Modern Family Center

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.

Great Children’s Books Featuring LGBT Parents

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Here are some of our favorite children’s books that depict same-sex headed families. We hope you enjoy! If you need help talking about your family with your child, friends, or community, we offer short-term parent coaching to help you find the right words. Are there other ways we can support you? Let us know by completing this survey.


1 2 3 A Family Counting Book, Bobbie Combs

This delightful book celebrates today’s families as it teaches kids to count from one to twenty. All of the full color paintings depict gay and lesbian headed families.


Who’s in My Family? All About Our Families, Robbie Harris

This book is fun and full of charming illustrations depicting all families. This engaging story interweaves conversations between the siblings and a matter-of-fact text, making it clear to every child that whoever makes up your family, it is perfectly normal — and totally wonderful.


Heather Has Two Mommies, Lesléa Newman

Heather’s favorite number is two. She has two arms, two legs, two pets, and two mommies. As school begins, Heather sees that, "the most important thing about a family is that all the people in it love one another."


The Family Book, Todd Parr

This book celebrates all kinds of families in a funny, silly and reassuring way. It includes adoptive families, step families, single-parent families, two-mom and two-dad families, and families with a mom and a dad.


And Tango Makes Three, Justin Richardson & Peter Parnell

Male penguins Roy and Silo at New York’s Central Park Zoo keep putting a rock in their nest and try to hatch it. The zookeeper gives them a real egg that needs care. The penguins take turns sitting on it until it hatches, and Tango is born.


Stella Brings the Family, Miriam B. Schiffer

Stella's class is having a Mother's Day celebration, but what's a girl with two daddies to do? Fortunately, she finds a unique solution to her party problem in this sweet story about love, acceptance, and the true meaning of family.


Spence-Chapin offers culturally sensitive, LGBTQ-affirming care in an accepting, nonjudgmental environment. Services include pre-adoption consultations, counseling, support groups, referrals, programs for LGBTQ kids and teens, LGBTQ parent workshops and trainings for LGBTQ professionals.

Spence-Chapin offers many post-adoption support services and community programs such as counseling, parent coaching, Lifebook workshops and more. Contact us at 646-539-2167 or postadoptionservices@spence-chapin.org to learn more.

5 Parenting Tips: How to Improve the Behavior of Children with ADHD

Mother helping son with homework

Mother helping son with homework

Parenting a child with ADHD requires a special type of patience and understanding. When every task is a battle, days can feel exhausting before you’re even out the door.

Follow these 5 tips to help improve the behavior of your child with ADHD.

  1. Stay Cool – Often children with ADHD scream and yell during their meltdowns. When disciplining your child, keep the volume down and keep calm.

  2. Keep it Positive – Don’t just punish bad behavior, remember to reward good behavior too! Taking the positive approach is more effective than delivering ultimatums. Praise your child 4 more times than you criticize them. Children with ADHD report having lower self-esteem than their peers. When you lead by example, your child will develop the skills necessary to manage their ADHD, will believe in themselves, and will succeed in all aspects of their life.

  3. Give Your Child Concrete Tasks – Children with ADHD are often forgetful. When you provide them with clear, succinct, and specific tasks, they are more successful than if you give them 5 things to complete at once. Get down on their level and look them in the eyes when you speak to them.

  4. Make Sure the Punishment Fits the Crime – Ask yourself, “is this punishment necessary or am I displacing my anger?” If your child has already been disciplined in school do they need an additional one at home?

  5. Discipline Early – The longer you wait to apply these parenting strategies, the more your child will have to unlearn.

  6. BONUS TIP: Don’t be afraid to ask for help! Experienced experts can provide parents with behavioral management tools and offer educators child-specific classroom interventions – Call 646-539-2167 today for your FREE consultation.

Spence-Chapin provides a holistic and personalized ADHD treatment plan for your child by partnering with parents, educators, school psychologists, and school counselors. We can help transform your child’s behavior and strengthen your entire family. Call 646-539-2167!

Meet Elizabeth!

Here at the Modern Family Center, our mission is to provide a community that connects with and understands you and your family. And what better way to do so than to introduce you to who we are? This month we talked to Dr. Elizabeth Studwell, Psy.D., Manager of Mental Health Services, about her work.

ElizabethStudwellWhy did you want to work at the Modern Family Center?

I specifically wanted to work at the Modern Family Center because I believe very strongly in the freedom and acceptance to have and be a part of a “Modern Family.” I want to provide support to individuals and families that find themselves feeling different than the norm. I feel very passionately about adoption and feel that it often takes extra strength to be a part of a unique family structure, whatever that might be. All children deserve a family and all families deserve to be happy and healthy.

 

What is the most challenging part of your job?

The most challenging part of my job is the consultation work that I do for foster care agencies. I help to support children whose parents have not been able to fully care for their needs.

