“About six months after bringing home Kurhula from South Africa, we knew that we needed to adopt again. It was clear that Kurhula missed being around other children. She had been the youngest child in a foster family, living with four older foster-siblings – and although she was thriving with the individual attention that my husband and I were able to give her, she also seemed visibly lonely, and missed interacting with other children.
A birthland trip can be made at any time in an adoptee’s life, and can be done alone, with family, or in a group. Get tips and support before you go.
What is the definition of a Waiting Child?
The term “Waiting Child” holds many meanings within the adoption community. In Spence-Chapin’s International Adoption Programs, we define a Waiting Child as a child who is in need of adoption and is ready to be matched immediately with an adoptive family. We regularly receive information from our international partners about children who are in need of immediate adoption. In this case, the child has been identified by their caretakers as a child who would thrive in an adoptive family.
We are able to share profiles of children on our Waiting Child page.
We take the privacy rights of the children whom we seek to place very seriously. Spence-Chapin does not publicly use a child’s photo unless we have permission from their guardian. Contact us to learn more about the Waiting Child page at 212-400-8150 or email@example.com.
Who are the Waiting Children?
There are thousands of children with special needs waiting for a family to love them. We work with our partners in Colombia, Bulgaria and South Africa to identify children who are particularly in need of loving, permanent families. In our Colombia and Bulgaria Waiting Child Programs these children are typically pre-school and school-age children, children with medical special needs, or sibling groups in need of adoption. While the reasons a child has been identified as a Waiting Child vary, there is one thing the children all have in common – they are ready to be matched immediately with a forever family.
Comparing the Traditional Adoption Process and the Adoption of a Waiting Child
Families often ask how adopting a Waiting Child differs from the traditional adoption process. While the application process and eligibility guidelines are the same, the main difference is the timeline in which families are matched with a child. In a traditional intercountry adoption process, families receive information on their child after their paperwork is submitted to the country. For a Waiting Child, a family may begin their adoption process after identifying the child who will be joining their family. Families can also request to learn more about an individual Waiting Child at any point during their adoption process. There are many pre-school and school-age children, children with special medical needs, and sibling groups in need of families who are not on our Waiting Child page.
What is the Next Step?
Spence-Chapin’s mission is to connect the children most in need of families with loving parents. We can help you explore which adoption program is right for your family. If you’d like to learn more about domestic and international adoption at Spence-Chapin, or to view profiles of Waiting Children ready to be immediately matched with an adoptive family today, contact us at 212-400-8150 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
An adoptive mother reflects on her family brought together through adoption from South Africa and Ethiopia.
This summer, Mary and Chris took their family on a birthland trip to Ethiopia. Their younger daughter, Etta, 5, was adopted through Spence-Chapin from South Africa, and their older daughter, Arri, 8, was adopted through a different adoption organization from Ethiopia.
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!
There are thousands of children waiting for adoption in South Africa. Many of the children have special needs and need an adoptive family ready and excited to help them thrive! Families considering adopting a child with special needs have many questions, including what are the most common diagnoses? Here are the most common medical needs as seen by Spence-Chapin, one of two American agencies accredited to provide adoption services in South Africa.
By partnering with Johannesburg Child Welfare, Spence-Chapin’s focus is simple: the kids who are the most vulnerable and are in need of adoption. We are their advocates. The children are 18 months - 8 years old with an identified medical diagnosis. The children are living in JCW’s care are cared for in nurseries with caring staff. JCW partners with a Thusanani Children’s Foundation to provide safe and modern medical care to ensure each child receives the medical care they need – HIV testing and treatment, occupational therapy, physical therapy, antibiotics, surgery, well-baby visits, etc.
South Africa is signatory to the Hague Treaty on Intercountry Adoption 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.
It’s recommend that families considering adopting a child with medical needs consult with a pediatrician about diagnosis, treatment, and prognosis of specific conditions to consider if your family has the ability to provide the care a child will need. There are many experienced international adoption medical specialty clinics throughout the United States that are a resource for prospective adoptive families.
There are millions of children around the world living with HIV who are waiting for a family. Years ago, immigration laws prohibited HIV+ children from being adopted into American families. After advocacy efforts, legislation was passed allowing for the intercountry adoption of these children. There are many families open to adopting a child who is HIV+ and have the resources to provide the medical care and love an adoptive family can provide!
