10 Tips to Help Teens Explore Identity

Katie Rogala, an adoptee and Spence-Chapin employee, shares 10 helpful ways to support your adopted child’s exploration of inner and outer self.

Post-Adoption Books

Talking about adoption with your family can be difficult. Where do you even begin the conversation? Sometimes reading about other people’s experiences can make it easier to talk about your own. These books explore adoption, race identity, foster care, and the feelings from love to loneliness to everything in-between. They’re perfect to read as your family begins to talk about their own story.

Children Ages 0 – 5

  • We Belong Together, Todd Parr

  • A Mother for Choco, Keiko Kasza

  • Welcome Home Little Baby, Lisa Harper

  • Brown Like Me, Noelle Lamperti

Children Ages 6 – 11

  • Pancakes with Chocolate Syrup, Rebekah Barlow Rounce

  • Heaven, Angela Johnson

  • The Wanderer, Sharon Creech

Children Ages 12 – 18

  • Ninth Ward, Jewell Parker Rhodes

  • The Returnable Girl, Pamela Lowell

  • Pieces of Me, Edited by Bert Ballard

Photo Album or Early Lifebook

  • Create a small photo album

  • Don’t use original photos or irreplaceable items (if making a scrapbook)

  • Start the book with the start of the child’s life, not the start of their life with you

  • Leave blank pages as space holders where you have no information

  • Expand the book or create new books as child hits important life milestones

  • Join us for an upcoming event or community program

Spence-Chapin offers many post-adoption support services and community programs such as teen/tween mentorship, counseling, parent coaching, Lifebook workshops and more.

We Celebrate Clara Spence

We Celebrate Clara Spence

As we celebrate National Women's History Month, we can think of no better way to acknowledge the women who shaped social justice than to honor our own founder and adoption advocate Clara Spence.

Reflections on Spence-Chapin History During Black History Month

This month as we celebrate Black History Month, I have found myself taking time to reflect on the history of African American adoption, the role that Spence-Chapin has played in that history, and the many encouraging changes I have witnessed in my 25+ career working in adoption.

Spence-Chapin, A Leader in African-American and Black Infant Adoption

In honor of Black History Month, we revisit the efforts made by those who have fought to break barriers, making African-American and Black children a focus and a priority.

What is a “Waiting Child”?

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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 info@spence-chapin.org.

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 info@spence-chapin.org.

Great Children’s Books Featuring LGBTQ Parents

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Here are some of our favorite children’s books that depict same-sex headed families. We hope you enjoy! If you need help talking about your family with your child, friends, or community, we offer short-term parent coaching to help you find the right words. Are there other ways we can support you? Let us know by completing this survey.


1 2 3 A Family Counting Book, Bobbie Combs

This delightful book celebrates today’s families as it teaches kids to count from one to twenty. All of the full color paintings depict gay and lesbian headed families.


Who’s in My Family? All About Our Families, Robbie Harris

This book is fun and full of charming illustrations depicting all families. This engaging story interweaves conversations between the siblings and a matter-of-fact text, making it clear to every child that whoever makes up your family, it is perfectly normal — and totally wonderful.


Heather Has Two Mommies, Lesléa Newman

Heather’s favorite number is two. She has two arms, two legs, two pets, and two mommies. As school begins, Heather sees that, "the most important thing about a family is that all the people in it love one another."


The Family Book, Todd Parr

This book celebrates all kinds of families in a funny, silly and reassuring way. It includes adoptive families, step families, single-parent families, two-mom and two-dad families, and families with a mom and a dad.


And Tango Makes Three, Justin Richardson & Peter Parnell

Male penguins Roy and Silo at New York’s Central Park Zoo keep putting a rock in their nest and try to hatch it. The zookeeper gives them a real egg that needs care. The penguins take turns sitting on it until it hatches, and Tango is born.


Stella Brings the Family, Miriam B. Schiffer

Stella's class is having a Mother's Day celebration, but what's a girl with two daddies to do? Fortunately, she finds a unique solution to her party problem in this sweet story about love, acceptance, and the true meaning of family.


Spence-Chapin offers culturally sensitive, LGBTQ-affirming care in an accepting, nonjudgmental environment. Services include pre-adoption consultations, counseling, support groups, referrals, programs for LGBTQ kids and teens, LGBTQ parent workshops and trainings for LGBTQ professionals.