Describe your job in 3 words. Dynamic, rewarding, humbling

Describe your experience in mental health counseling.

I completed my doctorate in clinical psychology from The Chicago School of Professional Psychology and have been engaged in providing mental health services in a variety of settings for almost ten years. I have volunteered and worked at a residential institution in Colombia preparing children for adoption. I have provided coaching, counseling, and consulting as well as psychological assessment in variety of settings including inpatient psychiatric hospitals, outpatient clinics, behavioral day schools, and foster care agencies. I am clinically trained primarily in attachment based psychotherapy, relational therapy, cognitive-behavioral therapy and trauma focused psychotherapy.

Honoring and Celebrating Family Connections

snowflakeHolidays are a time for connecting with loved ones and provide the opportunity for time travel – we visit our past, experience the present, and set intentions for the future. It’s easy to think about the family members we see and touch base with regularly. But what about those who were part of your child’s life before they were part of your family? It could be birth or foster families, orphanage caregivers, or early childhood friends. Even if your child was too young to remember these relationships, they are an important part of your child’s history and who they are today. Finding ways to bring their birth family, birth culture, and past into the present is important for deepening your relationship with your child.

Be imaginative about honoring those connections. The rituals and traditions you create with your child can be tangible and concrete, like putting together a Lifebook that has pictures of those important people, sending letters and cards, or setting up a visit. If you don’t have direct contact, the rituals can be symbolic. Go for a walk in the park where you first decided to adopt; eat the favorite food of that important person every Thanksgiving; collect stones from important places in your child’s life. The smallest detail can have a huge impact on your child now and in the future. Remember, be creative and make it a special tradition that is unique to your family. Your child might not like or understand the meaning of the rituals now, but it is important that you’re doing all that you can do to document and celebrate your child’s past so they can cherish it in the future. When you honor those who are connected to your child, you are honoring your children, their story, and your family’s roots.

Meet Ana Maria!

Here at the Modern Family Center, our mission is to provide a community that connects with and understands you and your family. And what better way to do so than to introduce you to who we are? This month we talked to Ana Maria Leon Gomez, LMHC, about her work.  A.M.LeonGomez

  1. Why did you choose to work at Spence Chapin’s Modern Family Center?

I chose to work here because I really believe in Spence-Chapin’s mission. I really feel that children’s lives change when they are adopted into a forever family. I think it’s very important that children are loved and cared for and have a family they can rely on.

 

  1. When did you become interested in a career in adoption?

I started working in the area of psychology since I was very young after I graduated from Vassar College. I then carried out my Master’s degree at the University of Manchester in England. These studies led me to open my private practice, where I came across children who were adopted and helped them with the process. Three and a half years ago I moved to the U.S from my native Honduras. I started working at Spence-Chapin as a bilingual clinician working fully in adoption.

  1. What’s a typical workday?

My workdays are very varied. Somedays I see clients at our Brooklyn or Manhattan offices. I work with families, adoptees, birth parents and individuals with different mental health issues. Other days I work as a consultant with the foster care agencies we partner with. I provide guidance and training for their staff and foster parents particularly those that are Spanish-speaking. I also provide clinical services for some of their families. My job is really very exciting and never monotonous. It comes alive every day.

  1. What is the most challenging part of your job?

The most challenging part is when I see children who have experienced trauma. Sometimes they’re so young, six or seven, and they’ve undergone trauma that an adult may not have had in their whole lifetime. It’s difficult to deal with but at the same time, when you do start working with the child and the family and their lives start changing, you know you’re doing something positive.

  1. What is the most rewarding part of your job?

The most rewarding part of my job is when you see the family improve and deal with everyday life in a more positive way. In regards to the children it´s important for them to know their story, to be able to look at it and integrate it as part of who they are. In this way I help them be happier and be more productive in their lives.

  1. How would you describe your job in three words?

Important, rewarding, and compassionate.

  1. Has working at the Modern Family Center changed you in any way?

Working here has made me grow in many ways. It’s helped me understand that there are many communities we can work with, and all these communities require different kinds of help and therapeutic interventions. I have also appreciated more the value of teamwork and how together we can achieve the goals we have set for ourselves.

Want to learn more about how our clinic can help you and your family through parent coaching or counseling? Call us at 646-539-2167.

Meet Samantha!

