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

Two infants, Two families

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.  

Today she facilitated the adoption of two infants, just hours apart. The ceremonies held to commemorate that moment are always moving.  

The first event was with Mason* and Liam*, who had rushed back from a trip on the news that a birth mother had chosen them. After 13 years together they had decided two years ago to begin the process to build their family through adoption. Now, their daughter Aisha* was being placed into their arms—a moment burned lovingly into their memories. 

That moment was also profound for Carin, who was overcome with emotion as her 37-day-old daughter was placed in her arms.

For Monica, these special moments are the culmination of a journey that involves guiding a family from their initial introduction to adoption, through home study, trainings, waiting to be matched, being connected with a birth mother, and, finally, bringing the newest family member home.

While Monica is there for adoptive families every step of the way, she is always working closely with other social workers on her team, as well as colleagues on other teams at Spence-Chapin, such as those who work with birth parents.

Affirming support and guidance to the birth mother is a defining aspect of Spence-Chapin’s approach, where an entire department is dedicated to working exclusively with birth parents.

“Our focus at Spence-Chapin is on permanency, not adoption,” explains Monica. “A birth mother is counseled through her available options, and she’s given as much time and space as she needs to really think. Adoption is just one of the things she can do with her situation.”

While matching a child with a family is rewarding in and of itself, it is the entire process that makes Monica’s work so rewarding—knowing that she has played a part in the start of a lifelong connection and journey.

Social Workers Help Provide Lifelong Support and Community

Because adoption is a lifelong journey, the importance of community and access to support is crucial. Spence-Chapin social workers lead a variety of workshops and programs focused on topics related to adoption such as identity formation. This programming provides spaces where families can meet to share their experiences.

For Sanjay* and his wife Mariam*, who had difficulties conceiving the first time, the idea of adoption took some getting used to. It was their 5-year-old’s excited endorsement that convinced them it was the right thing for their family. After 12 months of waiting, Mariam took newborn Emma* into her arms. Their daughter brought a teddy for the baby, and it was a touching scene of the family bonding for the first time.

Sanjay and Mariam adopted their baby through Spence-Chapin’s Special Needs Adoption Program. This unique program is for children who have medical and developmental needs and are in need of permanent loving homes. 

“We recruit across the country for families to adopt children with special needs,” said Monica of the program. “We partner with hospitals in the area who might have infants whose parents are unable to support their ongoing care. There are amazing families waiting to adopt them.”

Monica organizes regular events aimed at connecting and sharing resources among adoptive families navigating special needs, and Sanjay and Mariam were able to attend one before taking Emma home. They were pleasantly surprised to find it to be a sizable community of adoptive families that they know will continue to be helpful to them through the years.  

Proud new parents Mason and Liam are also excited to begin bringing their daughter Aisha to Spence-Chapin’s programming for children once she is old enough and becoming part of a community of other transracial families that will help them learn and grow.

As these families journey through life together they’ll face important, complex questions at each phase. With over a hundred years of experience, it is now an enormous community of birth parents, adoptive parents and families, and adoptees that Monica and her colleagues at Spence-Chapin have nurtured.

The Joy in the Journey

The work of social workers at Spence-Chapin truly does span the full adoption journey, where they walk with families through the full range of experiences and emotions that each new phase brings.

For Monica, her experience has provided her with the tools to guide families, listen to them, and share with them the incredible joy of adoption and the start to a lifetime of memories. 

 

*Names and identifying details have been changed to protect the privacy of individuals.