We are joining the Orphan Sunday movement to bring awareness to the many children waiting for their adoptive parents to find them.
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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- How would you describe your job in three words?
Important, rewarding, and compassionate.
- 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.
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 email@example.com.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
Spence-Chapin launches Colombian host-adopt program for the tri-state community.
After 18 years at Spence-Chapin, our Director of Development, Linda Wright, retires.
This special needs adoption story was longer than most, but Alex is happily now with his new family.
Addressing the adopted child’s past is the key to helping them move towards a bright future.
This summer we traveled to Colombia, South Africa and Uganda to explore opportunities to expand our reach to help more children. Visiting these countries and meeting with their child welfare representatives solidified our resolve to find adoptive homes for children there. During our trips, we witnessed the love and care these children receive but also were acutely aware of the staff making do with what little resources they had. In each country we clearly observed the changing face of adoption and saw the many school-aged children, sibling groups and children with special needs who are waiting for a family of their own. Because we feel that that every child deserves a home, championing the adoption of these children is part of what Spence-Chapin does. Our time in Colombia was inspiring, encouraging and sobering. Having met with the Instituto Colombiano de Bienestar Familiar (ICBF – The Colombian Institute of Family Welfare within the Ministry of Social Protection), our staff was impressed by the level of care provided to the approximately 9,000 children in their custody. In each adoption house visited, we encountered psychologists, social workers and other professional staff helping children prepare for adoption, and yet no forever families were on the horizon for these children.
In South Africa there is no question about the number of children needing permanency; by 2015 there will be more than 5.5 million orphans in South Africa. As one of just two U.S. agencies approved by the South African Central Authority to place children with American families, we are delighted to partner in this initiative with Johannesburg Child Welfare Society (JCW). Our similar mission and history of having worked together on our Granny program, make this partnership a natural fit. We have officially launched this program and are eagerly accepting applications for adoption. We are excited about placing children with black families as well as families who will open their hearts and homes to the children most likely not to be adopted in South Africa because of their age or medical needs.
In Uganda, we learned about the millions of orphans and their extremely limited options. When parents die some children are taken in by relatives but many others try to survive on the streets. While there, we established a strong relationship with MIFUMI, a Ugandan international aid and development agency. MIFUMI is opening doors for us to explore child welfare and adoption needs in Uganda, and while program development can take some time, we are already looking at opportunities for James, a 5-year-old boy who does not have family to care for him, who does not have a local children’s home to care for him, and with no other option, is living in a domestic violence shelter among women and children experiencing repeated trauma. We see James and the difficult situations he has already had in his short life, and we are moved to create something better for him and the millions of other children in situations like his.
In the past year, we’ve talked much about the changing face of adoption, but what we know has not changed is the number of children, particularly older children, sibling sets, and children with special needs, waiting to be adopted. Spence-Chapin has refocused efforts to help all families afford adoption by offering Adoptionships and specialized pre-adoptive parent preparation and training that will enable families to feel more confident about opening their homes to these children. It is with your ongoing commitment and needed support that we move forward with passion and dedication as we refine our vision and enhance our services to these resilient children and their adoptive forever families.
Visit our Flickr page to see pictures from this trip.
Read more about Waiting Children on our site.
First in a series highlighting our new adoption program in South Africa.
I love the show “Parenthood”. I love the characters, the family dynamics, the twists and turns of inter-weaving inter-generational lives playing out themes of marriage, raising kids, inter-racial families, and more recently, the adoption of a school-aged child.