Listen to the expert advice and tips provided by Modern Family Center staff in this podcast.
Adopting a Child with Down Syndrome
“Hi! We are the Cotner family! We are a big, fun, loud, loving, rocking family. We have six beautiful kiddos. Four were homegrown and two grew in our hearts via international adoption and they both just happen to be rocking an extra chromosome a.k.a. they have Trisomy 21 or Down Syndrome.
Our first son, Harvey, came home from Eastern Europe and completely stole our hearts. Soon after our first adoption, we knew that we wanted to adopt again, and specifically another kiddo with Down Syndrome. We knew financially that it might be easier for our family to wait a few years, but when I saw the profile of this waiting kiddo, my heart skipped a beat. I requested his file and I read it over and over. I was looking at it, yet again, when my youngest daughter Quinn said, “Oh, there he is… there’s my brother. I’ve been looking for him!” I knew he was our son and another adventure was beginning!
Harrison joined our family thanks to help from Spence-Chapin and our fabulous in-country team. In a beautiful coincidence, Harrison came home in October, which is Down Syndrome Awareness Month.
Parenting a child with Down Syndrome is truly a blessing. Our sons who have Down Syndrome have overcome so many obstacles that most people take for granted. Seeing them overcome and succeed has given us a new insight on life and we truly appreciate all the little and big things. They are our shining lights. There are the hard days when the struggles of Down Syndrome and prior institutional trauma can hurt your mama heart, because we want to take all their pain and struggle away. But it just makes us love them more and remember that with love and patience we can all do hard things.
Our older four children are incredible with their little brothers. They are so loving and protective, and they are the boys’ biggest cheerleaders. They loved them before they even met them, and their admiration for their brothers only grows. I always say the greatest gift we’ve ever given them was each other.
My husband, William, is active duty Army and that can add some additional hiccups, but Spence-Chapin handled it with such grace and ease. Our process was smooth, and we truly fell in love with Harrison’s birth country. The Army is incredibly supportive of adoption and we are so grateful for this. They let my husband take a substantial leave and even reimbursed some of our adoption expenses.
Every child deserves a family…. every child has worth, and we are forever thankful to be a part of the lucky few that get to have some rocking kiddos with Down Syndrome in their family thanks to adoption and Spence-Chapin!”
To learn more about adoption from Bulgaria and the children in need of families, visit: www.spence-chapin.org/bulgaria
Adoption from South Africa opened to American families in 2013. Since then, Spence-Chapin has been one of just two U.S. agencies approved by the South African Central Authority – and we have been actively finding families ever since!
We are joining the Orphan Sunday movement to bring awareness to the many children waiting for their adoptive parents to find them.
Citizenship laws can be confusing for adopted people and adoptive parents. Here is information from the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) website to help you navigate obtaining citizenship for an internationally adopted person. All information represented below is from USCIS not Spence-Chapin. Learn more on their website: https://www.uscis.gov/adoption/bringing-your-internationally-adopted-child-united-states/us-citizenship-adopted-child
Documents That Generally Serve as Evidence of U.S. Citizenship for an Adopted Child
|U.S. Passport*||Issued by U.S. Department of State (DOS)||Visit travel.state.gov for more information, including full instructions, current fees and application.|
|U.S. Certificate of Citizenship||Issued by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS)||Visit uscis.gov for more information including full instructions, current fees, and application.|
*All passport applicants must prove their U.S. citizenship and identity to receive a U.S. passport. A Certificate of Citizenship is generally sufficient to apply for and obtain a U.S. passport for an adopted child. If the adopted child has not received a Certificate of Citizenship, you must submit other proof of acquisition of citizenship, including a certified copy of the final adoption decree (and translation if not in English) and evidence the child met all the conditions in section 320 of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) while under the age of 18.
Note: Some federal agencies may check immigration systems to verify citizenship status. USCIS systems will not be updated with a child’s citizenship status unless the family obtains a Certificate of Citizenship.
Lawful Permanent Residence or Citizenship Upon Admission into the U.S.
Under section 320 of the INA, an adopted child will automatically acquire citizenship upon admission to the United States if he or she satisfies these conditions before turning 18:
- Qualifies as an “immediate relative” under INA 101(b)(1)(E), (F), or (G),
- Is admitted as a permanent resident, and
- Is residing in the United States in the U.S. citizen parent(s)’ legal and physical custody.
INA section 320 became effective on February 27, 2001, when the Child Citizenship Act of 2000 (CCA) was signed into law. The child must have been under the age of 18 on the effective date in order to have benefited from the CCA.
