Special-Needs Children

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.

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.

Special Needs Adoption FAQs

Since 1995, Spence-Chapin has found adoptive families for 520+ children with special needs. Spence-Chapin is currently accepting applications from families who are open to adopting a child with significant medical needs. To be considered as a prospective adoptive family please complete our free pre-application send us a copy of your current home study (completed within the past 12 months), conducted by a licensed adoption agency. In order to reduce barriers to special needs adoption there are no professional service fees for special needs adoptions. Read more: www.spence-chapin.org/asap Emailasap@spence-chapin.org Fax: (888)-742-6126 Mail: Special Needs at Spence-Chapin, 410 East 92nd Street, 3rd Floor, New York, N.Y. 10128

Frequently Asked Questions:

I would like to be considered as an adoptive parent. What’s my first step? Please share a copy of your current home study and complete the Spence-Chapin online pre-application. Please email your home study and/or family profile to asap@spence-chapin.org.

Unfortunately, families without a current home study are unable to be considered.

Since the children are ready to be adopted immediately we need families that are ready to adopt.

Complete the free online pre-application here: www.spence-chapin.org/asap

I’ve emailed my home study and submitted the pre-application. What’s next? All families who have completed the online pre-application and emailed their current home study are considered active prospective adoptive families. We will contact you if your family is a potential match for a current or future waiting child. We will provide status updates regarding the adoption process on our website within the child’s profile. All available information about a child is on our website. Spence-Chapin will keep a home study on file for as long as it is current and keep the family in mind for any future situations.

When will I hear from the social workers? We will provide status updates on our website within the child’s profile. Due to the volume of emails, we are unable to respond to every email about a waiting child. Please stay in touch with Spence-Chapin through our newsletters, facebook, and twitter. Keep up with waiting babies through our website.

What kind of home study do I need? You will need a current home study written by a social worker at an accredited agency in your home state. We ask for an agency home study because it’s important for families to be connected to ongoing support and services. You can submit any home study you currently have and if you are chosen we may have additional questions and ask for it to be updated depending on the child’s situation.

The children needing adoptive families are born with a wide variety of medical needs and we are looking for adoptive families who are open to severe medical conditions. Please indicate in your home study and the pre-application the types of medical conditions your family is open to and share the resources which will allow a child thrive in your family.

I need more information- what else can you share? Everything that we are able to share at this time is available on our website. If information changes or more becomes available, we will update the website. If a diagnosis sounds unknown or you are unsure about prognosis we encourage you to speak with a pediatrician. It is not possible to visit with the child before being identified as the adoptive family.

How much will this cost? In order to reduce barriers to special needs adoption there are no professional service fees for this adoption program. There is no cost to submit the online pre-application and be matched with a child. Costs to consider include home study, travel to NYC for the placement, post-placement reports, and adoption finalization. If a two-parent household then both parents are required to travel to the Spence-Chapin offices for the placement and should expect to stay in NYC metro area for about 1 week.

Who picks the adoptive family? Am I eligible to adopt? Eligibility is very flexible; we see all types of families: people who are not yet parents as well as parents of large families, 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 states 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! Whenever possible the birth family chooses the adoptive family. 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. 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.

Where do the children come from? All of the children are born in New York, New Jersey, or Connecticut Spence-Chapin offers free, unbiased options counseling to women and their partners in the NYC metro area. Sometimes birth parents know prenatally that a baby will have a special need, other times we are contacted after the birth of the baby.

You can watch two videos on our special needs adoption webpage from birth parents of children with special needs. You’ll hear Melissa talk about how when her daughter was diagnosed with Down syndrome Melissa and her husband did not feel ready to provide her with the parenting she needed. They made an open adoption plan. You’ll also hear Scott talk about the unknowns of 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. The same diagnoses with different outcomes and our social workers are here to support all birth parents in exploring their options. www.spence-chapin.org/asap

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. Sometimes we already have adoptive families who have pre-registered with SC who are able to be considered. Other times we are in need of a more options for the birth family and looking for more prospective adoptive families.

If I’m chosen as the adoptive parent what are my next steps? The social worker will be in touch about gathering a current family profile from your family and to discuss the logistics of meeting the birth family in a match meeting, either in-person or through video chat. You’ll receive the any additional information that has become available and review medical history with your pediatrician. After the match meeting you’ll speak to your social worker about if you’re ready to move forward with the adoption and the same for the birth family. Our team will plan placement of the child to your family.

