Appeal helps couple make adoption possible
Neenah couple are first to adopt in restored program
Third in a series on Bishop's Appeal
|PROUD PARENTS: Stacey and Mark Babbitt with their son, Austin, whom they adopted through Catholic Charities. Adoption services are possible, in part, through funding from the annual Bishop's Appeal under way in parishes throughout the diocese. (Jim Parish photo)
What: Bishop's Appeal, the Green Bay Diocese's annual
fund-raiser to support diocesan programs and services offered to
parishes and individuals.
Where: All parishes in the diocese.
When: Right now.
How: Making a cash, check, credit card (Mastercard, Visa
and Discover) or pledge donation. Materials have been sent to homes
and also are available through parishes. Some employers offer
matching gift programs, for which Catholic Charities may qualify,
since it serves the general public; additional information is
available through Human Resources departments.
Theme: Stepping Together in Faith.
Target: $4.8 million.
Editor's note: The annual Bishop's Appeal supports numerous
services to help parishes, individuals and families. Among the
services it makes possible is adoptions through Catholic Charities.
Here is the story of one family who was able to use that service.
By Joanne Flemming
When listening to Stacey and Mark Babbitt of Neenah talk about
their eight-month-old son Austin, the joy in their voices is
They love to describe his smile.
"Sometimes he smiles so big; it just melts your heart," says
Stacey. "It's really genuine," agrees his father.
Mark likes the way Austin reaches out when he wants to be
"That's a pretty neat feeling when you see him reaching up at
you," he said. "There's that connection there, and that's pretty
What makes Austin extra special to the Babbitts is that he is
their adopted son. Parenthood was a long time in coming for the
couple, Stacey said. Then last spring they became part of the Green
Bay Diocese's Catholic Charities adoption program.
At the end of July, they became the first couple to have a child
placed with them. On Feb. 28, the adoption will be finalized in
Winnebago County court.
"He will officially take our last name and become our son," said
|Stepping Together in Faith
2003 Bishop's Appeal
"Our dream has finally come true, and Austin is a wonderful
little baby," said Stacey.
Married in 1996, the Babbitts tried to have children "for a
while," they said. In August, 2001, Mark was diagnosed with
testicular cancer. His surgery was successful, and his prognosis is
"excellent," he added.
He and his wife began to think about adoption. They asked Joan
Bartman, then pastoral associate at their parish, St. Margaret Mary
in Neenah, if she knew of any adoption agencies. She suggested they
contact Catholic Charities, where they spoke to Kelly Richardson,
child welfare specialist.
While the Babbitts were making their inquiries, Catholic
Charities was setting up its adoption program. It had a program for
many decades until deciding not to renew its license in 1992. The
new program was licensed in January, 2002. When it held its first
informational meeting for prospective adoptive parents that spring
in Green Bay, the Neenah couple attended.
During that session, the agency explained the steps in the
adoption process, Richardson said. Afterwards, couples could sign
up for the program. Of those, only five were chosen at random to
participate. The Babbitts, who are featured on this year's Bishop's
Appeal video, were among them.
The first step was four educational classes during which
discussion focused on infertility issues and on openness in
adoption, Richardson said.
"Most couples who come to Catholic Charities can't have children
on their own or maybe have adopted one child," she said. One
purpose of the classes is to help them "heal a bit" from problems
they faced with infertility.
Another is to discuss the agency's "philosophy and policies" on
Mark defined this as "when the adoptive parents have an open
relationship with the birth parents as opposed to a closed adoption
where the baby is placed in our home and you have no contact with
the birth parents. You don't know who they are really."
Richardson said Catholic Charities has always advocated such
openness. "Our ultimate goal is that there be continued contact
with the birth parents and the adoptive parents throughout the
child's life." This contact includes visitations and exchanging
letters and photos.
While the classes go on, the couples have their physicals, and
the agency conducts background checks on them.
The second step is the home studies. During this period, the
Babbitts were licensed as a foster home under Wisconsin law.
Richardson made several visits with them to discuss their "social
history, life, personalities and marriage."
She helped them prepare the profile that would be shown to a
A birth mother or birth parents use the profiles to pick
adoptive parents for their child, Richardson said. In each is a
"Dear birth mother" letter in which adoptive parents introduce
themselves. There are also photographs of the couple, their
families and their home.
After a birth parent chooses a prospective couple, Catholic
Charities arranges for them to meet.
Such meetings are crucial. During one, the birth parent may
decide she doesn't want that couple or that she wants to keep her
child, Richardson said.
Austin's birth mother picked their profile on June 5, 2002,
Stacey said. They met on June 6, and the baby was born on June
The Babbitts were at the hospital for the birth and Stacey
remembers seeing their future son for the first time. "I was in
awe, practically speechless. He was so tiny, so precious."
"It was almost like an adrenalin rush," added Mark.
Austin weighed almost five pounds, nine ounces and measured
18½ inches at birth. His birth mother asked the Babbitts to
name him. They chose James as his middle name.
The baby was placed in temporary foster care for almost two
months after leaving the hospital. Richardson said this
"transitional period" can last from one to three months.
During that period, a hearing is usually held to terminate the
birth parents' rights, although the birth parents still can change
their minds about adoption.
Both birth and adoptive parents can visit the baby at his foster
The Babbitts also used the time to furnish Austin's room using a
Winnie the Pooh theme. Family gave gifts and supplies and Stacey's
family surprised her with a baby shower.
The couple brought Austin home on July 30. Richardson continued
to make home visits for six months during which she offered the new
Now at 8 months, Austin weighs 18 pounds and measures 24 inches.
He has blue eyes and his hair is blond with touches of red. He sits
up and moves his legs as if he is getting ready to crawl. "He loves
to smile and laugh with people," Stacey said.
Adopting Austin has made their faith stronger, the Babbitts
said. "We really trust God," Mark said. "We have a lot of faith
because honestly and truly our prayers were answered."
"We feel God led us to adoption," said Stacey.
"Events happened in such a way that we knew God was in control
all the time," her husband added.
Richardson said Catholic Charities fees for adoption are $25 for
the information session, $225 for educational classes, $3,000 for
home study (the $225 for the classes is deducted from this), and
$4,500 for placement.
For more information on adoption, phone Catholic Charities at
(920)437-7531, or 1-877-500-3580 (toll-free), ext. 8234.