Domestic Special Needs Adoption at Spence-Chapin: Who Chooses the Adoptive Family?

Families often have questions about what the matching process is like in our Domestic Special Needs Adoption Program. Similar to Spence-Chapin’s Domestic Infant Adoption Program, the matching process in our Domestic Special Needs Program is driven by birth family whenever possible.

Spence-Chapin’s Domestic Special Needs Adoption Program (formerly called ASAP – A Special Adoption Program) was created when parents struggling with an unexpected diagnosis for their child came to us needing support. Since creating this unique program in 1995, we have found over 500 loving adoptive families for children with special medical needs, and we continue to work hard at expanding the benefits of adoption to more medically-fragile children and the prospective adoptive parents who want to love them.

The Spence-Chapin Way

For both our Special Needs and Domestic Adoption Programs, our counselors provide free, confidential, unbiased and culturally-sensitive options counseling for parents in crisis. Our goal is to support these families in understanding all their options and rights as well as the resources available, so they can be empowered to make informed decisions and plans for their child. This includes connecting families to early intervention services, Social Security Income (SSI), and finding additional resources to parent a child who is medically fragile.

For birth parents choosing adoption, we are uniquely qualified to support and guide them through the adoption planning process. Our Special Needs Adoption Program is one of the only places in NY and NJ that has expertise to support birth families and find loving adoptive families for medically-fragile infants. Sometimes we know prenatally that a baby will have a special need, other times we are contacted after the birth of the baby. We know that all birth parents have a great deal of love for their baby and want to make a plan that they feel is best for their child. When a child is born with a special needs, we look for adoptive families registered in our Special Needs Adoption Program.

Birth Parent Perspective: Watch Melissa tell her story about how Spence-Chapin helped her through a difficult time.

Ideally, birth parents can review profiles from multiple adoptive families. Some children have very severe medical conditions and it may be challenging to find multiple families for every child. When looking for prospective adoptive families, we network with other special needs organizations and advocates around the country to find supportive and loving families for children with diverse medical needs.

Additionally, some families have requests about the adoptive family, such as one or two-parent household, religious, racial, or ethnic preferences. In some cases, a birth parent may be looking for families that reflect their own heritage or cultural background. This means that not all families who are open to adopting a child may be profiled with birth parents. If a preference is known, we will often write it in the child’s online profile. Since the children are ready to be adopted immediately, birth parents are only presented with profiles of families that meet their preferences and have a current home study written by a social worker at an accredited agency in the family’s state.

Sometimes we already have adoptive families who have pre-registered with SC who can be considered. Other times we need more options for the birth family and are looking for more prospective adoptive families. Not all waiting children are photo listed on our website. It is the birth parent’s choice if their child’s photo and/or background information is shared online and each parent makes a choice that feels comfortable for them.

Because the children have special medical needs, it is important to know how and why a prospective adoptive family feels prepared to parent a child with significant medical needs. Eligibility is very flexible; we see all types of families: people who are not yet parents as well as parents of 8 or 10 children, families who live in urban, suburban, and rural areas throughout the U.S., families of different races and ethnicities, and parents of different ages. Families living in any state are eligible to apply to adopt. Overall, we are looking for loving families who are prepared and excited to adopt a child with special medical needs! Spence-Chapin supports open adoption and is seeking adoptive parents who are open to ongoing contact with their child’s birth parents, often in the form of phone calls, video chat, letters, emails, visits, and texts.

Ultimately, birth parents select an adoptive family by reviewing adoptive family profiles with their social workers. Once they have narrowed their choice to one family they would like to meet, a match meeting is held between the birth and adoptive parents with their social workers.

Birth Parent Perspective: Hear Zeke’s birth parents speak about their experience working with Spence-Chapin to make an adoption plan for their son. Zeke’s story was featured at the Spence-Chapin Gala in 2017. Learn more about his story here.

Birth Parent Perspective: Watch Scott talk about the unknowns he faced when his third child was diagnosed with Down syndrome prenatally and how he and his partner explored adoption and ultimately chose to parent their daughter.

To learn more about becoming a prospective adoptive parent through our Special Needs Adoption Program, read our Special Needs FAQ on our blog! You can also contact us at 212-400-8150 or asap@spence-chapin.org.

If you are a birth parent considering making an adoption plan, you can contact us 24/7 for free, confidential and unbiased options counseling: Call 1-800-321-LOVE or Text: 646-306-2586.

Mentor Spotlight: Meet Rachel Kara Pérez

Rachel was born in The Bronx and raised in a predominantly Puerto Rican household. During a visit to Spence-Chapin to get non-identifying information about her adoption, Rachel was told she would make a great Mentor. We're glad she agreed!

