Colombia Program Updates

Spence-Chapin’s fundamental belief is that Every Child Deserves a Family. We are a Hague accredited agency with over 40 years of experience in international adoption. Since 1994, we have been finding and preparing families to adopt children from Colombia, a Hague country. Our agency is approved by the Instituto Colombiano de Bienestar Familiar (ICBF), the central authority for inter-country adoption.

Colombian Heritage Program

In July of 2017, we expanded our Colombia Adoption Program to find permanent, loving families of Colombian heritage for children in Colombia between the ages of 0-10 years old. According to Colombia’s eligibility parameters, families of Colombian heritage who are between 25-45 years old may apply to adopt a child as young as 0-4 years old. Children adopted through this program may have no pre-identified special needs.

How do you know if you are of Colombian heritage? This includes a person who was born in Colombia or a person with a parent born in Colombia. When submitting your application for the program, the adoptive parent would provide a Colombian birth certificate, passport, or Cedula to show this heritage. The estimated wait time for child referral after dossier submission by heritage families is 18-24 months.

Greatest Need of Adoption in Colombia –Children with Special Needs, Older Children and Sibling Groups

We continue to seek American families living anywhere in the United States who are drawn to Colombia as the country to build their families and who will embrace the process of incorporating Colombian culture into the life of their family going forward. Through our Colombia Waiting Child Program, our agency remains committed to finding families for children in the greatest need of adoption in Colombia, including toddlers and school-age children with significant special needs, such as Down syndrome, and developmental delays. There are also siblings in need of adoption in Colombia. Since this is a waiting child program and families will be recruited for specific waiting children, there is no wait time to be matched with a child. The entire process is estimated to take 12-18 months.

Support and Guidance for the Lifetime of Your Family

Many adoptive families are drawn to Colombia as it’s a country with beauty in its people, landscape and culture. However, the fears, unknowns, and myths surrounding the adoption of school-age children, children with special needs and sibling groups discourage many prospective parents. Spence-Chapin offers myriad of services during the adoption process to encourage and support adoptive parents to overcome these barriers. Our social workers assist families in taking inventory of their individual, family and community strengths and determining various resources available to help their child and family thrive. We take great care in helping adoptive parents anticipate the needs of the child in order to develop a resource plan for parenting children in the areas of medical, school, mental health, parenting, attachment, sibling preparation, home, support system, stress reduction, self-care and budgeting.

Following placement of a child or sibling group from Colombia, Spence-Chapin is available for support and guidance for the lifetime of your family. Our Modern Family Center offers counseling, parent coaching, post adoption support, mentorship and birthland trips.

Children in Colombia are waiting for you! We would love to tell you more about our program in Colombia. We welcome families living anywhere in the United States to call us at 212-400-8150 to speak with our international adoption staff. Or, visit our website to learn more about Colombia Adoption by clicking here!

Bulgaria and Roma Adoption

Spence-Chapin’s Bulgaria adoption program has placed children with permanent, loving families since 1995. During this time, we’ve come to discover Bulgaria as one of Eastern Europe’s treasures; a country steeped in tradition, but with modern sensibilities.

BulgariaBulgaria’s history is vast and its culture rich. Bordered by Romania in the North, Serbia and Macedonia in the West, Greece and Turkey in the South and the Black Sea in the East, Bulgaria is centrally located on key land routes from Europe to the Middle East and Asia.The size of Tennessee, Bulgaria is the 14th largest nation in Europe and boasts wondrous landscapes ranging from lowlands and river valleys, to mountains of varying elevations.

The first Bulgarian state was formed in the late 7th century when The Bulgars, a Central Asian Turkic tribe, merged with the local Slavic inhabitants. In succeeding centuries, Bulgaria struggled to assert its autonomy against the Byzantine Empire and the Ottoman Turks, eventually succumbing to the rule of both.

sofiaIn recent history, Bulgaria fell within the Soviet sphere of influence and became a People’s Republic in 1946. Communist domination ended in 1990 and a democratic constitution was instituted in 1997. Today, Bulgaria is a parliamentary democracy and is on the international stage as a member of the European Union, NATO, Council of Europe and a founding member of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe.

