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.

 

Family Profile: Scott and Tari

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

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

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

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

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

Merryl Klein’s Farewell

It is with a heavy heart that we announce Merryl Klein’s retirement after 24 years of extraordinary service to Spence-Chapin.

Merryl began working for Spence-Chapin in August, 1989 as the Director of the Child 545_SpenceDay1_20081114_MerrylLMCare department.  In 1994, the organization was faced with a situation in which an infant was abandoned in its care, was diagnosed with AIDS.  Unwilling to place this child in a foster home, which was the common practice at that time, Merryl was able to find the infant a home in Texas with a pediatric nurse who specialized in AIDS care.  It was from this experience that Merryl, and then Executive Director Kathy Legg, developed a pilot program for finding homes for hard-to-place infants.

Merryl headed this program, aptly called A Special Adoption Program (ASAP), and remained an integral part of it throughout her tenure at Spence-Chapin.   What began as a pilot program envisioned by Merryl, is now the foundation of Spence-Chapin’s mission in domestic adoption today.

Since 1995, Spence-Chapin’s domestic special needs program has placed more than 300 infants with loving families. These babies come from diverse backgrounds and have a variety of issues ranging from risk of developmental delays to serious medical conditions.  In 2011, Senator Kirsten Gillibrand acknowledged our ASAP program’s efforts by honoring it with a Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute Angel in Adoption™ Award.

While we prize Merryl’s extraordinary achievements in the field of adoption, it is her heartfelt dedication to the children and their families that makes us admire her most.  Throughout her time at Spence-Chapin, Merryl has provided thoughtful and personalized care and attention to each child and family she’s worked with.  Moreover, she approaches her work with the utmost passion and commitment.

As the organization transitions to focusing on the children most in need of families – older children, their siblings and children with special needs – Merryl has been a strong supporter knowing well that, now more than ever, the ASAP program will garner an even higher awareness.

Merryl, and the work she’s done at Spence-Chapin, is an inspiration to her co-workers, many of whom consider her a mentor with an endless wealth of knowledge.  We wish her the best of luck in all of her future endeavors; we have no doubt she’ll make a positive difference wherever she goes.

Adopting a Child with HIV

Last year we were thrilled to announce the opening of our South Africa adoption program.  Since then, we have learned more about the process, the children and the needs of the South African child welfare community.  We have learned that in South Africa, the number of children in need of families continues to grow and that these children are AIDS orphans who need families that can care for them properly.  In all, there are an estimated 3.7 million orphans in South Africa: children who are no longer babies, children with special needs and children who are part of sibling groups often remain in orphanages for years, waiting for a loving family to change their lives.

Soon after opening this program we met Megan and Cameron.adoptive family Already experienced parents (2 sons adopted from Ethiopia and Uganda), Megan and Cameron felt their family was still not quite complete.  As the couple started to look into their options, one theme kept rising above the rest; in blogs and forums and from their own hearts came the idea of adopting a child with HIV.  As Megan put it, “We did not know much about HIV – I knew that Magic Johnson had HIV. That’s about it.”  But soon they learned more – a great deal more.  They learned that with the right medication, children can have happy lives with a normal life expectancy.  They even learned that, despite the stigma the disease still carries, the CDC (Center For Disease Control) has actually removed HIV from its list of communicable diseases. Knowing this, the couple approached Spence-Chapin to adopt a child from South Africa diagnosed with HIV.  They are now in the process of completing the paperwork and hope for a child match soon.

Megan and Cameron know that in the future, their choice to parent a child with HIV HIV Quotewill be questioned.  They know they have a journey ahead to educate their community and to line up the resources their child will need to live a full life.  When asked what it is about their family that led them to this choice, when so many others tend to overlook these children, the couple seemed surprised by the question.  Says Megan, “I don’t think our family is any different; I just think we have been given the proper education.  We have the information, so we do not fear the HIV stigma. This is something all families can learn!”

As with many of the other international programs in which we work, we see children who are waiting for a family longer than any child should have to.  Children born with the HIV virus have the opportunity to lead long, full and healthy lives, but only if the child welfare and medical communities join forces to provide the care and permanency that every child deserves.  As we grow our South Africa program, our commitment to these children is stronger than ever.  With education, advocacy and adoption, we hope to provide every child with what Megan and Cameron hope for their future child: “We want people to love our child as a person first.  We want them to see that our child is in no way diminished or stigmatized and with no asterisk beside his or her name.”

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Adoption from South Africa

Megan and Cameron now… 2 sons from Ethiopia and Uganda, and a daughter from South Africa.

