Let's Not Forget the Children
Many of us remember when
two-year-old Baby Jessica was returned to her biological parents in
Iowa in 1993. Many may also recall Baby Richard, who, at four years
of age, was returned to his biological parents in Chicago in April 1995.
Just recently, two-year-old Justin in Girard, Ohio, was the subject
of yet another custody battle. Taking sides were Rich and Cheryl Asente,
with whom Justin has lived since he was 11 months old, and Justin's
biological parents, Regina Moore and Jerry Dorning, with whom Justin
lived prior to being with the Asentes.
The decision for Justin's future was made by Kenton County (Kentucky)
Circuit Judge Patricia Summe, who had previously invalidated the birth
parents' consent-to-adopt forms. Her March 16 ruling was that Justin
be returned to his birth parents.
As the Asentes begin the appeals process, the larger question remains:
Just what life is best for a child?
Most Valuable Resource
Since "children are our
most valuable resource," a statement repeatedly made by former President
Herbert Hoover, should we not consider them as a critical part of the
judicial decision process? When child placement decisions are made,
the child's happiness and stability are at stake.
According to the National Council for Adoption (NCA), less than
one percent of adoptions are contested by biological fathers or mothers.
Yet, for those whose happiness and emotional security hang in the
balance, sound adoption opportunities need to prevail.
The positive benefit of adoption is placing children in homes where
adoptive parents truly care for them and where they have an opportunity
to grow up as loving, responsible individuals. It is a situation that
does not always make the news, but it is one celebrated daily by many
Among them are Mary Lynne and Roger Schuster of Cincinnati, Ohio.
Their successful story began after registering with their local Catholic
Social Services (CSS) office. As part of the process, the Schusters
completed forms, attended classes and underwent background checks
and a home inspection prior to adopting their daughter, Elizabeth.
They were chosen by the birth mother, Tia Griffin, a single woman
who had just graduated from high school. "My resources, time and attention
would've been extremely limited if I were to have chosen to parent,
considering that I knew I had to get a college education," says Tia,
now an honors student at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio.
In the Schuster home, two-year-old Elizabeth thrives. The atmosphere
is a result of the open adoption process the Schusters and Griffin
chose through CSS. Beginning with Elizabeth's birth, and continuing
through Elizabeth's official adoption when she was seven months old,
the child benefits from the love she receives from her birth and adoptive
parents, as well as extended family members.
What is most important, Mary Lynne says, is that Elizabeth is in
a "two-parent intact healthy family with the resources to give her
everything she needs" while maintaining a connection to her roots.
Tia agrees. "In a situation such as ours, Elizabeth just always
knows that Tia is her birth mom, while Roger and Mary Lynne are her
parents. If she has questions, any of us can answer her without speculation."
In the National Conference of Catholic Bishops' (NCCB) 1998 text,
A Family Perspective in Church and Society, the bishops acknowledge
the special relationships that are established in families created
by adoption. "These families," the bishops wrote, "respond to the
need in our society to bring into families those people who have none
or whose birth families cannot meet their needs."
This past year, approximately 50,000 U.S. children were adopted
and about 15,000 children were adopted from other countries, according
to the NCA.
"Adoption is much more popular in the U.S. than in other developed
countries," Bill Pierce, NCA president, says. His explanation is threefold:
a strong defense by adoption proponents, support offered by various
agencies and a U.S. population comprised of immigrants for whom "blood
and nationality are not as important as populations where people are
the Sanctity of Life
In Living the Gospel
of Life: A Challenge to American Catholics, a document approved
at the November 1998 NCCB meeting, the bishops recommend that "priests,
religious, catechists, Catholic school teachers, family life ministers
and theologians all share...in the Church's task of forming the Catholic
faithful in a reverence for the sanctity of life."
The bishops tell "physicians, nurses and health-care workers" that
they "can touch the lives of women and girls who may be considering
abortion with practical assistance, counseling and adoption alternatives."
Those who choose adoption demonstrate Pope John Paul II's words
from Evangelium Vitae (The Gospel of Life): "True parental
love is ready to go beyond the bonds of flesh and blood in order to
accept children from other families, offering them whatever is necessary
for their well-being and full development."
For people like Roger and Mary Lynne, adoption is an opportunity
to live out the papal pronouncement. It is an example for us all.D.P.