Bulgarians take great pride in their literature, arts, music, and architecture which is mainly of Thracian, Slavic, and Bulgar heritage, with Greek, Roman, Ottoman, Persian and Celtic influences.

Oilcape

Visitors and citizens alike enjoy the wild, wooded mountain ranges dotted with villages, vibrant cities, and long sandy beaches hugging the Black Sea Coast. Bulgaria is home to over 200 museums and architectural wonders such as Byzantine Medieval fortresses, Thracian sanctuaries and tombs, and a multitude of churches, monasteries and mosques. The landscape features mineral springs, picturesque beaches, and the highest point of the Balkan peninsula, Musala (9,596 ft.), lending itself to spa retreats, water sports and hiking.

romachildren

Image courtesy of Ron Corso © 2014 Ron Corso

But underneath the rich sights and sounds, there is an imbalance. Bulgarians are the main ethnic group and comprise 84.8% of the population, with Turkish and Roma (Gypsy) minorities comprising 8.8 and 4.9 percent. Oftentimes discriminated against, the Romani are descended from low-caste Indian migrants who immigrated to Bulgaria during the Middle Ages. The Romani practice nomadic lifestyles based around selling their wares and skills, and as such, must combat an entrenched social stigma. The Romani experience a high rate of child abandonment due to poverty and limited resources such as health care, public transportation and sanitation. Unfortunately, Roma children in need of homes are usually on the losing side of stereotypes and discrimination and are typically not adopted domestically by Bulgarian families.

Image courtesy of Ron Corso © 2014 Ron Corso

Image courtesy of Ron Corso © 2014 Ron Corso

Spence-Chapin partners with ANIDO, a Bulgarian non-governmental organization licensed by the Ministry of Justice, Bulgarian’s central authority for adoption. The Bulgarian Ministry of Justice maintains a waiting child registry of over 1,800 children that are primarily Roma. Bulgaria prioritizes finding families for these vulnerable children. Those available for adoption are school-age, sibling groups, and children with medical issues.

Call us to learn more about adopting from Bulgaria – 212-400-8150 or
info@spence-chapin.org
.

You can read one parent’s story about her Bulgaria adoption experience.

Have You Been Called to Help Children on Orphan Sunday?

waiting children

On November 13, 2016 the world will join together to learn about the millions of orphans around the world who are waiting for a loving and permanent family. Spence-Chapin is joining the Orphan Sunday movement to bring awareness to the many children who are living in orphanages and waiting for their adoptive parents to find them. Spence-Chapin advocates for children in New York and around the world in Bulgaria, Colombia and South Africa. In New York and around the world there are infants and children waiting for the love and stability of an adoptive family. All the children profiled on Spence-Chapin’s website are part of our Special Needs or International Adoption programs- Spence-Chapin has eliminated our Professional Services fee for these adoptions. The children are in immediate need of an adoptive family.

Please help us bring awareness to the need for more adoptive families! So many families are eligible to adopt – married and unmarried couples, single men and women, LGBTQ parents, and families of all ages, income levels, and religions!

Join us for an event during National Adoption Month – Voices of the Triad Panel Discussion on November 10th, Adoption 101 webinar on November 15th, or New Jersey adoption fair November 18th. Orphan Sunday is an opportunity to raise awareness of the children here and around the world in need of adoptive families and to promote the need for post-adoption support for all members of the adoption constellation.

We Celebrate Clara Spence

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Preparing Children for the Colombia Host-to-Adopt Program


Spence-Chapin partners with FANA for our Colombia host-to-adopt program. This program allows families interested in adopting an older child the opportunity to host a child in their home for three weeks before committing to the adoption.

kids_map_web

Children in the program, who are matched with a family, gather at FANA, an adoption home in Bogota, for two weeks to prepare for their trip to the United States.  This two-week preparation process is essential in helping the children navigate their fears, expectations, and excitement about traveling to a different country and living with host families.  Even before the children embark on their flights to the U.S., many of them fly into Bogota from other cities within Colombia.  In most cases, this is the child’s first time on a plane which is both thrilling and nerve-racking!

