Search & Reunion: Where to Begin


Pamela Slaton

Name: Pamela Slaton
Pamela Slaton is a Genealogist and Private Investigator in the State of New Jersey whose business mainly focuses on locating birth families. She is also a Spence-Chapin adoptee. Her area of expertise lies in having the ability to combine historical records with contemporary data.





Name: Jessica Luciere

Jessica Luciere is an international adoptee who decided early in her life that she wanted to search for her birth family. She contacted a private investigator in Colombia when she was 23 years old after going through various avenues in New York, and he was able to find her birth mother with the information she had through her birth papers. Her family was found within a week. Jessica has visited her birth family many times in Colombia and maintains a very open relationship with them.

Mark Lacava

Name: Mark Lacava

Mark Lacava is the Director of Clinical Services in the Modern Family Center at Spence-Chapin. He works with all members of the adoption community and has experience working with individuals embarking on the search and reunion process. He received his Masters of Social Work from Columbia University and a Foundations of Family Therapy Certificate from the Post-Graduate Program at the Ackerman Institute for the Family. He has been a clinician working with children and families for over 20 years.

Background Search Guidelines for New York State Adoptees

Beginning the search for information on birth parents and background information is a serious, emotional decision. We encourage anyone who thinks they want to start this journey, or those who already have, to talk to a Spence-Chapin counselor. Our staff can help you prepare for the information and feelings you may find on your search.

While adoption records remain sealed by law in NY State, an adoptee who was born and adopted in NYS and is 18 years old or over, the birth parent of that adoptee, or the biological sibling of that adoptee can register with the New York State Adoption Information Registry to obtain the following information:

  • Non-identifying information
  • Identifying information if both parties have registered – If adoptees , their birth parents and /or birth siblings have registered with NYSAIR and give consent NYS will share their current names and addresses. If only one parent signed the surrender agreement, then registration by the other parents is not needed for the exchange of identifying information between the adoptee and the registered birth parent.
  • Medical Information – Birth parents can give medical and psychological information to the registry any time after the adoption. The information will be shared with the adoptee at any time that he or she registers.

Unfortunately under current NYS law an adoption agency such as Spence- Chapin cannot construct its own registry.

However adults who are adopted often contact the agency looking for information about their history. State law permits the agency to provide adult adoptees with all of the non-identifying information available in the case record. Spence-Chapin provides a profile that may include information about the birth family and the making of the adoption plan.

Birth Parents also contact the agency to update their medical and other details, and to inquire about additional information.

In addition to providing a narrative of non-identifying information, Spence-Chapin’s social workers assist adoptees, birth parents and adoptive parents with short-term counseling related to search and reunion.

Spence-Chapin also provides similar information for those whose adoptions were facilitated by Louise Wise Services and Talbot Perkins Children’s Services.

Our 15th Annual Birth Mothers’ Gathering

As a first time coordinator for the Birth Mothers’ Day Gathering, I knew I would be responsible for shaping an event that meant a great deal for many women and families. I am somewhat new to Spence-Chapin, and adore working for the organization, so it was an honor to be able to delve into the project.  It wasn’t just an opportunity for event-planning, but an opportunity to be involved with a ritual that stands against the societal stigmas applied to birth mothers and adoption, to educate an outside community that a child is never “given up” and Birth Mothers never give up the love they feel for their children.

On the surface, the event was certainly beautiful, but the real evening occurred somewhere else, somewhere more private and more unique.  Each woman – some with friends, family, their children, some alone – came with a different story.  As an observer, it was an honor to see the strength and power that made up the room. It made me want to be a better person, to find the same grace and humility many of the Birth Mothers showed in the face of extreme sorrow.

That evening, many women bravely shared their stories and brought the room to tears and laughter. One of those women came up to the front of the room toward the end of the evening and shared the following words with us.  They served as a reminder to every person in the room; being a birth mother means being a mother from afar, of finding the inner strength to love patiently, to protect oneself while unthinkably vulnerable, and to always remember; whatever our path, we are all just human and must cope with all that life offers – good, bad, and everything in between.

 – Lisa Marie Basile, Spence-Chapin Administrative Assistant

Birth Mothers’ Day Reflection

I had the good fortune to go to South Africa last October.  It’s a country I love, partly because it has taught me there is always hope in the face of unrelenting adversity, and the people live that conviction with pride in what they have overcome and they joyfully embrace life in the midst of challenges that could bring us to our knees.   At the end of this last trip, I reveled in the spectacular view of the gorgeous Western Cape all the way down the peninsula to the Cape of Good Hope.   And this time, unlike other occasions where I simply assumed I’d be returning, I wondered if I would go back again. It made it all the more precious for me as I savored every detail of the landscape.

When I thought about sharing tonight, I thought about that image of my taking off from Cape Town, and about not taking things for granted.  You see, I was diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer exactly one year ago. I’ve only shared this with a few people, and don’t choose to broadcast it or to have it define me.  But we’re sisters. I’m not keeping secrets and I have things to say.

Right now I’m well. My treatment is not debilitating, and I hope I will still have some good years ahead of me.  So, while I do visit some dark spaces, I choose to have this great opportunity to experience how exquisite life really is every minute without taking it or any of my relationships for granted.

And that brings me to today.  I’m obviously at a critical juncture in my life.  Of course we all are all the time without knowing it, or paying it much heed. But I know in my bones, literally, that life is lived day by day, from present moment to present moment. That’s a good thing.

When my son found me, I woke up to grace, to learning by following his lead, walking on many eggshells to be sure, but respecting his handling of his various mothers and extended family, watching him mature in his marriage and parenting of his children, and I grew more patient, putting him first always, allowing time to guide us, a virtue that doesn’t come easily to me.  And I learned gratitude, for a young man and his family who welcomed me into their lives.

With nineteen years of relationship now, and my new life journey, things are deepening. Love is less tentative.  We can sign off with “I love you” without feeling awkward, and I’ve seen my incredible son just show up in so many ways where words are optional.  And that generosity extends to the parents who treasure him, as it was never more apparent for me than when his dad searched all over the house to gather boyhood pictures of his son to make an album for me at Christmas.  In a funny way, I couldn’t be happier in my life now that I don’t take a minute of it for granted.

I do know I’m particularly fortunate to have this relationship — that things aren’t always so rosy.  But, regardless, as I’ve been learning to focus more closely on what is important and what isn’t, I see that we all have choices all the time about how to respond to the good and the hurts in our lives, whether they be trivial or profound — whether people exceed our expectations or disappoint us. We have the choice to see who we really are, to make something of ourselves, to love and ask for forgiveness, to forgive ourselves and others like there IS no tomorrow, to not waste time sweating  the small stuff or even the not so small stuff, to choose to heal and abandon anger and regret, to choose to search if we want to, to do our emotional homework to handle possible outcomes, to be someone we respect and our children can respect even when there is no contact, to do so much more than just survive.

All of us, birth moms, first moms, those of us pushed to relinquish, or those having more choice but nevertheless feeling there was no other way out, those in closed, semi-closed, or open adoptions, those in reunion, those who aren’t or can’t be — all of us,  in the words of The Song of Bernadette, “torn by what we’ve done and can’t undo,” — know we are mothers, mothers of children we couldn’t parent, but mothers always, who celebrate the birth of our children. We know we have been unbearably strong.  We may need to whisper it first to ourselves, but then we can proclaim it to the universe and know we are heard.  Just don’t take anyone or time itself for granted.