Are you considering adopting a child with special needs? Children in South Africa are waiting for you! It takes a special type of parent to adopt a child with medical needs. We’re here for you before, during, and after your adoption to provide information and support to your family!
Bulgaria as one of Eastern Europe’s treasures but underneath the rich sights and sounds, there is an imbalance and a need to find loving homes for many Roma children.
We’ve known for many years that there are children in South Africa who need adoptive families, but it took many years for the governmental permissions to grant Spence-Chapin as an accredited adoption provider in South Africa. Adoptions opened to American families in 2013 and Spence-Chapin has been actively finding families ever since! 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.
We made many visits to our partners in Johannesburg, Johannesburg Child Welfare, to visit with their social workers and the children. It became clear that the children in need of international adoption are toddlers and young children with medical needs. JCW shared their proud history of a robust domestic adoption program and finding families for healthy infants. Their social workers noted that even other international adoptive families were not open to adopting children with special needs – and this is where Spence-Chapin knew we could make a difference.
It’s a simple focus: the kids who are the most vulnerable and are in need of adoption. We are their advocates.
The children are living in JCW’s care in the Johannesburg metro region. They are cared for in nurseries with caring staff. JCW partners with a Thusanani Children's Foundation to provide safe and modern medical care to ensure each child receives the medical care they need – HIV testing and treatment, occupational therapy, physical therapy, antibiotics, surgery, well-baby visits, etc.
Spence-Chapin finds families for the most vulnerable children – the children who are ready for adoption and need an international adoptive family. These are kids from 18 months – 10 years old with an identified medical diagnosis. It’s this medical diagnosis that’s been a barrier for domestic adoptive families and other international adoptive families.
There are millions of children around the world living with HIV who are waiting for a family. Years ago, immigration laws prohibited HIV+ children from being adopted into American families. After advocacy, legislation was passed allowing for the intercountry adoption of these children. There are many families open to adopting a child who is HIV+ and have the resources to provide the medical care and love an adoptive family can provide!
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 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!
Spence-Chapin sponsors a “Granny Program” at JCW to help the children develop the important socioemotional bonds that needs to accompany childhood. This program brings local women from the community into the nursery everyday. Each granny volunteer is matched with a child and the granny visits everyday and plays with the child – like a surrogate grandparent! We see an incridble progress made by children who are matched with a granny. In South Africa the children call their grannies “gogo”!
Listen to the gogos sing a song!
Are you considering adopting a child with special needs? Children in South Africa are waiting for you! It takes a special type of parent to adopt a child with medical needs. We’re here for you before, during, and after your adoption to provide information and support to your family! Visit our South Africa Adoption page to learn more.
Spence-Chapin partners with FANA for our Colombia host-to-adopt program.
Citizenship laws can be confusing for adopted people and adoptive parents. Here is information from the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) website to help you navigate obtaining citizenship for an internationally adopted person. All information represented below is from USCIS not Spence-Chapin. Learn more on their website: https://www.uscis.gov/adoption/bringing-your-internationally-adopted-child-united-states/us-citizenship-adopted-child
Documents That Generally Serve as Evidence of U.S. Citizenship for an Adopted Child
|U.S. Passport*||Issued by U.S. Department of State (DOS)||Visit travel.state.gov for more information, including full instructions, current fees and application.|
|U.S. Certificate of Citizenship||Issued by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS)||Visit uscis.gov for more information including full instructions, current fees, and application.|
*All passport applicants must prove their U.S. citizenship and identity to receive a U.S. passport. A Certificate of Citizenship is generally sufficient to apply for and obtain a U.S. passport for an adopted child. If the adopted child has not received a Certificate of Citizenship, you must submit other proof of acquisition of citizenship, including a certified copy of the final adoption decree (and translation if not in English) and evidence the child met all the conditions in section 320 of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) while under the age of 18.
Note: Some federal agencies may check immigration systems to verify citizenship status. USCIS systems will not be updated with a child’s citizenship status unless the family obtains a Certificate of Citizenship.
Lawful Permanent Residence or Citizenship Upon Admission into the U.S.