Samantha

  1. Why did you choose to work at the Modern Family Center? Adoption has always been really close to my heart. My youngest brother, Nico, is adopted. We brought him home from Guatemala when he was seven months old, and I’ve always admired my mom for how much she’s advocated for in the adoption world. Thinking about how adoption changed my family for the better, I wanted to see what I could do as a social worker in adoption.
  1. What has been the most challenging part of your job so far? Transitioning from a student to a full-time employee has challenged me to grow in my confidence as a social worker, and luckily I’m surrounded by a lot of great people who have experience in the field and can support me in that transition. Another challenging part is speaking to clients and families on the phone about their stories, and feeling thankful that they’re so brave and so willing to open up to you on the phone. I try to focus in and listen because they really are giving you their whole story. I think that’s really brave and I admire that about them.
  1. What has been the most rewarding part? Working with the families. To see them have a community, and envisioning their community ten years from now, twenty years from now, and the fact that they have each other makes me so warm inside like, “Oh my gosh, they’re all best friends!” Just the fact that these kids can have another person who’s adopted and share that experience with them is wonderful. Especially for the parents too, seeing their kids build that community and have that support network within each other.
  1. Describe your job in three words. Joy, curiosity, family.
  1. Do you have funny or interesting stories you’d like to share? A highlight of this past summer has been going to Camp Clio, a camp for adopted kids. The funniest thing that happened there was the day we had to kayak to this sand bar to hang out with the kids. The camp people basically just handed Mark, Director of Mental Health Services at MFC, and me this kayak and he was like, “Yeah, we got this, we got this!” When we get in he tells me, “You know, I’ve never actually done this before” and I was just like, “Mark! Are you kidding me?!” It was four miles each way! It was really funny, we were laughing the whole way, the kids were singing songs, and it was just a really good way to bond with them.
  1. Has working at MFC changed you in any way? MFC has definitely helped me grow and continue that curiosity of learning. I’m surrounded by a really great team. They all care so much about what they do and they all care for each other; it’s an amazing support system. Working at MFC reminds me every day how I feel very grateful for every social worker and every lawyer and every agency and every entity that helped my family adopt my brother. This job has opened my eyes to what a journey adoption is for everyone involved.
  1. Has there been a particular family that has really made an impact on you?There’s a family I’ve done a couple of post-placement visits with, and the daughter receives every service she could possibly need, between physical therapy, occupational therapy, special help in school, speech and feeding. Her mom has had to fight for her daughter to get all the services she needs. To see how much she believes in her kid reminds me that there are people in this world who want to be phenomenal parents – and they absolutely can be! Adoption is such a beautiful way to build your family, and to see that bond is a beautiful thing.

Can we do this?

Can we do this blog post picture How this question all parents face relates to parenting an older child

Inevitably there is a “can we do this?” moment for parents—all parents. It can occur before a child arrives. It can occur when that child is growing. It can occur if that child is a biological child. It can occur if that child is an adopted child. It can occur during easy, happy times. It can occur when there are storms to be weathered. It can occur once. Or it can occur every day. Inevitably—it will occur.

Questions we often hear prospective parents ask include:

  • Can we do this? Can we adopt? Can we raise a child who may not look like us?
  • Can we raise an older child? What about a child who was born in another country?
  • What if they have experienced trauma? Will that child be able to understand that we love him or her?

Will we be able to weather those storms?

We know that there are certain traumas that can accompany life in the child welfare system, either domestically or internationally. Sometimes the separation from biological family is itself the traumatic event and sometimes that trauma is only realized later. The knowledge of this as a possibility for their child can cause worry for parents. It can cause parents considering international or older child adoption to ask the same question other parents ask themselves every day: “Can we do this?”

At Spence-Chapin we provide families with the resources needed to make an informed decision and one that is right for each family. We support families in arriving at their answer to that inevitable question and provide continued support as that question is bound to come up again—and that’s okay.

Some helpful essential reads on older child adoption can be found here:

  • Our Own: Adopting and Parenting the Older Child by Trish Maskew
  • Parenting the Hurt Child: Helping Adoptive Families Heal and Grow by Gregory Keck
  • Parenting Your Internationally Adopted Child: From Your First Hours Together    Through the Teen Years by Patty Cogen
  • The Primal Wound: Understanding the Adopted Child by Nancy Newton Verrier

For more information about our domestic, international and older child adoption programs, please contact the Adoption Team at 212-400-8150 or info@spence-chapin.org.

To schedule a pre-adoption consultation or if you would like more information about our Adoption Support & Counseling Services, please contact Spence Chapin’s Modern Family Center at 646-539-2167 or info@modernfamilycenter.org.

Staff Interview: Meet Mark!

Here at the Modern Family Center, our mission is to provide a community that connects with and understands you and your family. And what better way to do so than to introduce you to who we are? This month we talked to Mark Lacava, LCSW-R, Director of Mental Health Services, about his work.

Mark_no_title

1.Why did you want to work at the Modern Family Center? It gives me the chance to work clinically with an adoption community that is not often highlighted or researched in the mental health field. However, there is much research and a knowledge base on children in foster care, and of course children and families in general, but very little on families that have been formed outside of what is thought of as normal or mainstream.

