South Africa Adoption: How to Determine Your Family’s Medical Openness

Spence-Chapin finds families for the most vulnerable children in South Africa – children with a medical diagnosis who are in need of an international adoptive family. It takes a dedicated and resourceful parent to adopt a child with special medical needs. At Spence-Chapin, we guide families in how to make an informed decision about their family’s particular medical openness and offer support and resources before, during and after their adoption. Spence-Chapin is confident that in a loving home with the right family who is dedicated to learning about, or already has experience with special medical needs, these children can thrive!

But how does a family determine if adopting a child with special medical needs from South Africa is right for them? Here are 5 places to start:

  1. Learn about the most common medical needs in South Africa.

Check out this article on the Top 10 Medical Needs in South Africa! Currently, the two most common needs our partners Johannesburg Child Welfare (JCW) see in the children in their care are: a diagnosis of HIV and unknown or unpredictable developmental delays. We are actively looking for families who feel open and prepared to parent a child with one of these two needs. You can learn more by exploring these resources specific to adoption from South Africa.  

  1. Consider the medical and developmental care children receive in South Africa.

JCW strives to provide an environment that caters to the overall development of the children in their care which includes their physical, emotional, spiritual, and educational needs. Children receive medical treatment at JCW through a partnership with Thusanani Children’s Foundation. Thusanani provides safe and modern medical care to ensure each child receives the medical and developmental care they need – HIV testing and treatment, occupational therapy, physical therapy, antibiotics, surgery, well-baby visits, etc.

Additionally, Spence-Chapin sponsors a Granny Program at JCW to help the children develop the important socio-emotional bonds that are so important to a child’s development. Through the Granny program, children are paired with surrogate “grannies” from their local community who spend special, one-on-one time with them every day. This humanitarian aid initiative gives institutionalized children the opportunity to form important healthy attachments with a trusted adult. We see incredible progress made by children who are matched with a granny. In South Africa, the children call their grannies “gogo”! 

  1. Consult with an international pediatric specialist to make an informed decision.

It’s recommended that families considering adopting a child with medical needs consult with a pediatrician about diagnosis, treatment, and prognosis of specific conditions to consider if your family has the ability to provide the care a child will need. There are many experienced international adoption medical specialty clinics throughout the United States that are a resource for prospective adoptive families. Physicians with an international adoption specialty are familiar with common medical issues involved in intercountry adoption and many of the common needs seen in children eligible for international adoption.

Because South Africa is a signatory to The Hague Treaty on Intercountry Adoption, adoptive families benefit from a transparent and ethical process for receiving a child’s information. At the time of referral from South Africa, Spence-Chapin will provide all known social and medical history provided by JCW so a family can make an informed decision. The family will review the medical history with a Medical Specialist and support from Spence-Chapin.

  1. Gather information about resources and eligibility for services in your state and community.

Each state offers a variety of services for children with special needs through state agencies and community organizations. Free services through Early Intervention and CPSE services are offered nationally and children 0-3 may qualify when they have a developmental delay in the areas of cognitive, physical, speech and adaptive development. It can be helpful to anticipate the programs offered in the local schools as well as the State laws and regulations for special needs education.

Additionally, when considering the adoption of a child with special needs, it can be helpful to consult with other parents of children with medical needs or international adoptive families. They can be a great source of information, support, and referrals. They may be able to share their suggestions, insights, and recommendations for ways that you can strengthen your ability to parent a child with a medical need. It may also be helpful to prepare for what to expect through help from the local home study agency, special needs support groups or even online through adoption websites such as AdoptionLearningPartners.com.

  1. Ask Yourself:
  • Are you willing, and do you have the time to become informed about the realities of raising a child with special needs?
  • Do you have access to medical resources in your community that specializes in the treatment of pediatric special needs?
  • Are you able to make sure that your child takes medication or attends therapies?
  • Does your schedule allow for the time it takes to parent a child with a medical need?
  • Are you comfortable with any attention it may bring to your family?
  • Are you willing to advocate for your child in your home, school, and community?
  • Are you prepared to accept unknowns for the future development of your child and to find solutions to any challenges that may emerge?

Following the adoption of a child from South Africa, Spence-Chapin welcomes adoptive families to engage in post-adoption services through our Modern Family Center. Spence-Chapin’s Modern Family Center offers counseling, parent coaching, post-adoption support, mentorship and birthland trips. These services can be provided to families in person, over the phone or via video conferencing in all 50 states. We also invite you to attend our annual family events so you and your child can meet other South Africa adoptive families!

