post adoption services

Community Building for Adopted Tweens and Teens

By Jessica Luciere   - Community Liaison, Adoption Mentorship Program

By Jessica Luciere
- Community Liaison, Adoption Mentorship Program

In everyone’s life, it is important to find the right community. That is no less true for people who were adopted. When we are older, we’re able to dig into our own identities with more of a worldly view of ourselves. When we are younger, sometimes this navigation needs more guidance. Adoptive parents know the value and power in meeting other adoptive parents, creating those safe spaces and finding ways to connect with one another. When parents search out these communities for their kids it is just as important and defining. The youngest years of a child’s life are formative, which is why giving them the space to connect with others who have such a common bond as adoption is so important.

Many people are touched and affected by adoption, which is why creating the right programming to facilitate safe spaces in the adoption community, is so important. As an adoptee myself, and someone who has benefitted from programs that allow me to interact with other adoptees, I know personally how powerful these programs can be. When adoptees have access to each other, they have access to stories that may or may not relate to their own, they meet people from similar and different backgrounds, but who all share this one common, deep-rooted experience.

Spence-Chapin’s Adoption Mentorship Program has been for running for 15 years continuously, I have been a Mentor in this program for those past 15 years. We have seen the lasting effects that creating a community has had on the many Mentors and Mentees who have participated in the program over the years. The bonds that are created when we give room to this topic have been incredible. For some, it may be their first time talking about their stories publicly, or even sharing a room with fellow adoptees. When adoptees are given the opportunity to share their stories, listen to each other, and get to know one another we are creating a space that adoptees may not necessarily find outside of these walls. Allowing adoptees to share a space helps eliminate a feeling of aloneness that can sometimes happen, especially for younger teens who have not yet learned how to manage their emotions, is so important. Adoptees who are older may also feel a sense of aloneness, so creating a Mentorship program where adults are Mentoring other younger adoptees creates a platform for everyone to work through these obstacles simultaneously. Often, we see that those who participate in the Mentorship program as youths, then come back as they get older to become Mentors to the new generation of adoptees. Adoptees finding themselves amongst peers, and finding their community is powerful.

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Much of adoption history has been covered in secrecy. Parents might be afraid to talk about certain adoption issues for fear of causing pain for their child or not knowing when or how to have these conversations. The Adoption Mentorship Program helps adolescents find their voices and build their growing understanding of their identity in a safe nurturing way with others who have gone thru what they might be going thru now. The challenge is incorporating your adoption identity and all that it means to you with pride as you move throughout life. It will always remain a continuous and ever-changing experience for all those who seek it. The Mentors who participate in this program will often say that they take away just as much from this program as the kids and parents do. The Mentors see themselves oftentimes, reflected back to them in the Mentees. Remembering what it was like to be their age, adopted, with questions and not always a clear path to the answers, gives them the chance to relive, but in present times, what the teen adoptee experience is, and was like. In the same respect, our Mentees can seek guidance from the adults who have lived through some of the experiences they may have had and could have in the future.

Adoptive parents know that giving their child a space to share this intimate part of their lives is important, and healthy. It is always encouraged and shared with parents that they start the conversation of adoption at home. Once the child knows that there is a safe space to share any feelings they may have, generally, it may open them up to find words to explain to their parents and friends what they are thinking and feeling about their adoptions. Parents are key players in adoptees growing into their adoption identities, trust starts at the home, so for kids to have a healthy space to share before they reach these programs allows for a more open experience. We also understand that giving a community to the parents is important, adoptive parents have stories of their own to share, questions that only other adoptive parents can answer and relate to. Creating a separate space for parents to connect with one another is paramount.

These are just some of the reasons why community services are so important in building an adoption community for you and your family. Our Adoption Mentorship Program provides a community for adolescent adoptees to explore their adoption identity while having fun with kids their age, and Mentors who are familiar with what they are going thru at this stage of their lives. Mentorship provides a fun and open, yet safe space for the teens to express themselves, and their parents understand how to support their teens as their child’s understanding of their own identity is ever changing.

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When programs are geared towards the specific needs of a community and have the right tools in place to ensure its success and participation, there is no limit to the good that can come from them. Adoption is a beautiful and complicated part of the lives that it touches, and it is important to give space to let that ever-changing, and personal relationship with adoption grow.

Learn more about programs and services that support your adopted tween or teen here or contact us at mentorship@spence-chapin.org or 646-539-2167.

