Adoption ministry helps build families
by Joe Bollig
KANSAS CITY, Kan. — The call from the Chicago hospital was urgent and so was the need: A newborn baby had been abandoned by its troubled mother.
Unless an adoptive family could be found quickly, the baby would enter the state foster care system, the social worker told Sister Dolora May, CSJ.
Sister Dolora’s mental switches flipped to “code blue” mode. Quickly, she roused a Missouri couple and soon had them speeding north to Chicago and the newest member of their family.
“Adoption is a walk in faith, it really is,” said Sister Dolora. “It’s a blessing to couples and certainly it’s a blessing to the child. But it’s a walk in faith. You don’t know the child you’ll get, and you don’t know when you’ll get it.”
“For us as providers, it’s also a walk in faith,” she continued. “We never know the calls we’ll get.”
Sister Dolora and Sister Mary Healy are joined by only a couple of others on this walk of faith called St. Joseph Adoption Agency. With no fanfare and barely any notice, they’ve placed 184 children in 12 years.
The agency does its work from a tiny, nondescript office in Kansas City, Kan., with only three people (one part time) and on a “half a shoestring budget,” said Ron Kelsey, archdiocesan consultant for pro-life ministry.
“We’re three chipmunks,” said Sister Mary.
Sherry Clayton, a licensed specialist clinical social worker, has been part of the three-person team since April 2013. She does the home studies.
Sister Dolora and Sister Mary, both members of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Cleveland, Ohio, have been there from the beginning.
Both Sisters have hospital backgrounds, which provided them with the knowledge base for their adoption work.
Sister Mary, with a master’s degree in business administration, worked in hospital administration for 35 years. She also worked for the Christian Foundation for Children and Aging (now Unbound) in Kansas City, Kan. Now, she keeps the adoption agency’s books and helps with paperwork.
Sister Dolora is a registered nurse and has a master’s degree in health care administration. She worked with Dr. Thomas Hilgers at the Pope Paul VI Institute in Omaha, Neb., and taught natural family planning in Wichita. She helped open a crisis pregnancy center in 1985 and saved babies right out from under the nose of the late Wichita abortionist, Dr. George Tiller.
“[We would] be out there on the sidewalk and [clinic personnel would] be throwing stink bombs at us and those kinds of things, but that was just part of the pro-life ministry,” said Sister Dolora.
From 1993 to 2001, she managed four crisis pregnancy centers in the Greater Kansas City metropolitan area.
“[In 2001,] I left the crisis pregnancy centers and Sister Mary had retired from CFCA in February,” said Sister Dolora. “We were sitting in the living room at home, and our religious counsel asked us what we would do. Adoption came up.”
Both Sisters had a heart for adoptions, so it didn’t take much persuasion to get them moving in that direction. Quickly, they determined that opening an adoption agency was the way to go.
While most adoption agencies tend to operate in a fairly limited geographical area, the St. Joseph Adoption Agency adopts nationally (except in New York state). And before an international treaty took effect, they did international adoptions.
“The little dark-haired girl was born in Maine,” said Sister Dolora, pointing to a photo of a child who now lives in London. “Her father has a Ph.D. in economics, and her mother is an attaché to Queen Elizabeth. She’s doing very well. We were invited to her baptism in Canterbury Cathedral.”
The St. Joseph Adoption Agency, which is a ministry of the Sisters of St. Joseph, keeps a very low profile. It doesn’t have a sign outside its office and it doesn’t advertise.
“When we first opened, the Kansas City Fire Department begged us to get our name in the phone book so they’d know where to locate us in case of fire,” said Sister Dolora.
Instead, they rely on their nationwide network of extensive contacts, which Sister Dolora began to build during her crisis pregnancy and pro-life work in Wichita and the Kansas City area. And because there are only the three of them, the agency can make decisions and move quickly.
Adoption professionals, attorneys, social workers and hospitals all over the country call them — especially when there is a need to place a baby quickly.
“Those who work with birth parents are looking to folks like us for parents of adoption,” said Sister Dolora. “And that’s why we’re able to expedite the services that we do.”
Adoptive couples wait an average of seven months, although sometimes the wait is a lot shorter. There is no shortage of children, so an adoptive couple will be successful if they are willing and able to meet the criteria.
“A lot of people can be very particular,” she continued. “If you tell me you want a baby born between May and September, and you want it to be a Caucasian baby girl, and don’t want the mother to have smoked or taken drugs, that narrows the scope of availability. But for the couple that wants a baby for the baby’s sake, there’s not a shortage of babies.”
Adoptions can be expensive in terms of time and money.
A couple has to be willing to drop everything at a call, go to another state, be willing to stay there for at least a week, and pay fees and expenses related to the actual adoption.
“It is expensive to adopt,” said Sister Mary. “Our fee is rather small — $4,500 due at the time of application. But by the time they’ve completed the process, it could be $35,000 — for attorney fees, travel, and living expenses.”
The married couples they work with must be financially, mentally, emotionally, physically and spiritually able to parent. Usually, they adopt because they have fertility issues.
Invariably, adoptive parents encounter challenges and unexpected twists. Their patience and expectations will be tested.
Adopting is, after all, a walk in faith. But it’s totally worth it.
“I believe in children having good parents,” said Sister Dolora simply.
The St. Joseph Adoption Ministry can be contacted by calling (913) 299-5222 or 1 (800) 752-1737, or by email at: jadopt@sbc global.net. Its website is: www.catholicadoptionministry.org.