Note: If a child does not acquire citizenship from the original prospective or adoptive parents, the child may still be eligible to acquire citizenship if later adopted by different U.S. citizen parent(s), provided they meet all the requirements in section 320 of the INA.
If the child is not eligible for automatic citizenship upon admission to the United States, they will become a lawful permanent resident (LPR) and may become a U.S. citizen once all the conditions of INA 320 are met. If the requirements are not met, the child will still be an LPR and may apply for naturalization under INA 316 once eligible to do so. The chart below outlines the visa classifications, process to obtain evidence of an adopted child’s U.S. citizenship, and the documents that generally serve as evidence of U.S. citizenship for an adopted child.
Obtaining a Certificate of Citizenship
If the adopted child does not qualify for a Certificate of Citizenship upon admission, you may still apply for one if your child satisfies the eligibility requirements. You must follow different processes to apply for a Certificate of Citizenship, depending on whether the adopted child will reside inside or outside of the United States with the U.S. citizen parent.
- General Eligibility: (Please refer to the chart below for more specific guidance.)
- The adopted child meets the definition of child under INA Section 101(b)(1)(E), (F) or (G);
- The child is under 18 years of age when all conditions are met; and
- The child must have at least one U.S. citizen parent (by birth or naturalization).
|Child Will Reside Inside the U.S.
(Pursuing U.S. Citizenship under INA Section 320)
|Child Will Reside Outside the U.S.
(Pursuing U.S. Citizenship under INA Section 322)
|How to Obtain a Certificate of Citizenship
Note: Please refer to the Form N-600 filing instructions for information about required evidence, fees and where to file. If the adopted child received an IH-3 or IR-3 visa and met all of the INA 320 requirements upon admission to the U.S., the child will receive a Certificate of Citizenship automatically and it is not necessary to file Form N-600.
|How to Obtain a Certificate of Citizenship
Note: On the Form N-600K, petitioners may request a specific USCIS office or preferred city and state for interview, as well as a preferred interview date that is at least 90 days after filing the Form N-600K. After USCIS receives and processes the form, USCIS will send an appointment notice to the family to appear for an interview at a domestic USCIS field office on a particular date. The family may apply for a B-2 visa or other available nonimmigrant visa for the child to travel to the U.S. and must pay the required fee. A nonimmigrant visa is not needed if the child obtains an immigrant visa, and is admitted as an LPR, but will not be residing in the United States. The family may apply for the visa at the same post that processed their adoption case or apply at another post if they currently live in a different country.
Children of Armed Forces/Military Service Members and U.S. Government Employees
- The adopted child of a U.S. citizen armed forces member who is accompanying their parent abroad on official orders may be naturalized without having to travel to the United States for any part of the process if he or she qualifies under INA 322.
- Additionally, a U.S. citizen parent who is a member of the armed forces may count any period of time they resided abroad on official orders as physical presence in the United States.
- An adopted child of a member of the armed forces or U.S. government employee issued an IR-3or IH-3 will be eligible for automatic issuance of a Certificate of Citizenship upon admission even if he or she intends to return abroad; provided all of the other conditions under INA 320 are met.
- An adopted child of a member of the armed forces or U.S. government employee issued an IR-2 visa will not automatically be issued a Certificate of Citizenship but the parent may file a Form N-600 after admission or Form N-600K (even if they intend to return abroad), provided that all of the other conditions under either Section 320 or Section 322 of the INA are met.
*NOTE: The information on this page is meant to be a general guide. The charts provide an overview of citizenship issues related to adopted children and this page is not a definitive policy document. The facts of individual cases will be reviewed and adjudicated on a case-by-case basis. This page is not intended to, does not, and may not be relied upon to create any right or benefit, substantive or procedural, enforceable at law or by any individual or other party in removal proceedings, in litigation with the United States, or in any other form or manner. Last Revised 9/2/2016.
Above is information from the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) website to navigate obtaining citizenship for an internationally adopted person. All information represented is from USCIS not Spence-Chapin. Learn more on their website: https://www.uscis.gov/adoption/bringing-your-internationally-adopted-child-united-states/us-citizenship-adopted-child.
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.
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.
Holidays 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.
Spence-Chapin offers a variety of community programs and events to support your family. Whether it be parent coaching, counseling, mentorship program for teens/tweens or adoptive family playgroups, we're here for you. Visit www.spence-chapin.org/community-counseling to learn more or contact us at 646-539-2167 or email@example.com.
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.
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.
