For the last fifty years, Catholic Charities Adoption services have worked to establish relationships between families and the children they are looking to adopt. Due to a gradual decrease in demand for these services, the Catholic Charities Adoptions services program will be closing later this year.
Catholic Charities traces its history to the founding of the “Nazareth House” in 1899, with childcare services remaining as a staple of the agency throughout its years of serving the community. Beginning in 1919, the Missionary Sisters of the Blessed Trinity expanded programming by adding child welfare services, as well as actively looking to place the children from their orphanages with loving families.
Over the years, the adoption program has worked to offer a number of services to expectant mothers including counseling, home-study services, placement services, and post-placement services. These services were key in facilitating the adoption process and gave clients a sense of comfort and safety at a complicated time.
This program was so successful in placing children in homes, it even took on an international dimension in 1985. Working with placement agencies in the United States, children from countries like China, Russia, South Korea, and Guatemala were connected to local families looking to adopt.
Sally Umbdenstock, Coordinator of Adoption Services, has been with Catholic Charities since 1985 and played a key role in running the international adoptions. “I was contacted by the Raleigh Regional Director, and that was when we were starting to do home studies for international adoption.”
The program was initially a success and thousands of children from other countries were adopted by families in the United States. However, due to policy and internal changes that occurred in these countries, the numbers began to decrease.
“International adoptions had gone from a peak of 22,000 children who came into this country every year for adoption, and it dropped in 2004 to maybe 8,000 children,” Umbdenstock says.
Additionally, changes in international policy -such as the Universal Accreditation Act of 2012- made it costly for Catholic Charities to continue qualifying to provide these services.
Closer to home, the number of birth mothers coming to Catholic Charities had steadily declined as well. In 1999, it was decided that traditional adoption services would no longer be provided. This was the beginning of a decline that would ultimately lead to the closing of the program.
“In 1995, there had been people on the waiting list for the traditional program as long as seven years. So, the decision was made by the Catholic Charities Board of Directors at that time to close that program. Anyone on the waiting list, we helped to find other avenues to adoption.” Umbdenstock said. “Then, in 2017, Catholic Charities made the decision that we would slowly stop the adoption program completely.”
Catholic Charities remains committed to families who received agency adoptions over the years, where Catholic Charities staff worked with both the adoptive parents and the birth parents. The files related to these cases have been digitized and a partnership has been established with Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Charlotte. Through this partnership, Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Charlotte will store adoption files and provide ongoing information services such as Confidential Intermediary Services and to possibly initiate the search process for locating a birth parent or adult adoptee.
“Our adoption program enabled hundreds of parents to grow their families. Whether it was their first child or their fourth child, and in return, hundreds of children were given permanence and a family in which to grow and develop to their maximum potential.” shared Umbdenstock. “It is rewarding work and I’m humbled to be a part of each families’ adoption journey. The joy on a child’s face and a parent’s face is immeasurable. I have been blessed to be a small part of the process with memories to last a lifetime.”