Tag Archives: babies

Loving foster kids into Catholic families

Easy to love them

“It’s a calling,” according to three Catholic couples who explained for this article why they care for foster babies. “Who needs sleep, right?” Chris Caruso joked. He is a member of the Pittsburgh Legatus Chapter and the head of the IT department for the PPG paint company. Chris and his wife, Janice, have two adult sons and have fostered 14 babies in the last 10 years. They bring them home from the hospital. “It’s so easy to love these babies as your own,” Chris explained. “We want them to know that there was always someone there who loved them.”

The goal is for the babies to return to their biological parents or relatives if a judge decides it’s in their best interest, otherwise they are placed for adoption. “When we bring them home, they know they are in a different place and that we love them,” Janice said. She makes up a little book with notes and pictures for the adoptive parents, who greatly appreciate it. Those families keep in touch with the Carusos, sometimes inviting them to adoption ceremonies and birthday parties, and recently to a First Communion.

Chris admitted, however, that it can be hard to see babies go back to birth parents where circumstances will be challenging. “It’s about taking care of God’s children and getting them off to the best possible life that we can,” he said. “It’s one thing to be pro-life, but it’s another thing to take action and demonstrate the seriousness of your viewpoint.”

Janice admitted that some aspects of fostering can be hard. “But if God calls you to do something, He gives you the grace to do it,” she said. “We keep praying for them after they leave. Part of being able to let go of them is knowing God will be caring for them.”

Surrendering Babies

Richard and Judy Ames have taken in babies 0-6 months for 25 years, ever since their own three daughters were ages 12, 20, and 25. Richard retired in 2013 from the medical device industry as vice-president of sales and marketing, and they were charter members in 2015 of the Austin Legatus Chapter. They are also board members for the John Paull II Life Center, dedicated to comprehensive health care and pregnancy support for women.

Judy and Richard say they love caring for babies even though it hurts to give them up. Their first foster baby, Faith, was 6 days old, only 4 pounds, and going through cocaine withdrawal. When she was 9 months, the call came that she had a forever family. “We are her forever family,” Judy said and hung up the phone. “We knew she was not ours, but we had no idea we would fall head over heels in love with her,” she said.

It is still hard, but Judy said they are not blindsided by goodbyes anymore. Though there was one that was especially difficult—Charlie, their fifth foster baby. He came at 5 days old and stayed for 14 months. Their daughters (the youngest 15 then), loved him dearly and Judy and Richard wanted to adopt him. Charlies’ parents struggled with drug addictions and also wanted the Ames to adopt him, but his grandparents won custody. “They took him away screaming, and we were crying,” Judy recalled. The Ames kept in touch with the grandparents to stay connected to Charlie. They were invited over for his 2-year-old birthday.

“We thought he would have forgotten us,” Judy said. “but he came up to the door, put his hands up, and said, ‘Mama.’ It broke our hearts thinking we were going to have to leave him again.” However, they received a wonderful surprise that day. The grandmother felt she could not keep him safe and asked if the Ames would adopt him. The Ames were ecstatic. This spring, their 22-year-old son, Charlie, graduated from Texas A & M. “He is a world-class kid,” Judy said.

Some of the babies the Ames have cared for were severely abused. On several occasions, they hired a lawyer to argue against the child being returned to parents or relatives. Sometimes things went as they had hoped and sometimes not.

Still, the love outweighs any pain according to them, and they always continue to pray for the children they cared for. Although they are 68 and 76 now, Richard explained he does not see an end to it until they can’t do it anymore. “I started out just supporting my wife, but things changed,” he said. “I fell so in love with these children that I can’t even talk about it without getting emotional. When I hold and rock and sing to them, I feel I am as close to God as I ever will be on earth.”

“We get to love a child for a little while and perhaps it be a gift that can last a lifetime that the child can go back to in a time of great need,” Judy said. “They are always in our hearts and always in our prayers.

Effects on Biological Children

All three families said they believed strongly that their own children benefited by being a part of the foster experience. Kathy and Ralph Charley of Minot, North Dakota fostered over 50 children in 15 years, accepting them from birth to 4 years old. They had six biological children— including two sets of twins—ages 6 to 18 months when they began. Ralph also had 3 children from another marriage, ages 20, 18, and 13. They would eventually adopt three of their foster babies when the parents lost custody. Their youngest, Leah, an active, bright 12-year-old now, was their last foster baby

Ralph was director of special education for the school district for 30 years and Kathy, a stay-at-home mom, had previously worked with hearingimpaired children and was teaching at Minot State University directing clinical programs.

Their second set of twins were 18 months old and the oldest six years old when Ralph came home for lunch one day after hearing about parents using Walmart bags instead of diapers because they used their money for drugs and alcohol. “Would you be willing to do foster care?” Ralph asked. Without hesitation, Kathy said ‘yes.’

The hardest part for their children, Kathy explained, were the times she said ‘no’ to taking in more when she felt they already had a full house. “The kids always wanted me to say ‘yes’ and would tell me, ‘We’ll be fine,’” she said. “The joy they experienced when they learned we were going to keep our youngest three is beyond description.”

