spence-chapin agency

Home Study Spotlight: Meet Lauren Russo!

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This month we talked to Lauren Russo, Coordinator of Permanency Services, about her work.

When did you start working at Spence-Chapin?
I started working at Spence-Chapin in January of 2016.

How did you become interested in adoption?
My interest in the field of adoption occurred rather organically. I always enjoyed working with children and their families within the context of my degree in psychology. Field experience allowed me to see the influence that families have in a child’s development. From there, I easily became passionate about being a part of a journey that helps to create, maintain and support families of all different types.

What is a typical workday like?
A typical work day involves a good deal of communication via phone or email with families currently in the home study process. When I’m not communicating directly with a family, I’m typically working behind the scenes, continuing the planning of their case and tracking of their documentation. Collaboration with another Spence Chapin team in order to meet the continued needs of our clients is also a typical part of my day to day work. Each day looks a little different from the one before as we continue to work with a diverse population of families and other adoption providers.

What is the most challenging part of your job?
Adoption is riddled with paperwork and my role is to assist in the tracking, supporting and processing of a family’s documentation. The home study paperwork often feels overwhelming and at times frustrating for families. Part of the complexity is that collecting documentation requires the coordination of not just a family and our agency but perhaps a third party such as a consulate, medical professionals, or reference providers. My challenge lies in helping families to understand the purpose of the required documentation, essentially how each document serves the greater purpose of helping them to complete a child-centric home study that meets all requirements and is completed to the highest of standards. Documentation is a part of the home study process that can feel difficult to tackle, but our team is here to support families throughout the process.

What is the most rewarding part of your job?
The most rewarding part of my job is being able to work with a family in the home study stage and again in the post-placement stage. After working with a family and helping them navigate the home study process, seeing one of their first family photos is amazing.

Do you have any interesting/funny stories about something that’s happened on the job?
It is always interesting and great to hear about our families connect. Whether through a Spence-Chapin event or by coincidence. I love to hear about a planned play date or how one adoptive parent was able to support another as they both encountered similar feelings, questions or experiences.

Is there a particular family that you’ve worked with that has affected you in any way?
Each family has such a unique adoption process and some are thrown a curveball or face bumps along the road of their adoption journey. In working with these families as they overcome obstacles I am reminded each day of the commitment and devotion all of my clients have to grow their families and becoming parents.

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.


Domestic Adoption Home Studies at Spence-Chapin

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Spence-Chapin supports adoptive parents pursuing a domestic independent or attorney adoption. We offer Home Study, pre-adoption training, consultations, and more. We provide adoptive families with expertise, professionalism, and the support of an entire adoption team. With over 100 years of experience in adoption, we know how to support adoptive families, birth families, and adoptees! If requested, Spence-Chapin can provide recommendations for reputable adoption attorneys in the NYC area. Overall, Spence-Chapin recommends working with an experienced adoption attorney, preferably a member of the American Academy of Adoption Attorneys.

Home Study Services

A home study is a document required for all adoptive parents and is the first step to any adoption process. Spence-Chapin has provided home studies for thousands of families adopting domestically. We have the expertise to work with you and your adoption attorney or out-of-state agency. Families can begin the home study process while they are identifying their agency or attorney. If you’re ready to get started on the adoption process, please visit our website to download our free home study application.

Pre-Adoption Support

Throughout the adoption process, Spence-Chapin social workers and staff are available for support and information. Families can schedule one-on-one meetings to talk about their questions or concerns, such as how to manage the wait to be matched with a child, how to speak with a birth parent once connected, what to do if spouses aren’t on the same page about the adoption, navigating open adoption, and much more!

Post-Adopt Support

Regardless of how you choose to build your family, our ongoing family support is available! We offer robust post-adoption support through consultations, counseling, parent coaching, and events for parents and kids. Our post-adoption services are available to all families after your child joins your family! We offer a monthly playgroup for adoptive families with kids 0-5, an annual Halloween party, Global Family Day Picnic in Central Park, and ongoing workshops for kids and parents. We invite you to join us for these community events!

Get started with a domestic adoption today by starting the home study process! Visit our website to learn more about Spence-Chapin’s home study services or contact us at (212) 400-8150 or info@spence-chapin.org.

International Home Studies with Spence-Chapin

Interested in Adopting Internationally?

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In addition to our placement programs in Bulgaria, Colombia and South Africa, Spence-Chapin also provides international home study services for families adopting from many other countries. In the past, we have supported families pursuing adoption from Ghana, Jamaica, Haiti, India, South Korea, China, Taiwan, the Philippines, and elsewhere around the world. We offer Home Study, pre-adoption counseling and more for every type of adoption.

Regardless of the country you are adopting from, all families, need to complete a home study. Spence-Chapin provides international home study services for families living in the NYC area, including New Jersey, the Hudson Valley and Long Island. We work with families living within 100 miles of New York City. Our home studies are of the highest caliber, and meet the highest legal regulations set for international adoption.