Joie Visits Spence-Chapin and Meets Her Adoption Social Worker

Linda Alexandre, Executive Vice President of Adoption Programs, recently met with a family who stopped by for a visit. Joie, age 9, shares her recollection of that visit in this blog post.

Support for Adoptees

Spence-Chapin offers various programs, events and services that support adoptees to build community, navigate adoption-related issues such as identity and get resources to thrive in their lives.

Journey of Strength and Hope: A Birth and Adoptive Mom’s Story

Journey of Strength and Hope: A Birth and Adoptive Mom’s Story

Last month, Lucy Shaw, our Senior Manager of Birth Parent Outreach Department, had a wonderful opportunity to chat with Jacqui Hunt who just adopted a baby girl through Spence-Chapin’s Domestic Adoption Program.

Building Families, Nurturing Communities: The Important Role of Social Workers in Adoption

Monica Baker, a social worker with Spence-Chapin for more than ten years, understands well the delicate balance of emotions involved in her work. She spends her days enabling connections between infants and the families who can provide forever homes for them.  

International Adoption Story: Making the Decision to Adopt Again

“About six months after bringing home Kurhula from South Africa, we knew that we needed to adopt again. It was clear that Kurhula missed being around other children. She had been the youngest child in a foster family, living with four older foster-siblings – and although she was thriving with the individual attention that my husband and I were able to give her, she also seemed visibly lonely, and missed interacting with other children.

10 Tips to Help Teens Explore Identity

Katie Rogala, an adoptee and Spence-Chapin employee, shares 10 helpful ways to support your adopted child’s exploration of inner and outer self.

We Celebrate Clara Spence

We Celebrate Clara Spence

As we celebrate National Women's History Month, 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.

Reflections on Spence-Chapin History During Black History Month

This month as we celebrate Black History Month, I have found myself taking time to reflect on the history of African American adoption, the role that Spence-Chapin has played in that history, and the many encouraging changes I have witnessed in my 25+ career working in adoption.

Mentor Spotlight: Meet Rebecca Pollack

Born in South Korea and adopted at 2 ½ years old, Rebecca is often asked whether she is Chinese, Japanese, Mexican, or Native American Indian.

Spence-Chapin, A Leader in African-American and Black Infant Adoption

In honor of Black History Month, we revisit the efforts made by those who have fought to break barriers, making African-American and Black children a focus and a priority.

What is a “Waiting Child”?

waiting child

What is the definition of a Waiting Child?

The term “Waiting Child” holds many meanings within the adoption community. In Spence-Chapin’s International Adoption Programs, we define a Waiting Child as a child who is in need of adoption and is ready to be matched immediately with an adoptive family. We regularly receive information from our international partners about children who are in need of immediate adoption. In this case, the child has been identified by their caretakers as a child who would thrive in an adoptive family.

We are able to share profiles of children on our Waiting Child page.

We take the privacy rights of the children whom we seek to place very seriously. Spence-Chapin does not publicly use a child’s photo unless we have permission from their guardian. Contact us to learn more about the Waiting Child page at 212-400-8150 or info@spence-chapin.org.

Who are the Waiting Children?

There are thousands of children with special needs waiting for a family to love them. We work with our partners in Colombia, Bulgaria and South Africa to identify children who are particularly in need of loving, permanent families. In our Colombia and Bulgaria Waiting Child Programs these children are typically pre-school and school-age children, children with medical special needs, or sibling groups in need of adoption. While the reasons a child has been identified as a Waiting Child vary, there is one thing the children all have in common – they are ready to be matched immediately with a forever family.

Comparing the Traditional Adoption Process and the Adoption of a Waiting Child

Families often ask how adopting a Waiting Child differs from the traditional adoption process. While the application process and eligibility guidelines are the same, the main difference is the timeline in which families are matched with a child. In a traditional intercountry adoption process, families receive information on their child after their paperwork is submitted to the country. For a Waiting Child, a family may begin their adoption process after identifying the child who will be joining their family. Families can also request to learn more about an individual Waiting Child at any point during their adoption process. There are many pre-school and school-age children, children with special medical needs, and sibling groups in need of families who are not on our Waiting Child page.

What is the Next Step?

Spence-Chapin’s mission is to connect the children most in need of families with loving parents. We can help you explore which adoption program is right for your family. If you’d like to learn more about domestic and international adoption at Spence-Chapin, or to view profiles of Waiting Children ready to be immediately matched with an adoptive family today, contact us at 212-400-8150 or at info@spence-chapin.org.