Community Stories Huntsville Adopts

AGAPE Love: How One Organization Is Giving Kids Better Lives

It was young, passionate love that landed them in this situation. The teens were dating, but not married, when the woman found out she was pregnant. They sought out the help of AGAPE of North Alabama, a Christian child-placement organization, to help them figure out what to do. The couple chose adoption—deciding to give the child a better life than they could provide at the time—before sitting down to look through books and books of available families.

One profile stood out.

It was a family who wasn’t considering adopting a healthy baby. Instead, they wanted to adopt a child with special needs or medical needs, a challenge they were ready to face head-on. Their profile immediately stood out to the pregnant woman. Why?

“She looks just like my mom,” the teen girl said. “That’s where I want my baby to go. I want them to raise my baby.”

Over time, the teenaged couple broke up, and the birth mother stopped contacting AGAPE to request updates on the baby. The biological father, however, struggled with grief and guilt over his decision. A year after the adoption, he wrote a letter to the child and the adoptive parents detailing how thankful he was. In a twist of fate no one saw coming, the adoptive family reached out to him and sort of took the biological father under their wings.

Natalie Balch is Director of Social Services at AGAPE of North Alabama. She explained the adoptive family now mentors the biological father in addition to allowing him be a part of the child’s life.

“It’s really neat because that baby is going to grow up knowing the birth family and the adoptive family,” Natalie said.

AGAPE of North Alabama provides adoption and foster care services for Alabama’s children. They walk both sides through the steps to ensure everyone is at peace with the final placement.

“All who are involved in this process—the birth parents, the adoptive parents and the child—must be respected and nurtured,” according to the AGAPE website.

From Google To AGAPE

AGAPE focuses partly on counseling women with unplanned pregnancies, many of whom discover the organization through a simple internet search. They’re scared and alone, looking for options that will help their child have the best life possible.

“They find out they’re pregnant, and they’re worried and upset, so they’re looking for someone to talk to,” Natalie said. “We get a whole lot of women who call us that really just need counseling and really just need to talk through things and need some resources for parenting.”

AGAPE works to set women up with these resources—everything from pregnancy tests to transportation to doctor’s appointments—in order to help them through a healthy and safe pregnancy.

If the women do decide to place the baby for adoption, AGAPE has families ready to adopt—families that have been thoroughly screened.

Working Relationships

There is no cut-and-dried formula for adoption, and no two adoptions are the same. These days, adoptions range in varying degrees of openness, Natalie said. It just depends on what works best for the families.

Let’s break it down: Families who wish to adopt must go through a screening process that includes a home study, background checks and counseling. Social workers dive into every aspect of a potential adoptive family’s life, but they aren’t looking for perfection. Instead, they are making sure the child will have a safe and loving place to grow up.

From there, the prospective adoptive parents must submit a profile book. This is what pregnant women use to decide who will parent their baby. Sometimes families wait years for their child. Other times, they’re called from the hospital when a woman comes in and decides to make an adoption plan after the birth, Natalie said.

“It’s a really hard place for adoptive families to be in because they are preparing their hearts to wait two or three or four years, but sometimes it’s overnight,” Natalie said.

Click here to read the story about Nick and Abby Hayes, a couple who is adopting through AGAPE.

Birth and adoptive parents also get to decide how much contact the baby will have with the biological parents. That’s where the AGAPE social workers step in. They mediate these discussions.

“What a social worker does is talk with the adoptive family and the birth family and figures out what is best for the parties involved,” Natalie said. “Sometimes families meet ahead of time. Sometimes they meet afterwards. Sometimes they get together after the baby is in place. Sometimes they just exchange letters and pictures through (AGAPE).”

In the end, it’s all about how two families can work together to make the best choices for a child.

If you are facing an unplanned pregnancy and thinking about making an adoption plan or if you are a family that is considering adopting a baby, check out AGAPE of North Alabama’s website.

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About the author

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Jessie Harbin

Jessie is a newlywed living in Meridianville with her husband and three dogs. She's learning to sail on their 26-foot sailboat in Guntersville. At the time of publication, nobody has fallen ill because of her cooking.

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