By Maureen Smith
JACKSON – Catholic Charities’ Adoption program is going through a little rebirth of its own these days. A new director and a new case manager are taking the legacy of love and work from their predecessors and building on it. One of their first tasks is to spread the word that, “We are open and we are here for you,” said Stacy Pajak, who became program director a year ago. She works with Monica Mounger, who came to the office from Hope Haven, a crisis home for teens.
In addition to working with pregnant women who wish to give their babies up for adoption, the office can provide case management services for a private adoption, locate an available baby for parents seeking to adopt, perform home studies for adoptions and attempt to find birth parents for adopted children. Pajack said she and her partner are going back to state agencies and working with pregnancy crisis centers to renew and strengthen their relationships. Not only do they provide adoption, but they connect birth mothers and families to other needed services.
Birth mothers and adoptive families get counseling in addition to getting help navigating the system. “It’s hard on that birth-mama. I don’t ever want her to feel any shame that is associated with her choice because she gave that baby life and nurtured him or them and carried them. I have great admiration for birth moms,” said Pajak. Birth mothers are guaranteed services for life through Catholic Charities. Pajak added that many families seeking to adopt are grieving because of years of infertility so Catholic Charities works with them in that process as they start to consider foster care or adoption. The program has even added a text line for birth mothers who want to request help, 601-941-2814.
Pajak said she is working with the criminal justice system to offer counseling to pregnant women in jail. “We are trying to get in with social workers and case managers. We want to offer counseling to pregnant women. The law says that she can give a baby to a relative, sign it over to CPS (child protective services) or she can put it up for adoption, so we should be in there as an option,” she said.
When an adoptee wants to find his or her birth parents, Catholic Charities can try to help. The process is confidential, includes counseling and not too expensive. Mounger said she has conducted almost a dozen searches since she started a few short months ago. Sometimes an adoptee can only get a medical record. Other times, he or she will be reunited.
One way others can help is by wearing the message of adoption on their sleeves, or on their backs to be accurate. The adoption program is offering t-shirts and journals for sale. The shirts are purple with the Catholic Charities logo on the front. The back reads “Adoption isn’t about giving a child up. It is about giving a child more. More love, more family, more opportunities, just more.” The quote comes from Terra Coooper, a photographer who became an adoption advocate after becoming an adoptive mom.
“We started making a bulletin board and put a lot of adoption quotes on it so the families would see that when they come in and we just love that one,” explained Mounger. “We wanted to have a positive adoption wall so parents could see it – not only adoptive parents, but birth parents and we just took to that one so we put it on the shirt,” she added.
The shirts and journals are for the families who go through adoption, but Pajak said the staff decided the message should go farther than just those families. “We wanted to do the t-shirts for gifts but also proudly market what we do here at Catholic Charities. Our mission is to be a visible sign of Christ and adoption is a visible sign of Christ,” said Pajak. The journals are also purple and have the logo pressed into the front. Each shirt costs $15 and each journal costs $10. Those interested in purchasing should contact the office at 601-960-8649 or email Stacy at firstname.lastname@example.org.