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.
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.
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.
Katie Rogala, an adoptee and Spence-Chapin employee, shares 10 helpful ways to support your adopted child’s exploration of inner and outer self.
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.
Learn about the history of African-American Adoption at Spence-Chapin, some of its challenges in the past, as well as its many triumphs.
Each Friday during National Adoption Month we are promoting a Frequently Asked Question about options counseling and adoption The Spence-Chapin Way to help everyone better understand how options counseling, including interim care, and the adoption process works at Spence-Chapin. Read all of the questions and answers below!
What is Open Adoption?
Answer: Open Adoption is having some form of communication and contact between the adoptive family and the birth family over time. Today, the majority of adoptions are done with some degree of openness, with the extent and frequency of contact varying from family to family. Open adoptions have been shown through various studies to benefit all members of the adoption triad—adoptees, birth parents, and adoptive parents. At Spence-Chapin, the open adoption process is led by birth parents, who can decide what kind of communication–if any–that they want to have in the future, which can include visits, letters, emails, photos, and phone calls. Spence-Chapin helps adoptive families and birth families craft an open adoption agreement, and our social workers provide counseling and guidance during the planning process, and at any time in their lifelong journeys.
What is the Adoption Triad?
Answer: Adoption triad is a term used to the three groups that make up adoption: the adoptee, the birth parents, and the adoptive parents. The adoptee is the child who is being adopted. The birth parents are the biological parents of the child. The adoptive parents are the individual or couple who adopts the child. Spence-Chapin supports all members of the adoption triad through our community programming, counseling, and support groups. We believe it is important to provide a space where all members in the adoption triad can come at any point in their lives to receive guidance, advice, counseling, and community.
What is Options Counseling?
Answer: Options counseling is a free service that Spence-Chapin provides to pregnant women and women who have recently given birth who are unsure about parenting. Our social workers review all options available in a safe space where women can talk about their questions and concerns and not face judgement or bias. Spence-Chapin works with local organizations to help women access resources and assistance based on their choice. Spence-Chapin will travel to meet with women seeking counseling anywhere in New Jersey and the New York City metro area (Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens, Staten Island, Bronx, Long Island, the Hudson Valley, and Westchester).
What is Interim Care?
Answer: We understand that women and their partners need appropriate time and space to make a decision about the future of their family, especially after a recent birth. Placing their newborn in Interim Care allows biological parents to continue counseling to fully explore their options while knowing their baby is being cared for by a nurturing caregiver in a loving home. Birth parents retain their legal rights while the baby is in care and are encouraged to visit their baby. Our services are free for biological parents while they take the days or even a few weeks to make a decision.
Why consider Adoption?
Answer: This is a very personal choice and there are many reasons people have made an adoption plan for their child. Many say it’s because they aren’t ready or able to fully parent a child at this time but want to stay connected to their child. Others say they cannot provide the special care their child will need and want to find a family who can. Others choose to make a private open adoption plan instead of involvement with the public child welfare system.
Who are the Adoptive Families? How are adoptive families selected?
Answer: Spence-Chapin works hard to recruit diverse families that are hoping to adopt a child. Our waiting families vary in age, background, family structure, religion, etc. After submitting an application, each family must attend several webinars and trainings to ensure that they are ready to begin the adoption process. Spence-Chapin then conducts a home study to get to know the family and their home environment more. When a birth parent is making an adoption plan, she is presented with information and descriptions of all of our waiting families and can select a family of her choice to set up a meeting with. If all goes well at the meeting, our social workers help the birth parents and adoptive family to create an open or closed adoption plan, depending on the birth parents’ preference. Spence-Chapin works closely with the birth parents and adoptive family every step of the way to placement and continues to provide lifelong guidance and support through counseling, community programming, and support groups.
Spence-Chapin has all types of waiting families! They vary in age, background, family, structure, religion, etc. They are all eager to adopt and provide a loving family to a child. You will be able to meet and connect with the people you select. Adoptive parents registered with Spence-Chapin have been screened by our social workers and prepared for open adoption. You can also browse through profiles on our website.