Spence-Chapin offers many post-adoption support services and community programs such as counseling, parent coaching, Lifebook workshops and more. Contact us at 646-539-2167 or postadoptionservices@spence-chapin.org to learn more.

International Adoption FAQ

Spence-Chapin’s International Adoption Programs are in South Africa, Colombia and Bulgaria. We are a Hague accredited organization with over 40 years of international adoption experience. Our goal is to find adoptive families for children in need and to prepare, support, and guide that family for their lifetime.

To apply, please submit your completed international adoption application.

Email: registration@spence-chapin.org
Mail: Spence-Chapin, Attn: International Adoption Application, 410 East 92nd Street, 3rd Floor, New York, NY 10128

Frequently Asked Questions:

What makes Spence-Chapin unique?
Spence-Chapin has been helping families adopt internationally for more than 40 years, with a strong network of skilled representatives and partners around the world. Spence-Chapin is a full-service organization, which means that we are here for you before, during and after your adoption.

In the US and around the world, the number of infants and young children available for adoption has declined due to a number of factors: reduced stigma toward single parent households, increased access to birth control, family reunification programs, in-country adoption programs, and difficult bureaucratic or political policies. At the same time, the number of older children, sibling groups and children with special needs living in institutions without parents to love them remains considerable.

What is the first step to adopt internationally?
The first step in beginning to work with Spence-Chapin is to complete the international adoption application. Families may receive the application after speaking with an international adoption specialist or after attending one of our free in-person or on-line information sessions. To see a schedule of upcoming events, visit the events calendar of our website.

What is a home study?
An adoption home study is a supportive and educational process where you officially begin your journey toward becoming an adoptive parent. Included in the home study process is parent preparation and training as required by The Hague Convention on Intercountry Adoption, which will be completed online or in-person with your social worker. Through this process you will share information about yourself and the circumstances that have brought you to your adoption. You and your social worker will discuss topics such as forming a family through adoption, transcultural and transracial factors, talking about adoption with your child, educating friends and family, and medical and developmental issues. This process results in an actual document — your adoption home study. In an international adoption, this document is then shared with U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Services, the country from which you have decided to adopt, and the court that will finalize your adoption.

How do I choose a country program?
Begin by considering these questions: Is there a particular culture or part of the world that I am/we are drawn to? Who are the children around the world who are waiting for adoptive families? Will I be able to find opportunities to maintain my/our child’s cultural heritage? Do I meet the requirements/restrictions of a particular country? Do I have the flexibility to adjust to the unpredictability of a particular country and its adoption procedures? Am I prepared to adopt an older child or sibling group? What kind of special needs are a good fit for my family? How much information do I need to feel comfortable adopting a child?

Our adoption team is available to discuss your program choice and guide you through your decision. Call us today at (212) 400-8150!

What is a dossier and why do I have to prepare one?
A dossier is a collection of documents that prospective parents gather in order to adopt internationally, which is permitted to the foreign Central Authority that will process your adoption. In many cases, the dossier documents must be authenticated or legalized by local and state authorities in the United States before they can be considered legal documents. While dossier preparation can sometimes feel complicated and overwhelming, Spence-Chapin’s international staff members are experts in helping you to prepare your dossier and navigating you through the international adoption process.

I want to select the gender of my child. Is that possible?
Because Spence-Chapin is committed to finding homes for all children, it is our hope that families will be open to a child of either gender. Exceptions may be considered on a case-by-case basis.

What resources are available to me once I come home?
Spence-Chapin’s post-adoption services are available to you for the lifetime of your family. We offer extensive post-adoption services, from counseling about adoption, to child development issues, discipline, and parenting coaching to get you through those tough teen years.

I don’t live in New York City. Can I still work with Spence-Chapin?
Yes! We have a strong history of working with families living across the United States. For families living in the New York or New Jersey, Spence-Chapin conducts the home study preparation and training as well as coordinates the international adoption process. For families residing outside of the NY/NJ Metro area, Spence-Chapin is able to establish a partnership with a family’s local Hague-Accredited home study provider anywhere in the country to coordinate the international adoption process.

