back to playing so we know he is comfortable there.

Overall, I am very pleased with how things have gone. We are so happy that our son had such a loving foster mother who cared for him so well for a year.  When you think about it, our four months is a fraction of what four months means to him.  He is very smart and is learning words, sign language and interacts well with others.  He is attached to us, he just has a fear that we will leave him. As parents, this is a fear that we must understand is our responsibility to alleviate.

Laurie Toth
Cleveland, OH
tothadoptionjourney.blogspot.com

Check back for future posts of stories and reflections shared by Spence-Chapin families.