Tom and Rachel will always remember their first Thanksgiving with Jay. In 2014, their adoption became official the Wednesday before the holiday, making Thanksgiving the first full day that Jay was home with his “forever family.”
It was a day their lives changed forever.
“As Thanksgiving approaches, I can’t help but reflect upon our Thanksgiving last year,” Rachel said. “We were so grateful to have Jay home and excited to announce his arrival to our friends and family.”
Tom and Rachel waited almost three years to bring baby Jay into their family. Rachel advises waiting families to remain hopeful.” I kept telling myself that the right child would come at the right time.”
For Tom and Rachel, their adoption journey started a year into their marriage when they realized they were unable to grow their family biologically. Of the different options, they decided to pursue adoption because it aligned with their faith. An ad in their parish bulletin reminded them of Catholic Charities’ adoption program, and they decided to make an appointment.
“I was familiar with Catholic Charities’ adoption program because when I was young, my family housed pregnant single women who were working with Catholic Charities and didn’t have anywhere to live,” said Tom, a Northern Virginia native.
They took a pre-adoption class with Catholic Charities, filled out the necessary paperwork (Rachel, a lawyer, is a whiz at paperwork, Tom says), created their adoption profile book and then entered the pool of families hoping to adopt.
And then they waited and prayed.
Rachel recalls feelings of frustration, self-doubt and fear during the three years they were in the waiting pool (national wait times for couples to adopt are traditionally longer).
“Catholic Charities did a great job of shepherding and supporting us while we were in the waiting pool,” Rachel said. “They were always accessible if we had any questions.”
In September 2014, the news they had been waiting and praying for finally came.
“Our social worker was very realistic,” Tom said. “A birth mother had seen our book and wanted to meet us, but they weren’t sure she was going to go through with the placement.”
They met the birth mother at the Catholic Charities office. Tom and Rachel credit the Catholic Charities team for guiding the conversation and easing their flurry of emotions.
The birth mother was due to give birth six weeks later.
Additionally, there is a 10-day waiting period after the child is born before he or she can be legally adopted.
So again, Tom and Rachel waited and prayed. Yet, they were grateful for the waiting.
“(Making an adoption plan) is probably one of the hardest things these mothers will ever do,” said Kim Harrell, Program Director for Catholic Charities’ Adoption and Pregnancy Support. “Birth parents are heroes. They are selfless, and they are strong.”
Tom and Rachel are appreciative of the attention that Catholic Charities gives to birth mothers. They were especially encouraged knowing their birth mother was presented with two viable options – to parent or place her son – yet still chose to place him in their family out of his best interest.
“They take great care in protecting interests of everyone, but always at the center of those interests is the child,” Tom said.
Jay was born in early November and then placed in temporary “cradle care” during the legal waiting period.
Finally, it was the week of Thanksgiving, and Rachel called to see if there was any way that Jay would be able to come home by Thanksgiving. She was overwhelmed by the Catholic Charities social workers’ willingness to expedite paperwork and to host a ceremony commemorating Jay’s arrival into their family before the holiday.
“I called one of my closest friends to wish her a Happy Thanksgiving and I told her I wanted to show her something,” Rachel said. “When she saw Jay, she gasped and began to cry. She asked if he was our baby, and I was so excited to say yes and that he was finally home.”
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If you are in a crisis pregnancy or would like more information on adoption, please call our Pregnancy and Adoption Support program at 703-425-0100 or visit our website.