Mark Lacava

WHAT MOTIVATES YOUR INTEREST IN WORKING IN FOSTER CARE AND ADOPTION?

I believe that children only have one childhood and good permanency options need to be provided sooner rather than later when children and their parents need services. This has turned into a personal life mission with my work in foster care and adoption for over 25 years. Working at Spence-Chapin has allowed me to put this mission into action by working with biological, foster and adoptive parents, and their children. I lead a team of experienced mental health professionals who are trauma-informed and adoption-competent to provide robust pre- and post-adoption support.

HOW DO POST-ADOPTION SERVICES FIT INTO YOUR WORK TO IMPROVE THE ADOPTION AND FOSTER CARE SYSTEM?

Despite tremendous efforts, many foster care agencies lack the capacity to effectively intervene, treat and transition children in foster care (ages five and up) with complex behavioral challenges to permanent families. I am, and my team is, committed to helping the children in foster care who have the most complex needs to transition and remain in permanent families. I provide comprehensive, evidence-based therapy and case-management for the most complex cases. My clinical team builds customized interventions and works closely with children, their foster families and siblings, doctors, teachers and schools to build a network of support and consistent, effective care based on the child’s needs. We provide one-on-one counseling and support to children and their foster parents at a critical time as they consider adoption. Through this pilot program, I have developed foster care staff trainings on navigating open adoptions, common mental health diagnoses, the effects of trauma throughout developmental stages, typical childhood development and permanency planning. My team’s work is focused on helping children be adopted into their foster families, ultimately creating a sense of permanency and a foundation for good health and lifelong success. Our clinical team currently helps over 300 children across New York City and is seeking to expand the program to additional agencies to support a greater number of children and families.

Spence-Chapin’s mental health clinic is dedicated to supporting the adoption experience both emotionally and educationally. My work at the Modern Family Center provides numerous programs to support the life cycle of adoption and the adoption constellation. We have adoption-competent therapists to support difficult issues around adoption for all members of the adoption community. We have social and educational post-adoption services to create a connection to the adoption community.

DO YOU HAVE A PERSONAL CONNECTION TO ADOPTION OR FOSTER CARE? IF SO, HOW HAS YOUR PERSONAL EXPERIENCE INSPIRED OR INFLUENCED YOUR WORK?

Although I do not have a personal connection to adoption, the work has become very personal to me and is a part of what defines me as a person.

IF YOU COULD CHANGE ONE THING ABOUT THE PRACTICE OF ADOPTION/PEOPLE’S ATTITUDES TOWARD ADOPTION, WHAT WOULD IT BE?

Part of my work is putting adoption out there as a part of the normal human experience. Throughout history and in all cultures around the world, children grow up outside of their biological family and it is a normal fact of life. In this country many generations ago, it became imbedded that adoptions should be secretive. Secrets mean there is something off or something to be kept silent. A part of a person’s life as big as their origin should not be kept secret.

IN YOUR OPINION, WHY ARE POST-ADOPTION SERVICES IMPORTANT TO BUILDING STRONG FAMILIES?

All families need help at some point or another in the life cycle. We need to better support all families and the adoption community needs support that is unique to their life experiences. Individuals need therapists, support groups and peer communities that understand them and their connection to adoption. It is important for people to have a place to express their family without having to explain the adoption aspect. Post-adoption services provide these wrap-around supports that are unique to the members of the adoption community. We at Spence-Chapin have been part of the adoption community for over 100 years. I work to see more openness in adoption and less secret and shame. Our team works to increase access to post-adoption services by normalizing the experience of seeking help when needed.