Colombia_Girl_web

Many emotions can accompany this excitement.  The staff at FANA help the children make sense of these emotions.  Some children are apprehensive about leaving their home.  Some may fear being rejected by their host families and not finding an adoptive family.  Staff members do their best to empathize with these concerns, knowing that this transition is hard and that each child experiences this process through his or her own personal experience. The staff also discusses how to balance the hope of possibly being adopted while maintaining realistic expectations. The goal is to prepare the children in order for the host-to-adopt experience so that the children can enjoy their time with their American host families.

Listen to Adraina Chavez, head of Clinical Psychology at FANA.

Children have simple questions about what to expect in New York. They want to know what food they will eat, what games they will play, where they will live, and what their host families will be like.  Each host family mails a photo album to the child or children with pictures of their family, the child’s room, bed, and toys. Because extended family is such an important component of Latin American life, children enjoy looking at the pictures of their extended host family.

FANA has found families for over 9,000 children through this process, so we know the host-to-adopt program is a successful way to connect families and older children while giving each child a voice in the adoption process.

We are seeking host-to-adopt families for this fall!

Call us today to learn more 212-400-8150.

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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


 

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

 

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

 

Can we do this?

Can we do this blog post picture

How this question all parents face relates to parenting an older child

Inevitably there is a “can we do this?” moment for parents—all parents. It can occur before a child arrives. It can occur when that child is growing. It can occur if that child is a biological child. It can occur if that child is an adopted child. It can occur during easy, happy times. It can occur when there are storms to be weathered. It can occur once. Or it can occur every day. Inevitably—it will occur.

Questions we often hear prospective parents ask include:

  • Can we do this? Can we adopt? Can we raise a child who may not look like us?
  • Can we raise an older child? What about a child who was born in another country?
  • What if they have experienced trauma? Will that child be able to understand that we love him or her?

Will we be able to weather those storms?

We know that there are certain traumas that can accompany life in the child welfare system, either domestically or internationally. Sometimes the separation from biological family is itself the traumatic event and sometimes that trauma is only realized later. The knowledge of this as a possibility for their child can cause worry for parents. It can cause parents considering international or older child adoption to ask the same question other parents ask themselves every day: “Can we do this?”

At Spence-Chapin we provide families with the resources needed to make an informed decision and one that is right for each family. We support families in arriving at their answer to that inevitable question and provide continued support as that question is bound to come up again—and that’s okay.

Some helpful essential reads on older child adoption can be found here:

  • Our Own: Adopting and Parenting the Older Child by Trish Maskew
  • Parenting the Hurt Child: Helping Adoptive Families Heal and Grow by Gregory Keck
  • Parenting Your Internationally Adopted Child: From Your First Hours Together    Through the Teen Years by Patty Cogen
  • The Primal Wound: Understanding the Adopted Child by Nancy Newton Verrier

For more information about our domestic, international and older child adoption programs, please contact the Adoption Team at 212-400-8150 or info@spence-chapin.org.

To schedule a pre-adoption consultation or if you would like more information about our Adoption Support & Counseling Services, please contact Spence Chapin’s Modern Family Center at 646-539-2167 or info@modernfamilycenter.org.

5 Simple Ways to Show Grandparents You Care

Grandparents play a special role in the lives of their grandchildren. Whether they live near or far, it’s important to show them how much you care.

Here are 5 ways your child can show how much they love their grandparents:

  1. Send a card or letter: A handmade card or handwritten letter is a special treasure for grandparents. It’s a great way to let them know how much you love them.
  1. Ask them questions: Taking an interest in their stories and experiences is another way to show how much you care.
  1. Lend a helping hand: Whether it is working in the garden, raking leaves, shoveling snow, or dusting the furniture, it’s a simple and extremely helpful way to care for their needs.
  1. If your grandparents don’t live nearby, set up a scheduled phone-date or Skype call. It’s a great way to keep in touch and allows grandparents to see how their grandchildren are growing up!
  1. Play together: If you live near your grandparents, take time to play together. This Grandparents Day, bring your grandparents to Bagels & Blox! Enjoy a delicious brunch, meet other adoptive families, and express your love through play!

