By ERIKA ANDERSON, Staff Writer | Published November 2, 2006
A pregnant mother recently turned to the Pregnancy, Parenting and Adoption program in the Archdiocese of Atlanta after she was evicted from her home.
Nine months pregnant with twins as the result of a rape, the mother also had two young children and nowhere to turn. Her belongings had been thrown out onto the street after she was evicted, and much of what she owned had been stolen.
Sheila Reynolds Smith, director of the PPA program, a service of Catholic Charities Atlanta, Inc. said that employees of the program leapt into action when the woman called three weeks ago.
“We moved very quickly to stabilize her and get her a place to stay,” Smith said.
A group from the Cathedral of Christ the King in Atlanta helped to provide for the woman’s practical needs, Smith said, donating furniture and clothing. Facilitators from the PPA program then began working with the mother to provide counseling and case management services.
“We’re still working with her to assess her immediate needs,” Smith said.
The mother is just one case of approximately 400 served annually by the PPA program.
“We help families in crisis. We get moms calling who are homeless or others who are in crisis pregnancies,” Smith said. “We take the time to serve them, to counsel them and to provide resources for them. We do whatever we can to make a positive situation for the child, whether it’s a parenting plan or an adoption plan.”
The PPA program is one of several ministries of the Archdiocese of Atlanta that will benefit from the 2007 Archbishop’s Annual Appeal. The overall goal of the campaign is $6 million, and the Pregnancy, Parenting and Adoption program is slated to receive $96,366.
Facilitators of the program have a case-intensive, complex relationship with the families, Smith said. Ninety-five percent of the PPA staff holds a master’s degree.
“(Our employees) bring their expertise, their compassion and their faith to these families,” she said.
Carolina Den Brok-Perez experienced first-hand that relationship between the PPA employees and her family. She and her husband adopted their now 3-and-a-half-year-old daughter, Carly, when she was three weeks old, through the PPA program.
For eight years, Brok-Perez and her husband had tried to conceive and had been unsuccessful with various fertility treatments. Her brother and his wife had adopted a child through PPA, and Brok-Perez said seeing her sister-in-law with her daughter changed her mind about adoption.
“I always thought that actually conceiving a child was an important and essential part of a mother-child relationship. But when I saw my sister-in-law with (her daughter) I thought ‘wow, what a bond.’ It was a real turning point for me,” she said.
The couple began researching various adoption agencies and avenues through which to adopt.
“We were fortunate in that my husband and I have the financial means to adopt from anywhere, but visiting Catholic Charities and meeting with them is what made the difference,” she said. “What we loved about the process is that the focus was not on getting us a child. The focus was that ‘we’re here to help families. We’re here to help keep families together.’ They respect that it’s an incredibly tough ordeal to give your child up, and you knew that they had explored every possible avenue to help keep the family together.”
Brok-Perez and her husband attended a two-day PPA seminar together and were also impressed with the diversity of the adoptive parents.
“There wasn’t a focus on getting a particular type of client. There were a wide range of parents and a great deal of diversity,” she said.
The PPA program is an open adoption program, which means that the birth and adoptive parents have an ongoing relationship.
“With an open adoption process, you have to know that you will potentially have a birth parent in your life forever. We liked that,” she said. “Everything about it just worked for us.”
Since becoming a mother, Brok-Perez said her life has been enriched in unimaginable ways.
“One of my favorite things is when Carly started recognizing me when I’d walk in the door. She’d get excited and giggly, and I felt like a mother,” she said. “There has been no experience that has been more rewarding.”
Brok-Perez has remained an impassioned advocate for the PPA program and even spoke at an event held in late August to announce the annual appeal.
“(Donating to the annual appeal) will have a tangible effect. This isn’t something that (donors) will maybe see the fruits of their labor in 20 years. You can see where the money goes now. There is no better place to see the return of your investment than in a child,” she said. “PPA will always have my undying loyalty and my support, not just because they gave me the opportunity to be a mother, but because of the way they approach parenting.”
Smith said that they are thankful for any funds they receive from donors.
“We appreciate everything that is provided and we are grateful for their support so that we can continue serving those families who need us.”
Pledge envelopes for the Archbishop’s Annual Appeal can be found at all parishes in the archdiocese. Pledges can also be mailed, with checks made payable to the Archbishop’s Annual Appeal, to P.O. Box 105290, Atlanta, GA 30348-5290.
Those who wish can also have their bank automatically deduct their monthly pledge from their checking account. Donors can visit their bank’s Web site and set up their account to automatically transfer funds from their account to the Archbishop’s Annual Appeal. Donors will need to inform their bank of the appeal’s mailing address.
Pledge forms can also be obtained by calling (404) 885-7277.
For more information visit www.archatl.com/offices/development or call (404) 885-7277.