By Ana Martinez-Ortiz
November is a month of celebrations and awareness, and it’s the kickoff month for a time dedicated to family, love and togetherness. For the past two decades, it’s also been recognized as National Adoption Month. To raise awareness and get a conversation started about adoption, Bethany Christian Services is doing a month-long promotion.
Bethany Christian Services is a non-profit organization and was first established in 1944 with Marguerite Bonnema when she rescued her neighbor’s illegitimate child from death, according to their website. From there they obtained their state childcare license under the established name of Bethany Christian Services and in 1951, the group received its child placement license. Eventually, it opened agencies across the nation before expanding to a global level. In 1984, it reached Wisconsin.
Susan Hubbell is the local office branch director for the agency in Waukesha. Some of the services include pregnancy support, adoption and foster care to name a few.
According to Hubbell, some people have known they’ve wanted to adopt since they were young, and that it’s been “placed on their heart…for other folks, it’s a journey.”
What’s important when considering adoption is that both parents need to be on the same page. She stressed the importance of having a conversation with one’s spouse to fully understand the commitment. Of course, it depends on the situation and if the couple has always considered adoption or if it’s the best option for them to build a family.
Bethany wants to help get the conversation started. During November, they will be offering tools and resources through their website and social media accounts that can assist people in opening the conversation and starting a dialogue about adoption.
Although Bethany is putting forth an extra effort during November, they offer free information meetings each month and deliver speeches at schools. The meetings cover everything so people get a general idea, then they can schedule one-on-one meetings to address specific matters.
One topic addressed pertains to open vs semi-open vs closed adoptions. According to Hubbell, research shows that open adoptions are healthier for all parties involved and they want to encourage families to at least consider it.
“It’s helping them prepare to adopt,” Hubbell said.
Adoptive families prepare much in the same way birth families do. Although preparation varies most people get ready mentally, visit doctors, take classes, read books and speak with family friends.
Hubbell said grief and loss are as much a part of the process as love and hope. This applies to both the adoptive parents and the birth parents.
Wisconsin is what Hubbell termed a “good legal state.” In order for an adoption process to begin, both birth parents must sign the dotted line in order for their rights to be terminated. Other states like Nebraska, allow the mother to terminate both rights without the father’s consent 48 hours after giving birth.
For Hubbell, it’s important that the father is involved in the process, even if it creates more work.
“We do a very diligent job of engaging with fathers,” she said.
They want the father to think about what’s best for the child. In some cases, this means arranging a visit if the father is in prison.
Bethany works hard to ensure that the child is put first.
“We advocate on behalf of children,” Hubbell said.
As a result, they try to find a permanent home for children within six months. To make sure they have the best fit they do background checks and study the adoptive family among other precautions.
Right now, there are 140 million children on a global scale with 100,000 in the states longing for their “forever home,” and places like Bethany are making a dream become a reality.
Beginning a conversation is the first step.