South Korea Summer Internship FAQs

Through a special grant, Spence-Chapin offers a South Korean Summer Internship Program for two young adult Korean adoptees! Deepen your connection to your birth culture by traveling to South Korea. You will be able to tour and explore Seoul and care for babies in South Korea’s adoption agency, Social Welfare Society (SWS).

Who should apply for the internship?
The South Korea Summer Internship is open to young adult Korean adoptees between the ages of 18 and 30 years old living across the United States who have been adopted through SWS.

How long is this internship?
The internship is from May 28 – June 28, 2018.

What is the interview process like?
Spence-Chapin will review all applications and invite several finalists to interview. Applicants who are not local to New York City can interview via video conference. From these interviews, Spence-Chapin will choose two applicants to participate in the internship.

What are the duties and responsibilities of the internship?
The purpose of the internship is to assist in the care of babies and toddlers awaiting adoptive families through South Korea’s adoption agency, Social Welfare Society (SWS). In addition to day-to-day care, interns will accompany the children and staff on cultural and recreational outings.

What are the fees?
Airfare, ground transportation, room and board and a stipend are included. Interns will be responsible for all other expenditures, such as souvenirs or personal travel. Interns are also expected to provide small gifts to the SWS staff as a thank-you.

What opportunities are there for cultural experiences?
SWS plans many exciting cultural activities for interns, including a traditional Korean tea ceremony, martial arts, Nanta, cooking lessons, and tie-dyeing. Interns will also participate in trips to a green tea field, bamboo forest, nature hikes, etc. Exact experiences will vary year to year.

Where else will I be traveling?
Interns will spend most of their time in Naju. More specifically, they will be staying in the South Jeolla Province which is a more rural section of South Korea. Interns will also spend time in Seoul. After the internship has come to an end, interns have the option to remain in Korea on their own for personal travel.

What kind of support will I have while in Korea?
Spence-Chapin staff will be accessible to our interns via phone and e-mail throughout the internship. Interns will have an identified SWS staff member as their point of contact throughout the internship. This SWS staff member will assist with translation, navigation, and travel.

Will I be reporting back to Spence-Chapin while participating in the internship?
You will be expected to provide periodic updates via phone or e-mail. In addition, our interns are required to keep a record of their experiences while in Korea though the format is up to you. Interns will submit a finalized version to Spence Chapin which should include pictures, descriptions of day-to-day activities, and personal reflections.

Will I be able to search for/meet my foster and/or biological family?
Yes! Interns have the option to work with SWS to search for their foster and/or biological family. If family members are located and interested in meeting, arrangements will be made for interns to meet them at the SWS offices. Spence-Chapin will also provide support and preparation for these meetings prior to departure.

If you have any questions, please email info@spence-chapin.org.

Bulgaria Program Updates

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Spence-Chapin’s mission is driven by a fundamental belief that all children deserve a forever family. Since 1995, Spence-Chapin has been finding permanent, loving homes for children in Bulgaria. Our agency partners with ANIDO, a highly reputable non-governmental organization licensed by the Ministry of Justice, Bulgaria’s central authority for adoption. Spence-Chapin is a Hague accredited agency with over 40 years of experience in international adoption and we continue to seek families living anywhere in the United States who are drawn to Bulgaria as the country to build their families and who will embrace the process of incorporating Bulgarian culture into the life of their family going forward.

In July of 2017, we expanded our Bulgaria Program to find permanent, loving families for toddlers, pre-school age and school-age children in Bulgaria. There are thousands of young and school-aged children, sibling groups, and children with special needs in Bulgaria who are waiting for international adoption. The children are typically cared for in state-run institutions, small group homes or foster care. Children reflect the full range of ethnicities in Bulgaria and are primarily Roma or Turkish descent. As ethnic minorities within the country, these children are more vulnerable to factors that leave them in need of a family.

The wait time for adoptive families to be matched with a child after dossier submission to Bulgaria varies based on each family’s openness around age of the child:

  • The wait time to be matched with medically healthy children ages 0-3 years old is approximately 5 years after dossier submission.

  • The wait time to be matched with medically healthy children ages 3-6 years old is approximately 4 years after dossier submission.

  • Families can also request to adopt a healthy sibling group under the age of 6 and the wait time to be matched is approximately 4 years.

In addition to older kids and sibling groups, there are also younger children diagnosed with medical needs, such as Down syndrome and developmental delays, in need of adoption. Families are encouraged to speak with a medical professional who can assist them in determining their family’s particular medical openness. Families open to a child with special needs are typically matched in 6-12 months after dossier submission.

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Waiting Children

In addition to the being matched with a child, adoptive families and Bulgarian children can be matched with a Waiting Child.