Finding a Primary Provider

In order for our team to fully review and consider your home study application, you’ll need a Primary Provider. A primary provider is a Hague accredited agency in the United States that is responsible for your international adoption. This agency will help navigate the inter-country laws and documentation you will need for your international adoption.

For international adoptions, it is very common for a family to use two adoption agencies – a home study agency & a placement agency. A home study agency provides the home study, parent preparation/training, and post adoption supervision. The placement agency is responsible for the overseas adoption process including the child referral, travel, and dossier preparation. The two agencies work together to ensure that all parts of the adoption process meet state, federal and country requirements.

How do I Find a Primary Provider?

You can visit our website for links to helpful websites and organizations that may help you identify a primary provider for the country you are hoping to adopt from. We recommend reviewing potential Primary Providers through COA or the National Council on Adoption. The United States Department of State oversees all international adoptions to the United States and may also be a resource for you: adoption.state.gov.

Once I’ve identified a primary provider, what’s next?

Once you’ve identified a primary provider, the next step is to fill out our FREE Home Study application on our website. You may access and download the application directly on the site at any time. The Home Study Application is an opportunity for our team to get to know your family better and to learn more about the nuances of the adoption you’re hoping to pursue. After we receive your family’s application, our staff will follow up with you to schedule a convenient time to speak, to further discuss the adoption you’re looking to pursue and next steps in the process!

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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.

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.

Domestic Adoption FAQs

Families often have many questions as they are beginning an adoption process. These FAQs will help you decide if adopting through Spence-Chapin’s Domestic Adoption Program is the right path for you to grow your family.

1. Who are the children in need of adoption?

The children in need of adoption through our Domestic Adoption Program are newborns to approximately 8 weeks old. The babies reflect the racial and ethnic diversity of the NYC Metro Area; most children are of Black or Latino backgrounds. Families adopting through this program need to be open to parenting a child of either gender.

2. Who can adopt through this program?

We are often asked who can adopt. We are happy to share that all types of parents adopt: married couples, unmarried couples, LGBTQIA+ parents, single women and single men can adopt. Families who are already parenting adopt, as do families who are transitioning out of fertility treatments. Families of all ages, income levels, ethnicities, and religions adopt. Truly, the one thing that all adoptive families have in common is that they want to be parents – and from there they are as diverse as the kids themselves.

3. What is open adoption?

What if I want a closed adoption? How is open adoption negotiated? Open adoption is when adoptive and birth families meet and are able to have ongoing contact with each other at their own discretion. Frequency and type of communication can range from the exchange of letters and emails, phone calls, shared pictures, and visits. Open adoption is not co-parenting. It is an opportunity for birth and adoptive families to develop a relationship that will benefit the adopted child. Research shows that open adoption is beneficial to all members of the adoption triad: the birth parents, the adoptive parents and the adopted person. Having access to their birth parent can help an adopted person develop a better sense of self with access to information about his or her background. Families who are the best candidates for Spence-Chapin’s Domestic Adoption Program are open to periodic exchange of emails, photos, and visits with the birth family. Adoptive parents and birth parents each have their own social worker at Spence-Chapin. Your social worker will help you establish an open adoption plan that is comfortable to both you and your child’s birth parent(s). Both adoptive families and birth parents will get support from their social worker throughout this process.

4. What are the common medical risks?

Many infants in need of adoption have some risks or unknowns in their medical backgrounds.Some of the infants come from backgrounds where they may have been exposed to cigarette smoke, recreational drugs, and/or social drinking during pregnancy. Good candidates for the Domestic Adoption Program are open to some risks and unknowns in the child’s medical history. This is something you will discuss with your social worker throughout your adoption process.

5. Who are the birth parents?

Any woman of childbearing age could find herself in the position of an unplanned pregnancy. All birth parents have a great deal of love for their baby. They want to make a plan to give the baby a stable life that they are unable to provide at time of birth. Spence-Chapin’s experienced social workers provide intensive unbiased options counseling to biological parents in the NYC metro area to help them make the decision that is right for them and for their baby.

6. What is the matching process and how does it work?

Birth parents select an adoptive family by reviewing adoptive family profiles with their social worker. Once they have narrowed their choice down to one family, a match meeting is held between the birth family and the adoptive family. Both the adoptive family’s social worker and the birth parent’s social worker are present for this meeting to provide guidance and support. Adoptive families wait an average of 1-2 years to be matched after completing their home study.

7. What is interim care?

We understand that women and their partners need time and space to make a decision about the future of their family, especially after a recent birth of a child. Spence-Chapin’s Interim Care Program allows babies to be cared for in a loving home by a nurturing caregiver so that biological parents have additional time to plan for their child. Biological parents retain parental rights while their baby is in Interim Care and are free to visit their child. Our interim care givers are families who are trained and screened to care for the newborns on a temporary basis. Interim care allows the birth parents to feel confident in their plan before making the decision to place the infant for adoption.

8. What are the next steps if I want to apply?

Join our next Domestic Adoption webinar!

Still have questions? Schedule a pre-adoption consultation or phone call with one of our adoption experts! Call: 212-400-8150 or Email: info@spence-chapin.org.

Why Adopt from South Africa?