When will a child be placed with me? I wish this was simpler to answer! There are so many factors that go into an adoption placement that this is very difficult to predict and there is no guarantee that a child will be placed with your family through this adoption program. We encourage you to network with other agencies or advocacy groups once your home study is completed. Whenever possible biological parents chose the adoptive family. Some biological families have requests about the adoptive family, such as 1 or 2 parent household, religious, or racial preferences. This means that not all families who are open to adopting a child may be profiled with all biological parents. If a preference is known, we will often write it in the child’s online profile.

Who are the children? What are special needs? The children are infants and young children in the NYC metro area who have been diagnosed with a medical condition or are at significant risk for developing a severe medical condition. The children are born in New York, New Jersey, or Connecticut and are from diverse racial and ethnic backgrounds. The infants and children in need of adoption have a variety of special needs, from significant developmental issues to serious medical and congenital conditions.

The conditions usually require therapeutic and/or medical interventions during the child’s entire life. These non-correctable conditions can include:

  • Genetic Disorders
  • Brain Anomali
  • Neurological Disorders
  • Rare Syndromes
  • Cardiac and Pulmonary Disorders
  • Shortened Life Span
  • Excessive Drug and/or Alcohol Exposure
  • Significant Risk of Psychiatric Disorders

Many children are eligible for Early Intervention Services, Social Security Disability, Adoption Subsidy, and Medicaid.

When Doctors believe that a child’s prenatal environment will most likely lead to developmental delays or other medical needs then that child will be placed with adoptive parents ready for special needs. This includes significant prenatal drug or alcohol use, or extreme prematurity.

Where will I finalize the adoption? It is case-by-case. Some cases need to finalize in NY or NJ, others can be finalized in your home state. If you are called about a child, it would be an important question to ask about a specific situation.

Where is the child living? Infants may be living with our volunteer interim care families, receiving treatment in the NICU, or pediatric hospital, or living with biological family. When writing about a child’ situation on our website we try to indicate where the child is currently living.

7 Questions to Ask Before Adopting a Child with HIV/AIDS

There are children in both the US and abroad with HIV or AIDs waiting to be adopted. The miracle of medications has made HIV a mostly manageable chronic disease, but not every family is cut out to raise a child with HIV. Are you? Answer these questions to find out.

  1. Are you willing and do you have the time to become informed about the realities of raising a child with HIV/AIDS? Education is a must and it takes time.
  2. Do you have medical resources near you that specialize in the treatment of HIV/AIDS?
  3. Are you organized and disciplined enough to make sure that your child takes her medication on time every day? It’s not a hard medication routine, but it does require consistency.
  4. Have you considered the time demands of parenting a child with a chronic illness? While HIV/AIDS is often well controlled with medication, it still requires regular visits to a doctor.
  5. Have you considered the negative stigma that continues to surround children with this virus? Are you willing to advocate for your child?
  6. Who will you tell about your child’s HIV status? By law, families are not required to disclose the HIV status of a child to schools or daycare centers; however, you may choose to tell people for any number of reasons. You need to spend the time before you adopt considering the advantages and disadvantages of disclosure.
  7. Are you able to push back your fear and open your heart to one of the thousands of kids with HIV currently waiting in the US and abroad for adoption?

This content was originally published by Creating a Family, the national adoption & infertility education nonprofit. https://creatingafamily.org/adoption-category/7-questions-to-ask-before-adopting-a-child-with-hivaids/

Series on Special-Needs: HIV+

As with any special need, it is important for parents considering adopting a child with an HIV+ diagnosis to do the necessary research about the disease, its symptoms, the myths and truths, and what medical care their child would require.  Spence-Chapin has information for prospective families considering adopting a child with HIV.

Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) is an auto-immune disease that exists throughout the global population. This disease can be passed directly from mother to child and there is a high number of children living with HIV - ~3.3 million children worldwide.  With modern medicine children with HIV who receive medical attention can go on to live long, healthy lives.

HIV and Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome (AIDS) are two viruses that are associated with many stigmas.  These include the idea that an infected individual cannot live a happy and healthy life.  At Spence-Chapin, we know firsthand that it is possible for adopted children to not only live with HIV but thrive with their wonderful adoptive families.  Read about one of our families who chose to adopt a child with a positive HIV diagnosis through our South Africa Program

Children with HIV deserve loving homes with parents who will care for them no matter what they are living with.  We are committed to finding homes for the most vulnerable children and support adoptive parents who share in this commitment.

