‘Adoption is a life-affirming decision’

Bob Paige never expected his Spiritual Adoption Program to grow like it did.

It started with his own conversion story in 1999, when he returned to the Church after 40 years and felt called to the pro-life cause. When he read the late Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen’s simple prayer for the unborn, he thought it would be nice to make prayer cards.

“It just progressed from there,” he said. “It was the Holy Spirit. God kept telling me what to do, and it just kept going.”

So far, Paige, who lives in Novi, Michigan, has given away more than 3 million prayer cards, and he also has given away materials to launch thousands of Spiritual Adoption Programs (spiritualadoption.org) around the country.

“Everything gets paid for through donations,” he said. “People are so generous, and they just love the program.”

Paige’s wife, Suzanne, helps him with email requests and with sending out a variety of prayer cards, watch-me-grow posters and brochures, and other materials for individuals, churches, schools and groups. The program calls for naming an unknown at-risk baby, praying daily and, through the posters and brochures, “watching” the baby grow for nine months.

“God has been so powerful in my life and keeps sending me people who want this program,” he said. “A lot of times, they just want the cards because they already have the program, and I thank God every day that I have been given the grace to do this. This is God’s ministry, and I am just a servant and a provider. I have heard of a couple of miracles that have happened from this, and I’m sure there are lots more. God sends me a couple, and that keeps me on fire.”

Educating children

Holy Heroes, based in Charlotte, North Carolina, (holyheroes.com) provides Catholic education materials to help children grow in their faith. Their free Spiritual Adoption Prayer Adventure was developed two years ago to help foster a culture of life in children without directly addressing abortion.

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The Holy Heroes Spiritual Adoption Prayer Adventure helps kids better understand how babies grow and develop. Courtesy image

Mary Mack was involved in research and developing the content.

“It focuses on the positive, that this is a child, this is how you started, this is how a baby develops and grows,” she said.

The Holy Heroes Spiritual Adoption Prayer Adventure is an online program that includes puzzles, games and music and stories to listen to. Individuals can sign up, or it can be used in parish children’s groups. The program lasts for nine months, and after the baby is born, participants have a final quiz and are asked to continue praying for the unborn and their parents.

“It’s simple enough for young children to understand, but it’s not dumbed down so that older children can’t appreciate it,” Mack said. “I’ve heard positive comments that children enjoy learning about babies, and it seems to be a fun way to learn where they came from.”

‘Best for the child’

According to Catholic Charities USA, based in Alexandria, Virginia, in 2014, adoption programs in dioceses and archdioceses across the United States served 27,299 individuals, completed 2,707 adoptions and 1,954 foster care adoptions.

Danna P. Cousins is program director for adoption services in the Archdiocese of New Orleans. They typically complete 10 to 20 domestic and foreign adoptions a year.

“Society has changed so much that the trend now is for open adoptions,” she said. “The secrecy that historically surrounded adoptions isn’t there today. Both the birth families and adoptive families embrace open adoption at this point, and we find that it’s healthier for the children. Children as young as 3 or 4 like to tell their birth stories, and they understand them. With adopted children, adoption is their story to tell.”

The birth mother is involved in selecting the family in an open adoption process. The parties involved work out future plans that may include frequent or limited visitations and different levels of involvement from the birth mother.

“It’s about boundaries and comfort, and what those levels of openness will be,” Cousins said.

“It’s about an extension of family in the relationships. It’s not about co-parenting. They all love this child and want what’s best for this child.”

Sometimes, even in an open adoption, the birth mother can opt for a more confidential approach, and so future contact with the adoptive family is voluntarily limited.

“Adoption is a life-affirming decision, first and foremost,” Cousins said. “Certainly, with some birth moms, abortion was a consideration at some point in time. But by the time they contact us about making an adoption plan, they are typically four months or beyond and are still trying to figure out parenting or adoption.

“Whatever services are needed for their decision, we are there to provide. We explore parenting with them if that’s their choice. It’s about what’s best for the child. It’s about love for the child.”

Maryann Gogniat Eidemiller writes from Pennsylvania.

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