There is a Need for International Adoption

South Africa is often referred to as the “Rainbow Nation” to describe the country’s multicultural diversity, especially in the wake of apartheid. It is a country of overwhelming beauty, awe inspiring scenery and rich history. However, it is a nation with its share of struggles, including a host of social and economic challenges and a long history of poverty and inequality.

We’ve known for many years that there are children in South Africa who need adoptive families, but it was not until 2012 that governmental permissions opened adoptions to American families. 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!

All Types of Parents Can Adopt from South Africa

Spence-Chapin is an advocate for all types of parents to adopt – single men & women, married and unmarried couples, and LGBTQ parents. It’s exciting for us to partner with Johannesburg Child Welfare (JCW) who is also open to all types of parents! All types of parents can adopt from South Africa – married couples, unmarried couples, LGBTQ parents, single women, and single men. The South Africa government is committed to a practice of non-discrimination and we’ve seen this be true in our adoption program as married couples, LGBTQ parents, as well as single parents have adopted! It truly is about finding the right parent(s) for a child!

Children are Waiting for Families

Young children with medical and developmental needs as well as siblings who are considered medically healthy are waiting to be matched with families. Spence-Chapin finds families for the most vulnerable children – the children who are ready for adoption and need an international adoptive family. In South Africa, these are kids from 18 months – 8 years old with an identified medical diagnosis. It’s this medical diagnosis that’s been a barrier for South African domestic adoptive families and other international adoptive families.

While access to anti-retroviral treatment in South Africa has increased in recent years, HIV/AIDS remains a prominent health concern in the country. Children born with the HIV virus have the opportunity to lead long, full and healthy lives. However, the social stigma in South Africa concerning HIV has led to many children living in institutions. Other common medical conditions include auditory and visual impairments, extreme prematurity, developmental delays, and unpredictable cognitive challenges.

South Africa is a Leader among African Countries

South Africa is signatory to the Hague so adoptive families have the benefits of the Hague Treaty, which is designed to ensure that international adoption is a transparent, ethical process with an established infrastructure to protect and support children and families.

Moreover, South Africa is a leader in children’s issues among African countries. In 2005, Act 38 The Children’s Act became law through the country’s Department of Social Development. In recognition of how critical physical and emotional contact are during a child’s early stages of development, South Africa continues to make efforts to move from institutionalized care to a system that more closely resembles foster care. The Children’s Act created a strategic plan to direct the development of alternative care, foster care, adoption, prevention, and protection of children and to put community social workers in place.

Johannesburg Child Welfare

We are fortunate to partner with Johannesburg Child Welfare (JCW) which is a highly respected, 100+ year old NGO that provides services to over 4,000 children and families in Jo’burg annually.

Adoption (domestic and international) is only a small part of their work. They have four centers that house and provide for children of all ages, from infancy through the teenage years. One of their centers also provides short-term housing to pregnant women. In addition, they recruit and train foster families, plan and prepare for children to be reunited with their birth families and provide intensive treatment to survivors of sexual abuse. Children receive excellent medical treatment at JCW, through partnership with Thusanani Children’s Foundation.

All of this and more make JCW an agency that is highly respected among its peers in the field as well as with the governing bodies of South Africa. When the South African Ministry of Social Development’s Central Authority (the governing body that oversees adoption) was looking to expand their international adoptions, they received an overwhelming number of applications from agencies across the country. Jo’burg Child Welfare was one of only two agencies approved for adoption to the United States. It is a privilege to see the broad range of their work and to hear from the adoption team about the realities that inform our shared effort to find homes for children where no domestic adoptions exist.

March is Social Work Month and it is with immense gratitude that we celebrate the social workers who – both here and abroad – make adoptions from South Africa possible. The commitment of the staff to the children in their care at JCW, Spence-Chapin’s partner agency in South Africa, is undeniable. If you’re considering adoption from South Africa, social workers at Spence-Chapin and JCW are here for you before, during, and after your adoption to provide information and support to your family!

If you are interested in more information about adoption from South Africa, please visit us online, email us at info@spence-chapin.org, or call us at 212-400-8150.

5 Simple Ways to Show Grandparents You Care

Grandparents play a special role in the lives of their grandchildren. Whether they live near or far, it’s important to show them how much you care. Here are 5 ways your child can show how much they love their grandparents:

  1. Send a card or letter: A handmade card or handwritten letter is a special treasure for grandparents. It’s a great way to let them know how much you love them.
  1. Ask them questions: Taking an interest in their stories and experiences is another way to show how much you care.
  1. Lend a helping hand: Whether it is working in the garden, raking leaves, shoveling snow, or dusting the furniture, it's a simple and extremely helpful way to care for their needs.
  1. If your grandparents don’t live nearby, set up a scheduled phone-date or Skype call. It’s a great way to keep in touch and allows grandparents to see how their grandchildren are growing up!
  1. Play together: If you live near your grandparents, take time to play together. This Grandparents Day, bring your grandparents to Bagels & Blox! Enjoy a delicious brunch, meet other adoptive families, and express your love through play!