Under section 320 of the INA, an adopted child will automatically acquire citizenship upon admission to the United States if he or she satisfies these conditions before turning 18:
- Qualifies as an “immediate relative” under INA 101(b)(1)(E), (F), or (G),
- Is admitted as a permanent resident, and
- Is residing in the United States in the U.S. citizen parent(s)’ legal and physical custody.
INA section 320 became effective on February 27, 2001, when the Child Citizenship Act of 2000 (CCA) was signed into law. The child must have been under the age of 18 on the effective date in order to have benefited from the CCA.
Note: If a child does not acquire citizenship from the original prospective or adoptive parents, the child may still be eligible to acquire citizenship if later adopted by different U.S. citizen parent(s), provided they meet all the requirements in section 320 of the INA.
If the child is not eligible for automatic citizenship upon admission to the United States, they will become a lawful permanent resident (LPR) and may become a U.S. citizen once all the conditions of INA 320 are met. If the requirements are not met, the child will still be an LPR and may apply for naturalization under INA 316 once eligible to do so. The chart below outlines the visa classifications, process to obtain evidence of an adopted child’s U.S. citizenship, and the documents that generally serve as evidence of U.S. citizenship for an adopted child.
Obtaining a Certificate of Citizenship
If the adopted child does not qualify for a Certificate of Citizenship upon admission, you may still apply for one if your child satisfies the eligibility requirements. You must follow different processes to apply for a Certificate of Citizenship, depending on whether the adopted child will reside inside or outside of the United States with the U.S. citizen parent.
- General Eligibility: (Please refer to the chart below for more specific guidance.)
- The adopted child meets the definition of child under INA Section 101(b)(1)(E), (F) or (G);
- The child is under 18 years of age when all conditions are met; and
- The child must have at least one U.S. citizen parent (by birth or naturalization).
|Child Will Reside Inside the U.S.
(Pursuing U.S. Citizenship under INA Section 320)
|Child Will Reside Outside the U.S.
(Pursuing U.S. Citizenship under INA Section 322)
|How to Obtain a Certificate of Citizenship
Note: Please refer to the Form N-600 filing instructions for information about required evidence, fees and where to file. If the adopted child received an IH-3 or IR-3 visa and met all of the INA 320 requirements upon admission to the U.S., the child will receive a Certificate of Citizenship automatically and it is not necessary to file Form N-600.
|How to Obtain a Certificate of Citizenship
Note: On the Form N-600K, petitioners may request a specific USCIS office or preferred city and state for interview, as well as a preferred interview date that is at least 90 days after filing the Form N-600K. After USCIS receives and processes the form, USCIS will send an appointment notice to the family to appear for an interview at a domestic USCIS field office on a particular date. The family may apply for a B-2 visa or other available nonimmigrant visa for the child to travel to the U.S. and must pay the required fee. A nonimmigrant visa is not needed if the child obtains an immigrant visa, and is admitted as an LPR, but will not be residing in the United States. The family may apply for the visa at the same post that processed their adoption case or apply at another post if they currently live in a different country.
Children of Armed Forces/Military Service Members and U.S. Government Employees
- The adopted child of a U.S. citizen armed forces member who is accompanying their parent abroad on official orders may be naturalized without having to travel to the United States for any part of the process if he or she qualifies under INA 322.
- Additionally, a U.S. citizen parent who is a member of the armed forces may count any period of time they resided abroad on official orders as physical presence in the United States.
- An adopted child of a member of the armed forces or U.S. government employee issued an IR-3or IH-3 will be eligible for automatic issuance of a Certificate of Citizenship upon admission even if he or she intends to return abroad; provided all of the other conditions under INA 320 are met.
- An adopted child of a member of the armed forces or U.S. government employee issued an IR-2 visa will not automatically be issued a Certificate of Citizenship but the parent may file a Form N-600 after admission or Form N-600K (even if they intend to return abroad), provided that all of the other conditions under either Section 320 or Section 322 of the INA are met.
*NOTE: The information on this page is meant to be a general guide. The charts provide an overview of citizenship issues related to adopted children and this page is not a definitive policy document. The facts of individual cases will be reviewed and adjudicated on a case-by-case basis. This page is not intended to, does not, and may not be relied upon to create any right or benefit, substantive or procedural, enforceable at law or by any individual or other party in removal proceedings, in litigation with the United States, or in any other form or manner. Last Revised 9/2/2016.