What are the fundamental differences between International and Domestic adoption at Spence-Chapin?
While there are many procedural and bureaucratic differences, the fundamental differences include levels of openness, how adoptive families are matched with their children, and ages of children placed. Spence-Chapin’s domestic adoption programs encourage open adoption whenever possible, while in international adoption it is not always possible to know about the child’s birth family. When children are matched with their families through international adoption, this is often done through a government body overseas or through the agency facilitators. In domestic adoption, birth parents are given the opportunity to select a family for the child and when this is not possible, thoughtful matches are made by child welfare professionals.

I don’t see answers to my questions. How can I get more information?
Please contact us so we can answer your questions and help you to figure out your next steps in this adoption journey! To speak with us by phone, please call us at 212-400-8150.

If you are considering adoption but are not sure if it is the right choice for you, Spence-Chapin offers pre-adoption consultations. These meetings are designed to help individuals and couples explore their options for adoption and feelings about building their family through adoption. Consultation topics can include: understanding the adoption process; deciding if adoption is right for your family; navigating differences in readiness for adoption between partners; preparing for the unique challenges and rewards of adopting a school-age child or siblings; thinking about readiness to be a single parent; making the transition from infertility to adoption; parenting both adoptive and biological children; considering the challenges of transracial and transcultural adoption; exploring domestic versus international adoption; and assessing eligibility and program options. The one-hour consultation fee is $150/hour.

To schedule an appointment with one of our adoption professionals, please call 212-400-8150 or email info@spence-chapin.org.

Full of Gratitude: National Adoption Month 2018

Every Thursday in November, in honor of Thanksgiving and National Adoption Month, we featured quotes and stories from families, friends and colleagues who have been touched by adoption to ask them the question: “What are you thankful for?

Check out some of the answers we received this year:

Thank you to our Spence-Chapin family for celebrating with us all month long. We are so thankful for each of you.

Adoption FAQ Fridays

Each Friday during National Adoption Month we are promoting a Frequently Asked Question about options counseling and adoption The Spence-Chapin Way to help everyone better understand how options counseling, including interim care, and the adoption process works at Spence-Chapin. Read all of the questions and answers below!

What is Open Adoption?

Answer: Open Adoption is having some form of communication and contact between the adoptive family and the birth family over time. Today, the majority of adoptions are done with some degree of openness, with the extent and frequency of contact varying from family to family. Open adoptions have been shown through various studies to benefit all members of the adoption triad—adoptees, birth parents, and adoptive parents. At Spence-Chapin, the open adoption process is led by birth parents, who can decide what kind of communication–if any–that they want to have in the future, which can include visits, letters, emails, photos, and phone calls. Spence-Chapin helps adoptive families and birth families craft an open adoption agreement, and our social workers provide counseling and guidance during the planning process, and at any time in their lifelong journeys.

What is the Adoption Triad?

Answer: Adoption triad is a term used to the three groups that make up adoption: the adoptee, the birth parents, and the adoptive parents. The adoptee is the child who is being adopted. The birth parents are the biological parents of the child. The adoptive parents are the individual or couple who adopts the child. Spence-Chapin supports all members of the adoption triad through our community programming, counseling, and support groups. We believe it is important to provide a space where all members in the adoption triad can come at any point in their lives to receive guidance, advice, counseling, and community.

What is Options Counseling?

Answer: Options counseling is a free service that Spence-Chapin provides to pregnant women and women who have recently given birth who are unsure about parenting. Our social workers review all options available in a safe space where women can talk about their questions and concerns and not face judgement or bias. Spence-Chapin works with local organizations to help women access resources and assistance based on their choice. Spence-Chapin will travel to meet with women seeking counseling anywhere in New Jersey and the New York City metro area (Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens, Staten Island, Bronx, Long Island, the Hudson Valley, and Westchester).

What is Interim Care?

Answer: We understand that women and their partners need appropriate time and space to make a decision about the future of their family, especially after a recent birth. Placing their newborn in Interim Care allows biological parents to continue counseling to fully explore their options while knowing their baby is being cared for by a nurturing caregiver in a loving home. Birth parents retain their legal rights while the baby is in care and are encouraged to visit their baby. Our services are free for biological parents while they take the days or even a few weeks to make a decision.

Why consider Adoption?

Answer: This is a very personal choice and there are many reasons people have made 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 stay connected to their child. Others say they cannot provide the special care their child will need and want to find a family who can. Others choose to make a private open adoption plan instead of involvement with the public child welfare system.

