Lee-ann shares her families’ international adoption journey and raising two incredible kiddos who happen to have down syndrome
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!
Since 1995, Spence-Chapin has found adoptive families for 520+ children with special needs. Spence-Chapin is currently accepting applications from families who are open to adopting a child with significant medical needs. To be considered as a prospective adoptive family please complete our free pre-application send us a copy of your current home study (completed within the past 12 months), conducted by a licensed adoption agency. In order to reduce barriers to special needs adoption there are no professional service fees for special needs adoptions. Read more: www.spence-chapin.org/asap Email: email@example.com Fax: (888)-742-6126 Mail: Special Needs at Spence-Chapin, 410 East 92nd Street, 3rd Floor, New York, N.Y. 10128
Frequently Asked Questions:
I would like to be considered as an adoptive parent. What’s my first step? Please share a copy of your current home study and complete the Spence-Chapin online pre-application. Please email your home study and/or family profile to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Unfortunately, families without a current home study are unable to be considered.
Since the children are ready to be adopted immediately we need families that are ready to adopt.
Complete the free online pre-application here: www.spence-chapin.org/asap
I’ve emailed my home study and submitted the pre-application. What’s next? All families who have completed the online pre-application and emailed their current home study are considered active prospective adoptive families. We will contact you if your family is a potential match for a current or future waiting child. We will provide status updates regarding the adoption process on our website within the child’s profile. All available information about a child is on our website. Spence-Chapin will keep a home study on file for as long as it is current and keep the family in mind for any future situations.
When will I hear from the social workers? We will provide status updates on our website within the child’s profile. Due to the volume of emails, we are unable to respond to every email about a waiting child. Please stay in touch with Spence-Chapin through our newsletters, facebook, and twitter. Keep up with waiting babies through our website.
What kind of home study do I need? You will need a current home study written by a social worker at an accredited agency in your home state. We ask for an agency home study because it’s important for families to be connected to ongoing support and services. You can submit any home study you currently have and if you are chosen we may have additional questions and ask for it to be updated depending on the child’s situation.
The children needing adoptive families are born with a wide variety of medical needs and we are looking for adoptive families who are open to severe medical conditions. Please indicate in your home study and the pre-application the types of medical conditions your family is open to and share the resources which will allow a child thrive in your family.
I need more information- what else can you share? Everything that we are able to share at this time is available on our website. If information changes or more becomes available, we will update the website. If a diagnosis sounds unknown or you are unsure about prognosis we encourage you to speak with a pediatrician. It is not possible to visit with the child before being identified as the adoptive family.
How much will this cost? In order to reduce barriers to special needs adoption there are no professional service fees for this adoption program. There is no cost to submit the online pre-application and be matched with a child. Costs to consider include home study, travel to NYC for the placement, post-placement reports, and adoption finalization. If a two-parent household then both parents are required to travel to the Spence-Chapin offices for the placement and should expect to stay in NYC metro area for about 1 week.
Who picks the adoptive family? Am I eligible to adopt? Eligibility is very flexible; we see all types of families: people who are not yet parents as well as parents of large families, families who live in urban, suburban, and rural areas throughout the U.S., families of different races and ethnicities, and parents of different ages. Families living in any states are eligible to apply to adopt.
Overall, we are looking for loving families who are prepared and excited to adopt a child with special medical needs! Whenever possible the birth family chooses the adoptive family. Because the children have special medical needs, it is important to know how and why a prospective adoptive family feels prepared to parent a child with significant medical needs. Spence-Chapin supports open adoption and is seeking adoptive parents who are open to ongoing contact with their child’s birth parents, often in the form of phone calls, video chat, letters, emails, visits, and texts.
Where do the children come from? All of the children are born in New York, New Jersey, or Connecticut Spence-Chapin offers free, unbiased options counseling to women and their partners in the NYC metro area. Sometimes birth parents know prenatally that a baby will have a special need, other times we are contacted after the birth of the baby.