Above is information from the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) website to navigate obtaining citizenship for an internationally adopted person. All information represented is from USCIS not Spence-Chapin. Learn more on their website: https://www.uscis.gov/adoption/bringing-your-internationally-adopted-child-united-states/us-citizenship-adopted-child.
We have heard the following “rules of thumb” from adoption therapists and families who have successfully adopted out of birth order:
- Pay particular attention to the displacement of the eldest child.
- There is less disruption if the eldest children, who will be displaced, is under the age of 3 since they haven’t settled into the power of being #1.
- The feeling of displacement is less if the new eldest child is a different gender than the previous eldest child. Your son will still be the eldest boy, even though he now has an older sister.
- Larger families (4+ kids) experience the disruption of birth order less. So many different relationships are already going on that this change is less noticeable. This general rule does not apply if you change the order of the eldest child.
- Success depends on the personality of the child being displaced and the new child coming in.
- Success depends on the parent’s ability to emotionally support each child in the family.
- Success depends on the parent’s willingness to get help early and often post adoption.
- Success depends on the parent’s preparation and education prior to adoption on the potential issues for adopting an older child.
- Success depends on whether all family members have bought into the decision to adopt.
This content was originally published by Creating a Family, the national adoption & infertility education nonprofit. https://creatingafamily.org/adoption-category/top-ten-rules-for-successfully-adopting-out-of-birth-order/
- Anticipate the constant question that your family will generate and the inevitable “Are they twins?” Decide how you are going to answer the question. It is best to have a couple of different responses depending on the circumstances (grocery store produce aisle vs. dinner party)
- Highlight the uniqueness of each child. Your goal should be to nurture them as individuals. Just because you are driving to Taekwondo for one kid, doesn’t mean that the other should take as well.
- Carve out time from your schedule to spend with each child individually. Make it a priority for both parents to establish a special separate relationship with each child.
- Talk with your extended family, friends, and teachers about some of the downsides of the inevitable comparisons that will happen, and ask them to work against comparing the children.
- As tempting as it might be, do not dress them the same.
- Do not always refer to them as a unit: the boys, the kids, and certainly not “the twins.”
- Celebrate birthdays separately.
- Do not hold a child back in school just because you want them in different grades. If, however, one child sits on the cusp of the cut-off date and would benefit from an extra year in preschool, then it might make sense, especially if the child is smaller in stature. If they are in the same grade, put them in different classes.
- If at all possible, one parent should stay at home for at least the first year post adoption.
- Go into this adoption knowing that you will feel overwhelmed the first year. Plan for this in advance by saving money for extra household help and by lowering your expectations of what you will accomplish.
This content was originally published by Creating a Family, the national adoption & infertility education nonprofit. https://creatingafamily.org/adoption-category/top-ten-tips-for-parenting-artificial-twins-through-adoption/
Adopting an older child from foster care or through international adoption is not for the faint of heart. It can be the most rewarding and fun thing you’ve ever done, but it usually requires a special type of parenting. According to the two of the authors of A Practical Guide to Adopting and Parenting Children Over Age Four these five “simple” tips will help make parenting older adopted children more fun and less challenging.
- Assume that you and your newly adopted child will benefit from therapy and line it up before the child arrives. Research has shown that early intervention with professional services is the most effective.
- Join an in-person or online parent support group before the child arrives home so that your support system is in place. One of the best is the Creating a Family Facebook Support Group. It’s a closed Facebook group so that only those in the group can see the posts.
- Positive parenting techniques based on rewarding positive behaviors rather than punishing negative behaviors is almost always more effective with children who have been abused on neglected or adopted from an orphanage.
- Be flexible. You will have to experiment to see what works best for this new child. It you try something that doesn’t work, be willing to shift and be open to new ideas.
- Maintain your sense of humor. Sometimes all you can do is laugh, and it turns out often it’s the best thing you can do!