Children with special medical needs are waiting for adoptive families in South Africa. If you feel you might be a good match for these children, let’s talk! To learn more, send us an email to info@spence-chapin.org or call us at 212-400-8150.

South Korea Summer Internship: Katie’s Story

It’s hard to believe 6 months ago, I was worlds away exploring my birthland, Korea. I learned a lot while I was over there, but I’ve been learning a lot since I’ve been back too.

I’ve always known I was very lucky to be welcomed into such an amazing, loving family, and going on this birthland trip only strengthened that feeling. Seeing the children amidst the adoption process definitely also struck an emotional chord with me. After returning from a field trip with the kids, I was introduced to an adoptive family as they waited for their soon-to-be sons/brothers to come downstairs. As soon as the boys appeared, the whole family lit up with excitement. The dad scooped the younger one into his arms, and with an ear-to-ear grin, the little one hugged his little hands tightly around his dad’s neck. The older of the two boys was greeted by his new siblings. With a smile, his new brother gave him an affectionate pat on the head. You could feel the love that the family had for these two special boys, and it was so touching to see.

Upon returning, I was able to get together with my own family: my three brothers, their families, and my parents. I was so happy to be able to share my experiences and photos with them. I recall one moment with my oldest brother, Tom. I was in the kitchen with my mom, and he came over, putting his arm around me, saying “We’re really happy you’re back, and I’m really glad you’re part of our family”. I gave him a big hug. Nothing can compare to that feeling of love for your siblings, and I realized this was what that little boy must have felt that day with his new brother.

Since I’ve been back, I’ve thought a lot about the children at Ehwa. Has the twinkly-eyed, 1-year-old started to walk yet? How is the oldest boy doing in Taekwondo? Is Frozen still their favorite movie? I miss their smiling faces and their love for life. I hope for their well-being and happiness, and that they never lose their sense of wonder or optimism.

I also think about the dear friends I made. The staff at Ehwa who treated me like family from day one. The generous volunteer families who took me to such memorable places. (My favorites were the Boseong green tea fields and Blueberry picking in Jeonju.) My SWS social worker who provided me support while getting to know my foster mother. My translator who went to so many cultural experiences with me – from Taekwondo to traditional tie-dyeing. And of course, Grace, my fellow intern and dear partner through it all!

I’m so thankful for this opportunity to give back and get to know my birthland, and I’m even more grateful for the life I’m living today. After taking this trip, I realized there’s so many people, near and far, to thank for that. I’m settling back into my life in Boston with a clearer, brighter outlook and of course, looking forward to my next trip to Korea.

Written and Shared with Permission by Katie Dunn

Applications for 2018 trip are due March 21st. Submit your application on our website today: http://www.modernfamilycenter.org/birthlandtrips/

Questions? Please contact Katie Rogala at krogala@spence-chapin.org.

South Korea Roots Family Tour FAQs

Join Spence-Chapin this summer in South Korea to deepen your connection to your child’s birth culture through sights, sounds, smells, food, and language. This two week trip is specially designed for children and young adults of Korean heritage to visit the country of their birth as part of a group of adoptive families.

  1. Who should apply for this tour?
    • Families with children and young adults of Korean heritage.
  2. How long is the tour?
    • This tour is two weeks from June 26 – July 8, 2018.
  3. What is the itinerary for this tour?
    • Families will spend several days in Seoul before traveling to the cities of Mt. Seorak, Gyeongju, Busan, and Daegu.
  4. What are the costs associated with this tour?
    • The estimated trip cost for 1 child is $3000. The estimated trip cost for an adult is $3500. These prices include ground transportation, hotel, some meals, excursions, as well as social work support throughout the trip and a dedicated group tour guide. Airfare and some meals are not included in this estimate.
  5. Where will I be staying?
    • Families will be staying in hotels for the duration of the tour. Families will stay in their own rooms, the layout of which will vary depending on family size.
  6. What opportunities are there for cultural experiences?
    • This tour will provide a wealth of cultural experiences, from historical attractions such as Gyeongbok Palace, to stunning architecture like N Seoul Tower, and other unique excursions. Our tour group will attend performances, and attend sporting events, and go to the beach.
  7. What kind of preparation and support with we have?
    • A Spence-Chapin social worker and a Social Welfare Society (SWS) staff member from the travel company will be traveling with the group for the duration of the tour. Spence-Chapin will provide an orientation prior to the departure and families who are not local to New York City can attend via video conference.
  8. Will I be able to tour Social Welfare Society (SWS)?
    • A tour of SWS is built into the itinerary. Families will be able to meet staff and learn more about the agency. During this visit, adoptees and their families will also be given the opportunity to see and review their records. Families do not need to have been adopted through Spence-Chapin or SWS to participate.
  9. Will my child be able to search for/meet their foster and/or biological family?
    • Yes! Upon request, SWS will search for your child’s foster and/or biological family. If biological family members are interested in reuniting, arrangements will be made for a meeting at the SWS offices. Spence-Chapin will also provide support and preparation for these meetings prior to departure.