2. How did you become interested in adoption? I had worked in foster care for a long time. It was always a plan of mine to learn and work in the field of adoption. You would frequently work to get a child adopted, but I learned that the end result over the years was not as successful as you would have hoped, and often the child would return to foster care. Spence-Chapin and the Modern Family Center have given me an opportunity to help make the adoption experience have an even better chance for long term permanency through trainings, counseling, and workshops for parents and families.

3. What is the most rewarding part of your job? Helping a family or individual in crisis and helping a child find and stay in a loving home.

4. What’s a typical workday? My work day is never the same because I work at a few different sites doing different things. Some days I am in the Bronx at a foster care agency working on crisis cases, other days I’m doing therapy at our offices in Manhattan or Brooklyn.  Other times I am working with my team, doing administrative work, or attending an event for families.

5. What’s your favorite part about working at the Modern Family Center? The level of dedication and professionalism that everyone brings to their job. People are here because they want to be here.

Want to learn more about how our clinic can help you and your family through parent coaching or counseling? Call us at 646-539-2167.

You can meet Mark at our upcoming parent workshop series, Parenting Teens. We’ll offer guidance on how to improve your relationship and communication with your child.

5 Simple Ways to Show Grandparents You Care

Grandparents play a special role in the lives of their grandchildren. Whether they live near or far, it’s important to show them how much you care. Here are 5 ways your child can show how much they love their grandparents:

  1. Send a card or letter: A handmade card or handwritten letter is a special treasure for grandparents. It’s a great way to let them know how much you love them.
  1. Ask them questions: Taking an interest in their stories and experiences is another way to show how much you care.
  1. Lend a helping hand: Whether it is working in the garden, raking leaves, shoveling snow, or dusting the furniture, it's a simple and extremely helpful way to care for their needs.
  1. If your grandparents don’t live nearby, set up a scheduled phone-date or Skype call. It’s a great way to keep in touch and allows grandparents to see how their grandchildren are growing up!
  1. Play together: If you live near your grandparents, take time to play together. This Grandparents Day, bring your grandparents to Bagels & Blox! Enjoy a delicious brunch, meet other adoptive families, and express your love through play!

A Week in Provincetown: Celebrating Families at Family Equality Council’s 20th Family Week

This year, the Modern Family Center was proud to sponsor Family Equality Council’s “Family Week” – a joyous celebration of LGBTQ parents, their children, and their allies. Throughout the week, parents attended educational workshops, kids participated in camp activities, and our Director, Stella Cook, got to know the staff, volunteers, and families that make Family Week such an incredible community-building event.

I arrived in Provincetown with suitcases, cameras, checklists, brochures, flyers, and a wracking anxiety that I, a white, Jewish, heterosexual, middle aged social worker with nearly 2 decades of experience working with children and families, may not be welcomed by the 1,000 parents in attendance as the expert in raising children in a gay parent home.

However, within the first 24 hours of meeting the Family Equality Council staff, and after delivering my presentation “How to Talk About Our Families, to our Children & others” to a packed room, I learned two things: 1. Gay parents are actively seeking support and education to help ease the path for their children and themselves within their extended families, peers, schools, and communities, and 2. Spending a week with this group of parents and their incredible kids was going to be AWESOME.

And it was. It’s hard to describe the feeling of the first family event – a beach bonfire on a gorgeous, warm afternoon, with a diverse group of parents and their children frolicking in the water, making s’mores, and everyone simply enjoying the exhilarating freedom of being themselves. There was even a surprise proposal (he said yes!) and anyone there could literally feel the love and joy in the air.

But, for LGBTQ parents and their children, it’s not always awesome. Throughout the week, mingled in with the fun, parents shared their stories with me; extended family members who “forget” not to use derogatory language, children who are teased, bullied, or simply have no friends, schools that are far from affirming, and communities that simply don’t understand, accept, or include LGBTQ parents and their children. Additional challenges include how to help their children understand their conception stories, how to respond to questions about birth parents, surrogates, and donors, and how to find the balance of preparing children for a world that is not always welcoming of their family while not scaring their kids and exposing them to ugliness they may not yet understand.

The Modern Family Center programming during Family Week helped to bring these conversations to light. Together, we talked, laughed, cried, and laughed some more as we explored the emotional and practical nuances of raising children today. The parents I spoke to and the adorable kids I met helped assure me: the Modern Family Center exists because Spence-Chapin saw a need to support LGBTQ parents, Family Week exists because LGBTQ family advocates saw a need to normalize, celebrate, and advocate for all families, and together, we were and are making a genuine and needed difference.

I am honored to have participated, humbled by what I have learned, and even more motivated to deliver quality, affirming, emotional care, inclusive family events, and LGBTQ parent education to the incredible moms and dads that I had the pleasure to spend time with. Thank you to those who attended my workshop, stopped me on the street to talk, welcomed my family into your community, and confirmed my suspicion that attending Family Week was going to be a life changing event.

For those of you in the NYC/NJ Tristate area, we’re going to keep the fun going at our upcoming LGTBQ Family Sundae Funday, so please join us. Otherwise, see you next year in PTown!