This content was originally published by Creating a Family, the national adoption & infertility education nonprofit. https://creatingafamily.org/adoption-category/parenting-tips-older-child-adoption/
There are children in both the US and abroad with HIV or AIDs waiting to be adopted. The miracle of medications has made HIV a mostly manageable chronic disease, but not every family is cut out to raise a child with HIV. Are you? Answer these questions to find out.
- Are you willing and do you have the time to become informed about the realities of raising a child with HIV/AIDS? Education is a must and it takes time.
- Do you have medical resources near you that specialize in the treatment of HIV/AIDS?
- Are you organized and disciplined enough to make sure that your child takes her medication on time every day? It’s not a hard medication routine, but it does require consistency.
- Have you considered the time demands of parenting a child with a chronic illness? While HIV/AIDS is often well controlled with medication, it still requires regular visits to a doctor.
- Have you considered the negative stigma that continues to surround children with this virus? Are you willing to advocate for your child?
- Who will you tell about your child’s HIV status? By law, families are not required to disclose the HIV status of a child to schools or daycare centers; however, you may choose to tell people for any number of reasons. You need to spend the time before you adopt considering the advantages and disadvantages of disclosure.
- Are you able to push back your fear and open your heart to one of the thousands of kids with HIV currently waiting in the US and abroad for adoption?
This content was originally published by Creating a Family, the national adoption & infertility education nonprofit. https://creatingafamily.org/adoption-category/7-questions-to-ask-before-adopting-a-child-with-hivaids/
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 partners with The Foundation for the Assistance of Abandoned Children (FANA) in Colombia for a special host-to-adopt program. This is an opportunity to host a child or children in your home for three weeks over the fall before finalizing the adoption. Waiting children are boys and girls (including sibling groups) ages 11-14. Participating families must be located in the greater New York City area (includes Long Island, the Hudson Valley, New Jersey, and Connecticut).
Colombia Fall 2017 Host to Adopt Program Timeline:
- May 15, 2017: Adoption applications are due
- May – August, 2017: Begin home study and adoption trainings
- August 2017: Home study must be completed, due at this time to Colombia’s child welfare Central Authority.
- August – October 2017: Learning about the child or children family is matched with, continuing to prepare for hosting and adoption-related paperwork. Hosting dates will be decided by Colombia and announced during this time.
- Fall (October or November 2017): Hosting time is 2-3 weeks, supported by bilingual psychologist from adoption house FANA and Spence-Chapin staff
- December 2017 – June 2018: After hosting period, complete adoption paperwork to move forward with finalizing the adoption, estimate of 6 months though times will vary for families.
- Summer 2018: Travel to Colombia for approximately 4-6 weeks to finalize the adoption
Over 85% of families in the United States include at least one sibling. Siblings are the longest and most significant relationship most of us will have over the course of our lifetimes. For many children, being adopted with their siblings provides continuity and mutual support during what can be an exciting and overwhelming time. For children in need of adoptive families, being adopted with a sibling has immeasurable benefits. Not only is there is a positive impact on children’s initial adjustment period with a family, but children adopted with their siblings also experience lower anxiety and higher overall mental wellness. Siblings support and understand each other’s stories in a unique way, helping each other make sense of new life experiences. Children who have siblings often learn to build strong relationships and develop healthier attachments to others as well. Families can help maintain this powerful connection by adopting a sibling group.
We have seen many sibling groups in need of families in our Bulgaria, Colombia and South Africa adoption programs. We share the belief with our partners that there is incredible value in keeping siblings together. Our in-country partners are committed to keeping siblings together whenever possible and have minimal additional fees for adopting sibling groups.
There are many joys and unique challenges that come with adopting a sibling group. Questions to consider include:
- Do I want a large family?
- For those currently parenting: How would your family dynamic change by adopting a sibling group?
- Does my family have the ability to welcome two or three new members at the same time? Does my family have the capacity and resources to provide one on one time with each child in the sibling group?
As you explore if adopting a sibling group could be right for your family, contact us at email@example.com or 212-400-8150. We can provide resources about adopting and help you consider your adoption options.