 

A Special Needs Adoption Story

You will never see a child with a bigger smile or a sunnier countenance than Alex.  Even though he was was born prematurely and developed severe medical issues, he seems to think being pushed in a swing is pure heaven.

Alex never came home from the hospital where he was born or from the interim institution that cared for him after that.  His birth parents visited him often at Elizabeth Seton Hospital, hoping that somehow Alex could improve to the point where he would come home with them.  But in the end, they made the difficult decision that Alex should be freed for adoption.  He was by then, in adoption parlance, an “older” child at age 4.  This is when Spence-Chapin first learned about Alex, who would not be permanently placed for nearly two more years.

Alex’s journey was far longer than any of the other special needs babies placed through Spence-Chapin because of several factors.  There was the on-going hope of the birth parents that they would be able, at some point, to properly care for him.   Another factor was the very real difficulty of his continuing medical condition.  When Alex’s information was put up the ASAP website here, there were fewer responses than usual.  He was no longer a baby but now a child of 4. His special needs remained, and would remain, severe.  Nevertheless, a special couple came forward, a same sex couple who wanted to take Alex home and love him but were not able to move ahead because of a medical emergency.

AlexAlex had to wait even longer because of more medical difficulties not his own.  The Mongillo family, well known to us at Spence-Chapin, was very interested in Alex but just when they were to act on adopting him, one of their other children – a baby of two suffering from leukemia – became much sicker and it was determined to hold off on the placement until the Mongillo’s were able to resolve the needs of their baby who was in crisis.  Alex remained at Elizabeth Seton.

AAlexlex didn’t leave the hospital until he was six-years-old.  But, at last, at the end of March of this year, Alex finally went home to his own forever family, the extraordinary Mongillo’s of Long Island.  The family has adopted several times from Spence-Chapin and their home and their hearts seem always open to a child in need.  Each of the children placed in this home has blossomed, making progress far beyond what doctors had predicted.  The household is calm and loving and everyone agrees that Alex will thrive there too and attain every bit of his potential growth and then some.The Mongillo’s will stay in touch with Alex’s birth parents, visiting with them and allowing them to take comfort and joy in Alex’s bright future.  It is truly a happy ending for Alex – and for us.

 

 

A Day in the Life: Interim Care Provider

From the moment she gets a call from Spence-Chapin about a newborn coming into care, Carmela Grabowski goes into mommy mode. “I put fresh linens on the bassinet, clean the car seat, make formula, sterilize the pacifiers, change out all the diapers from size 2 to 1, and sort the clothes depending on the season and the gender of the baby.”

Carmela has been an interim care provider with Spence-Chapin since 2009, and has cared for 32 infants. This wife and mother of a 21-year-old son and a 19-year-old daughter, both adopted, gives us a sneak peak of life as an interim child care provider. “I start my day around 6:00am with a feeding, changing the baby’s diaper. Baby is back down for a nap, and I then clean up the house, do laundry and shower. Around 9:00am, I give her/him the second bottle. I keep the baby up for about an hour– swinging, playing, cuddling when it’s down for a nap number 2. I take this time to work in my private office ‘til noon, and then I start making lunch for my husband and daughter. If it’s a day when the baby has a doctor’s appointment or a visit with her birth parents, we get on the road around 9:15am.

“In the afternoon, when I prepare dinner, the baby is in the swing keeping me company in the kitchen. By 6:00pm, the family sits down together for dinner and everyone takes turns interacting with the baby while we eat. At 8:00pm, it’s ‘Bath-Bottle-Bed. I usually stay awake until midnight, waiting for the baby’s next feeding, and of course, some more cuddling. Then, I’m up every 3-4 hours for late night feedings and diaper changes.”

“I’d tell anyone who wants to do this [interim care], that you have to understand that it takes up a lot of time and a lot of work. But, it’s most rewarding. You just get so much out of it. Adoptive parents often keep in touch. I keep a photo album with all the pictures they send me of the babies I’ve cared for. It’s the best thing I’ve ever done.

 

Spence-Chapin’s Interim Child Care Program is one of the last of its kind.  It began over 70 years ago as a valuable service for birth parents by giving them time after delivery – free from pressure – to make a decision about their child’s future.

Experienced care providers, supervised by our child care department, look after the babies in their home for several days or weeks after hospital discharge. Birth parents retain their legal rights and can visit their babies during this period.  Spence-Chapin’s board-certified pediatricians examine all infants in our care after hospital discharge; give them regular exams during their stay; and perform a discharge exam on the day they leave to go home.

You can learn more by visiting our website.