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 Official Newspaper of the Catholic Diocese of Green Bay, WisconsinFebruary 14, 2003 Issue 

Appeal helps couple make adoption possible

Neenah couple are first to adopt in restored program

Third in a series on Bishop's Appeal

photo of Stacey and Mark Babbitt with their son, Austin
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)

Bishop's Appeal

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
Compass Correspondent

When listening to Stacey and Mark Babbitt of Neenah talk about their eight-month-old son Austin, the joy in their voices is tangible.

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 held.

"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 special."

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 Mark.

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Stepping Together in Faith
2003 Bishop's Appeal

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"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 openness.

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 birth mother.

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 7.

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 home.

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 parents support.

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.

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