References: Adopt US Kids. Ten Myths and Realities of Sibling Adoptions. Link: https://www.adoptuskids.org/_assets/files/NRCRRFAP/resources/ten-myths-and-realities-of-sibling-adoptions.pdf
Child Welfare Information Gateway. (2013). Sibling issues in foster care and adoption. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Children’s Bureau. Link: https://www.childwelfare.gov/pubPDFs/siblingissues.pdf
Creating A Family Radio. Adopting Siblings: Special Issues to Consider. Link: http://creatingafamily.org/adoption-category/adopting-siblings-special-issues-consider
Roma people represent around 12 million of Europe’s overall population and Bulgaria is home to the third largest population of Roma in the world. We see this reflected in the large population of Roma children in need of families in Spence-Chapin’s Bulgaria adoption program. Though the Roma are an estimated 5% to 10% of the general population in Bulgaria, around 60% of the children in need of permanent families are of Roma descent. Why are such a large number of Roma children in need of adoptive families?
To begin scratching the surface of why many Roma children are waiting for families in Bulgaria, exploring the larger scope of Romani history is an important first step. The Roma make up the largest and most vulnerable ethnic group in Europe. After migrating from India over a thousand years ago, the Roma people have endured oppression and discrimination. Yet quite remarkably, they have been able to preserve Romani language and culture. You may be more familiar with a commonly used term for Roma – “gypsy”. This term is an outdated and historically inaccurate word stemming from a time when Roma people were thought to have come from Egypt. As the term has negative and derogatory connotations, the most widely accepted term today is Roma.
Centuries of structural discrimination and social exclusion have led to the difficulties that Roma people are faced with today, leaving Roma children vulnerable and, at times, in need of loving homes outside of their birth families. The most prevalent issues faced by Roma families include discrimination, poverty, and limited access to education and medical care. While it can be difficult to picture the realities of what social exclusion may look like for a Roma child in Bulgaria, poverty is the most common reason Roma children are over-represented in child care facilities. The World Bank estimates that the poverty rate for families of Roma descent is 6.7 times greater than non-Roma in Bulgaria. Housing conditions illustrate a powerful snapshot of what living in poverty can look like for a Roma family. While sewage and water supply are available to 93% of the Bulgarian population, 50% of Roma families have no sewage and over 30% of families do not have access to a water supply system.
Regular school attendance can be difficult for Roma children due to circumstances caused by poverty. Issues include a lack of transportation, caring for younger siblings and experiencing discrimination in the school system. Teenagers who experience unplanned pregnancy are also faced with difficulties not only in school attendance but also with their health due to a lack of medical care access. This culminates in only 13% of Roma people with high school diplomas compared to 87% of employed non-Roma Bulgarians.
Lower levels of education lead to higher levels of unemployment and combined with the discrimination faced when seeking work, the Roma experienced an unemployment rate of 59% in 2010 while the national average for unemployment in Bulgaria was 11.6%. Since joining the European Union in 2007, many Roma who have not been able to find employment in Bulgaria have migrated to other European countries for job opportunities. This can create a difficult decision for parents who may not be able to parent their children as they leave the country and then choose to make an adoption plan.
Another factor in the over-representation of Roma children who are adopted internationally highlights the discrimination the Roma people receive within Bulgaria. If a child cannot be raised with their birth family, it is the best choice for a child to be placed with an adoptive family in their home country. Due to a long history of falsely held beliefs and discrimination against the Roma population, Bulgarian families may choose to adopt ethnic Bulgarian children, leaving Roma children waiting longer to be placed with an adoptive family in their home country.
Hundreds of years of oppression have created an environment where Roma children are more vulnerable to factors that leave children in need of a family. While the reasons any Roma child in Bulgaria are in need of a family are complex, Spence-Chapin’s mission is simple - to find families for the most vulnerable children. We are committed to the idea that all children deserve a forever family, regardless of their age or medical condition. There are thousands of school-age children, sibling groups, and children with special needs languishing in orphanages and foster care in Bulgaria. These children blossom when given the opportunity, support, and resources to live within the stability and safety of a permanent loving family.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org..
Arriving in South Africa one is immediately struck by an intense color contrast never seen walking the streets of New York City. Bursts of purple are framed against the blue sky, the green landscape, and the white exteriors of buildings.
