Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of January 17, 2000
CSS opens door to adoption
By RAMON GONZALEZ
WCR Staff Writer
Mara and Paul Fazekas knew long before they married four years ago that they could never have biological children. Nevertheless, they wanted to raise a family. So they did the only thing they could do - they adopted.
Now the Fazekas, both in their early 30s, are the proud parents of two beautiful and healthy children - Brenden, two, and Katarina, just four months old. And they thank Catholic Socials Services' adoption services program for their fortune as well as the birth mothers of both children for having chosen them as adoptive parents.
"I know it wasn't easy for their birth mothers (to give up their babies)," said Mara. "But they know their children are happy and safe. We love them with all our hearts."
Mara didn't go through the pregnancy and the pain of giving birth but she treats her children as if they had been born to her, giving them all the love, attention and care they need.
"They are our children," she affirms. And they are. After all, she was present at both their births and was the first to hold them.
Had the Fazekas tried to adopt through government agencies, they would have had to wait at least six years to adopt a child. Through CSS's open adoption system they waited about 10 months to adopt Brenden and much less for Katarina.
Established in 1990, CSS's adoption program does about 10 open adoptions a year. The average wait is about a year, although in some cases it's even shorter. Currently, 18 couples are on the waiting list.
Open adoption is based on mutually-agreed communication between adoptive families and birth parents, explains program director Karen Reynolds. "We believe that adoptive families and birth parents can create a relationship built on mutual respect."
Those who place their babies up for adoption through CSS are usually young, unmarried women between 17 and 23, sometimes older. Fathers are seldom involved and unless they have been living together with the birth mother for 12 months prior to the baby's birth, their consent is not required.
"Birth moms come to us voluntarily, we don't come to them," explained Reynolds. "We don't pressure them; we just present them with all the options."
Mothers end up choosing adoption for a variety of reasons, including their desire to finish school and their belief in the need for their babies to be raised in a financially stable, two-parent family, Reynolds said. "They want something more for their children than they can give."
The program provides them with counselling regarding their decision to keep or place the child and assists them in the process of choosing an adoptive family for their children.
Prospective adoptive parents undergo a rigorous professional assessment of their suitability to become adoptive parents. The main component of the assessment is a home study, which includes a criminal record check, a child welfare check and personal references.
Once the assessment is completed and approved, couples are placed on the waiting list. They must submit a detailed profile and photographs of themselves to help birth mothers in the selection process. The program respects birth mothers' preferences concerning religion, culture and ethnicity.
Couples pay $6,000 for an adoption - half at the time of the home study process, the other half when the child is placed in the home. The fee is used mostly to cover professional assessment and counselling fees. CSS can subsidize couples who can't pay the full fee.
Selected couples meet with the birth mother prior to the baby being born. Once a birth mother has made her choice and signed the adoption agreement, she has 10 days to change her mind.
"If it's a decision she cannot live with (and she decides against adoption), we will support her," Reynolds stressed. "That's very hard on couples but (in the end) they understand."
Once the adoption goes through, CSS helps negotiate the type and frequency of future contact birth parents desire with the adoptive family. Birth parents and adoptive parents share guardianship of the baby for six months following the signing of the adoption contract. Post-placement counselling and referral services are also available to the birth parent.
Mara and Paul Fazekas, who live in a comfortable, three-bedroom raised bungalow in Devon, made the decision to adopt in early 1997. "Basically for us there was no other choice," Mara explained. "I had many, many surgeries and as a result of that I was absolutely incapable of having biological children."
After Mara researched all types of adoptions available, she and Paul, a computer specialist, decided CSS's open adoption system "was the only way for us to go."
What the Fazekas liked most about the system is the fact that it allows birth mothers to choose the parents of their children and that it encourages relationships between birth and adoptive parents.
"It's wonderful," she said. "It means that our (adopted) children will never have to search for their background and their roots."
In October 1997, six months after placing their application and after undergoing a thorough assessment, CSS notified the Fazekas that they had been chosen by Brenden's 19-year-old birth mother as their child's adoptive parents.
They met with her a couple of times and were present during his birth Dec. 19, 1997. They took him home the same day.
Katarina was also adopted at birth, and her adoption came through only 10 days after the Fazekas had applied. The couple was with Katarina's 17-year-old mother on Aug. 22 and had to drive her to hospital to give birth.
The Fazekas, both devout Catholics, established a good rapport with both of their children's birth mothers from day one, calling and visiting each other often.
Today that relationship has expanded to their extended families. At Brenden's second birthday celebration Dec. 19, the day on which the Fazekas also baptized Katarina, "the birth grandparents from both sides were here," said Mara.
"It was just a big family celebration. And for us that's a big part of what open adoption means; it expands your family. It recognizes that our (adopted) children have a history that is apart from ours."