Fall 2017 Colombia Host to Adopt Program

Host to Adopt blogpost

Spence-Chapin partners with The Foundation for the Assistance of Abandoned Children (FANA) in Colombia for a special host-to-adopt program. This is an opportunity to host a child or children in your home for three weeks over the fall before finalizing the adoption. Waiting children are boys and girls (including sibling groups) ages 11-14. Participating families must be located in the greater New York City area (includes Long Island, the Hudson Valley, New Jersey, and Connecticut).

Colombia Fall 2017 Host to Adopt Program Timeline:

  • May 15, 2017: Adoption applications are due
  • May – August, 2017: Begin home study and adoption trainings
  • August 2017: Home study must be completed, due at this time to Colombia’s child welfare Central Authority.
  • August – October 2017: Learning about the child or children family is matched with, continuing to prepare for hosting and adoption-related paperwork. Hosting dates will be decided by Colombia and announced during this time.
  • Fall (October or November 2017): Hosting time is 2-3 weeks, supported by bilingual psychologist from adoption house FANA and Spence-Chapin staff
  • December 2017 – June 2018: After hosting period, complete adoption paperwork to move forward with finalizing the adoption, estimate of 6 months though times will vary for families.
  • Summer 2018: Travel to Colombia for approximately 4-6 weeks to finalize the adoption

Contact our Adoption Team at 212-400-8150 or info@spence-chapin.org.              Ready to apply? Download the Colombia host-to-adopt application here.

Korean Language Immersion Program

Hosted in association with the Social Welfare Society, Inc. (SWS) and Kyunghee University, we’re offering a wonderful opportunity to live in Seoul and experience life as a university student in Korea. This is an intensive, structured 10 week program where you’ll be immersed in Korean language and culture courses five days a week, four hours a day.

Program dates: October 2 – December 11, 2015 (fall) and December 18, 2015 – February 26, 2016 (winter)

Application deadlines: August 25, 2015 (fall) and November 3, 2015 (winter)

Documents required:

  • Cover letter
  • Application
  • Copy of passport
  • 6 Passport photos

Cost: SWS subsidizes 100% of tuition but applicants are on their own for airfare, housing, and living expenses; SWS can provide a room in the guesthouse at a reduced rate.

Korean adoptees ages 18 and up are welcome to apply. Contact Dana Stallard at dstallard@spence-chapin.org or 212-360-0213. Preference will be given to those who are applying for the first time.

Staff Interview: Meet Dana!

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?

DanaThis month we talked to Dana Stallard, LMSW, Community Programming Coordinator, about her work.

  1. How did you become interested in adoption?
    I’m adopted, so it definitely was a personal thing. I had never thought about working in adoption, but I saw a posting for a position at Spence-Chapin. The agency has a really good reputation and when I had an interview I really liked the people who worked here, so I thought it would be a good fit. There are positive things about working in adoption while being an adoptee, and things that make it harder at times, as well. I think it helps to share an experience with the community that you work with, and really have that empathy and understanding as to what support services you can provide. But on the flip side, I sort of expect more of myself in working with the community, and sometimes put more responsibility on myself to be able to do more than what I’m actually able to do in my position. They may not feel I am being helpful or that I’m doing all that I can do to support them, and then I feel that extra pressure to be able to make a positive influence or difference.
  2. What’s a typical workday?
    The majority of my work is personal adoption history, so working with clients who want background information, and programming, so developing adoptee services programs, workshops, events, groups, or coordinating our mentorship program. And then there are some more miscellaneous tasks, but those are where I spend most of my time, either with preparing information for clients or actually developing and consulting programs.
  3. What is the most challenging part of your job?
    I definitely think that my work with adoptees wanting access to their birth family information is the most challenging part of the job. There are a lot of legal constraints to the work that I do, and I’m not able to share any identifying information with domestic adoptees. So if they come to the agency wanting to know more about their background or their birth family, I can only share really general information with them. I can share information that could be really helpful. I could find out about the education or health or nationality of their birth families, but adoptees ultimately want to search for their birth parents, and I can’t help them with that. Because of the legal restrictions, it feels like we’re not able to help people as much as they would want. It’s kind of an ongoing moral dilemma, like “how can we possibly help people with their ultimate goals which we’re not able to provide for them?”
  4. What is the most rewarding part of your job?
    There are a lot of really good things about working here, like being able to create a sense of belonging and community for adoptees. The Mentorship Program is my most favorite part about my position. The most rewarding part of the program for me is seeing the kids connect with one another and with the adults, and having a space where everyone in the room is adopted and has shared experiences. With kids or with adults it seems to be really memorable and has a really big impact on me when I leave an event and just want to call someone and say, “This event is going so well! The families are connecting and the kids are playing with each other.” Or just meeting an adult who has never had an opportunity to really be with other adoptees before. You’d be surprised at how many people who are forty, fifty, sixty years old, or even older, say they’ve never met another adoptee before, or they’ve never talked to someone who is adopted, or heard an adoption story. So it’s really meaningful for them to able to find that here.
  5. Describe your job in three words.
    Community, history, and identity.
  6. How has working at MFC changed you, in any way?
    It’s definitely helped me to grow and to learn more about the birth parent community which I hadn’t had any experience with. Working at Spence-Chapin and MFC has helped me to grow professionally and as a social worker. I’ve only been out of school for five years so I’m still very new in the world of professional social work, so I think it’s been really good to have colleagues that are so professional, so intelligent, and people that have worked here for so many years and are so dedicated to our mission. It’s been really good to see that model and be around so many committed social workers.

