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Catholic Charities helps women deal with unplanned pregnancies

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Friday, October 1, 2010
By David Eck 
ARCHDIOCESE — When Beth Christopfel was 18 she found herself pregnant, unmarried and in a negative relationship with the baby’s father.
The pregnancy was unexpected, and Christopfel knew she wasn’t ready to raise a child. So, at her family’s urging, she turned to Catholic Charities Southwestern Ohio to find an adoptive family for her daughter.

While that is sometimes the end of the story, it was the beginning of a meaningful journey for Christopfel and 
Beth Christopfel
Beth Christopfel visits with her daughter, Cecelia, in January. Christopfel arranged for an open adoption when her daughter was born, and Cecelia now lives with an adoptive family. Christopfel maintains a relationship with the family and visits Cecelia several times a year. (Courtesy photo)
her daughter, Cecelia, now six. Working with Catholic Charities Southwestern Ohio the teen was able to select an adoptive family for Cecelia and meet them before the baby was born. She was also able to meet the family’s adoptive son and see the relationship they have with him. Though Christopfel was sad for herself, she knew adoption was best for Cecelia.
Today, Cecelia lives with her adoptive family on Cincinnati’s east side, while Christopfel and her own family see them three times a year. There’s a visit in the spring, a summer trip to Kings Island and an outing in December to Chuck E. Cheese around Cecelia’s birthday. They communicate via email. Christopfel, a member of St. Dominic Parish in Delhi, also shares gifts with her daughter.
“I was pretty lucky. They’re a very loving family,” said Christopfel, who has since reunited with Cecelia’s father. The two now have a son. “I got to know the kind of people they are. I felt very comfortable around them.”
Throughout the pregnancy, adoption and for about a year afterward, Christopfel worked with a Catholic Charities counselor who provided resources to help Christopfel decide on adoption or whether to keep the baby. The counselor also helped the teen deal with her emotions and offered her support.
Being able to select and meet the adoptive family gave Christopfel a sense of peace.
“It allowed me to really get to know [them] and really feel more comfortable and secure in the decision I was making,” Christopfel said. “A lot of people didn’t know what I was going through.”
Catholic Charities Southwestern Ohio helps women deal with unplanned pregnancies through its Choices of the Heart program. Counselors help women decide if they want to parent their baby or if an adoption plan is a better option.
Women are referred to Catholic Charities Southwestern Ohio from schools, by family members or via other agencies in the community. Clients are typically single and the majority of them are in their mid-20s, said Emily Pergrem, a pregnancy counselor.
“Some people really don’t have any idea what they want to do,” Pergrem said. “The goal of the program is that the client makes the best decision for themselves. There’s no pressure from me or the agency to decide one way or another.”
Women who have emotional support from their families may be lacking resources to care for their child. Choices of the Heart can connect them with governmental and charitable agencies for financial and educational assistance, Pergrem said.
Of the 20-40 women who are referred to Catholic Charities Southwestern Ohio each year, most end up parenting their babies. The agency facilitates five to 10 adoptions per year.
“It takes a certain kind of person to go forward with an adoption,” Pergrem said. “Certainly, as the pregnancy goes on they bond more and more with the baby. The delivery is a critical time because they’re actually seeing the baby.”
Clients can have a key role in the adoption, from choosing the family to maintaining a strong relationship that includes meetings, photos, emails and letters, Pergrem said. A majority of women choose an open adoption, which can eliminate the questions children have about their biological family as they grow.
Because of her experience with Cecelia and Catholic Charities, Christopfel has spoken to other women dealing with unplanned pregnancies about adoption. She has also earned an associate’s degree in social work and is planning to continue her studies.
“I was really lucky to have come across Catholic Charities. Getting up and going to talk to counselor really helped me,” she said. “It inspired me to help other people.”
David Eck can be reached at [email protected].
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