Applications for 2018 trip are due March 21st. Submit your application on our website today: www.modernfamilycenter.org/birthlandtrips

If you have any questions, please contact Katie Rogala at krogala@spence-chapin.org.

South Korea Summer Internship FAQs

Through a special grant, Spence-Chapin offers a South Korean Summer Internship Program for two young adult Korean adoptees! Deepen your connection to your birth culture by traveling to South Korea. You will be able to tour and explore Seoul and care for babies in South Korea’s adoption agency, Social Welfare Society (SWS).

  1. Who should apply for the internship?
    • The South Korea Summer Internship is open to young adult Korean adoptees between the ages of 18 and 30 years old living across the United States who have been adopted through SWS.
  2. How long is this internship?
    • The internship is from May 28 – June 28, 2018.
  3. What is the interview process like?
    • Spence-Chapin will review all applications and invite several finalists to interview. Applicants who are not local to New York City can interview via video conference. From these interviews, Spence-Chapin will choose two applicants to participate in the internship.
  4. What are the duties and responsibilities of the internship?
    • The purpose of the internship is to assist in the care of babies and toddlers awaiting adoptive families through South Korea’s adoption agency, Social Welfare Society (SWS). In addition to day-to-day care, interns will accompany the children and staff on cultural and recreational outings.
  5. What are the fees?
    • Airfare, ground transportation, room and board and a stipend are included. Interns will be responsible for all other expenditures, such as souvenirs or personal travel. Interns are also expected to provide small gifts to the SWS staff as a thank-you.
  6. What opportunities are there for cultural experiences?
    • SWS plans many exciting cultural activities for interns, including a traditional Korean tea ceremony, martial arts, Nanta, cooking lessons, and tie-dyeing. Interns will also participate in trips to a green tea field, bamboo forest, nature hikes, etc. Exact experiences will vary year to year.
  7. Where else will I be traveling?
    • Interns will spend most of their time in Naju. More specifically, they will be staying in the South Jeolla Province which is a more rural section of South Korea. Interns will also spend time in Seoul. After the internship has come to an end, interns have the option to remain in Korea on their own for personal travel.
  8. What kind of support will I have while in Korea?
    • Spence-Chapin staff will be accessible to our interns via phone and e-mail throughout the internship. Interns will have an identified SWS staff member as their point of contact throughout the internship. This SWS staff member will assist with translation, navigation, and travel.
  9. Will I be reporting back to Spence-Chapin while participating in the internship?
    • You will be expected to provide periodic updates via phone or e-mail. In addition, our interns are required to keep a record of their experiences while in Korea though the format is up to you. Interns will submit a finalized version to Spence Chapin which should include pictures, descriptions of day-to-day activities, and personal reflections.
  10. Will I be able to search for/meet my foster and/or biological family?
    • Yes! Interns have the option to work with SWS to search for their foster and/or biological family. If family members are located and interested in meeting, arrangements will be made for interns to meet them at the SWS offices. Spence-Chapin will also provide support and preparation for these meetings prior to departure.

Applications for 2018 trip are due March 21st. Submit your application on our website today: www.modernfamilycenter.org/birthlandtrips

If you have any questions, please contact Katie Rogala at krogala@spence-chapin.org.

 

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

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.

Adoption Support

We’re a community that understands you and your family. Spence-Chapin’s Modern Family Center provides birth parents, adoptive parents, and adoptees a supportive community and a connection to professionals who understand the unique aspects of adoption.

Services are provided through Spence-Chapin’s Modern Family Center.

Call or email our team to learn more: 646-539-2167 and info@modernfamilycenter.org!