Who are the Adoptive Families? How are adoptive families selected?

Answer: Spence-Chapin works hard to recruit diverse families that are hoping to adopt a child. Our waiting families vary in age, background, family structure, religion, etc. After submitting an application, each family must attend several webinars and trainings to ensure that they are ready to begin the adoption process. Spence-Chapin then conducts a home study to get to know the family and their home environment more. When a birth parent is making an adoption plan, she is presented with information and descriptions of all of our waiting families and can select a family of her choice to set up a meeting with. If all goes well at the meeting, our social workers help the birth parents and adoptive family to create an open or closed adoption plan, depending on the birth parents’ preference. Spence-Chapin works closely with the birth parents and adoptive family every step of the way to placement and continues to provide lifelong guidance and support through counseling, community programming, and support groups.

Spence-Chapin has all types of waiting families! They vary in age, background, family, structure, religion, etc. They are all 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. You can also browse through profiles on our website.

Fostering, Adopting, and Raising LGBTQ Youth

Listen to the expert advice and tips provided by Modern Family Center staff in this podcast.

7 Myths About Open Adoption

Posted on November 2, 2018 by Spence-Chapin

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For prospective adoptive parents, the term “open adoption” may sound intimidating or confusing. What does an open adoption look like? How does it work? Is it really in the best interest of the child? To make open adoption more understood, we’ve compiled this list of Myths and Facts to help guide you through your adoption journey!

1.Myth: Not many people have an open adoption

FACT: Today, the vast majority of adoptions are open. In a study conducted by the Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute, only 5 percent of respondents in a survey said that they had a closed adoption. Of course, the type of openness in adoption varies among families, can be infrequent or ongoing, and can take the form of letters, phone calls, in-person meetings—and a lot in between.

2. Myth: The relationships between adoptive parents and birth parents deteriorate in time.

FACT: The relationships between adoptive parents, birth parents, and adoptees changes over time, and tend to ebb and flow. As long as all parties remain committed to communication and are flexible, the relationships formed are life-long and rewarding.

3. Myth: Open adoption is a form of co-parenting.

FACT: In open adoption, the adoptive parents are the sole custodians and are the ones in control of their child’s welfare. The birth parents may play an active role in the child’s life, but the legal rights remain in the hands of the adoptive parents.

4. Myth: Open adoption is confusing to children.

FACT: Children are not confused by having contact with their birth family. Even at an early age, children can understand different roles and responsibilities. Further, while all members in an open adoption are shown to benefit from the relationship, it is adoptees that benefit the most over time. Some of the benefits to adoptees include coming to terms early on with the reasons for their adoption, access to information that aids in identity formation, knowledge about their own medical histories, and a better understanding of the meaning of adoption.

5. Myth: Having contact with the birth family will be an intrusion on my family.

FACT: Surveys show that families who choose to remain in contact with the birth family report higher levels of satisfaction with their adoptions. According to the Minnesota/Texas Adoption Research Project, adoptive parents in open adoptions report a stronger sense of permanence in the relationship with their child as projected into the future, and more empathy toward the birthparents and child than those in closed adoptions.

6. Myth: Being able to communicate with and see the child will be too painful for the birth parents.

FACT: Birth parents in open adoptions with ongoing contact report less grief, regret, and worry, as well as more peace of mind, than those who do not have contact, according to the Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute.

7. Myth: There will be no boundaries. The birth parents will drop in whenever they want to see the child.

FACT: Through open communication, both parties should have a mutual understanding where those boundaries are. The way the open adoption looks is determined before placement, between the adoptive parents and birth parents (and the adoptee depending on his/her age), and is based on what is comfortable and practical for all involved. Birth parents and adoptive parents should both receive proper training and counseling on open adoption before making an open adoption agreement, to ensure that all parties have thought clearly and reflexively about what they want the relationship to look like. It is also important to work with a counselor or social worker to help craft the open adoption contract or agreement, and to have access to post-adoption services to work through any challenges or issues that may arise over time in that relationship.

Spence-Chapin encourages open adoption, which is why we are happy to answer any further questions you may have. Spence-Chapin offers individual and family counseling, open adoption support and guidance, and facilitates reunion meetings. Call us and let us know how we can support you and your family – 646-539-2167. We encourage to read this beautiful personal open adoption story.