You can meet Dana at our upcoming event, Korean Cultural Connections! We’ll be joined by the Donghwa Cultural Foundation to honor your child’s Korean heritage through food, language, and a traditional tea ceremony.

Mentorship Celebration

DSC_0156With summer approaching, our Mentorship Program is winding down a successful eighth year! However, before school breaks for the summer, our mentors, mentees, and their families participated in our first ever year-end Mentorship Celebration. Over a delicious lunch, we enjoyed photos and videos from the years’ events, honored our four graduating seniors (Emily, Lillia, Elena, and Pooja, who have collectively been with the program for over 10 years!) and acknowledged the incredible efforts and commitment of our volunteer adult mentors!

At the end of the year, we like to look back and reflect on what we’ve accomplished. When we asked our teens “What is the best part of the mentorship program?” the themes we heard most often are:
• “Learning there are others like me and feeling connected, sharing stories and finding kindred spirits”
• “Meeting other adopted teens who don’t know me from school so I could talk about whatever I wanted”
• “Getting to meet other people who are adopted and being able to have fun and discuss adoption”
• “Meeting other people who know how it feels to be adopted”

One of our graduating seniors is Lilia, born in Bulgaria and adopted at the age of 2. She is preparing to head off to Johnson and Wales University in the fall to study Sports Management, and has been a dynamic, energetic, and positive addition to the program. Before she heads off on her next adventure, Lillia wanted to share her feelings about being in the Mentorship Program:

DSC_0163“I really loved being part of the mentorship group. It was great meeting so many kids and adults and sharing our adoption stories. It was important for me to make friends with other adoptees. We did a lot of fun activities-Chelsea Piers Sports Complex, a scavenger hunt, ice skating, and games in Central Park… I am also hoping to plan a trip to Bulgaria sometime in the future!”

When we hear these words and sentiments, we know we are providing a necessary and important program for the adoption community. Mentorship is a key support to many adoptees in forming healthy identity, having a safe and inclusive place to explore genuinely difficult feelings, and bringing all members of the adoption constellation together in support of our young people. This program continues to grow, and to be an inspiration to our staff, our mentors, and of course the young people themselves.

Interested in having your child join the 2015-2016 Mentorship Program? This program is open to adoptees who will be enrolled in middle school and high school this fall. Contact Dana Stallard, LMSW, Adoptee Services Coordinator at 212-360-0213 or dstallard@spence-chapin.org to learn more!

Adopting a Sibling Group

SiblingsBlogPostOver 85% of families in the United States include at least one sibling. Siblings are the longest and most significant relationship most of us will have over the course of our lifetimes.  For many children, being adopted with their siblings provides continuity and mutual support during what can be an exciting and overwhelming time.