Through ANIDO, Spence-Chapin receives profiles of identified Waiting Children who are available for immediate matching with a family several times per year. The Bulgarian Ministry of Justice maintains a Waiting Child registry of over 1,800 children and provides profiles of these children to agencies as one more way for families and children to find one another. The Waiting Child profiles are reflective of all children available for adoption in Bulgaria and range in age and health status.

Spence-Chapin advocates for Waiting Children by featuring their profiles on our website in the hopes of identifying the right family. Families can be matched with a Waiting Child at any phase of their adoption process. Many families adopting older children are often adopting waiting children and therefore don’t experience the typical wait time to be matched.

Current Waiting Children from all of Spence-Chapin’s programs can be viewed on our website.

Following placement of a child or sibling group from Bulgaria, Spence-Chapin is available for support and guidance for the lifetime of your family. Spence-Chapin offers post adoption services - counseling, parent coaching, post adoption support, mentorship and birthland trips.

Children in Bulgaria are waiting for you! To learn more about adoption through our Bulgaria program or to view profiles of Waiting Children in Bulgaria ready to be immediately matched with an adoptive family today, contact us at 212-400-8150 or at info@spence-chapin.org.

Mentorship Program FAQs

Who are the Mentees?

Mentees are adopted middle or high school students in the tri-state who are open to receiving support and guidance from adopted adults and are able to be in a group setting and participate in structured activities. Our families join us from NYC, New Jersey, and Connecticut!

Who are the Mentors?

Our mentors are volunteers who are adopted, live in the tri-state area, and are in their twenties, thirties, and forties. All of our mentors are screened and trained by our licensed social work staff. Mentors serve as role models who can share their adoption story and experiences while encouraging mentees to ask questions, feel comfortable with their identities, and develop healthy self-esteem. Some of our mentors were mentees themselves as children.

Why would my child be interested in a Mentorship Program?

For many young adoptees, finding older adoptee role models can be challenging. While they may be surrounded by peers who were also adopted, interacting with an older adoptee might not be possible. Mentors can really provide insight and support for younger adoptees around issues of identity, navigating different types of conversations that might come up in high school or college, or just being a teenager in general. They are able to speak and listen to mentees from a place of understanding.

Are mentors assigned to a child one-to-one? Do they meet individually?

Mentors and Mentees interact at scheduled events and go on community outings as a group. Whereas in some years we designate Mentors to individual Mentees, we have also interacted in group settings without a one-on-one assignment. The program structure varies each year depending on enrollment.

What if my child doesn’t want to participate?

It’s OK for Mentees to feel a bit hesitant about participating at first. Many of our mentees who are unsure about joining the program at first end up really enjoying the experience after just a few outings. However, the children who are most successful in the program are enthusiastic and want to participate. They are ready to engage in these adoption conversations. We make sure that conversations take place in a number of ways so that each Mentee can feel comfortable.

How often does the Mentorship Program meet?

One Saturday a month, our Mentors and Mentees enjoy community, educational and social outings. We provide an inclusive and safe space to discuss birth families, identity, relationships, and more. There are two semesters for the Mentorship Program: Fall (September – January) and Spring (February – June). Families enrolled in the Mentorship Program will receive a schedule of events in advance of the semester. The time frame of events varies depending on the activity, but generally ranges from 2-4 hours, usually beginning around noon.

What types of programs/activities do participants of the Mentorship Program engage in?

Past outings have included trips to the zoo, bowling, classes on pasta making, fencing, painting, and more. Some events take place at Spence-Chapin’s office in Manhattan while others take place off-site throughout New York City. Two of each semester’s monthly meetings will be Adoption Days, where the agenda will be adoption-focused and encourage relevant discussion and reflection. Adoption Days also include programming for parents related to parenting adopted teens.

What does the $500 per semester fee cover?

The fee covers the cost of administering the program including lunches, admission or cost of the activity. Volunteer mentors do not pay a fee.

What is the time commitment for Mentors?

Mentors volunteer monthly from September to May for 4 hours each activity. An orientation event is also required during a weekend or evening prior to the start of the program (2-3 hours).

Hear from our current mentors to learn more:

 

Questions?
Email mentorship@spence-chapin.org or call 646-539-2167 to learn more!

Adoption Life Stages

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.

We offer community programs as well as short-term parent coaching services to help get the ball rolling on these important but sometimes difficult conversations. Contact us at (646) 539-2167 or postadoptionservices@spence-chapin.org to explore how we can support your family.

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