Spence-Chapin partners with The Foundation for the Assistance of Abandoned Children (FANA) in Colombia for a special host-to-adopt program. This is an opportunity to host a child or children in your home for three weeks over the fall before finalizing the adoption. Waiting children are boys and girls (including sibling groups) ages 11-14. Participating families must be located in the greater New York City area (includes Long Island, the Hudson Valley, New Jersey, and Connecticut).
Colombia Fall 2017 Host to Adopt Program Timeline:
- May 15, 2017: Adoption applications are due
- May – August, 2017: Begin home study and adoption trainings
- August 2017: Home study must be completed, due at this time to Colombia’s child welfare Central Authority.
- August – October 2017: Learning about the child or children family is matched with, continuing to prepare for hosting and adoption-related paperwork. Hosting dates will be decided by Colombia and announced during this time.
- Fall (October or November 2017): Hosting time is 2-3 weeks, supported by bilingual psychologist from adoption house FANA and Spence-Chapin staff
- December 2017 – June 2018: After hosting period, complete adoption paperwork to move forward with finalizing the adoption, estimate of 6 months though times will vary for families.
- Summer 2018: Travel to Colombia for approximately 4-6 weeks to finalize the adoption
Listen to this podcast of Mark Lacava, LCSW-R, Executive Vice President of Spence-Chapin's Pre & Post Adoption Services Department discuss common questions children ask at different developmental stages and how to answer them.
Thank you for joining us on Saturday for the Global Family Day Picnic! Nearly 200 members of the Spence-Chapin family came together in Central Park (despite the 90 degree heat) for fun, food, and time together with friends. Thanks for making this picnic a success!
Please let us know what you thought about the event by filling out a short survey here.
Visit our website for great upcoming Spence-Chapin events and programs.
Please donate to support Spence-Chapin’s Mission!
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.”
From my oldest memory I always knew that I was adopted and never hid that fact. I grew up Brooklyn, graduated from Bernard M Baruch College, got married, and had two children. I was never very interested in finding out more about my adoption, but my wife and children asked me from time to time. Then about 5 years ago I was going through some old papers and came across the legal adoption papers as filed with the court. That triggered my search. The agency I was adopted through was Louise Wise, which no longer exists, and I was referred to Spence-Chapin. I contacted Spence-Chapin and after filling out the necessary paperwork I was contacted by one of their social workers. Needless to say, I was extremely anxious to get the info. She gave me much information that I had never known and I found it very interesting. But when pressed for additional information I was told that she could not reveal anything more as she was bound by law. I told her that was archaic and ridiculous considering the current state of adoption. She agreed and told me that was it. Subsequently I tried to coordinate the information that she had given me with the US Census for 1940, but that became a huge project. I have shared my current journey with my family – wife, daughters, and 7 grandchildren. They are all interested in finding out about this part of my life… their lives.
As suggested by Spence-Chapin, I sent an email to the New York State senate, asking them to oppose Bill A2901a that prevents adoptees from receiving their original birth certificates:
Dear Senator, I have also written to you via the senate general email.
The essence of my email is that I am asking that this proposed law be changed to the original. As presented currently A2901A will forever close the Door on my search for complete information on my adoption.
I am 74 years old and recently (5+ years ago) came upon my formal legal adoption papers while going through my mother's papers.
This triggered my search and with the help of Spence-Chapin learned as much about my family history as was permitted under the current law. I was hoping that before long that the law would be changed so that I could complete the search, not only for myself but for my wife, daughters, and seven grandchildren.
I do not understand the logic behind this amendment. Having a Judge decide with all of the pre-conditions is a sure way of preventing many people who are in search of information.
I have never written about any piece of legislation till now.
If I could make one statement to the Legislator it would be, "walk in my shoes as well as let the sunlight in."
Paul Pruzan (Birth Name: David Cohen, born August 29, 1940)
For many of us, fall is a time for new beginnings. New school schedules and childcare routines are set in motion and our kids are pulled into a whirlwind of school activities, sports, clubs, and classes. Read about our tips for managing stressful times of transition.
A Spence-Chapin intern reflects on her adoption story and her journey to becoming an adoption social worker.
The Hoffmans are a beautiful blended family with a story that is marked by loss, resiliency, and an immense love.
We support The Adoptee Rights Bill, allowing New York State adoptees the same human rights as all other citizens of New York. Learn more.
A Spence-Chapin adoptive family shares their experiences of their homeland roots tour to Korea.
Scott and Tari grew their family through the Spence-Chapin special needs adoption program.
An adoptive mom shares her in-country experiences with Bulgarian adoption partner ANIDO.