Post-Adoption Support (www.spence-chapin.org/community-counseling) All of Spence-Chapin’s post-adopt support services are available to the entire adoption community! Our post adoption services include:

  • Parent Coaching helps parents build confidence in their parenting style. Common themes explored: navigating open adoption, understanding adoption & identity in your family, finding the right words for tough conversations, and navigating change. Read more
  • Community Events: meet other adoptive families at monthly playgroups (Bagels & Blox), cultural events, lifebook workshops, and community celebrations! Sign up on our events calendar
  • Our Mentorship Program for adopted middle and high school students empowers adoptees through friendship, building self-confidence and challenging them to discover and understand their adoption identities and experiences. Mentors and mentees enjoy meaningful community, educational, and social outings throughout the school year. Join us next semester by downloading the free application online. Click to read FAQs
  • Mental Health Services from adoption-competent therapists. Our experienced staff of adult and child therapists help individuals, couples, and families navigate challenges, life transitions, relationships, parenting, anxiety, or depression. We specialize in adoption, anxiety, depression, ADHD, family and relationship problems, and stress. Email today to schedule a free intake call with a social worker! Financial assistance may be available to persons connected to adoption.
  • ADHD & Emotional Regulation Treatment Spence-Chapin is committed to supporting and advocating for children with ADHD and their families. Our licensed professionals use evidence based assessment tools to help children develop the skills and self-esteem necessary to manage ADHD with little to no medication. To provide the best treatment model possible, the therapists at Spence-Chapin’s Modern Family Center have developed a video to help parents better understand the signs and symptoms of ADHD in children. Read more
  • Birthland trips for adopted persons and their families to visit their birth country. Spence-Chapin provides emotional support for individuals and families preparing for a birthland trip.
  • Personal Adoption History for adoptees, birth parents, and siblings. Spence-Chapin Services to Families and Children maintains thousands of adoption records from its 109-year history. Spence-Chapin, as an authorized agency, is also the custodian of the adoption records of Louise Wise Services and Talbot Perkins. Read more 
  • Community Education provides workshops for families, parent groups, and professionals including schools, religious organizations, PTAs, camps, and community groups. Topics include: Adoption in the Schools, Common Parenting FAQs, Understanding Open Adoption, and Finding the Right Words for Tough Conversations. Read more

 Pre-Adoption Support

Consultations are available for anyone before or during their adoption process. A pre-adoption consultation is an opportunity for you to speak one-on-one with one of our skilled social workers in our office, on the phone, or through video chat. Families come in to discuss a variety of topics, including preparing for an open adoption, adopting a child of a different race, emotional support during the wait for an adoption, helping spouses who aren’t on the same page about adoption decisions, and speaking with potential birth parents. Consultations are available at any point of an adoption journey. Professional service fee: $150/session

Follow Spence-Chapin on Facebook and YouTube for updates, stories, and more!

Mentorship Program FAQs

Who are the Mentees?
Mentees are adopted middle or high school students in the tri-state who are open to receiving support and guidance from adopted adults and are able to be in a group setting and participate in structured activities. Our families join us from NYC, New Jersey, and Connecticut!

Who are the Mentors?
Our mentors are volunteers who are adopted, live in the tri-state area, and are in their twenties, thirties, and forties. All of our mentors are screened and trained by our licensed social work staff. Mentors serve as role models who can share their adoption story and experiences while encouraging mentees to ask questions, feel comfortable with their identities, and develop healthy self-esteem.

Are mentors assigned to a child one-to-one? Do they meet individually?
Mentors and Mentees interact at scheduled events and go on community outings as a group. Whereas in some years we designate Mentors to individual Mentees, we have also interacted in group settings without a one-on-one assignment. The program structure varies and we will be developing the 2017-2018 program in the coming months.

How often does the Mentorship Program meet?
One Saturday a month, our Mentors and Mentees enjoy community, educational and social outings. We provide an inclusive and safe space to discuss birth families, identity, relationships, and more. There are two semesters for the Mentorship Program: Fall (September – January) and Spring (February – June). Families enrolled in the Mentorship Program will receive a schedule of events in advance of the semester. The time frame of events varies depending on the activity, but generally ranges from 2-4 hours, usually beginning around noon.

What types of programs/activities do participants of the Mentorship Program engage in?
Past outings have included going to the zoo, bowling, and a pasta making class. Some events take place at Spence-Chapin’s Modern Family Center office in Manhattan while others take place off-site throughout New York City. Two of each semester’s monthly meetings will be Adoption Days, where the agenda will be adoption-focused and encourage relevant discussion and reflection. Adoption Days also include programming for parents related to parenting adopted teens.