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We’re opening a new office in New Jersey!

new-jersey-nanny-taxesTo serve our New Jersey families even better, Spence-Chapin and the Modern Family Center are excited to announce that we’re expanding our locations! Our new office is located at Work and Play, 19 Prospect Street, South Orange, NJ  07079. Celebrate with us at our Grand Opening on Tuesday, October 20th from 6:00 – 8:00pm, and meet the newest member of our New Jersey team, Addie Haler, LMSW. Drop by, check out the amazing space, and learn about our services, including adoption programs, counseling, parent coaching, and social events. You won’t want to miss our first New Jersey Bagels & Blox on Sunday, November 15th, from 10:30am – 12:30pm. See you soon!

Meet our new 2015-2016 Mentors!

We're excited to welcome five new mentors to our Mentorship Program.  This program empowers adoptees through friendship, building self-confidence and challenging them to discover and understand their adoption identities and experiences. Patricia PatriciaThis is my first year as a mentor and I am so excited to be a part of this program! I was born in Armenia, Colombia and was adopted at 1.5 years old. I was raised in Washington State with two older sisters and one younger sister. My younger sister is adopted as well, but from Guatemala. I grew up in a small town where most of my friends were adopted from different countries all over the world. It was very neat to grow up in a town where adoption was important to the community. I have a strong interest working with people and majored in Psychology in college. I worked as a nanny while going to school and knew I wanted to continue working with kids and teenagers once I moved to New York. My adopted parents and I visited Colombia several years ago. I was able to see where I was born and better understand the Colombian culture. This year, my husband and I are planning another trip to Colombia and we are very much looking forward to seeing the country. We hope to adopt from Colombia someday. Until then, I am excited for the time I will get to spend with the mentors, the mentees, and to get to know you all.

Michelle MichelleI was adopted in New York when I was a young child. Although I faced many struggles growing up and my parents were not open at all to discussing my adoption, I have thrived, becoming a philanthropic humanitarian who gives back to the world and honors the people who have helped to transform my life. At my graduation commence ceremony, I walked twice. Once for each undergraduate degree I’d earned. It was a defining moment. I’d defied every label and diagnosis ever placed on me and in front of me. Since then I’ve traveled the world, worked for the government, went to law school, completed graduate school, and become a minister.  I love to travel, cook, exercise, sing, write, read, and learn new things. I am passionate about public speaking, team building, American Sign Language, and learning from different cultures. As a mentor in this program I hope to share, shape, influence, and empower adoptees during one of the most impressionable seasons of their life-the journey in which they discover their identities.

Marielle MarielleI was born in China and was adopted, at the age of 7, into a loving family.  My father was Sicilian and my mother is Irish and German.  Unfortunately my father passed when I was 10 years old.  I believe that has made me the strong and compassionate person I am today.  I am 24 years old and a graduate of SUNY Geneseo.  I knew I always wanted to help people; therefore, I am currently applying to physical therapy school and hope to be admitted next year.  Presently, I work in a physical therapy practice as a physical therapy aide.  In my spare time I love to work out at the gym, ride my bike and hang out with friends.  I am looking forward to becoming a mentor this year and hope to help the mentees feel more comfortable with any issues they may have regarding their adoptions.

Jon JonMy name is Jon and I am pleased to be with you here at Spence-Chapin. My adoption background is fairly well known compared to most that I know and I am looking forward to sharing my experiences as well as promote my positive outlook on life.  Being adopted from Chile at a very young age from the most supportive parents and family unit has helped shaped who I am today when it comes to relationships.  I work for an internet marketing firm, Taboola, as an account manager, analyzing ad campaigns and helping foster ongoing relationships between client and company. While I am away from the media/internet scene, I enjoy parks, beaches, walking, seeing as many live shows and concerts as possible, or just relaxing with some Netflix after a long week.

Dana DanaIt’s like being late to a movie.  You know the characters, location, mood and general plot – but the whole time, you can’t help but feel like you missed an integral part in the beginning that could affect every scene. I had always known I was adopted, but wasn’t aware of its meaning until age 7 when we learned about basic genetics in school.  I can remember the specific point in time when I realized that my brown eyes weren’t my mom’s or my dad’s.  I was different than the other kids. Between being a sensitive and emotional person to begin with, coupled with having been nurtured by incredibly loving, strong, supportive parents, I have grown into an adult who values emotional connectivity to self and others. Thirty years ago, I was privately adopted from North Carolina days after my birth.  I grew up in a happy home in suburban New York where my childhood was filled with piano and horseback riding lessons, summer camp, sports – everything a child needs and wants. My mid-twenties were difficult, naturally exploring my identity as maturity set in.  I discovered that my birth mom had died years prior and that I was part of a biological family that I had never known existed.  Before I was able to search, my birth sister found me through Facebook.  I met her soon after and learned so much about my birth story and more importantly about myself. I was part of my birth family, but had also never felt more connected to my parents. I love learning about new things and have a natural curiosity about people.  I work with children in orthopedic healthcare and love art, music, TV and sports, and anything science! I am excited to form meaningful, genuine relationships with mentees and hopefully I can learn from them as well!