For children in need of adoptive families, being adopted with a sibling has immeasurable benefits. Not only is there is a positive impact on children’s initial adjustment period with a family, but children adopted with their siblings also experience lower anxiety and higher overall mental wellness. Siblings support and understand each other’s stories in a unique way, helping each other make sense of new life experiences. Children who have siblings often learn to build strong relationships and develop healthier attachments to others as well. Families can help maintain this powerful connection by adopting a sibling group.

We have seen many sibling groups in need of families in our Bulgaria, Colombia and South Africa adoption programs. We share the belief with our partners that there is incredible value in keeping siblings together. Our in-country partners are committed to keeping siblings together whenever possible and have minimal additional fees for adopting sibling groups.

There are many joys and unique challenges that come with adopting a sibling group. Questions to consider include:

  • Do I want a large family?
  • For those currently parenting: How would your family dynamic change by adopting a sibling group?
  • Does my family have the ability to welcome two or three new members at the same time? Does my family have the capacity and resources to provide one on one time with each child in the sibling group?

As you explore if adopting a sibling group could be right for your family, contact us at info@spence-chapin.org or 212-400-8150. We can provide resources about adopting and help you consider your adoption options.

References:
Adopt US Kids. Ten Myths and Realities of Sibling Adoptions. Link: https://www.adoptuskids.org/_assets/files/NRCRRFAP/resources/ten-myths-and-realities-of-sibling-adoptions.pdf

Child Welfare Information Gateway. (2013). Sibling issues in foster care and adoption. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Children’s Bureau. Link: https://www.childwelfare.gov/pubPDFs/siblingissues.pdf

Creating A Family Radio. Adopting Siblings: Special Issues to Consider. Link:  http://creatingafamily.org/adoption-category/adopting-siblings-special-issues-consider

 

Reasons Roma Children Need Loving Families

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Roma people represent around 12 million of Europe’s overall population and Bulgaria is home to the third largest population of Roma in the world. We see this reflected in the large population of Roma children in need of families in Spence-Chapin’s Bulgaria adoption program. Though the Roma are an estimated 5% to 10% of the general population in Bulgaria, around 60% of the children in need of permanent families are of Roma descent. Why are such a large number of Roma children in need of adoptive families?

_49096443__49044278_europe_roma_popnTo begin scratching the surface of why many Roma children are waiting for families in Bulgaria, exploring the larger scope of Romani history is an important first step. The Roma make up the largest and most vulnerable ethnic group in Europe. After migrating from India over a thousand years ago, the Roma people have endured oppression and discrimination. Yet quite remarkably, they have been able to preserve Romani language and culture.  You may be more familiar with a commonly used term for Roma – “gypsy”. This term is an outdated and historically inaccurate word stemming from a time when Roma people were thought to have come from Egypt. As the term has negative and derogatory connotations, the most widely accepted term today is Roma.

article-2486333-1922058400000578-107_964x635Centuries of structural discrimination and social exclusion have led to the difficulties that Roma people are faced with today, leaving Roma children vulnerable and, at times, in need of loving homes outside of their birth families. The most prevalent issues faced by Roma families include discrimination, poverty, and limited access to education and medical care. While it can be difficult to picture the realities of what social exclusion may look like for a Roma child in Bulgaria, poverty is the most common reason Roma children are over-represented in child care facilities. The World Bank estimates that the poverty rate for families of Roma descent is 6.7 times greater than non-Roma in Bulgaria. Housing conditions illustrate a powerful snapshot of what living in poverty can look like for a Roma family. While sewage and water supply are available to 93% of the Bulgarian population, 50% of Roma families have no sewage and over 30% of families do not have access to a water supply system.

romanogrenci[1]Regular school attendance can be difficult for Roma children due to circumstances caused by poverty. Issues include a lack of transportation, caring for younger siblings and experiencing discrimination in the school system. Teenagers who experience unplanned pregnancy are also faced with difficulties not only in school attendance but also with their health due to a lack of medical care access. This culminates in only 13% of Roma people with high school diplomas compared to 87% of employed non-Roma Bulgarians.

gypsiesLower levels of education lead to higher levels of unemployment and combined with the discrimination faced when seeking work, the Roma experienced an unemployment rate of 59% in 2010 while the national average for unemployment in Bulgaria was 11.6%. Since joining the European Union in 2007, many Roma who have not been able to find employment in Bulgaria have migrated to other European countries for job opportunities. This can create a difficult decision for parents who may not be able to parent their children as they leave the country and then choose to make an adoption plan.

