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Adoption agency makes the process affordable

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Annie Surine and her husband, Andy, hoped for a big family, but knew they would have difficulties getting pregnant. So after a year of marriage, they began to look into adoption. “It just seemed like the natural thing to do,” she said, “not knowing how daunting the whole process was going to be.”

The couple now has three adopted children, including a new baby. But it cost almost $40,000 for each private adoption. In many ways, it felt like a financial transaction.

“That price keeps so many couples from being able to adopt. And it was such a businesslike experience that I thought, why can’t we make this more family-centered, more spiritual?” said Surine, a parishioner of Queen of Apostles Church in Alexandria.

While mulling over the idea, Surine, a social worker turned part-time nurse, ran into Mary Kate Sparrow, an old friend from Franciscan University of Steubenville in Ohio. Though she works as a preschool teacher at St. Rita School in Alexandria, Sparrow, too, had a background in social work, and immediately took to the idea.

“I have felt always called to be involved in the adoption movement,” said Sparrow, a parishioner of Blessed Sacrament Church in Alexandria. “We bonded over the feeling that this is an extension of the pro-life movement.” Siena Adoption Services was born. Though the costs of each adoption will vary, they hope to significantly reduce the price for hopeful families.

It took two years for the moms to write their own policies and procedures and for the organization to become licensed in Virginia. A few months later, they secured insurance.

“It was a lot of learning,” said Sparrow. “Every time we turned around, the state required another thing. It’s amazing how it just resolved itself.”

They found an executive director, therapist Margaret Luckey, who also serves as staff counselor for birth mothers or adoptive families. Program director Amy Gay oversees the case work. All the women are volunteers, and rely on donations and minimal fees to cover any costs. Crossroads Pro-Life offered to share its Arlington offices with Siena.

All adoption agencies require prospective families to go through many steps to ensure children are placed only with loving, capable parents. In a typical case, parents will apply to an adoption agency, meet with a social worker, have a home study and then enter the pool of potential adoptive parents. If a child is placed with them, the couple will have to hire an attorney and usually wait a certain period of time before the adoption is finalized.

To start, Siena will conduct home studies for $600. Surine paid $1,500 when she was adopting. “A family could be working with any other agency and still use us to do the home study,” said Sparrow. “So that’s a way of them cutting down costs.”

“The hope is that, through donations, we will be able to offset this cost even further,” she said.

“We’ll also be the ones coming to the home, interviewing the family,” said Surine. “So we feel like we’ll really be able to make that huge part of an adoption very family-friendly. (We’ll be) guiding these families and giving them the support they need through the process.”

They chose to name the agency after St. Catherine of Siena. “We kept coming back to the fact that these girls who are carrying the child to term and these families are so brave, and she was a real renegade in her day,” said Sparrow. “She was our inspiration.”

Many of their friends and family have been supportive of the organization’s mission, and volunteered to help. “There are so many people that have been so kind,” said Sparrow.

“You think there are so many kids out there, that (adoption) should be so easy,” said Surine.

“And it should be,” said Sparrow. 

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2017