Nancy Morrell, program coordinator of Maternity and Adoption Services, encouraged students to consider the benefits of adoption. The event, which was held last Thursday, was organized by TCNJ Lifesavers, a pro-life organization on campus.
According to Morrell, who has worked at Catholic Charities for 12 years, maternity and adoptive services has placed four children in homes over the last two years and has supported over 20 mothers who were considering adoption as an option.
“We used to have extremely high numbers (of mothers considering adoption),” she said. Even though the numbers are lower now, Morrell encourages girls to use the services for support.
“I’ve been trying for a long time at Catholic Charities to get the word out for girls facing an unexpected pregnancy to make adoption an option for the baby,” Morrell said.
“We have tried to reach out to the Red Cross and other dioceses.we are trying to use our services and resources,” Morrell said.
“It has been a struggle to reach out to them,” she said. The agency has even contacted Planned Parenthood in hopes that if they encounter a woman who does not wish to terminate her pregnancy, they give out an adoption brochure.
The Catholic Charities Dioceses of Trenton, which is the 15th largest in the country, covers Burlington, Monmouth, Mercer, and Ocean counties. The agency, located in Burlington, served as Saint Michael’s Orphanage in Hopewell for decades, but had to close in the 70’s after several fires.
“We had to keep the services open.to keep that option open,” Morrell said. The Diocese still maintained a maternity home in Yardville and now, from birth, the baby goes to a temporary family for several weeks to allow the birth mother to make a decision.
The agency does this to make sure that the mother does not feel pressured or rushed into making a decision. “That piece of our program seems to be appealing,” Morrell said.
Morrell is reluctant to use the word “foster” because a lot of people assume it is run by the state when that program is run by Catholic Charities.
Another misconception about Maternity and Adoption Services, according to Morrell, is that only Catholics use the services. “We accept all couples, babies and moms,” she said.
Most people who do use the agency are Catholic but Morrell urges people not to be deceived. “We are not strictly one religion or race; we are a variety,” she said.
“The 70’s changed a lot for pregnancy,” she said. According to Morrell, people realize that there are “easier and quicker things to do” especially among the younger generation and with the rising popularity of things like birth control.
Morrell said that she doesn’t know why more high school and college girls don’t choose adoption. “It is ideal for this population,” she said.
“Adoption used to be the biggest option,” she said. “Now you see girls walking around school pregnant.it has been more accepted over time.”
Morrell said that she wanted to stress that “adoption is still a choice although it has lost its strength through years.”
Although the agency does not facilitate open adoption, which allows the birth mother keep in contact with the child on a regular basis, it does have a “picture-gift policy.” This means that the birth mother receives pictures and updates for up to five years with the cooperation of the adoptive parents.
“They can do more than that if they want (to) after five years,” Morrell said. “That way the (birth) mother always feels a little bit connected.”
The agency also offers a research reunion program that has built up since Morrell’s time at the agency. This means that when the child is 18 or sometimes younger, the child and the birth mother can request a reunion.
“People love that program,” Morrell said.
The process of adopting a child is extensive. Several home studies are done in which everything including medical and financial circumstances are discussed and references are needed.
Additionally, the adoptive parents need to have fingerprints taken on the state and federal level as well as go through a child abuse registry to check their history.
If approved, the couple puts together a profile packet that includes questionnaires, autobiographies and photos for the birth mothers to look through.
The agency has about six adoptive parents on the waiting list and four more in the process. According to Morrell, this is also due to the fact that every 18 months all paperwork has to be updated and refilled if the parents have not received a child yet.
Members or the audience asked several questions and many were interested in knowing about the rights of the birth father.
“Birth fathers have rights,” Morrell said. She explained that if the father does not surrender the child, under law, he could go back and claim the child.
“He has a legitimate fight,” she said. Morrell’s organization uses a seven-letter procedure. They send the birth father letters. If there is no response after the seventh letter, it is looked at by the judge as abandonment.
It is different with abortion, Morrell explained, because “once that baby is born.he definitely has rights.”
According to Nicole Kukawski, a 2006 graduate of the College and public relations and marketing assistant for Catholic Charities, the diocese is “competing for government funds constantly” because the money is going to other areas.
For more information about Catholic Charities and Maternity and Adoption Services visit catholiccharitiestrenton.org.