Staff Interview: Meet Dana!

Here at the Modern Family Center, our mission is to provide a community that connects with and understands you and your family. And what better way to do so than to introduce you to who we are? DanaThis month we talked to Dana Stallard, LMSW, Community Programming Coordinator, about her work.

  1. How did you become interested in adoption? I’m adopted, so it definitely was a personal thing. I had never thought about working in adoption, but I saw a posting for a position at Spence-Chapin. The agency has a really good reputation and when I had an interview I really liked the people who worked here, so I thought it would be a good fit. There are positive things about working in adoption while being an adoptee, and things that make it harder at times, as well. I think it helps to share an experience with the community that you work with, and really have that empathy and understanding as to what support services you can provide. But on the flip side, I sort of expect more of myself in working with the community, and sometimes put more responsibility on myself to be able to do more than what I’m actually able to do in my position. They may not feel I am being helpful or that I’m doing all that I can do to support them, and then I feel that extra pressure to be able to make a positive influence or difference.
  2. What’s a typical workday? The majority of my work is personal adoption history, so working with clients who want background information, and programming, so developing adoptee services programs, workshops, events, groups, or coordinating our mentorship program. And then there are some more miscellaneous tasks, but those are where I spend most of my time, either with preparing information for clients or actually developing and consulting programs.
  3. What is the most challenging part of your job? I definitely think that my work with adoptees wanting access to their birth family information is the most challenging part of the job. There are a lot of legal constraints to the work that I do, and I’m not able to share any identifying information with domestic adoptees. So if they come to the agency wanting to know more about their background or their birth family, I can only share really general information with them. I can share information that could be really helpful. I could find out about the education or health or nationality of their birth families, but adoptees ultimately want to search for their birth parents, and I can’t help them with that. Because of the legal restrictions, it feels like we’re not able to help people as much as they would want. It’s kind of an ongoing moral dilemma, like “how can we possibly help people with their ultimate goals which we’re not able to provide for them?”
  4. What is the most rewarding part of your job? There are a lot of really good things about working here, like being able to create a sense of belonging and community for adoptees. The Mentorship Program is my most favorite part about my position. The most rewarding part of the program for me is seeing the kids connect with one another and with the adults, and having a space where everyone in the room is adopted and has shared experiences. With kids or with adults it seems to be really memorable and has a really big impact on me when I leave an event and just want to call someone and say, “This event is going so well! The families are connecting and the kids are playing with each other.” Or just meeting an adult who has never had an opportunity to really be with other adoptees before. You’d be surprised at how many people who are forty, fifty, sixty years old, or even older, say they’ve never met another adoptee before, or they’ve never talked to someone who is adopted, or heard an adoption story. So it’s really meaningful for them to able to find that here.
  5. Describe your job in three words. Community, history, and identity.
  6. How has working at MFC changed you, in any way? It’s definitely helped me to grow and to learn more about the birth parent community which I hadn’t had any experience with. Working at Spence-Chapin and MFC has helped me to grow professionally and as a social worker. I’ve only been out of school for five years so I’m still very new in the world of professional social work, so I think it’s been really good to have colleagues that are so professional, so intelligent, and people that have worked here for so many years and are so dedicated to our mission. It’s been really good to see that model and be around so many committed social workers.

You can meet Dana at our upcoming event, Korean Cultural Connections! We’ll be joined by the Donghwa Cultural Foundation to honor your child’s Korean heritage through food, language, and a traditional tea ceremony.

Adoption Lifestages

Not all kids develop their adoption understanding at the same time, but there are some commonalities that can help parents understand how to support their child. AdoptionLifestagesWe offer programs, as well as short-term parent coaching to help you get the ball rolling on these important but sometimes difficult conversations.

Staff Interview: Meet Lauren!

Lauren Photo

Lauren Photo

Here at the Modern Family Center, our mission is to provide a community that connects with and understands you and your family. And what better way to do so than to introduce you to who we are?This month we talked to Lauren Jiang, LMSW, Program Manager about her work.

When did you start working at the Modern Family Center? I started on February 10th of 2014. I was very excited so I remember the exact day.

Why did you want to work at the Modern Family Center? I first was connected to Spence-Chapin through my second year of field placement. I was doing my Master of Social Work in the Adoption Resource Center, the then pre- and post-adoption support services at Spence-Chapin. Then the Modern Family Center was created out of ARC with this expanded mission of serving not only adopted families, but really all modern families: blended families, transracial families, single parent households, LGBTQ-headed households. So the transition was fairly seamless, having that connection to ARC leading into MFC. It made perfect sense, and the team was just incredible to work with, so I was glad to be able to stay onboard.