Hear from our current mentors to learn more:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KleTAaeSYR4&feature=youtu.be

Learn more about the Mentorship Program.

Questions?
Email Katie Rogala, LSW at krogala@spence-chapin.org to learn more!

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.

Meet Ana Maria!

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 Ana Maria Leon Gomez, LMHC, about her work. 
A.M.LeonGomez

  1. Why did you choose to work at Spence Chapin’s Modern Family Center?

I chose to work here because I really believe in Spence-Chapin’s mission. I really feel that children’s lives change when they are adopted into a forever family. I think it’s very important that children are loved and cared for and have a family they can rely on.

 

  1. When did you become interested in a career in adoption?

I started working in the area of psychology since I was very young after I graduated from Vassar College. I then carried out my Master’s degree at the University of Manchester in England. These studies led me to open my private practice, where I came across children who were adopted and helped them with the process. Three and a half years ago I moved to the U.S from my native Honduras. I started working at Spence-Chapin as a bilingual clinician working fully in adoption.

  1. What’s a typical workday?

My workdays are very varied. Somedays I see clients at our Brooklyn or Manhattan offices. I work with families, adoptees, birth parents and individuals with different mental health issues. Other days I work as a consultant with the foster care agencies we partner with. I provide guidance and training for their staff and foster parents particularly those that are Spanish-speaking. I also provide clinical services for some of their families. My job is really very exciting and never monotonous. It comes alive every day.

  1. What is the most challenging part of your job?

The most challenging part is when I see children who have experienced trauma. Sometimes they’re so young, six or seven, and they’ve undergone trauma that an adult may not have had in their whole lifetime. It’s difficult to deal with but at the same time, when you do start working with the child and the family and their lives start changing, you know you’re doing something positive.

  1. What is the most rewarding part of your job?

The most rewarding part of my job is when you see the family improve and deal with everyday life in a more positive way. In regards to the children it´s important for them to know their story, to be able to look at it and integrate it as part of who they are. In this way I help them be happier and be more productive in their lives.

  1. How would you describe your job in three words?

Important, rewarding, and compassionate.

  1. Has working at the Modern Family Center changed you in any way?

Working here has made me grow in many ways. It’s helped me understand that there are many communities we can work with, and all these communities require different kinds of help and therapeutic interventions. I have also appreciated more the value of teamwork and how together we can achieve the goals we have set for ourselves.

Want to learn more about how our clinic can help you and your family through parent coaching or counseling? Call us at 646-539-2167.

Meet Samantha!

Samantha

  1. Why did you choose to work at the Modern Family Center?
    Adoption has always been really close to my heart. My youngest brother, Nico, is adopted. We brought him home from Guatemala when he was seven months old, and I’ve always admired my mom for how much she’s advocated for in the adoption world. Thinking about how adoption changed my family for the better, I wanted to see what I could do as a social worker in adoption.
  1. What has been the most challenging part of your job so far?
    Transitioning from a student to a full-time employee has challenged me to grow in my confidence as a social worker, and luckily I’m surrounded by a lot of great people who have experience in the field and can support me in that transition. Another challenging part is speaking to clients and families on the phone about their stories, and feeling thankful that they’re so brave and so willing to open up to you on the phone. I try to focus in and listen because they really are giving you their whole story. I think that’s really brave and I admire that about them.
  1. What has been the most rewarding part?
    Working with the families. To see them have a community, and envisioning their community ten years from now, twenty years from now, and the fact that they have each other makes me so warm inside like, “Oh my gosh, they’re all best friends!” Just the fact that these kids can have another person who’s adopted and share that experience with them is wonderful. Especially for the parents too, seeing their kids build that community and have that support network within each other.
  1. Describe your job in three words.
    Joy, curiosity, family.
  1. Do you have funny or interesting stories you’d like to share?
    A highlight of this past summer has been going to Camp Clio, a camp for adopted kids. The funniest thing that happened there was the day we had to kayak to this sand bar to hang out with the kids. The camp people basically just handed Mark, Director of Mental Health Services at MFC, and me this kayak and he was like, “Yeah, we got this, we got this!” When we get in he tells me, “You know, I’ve never actually done this before” and I was just like, “Mark! Are you kidding me?!” It was four miles each way! It was really funny, we were laughing the whole way, the kids were singing songs, and it was just a really good way to bond with them.
  1. Has working at MFC changed you in any way?
    MFC has definitely helped me grow and continue that curiosity of learning. I’m surrounded by a really great team. They all care so much about what they do and they all care for each other; it’s an amazing support system. Working at MFC reminds me every day how I feel very grateful for every social worker and every lawyer and every agency and every entity that helped my family adopt my brother. This job has opened my eyes to what a journey adoption is for everyone involved.
  1. Has there been a particular family that has really made an impact on you?There’s a family I’ve done a couple of post-placement visits with, and the daughter receives every service she could possibly need, between physical therapy, occupational therapy, special help in school, speech and feeding. Her mom has had to fight for her daughter to get all the services she needs. To see how much she believes in her kid reminds me that there are people in this world who want to be phenomenal parents – and they absolutely can be! Adoption is such a beautiful way to build your family, and to see that bond is a beautiful thing.

