The Virtual Orange Couch: Adoptions in the Time of COVID-19

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by Kenzi Locks, LMSW, Spence-Chapin Adoption Social Worker, Domestic & Special Needs Adoption

In our Manhattan office, there is a very well-known orange coach. For families that have adopted through Spence-Chapin, this piece of furniture holds an incredible amount of sentimental value. Hundreds of families have come together while sitting on this couch. It is where Spence-Chapin typically holds placement ceremonies—when a child is placed with their forever family. But we are currently living in a moment that is anything but typical.  With our office building closed, that couch has not seen any placements since March, but that has not stopped families from coming together. The Spence-Chapin team has worked diligently and creatively to ensure that families continue to grow through adoption—transforming unique and often mundane spaces into memories as powerful as those that include an orange couch.

Pre-adoptive families now sign their adoption paperwork in their homes, guided by a Spence-Chapin social worker appearing on a screen through Zoom. Families first meet their new member in parks, outside of public libraries, on pediatricians’ porches, or even right at their parents’ front door. No longer able to hand families a realistic baby doll for baby care classes, adoptive parents have gotten creative, using everything from a soda bottle to a stuffed animal to a willing cat (or not so willing in some cases!), to practice different holding techniques.

While these creative alternatives were done to ensure the safety of families and the Spence-Chapin team during a global pandemic, there have been many instances where these adaptations have also brought a lot of unforeseen joy and ease, such as birth parents being able to virtually meet prospective adoptive families from the comfort of their own homes. We have also seen many families who live far from our offices be able to participate in our programming that normally would have been too much of a distance for them to travel.

Our need to depend on technology differently than in the past has created the opportunity for staff to discuss how to bring more of these new techniques and adaptations into our program after COVID-19 is behind us and we’ve returned to our offices. 

I look forward to that day when our orange couch sees its next placement. But until then, despite a pandemic, Spence-Chapin will continue to find a way and, therefore, family will continue to find a way. 

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