Listen to the expert advice and tips provided by Modern Family Center staff in this podcast.
Posted on November 2, 2018 by Spence-Chapin
For prospective adoptive parents, the term “open adoption” may sound intimidating or confusing. What does an open adoption look like? How does it work? Is it really in the best interest of the child? To make open adoption more understood, we’ve compiled this list of Myths and Facts to help guide you through your adoption journey!
1.Myth: Not many people have an open adoption
FACT: Today, the vast majority of adoptions are open. In a study conducted by the Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute, only 5 percent of respondents in a survey said that they had a closed adoption. Of course, the type of openness in adoption varies among families, can be infrequent or ongoing, and can take the form of letters, phone calls, in-person meetings—and a lot in between.
2. Myth: The relationships between adoptive parents and birth parents deteriorate in time.
FACT: The relationships between adoptive parents, birth parents, and adoptees changes over time, and tend to ebb and flow. As long as all parties remain committed to communication and are flexible, the relationships formed are life-long and rewarding.
3. Myth: Open adoption is a form of co-parenting.
FACT: In open adoption, the adoptive parents are the sole custodians and are the ones in control of their child’s welfare. The birth parents may play an active role in the child’s life, but the legal rights remain in the hands of the adoptive parents.
4. Myth: Open adoption is confusing to children.
FACT: Children are not confused by having contact with their birth family. Even at an early age, children can understand different roles and responsibilities. Further, while all members in an open adoption are shown to benefit from the relationship, it is adoptees that benefit the most over time. Some of the benefits to adoptees include coming to terms early on with the reasons for their adoption, access to information that aids in identity formation, knowledge about their own medical histories, and a better understanding of the meaning of adoption.
5. Myth: Having contact with the birth family will be an intrusion on my family.
FACT: Surveys show that families who choose to remain in contact with the birth family report higher levels of satisfaction with their adoptions. According to the Minnesota/Texas Adoption Research Project, adoptive parents in open adoptions report a stronger sense of permanence in the relationship with their child as projected into the future, and more empathy toward the birthparents and child than those in closed adoptions.
6. Myth: Being able to communicate with and see the child will be too painful for the birth parents.
FACT: Birth parents in open adoptions with ongoing contact report less grief, regret, and worry, as well as more peace of mind, than those who do not have contact, according to the Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute.
7. Myth: There will be no boundaries. The birth parents will drop in whenever they want to see the child.
FACT: Through open communication, both parties should have a mutual understanding where those boundaries are. The way the open adoption looks is determined before placement, between the adoptive parents and birth parents (and the adoptee depending on his/her age), and is based on what is comfortable and practical for all involved. Birth parents and adoptive parents should both receive proper training and counseling on open adoption before making an open adoption agreement, to ensure that all parties have thought clearly and reflexively about what they want the relationship to look like. It is also important to work with a counselor or social worker to help craft the open adoption contract or agreement, and to have access to post-adoption services to work through any challenges or issues that may arise over time in that relationship.
Spence-Chapin encourages open adoption, which is why we are happy to answer any further questions you may have. Spence-Chapin offers individual and family counseling, open adoption support and guidance, and facilitates reunion meetings. Call us and let us know how we can support you and your family – 646-539-2167. We encourage to read this beautiful personal open adoption story.
Posted on October 25, 2018 by Spence-Chapin
By Lucy Shaw, LMSW and Birth Parent Outreach worker for Spence-Chapin
For National Adoption Month, I’m excited to share my personal story of open adoption with you all. As an adoptive mom in an open adoption and as a social worker focused on Birth Parent outreach at Spence-Chapin, I have a unique perspective on adoption that I think is important to share. Adoption is such an integral part of my life and something for which I am so grateful and proud.
My husband and I adopted our son Daxton (Dax) in 2014. He’s now four years old! When we decided to adopt, we began working with an adoption attorney, and within six months of completing our home study, we had connected with Erin, Dax’s birth mom when she was about two months pregnant.
