Heather and Todd wanted a family but had trouble conceiving so they turned to Catholic Charities Life Connections (LC) Adoption Program for help. LC utilizes the open adoption model, where the birth parents and adoptive parents are known and have ongoing relationships with each other. This helps complete the whole picture for the child.
At first, Heather and Todd were hesitant about open adoption. Heather said, “We liked the idea of open adoption, but it made us very nervous. We wondered if our children would recognize us as their parents.” Thanks to several adoption classes, and the relationships the family formed with other parents, Heather and Todd felt more secure in the decision to choose open adoption. Having an open adoption helped Emma, their middle child, understand her identity and her place within the entire family. Jessica, Emma’s birth mother, became pregnant at 19 years old. She received a list of adoption agencies from a social worker after giving birth and chose Catholic Charities. The open adoption model appealed to her because she wanted Emma to know her family history and why she was adopted. “She is going to know who I am,” Jessica said, “I knew open adoption was going to be to the best benefit for the both of us.”
Jessica selected Heather and Todd to be Emma’s family. During the first four years of Emma’s life, Jessica had frequent contact. However, when Emma was four, Jessica, an active-duty soldier, was deployed. Although she sent pictures and videos, Emma’s memories of Jessica began to fade. Emma wanted to meet Jessica face-to-face. She also wanted to meet her younger birth sister, Cassandra, who Jessica was raising. Jessica, too, realized that after such limited contact, it was time for Emma to see her again. With assistance from the military program, Hero Miles, Jessica arranged for Emma and Heather to fly to Georgia and meet her and Cassandra.
Emma was both nervous and excited about the meeting. She wondered, “Will they like me?” or “Will we get along?” Meanwhile, Jessica felt nervous about meeting her birth daughter after so many years. When the time came, Emma connected instantly with Jessica and Cassandra and was excited to learn about their lives. Cassandra was excited to meet a new friend who she is now “extremely excited to see all the time,” according to Jessica. Thanks to open adoption, Emma could make sense of her own identity and eliminate the mystery of what her birth family was like. More importantly, this particular meeting with her birth family strengthened Emma’s relationship with her mother, Heather. “It was a really special trip for Emma and me. It brought us closer on an even deeper level than we would have had otherwise because we shared the experience together.” Heather says, “It truly made her feel whole.”
Heather and Todd trust that having each of their children know their birth family is an ideal situation. “We always believed there are never too many people to love your child,” Heather says, “and Catholic Charities has been there throughout the entire process to support our family.”