People in San Francisco were invited to Saturday’s Walk for Life West Coast with signs that read “Abortion hurts women.” Grace Dulaney, one of the speakers at the event, had a second message to give participants: “Adoption heals women.”
Dulaney is the president of the Agnus Dei Foundation, which established the Lamb of God Maternity Home in San Diego.
She is the mother of five children: The first two she parented as a single mom; the third she placed in adoption; and now married to Kirk Dulaney, the executive director of Agnus Dei, she has two more young children. This, she says, gives her “a very personal passion about the gift of adoption.”
ZENIT spoke with Grace Dulaney about the Agnus Dei foundation and about adoption as a pro-life option.
ZENIT: Tell us about Agnus Dei and its mission.
Dulaney: The mission of ADF is to impact the culture of life by being a champion for adoption as a positive and viable alternative to abortion or single parenting. This is accomplished by the establishment of the first Lamb of God Maternity Home, in San Diego, which provides a safe and nurturing living environment for unwed mothers who choose adoption for their babies.
ZENIT: Why did you want to participate in the West Coast March for Life?
Dulaney: We are passionate about the need to “re-educate” people about adoption and the incredible solution it can offer girls who are considering abortion. Most young women in crisis pregnancies don’t want to get an abortion. They think their only alternative is to parent. They also know that being young, single, and without resources, they are not ready to parent either. Adoption, if presented as a viable solution, can open their minds to a third and under-utilized solution with very positive outcomes for all involved.
Although adoption has been around a long time and even has biblical roots (Moses), there are still many misperceptions. Adoption today is very different than it was 25-30 years ago. As workers in the vineyard we owe it to the girls and their unborn babies to present the possibility that adoption could solve the problem.
Adoption has not been a featured topic in the first 10 years of the West Coast Walk for Life. This year both Shari Rigby and myself will speak about adoption. The mantra of the walk is “abortion hurts women.” What I have experienced and what we are seeing in the birthmothers going through our program, is that “adoption heals women.”
ZENIT: What are the needs that led you to create the Agnus Dei home?
Dulaney: I see two societal challenges. First we have rampant unwed pregnancies that have resulted in tens of millions of aborted babies. For those who carry their babies to term, we now have the majority of babies born in our country (53% in general population and 73% in black population), born to unwed mothers. These children will grow up without fathers and the statistics show that scenario has a dramatically negative impact on our society.
Secondly we have escalated rates of infertility with two million couples on waiting lists to adopt. With less that 2% of unwed mothers choosing adoption, many wonderful couples will never be blessed with children and the babies will not be blessed with extraordinary families.
Our ministry, by encouraging and supporting girls who choose adoption, provides a bridge of hope that joins these two challenges with a positive outcome.
ZENIT: But if there are so many couples waiting to adopt, why do so many kids lag in the foster care system?
Dulaney: We have [a] broken foster care system. Many of these children are born into circumstances where the mother is not ready or able to parent or has no desire to parent. If [she had been] shown the gift of adoption while pregnant, she may have saved herself, and more importantly, her baby, the trauma of becoming a statistic in “the system” [and becoming someone] who may never have a forever family and permanent home.
For every baby placed for adoption there are dozens and dozens of waiting adoption-ready couples. We have an obligation as pro-life advocates to promote adoption at birth. There are couples who will adopt EVERY baby…regardless of color or medical challenges. [Meanwhile,] it’s very hard to adopt out of the foster care system.
We had a 16-year-old stand up this week in a high school class for unwed mothers and say she wished she had been presented with adoption as an option before giving birth because she knows she is not ready to be a good parent.
Another girl is placing her 3-year-old for adoption now because she is 19 and from a broken and dysfunctional home herself, where she is still living with divorced and alcoholic parents. She wanted to place her son as a baby and her parents were against it. Sometimes the best form of parenting is choosing someone else to parent your child.
ZENIT: Could you explain further why it might be better for a woman to place her baby for adoption rather than raise him or her as a single mom.
Dulaney: I love single mothers. I was one for 14 years as a result of divorce. But most women would not knowingly choose to be single mothers and are hoping a wonderful man will come into their lives! When I got pregnant and placed my son Dylan for adoption it was because I knew the reality of being a working single mom. I knew I was a great single mother, but I could never be Dylan’s father. I felt he deserved the best start in life, to be raised by both a father and mother. Sometimes the best form of parenting is to choose awesome parents for your child.
I feel that step one is choosing life and step two is choosing A life for your baby. Adoption is a solution everyone can live with. Open adoption is a triad of love and trust. It is not co-parenting. The couple chosen by the birthmother are the parents. But the baby grows up with the knowledge that they were/are deeply loved by their birthmother. It’s a sacrificial love to put the baby’s needs before your own. The birthmother can go on with her life, transformed as we see in our girls, with the courage to do anything she sets her mind to in life and the knowledge that her baby will know her love. The adoptive couple has the relief of knowledge about the physical traits and family history of their baby. They have a child who is emotionally stable because they have answers and knowledge of their roots.
With abortion and, in many cases, single parenting the girl in crisis sees herself as a victim. Adoption empowers the birthmother because she is in control of the situation, her pregnancy, the adoptive couple she chooses, and the adoption plan put in place.
We see our Lamb of God Maternity Home as a safe haven where our girls detox. In some cases they are detoxing from substance abuse. In all cases they are detoxing from the culture of death and the pressures of society that have led them to bad choices. We fill them up physically, emotionally, psychologically, and spiritually and they leave us transformed and eager to share their stories and give back to the world.