Finding community is an integral part of individuals discovering their identity. Throughout the sixteen-year history of our NYC Teen Mentoring Program, teen and tween adoptees have found a supportive community where they can be themselves and make friends. The teenage years can be a time for questioning and exploring identity for many teens, and for teen adoptees, sometimes these questions or feelings may be different than for non-adoptees. Being connected to a group of peers that are experiencing the same things can be incredibly helpful in the life of a teen, but in many areas around the country, it can be difficult to find other adoptees.
That’s why Spence-Chapin is expanding our mentorship program on a national level. For the first time, young adoptees ages 13-18 can experience the Spence-Chapin Mentorship Program from anywhere in the US through a virtual platform where they are connected to other teen adoptees and adult adoptee Mentors and engage in fun virtual activities and adoptee centered discussions. For many, it is their first experience being in a space with only adoptees!
Jessica Luciere, Spence-Chapin’s Community Liaison, head of the Mentorship Program and international transracial adoptee, frequently espouses the importance of adoptee run and led programming:
“Adoptees are dynamic in their stories and experiences, and while we share a deeply rooted common bond, we can all offer different perspectives on our thoughts about adoption and the impact it has on our lives, and those in our lives… Giving a space for conversations, for different perspectives and experiences to be heard and understood is invaluable to helping the younger generation of adoptees grow with a secure and assured sense of their adoptee identity by having adult adoptees in their lives.”
Our Mentors, some of whom have been in the program for more than 5 years, understand the importance of their role and truly value their time with the teens. They understand that each adoptee’s story is unique and come ready with open minds to listen, learn, and support not only our mentees but each other. Discovering your adoptee identity remains an ever-changing experience for all who are investigating, and Mentors often say that they take away just as much from the program as the kids.
This year, our own Julie Fiorenza was the recipient of the 2021 Dr. Joseph L. White, Pioneering the Way Mentoring Scholarship. Her work as a Mentor in the program over the past two years has supported several young adults in their journeys.
When asked about her experience with the program, she said, “As a Mentor, I am so grateful to be a part of a supportive community that inspires and empowers each other to learn, grow, improve, and evolve as we all navigate our unique, lifelong journey of adoption.”
We applaud the growth of the Mentorship Program to the national stage. It is vital that adoptees have a safe space in which to explore their identities, a process that continues throughout their lives. Spence-Chapin is proud to support this program where Mentors and Mentees share about topics that are important to them. We hope to spread this firm network of support from the tri-state area to all fifty states, and create a space where every adoptee belongs.