This is the first story in the series “Faithful Families,” examining Catholic families in the preparatory time before the 2015 World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia.
In practically every respect the Malone family and the Galiani family at Mary Mother of the Redeemer Parish, North Wales, are typical middle class suburban families.
Maria and Mike Malone have been married just about 20 years, the same length of time as Jenny and David Galiani. Mike is a partner in a software consulting company and David is an ophthalmologist.
The Galianis have four children. Grace, 12, according to her mom, is an animal lover, and it wouldn’t be a surprise if she grew to be veterinarian or something similar. She in energetic, bright, happy with a great respect for all living things, and she loves horseback riding.
Sophia, 11, loves to draw, is good at decorating and design, and is funny and outgoing. True to her name, which means wisdom, she is a straight A student. Tommy, 6, is sensitive and has a great relationship with God. He’s a very caring little guy who doesn’t know his own gifts. Rocco, who is just turning 3, is a big boy with a heart of gold, very funny, very active but sensitive.
Turning to the Malones, they have three children. Nick, who is almost 11, his mom said, is a rule-follower who always wants to be helpful. He is very responsible, musical and sensitive; a good kid. Alex (Alexander) who is turning 9, is funny, but wears his emotions on his sleeve. When he is happy you know it and when he is not, you know it too, his mom thinks; but with that said, he is very outgoing.
Michaela, who is turning 5, is a “sweet cookie” according to her mom, and she loves her daddy. “She is a great conversationalist for her age,” her mom said, and may well turn out to be the athlete in the family. “She is small in stature but she is no pansy.”
What makes the Galianis and the Malones exceptional is that all seven of the children were adopted as infants. They were born in states across the U.S.A. to mothers with unplanned pregnancies who decided to place them with loving families through adoption agencies.
Both the Galianis and Malones came to adoption after years of marriage when fertility issues made it improbable they would become biological parents. Introduced to each other by their former pastor, Msgr. Philip Ricci, they began a support group with parents of adopted children at Mary Mother of the Redeemer.
More recently they have begun the ministry “Adoption as a Loving Option,” which seeks to alert teens and young adults who may someday face an unplanned pregnancy themselves, or have a friend in this situation, that adoption is a viable alternative to abortion if they are not in a position to raise a child.
Jenny and David Galiani were married six years when after various tests and medical procedures they came to the conclusion that if they were to have the children they so desperately wanted they would have to adopt. “I realized it was more important to be a mom than to be pregnant,” Jenny said.
When she broached the subject with David, he suggested they wait another six months to see if she could become pregnant. They compromised at three months, and after researching various adoption options they settled on working with American Adoptions in Kansas. Most infant adoptions are done through such agencies or through attorneys.
The waiting period was surprisingly short, which is not always the case. After extensive vetting by the agency over two months they were chosen by a young mother-to-be in Florida, and they flew down to meet her. The baby was born shortly after and they named her Grace, for “the Grace of God.”
At the birth mother’s request there has been no contact since then, but that varies from adoption to adoption.
The experience was so wonderful Jenny and David decided they would repeat it. By the agency’s rules, that had to wait a full year before they could begin the process again.
Six days after their application they were informed of a match, and in due course they received Sophia. In this case, they have been able to keep in touch with the birth parents, who have since married and have a daughter of their own.
Sophia was almost 5 when they decided to adopt a third child, but this time a boy. Because American Adoptions did not at the time facilitate gender-selective adoptions, they turned to Bethany Christian Services in Lancaster, Pa. The vetting was very thorough especially in religious issues because Bethany is a faith-based organization. In this instance, in May 2008, they were matched with Tommy, who was already three months old and in temporary foster care.
After a year or so, without specifying gender, they went back to American Adoptions. A first selection fell through because the birth mother changed her mind and decided to keep her child. Trying again, they were introduced to a prospective birth mother who made her decision very early that she would give her baby up for adoption.
Rocco was born in September 2011, and the Galianis have continued a cordial relationship with his birth parents, who recently married.
David remembers when he and Jenny were struggling with infertility she was ready to be a mother no matter how the kids came.
“I was a couple of steps behind her initially,” he admits. “But then when I was holding our first daughter Grace in my arms, just a couple of hours old, I realized she was meant to be ours from the beginning. I really can’t imagine my life without my four kids. Adoption is an incredible experience and I consider myself blessed by God to be their father. They bring my wife and I so much joy.”
