Bethany expands adoption services in Greater Boston

Printed from:

“It’s such a courageous decision for an expectant parent to choose an adoption plan.  It’s so brave.  It is such a selfless thing to do.”

Julie C. Paine, branch director for the Southern New England office (serving both Massachusetts and Rhode Island) of Bethany Christian Services speaks with an earnest, full-hearted passion.

Paine’s efforts are part of a broad initiative by Bethany in the Hub. The largest adoptive service in the world, Bethany has its local offices in Franklin, Massachusetts, but Paine is quick to point out that they just hired a pregnancy counselor for Boston, Katie Quinn, and, thanks to recent fundraising successes, plans to expand even further.

Bethany has its national headquarters in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Its first agency opened there in 1944, and over the past seven decades it has spread to multiple countries. The group just celebrated 30 years of providing pregnancy counseling and infant adoption services in Worcester.

In addition to infant adoption, Bethany is known as an advocate for special needs and hard-to-adopt children. The organization also facilitates inter-country adoptions, foster adoption and refugee child placements involving children from families – typically Central America – fleeing significant trauma.

“We live and breathe our mission,” Paine says.

At Bethany, counseling and all other services are provided to the birth mother free of charge, Paine said.  Financial, emotional and legal support are all available to the birth mother throughout her pregnancy. She notes that pregnancy services are provided regardless of what the expectant parent, via counseling, decides to do.  Expectant parent counseling is provided for any birth mother who calls.

“They’re usually in some sort of crisis,” Paine said.  “We have a safe place to sort out a plan.  We allow them to plan a life-affirming option.  We believe in being fully available, 24/7.”

All pregnancy counseling is paid for by donors. Churches, foundation grants and the local community all come together to subsidize the effort.

Exactly what happens in an infant adoption?

The process typically begins with the birth mother considering what traits might be important for her in choosing parents for her child.  Race, religion, age, career, education level, other children, marital status and financial stability are all characteristics provided in an adoptive family profile.

When the birth mother is ready to legally place a child with the adoptive parents she has selected, she will need to surrender her right to parent her child.  This means that she will be asked to sign a “consent” or “surrender” document in front of a witness and a notary public that says she wishes to voluntarily relinquish rights to her child. In Massachusetts, the consent or surrender cannot be signed until at least the fourth day after the baby is born.  The consent must also say that it is final, and cannot be revoked.

What are the tasks of the adoptive family?

In order to legally adopt a child, the adoptive family must submit to a home study.  This study is carried out by a licensed agency. Approval can take several months. Often, the adoptive family creates a picture/profile book to describe their home environment and reveal what’s important to them in developing a family. Many times this book is essential to the birth mother. Through it, she gets to choose a family that truly resonates with her. Adoption fees are paid for by the adoptive parents, typically on a sliding scale, based on the prospective parents’ income. Fees are charged to the adoptive parents at different times throughout the process.

Bethany’s Massachusetts and Rhode Island impact has been, and will continue to be, significant. In 2013, 15 expectant parents received pregnancy support.  The number climbed to 28 in 2014. The projected total for 2015 was 40, and the 2016 goal is 50.

In terms of domestic infant adoptions, seven children were placed in 2013 and five in 2014.  The projected total for 2015 was 10 and the goal for 2016 is 14.

Alycia Paolillo, 29, of Woburn, has firsthand knowledge of Bethany’s support.

“I was 27 when I was pregnant,” she said. “I knew I couldn’t keep her.”

Paolillo, who had a 5-year old son at the time and was living in a rooming house with her boyfriend, decided on an open adoption. She met with Jenn Ryder, Bethany’s pregnancy counselor, who Paolillo calls her “rock.” (For her part, Ryder has told Paolillo “I’m in your life for the rest of your life.”) Paolillo picked out her daughter’s family and has frequent contact with them. She sees her daughter once a year, and the adoptive family regularly sends her photos, updates and text messages. A true friendship and deep bond has been created.

“When I was pregnant, I’d say my prayers every night before bed: ‘Let me choose the right family; don’t let me do anything wrong.’  Now, I don’t have any regrets,” Paolillo said.  “Doing what I did was the best decision I could have made for my daughter, my son and myself. The family I chose? They are amazing people. If I had to do it all over again, I’d do it the exact same way. It’s definitely one of the best situations in my life. It’s been an amazing experience.”

For quality adoption agencies, Paine says, the aim is always the same – they strive to bring families together, to keep them together and to meet essential needs.

What would Paine say to an expectant mother considering giving her child up for adoption in the Boston area?

“We just want her to know that she’s not alone. We are available anytime to provide non-judgmental, free and confidential support. We’ll walk alongside her as she decides the best decision for her and her baby. We’ll support her as she sorts it out.”

Lori Brannigan Kelly is a freelance writer in South Boston. She can be reached at [email protected].NBPLifeABC