Charities Still in the Adoption Business
By Amanda Hudson
November 23, 2017
ROCKFORD—Dr. Virginia  Desjarlais would like the whole world to know that “adoption is a viable option.”
 
As the supervisor for adoption services at Catholic Charities in the diocese, Dr. Desjarlais works with Jennifer Peacock to provide adoption supportive services. The pair provides the expertise to guide couples through the legal and emotional pieces of the adoption process. 
 
The service of an adoption agency is essential for any non-relative adoptions. Because adoption is a legal process, there are numerous, but good, “hoops” to go through, these coworkers say.
 
“I bring the tissues and (Jennifer) brings the list,” Dr. Desjarlais says as she describes each one’s main role.
As one might guess, “especially for interstate and international adoptions ... there is a lot of  paperwork,” Peacock says.
 
With out-of-state adoptions, they work with a nationwide process called the ICPC (Interstate Compact Placement for Children). There is a whole checklist of things for ICPC, Peacock explains, adding that it is not bad once you know all that is required, as she does. Both women appreciate the ICPC and their ICPC contact’s assistance and professionalism.
 
As Dr. Desjarlais says, “It is all really for everyone’s protection. I like having a paper trail. (Such protections) for an innocent child, I’m all for it.”
 
Because both families also need an attorney, the women provide their adoptive parents with a list of attorneys who are well-versed in providing that specialized kind of legal service.
 
Dr. Desjarlais works mostly with the other side of the adoption coin — beginning with what she calls a “meet and greet.” As a licensed adoption agency, Catholic Charities provides the required, extensive Home Study that is mandated by the courts and submitted to the adoption/placing agency that is responsible for placing the child. Such studies take an average of about three months.
 
The placing agency, Dr. Desjarlais explains, needs “to know that the home and the couple are emotionally and physically prepared to care for the child placed in that home. The court also requires a Home Study in order to finalize the adoption.”
 
Dr. Desjarlais says most often, couples who come to them have tried numerous Church-approved options to address infertility. “Infertility is the second-most devastating diagnosis (behind cancer),” she says, adding that she seeks to find out where the couple is in the process of accepting such a hard reality.
 
She also assesses whether or not couples have worked through issues that might be barriers to good parenting. The prospective parents don’t have to come from perfect backgrounds and stellar families, Dr. Desjarlais says, but they do have to process everything well.
 
If the “stress bomb” of adoption might threaten the strength of their marriage, the couple is referred for counseling to address that, she says.
 
“I tell them my crystal ball is out for service,” Dr. Desjarlais says, “but we do know the (potential adoption) challenges. We do some education and (at times) advise them to consult medical professionals” if, for example, the birth mother did not tell the truth about how much drugs her child was exposed to in the womb.
 
Adoption has evolved over the years. In 1980, Catholic Charities coordinated some 100 adoptions. There was a “big drop” in adoptions, Peacock says, from 1985 on, after society shifted its views of single parenting. “Then we saw an increase in foster care,” she adds.
 
In 2011, new State regulations made it impossible for Catholic Charities to provide foster care according to Church teachings. Catholic Charities then saw a large drop in the number of people who were seeking to place their children — from 2011-2015 they assisted in just one or two adoptions. 
 
Requests have increased since then, but Catholic Charities adoption supportive service continues to provide the “extras” as well as the basics for the couples seeking to adopt.
 
Additionally, Catholic Charities provides a Post-Adoptive Search Program to help adults who were adopted through Catholic Charities over the years to get medical history information. They also are willing to set up communications between biological parents and their children if both sides desire it.
 
Catholic Charities also is the place for those served by the long-closed St. Vincent Home for Children.
 
“Adoption parenting is different,” says Dr. Desjarlais. “It’s not better or worse, just different.”
 
“Our focus,” Peacock says, “is to provide a lot of support and a lot of education to our families.”
 
“We are committed to our families not just through the adoption process but at every step of the way,” Dr. Desjarlais adds, “whether that is issues stemming from drugs or mundane questions about adolescent behavior. We’re in this for the long haul.”