The experience of Maria and Mike Malone was very similar. When they became convinced they could not be birth parents, they explored all the options first with an attorney and then an agency, Adoption Services Association in Texas. As in the case of the Galianis, foreign adoption wasn’t a preferred option for them because children adopted overseas are not infants.
A match was found and the baby was scheduled to be born on Christmas Day; if it was a boy it would be Nicholas, they decided. The birth mother backed out at the last minute; Maria suspects she never was really was committed to adoption. Another baby was selected and the Malones they were actually in the delivery room but once again the birth mother decided to keep her child.
In all contracts the birth mother has the option to change her mind, usually up to two days after birth and signing the agreement. “It was a baby girl, and when she saw it she couldn’t go through with it,” Maria said.
The Malones were heartbroken but determined. In August 2003 they started talking to another expectant mother. It would be a boy and Liz, the birth mother, asked what they intended to name him. “Nicholas,” they said. It was the name they had picked at the first pregnancy.
“That’s the name I would have chosen,” Liz said. Nick was born Oct. 22, 2003 and they took him home Nov. 1. Maria equates the heartbreak and pain before this first adoption to the labor pain of birth mothers. “You know there was pain but you didn’t remember it,” she said.
Something else really stuck with her. In her conversations Liz confided she had twice scheduled an abortion and backed out. A little voice inside of her said, “If you give me a chance I will tell you where I should be.”
When Maria and Mike chose to adopt again, it was through American Adoptions. They were notified in October 2005 that a birth mother in California had picked them and Alex was born Nov. 17. His birth mother was older with adult children already, and they did not meet her in advance, but they have a continuing relationship.
When his birth sister graduated from the Air Force Academy the Malones attended, and when she married the year after that, Alex was her ring bearer.
“The birth mothers are wonderful, extraordinary people who made selfless, courageous decisions,” Maria said.
Mike is in total agreement. “For me, adoption became more than just a solution for infertility,” he said. “I expected the journey would help us build our family but it unexpectedly created loving relationships between our family and our children’s birth mothers as well.”
Well, if two is company and three is a crowd, the Malones wanted a crowd, so in 2009 they applied again, this time through Adoption Center of Choice in Utah, which permitted gender selection and they wanted a girl since they already had two sons.
Michaela was actually born in Texas, and while they were there they invited Nick’s mother to visit and spend time with him.
Adoptions cost money, of course, and it can range from zero to $50,000 according to current literature. Children can be adopted through a county child service agency, a nonprofit social service agency, an attorney or a private adoption agency, and there are foreign adoptions also.
The attorney or the private adoption agency tend to be the more expensive options because it is usually for infants, and judging from the experience of the Malones and the Galianis, the process may be quicker. Part of the expense has to do with the fact that the adoptive parents in these instances generally pay the expenses for the birth mother, as well as all the agency fees, legal fees, travel, hotels and other expenses.
There are many ways adoptive parents can offset at least part of this. For example there is a generous federal tax credit for adoptive parents, and some may receive assistance through their employer or families or even hold fundraisers.
The support group for adoptive families at Mary, Mother of the Redeemer, which Jenny facilitates, has about 20 couples, perhaps half from the parish, and it includes families who adopted children through different sources and at different ages.
Both Jenny and Maria have given seminars on domestic adoption for adults who might wish to adopt. Adoption as a Loving Option, the outreach program to educate teens and young adults to the possibility of placing a child for adoption if they face an unplanned pregnancy, is still in its infancy.
At this time Jenny and Maria are contacting Catholic high schools and colleges and young adult groups offering to speak. Their limited experience in this ministry last year was an eye-opener. Feedback cards from students at a Catholic secondary school made them realize how great a need there is for education in this field.
Many teens had never thought of themselves as potential adoptive parents should they be unable to have children. Others may have heard the church’s teaching on the sanctity of life but it never really sank in.
One student wrote: “I thought that abortion was a woman’s own choice and I didn’t think about the voice of the unborn child. I feel that adoption is a better choice now … the speakers opened my eyes to the fact that being pregnant is only a nine month’s journey for a life that will last a lifetime.”
Maybe it was best summed up by Nick Malone, age 10, reflecting on his good life in his adopted family and the good friend he has made. His message to his birth mother is very simple and heartfelt: “Thank you for choosing life for me.”
Lou Baldwin is a freelance writer in Philadelphia.