From that moment on, we truly never looked back. It seemed like things were destined to be as soon as we started talking to Erin. We drove Pennsylvania from NYC to meet Erin for the first time in January 2014. She even invited us to meet her and go with her to get her first ultrasound to find out the gender of the baby! What do you know, the day we started driving was the day Snowstorm Hercules pummeled the east coast! We had to pull over on the side of the road several times due to heavy snowfall, but we kept trudging along because we were so insistent that we were going to make it to this appointment, no matter what. And I’m so glad we did! I still have the ultrasound photo today saved!
I’m so thankful for having this chance to visit Erin while she was pregnant because it set the stage for a genuine and trusting relationship going forward. Throughout this journey of getting to know each other, Erin has been an open book. We could see right away that she had the best intentions and was an incredibly brave, honest, strong and trusting woman. She shared her story of why she was considering adoption with us and we could see firsthand what a kind and loving mother she was to her four other children. We could also see how hard it was to be a single mom raising children, while trying to work full-time and complete her education so she could make a better life for her family.
As Erin’s due date began to approach, she kept us involved every step of the way. She included us in her birth plan and introduced us to her other children and her best friend. She also allowed us to be by her side in the hospital when she gave birth! She was amazing at the hospital – she let me cut the umbilical cord and let us hold Daxton for skin to skin contact while she also bonded with him and breastfed him throughout the time we were in the hospital. We just followed her lead.
Daxton was born on May 6, 2014 and that weekend we celebrated my first Mother’s Day with Erin, Dax’s birth siblings and Erin’s best friend in Pennsylvania – as we were hanging out, barbecuing and watching Daxton sleeping happily in his car seat, I continued to be in awe of Erin’s grace and generosity in sharing this event with us.
Since Dax’s birth, Erin continues to show her kindness, resilience and strength in so many ways. And I often see these qualities in Daxton too, like the way he interacts with everyone he meets in such a friendly and confident way. From the moment he could smile and wave, he’s been making friends with almost everyone he meets.
We stay in touch with Erin in many ways – we keep each other updated on Facebook and Erin’s always one of the first to like any of the posts I have about Daxton or parenting. I know she’s always thinking of us and we’re always thinking of her as well. We also visit each other about once or twice a year. For Dax’s 4th birthday, she came to NYC with all the kids and baked three gorgeous cakes for our party. She always goes above and beyond our expectations during these visits.
Overall, I feel so lucky to have this relationship with Erin and am happy that Dax will grow up knowing his birth mother and his birth siblings and be able to answer all the questions he may have about his identity as he gets older.
Parenting may be one of the hardest jobs on earth, but for me being in an open adoption is one of the easiest things about being a parent. I know there are going to continue to be challenges, tough conversations, and ups and downs in the years to come, but I’m not worried about answering questions about adoption with Dax or anyone else. In that area, I know without a doubt, with Erin’s help, we have honesty, love and resiliency to guide us.
All families adopting, either through Spence-Chapin or another agency or attorney, need to complete a home study. We provide adoptive families with expertise, professionalism, and the support of an entire adoption team. With over 100 years of experience in adoption, we know how to support adoptive families, birth families, and adoptees! Read More
To apply, please submit your completed home study application.
Mail: Spence-Chapin, Attn: Home Study Application, 410 East 92nd Street, 3rd Floor, New York, NY 10128
Frequently Asked Questions:
Families often have many questions as they are beginning a home study process. We hope these FAQs will help guide you through your next steps in the process!
Why Do I Need a Home Study?
All families adopting, either through Spence-Chapin or another agency or attorney, need to complete a home study. A home study is required by all states for any adult(s) adopting a child into their family, no matter which adoption pathway. This includes domestic adoption, international adoption, foster care, step-parent adoption, and in some states even embryo adoptions require a home study.
What is a Home Study?
A home study is a process which results in a document. Throughout the process you will learn about core adoption issues specific to your adoption path, such as adoption & child development, adopting a child of a different race, open adoption, or adopting a child with special needs. You will complete in-person interviews and one or more home visits with your social worker. You will also submit documents such as birth certificates, medical statements from a doctor, financial information, and references. At the end of the process, you will receive your home study document, which both describes your family, your ability to adopt, and = states if you meet the standards of your adoption program and state, federal or international regulations.