Another factor in the over-representation of Roma children who are adopted internationally highlights the discrimination the Roma people receive within Bulgaria. If a child cannot be raised with their birth family, it is the best choice for a child to be placed with an adoptive family in their home country. Due to a long history of falsely held beliefs and discrimination against the Roma population, Bulgarian families may choose to adopt ethnic Bulgarian children, leaving Roma children waiting longer to be placed with an adoptive family in their home country.

Hundreds of years of oppression have created an environment where Roma children are more vulnerable to factors that leave children in need of a family. While the reasons any Roma child in Bulgaria are in need of a family are complex, Spence-Chapin’s mission is simple – to find families for the most vulnerable children. We are committed to the idea that all children deserve a forever family, regardless of their age or medical condition.  There are thousands of school-age children, sibling groups, and children with special needs languishing in orphanages and foster care in Bulgaria.  These children blossom when given the opportunity, support, and resources to live within the stability and safety of a permanent loving family.

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To learn more about adoption through our Bulgaria program or to view profiles of Waiting Children in Bulgaria ready to be immediately matched with an adoptive family today, contact us at 212-400-8150 or at info@spence-chapin.org..

 

Visiting our Partners in South Africa

Arriving in South Africa one is immediately struck by an intense color contrast never seen walking the streets of New York City.  Bursts of purple are framed against the blue sky, the green landscape, and the white exteriors of buildings.

(1)SOUTH AFRICA-PRETORIA-JACARANDA-BLOSSOM

We are told by our hosts that we have fortuitously scheduled our visit during the brief window of time that the Jacaranda trees are in full bloom.  We have come to Johannesburg to learn from our South African counterpart, Johannesburg Child Welfare (JCW).  JCW is a vast child welfare agency providing services within Johannesburg and its surrounding areas.  The work they do spans from child abuse treatment to family integration.   It is a privilege to see the broad range of their work and to hear from the adoption team about the realities that inform our shared effort to find homes for children where no domestic adoptions exist.  For one week, against the colorful backdrop the Jacarandas have provided, we will make visits to the various institutions and shared group homes where many of the children JCW advocates for reside.

Our first stop is Othandweni, a JCW-run institution located in the township of Soweto.  Othandweni has the capacity for about ninety children, thirty children live in the nursery and sixty older school age children  live in five cottages that are segmented by age.  There are close to fifteen full time staff.   The environment at Othandweni is lively, bright, and loud.

Africa 2012 274 Part of the reason why this welcoming and safe atmosphere exists is the presence of the Grannies.  Othandweni is the site of our Granny Program, which we first established in 2011.  Fifteen women from the local community dedicate their time to visit with the thirty children who live in Othandweni’s nursery.  They come Monday through Friday for at least 4 hours a day, dividing their time between caring for two children.  The children they are working with are between birth and 6 years of age and have a range of significant special needs, from HIV to cerebral palsy.  The dedication, consistency, and passion of the Grannies bring to life a specially-designed curriculum that helps these children meet their developmental milestones.  The visible impact this program has had on the children who have benefitted from a relationship with a granny makes it easy for everyone involved to wholeheartedly buy into this program.  It is a model that JCW hopes to implement in other institutions as its benefits have proven to extend beyond its original goals, the “gogos” speak of the sense of enfranchisement this program has brought them – as one gogo puts it, the program “has given me a new lease on life”.

animal mosaicOver the next two days we visit three other institutions.  Princess Alice is a JCW-run home for infants and is located in a particularly affluent neighborhood of Johannesburg.  The focus at Princess Alice is on providing a nursery and pediatric services to infants who have been abandoned or orphaned.  Many of the children at Princess Alice have special needs and are on medication regimes that need to be strictly monitored.  There are between twenty and thirty infants residing at Princess Alice and a combination of full time staff and community volunteers who are a constant presence.  We next stop at Cotlands, which is an institution caring for infant and toddler age children.  Cotlands had recently reduced their capacity at the time of our visit and was focused on expanding its community-based family services while still providing care for around fifteen to twenty infants and toddlers.  Like any other institution in Johannesburg there are many special needs infants.  Learning about the particular profiles in the care of these institutions continually reinforces why Spence-Chapin is doing the kind of focused work it is doing in South Africa.  The population of special needs infants and toddlers is significant in size and growing domestic options for these children is a work in progress for JCW.