You can watch two videos on our special needs adoption webpage from birth parents of children with special needs. You’ll hear Melissa talk about how when her daughter was diagnosed with Down syndrome Melissa and her husband did not feel ready to provide her with the parenting she needed. They made an open adoption plan. You’ll also hear Scott talk about the unknowns of when his third child was diagnosed with Down syndrome prenatally and how he and his partner explored adoption and ultimately chose to parent their daughter. The same diagnoses with different outcomes and our social workers are here to support all birth parents in exploring their options. www.spence-chapin.org/asap
Not all waiting children are photo listed on our website. It is the birth parent’s choice if their child’s photo and/or background information is shared online and each parent makes a choice that feels comfortable for them. Sometimes we already have adoptive families who have pre-registered with SC who are able to be considered. Other times we are in need of a more options for the birth family and looking for more prospective adoptive families.
If I’m chosen as the adoptive parent what are my next steps? The social worker will be in touch about gathering a current family profile from your family and to discuss the logistics of meeting the birth family in a match meeting, either in-person or through video chat. You’ll receive the any additional information that has become available and review medical history with your pediatrician. After the match meeting you’ll speak to your social worker about if you’re ready to move forward with the adoption and the same for the birth family. Our team will plan placement of the child to your family.
When will a child be placed with me? I wish this was simpler to answer! There are so many factors that go into an adoption placement that this is very difficult to predict and there is no guarantee that a child will be placed with your family through this adoption program. We encourage you to network with other agencies or advocacy groups once your home study is completed. Whenever possible biological parents chose the adoptive family. Some biological families have requests about the adoptive family, such as 1 or 2 parent household, religious, or racial preferences. This means that not all families who are open to adopting a child may be profiled with all biological parents. If a preference is known, we will often write it in the child’s online profile.
Who are the children? What are special needs? The children are infants and young children in the NYC metro area who have been diagnosed with a medical condition or are at significant risk for developing a severe medical condition. The children are born in New York, New Jersey, or Connecticut and are from diverse racial and ethnic backgrounds. The infants and children in need of adoption have a variety of special needs, from significant developmental issues to serious medical and congenital conditions.
The conditions usually require therapeutic and/or medical interventions during the child’s entire life. These non-correctable conditions can include:
- Genetic Disorders
- Brain Anomali
- Neurological Disorders
- Rare Syndromes
- Cardiac and Pulmonary Disorders
- Shortened Life Span
- Excessive Drug and/or Alcohol Exposure
- Significant Risk of Psychiatric Disorders
Many children are eligible for Early Intervention Services, Social Security Disability, Adoption Subsidy, and Medicaid.
When Doctors believe that a child’s prenatal environment will most likely lead to developmental delays or other medical needs then that child will be placed with adoptive parents ready for special needs. This includes significant prenatal drug or alcohol use, or extreme prematurity.
Where will I finalize the adoption? It is case-by-case. Some cases need to finalize in NY or NJ, others can be finalized in your home state. If you are called about a child, it would be an important question to ask about a specific situation.
Where is the child living? Infants may be living with our volunteer interim care families, receiving treatment in the NICU, or pediatric hospital, or living with biological family. When writing about a child’ situation on our website we try to indicate where the child is currently living.
Why should I consider adoption?
This is a very personal choice and there are many reasons people have considered making an adoption plan for their child. Many say it’s because they aren’t ready or able to fully parent a child at this time, but want to choose a loving family and stay connected to their child. Others say they cannot provide the special care their child will need and want to find them a family who can. Others feel they will lose their parental rights, and would rather choose an adoptive family and maintain contact with their child.
What are the benefits of open adoption?
Open adoption is an ongoing relationship between the adoptive family and the birth family. You can decide what this relationship looks like – it may include visits, letters, emails, photos, and phone calls. Birth parents who have chosen open adoption say they couldn’t imagine it any other way. They say that being able to choose and meet the adoptive family and maintain contact is the main reason they chose adoption. They say that being able to see their child grow up in a happy, loving family is what gives them peace of mind. In addition, they say they are happy their child will understand and know their birth parents and their birth story.
