Starting a family doesn’t look the same for everyone. For some families, adoption is their first route to parenthood. But for others, if natural conception or fertility treatments prove unsuccessful, adoption may be their logical next step. Adoption is an option for all kinds of families, including older applicants, single men and women, LGBTQ+ applicants, and more. Although it can be a daunting process, Spence-Chapin Services to Families and Children has been building families through adoption for over 100 years. Spence-Chapin’s mission is driven by the simple belief that every child deserves a family.
Spence-Chapin is a licensed and accredited nonprofit organization that has offered quality adoption services since its inception in 1908. Their work goes beyond matching a child to an adoptive family. Spence-Chapin approaches creating families through adoption with the principles of respect, integrity, and transparency known as “The Spence-Chapin Way.” They offer the highest-quality services for all participants in the adoption process: biological parents, adoptive parents, and their children. Spence-Chapin’s large range of services address the full process, from pre-adoption requirements to post-adoption life:
- International adoption programs from South Africa, Colombia, and Bulgaria
- A Special Needs Adoption Program that places medically fragile children with permanent, loving families
- Domestic, international, and kinship/relative adoption home studies (an important first step for any adoption consisting of education, paperwork, interviews, and home visits) completed in as little as 2-3 months
- Pre-adoption trainings and workshops on a variety of adoption-related topics
- Post-adoption support including individual and family consultations, community events, and programming for adoptees and their families
- Access to Adoption Finance Coaching throughout your adoption process
There are many ways to grow your family through adoption, and Spence-Chapin’s expert and caring team of professionals is able to guide each family to the program that best fits them while providing training and assistance through every step of the adoption process.
Spence-Chapin’s international adoption services span the globe, with programs currently in South Africa and Colombia and a waiting child program in Bulgaria. Holistic services ensure children are placed into loving families.
Spence-Chapin has the longest running adoption program from South Africa. Adoptive parents Deirdre and James worked with Spence-Chapin to adopt their now 5-year-old son from South Africa in 2019. After speaking with the Spence-Chapin team and exploring all adoption options, Deirdre and James agreed that international adoption felt right for them.
During the adoption process, Deirdre and James traveled to South Africa and understood the importance of integrating South African culture at home, saying, “From the beginning we already decided that no matter what, we wanted our child to learn about his culture because it’s part of who he is … It kind of made South Africa feel like a second home to us. It’s familiar territory, our home together with our son.” Deirdre and James are currently in the process of another international adoption from South Africa with Spence-Chapin.
Spence-Chapin’s pre-adoptive training has proven to be a huge differentiator for families first entering into the adoption process. These trainings cover themes such as transracial adoption, open adoption, and adoption identity in order to prepare parents to speak comfortably with their child about adoption. At Spence-Chapin, support is lifelong, including post-adoption and ongoing trainings, workshops, child playgroups, a teen adoptee mentorship program, and more. Adoptive parents Ronie and Michael found the training extremely helpful when they worked with Spence-Chapin in 2019 to adopt their now 2½-year-old daughter through Spence-Chapin’s Domestic Adoption Program.
“It might sound scary at first, like, how are you going to talk about adoption and how are you going to explain at your family picnic that you have an open adoption? But you get so much support through the whole process that you learn how to talk about it.”
Ronie and Michael always thought they might grow their family through adoption, but only began the process after facing fertility issues. “We reassessed our whole lives,” Ronie explained. “What do we want as a family? We wanted diversity, so we figured we would end up being a transracial family. We wanted to have an open adoption. We prioritized a relationship with the [biological] parents. Someone once said to me, ‘Create the adoption you want.’ So we looked at what was important to us, and that is the adoption we have. That’s the adoption we received.”
“The Spence-Chapin Way” recognizes that the adoption process involves the biological parents just as much as the adoptive parents. That’s why they offer free, nonjudgmental, and confidential counseling services to empower biological parents to consider all options for their pregnancy or newly born child. Whether or not they choose adoption, Spence-Chapin will assign someone to coordinate referrals if they need on-going support services. If a biological parent chooses adoption, Spence-Chapin works closely with them on selecting an adoptive family, deciding on what level of post-adoption contact they would like, and creating a hospital plan (e.g. if they want to breastfeed, if they want time alone with their child after birth, etc.). Spence-Chapin offers an Interim Care Program where babies who have already been born are cared for 24/7 in the homes of trained volunteers while their parents continue to work with a social worker on a plan for the future. This temporary respite, at no cost, allows for the biological parents to weigh their options in a really tangible and non-committal way.
In addition to adoption services, Spence-Chapin provides humanitarian aid around the globe. Most notably, Spence-Chapin’s Granny Program pairs children living in orphanages with “grannies” who provide them with daily attention and care. Grannies (typically retired women, though they can be women or men of any age) are trained to meet the developmental needs of children who have been deprived of a family. Established in 1998, the Granny Program is managed within four institutions in South Africa and it is designed to provide care to each of the 240 children living in those four homes.
For families like Ronie and Michael’s, adoption has been a wonderful way to grow their family.
“If you’re wondering if adoption is right you, reach out and explore it. I am always happy to share my experience with others because of what it may open up for them—it might be a new family member, and there’s nothing more beautiful than that.”
Spence-Chapin outlines eligibility criteria and estimated fees for each adoption program on their website. With both domestic and international options, find out which program will work for your family. Attend some of their upcoming educational events to learn the basics of adoption and visit www.spence-chapin.org for more information, including how you can support their humanitarian aid programs.