‘Everyone deserves a chance’ — Open adoption expanding as an option

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ENID, Okla. — A local pregnancy resource center is partnering with Crisis Pregnancy Outreach of Tulsa to make open adoption available to both expectant mothers and adoptive families in the Enid area.

Journey House, a faith-based resource center in Enid, opened in spring 2018 to provide ultrasounds, pregnancy testing, coaching and mentoring, educational resources and referrals to medical services for area women facing challenges during pregnancy.

Journey House also provides emotional and spiritual support; referrals and help signing up for services such as SoonerCare and food stamps; and connections to local nonprofits and churches that can help with issues such as poverty and food insecurity; and screenings for sexually transmitted diseases and infections, including tests for gonorrhea, chlamydia, syphilis, HIV, herpes and hepatitis C.

Amy Voth, Journey House executive director, said Journey House is working with Crisis Pregnancy Outreach (CPO), to use the Tulsa faith-based resource center’s open adoption services to expand options for women in the Enid area.

Open adoption is an adoption in which the birth parents continue to have contact with and receive regular updates on their child after giving the child over to adoptive parents.

When Journey House helps women who are leaning toward adoption make plans, Voth said they’re required to offer three adoption alternatives. By partnering with CPO, she said they have a powerful alternative for women who may be unable to parent, but who can’t stand the thought of losing all contact with their child.

An alternative to fear

Kelly Jacobson, CPO managing director, knows firsthand the fear a young woman can feel when she finds herself facing an unplanned pregnancy.

Jacobson spoke to Journey House volunteers and other civic leaders last Friday at the Emmanuel Enid Grace Place, and shared her story. At 19 years old, Jacobson ended up pregnant. She saw few options to carry the baby to term, let alone raise it. Scared and feeling alone, she had an adoption.

Now, Jacobson sees her story being reflected over and over in the young women who come to CPO.

“The women who come to us, their biggest issue is they’re terrified,” Jacobson said. “That was me — I was terrified.”

She works daily to help those women see options she didn’t know she had.

“They just need someone to help them work through the decisions, so they’re not so terrified,” Jacobson said, “and so they know they have choices.

“Every woman needs to know what her choices are,” Jacobson said, “and if we don’t share that with them, we’re doing them a disservice.”

Jacobson said CPO offers its services to all expectant mothers, and will continue to provide services, if they’re wanted, even if a mother opts to have an adoption.

Embracing mother and baby

Many agencies, both state and private, work with adoption. But CPO, founded in 1983, works exclusively with open adoptions, Jacobson said, to fill a need for young mothers who want to be a part of their child’s life, but who are incapable of raising a child.

“A lot of women know they’re not in a place to parent a child,” Jacobson said, “but they also can’t imagine being out of their child’s life.”

She said CPO and the adoptive families that are chosen by CPO come to the expectant mothers as a ministry — a ministry focused as much on the mother and her needs as on the child.

“Most agencies that help with adoption are working for the adoptive couple,” Jacobson said, “and they’re not really focused on the birth mom.”

She said many are drawn to CPO to adopt children, because the fees are much lower than other adoption sources. But, she said, that enables CPO to be selective of which parents they accept — parents who are willing to embrace both the child, and the child’s mother.

“We like to say it’s like adding to your family,” Jacobson said. “They — mother and baby — become a part of your family.

“It’s really important to the mothers we serve,” Jacobson said. “They get to be a part of their child’s life, but they don’t have to parent, and that’s a win-win.”

Jacobson said CPO works with both adoptive families and birth mothers to form appropriate boundaries, especially for birth moms with mental health or addiction issues.

“We’re not against boundaries at all,” she said, “but we also want the adoption to be as open as possible.”

‘It’s heroic’

Some may have reservations about open adoption. Jacobson said it’s an option that requires adoptive parents to have a mission heart for the birth mothers, and requires birth mothers to think first of the needs of their child.

In both cases, Jacobson said “it’s heroic.”

Renee Westrope, a Journey House board member, said she hasn’t found any reason to be hesitant about open adoption.

Ten years ago, Westrope adopted her daughter, Maci, through an open adoption with CPO.

“It’s been incredible,” Westrope said of the open adoption experience. “We can’t imagine life without our Maci, and working with CPO was just awesome. They just provide so much support and love.”

Westrope said her family, 10 years later, still has a close relationship with Maci’s birth mother. They share birthday parties, and Maci’s birth mother has regular visits and contact with Maci, who also gets to talk to and know her birth siblings.

“It’s been pretty neat,” Westrope said, “and it’s really, really important to Maci.”

Westrope said a child’s connection to their birth mother never completely goes away, and open adoption offers the opportunity to maintain that connection in a healthy way, and do what’s best for all parties involved, including the birth mother.

“There’s an important relationship there (with Maci’s birth mother),” Westrope said. “We know her, and we love her, and we know she loves Maci, because of the plan she made for her.”

Services offered

CPO offers many of the same services available in Enid through Journey House and the Hope Outreach Parenting Ministry.

But, in addition to those services, CPO also provides transitional housing for expectant mothers — for both those pursuing parenting, and those who plan to enter open adoption through CPO.

Licensed counseling is provided for participating women — not just during pregnancy, but for the span of their lives.

Weekly support groups, parenting classes, resource referrals, transportation, childbirth classes, doula (birthing coach) services, mentoring and maternity clothes and supplies are provided.

Jacobson said space is available in the CPO transitional housing program for expectant mothers from Enid.

By partnering with CPO, Voth said she hopes Journey House will be able to open that resource to women from Enid, and offer more women the option to carry their baby to birth, and to remain a part of their baby’s life after adoption.

“If they choose Crisis Pregnancy Outreach as an option, we want to support them as much as possible,” Voth said.

For more information on Crisis Pregnancy Outreach, and it’s transitional housing and open adoption services, call (918) 296-3377 or visit https://www.crisispregnancyoutreach.org.

For more information on Journey House and its services in Enid, visit http://journeyhouseenid.org. Journey House is open 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday and Wednesday and noon to 6 p.m. Tuesday and Thursday.

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