Greenwood adoption agency formed to help birth mothers, families

Like throwing a stone in a pond, adoption’s impact spreads out and touches lives in all directions.

Sara Baker has seen it dozens of times. As a social worker, she has helped place children with their adoptive families. Her own extended family has been touched by adoption, and is a testament to the way it can change lives.

But the process can also be met with great difficulty. She has walked side by side with prospective parents through the emotional and financial strain, and seen the grief that comes when an adoption falls apart.

“It can be so overwhelming. I wanted to try and do something to alleviate that, specifically when an adoption fails,” Baker said.

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Those experiences moved her. Baker, together with Franklin couple Greg and Julie Menefee, created Courageous Hearts Adoptions to ease the burden for both adopting families and birth mothers. The Greenwood-based nonprofit organization was created with a primary goal of making the adoption process as affordable as possible for people, while providing the support necessary during the lengthy process.

At the same time, Baker wants to eliminate the stigma of adoption for birth mothers, recognizing them for the courage it takes to make such a difficult decision.

“There’s always been this notion in society that women who give up their babies for adoption are selfish. It’s completely inaccurate,” she said. “We want to change the perception of adoption from the birth parent’s side. We’re really against the notion that they give up their babies.”

Baker has always been moved by social work. Her mother was a social worker, and showcases that while it is difficult, the work could be incredibly fulfilling.

After graduating from college, her first job was with the Department of Child Services. Eventually, she had roles with Riley Hospital for Children at IU Health, and in the foster care system.

Throughout her career, she worked with abused and neglected children, helping place them in foster care. She counseled teens in legal trouble, and assisted families with seriously ill children connect with vital resources.

But it was adoption that changed Baker’s life.

“It never gets dull. It’s exciting every time, and it’s highly emotional,” she said.

Baker’s sister, Jenna Menefee, and her husband went through the adoption process with their two daughters. The experience gave Baker two nieces, and illustrated the joy that adoption can bring.

Seeing the process firsthand, Baker was also impressed with the vital role of the birth parent in adoption.

“That sometimes can get lost. But without these women making these courageous, wonderful decisions, it wouldn’t be possible,” she said. “I think every day about my niece’s birth mothers, and how fortunate we are that they made that decision.”

Together with her sister and her parents-in-law, Greg and Julie Menefee, Baker moved forward to form Courageous Hearts Adoptions. At the heart of their mission was not only providing the resources and support between birth parents and adoptive families, but finding ways to lessen the financial strain.

Private adoptions can cost between $30,000 to $60,000, Baker said. Those costs include fees for a home studies, document preparation, agency and legal services, as well as providing counseling and assistance to the birth mother during pregnancy.

The price is steep, and in the case that a potential adoption falls apart, it can be shattering.

“I have walked through that with clients, and the devastation they feel when that happens. Pile on top of that the additional financial expense, it just seems cruel,” Baker said. “People are crying, they can barely breathe, and then they’re trying to figure out finances on top of that. You really just want them to be able to grieve and move forward.”

Establishing Courageous Hearts as a registered nonprofit allowed them to create a fund to help reimburse adoptive parents with some of their out-of-pocket expenses in case the adoption falls apart.

That cost cannot be completely covered, but that burden can be eased, Baker said.

“It’s never going to be cheap. But if you can eliminate some of the risk, that helps a little bit,” she said.

Through their services, Courageous Hearts helps adoptive parents with the home study, financial background and reference checks. Baker and her team connect with a birth mother wishing to go through the adoption process, describing the kind of family she’s interested in. The agency then tries to pair those mothers with prospective families.

Throughout the pregnancy, if the birth mother needs financial help, Courageous Hearts manages funds and ensures the money is properly used. They provide around-the-clock case management for the birth mother.

“Not only are we there to provide the financial assistance and living assistance, but also just to answer questions they have, teaching life skills, whatever they need,” Baker said.

Courageous Hearts Adoptions formed in late 2019. So far, the agency has successfully placed four babies with adoptive parents. Three more planned adoptions are in the works.

In addition to their main work with birth parents and adoptive families, the organization has been working to build its fund to help cover the costs of adoption. The fund is administered by the Courageous Hearts Foundation’s board of directors.

Already, an anonymous donor has offered $10,000 in matching funds to encourage first-time donors.

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Courageous Hearts Adoptions

What: A licensed, full-service nonprofit adoption agency

Where: 435 E. Main St., Suite 145, Greenwood

For birth parents: Call toll free at 888-409-0377, or send a text message to 317-496-2207

For adoptive parents: Call 317-743-8525

How to help: Adoption is a courageous choice, and Courageous Hearts Adoptions aims to help both birth parents and adoptive families have a meaningful, loving experience. Donations from the community help keep adoption expenses and fees to a minimum, allow for no recurring agency fees for the adoptive couple and assist with recouping failed adoption costs. Funds can also help provide services to make a positive impact on the birth parents’ lives, and offer supportive services for birth parents.

How to donate:

  • Click on the Donate Now button on the Courageous Hearts website.
  • Donate gas, phone or superstore (for example, Walmart) gift cards to help birth moms with living expenses. These can be mailed directly to the office.