Informational Links:

Adoption & HIV

Adopting a child with HIV: The story of one of our families

Creating a Family Radio Show:  “Adopting and raising a child with HIV” 

Spence-Chapin Modern Family Center

Series on Special-Needs: Hepatitis B

Among the children with special needs waiting to be adopted, children with Hepatitis B face many challenges.  Hepatitis B is a blood-borne infection that can be spread to a child from his or her birthmother. handsandfeet_EmilyChastainCopyright

This disease can cause damage to the liver and can affect the body’s immune response.  Although a serious infection, Hepatitis B is “vaccine-preventable” and treatable. Currently in the U.S. the two approved treatment options for children with chronic hepatitis B are: (1) Intron A (interferon alpha) and (2) Epivir-HBV (lamivudine).

Understandably, prospective adoptive parents often have reservations about adopting a child who is infected with Hepatitis B and may have questions about how this infection will affect their lives as well as the life of their child.   Symptoms for chronic Hepatitis B which include jaundice, fever, liver enlargement, and abdominal pain but the good news with this infection is that due to developing immune systems, many babies and children do not ever experience these symptoms.

The first step an adoptive parent can take is to make sure that everyone in the family is already vaccinated for the virus and screened.  An adopted child who is infected should be regularly seen by a doctor and treatment options should be thoroughly explained.  Hepatitis B is common in areas of certain countries but it is treatable. Adoptive parents should always contact a family physician with any concerns or medical questions—follow-up is key.

The Modern Family Center at Spence-Chapin also provides informational and support services for parents who adopt children with Hepatitis B.  We are honored to work with parents who adoptchildren with special needs and recognize that, although it is a big undertaking, these children are receiving the love and care they deserve.

 

Informational links:

Hepatitis B 

Treatment Options

What You Need to Know about Hepatitis B

Spence-Chapin Modern Family Center

 

Father Of Ten Adopted Children With Special Needs: 'We've Had An Unbelievable Amount Of Support'

Father Of Ten Adopted Children With Special Needs: 'We've Had An Unbelievable Amount Of Support

Spence-Chapin presents child welfare training to ICBF and Colombian child advocates.

Spence-Chapin presents child welfare training to Instituto Colombiano de Bienestar Familiar (ICBF) and Colombian child advocates.

Adopting a Child with HIV

A family shares with us just what it means to consider adopting a child with the HIV virus.

Adopting International Special-Needs Children

Traditional adoptions from foreign countries, including China, can take many years, but the wait time for a referral through this program is dependent on a families openness and the current children waiting. It is expected that wait for a referral is significantly less than the current wait for referral in the traditional China adoption program. There are thousands of children with special needs waiting for a family to love them. The China Waiting program has both boys and girls looking for forever families. Many of the children available through this program have minor or correctable issues such as cleft palate or vision issues while others’ needs are more complicated.

 

Learn more by visiting our China Waiting page.

 

 

US Senator Kirsten Gillibrand Honors Spence-Chapin Services for Families and Children as an Angel in Adoption™

Imagine finding a loving home for a child born without eyes, or a child who requires gastronomy tube and uses a wheelchair for mobility? Well Spence-Chapin’s A Special Adoption Program (ASAP) does this and more. The ASAP program is a part of the Spence-Chapin’s domestic adoption program-- going out of its way to place babies with current or prospective medical conditions and/or developmental challenges with forever families. For that reason, Spence-Chapin’s ASAP program was recently selected by New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand to receive the 2011 Angels in Adoption™ Award.

Spence-Chapin’s ASAP program name recipient of the 2011 Angels in Adoption Award from the Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute

Since 1995, Spence-Chapin has placed hundreds of infants with loving, adoptive parents prepared to face the joys and challenges of parenting a special needs child. Staff meaningfully involve the birth parents of each child whenever possible in the selection of the adoptive family best likely to meet that child’s needs and who support open adoption as a model– encouraging the birth and adoptive parents to meet and continue to exchange and share information. Spence-Chapin provides interim care families, medical care, and early intervention services until an ASAP child is placed their adoptive family.

The Angels in Adoption Program, the Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute’s (CCAI) signature public awareness program, raises Congressional awareness about the thousands of foster children in this country and the millions of children around the world in need of permanent, loving homes.  The Angels in Adoption event provides an opportunity for members of Congress to commend their outstanding constituents who have enriched the lives of children through their advocacy of adoption and foster care issues.

Susan Watson of Spence-Chapin Adoption Services accepts Angels in Adoption Award

Spence-Chapin’s Susan Watson, director, National & Community Partnerships, accepted the award, shown here with the coalition’s co-chair Senator Mary Landrieu.