We are told by our hosts that we have fortuitously scheduled our visit during the brief window of time that the Jacaranda trees are in full bloom. We have come to Johannesburg to learn from our South African counterpart, Johannesburg Child Welfare (JCW). JCW is a vast child welfare agency providing services within Johannesburg and its surrounding areas. The work they do spans from child abuse treatment to family integration. 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. For one week, against the colorful backdrop the Jacarandas have provided, we will make visits to the various institutions and shared group homes where many of the children JCW advocates for reside.
Our first stop is Othandweni, a JCW-run institution located in the township of Soweto. Othandweni has the capacity for about ninety children, thirty children live in the nursery and sixty older school age children live in five cottages that are segmented by age. There are close to fifteen full time staff. The environment at Othandweni is lively, bright, and loud.
Part of the reason why this welcoming and safe atmosphere exists is the presence of the Grannies. Othandweni is the site of our Granny Program, which we first established in 2011. Fifteen women from the local community dedicate their time to visit with the thirty children who live in Othandweni’s nursery. They come Monday through Friday for at least 4 hours a day, dividing their time between caring for two children. The children they are working with are between birth and 6 years of age and have a range of significant special needs, from HIV to cerebral palsy. The dedication, consistency, and passion of the Grannies bring to life a specially-designed curriculum that helps these children meet their developmental milestones. The visible impact this program has had on the children who have benefitted from a relationship with a granny makes it easy for everyone involved to wholeheartedly buy into this program. It is a model that JCW hopes to implement in other institutions as its benefits have proven to extend beyond its original goals, the “gogos” speak of the sense of enfranchisement this program has brought them – as one gogo puts it, the program “has given me a new lease on life”.
Over the next two days we visit three other institutions. Princess Alice is a JCW-run home for infants and is located in a particularly affluent neighborhood of Johannesburg. The focus at Princess Alice is on providing a nursery and pediatric services to infants who have been abandoned or orphaned. Many of the children at Princess Alice have special needs and are on medication regimes that need to be strictly monitored. There are between twenty and thirty infants residing at Princess Alice and a combination of full time staff and community volunteers who are a constant presence. We next stop at Cotlands, which is an institution caring for infant and toddler age children. Cotlands had recently reduced their capacity at the time of our visit and was focused on expanding its community-based family services while still providing care for around fifteen to twenty infants and toddlers. Like any other institution in Johannesburg there are many special needs infants. Learning about the particular profiles in the care of these institutions continually reinforces why Spence-Chapin is doing the kind of focused work it is doing in South Africa. The population of special needs infants and toddlers is significant in size and growing domestic options for these children is a work in progress for JCW.
Ethembeni, a Salvation Army-run institution within Johannesburg, is our last stop. Ethembeni has the capacity for close to fifty or sixty infants and toddlers. There is a nursery and separate living areas for the toddlers. Ethembeni is a longtime presence in the child welfare landscape in South Africa and has done a lot of important work on behalf of vulnerable children in Johannesburg. Continuing the theme of the trip, we met many toddlers with significant special needs including children with a combination of cognitive disabilities and physical disabilities. There is a sizeable population of children with minor to severe cerebral palsy and also Down syndrome. Part of the normative mindset of caregivers and administrators at these institutions is that finding homes for these children is a near impossibility, an idea that we have seen be defied time and time again by families who possess the expertise and resources to responsibly provide homes for children with these specialized needs. Sharing our optimism with them will hopefully encourage them to continue their active advocacy on behalf of these children.
We return to Othandweni on our final day in Johannesburg to meet some of the older children who live in the cottages. We are greeted with a performance of music, dance, and poetry. As the older children at Othandweni come from a variety of tribal backgrounds their presentations are cultural fusions of their different backgrounds, combining the features of Zulu, Xhosa, Sotho, and other cultural traditions. We met many children whose legal statuses were not settled and/or they still maintained connections with their birth family through visits and other forms of communication. However, there certainly are children who desire to be part of a permanent family and Spence-Chapin hopes to be able to work on their behalf.
It was a poignant time to visit Johannesburg as the one year anniversary of Nelson Mandela’s passing was approaching. His work on behalf of the marginalized is an evident influence to the incredible work that JCW does on behalf of children who are vulnerable. Spence-Chapin is privileged to be working with such an ethical and altruistic organization. I returned feeling energized about the focused kind of work we are doing and with a deeper sense of accountability to the children who we met.