home studies

Home Study Spotlight: Meet Sophia!

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This month we talked to Sophia Gardner, LMSW, Coordinator of Permanency Services, about her work.

When did you start working at Spence-Chapin?
I started working with Spence-Chapin in October 2016.

How did you become interested in adoption?
I am the eldest and only biological child in a transracial family of eleven kids, so adoption is something that has been intricately woven into my life for a long time. Learning about and understanding the experiences of my siblings’ early lives left me with a strong desire to work in child protection. When I first began thinking about my career, I was drawn to building systems for family-based-care in countries that are continuing to utilize institutional care. And in general, I was attracted to family preservation and strengthening. I transitioned to New York City after spending time in India while completing my MSW and was thinking about how I could apply my skill sets to domestic work. Transitioning into adoption work felt very natural and sometimes I look back and wonder, how did it take me so long to get here?

What is the most rewarding part of your job?
For me, the most rewarding part of my job is the direct work that I do with families. So much of the home study experience is education and families come to adoption with a wide range of knowledge and understanding. It’s inspiring to educate families on themes like openness, identity development and being a transracial family. In particular, the arc I witness with families or individuals from when they come into home study, with an often-rudimentary understanding of these themes, to when they begin to connect the dots, to understand that everything we’re doing is child-centered, is incredibly meaningful.

What does your typical workday look like?
Something that I love about this work is the variety of what any day could look like. Primarily, I’m meeting adoptive families during their home study process, either in our office or in their home. Because the home study requires a home visit, I do a lot of traveling around New York and New Jersey. When I’m not supporting a family directly – either through home study, post placement, training or resource distribution – I’m typically writing, in a meeting, or working with my team members to brainstorm how to approach a particular scenario.

Is there a particular family that you’ve worked with that has affected you in any way?
I really love working with our international adoption kinship families. Often, in a kinship adoption, families are coming to us after experiencing a loss in the family. They need to adopt a child whom they are already related to in some way because the child is now in need of love and protection. These families are often in a place of grief, and because they are relatives of the child, may feel the home study process is particularly cumbersome. I feel a great responsibility to those families to work with them so that they can understand that adoption themes will still be present in their home, even with the familial relationships. To see families understand each theme you’re discussing and have them walk away feeling empowered, and not encumbered, is very special.

Has S-C changed you in any way? Prior to joining Spence, all my experience in adoption was in international adoption. Working across all our programs, it has been so wonderful to be exposed to the domestic side of the work that we do. I have so much respect for the work our social workers do with our birth parents and have loved being able to educate our families about open adoption.

To learn more about completing your home study with Spence-Chapin email us at info@spence-chapin.org or call us at 212-400-8150.


Spence-Chapin’s Domestic Adoption Program

HISTORY

For over 100 years, Spence-Chapin has been finding loving adoptive parents for children in need of adoption in New York & New Jersey. In our domestic adoption program, our experienced staff will guide you through every step of the adoption process with the support you need as you grow your family through adoption. Since the 1940s, Spence-Chapin has been a leader in African-American adoption. Spence-Chapin has placed over 20,000 children into loving, permanent families since the inception of our domestic adoption program.

CHILDREN IN NEED OF FAMILIES

Children in our Domestic Adoption Program include infants from newborn to approximately eight weeks of age at the time of placement. The babies in this program reflect the racial and ethnic diversity of the birth families we serve with most children being of African-American and Latino backgrounds. Children in need of adoption often have risks and unknowns in their medical history. Some children have been exposed to cigarette smoke, recreational or prescription drugs and/or alcohol during pregnancy. Families adopting through this program need to be open to adopting a child of either gender.

ADOPTIVE PARENT GUIDELINES

Single parents, married & unmarried couples, heterosexual and LGBTQ parents are eligible to adopt

United States legal residents who are in good physical, mental and emotional health

Applicants over 50 years old should consult with Spence-Chapin

Spence-Chapin supports all adoptive and birth families in establishing an open adoption

Residents living within 100 miles of New York City, including all of New York City & Long Island, northern New Jersey, and the Hudson Valley

OPEN ADOPTION

Open adoption is when adoptive and birth families meet and are able to have ongoing contact with each other at their own discretion. It is an opportunity for the birth and adoptive parents to develop a relationship that will benefit the adoptee. Spence-Chapin encourages open adoption, which can include the exchange of letters and photographs, emails, phone calls, and visits. Research shows that open adoption is beneficial for all members of the adoption constellation – birth family, adoptive family, and adoptees.

FAQS

How do I apply?
The first step is to attend an upcoming domestic adoption webinar. Our staff will share details about domestic adoption at Spence-Chapin – who the children are in need of adoption, the matching process, options counseling and support for biological parents, open adoption, steps in the adoption process, and more. All webinar attendees will receive the adoption application.

Will I need a home study?
Yes! A home study document is required for all types of adoptions. Spence-Chapin has the expertise and accreditation to provide home study services for all people pursuing a domestic adoption in NY or NJ.

How long will I wait to be matched with a child?
Families wait an average of 24 months after completing their home study.

What is the matching process?
Birth parents select an adoptive family by reviewing adoptive family profiles with their social workers. Once they have narrowed their choice to one family, a match meeting is held between the birth and adoptive parents with their social workers.

What adoption expenses should I be prepared for?
In addition to the application cost, the professional service fee for the domestic adoption program is $41,000. Join our next domestic adoption webinar to learn more or call us today about adoption expenses.

Will I need to travel?
Travel is limited in the Domestic Adoption Program. All birth and adoptive parents are residents of the NYC metro area, including Long Island, New Jersey, and the Hudson Valley.

Who are the birth mothers?
Any woman of childbearing age could find herself in the position of an unplanned pregnancy. Spence-Chapin’s experienced social workers provide intensive unbiased counseling to expectant parents around parenting options. Birth parents have a great deal of love for their children and come to Spence-Chapin for support in making a thoughtful plan for their child.

Who is eligible to adopt through Spence-Chapin’s Domestic Adoption Program?
United States legal residents living within 100 miles of New York City who are in good physical, mental and emotional health are eligible to adopt. This includes single parents, married & unmarried couples, heterosexual and LGBTQ parents.

Is it possible to adopt a baby domestically through an attorney? Do you offer that pathway?
Families pursuing a private, infant, domestic adoption often explore their two paths: an organization or independent/attorney adoption. Spence-Chapin has provided home studies for hundreds of families adopting independently and we have the expertise to work with you and your adoption attorney. We provide domestic home studies for organization or independent (attorney) adoptions. 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. Submit the home study application today to get started on the adoption paperwork.

CONTACT US

Email info@spence-chapin.org
Call 212-400-8150


Staff Interview: Meet Lauren!

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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.