“To have taken care of children who needed love and security was a great privilege for all of us,” Ralph said. “No doubt, it made a lasting impact on our family.”

Kathy credits foster care with influencing their adult children to choose careers in helping professions such as the medical field and special education. “Our children have a level of compassion of which I credit the foster care experience in part. They have a fuller understanding of what is out there and what they can do to be a part of it.”

PATTI ARMSTRONG is a Legatus magazine contributing writer.

Executive women don’t ‘lean in’ by sidelining family

The pew research center reported in 2018 that despite the overall ‘baby bust’ in U.S. fertility, the education gap in childbearing has been closing rapidly, with the most dramatic changes among women with Ph.D.s and professional degrees. In 1994, only 65 percent of such women aged 40-44 had given birth to a child, compared with 76 percent of women with bachelor’s degrees and 88 percent of women with high school degrees or less. But by 2014, that percentage had reached 80 percent for the most educated group of women, representing a 15-point increase in two decades, and a rate nearly identical with the 82 percent for women with bachelor’s degrees.

These univariate point estimates don’t tell the whole story of fertility among well educated women here, but they hint at important facts often glossed over in the contemporary narrative about women and childbearing. The first is this: education and fertility don’t have to move in opposite directions. If vastly more professional women are having children today compared with20 years ago, then education alone is not responsible for declining U.S. fertility rates. The second is that patterns of fertility in the modern economy are by no means settled. The tired idea that executive-level women will ‘lean in’ to careers by setting aside traditional aspirations for family life simply fails to get it right. We still have a lot to learn about why women choose to have the families they have, and what these choices mean to them.

It seems to me that Catholic women have a tremendous opportunity to bring a certain amount of richness and human interest to the contemporary narrative about women, work, and family. In the first place, we believe that the fundamental vocation of woman in nature and grace is to be a wife and a mother, whether lived out through family life, or a spiritual vocation. This means a woman never ‘sets aside’ her natural gift for nurturing others when she develops her talents and takes on a professional role. In other words, if she is called to a professional vocation – which many women are – it isn’t a question of balancing work and motherhood. Rather, with God’s grace and in prudence, it’s a matter of living her motherly role and her professional work each as fully as possible, while keeping her priorities in right order: God, family, work. When work is necessary for the well-being of her family, it is not a distant third but a very close third.

But another way Catholic women can enrich the conversation is this: since we believe in the eternal destiny of the soul and the infinite value of every child, we are more likely to bear witness to life through having bigger families. It’s not a stereotype for nothing. Going back as far as data exists, U.S. Catholic women have had about one more child per family than others. What this means, I think, is we can give witness to the fact that children are worth choosing for their own sake – we don’t need special reasons or perfect circumstances.

I think many people intuit this but strong cultural norms in our increasingly secular country prevail against it. A friend of mine (with a master’s degree in statistics) recently told me about an African immigrant who visited her home as part of a construction crew. When he met her larger-than-average family he exclaimed: “This is the first time I’ve seen something in this country that I want!” We can relate to this sentiment, but we can also provide its source and foundation: our entire faith is predicated on the blessing and beauty of human life. “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you” (Jer 1:5), and “Whoever welcomes a child in my name welcomes me” (Mt 18:5, Mk 9:37, and Lk 9:48). L

CATHERINE RUTH PAKALUK, PHD is an assistant professor of social research and economic thought at the Tim and Steph Busch School of Business at The Catholic University of America. She is the author of the #postcardsforMacron viral hashtag. Pakaluk lives in Maryland with her husband Michael and eight children.

Making ‘Room at the Inn’

Side-by-side on Claiborne Avenue in New Orleans, Louisiana, two buildings are in a life and death standoff. In the brick Planned Parenthood building, patient services center around impairing a woman’s reproductive system. Six recovery rooms remain vacant awaiting a license to perform abortions. “We definitely built this so we can provide abortions,” CEO of the abortion giant, Cecile Richards, announced last year.

Immediately beside it to the east, standing taller and brighter is the shiny glass building, Hope Woman’s Clinic, offering a full range of health care for the entirety of the woman, mind, body and soul. And in the heart of the building is the St. Clare Blessed Sacrament Chapel where daily Mass is offered and the power of Jesus Christ emanates to the staff to treat women of any faith and to build a culture of life.

Planned Parenthood opened for business last May, over a year later than projected, thanks to construction delays that Archbishop Gregory Aymond of New Orleans helped create. He had warned that any person or business helping with the Planned Parenthood building would not work for the Archdiocese. “We cannot cooperate with evil,” he stated.

Prime Location – Beside Planned Parenthood

The Hope Woman’s Clinic opened directly next door in October of this year. They do not want to just steal customers; they want to care for women in a way to prevent them from ever turning to Planned Parenthood.

According to the chief executive officer and attorney Angie Thomas, “The Hope Woman’s Clinic is unique in that we have paired together a full-service women’s clinic with an outreach to women in unplanned pregnancies.”

