March 25, 2016
When a woman faces an unplanned pregnancy, she is understandably anxious and confused about her future. She may not have a support system in place; she may not know who to talk to about her options. One place she may not think to turn is Catholic Charities of Tennessee.
But Catholic Charities’ Caring Choices pregnancy and adoption counselors are standing by, ready to walk the tough journey ahead with women who are facing unplanned pregnancies.
Catholic Charities counselors “do not push parenting or adoption, but educate our clients on making the best decision for them and their child,” said Julie Bolles, supervisor of Catholic Charities’ Adoptions and Pregnancy Counseling department. “We focus on parenting and adoption as an alternative to abortion.”
For women facing an unplanned pregnancy who do not feel ready to parent, choosing adoption “is probably one of the greatest acts of love a person can do,” said Bolles.
Counselors Deasree Williams and Laura Ross do not minimize the challenges the expectant mothers will face, whether they choose to parent or make an adoption plan for their child. “We get down and dirty,” said Williams, encouraging clients to be completely honest about what the realities of parenting or adoption will look like for them. “It helps expectant parents to talk out loud with someone who doesn’t know them,” she added.
If an expectant mother is leaning towards parenting, counselors will talk with them about what kind of support they will have from their family and the baby’s father, how they will continue going to school or work, what their childcare options are, and future goals. They can offer some baby items like diapers, clothes and formula through the Catholic Charities material assistance closet and refer the women to outside organizations for more support.
If the expectant mother is considering adoption, counselors will explain to them about the adoption process, and help them choose an adoptive family for their baby. “We make an individual plan for each family that we all work on together,” said Ross.
“We allow them to make the decisions,” said Bolles.
Once an expectant mother chooses to make an adoption plan, the counselors can facilitate meetings with potential adoptive parents. They have binders full of photos and information on couples and families looking to adopt, which includes all sorts of information about them, everything from occupation to pets and favorite sports. “We encourage the expectant parents to meet the adoptive families and ask questions,” said Williams.
When the birth and adoptive families make a connection, they will decide what level of openness they are comfortable with going forward. “Openness can mean different things to different people,” said Ross. “It’s not co-parenting; it’s about celebrating the child together.”
In the best open adoption scenarios, a birth mother would be somewhat like an aunt, who keeps in touch with the child through cards and photos, and sees him or her several times a year.
Open adoption can be amicable for all parties, especially when facilitated by adoption professionals like Catholic Charities. “We provide education for the birth and adoptive parents and help them work with an attorney,” said Ross.
Right now, Catholic Charities has far more inquiries from families waiting to adopt than expectant mothers ready to make an adoption plan for their child. “When we get a call from an expectant mom, we will drop everything to talk with her,” said Williams.
The counselors don’t just meet with clients one time and send them on their way. They can remain in contact for months, available to help the expectant mother through every stage of the pregnancy, birth and eventual adoption. If a client does not have a support network of family or friends, Williams or Ross might even be at the birth mother’s side in the hospital while she is in labor.
In addition to facilitating open adoptions between birth mothers and adoptive families, the Catholic Charities Pregnancy and Adoption department also conducts home studies for adoptive families who are pursuing an independent adoption.
Catholic Charities offers pregnancy and adoption counseling and support to expectant mothers of all backgrounds free of charge. Services for adoptive families are determined on a sliding scale fee. For more information, visit www.cctenn.org/services.cfm, call Julie Bolles at (615) 352-3087 x2181 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.