The home study will document your personal history, your marriage or partnered relationship (if applicable), your financial/emotional/social means to provide for a child, your present family supports, your motivation to adopt, and specific information about the child you intend to adopt including age range, specific special needs, for either a domestic or international adoption.
Can Spence-Chapin complete my home study?
Spence-Chapin provides international and domestic home study services for families living in the NYC area, including New Jersey, the Hudson Valley and Long Island. We work with families living within 100 miles of New York City.
Is Spence-Chapin able to complete my domestic home study if I’m working with an attorney?
Absolutely, if you are interested in pursuing an infant domestic adoption with an adoption attorney, Spence-Chapin can provide recommendations for reputable adoption attorneys in the NYC area. Spence-Chapin provides home study and support services as you work closely with the attorney to navigate the legal process of adoption.
What Happens During a Home Study Visit?
During your home study visits, you and your social worker get to know each other. You will have the chance to discuss and set expectations. You will be asked by your social worker to discuss your personal history, including topics such as upbringing, medical history, career, relationships. You might be wondering, why does it matter how I was raised? How we were parented can influence how we parent our children. In the interviews, you will discuss what brought you to adopt a child. You will explore your support systems and preparation for adoptive parenting, including through trainings and readings.
How often will I meet with my social worker?
The number and location of visits will vary by state and if you are adopting internationally, this will vary as well by country. In all cases, there will be at least one visit in your home. Families living in New York will need to complete at least two interviews, typically one in the office and one in the home. Families living in New Jersey, will complete at least three visits, with at least one home visit.
If you are adopting internationally, you may see that state and country requirements differ – in that case you will meet the requirements set by the country where the child is from. For example, if you live in New York, which typically requires 2 visits and are adopting from China which requires 4 visits, you will have 4 visits with your home study worker.
What Kind of Trainings and Education Will I Complete?
The home study process is not only about collecting information about you; it is also a process of preparing you to be an adoptive parent. Therefore, during your home study process you will be required to complete trainings that are relevant to the type of adoption you are pursuing. For example, families may complete trainings related to Promoting Healthy Attachment, Parenting a Child of a Different Race, or Older Child Adoption, among others.
Why do I Need to Submit So Many Documents?
During the home study process you will be asked to submit a wide range of documents. The documents you submit paint a picture of your resources and strengths. The requested documents are required by the state in which you reside. For families pursuing international adoption, the requested documents are required by USCIS and the country from which you may adopt.
The content of the documents collected will be reflected in your home study document. For example, your home study document will discuss your financial resources; therefore, documentation to confirm your finances will be collected, such as tax returns and a letter from your employer confirming your income.
How long shall I wait to complete my home study?
Domestic home studies and Hague International home studies are typically completed in 2-4 months.
What Happens When My Home Study Expires?
In New York, a home study is valid for one year, at which time you will need an update. An update comprises many of the same elements of your original home study, but is an abbreviated process. Each update is valid for one year as well.
While you wait for a child to be placed with your family, many things can change – you may get a new job, move to a new home, receive a new medical diagnosis, or have any other significant change. When any such change occurs, you will need to inform your home study agency and have an addendum made to your home study. This may require additional paperwork and another meeting with your social worker. The addendum focuses on the area or areas of your life that have changed and is not as encompassing as a home study update.
What are my next steps if I’m ready to get started?
You can download our free Home Study Services Application any time from our website. The Home Study Application is an opportunity for our team to get to know your family better and to learn more about the nuances of the adoption you’re hoping to pursue. After we receive your family’s application, our staff will follow up with you to schedule a convenient time to speak, to further discuss the adoption you’re looking to pursue and next steps in the process!
To learn more about completing your home study with Spence-Chapin email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or call us at 212-400-8150.
November is recognized as National Adoption Awareness Month. A Presidential Proclamation brings awareness to important adoption–related issues and the children waiting for adoptive families. Local news stations, community centers, and adoption organizations often have activities to celebrate adoption around the country. Associate Director of Outreach Katie Foley at Spence-Chapin says “those of us with personal connections to adoption can be powerful voices in promoting adoption, breaking down myths, and bringing attention to the children here and around the world waiting for permanent families.” Here are Spence-Chapin’s ideas for how to celebrate National Adoption Month!
