Families from across the world come together with help from this Birmingham team

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Adoption Clinic alum, Mae, with brother Ollie. Photo submitted

Did you know Birmingham is home to an adoption clinic that works with families from all over the country? It’s located at Children’s of Alabama, and it’s served adoptive families for almost 20 years. We caught up with the clinic’s founder to learn more. Check it out!

The Start of Something Great

Holding your child for the first time doesn’t always happen in a hospital. Photo via Children’s of Alabama

The Adoption Clinic at Children’s of Alabama was founded by Dr. Jennifer Chambers in 2002.

Jennifer Chambers, M.D., M.P.H. & T.M. saw a need for a facility that would address the unique needs that children in domestic or international adoption as well as foster care situations have.

“I’ve always had a passion for children in need. I was considering going overseas to work in orphanages when I finished my training.

Throughout my training, I realized we didn’t have anything in the Southeast to help kids who have come out of those situations… They had needs that we could meet on a deeper level.”

Dr. Jennifer Chambers, Pediatrician, Children’s of Alabama

What does someone like Dr. Chambers do when she sees a need? She rises to meet it. Dr. Chambers trained as a general pediatrician and through that, realized the time and attention allowances of a general pediatrician don’t include nearly enough space for these children.

Meet Mae

If this smile isn’t the best thing you’ve seen all day, I want to know what you’ve been up to.

This precious little girl is one of the children who has benefitted from The Adoption Clinic. Mae’s parents, Amy and Adam, adopted her from India in June 2018.

This radiance and joy haven’t always been Mae’s reality. When Amy and Adam went to bring her home, Mae was incredibly sick and malnourished. Her mom, Amy, said their experience isn’t what you picture when you think about adoption, but the amazing team at the Clinic supported them every step of the way.

“They’re awesome. It just brings tears to my eyes when I think about how much they helped us.”

Mae’s family just celebrated two years together. She’s now 3, and her older brother, Ollie, is 4. The Adoption Clinic helps beautiful families like this one navigate a huge transition and build a foundation for the future.

A Mission to Meet Needs

Bringing families together. Photo via @xavier on Unsplash

I asked about the specific needs adopted and foster children have outside of the realm of “typical” pediatric care. Dr. Chambers said the significant transitions they go through early on in life, as well as any abuse or neglect they experience, comes at a really formative time.

There are various areas that might present issues for children in adoptive or foster homes, including health, sleeping and eating habits, behavior, etc. Varying degrees of attachment disruption are also common.

The Adoption Clinic seeks to support children and families in these areas and more. Here’s a preview of their mission statement:

The mission of The Adoption Clinic is to serve the initial and ongoing medical, developmental and emotional needs of adoptive parents and their children from around the world.

We are staffed with professionals with a love for children who have been orphaned and a desire to see them accepted into loving and well-equipped families.”

The Adoption Clinic’s Function Today

A home for life. Photo via @cdc on Unsplash

Today, the Clinic has grown into a team of people who have served the needs of children from over 55 different countries. Every single team member has a personal connection to orphans/adoption, including Dr. Chambers, who has three daughters of her own adopted from China.

The Adoption Clinic’s team spans a variety of medical specialties including pediatricians, veteran nurses, occupational & developmental therapists, family therapists, social workers and more.

Together, they provide comprehensive, interdisciplinary services to hundreds of children and families across the country. Here’s what the process looks like:

“We start with the family prior to adoption and provide education by the way of our seminars… If they have a child that has been specifically referred to them, we help them with that decision process by explaining the medical file and what this child’s needs might be.

If they are traveling internationally, we’re also on call for them during that travel time. Once the adoption is completed, they come to see us for an initial assessment, usually within the first three weeks.”

Dr. Jennifer Chambers, Pediatrician, Children’s of Alabama

After that initial assessment, most children will be seen after six months and then after one year. Kids generally visit annually moving forward, but of course, there are unique situations that may require additional care.

Dr. Chambers was clear that the Clinic’s goal isn’t to replace the pediatrician. What they’re trying to do is handle the adoption piece and the extra challenges that come with that so the General Pediatrician can focus on other areas of the child’s health.

Curious about adoption?

Every parent’s journey looks a little different. Photo via @kelli_mcclintock on Unsplash

It’s no small feat to consider adopting or opening your home to foster children. If this is something you or someone you know has been considering, the information and advice can be incredibly overwhelming in the age of the internet.

Learning from the people who do this professionally is just about the best first step you can take, no matter what stage you’re in—just toying with the idea or already well into the process.

The Adoption Clinic hosts Adoption Boot Camp Seminars three times a year. They address medical, developmental, attachment and identity issues that are commonly seen with children who have been adopted.

“This seminar is for people who are in that process of adopting domestically or fostering.

What it does is help to explain the needs of these children: what the needs are, how they got there, and how to treat them. The seminars help people set their expectations to an accurate place and prepare better so they’re not blind-sighted by any issues.”

Dr. Jennifer Chambers, Pediatrician, Children’s of Alabama

The next seminar is coming up in September. Here are the details:

More Resources

Mae’s story is almost as beautiful as her smile. Photo submitted.

Interested specifically in international adoption? This is the seminar for you.

The Adoption Clinic has tons of other educational resources for families considering adoption and fostering. Browse their website to learn more or check out their list of the “Top 5 Things I Wish I Had Known Ahead of Time.”

Even if you’re not in a place to adopt or foster for yourself, you can still be a part of the life-changing work happening here. Donate to The Adoption Clinic today and make a difference in the lives of hundreds families built through adoption.

Building families and changing lives one child at a time. What a special kind of magic happening right here in our Magic City.

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  • A Birmingham transplant who can usually be found hitting a new hiking trail or restaurant opening when she's not writing stories and snapping photos for Bham Now.