She explained that it is an extension of the Woman’s New Life Center (WNLC), which has expanded and flourished in large part due to the support of many Legates. “We can’t do this work without their help,” she said. “We don’t get half a billion dollars in government funding, and this is not a lucrative business.”

Helping Women and Children Thrive – A Brief History

In 2001, WNLC opened in New Orleans around the corner from an abortion facility, offering counseling and resources to women in unplanned pregnancies. When Hurricane Katrina shut down the abortion business in 2005, WNLC relocated right next to another abortion business in Metairie, a suburb of New Orleans.

The new center proved that location, location, location, is key. Many babies survived because their abortion-minded mothers took a detour after seeing signs for counseling and information, or they were handed brochures explaining the truth. That same formula for success continued when a second WNLC opened in Baton Rouge immediately next to another abortion provider.

In 2015, WNLC expanded their health care services to open Hope Woman’s Clinic in the Metairie location. The expanded services included routine wellness exams and reproductive health solutions, even teaching natural family planning. When the Metairie abortion business closed and Planned Parenthood began building in New Orleans, the Hope Woman’s Clinic followed close behind. The land adjacent to Planned Parenthood was donated for the Hope Woman’s Clinic 5,800-square-foot building, and $2.2 million was raised through a fundraising campaign.

Better Care Promotes Total Well-Being

“By meeting women where they are at and becoming their medical provider, we help them to understand their bodies and to flourish,” Thomas said. “Everything we do is in line with the Church. She explained that the clinic’s doctor, Susan Caldwell, is a primary care physician trained in NaPro Technology which stands for Natural Procreative Technology, a new way to diagnose and treat reproductive and gynecological health that is effective, scientific and moral.

Caldwell previously worked for 10 years in an outpatient clinic. Once she learned that hormonal contraception–whether prescribed for birth control or a physical problem— was bad medicine, she became committed to helping women find a better way. “NaPro gives us a way to read a women’s signs to design a diagnostic strategy to bring healing for things like polycystic ovarian disease and endometriosis,” Caldwell said.

She explained that women are cared for beyond their reproductive cycles to include the whole person—from cholesterol and blood pressure to anxiety or depression. “We are focused on showing other doctors and patients that this is better care,” she said. “It can be done.”

There are certainly challenges to thinking, such as when mothers bring their teenage daughters in for birth control, women needing treatment for sexually transmitted diseases, or the case of an exotic dancer worried about her health since she had relationships with multiple partners but with no pregnancies. “We invite the women to think differently about themselves and about sex,” Caldwell said. “We give them the message: ‘You can make a better choice. You can better understand your body and your dignity and decide not to let someone hurt you with an STD or unplanned pregnancy.’” She also helps women to understand that sex and babies go together and that the well-being of the baby is important.

Spiritual Compassion

Father Joseph Doyle is the rector of the Josephite seminary in Washington, D.C. but had served as one of three chaplains for the New Orleans Legatus Chapter for 15 years, was the principal of the all-black St. Augustine High School, and also volunteered with WNLC and
Hope Woman’s Clinic.

“Often women came to see us instead of going into the abortion clinic and then came back later with their babies,” Father Doyle said. He recalled a woman who came out of the abortion facility in tears because they would not accept her credit card. “A prayer warrior asked her why she was crying and invited her to our clinic,” Father Doyle said. “She ended up keeping her baby.”

Legate Advocacy and Support

Father Doyle described abortion as the defining issue of our time and credited Legatus as being an organization with a passion for life offering important support. Many from the New Orleans chapter have been involved.

David Lukinovich, president of the Baton Rouge Chapter and owner and president of Lukinovich Law (APLC), a law firm specializing in wealth conservation planning, said that he and his wife Kim first listened to Susan Mire, the founder of the WNLC, at a Legatus chapter meeting. “She talked about how entrepreneurship is part of the Gospel message,” he said. “She also shared her vision for crisis pregnancy centers.”

Lukinovich explained that things quickly fell into place from the start. “For instance, Susan prayed to the Blessed Mother for a phone system and the next day, Legate Steven Hubbell offered her a phone system that he no longer needed.” Lukinovich helped set up the WNLC as a 501(c)3 and was instrumental in land and building purchases.

Legates Jack and Anne Dardis have opened their home to a woman who comes to train natural family planning instructors and they had a group of medical professionals from Costa Rica stay with them during their training. According to Jack, advocating for life is a core value. “If we get a change there, we will have more people and more opportunity for money and help going to social justice causes.”

Gordon and Ann Stevens were involved with WNLC from the very beginning. Ann, a former Right to Life president of New Orleans, met Susan Mire while WNLC was still just an idea.

“This is a grassroots movement,” Ann explained. “There are so many people committed to life in New Orleans because the Catholic faith is strong here, although it crosses to other faiths.”

To her, a sign that God is supporting their pro-life efforts is that despite the expense and scarcity of land in the areas where the abortion businesses have located, they have been able to move right next door. “God knows this problem is far greater than we can solve, but he wants us to be there to represent hope,” Ann said. “It’s His plan; we just have to show up.”

PATTI MAGUIRE ARMSTRONG is a Legatus contributing writer.