How did you become interested in adoption? I have been one-track career-focused for quite a while, and the gist of how I first became interested in adoption always seems a little simplistic. When I was in early middle school, my classmate’s family adopted a younger sister from China. It was kind of a first exposure. I was, at that point, a child, so it was a child’s eye-view into what is a much more complicated and multi-faceted family system. But it was my first inclination of interest, so I think at that point I started seeing adoption as something that my life would stay connected to in the long-run. And eventually that led to thinking towards careers, and a little bit more reading and researching into what are the complexities of adoption, who are the families who come to adopt, who are the kids that are placed for adoption. So it was born from that rather simplistic look, and then from there it expanded to when I was in college. I was in an organization that was called Duke China Care, which serves adoptive families. I spent some time in an orphanage in China, interned at Gladney, interned here, and here we are!

What is the most challenging part of your job? Being with families at the very beginning of the process you hear it all. I’m on a gray line; I’m the first person to talk to families that have no basis in adoption. There’s a lot of learning opportunities for those families, there’s a lot of misperceptions. There are comments that can be striking, like when a family first calls and doesn’t quite understand what openness is, and might be terrified and say, “I could never be in an open adoption.” It’s challenging when families come with kind of a script of “this is what I want, this is how I want it, this is when I want it” and helping bring them to a point where they understand the needs of kids. We’re not looking to find the ideal child for that family. Ultimately we are most interested in preparing families to meet the needs of kids.

What is the most rewarding part of your job? The nice part is that I’m on the opposite end to where I’m working with families through home studies, so helping them get some more training, learning, going into some deeper dives with them about these themes of openness, transracial families. Then later I’m with families for post-placement, once the kids are home with them, and being able to see the transition that most families make to a much more informed, child-centered approach. And I like seeing the kids home, too. Seeing them come together, seeing them understand the complexities and really examine themselves and prepare for the challenges.

Do you have interesting/funny stories about something that’s happened on the job? Well, this week my home visit overlapped with a birthday for one of the kids in the family, so we transitioned from kind of a serious dive with the parents to pizza and singing with the kids. So that was surprising.

Is there a particular family that you’ve worked with that has affected you in any way? Working with our larger families has been a really pleasant experience. I come from a traditionally smaller family; I have one sibling. But then working with a family who has ten children and is preparing for number eleven? The initial reaction is “that’s so many” or “I don’t think I could do that myself.” And you’re coming in to their home giving them a fair shot, coming to understand them, coming to see how they manage so many children of such diverse needs, and how they are preparing for another, how their kids are preparing for another, it’s seeing how they are so child-focused, and that their plan to add another child to their family will not cost any of the children in their home, and they have depth of knowledge about the community resources that will help them know the ins and outs of each of their kids: their likes, their dislikes, their behavior. I think breaking down those initial reactions of “wow, that’s a lot of kids” to knowing that they are doing it so well, and that the next child who comes into their family is coming into such a prepared, resourceful, amazing, loving family is important. I think sometimes you get faced with scenarios where you glance at it on paper and there are certainly some concerns that come to mind that you want to address at home study, and when you get there, they’ve already addressed it.

We hope you enjoyed getting to know Lauren! Make sure you catch the next Modern Family Center staff interview.

Family Story: Chris and Mary

Chris and Mary share their story of adopting their daughter from South Africa.

The Davila family knew they wanted to grow their family through adoption after a mission trip to Liberia brought them face to face with the children who were in need of family. They wasted little time after their realization that adoption was right for them. Two years later were able to adopt their daughter Arri from Ethiopia. Another two years flew by, and they knew they were ready to adopt again.

After years of searching for the right program, Chris and Mary finally decided that the South Africa program at Spence-Chapin was a perfect fit for their family. According to Mary, they came to this conclusion because they were encouraged by the answers that they got about the South Africa program. They liked that the children placed internationally tend to fall into a more vulnerable category of having special needs, being older, or being part of a sibling group. And also “we were encouraged by Spence-Chapin’s enthusiasm about the program and their honesty about the adoption process.”

One of Chris and Mary’s most memorable moments in the adoption process was when they received “thecall”. They had been matched with a 20 month old little girl! A few months later they travelled to South Africa with their four year old daughter on what they describe as a transformative trip for their family.

“We are so grateful that our whole family was able to be in South Africa together. We were welcomed with open arms and made so many friends there. We met our daughter, Etta, on our first full day in country and it was love at first sight. Etta took to our older daughter, Arri, in a heartbeat, and one of our most cherished memories is the sight of Arri taking Etta by the hand, walking her out of her care center for the last time, and into the arms of our forever family.”

