ALLOUEZ — Five-year-old Brayden Pansier moves on from the wooden bead maze toy that occupied his attention for several minutes. He has his new baby brother, Ryker, in his sights. Brayden maneuvers his position until the two end up face-to-face with their noses touching. Three-month-old Ryker’s eyes open wide as he breaks out a smile.
The two sons of Eric and Nicki Pansier were adopted through the domestic infant program of Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Green Bay.
“We knew we were going to adopt before we got married,” said Eric. “We were planning on having one of our own, but that wasn’t possible. We ended up adopting two. We couldn’t be happier.”
When the couple, who reside in Wrightstown, wanted to build a family through adoption, they sought direction from their pastor.
“Fr. Jack (Harper) was still at St. Mary (Ledgeview),” explained Nicki. “We said, ‘We are thinking about adoption, where do we go?’ He said, ‘Catholic Charities.’ You have to trust God and trust your priest, so that was the end of the story. Fr. Jack moved to Nativity (of Our Lord Parish, Ashwaubenon), but he came back and baptized Brayden at St. Mary.”
The Pansiers were informed of a potential birth mother through one of Nicki’s relatives. Catholic Charities in Green Bay and the Diocese of La Crosse worked together to facilitate the adoption of Brayden.
“You don’t necessarily have to sit and wait,” said Nicki. “You can search.”
Tara DeGrave, child and family services manager for Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Green Bay, said that they “do quite a few adoptions each year where prospective adoptive parents connect with expectant parents on their own.”
Ryker’s birth parents found the Pansiers through Catholic Charities. They picked out the family after reviewing their profile book. Couples in the domestic infant program create their own profiles. They are encouraged to be creative with visuals to provide a glimpse of their lives.
“I really liked that,” said Louette, Ryker’s birth mother. “It was helpful how they would show us the families. You can get an idea of what kind of people they are through the information they included.”
Louette and Kyle, Ryker’s birth father, have been in a committed relationship for three years. They made joint decisions to choose an adoption plan and select Eric and Nicki as the adoptive parents.
“We were originally going to keep Ryker,” said Louette. “I found out that I was pregnant around October. I was stressing out a lot. (Kyle) noticed that. He had to listen to me all the time. One day, I said, ‘We should consider adoption.’ We talked about it. I was stressing out so much. I didn’t want a stressful environment once the baby got here.”
Louette further explained that she wasn’t emotionally and financially ready for a child. She learned about Catholic Charities through a friend on social media.
“I called and made an appointment with Cassie (Cassandra Krueger, case manager),” said Louette. “I came to Catholic Charities at the beginning of March. Any question I ever had, Cassie always found the answer. She was so great. I would text her every day after I gave birth. She even came to my house to sit with me outside to help me get my mind off things because I was feeling sad.
“When I had my final visit, Cassie told me that I am more than welcome to text her at all times,” she added. “I really want her to stay a part of my life. She is such a kind person.”
The birth parents and adoptive parents connected only about three weeks before Ryker’s birth, but quickly built a relationship. The Pansiers were in the delivery room when their second son was born.
“We walked out, after we first met them, and really liked them,” said Nicki about Louette and Kyle. “We said that if we hadn’t met them in this avenue, we would have been friends however we would have met them. It’s really nice for Ryker because he is going to get to know everybody. We see it with Brayden.”
Both adoptions for the Pansiers were open. They make visits to the northwest part of the state to visit Brayden’s birth parents and will arrange visits with Louette and Kyle, who attended Ryker’s baptism.
“It’s a huge relief (being able to see Ryker) and knowing he’s with Nicki and Eric,” said Louette. “I know they won’t let anything happen to him. They will take care of him. I’m really happy that I was able to do the adoption with Ryker. I am confident in our decision. I want to have another baby when I’m ready.”
Adoptions in Wisconsin are commonly finalized in six months, so the process continues for the Pansiers. They recommend Catholic Charities to other couples hoping to build a family.
“We weren’t quite sure the second adoption was going to happen,” said Nicki. “There was some time in between. We thought, ‘We have Brayden, so be thankful.’ Then Ryker came along. They completed our family.”
For information about adoption services of Catholic Charities, call (920) 272-8234, 877-500-3580, ext. 8234 or visit www.newcatholiccharities.org.