DWLA is sharing the adoption story and interview of adoptive mom Kate Donovan Hodgkins in several parts–here is the fourth and final installment. Part one is found here, part two is here, and part three is here.
We asked Kate to detail her volunteer and paid work in the field of adoption, and she kindly complied.
by Kate Donovan Hodgkins
One thing I’d like to mention is that I could not do ANY of the work I do in the adoption field if it weren’t for the support and encouragement I get from my husband Tom and my children, Chase, Joshua, and Amilya. They are the reason I do this. They make my life complete, and my happiness endless.
Connecticut Adoption and Family Services (CT-AFS, formally CARA)
After having our home study done by CT-AFS (formally CARA), I volunteered my graphic design experience and helped redesign their business cards and brochure. I worked with clients of theirs to help them design their profile/birthmother letters. This led to my speaking at their informational sessions and on their PRIDE class panels on a volunteer basis, as well as being a mentor for their clients.
The Director of CT-AFS asked if I’d consider being a respite/foster mother for newborns which paid a stipend. Other agencies that didn’t have a foster mother also placed newborns with me through CT-AFS, and I was a DCF sanctioned respite for the newborns of a member of my support group. Most came to us right out of the hospital and many were premature babies. The newborns were with us for up to five weeks. I have recently given up this position to enable me to spend more time with my children this summer.
I did find it was a great way for my children to gain an understanding of what adoption is and how special it is. Often I would be involved with the birthmother, which ranged from meeting her at the hospital to having her to my home to visit her child. Often the adoptive parents would have visits with the babies while in my care. On several occasions, I was honored to be able to place the child in their arms for the first time. My own children were present at times and saw how a new family was made and how emotional and special this was.
Only once did any of my children feel sad when a baby was leaving us. My oldest son was particularly fond of one newborn we cared for, and the day we brought the baby to meet his forever family, Chase didn’t want to say goodbye. We sat and talked about it, and he eventually decided that he did want to say goodbye and the adoptive family graciously let him hold the little one and say his goodbye. He told me on the ride home that he was glad he changed his mind because he was happy when he saw how happy the family was to have their new son.
I was called with no notice to take a newborn baby girl several years ago. The birthmother was a young girl who was unsure if she wanted to place her daughter. I invited her and her mother to my home to spend the day with our family and see what a family by adoption was like. On a nice summer day her mother and I sat with her on our back deck watching my children play and we talked for hours. At the end of the day she tearfully told me that my family had made her see how much better a life her daughter could have if she chose adoption for her. And her biggest realization was that in a family by adoption there are no real differences.
In 2012 the Director of CT-AFS asked if I would be interested in being a co-instructor for their PRIDE classes for state adoption, which also paid a stipend. They have now merged with Waterford Country School which does therapeutic state adoption and in the fall I will begin teaching the PRIDE Classes and have begun speaking on Waterford Country Schools PRIDE class panels on a volunteer basis.
In 2009, I was awarded the Joseph and Barbara Sheffey Award for my work in the adoption field. This is an award given by CT-AFS each year to someone who has worked to help further adoption through their agency. It is made even more special to me because Joseph Sheffey was the Director of CT-AFS (then CARA). He was very helpful and supportive of us when we started our adoption journey.
Sandra, the Director of CT-AFS, has been my main source of information when something comes up in my support group that I do not know the answer to. She has done research for me and helped me many times over the years.
Kate’s Online Adoption Support Group
It was during our wait to adopt that I started my first adoption support group via email with four women I had met on adoption forums online. We became each other’s support systems and lifelong friends. Since I was a stay-at-home mom when Chase came to us, I decided to start up another support group and use my experience and that of the others in my first group. CT-AFS advertises my group in their newsletter and their social workers help spreading the word about my group has helped keep my groups going over the years. Now ten years later “Kate’s Online Adoption Support Group” has over 30 families currently and is run using Yahoo Groups.
It is so gratifying to be part of my members’ adoption journeys and to know I had a small hand in forming new families by adoption. I have gotten to meet so many of the children and been able to watch them grow and, in some cases, to watch the families continue to grow through adoption. I have several families who have adopted that stay in the group to offer their invaluable experience to the members. We have several get-togethers a year, and there have been some great friendships formed. As our next get-together is rapidly approaching, my family and I are looking forward to seeing all the families and their children. We love opening our home to give everyone an opportunity to connect in person with the people who have given them support and strength through their journey. It is a wonderful feeling to watch these children play with mine and know I had a small hand in getting their families started.
CAFAP (CT Association for Adoptive Parents) and Hearts, Hands and Homes
A wonderful woman, Alana, who worked for CAFAP and now for HH&H, introduced me to a program they have which supplies clothing to foster and adoptive families at no cost. I now help by opening “Karen’s Kloset” several times a year. I help keep the facility stocked by soliciting donations and sorting the clothes as well as spreading the word to foster and adoptive families through my support group.
Board of Directors
I have served on the Board of Directors for several adoption agencies over the past 10 years and would like to think that I have contributed ideas and helped further the growth of adoption through this.
One of the agencies, A Little Bit of Heaven, is run by a very special woman, Betty Smith. Betty and I met over 10 years ago when we were both starting the process to adopt. We shared the ups and downs as we both went on to adopt three children and formed a lifelong friendship. The reason I accepted a position on her Board of Directors when she opened her referral/adoption agency was because I knew she was entering the business for all the correct reasons. She wanted to make the dream of being parents a reality for others. Betty has also been a wonderful source of information for me to help answer questions that come up in my support group.