Support a friend or family member who is adopting. Send a note to someone adopting to let them know you’re thinking of them and supporting their family.
Attend an event to learn about adoption. Join an event in your community to learn about adoption and hear from birth parents, adoptive parents, and/or adoptees!
Volunteer with a foster care or adoption organization. Many non-profit organizations couldn’t fulfill their mission without the help of dedicated and passionate volunteers!
Fundraise for an adoptive family or adoption organization. Adoptive families are often responsible for many different adoption expenses and their non-profit adoption agencies want to keep adoption as affordable as possible. Donate today to your favorite child-welfare organization or a family who is adopting!
Encourage your office to offer adoption benefits. Adoption benefits are not universally available to new adoptive parents. Encourage your company to be recognized as an Adoption-Friendly Workplace by the Dave Thomas Foundation.
Write about your experience or connection to adoption. Bring attention to adoption by writing about your experience or connection to adoption on a blog or social media!! Spence-Chapin wants to you to share your story on their blog!
What are the signs of post adoption depression and what can you do to help yourself feel better? After all we’ve been through to adopt our child, we expect bliss. We deserve bliss! And sometimes we get bliss. But sometimes instead of that euphoric feeling of accomplishment and love, we feel let down, exhausted, unprepared, and sad.
Truth be told, these are common feelings of all new parents regardless of how their kids join their family, but they can be worsened by the stress of adoption and the shame we feel.
Post Adoption Depression
Post partum depression or the baby blues is often talked about in our society (thank you Brooke Shields), and struggling new mothers are met with sympathy and support. Not so with post adoption depression or post adoption blues. Shame and our society’s general lack of understanding get in the way of support and acceptance.
Most adoptive mothers I talk with feel confused and guilty when they feel sad and irritable after their long awaited child finally arrives–and the key words are long awaited. This is the child that we’ve worked years to get. This is the child that we’ve probably spent a huge chunk of our savings to get. This is a child that we’ve been studied and questioned by heaven-knows how many experts to get. Now that we finally have her, we should be overjoyed. Right? If instead of feeling euphoric, we feel depressed, angry, and not besotted with love, then there must be something wrong with us. Right?
The shame that many parents feel makes it hard to get help and support. Who can they trust with this “dirty little secret”. They are afraid to tell their adoption social worker for fear that somehow their child will be taken away or they won’t be able to adopt again. They are afraid to tell their family and friends for fear that they won’t understand and that they will look ungrateful. This aloneness makes the depression worse.
It helps to know that Post Adoption Depression is common. On a Creating a Family Radio show on Post Adoption Depression: Causes and Prevention, Dr. Jane Aronson, adoption medicine specialist and founder and Chief Executive of the Worldwide Orphan Foundation, said that almost all of her patients feel conflicted emotions the first couple of months after they adopt, and about 75-85% report feeling sad or depressed.
Dr. Aronson thinks that post adoption depression is often caused by a mismatch of expectations with reality. And let’s face it, most of us have had a lot of years to build up unrealistic expectations.
Risk factors include adopting a school aged child, being an older or single parent, stress (financial, familial, etc.), and unresolved grief from infertility. Most of the time these feeling resolve within about six months when life begins to settle in and develop patterns, and you and your child begin to know each other.
What to Do If You Think You Have Post Adoption Depression
If after about 6 months or so, or if your feelings of despair or anger are more than moderate, get help!
- Talk with your social worker. The vast majority of social workers know that these feelings are common and will be able to offer support without judgement.
- Find a therapist with experience in depression–meaning any good therapist. They don’t have to specialize in depression caused by adoption. If you’ve struggled with infertility, however, I do think it’s helpful to find a therapist who understands the losses associated with infertility. Here are some suggestions on how to find one.
- Dr. Aronson feels that most family doctors are more than adequate to treat this type of depression.
