At the heart of Adoption By Choice is love

FALL RIVER, Mass. — Catholic Social Services in the Fall River Diocese has been a historical presence in the field of adoption since 1924. CSS’ Adoption by Choice program is now licensed in Massachusetts and Rhode Island. Through the devoted work of many social workers over the years, thousands of couples have found their way to becoming a family through adoption. 

The program provides pregnancy counseling, intensive support services, information and referrals, parenting support, adoption/placement, post-placement supervision, home study services, search and reunion services, adoptive parent trainings, and post-placement supportive services to birth parents. It also hosts two annual events for families, birth parents, and prospective adoptive couples: A National Adoption Month Family Celebration in November and an Easter Egg Hunt in the spring on the beautiful grounds of the CSS facility in Fall River.

Adoption By Choice primarily focuses on open adoption in the direct placement of domestic infants up to one-year-olds. Expectant parents contact the program directly and receive pregnancy counseling to determine whether parenting or an adoptive placement is in their best interest and that of the child. The program provides guidance that is sensitive to the loss issues that are a common thread for all members in the constellation: the birth parents, the infant, and the adoptive couple.

The depth of a birth mother’s love for her child in making a courageous decision to place her child for adoption is always understood. At Adoption by Choice, they believe it is an empowering act for birth parents to choose an adoptive couple for their child. They support the families in building a meaningful relationship with each other that is in the best interest of the child.

The prospective adoptive couples complete a comprehensive home study, which includes state and federal background checks and fingerprinting. The home study involves completing documentation, autobiographies, employment and personal references, and a parenting philosophy — to name a few components. This process usually takes four to six months to complete. Staff members admire the willingness of prospective adoptive couples in completing this comprehensive process. The couples also participate in 15 hours of adoption training.

One couple, who wished to remain anonymous, recently wrote: “We quickly learned that a bond is not formed from sharing DNA. A bond is created from the love and care that you give your child each and every day. The bond is strengthened when your baby is comforted by the sound of your voice and the love behind your embrace. I truly believe that the love we have for our son is stronger than any bond we could have created with a biological child. We needed our son as much as he needed us and there is something so special and unique about the love we all have for one another.” 

Prospective adoptive couples also prepare a profile book and once they are approved as an adoptive couple they may be considered by an expectant parent(s) to parent their child. It is always Adoption By Choice’s hope, guided by current research, that the expectant parent(s) come to them early enough in the process to develop a relationship with the adoptive couple. Some adoptive couples have participated in prenatal visits, Lamaze classes, and even served as labor coaches present at the delivery. This significant sharing between the expectant parent(s), the infant, and the adoptive couple are the building blocks of a successful placement.

The work with birth parents is a signature component of Adoption By Choice, which truly sets the program apart from other adoption agencies. They assist birth parents for at least one year post-adoptive placement with counseling referrals, case management, obtaining learner’s permits and licenses, enrollment in vocational, GED and community college programs, and accessing additional resources in the community.

An inspirational aspect of the Adoption By Choice Program is assisting adult adoptees and birth parents with contact and reunification. They have experienced many amazing reunion stories and have had adult adoptees travel across the country to meet their elderly birth parents. They recently had the fortunate opportunity to reunite two adult adoptees with their 95-year-old birth mother! 

For many involved, these wonderful reunions have brought what had been an isolating secret for many years into the light and have provided hope for what adoption can become.

One couple, Anna and David, recently adopted baby Samantha through Adoption By Choice and shared their thoughts on the experience:

“Adoption by Choice not only provided us with a way to grow our family, but it also gave us a strong understanding of what adoption means and how it works. Most importantly, the big difference between (Adoption By Choice) and other agencies out there is that the agency holds the best interests of the child at the center of the process. This is a key distinction and one that drew us to the program.

“This is demonstrated by the fact that CSS helped us to create a strong bond with the other adoptive couples so that we could support each other while we waited for placements. Post-placement these same families have grown into an important support network that will continue to provide our children support from their adoptive peers. Finally, not only does CSS provide us with all of these things, but the social workers really care and that is something rare — they have truly become part of our extended family.”

“At the heart of adoption is love.” This heartfelt sentiment is a guiding force in the social work adoption practice at the diocesan Catholic Social Services.

The current Adoption By Choice staff includes program coordinator Kathleen Vena, MSW, LCSW; supervising social worker/consultant Phyllis Habib, MSW, LCSW; and Maria Botelho, support staff. 

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