How can Spence-Chapin help me with this decision?
You have the right to confidential counseling before making your decision. Every woman or couple we work with is offered FREE options counseling and is assigned their own social worker who is an experienced professional. They will advocate for you in making the decision that feels most right to you. The social worker will answer all your questions and connect you to resources, including health insurance, prenatal care, etc. We can help you fully consider all of your options and advise you on all aspects of making an adoption plan, including open adoption and your legal rights. We respect your decisions and you will never be pressured by us to make an adoption plan.
Why should I trust Spence-Chapin?
At Spence-Chapin, we take a lot of care in supporting and advocating for you. We are a non-profit organization with over 100 years of experience finding loving families for children who need them and we are here to support you throughout your journey. We believe in free, unbiased and confidential support for women and couples making this decision, which is why we have separate and robust processes for working with biological parents and adoptive parents. Our social workers are available for free, unbiased, confidential options counseling in New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut. Those we work with say they appreciate our support and did not feel pressured. In fact, the majority of expectant and biological parents who meet with Spence-Chapin find the resources and support to parent.
What if I want to keep my decision confidential?
Spence-Chapin will respect your right to confidentiality in making this decision. We take your privacy and safety very seriously. If you choose closed adoption and do not want contact after an adoption, Spence-Chapin will respect your rights as well.
What types of people are looking to adopt?
Spence-Chapin has all types of prospective adoptive parents waiting to adopt. They vary in age, background, family structure, religion, race, etc. Some are big families, some are small. Some live in the city, some live in the suburbs. They all are eager to adopt and provide a loving family to a child. You will be able to meet and connect with the people you select. Adoptive parents registered with Spence-Chapin have been screened by our social workers and prepared for open adoption.
Can I hear from other people you’ve worked with?
Yes, hear biological parent perspectives on our youtube page.
Speak to an options counselor Call 24/7: 1-800-321-LOVE Text: 646-306-2586 Email: email@example.com
Email the writer: firstname.lastname@example.org
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!
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.
- 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 email@example.com.
The New York State Adoption Subsidy is designed to help adoptive families parent and finalize the adoption of children with special needs.
Scott and Tari grew their family through the Spence-Chapin special needs adoption program.
It is with a heavy heart that we announce Merryl Klein’s retirement.
A family shares with us just what it means to consider adopting a child with the HIV virus.
This special needs adoption story was longer than most, but Alex is happily now with his new family.
From the moment she gets a call from Spence-Chapin about a newborn coming into care, Carmela Grabowski goes into mommy mode. "I put fresh linens on the bassinet, clean the car seat, make formula, sterilize the pacifiers, change out all the diapers from size 2 to 1, and sort the clothes depending on the season and the gender of the baby."
Carmela has been an interim care provider with Spence-Chapin since 2009, and has cared for 32 infants. This wife and mother of a 21-year-old son and a 19-year-old daughter, both adopted, gives us a sneak peak of life as an interim child care provider. "I start my day around 6:00am with a feeding, changing the baby's diaper. Baby is back down for a nap, and I then clean up the house, do laundry and shower. Around 9:00am, I give her/him the second bottle. I keep the baby up for about an hour-- swinging, playing, cuddling when it's down for a nap number 2. I take this time to work in my private office ‘til noon, and then I start making lunch for my husband and daughter. If it's a day when the baby has a doctor's appointment or a visit with her birth parents, we get on the road around 9:15am.
“In the afternoon, when I prepare dinner, the baby is in the swing keeping me company in the kitchen. By 6:00pm, the family sits down together for dinner and everyone takes turns interacting with the baby while we eat. At 8:00pm, it's 'Bath-Bottle-Bed. I usually stay awake until midnight, waiting for the baby's next feeding, and of course, some more cuddling. Then, I'm up every 3-4 hours for late night feedings and diaper changes.”
"I'd tell anyone who wants to do this [interim care], that you have to understand that it takes up a lot of time and a lot of work. But, it's most rewarding. You just get so much out of it. Adoptive parents often keep in touch. I keep a photo album with all the pictures they send me of the babies I've cared for. It's the best thing I've ever done.
