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.

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

What is an Adoption Subsidy?

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Just Holding on Through the Curves

This article was written by Cris Beam and posted on NYTimes.com on August 29, 2013. Cris Beam, who lives in New York, is the author of “To the End of June: The Intimate Life of American Foster Care.” Continue reading

How do I talk to my child about adoption

adoption, counseling, When you adopt a child, you are giving him/her the wonderful gift of a home.  However, with all of the love that you have to offer also comes the responsibility of being willing to discuss his birth parents at some point in his life. For many parents, this can be a challenging task; it can be even harder for the child.

Most adoptive parents understand that their child not only needs and deserves knowledge of how their family was created through adoption, but also that this knowledge must be provided in a way that will give the child the pride and self-respect every person needs as a foundation in life.

Years ago, parents thought that they should wait until the child was old enough to talk about the adoption. We now know that this way can do more harm than good as many adopted children are finding out about their adoption from other people and feeling betrayed.

Adopted children often have many questions about their heritage and they should be answered by their adoptive parents when they are asked. I have worked with foster and adopted children and families for more 15 years, and every child I have counseled has had questions about their biological family starting at a young age. Some younger children are often unsure whether they should bring up their birth parents to their adoptive parents, in fear that it will hurt their feelings or that it will cause anger and they will be abandoned once again. In some cases their fears are real, while in others they are not.

Prior to adolescence, children are extremely curious about their adoption stories. Although they question the circumstances that led to their adoption, most of them seem to accept the answers calmly – See more at:
Some of the questions adopted children ask are, “Did my mom and dad love me? Did my mom and dad love each other? Why did they put me up for adoption?” These are all valid questions which need to be answered to ensure that the child feels secure.

Adoptive parents have said to me, “I know that I have to talk to my daughter or son about the adoption, but where do I begin?” I think it is best to begin when the child is very young and is able to cognitively understand language — usually at around 1 ½ to 2 years of age. You want to be able to tell your child about the adoption often. Also, if you are married or in a relationship, you want to make sure that both parents agree on the same story. This will make the experience less complicated and stressful for your child. I always encourage parents to practice what they are going to say to the child before talking. It builds parents’ confidence and prepares them for questions. And be prepared — they will have lots of questions!

Here are a few more tips for talking to a child about their adoption.

1. Always be willing to talk about the adoption with your children. The more open you are about it, the more comfortable the child will be.

2. Keep the conversation age-appropriate. When a child is younger, use a story telling technique (Fisher, 2000) and keep the language simple. As the child ages and becomes more mature, more sophisticated language can be used.

3. Be honest but don’t scare the child. If you don’t know something, then say, “I don’t know.” If the child was a product of rape for instance, “You don’t want to start out by saying your mommy and daddy loved each other very much,” says Lois Melina, author of Making Sense of Adoption and Raising Adopted Children. “You can say something that would imply that their parents didn’t know each other very well.”

4. Help your child learn how to express their emotions about being adopted. This can be done not only through talking but through drawing or making a life book.

Addressing the adopted child’s past is the key to helping them move towards a bright future.

– By Dr. Sue, who is a clinical psychologist and professor of psychology at Temple University and an expert in parenting, foster care and child abuse. This article was originally posted on montgomerynews.com