- If your child has a pediatrician that specializes in adoption, share your feelings with her/him. They’ve heard it before, I promise, and they can offer help and support. Even if your pediatrician isn’t an adoption specialist, she will likely be able to offer you support and advice.
- Most important–join an adoption support group! I can’t stress enough how soothing it is to be surrounded by people who have been there, done that, and have the t-shirt to prove it. Just knowing you’re not alone takes the pressure off and allows time to start the healing. If you are fortunate to live near an active in-person support group, fantastic. If not, or in addition, join an online group such as the Creating a Family Facebook Support Group. The ready availability of someone to talk to 24/7 is priceless. Believe it or not, sometimes it’s easier to open up to someone you don’t know in “real life”.
- Listen to a Creating a Family show on Post Adoption Depression. Dr. Aronson offers a kind and honest approach to parenting. She suffered from post adoption depression after her second adoption and she talks frankly about it in our interview.
Take Good Care of Yourself
I know you’ve heard it before, but you really must take care of yourself those first months home. Eat, sleep, and exercise are obvious, but equally important in my book is making sure you have some time to yourself, even just a little, to do something you enjoy. It might be going for a walk, window shopping for an hour at the mall, or grabbing a cup of tea with a friend, but try your best to have something to look forward to every week.
Did you have a rough transition post adoption? Would you have called it post adoption depression? What did you do that helped?
Think you may be suffering from post-adoption depression? Call us today for a free phone call with a social worker (646-539-2167)!
This content was originally published by Creating a Family, the national adoption & infertility education nonprofit. https://creatingafamily.org/adoption-category/post-adoption-depression/
Spence-Chapin believes that every child deserves a family. Connecting children with permanent parents, deep parental love, and a lifelong sense of security — that’s why we do what we do. Our expertise has consistently expanded the benefits of adoption to more children and the many different types of prospective parents who want to love them. Many single individuals are interested in becoming parents nowadays, however, because of their marital status, often times, they believe that adoption cannot be an option for them. In these past few years, adoption by single parents has been increasing steadily. In domestic adoptions, single parent adoption requirements are usually very similar to that of married couples. Although, adopting and parenting a child as a single individual requires diligence, it is extremely possible. If you are considering adopting as a single parent, this can be a great way for you to build your family.
A number of single individuals have also effectively built their families by adopting from other countries. Eligibility guidelines for adoptive parents are set by the country and some countries allow do allow adoptions by single people. Families will be able to find information about country-specific rules and guidelines on the U.S. Department of State website.
A great thing to do to begin preparing for your adoption journey is to connect with other single parents who have adopted. Having direct information of the experience will play an essential role in helping you prepare for your adoption. There are also many resources available for single prospective parents that can help make the transition a little easier.
To learn more about our domestic or international adoption programs, please contact us at (212) 400-8150 or email@example.com.
We put out the call for more volunteers and you heard us! Last winter we were in need of more volunteer families to care for babies before an adoption or parenting plan is in place. Thank you to our community for your support in helping us find so many incredible families. Meet the newest families ready to care for babies!
Tammy and Evan are experienced parents having raised their 4 daughters and now that the kids are almost out of the house, Tammy and Evan realized they have more love and care to share. They want to give back to their community and feel honored to be supporting birth parents.
Ellyn and Jamie are a mother & daughter interim care team. They are both nurses and live together. They are motivated to provide each baby with the safe, healthy, and loving start every child deserves. They want the child’s short time in interim care to be a loving and supportive place before going to join their permanent family.
April & Jeremy are experienced parents of two sons who are eager to help care for the babies. This family loves watching even the smallest babies develop their own personality and they are ready to provide an abundance of love and care for every child that comes into their home!
Laura and Mark are experienced parents of three children and they love caring for kids! They have been volunteers in their community for years and thought this was a special opportunity to share their time, love, and home with a child during a very important time.
Welcome Tammy, Evan, Ellyn, Jamie, April, Jeremy, Laura, and Mark to the Spence-Chapin family! It is clear from getting to know each of you over the past few months that you all are special families with lots of time, love, care, and snuggles to share!