The Davila family was struck by the commitment of the staff to the children in their care at Johannesburg Child Welfare (JCW), Spence-Chapin’s partner agency in South Africa. Mary says that their social worker was “a saint who advocates tirelessly for the children and also manages to be 100% on top of all of the paperwork involved in an adoption.” They took comfort in knowing that their social worker would be by their side in every meeting in South Africa and that she knew their daughter: her personality, likes, and dislikes. She was available to answer questions at any hour of the day and clearly loved the children.

Chris and Mary have been home with Etta for about eight months. They describe Etta as “playful, hilariously funny, and sweet, sweet, sweet. “ According to Mary, their family transition has been very smooth.

“We are so grateful to Spence Chapin for helping us grow our family. Words cannot express our gratitude.”

To learn more about adoption from South Africa, please visit our South Africa program page or contact us at info@spence-chapin.org.

Mentorship Celebration

DSC_0156With summer approaching, our Mentorship Program is winding down a successful eighth year! However, before school breaks for the summer, our mentors, mentees, and their families participated in our first ever year-end Mentorship Celebration. Over a delicious lunch, we enjoyed photos and videos from the years’ events, honored our four graduating seniors (Emily, Lillia, Elena, and Pooja, who have collectively been with the program for over 10 years!) and acknowledged the incredible efforts and commitment of our volunteer adult mentors! At the end of the year, we like to look back and reflect on what we’ve accomplished. When we asked our teens “What is the best part of the mentorship program?” the themes we heard most often are: • “Learning there are others like me and feeling connected, sharing stories and finding kindred spirits” • “Meeting other adopted teens who don’t know me from school so I could talk about whatever I wanted” • "Getting to meet other people who are adopted and being able to have fun and discuss adoption” • “Meeting other people who know how it feels to be adopted”

One of our graduating seniors is Lilia, born in Bulgaria and adopted at the age of 2. She is preparing to head off to Johnson and Wales University in the fall to study Sports Management, and has been a dynamic, energetic, and positive addition to the program. Before she heads off on her next adventure, Lillia wanted to share her feelings about being in the Mentorship Program:

DSC_0163“I really loved being part of the mentorship group. It was great meeting so many kids and adults and sharing our adoption stories. It was important for me to make friends with other adoptees. We did a lot of fun activities-Chelsea Piers Sports Complex, a scavenger hunt, ice skating, and games in Central Park… I am also hoping to plan a trip to Bulgaria sometime in the future!”

When we hear these words and sentiments, we know we are providing a necessary and important program for the adoption community. Mentorship is a key support to many adoptees in forming healthy identity, having a safe and inclusive place to explore genuinely difficult feelings, and bringing all members of the adoption constellation together in support of our young people. This program continues to grow, and to be an inspiration to our staff, our mentors, and of course the young people themselves.

Interested in having your child join the 2015-2016 Mentorship Program? This program is open to adoptees who will be enrolled in middle school and high school this fall. Contact Dana Stallard, LMSW, Adoptee Services Coordinator at 212-360-0213 or dstallard@spence-chapin.org to learn more!

The Questions You’re Too Afraid to Ask about Older Child Adoption

older child adoption Spence-Chapin's mission is to find families for the most vulnerable children, including older children, sibling groups, and children with special medical needs.

As you begin to think about growing your family through adoption, one of the first steps is deciding the age of the child you will be parenting. Spence-Chapin can help you explore the reasons an older child could be a great fit for your family. We know there are some questions about older child adoption that people are often too afraid to ask, so we've started a list here.

Questions:

  • What is the age range of a child who is considered “older”?
  • What are some of the differences between adopting an older child from foster care and adopting an older child internationally?
  • Can we adopt an older child if we have younger children we are currently parenting?
  • Can a single parent/older parent adopt an older child?
  • As a single parent, can I adopt an older child who is not the same gender as me?
  • Do older children have behavioral and emotional issues?
  • Would we be able to have a bar or bat mitzvah for our child if we adopt an older child?
  • How much will I know about my older child’s history?
  • Have all older children been living in an institutional setting since birth?
  • How much input does an older child have into his adoption plan?
  • How can I be fully prepared to adopt an older child?
  • What language will my child speak? Will my child speak or understand English?

Are these the questions that you were thinking of too? Our team can provide the answers to all these and more. Give Kara, Heather and Jamie a call - 212-400-8150.

Spence-Chapin is able to share the profiles of international children who are considered to be the most in need of a loving family, and who are ready to be matched immediately.  The Waiting Child profiles often consist of children who are older or part of a sibling group. In order to respect the privacy of these children, the Waiting Child page has been password protected.

If you would like to hear more about our adoption programs or request the password to the Waiting Child page, contact us at 212-400-8150 or info@spence-chapin.org.

 

Meet the Mentors!

Our Modern Family Center mentors - trained volunteers - are adoptees who are passionate supporting young adoptees.