It’s in our heritage
Founded in 1879 as an orphanage, the services and even the name of Catholic Charities of Kansas City-St. Joseph have morphed throughout its 139 years of community service. Beginning as Mount St. Bernard’s Orphanage, it changed its name to the Catholic Welfare Bureau around the Great Depression, then to Catholic Family and Community Services, and finally, to Catholic Charities of Kansas City-St. Joseph.
But, while its name has changed, its dedication to serving children and families has remained constant. One example is its unfailing commitment to adoption.
The last 30 years has witnessed transformative changes in adoption. The process has become big business. Today, more people inhabit space in the adoption chain than perhaps at any time in history – public institutions, private institutions, attorneys, courts, governmental bodies, facilitators, researchers, etc. The field can seem crowded, and those seeking adoptive services can quickly become overwhelmed. In addition to the myriad of people between a birth mother and a potential adoptive family, Catholic Charities has witnessed other metamorphoses. Here are just a few:
The rising cost of adoption. “When I was running an adoption agency from 1976-1986,” said Kris Probasco, a 40-year veteran of the adoption industry, “I would put the average cost of adoption somewhere around $4,500.” Today, that number can easily be tenfold. According to the Child & Welfare Information Services, a division of the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, adoption costs now range from $20,000 to $45,000 for a private agency adoption. Cost varies based on a number of factors including, court fees, legal fees, counseling, medical expenses, travel costs, etc.
The switch from closed to open adoptions. Probasco is also credited with being the first person to facilitate an open adoption in Kansas City nearly 30 years ago. The transition from a closed process, where the birth parent and the adoptive parent were kept separate and identities not shared at all, has given way to an open process enabling the birth parent and adoptive parent to openly and continuously communicate about the child’s social, emotional and medical well-being. According to the Donaldson Adoption Institute, birthmothers who have ongoing contact with their children report less grief, regret and worry as well as more peace of mind.
Laws. While many laws throughout the history have impacted adoption, the latest for Missourians was the Missouri Adoptee Rights Act, which was fully implemented in January 2018. This law now enables adult adoptees, 18 years of age and older, the right to obtain an original copy of their birth certificate as long as their birthparents have not accessed their rights to have their names remain confidential. This is a seismic change for adoptees seeking knowledge of their lineal heritage.
Programs to help mothers. In the past, women who wanted to adopt, as well as mothers who chose to parent their children, didn’t have access to a lot of resources aiding them in their chosen parenting vocation. At Catholic Charities of Kansas City-St. Joseph, we offer two such programs – Mom’s Empowerment and St. Germaine’s Little Lambs.
Mom’s Empowerment – Case management, support and education for women throughout their pregnancy and up to the baby’s first birthday.
St. Germaine’s Little Lambs – Case management, education and supportive services to parents and guardians of children from birth to 5 years of age, by helping parents build parental resilience, form social connections, gain knowledge of child development, access concrete support in times of need, and develop a child’s social and emotional competence.
Catholic Charities has witnessed incredible changes in the adoption process. But for nearly 140 years, it has remained committed to serving children and families through adoption, not as a business, but as a ministry knowing that God has destined us all for adoption to himself through Christ Jesus (Ephesians 1:5). If you or someone you know needs help navigating the adoption process, please call Ashley Wohlegemuth at (816) 659-8279. Those cases might include:
• If you are a birth parent and want to make an adoption plan.
• If you are a family interested in expanding your family through adoption.
• If you represent an organization that works with children and families and want to know more about our adoption services.
Catholic Charities of Kansas City- St. Joseph would like to recognize Laura Long and Kris Probasco for their knowledge & help with the development of this story.