Meet Mark!

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 Mark Lacava, LCSW-R, Director of Mental Health Services, about his work.

Mark_no_title

1.Why did you want to work at the Modern Family Center?
It gives me the chance to work clinically with an adoption community that is not often highlighted or researched in the mental health field. However, there is much research and a knowledge base on children in foster care, and of course children and families in general, but very little on families that have been formed outside of what is thought of as normal or mainstream.

2. How did you become interested in adoption?
I had worked in foster care for a long time. It was always a plan of mine to learn and work in the field of adoption. You would frequently work to get a child adopted, but I learned that the end result over the years was not as successful as you would have hoped, and often the child would return to foster care. Spence-Chapin and the Modern Family Center have given me an opportunity to help make the adoption experience have an even better chance for long term permanency through trainings, counseling, and workshops for parents and families.

3. What is the most rewarding part of your job?
Helping a family or individual in crisis and helping a child find and stay in a loving home.

4. What’s a typical workday?
My work day is never the same because I work at a few different sites doing different things. Some days I am in the Bronx at a foster care agency working on crisis cases, other days I’m doing therapy at our offices in Manhattan or Brooklyn.  Other times I am working with my team, doing administrative work, or attending an event for families.

5. What’s your favorite part about working at the Modern Family Center?
The level of dedication and professionalism that everyone brings to their job. People are here because they want to be here.

Want to learn more about how our clinic can help you and your family through parent coaching or counseling? Call us at 646-539-2167.

You can meet Mark at our upcoming parent workshop series, Parenting Teens. We’ll offer guidance on how to improve your relationship and communication with your child.

10 Back to School Tips for Adoptive Parents

Green apple on stack of red books.

  1. Help your child feel prepared: Discuss issues that may arise or questions they may receive from classmates and how to respond. Tour the school so they feel comfortable in a new environment. Have your child meet their teachers/ principal. Talk about the rules and expectations of your child’s school.
  2. Lunchtime: Bring your child to the grocery store to pick out foods that they like. If they buy their lunch, make sure lunch money is in a safe place.
  3. Transportation: Make sure your child knows their bus number. Discuss bus rules and talk with your child about only leaving school with a parent or designated adults. Have a safety plan in place.
  4. Iron out a schedule: Establish your routine before school starts. Consider using a large family calendar to keep track of everyone’s schedules.
  5. Resources: Talk to your child’s teachers about special needs accommodations, ESL, IEP, and/or tutoring programs. Join an adoptive parent support group or attend parent workshops (link to http://www.modernfamilycenter.org/adoption-support/).
  6. Social skills: Help your child practice appropriate social responses, conversations, and understanding appropriate physical boundaries. Set up short, structured play dates. Reach out to classmates before school starts.
  7. Social issues: Listen actively to your child and encourage positive attitudes. If bullying at school is involved, insist that it be appropriately addressed by the school.
  8. Open the adoption dialogue: If you want it known that your child is adopted, inform new teachers and provide them with any information about adoption you feel they should know. Bring a book to share about adoption with the class. Talk to your child about questions they might be asked and how they can answer them.
  9. Talk about educational goals: Empower your child to be a part of their own educational process. Support your child through highs, lows, and plateaus in learning. Be realistic with your expectations of both your child and their teacher.
  10. Don’t forget to breathe! Practice taking deep breaths with your child so that they know how to help themselves calm down if they get stressed.

Adoption Lifestages

Not all kids develop their adoption understanding at the same time, but there are some commonalities that can help parents understand how to support their child.

AdoptionLifestagesWe offer programs, as well as short-term parent coaching to help you get the ball rolling on these important but sometimes difficult conversations.

Modern Family Center Grand Opening

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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