Spence-Chapin's Interim Child Care Program is one of the last of its kind. It began over 70 years ago as a valuable service for birth parents by giving them time after delivery - free from pressure - to make a decision about their child's future.
Experienced care providers, supervised by our child care department, look after the babies in their home for several days or weeks after hospital discharge. Birth parents retain their legal rights and can visit their babies during this period. Spence-Chapin's board-certified pediatricians examine all infants in our care after hospital discharge; give them regular exams during their stay; and perform a discharge exam on the day they leave to go home.
You can learn more by visiting our website.
As a social worker in the International Department at Spence-Chapin, I’ve been enlightened by so many aspects of adoption: the way hearts of adoptive parents can break, heal, stretch, and grow; the tenacious resiliency of children; and the conflicted governments who don’t always recognize the fate they hold in their hands. But, I had not, amazingly, ever met birth parents in the process of placing their child in adoption. When Leslie Nobel, my colleague from the Birth Parent Department, asked me to be a Russian translator for a couple who were making an adoption plan for their son, I agreed with great distress. I was very willing to assist the family, but my first generation immigrant Russian had been rusting away in a corner while I moved ahead with my life. I didn’t even know how to say “adoption” and had to immediately call my mother for help: “adocharyt” (to make one a daughter, docha means daughter) or “asinovyt” (to make one a son; sin means son).
Meeting Vlad and Maria was a surprising experience. They are extremely attractive and look like they could be a pair of figure skaters. In the United States on a work visa when Maria gave birth, they had intended to parent their child. I learned that the country in which they reside could not possibly address their son’s special needs, and he would be exposed to a difficult and unfulfilling life. They visited with their baby, cried often at the loss of not being able to raise him, but knew that adoption was the right choice. I sat through several meetings with them, tripping my way over the language that was once my mother tongue. I’ve often wondered, about the birth parents of our kids born overseas. The adoption process cloaks the identities of birth parents, gives us snippets of information from which we can only create scenarios; Due simply to circumstances of timing and geography, I got to know this couple. Although it’s not entirely fair, I couldn’t help imagining Maria and Vlad’s story layered onto the stories of all the children I have helped to place. This quiet, unassuming couple became the large voice of silent international birth parents. As we spoke, I witnessed many of the same emotions as I do with adoptees and adoptive parents — regret, loss, confusion, relief and hope.
This all culminated with the honor of attending the child’s placement, and watching the sometimes awkward and sometimes heart-warming moments between the two families. At feeding time, there was confusion as to who would give the bottle—each mother was trying to accommodate the other. I had to repress tears when the adoptive mom gave Maria a beautiful necklace holding their son’s birthstone. I had to repress laughter as the dads tried calling each others’ cell phones so they could program the numbers. The reception was lousy, and ultimately they both ended up side-by-side at the window, phones high up overhead, trying to connect the two phones that were inches apart. Both wives were cracking up and taking pictures.
Soon, it was time to go and a heavier mood took over. Talk of Skyping and nearest airports changed to everyone admiring the baby, and finally, handing him to his birth parents for goodbyes. There were tears, of course, but there were also smiles. We walked out to the elevator and Vlad and Maria left to grieve in private.
That day, my adoption world both grew and shrank. It grew because I was given the opportunity to have a new and invaluable experience, and shrank because the differences between international and domestic adoption are not so stark as I had believed them to be. Yes, how the adoption happens is different, but in many ways it is just a matter of geography. No matter where in the world a child who needs a family is born, all adoptions have the same players. They form what we in the adoption world call the triad – the birth family, the child, and the adoptive family. I learned that when the birth parent piece is missing from the picture, it is our responsibility to put it back into its rightful place.
Most Adoptions From China Now Special-Needs Cases, an AP feature on the changing adoption scene in China written by David Crary, has just been released. It looks at how couples are soul-searching and embracing the idea of adopting a special-needs child.