Africa 2012 015Ethembeni, a Salvation Army-run institution within Johannesburg, is our last stop.  Ethembeni has the capacity for close to fifty or sixty infants and toddlers.  There is a nursery and separate living areas for the toddlers.  Ethembeni is a longtime presence in the child welfare landscape in South Africa and has done a lot of important work on behalf of vulnerable children in Johannesburg.  Continuing the theme of the trip, we met many toddlers with significant special needs including children with a combination of cognitive disabilities and physical disabilities.  There is a sizeable population of children with minor to severe cerebral palsy and also Down syndrome.  Part of the normative mindset of caregivers and administrators at these institutions is that finding homes for these children is a near impossibility, an idea that we have seen be  defied time and time again by families who possess the expertise and resources to responsibly provide homes for children with these specialized needs.  Sharing our optimism with them will hopefully encourage them to continue their active advocacy on behalf of these children.

kid and granny do puzzleWe return to Othandweni on our final day in Johannesburg to meet some of the older children who live in the cottages.  We are greeted with a performance of music, dance, and poetry.  As the older children at Othandweni come from a variety of tribal backgrounds their presentations are cultural fusions of their different backgrounds, combining the features of Zulu, Xhosa, Sotho, and other cultural traditions.  We met many children whose legal statuses were not settled and/or they still maintained connections with their birth family through visits and other forms of communication.  However, there certainly are children who desire to be part of a permanent family and Spence-Chapin hopes to be able to work on their behalf.

It was a poignant time to visit Johannesburg as the one year anniversary of Nelson Mandela’s passing was approaching.  His work on behalf of the marginalized is an evident influence to the incredible work that JCW does on behalf of children who are vulnerable.  Spence-Chapin is privileged to be working with such an ethical and altruistic organization.  I returned feeling energized about the focused kind of work we are doing and with a deeper sense of accountability to the children who we met.

By Ben Sommers, Associate Director of International Programs, Spence-Chapin

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.

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.

 

Waiting Children in Bulgaria

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The Bulgarian Ministry of Justice maintains a waiting child registry that lists over 1,800 older children, siblings, and children with special needs who are eligible for international adoption but have not yet found families. Bulgaria prioritizes finding families for the most vulnerable children and updates the waiting child registry monthly.

During our recent visit to Bulgaria we were struck by how many healthy sibling groups are waiting for families. Children are primarily Roma, an ethnic minority within the country, and are typically cared for in institutional settings although foster care is increasingly more common. Families open to adopting siblings recognize that sibling groups have diverse histories and ages, with the oldest child being at least 8 years old. It is our hope to find homes for many of these children with loving American families. In addition to siblings, there are many children with significant special needs who are waiting for families. In Bulgaria, some of the most common special needs include hydrocephaly, moderate or severe cognitive delays, down syndrome, and spina bifida.

Due to the priority of the Ministry of Justice to place the most vulnerable children with adoptive families, we expect families to experience a quick match time – between 6-12 months. Families open to adopting siblings may be matched within a few months of submitting their paperwork to Bulgaria. Once a child has been identified, the inter-country adoption intermediary, ANIDO, has the opportunity to visit the child to gain more information and to take photos and videos. When a family’s paperwork has been submitted to Bulgaria, their application is prioritized and the legal process of finalizing the adoption comes into effect.

Families interested in learning more about the history and trends in Bulgarian adoptions can see up-to-date statistics from the US Embassy in Sophia or the Department of State. The Bulgarian adoption program has seen an increase in placements in the past few years, showing the country’s commitment to de-institutionalization and finding permanency for the children in their care.

Spence-Chapin is committed to finding permanent families for the world’s most vulnerable children. We are reducing financial barriers for adoptive families who open their lives and hearts to a school-age child/sibling group with special needs.

Learn more about Spence-Chapin and our Bulgaria program.