Posted on October 18, 2023 by Cathy VandeBraak, MA
Lutheran Family Service News
Meet Cathy VandeBraak, an adoption and pregnancy case worker serving families within three hours of Sioux Falls, South Dakota. We recently sat down to talk about her role with Lutheran Family Service, how mission and ministry are often carried out in the mundane parts of life, and the basics of what adoptive families and birth moms can expect when connected with LFS.
I’m an adoption and pregnancy case worker and I’ve been with Lutheran Family since June of 2022. I work with adoptive parents, helping] them as they are trying to be home-study approved or doing follow-up with them after a baby has been placed. We walk with birth mothers as they are making a decision about whether they choose to parent or if they want to place for adoption.
My master’s degree is in marriage and family therapy and prior to coming to Lutheran Family Service I served individuals and couples from my office space within the walls of the church in Sioux Falls. I worked to provide marriage or family education, whether it was communication skills, conflict resolution skills, or just to help stabilize and strengthen a family.
I feel like I can still do a lot of the things that I did with my couples previously, providing them with education and such. I’ve really enjoyed it because it is walking with couples at a completely different place than I was previously. Unless I was doing premarital counseling for a pastor or something like that, most of my clients were at a point where their marriages were struggling. It was a joy to see couples grow but it is equally joyful to work with couples in the stage of trying to grow their family through adoption.
When they are interested in finding out about our services, they would get a registration package where they would fill out some general information, [along with] some thoughts and motivations on adoption and what’s bringing them to this point. Then the adoption caseworker would meet with them and provide them with more details about how our program is structured and what the steps are during a home study process. We are also providing them with education resources (each state has different education requirements for adoptive families).
Then it’s just kind of keeping in touch with them. It’s a hurry, hurry, hurry, wait. It’s not until all the paperwork is done that families can be home-study approved and start on the waiting list. Then, it’s waiting on God’s timing.
There are multiple ways that a mom could reach out to Many Hearts. We have a phone line (515-571-9964) and a text line (text “love” to 844-764-2029) that they can reach out to. They can reach out online (www.many-hearts.com) or email [email protected]. Referrals can come from anywhere.
After a referral comes, I will meet with the mom. Our goal is to walk with moms no matter what decision they make. For example, one of my moms chose to parent, so we talked and used our BrightCourse training (video education resource). I would have her watch some of the videos and then we discussed them. We talked about the job description of being a mom and how she feels about those responsibilities. We work together to help her feel confident in her decision. Connecting her to resources within her community is also very important.
[For a birth mom who chooses adoption], in a perfect situation, we could be working with her for quite a while and [profile] books would ideally be shown around six or seven months into her pregnancy. Then we would set up a match meeting [with prospective adoptive parents] if the birth mother desires, and they have an opportunity to meet each other. From that point, they can work together to decide how they want the relationship to look, including decisions on naming the child, who is going to be present in the hospital, and so on.
Sometimes it’s things that happen behind the scenes that people may not be aware of. Many of my tasks may sound boring, but they are so important to help a birth mom. For example, when a mom makes a choice to place for adoption, there are lots of reminders that come her way, whether she wants them or not. All the medical bills get mailed to her home, so I spend a lot of time helping with tasks or things that aren’t super exciting like calling clinics, hospitals, or a collection agency to find out about a final [bill] amount due, so can I get it taken care of for a birth mom. I feel like this is an important walk to take to help the birth mother as she is in this transition period of her life.
As Lutheran Family Service grows in South Dakota, I try to share LFS information on the social media accounts I manage for Lutheran Women in Mission, whether it be [daily] prayers, meet the staff, or other things like that, I try to share those so people are aware of what we do and the services we offer.
The adoption team is amazing. We are spread out, serving Nebraska, Iowa, Illinois, [and South Dakota], so the times that we’ve been able to come together at the ministry center have been wonderful. We’ve made an intentional effort to come early to our trainings so that we can spend time together and strengthen our relationships. That time has been precious to get to know one another and build the foundation of trust and respect needed to work as a team.
Maybe you’re just having a rough day and it has nothing to do with work, we have somebody that we can call or text and know that they’re going to lift us up in prayer. At our monthly meetings, Kim (Laube) is so intentional about checking in with each of us and asking how we’re doing and what our prayer needs are. It is a blessing to be surrounded by that love.
It would just depend on the day, but if it’s pizza it’s going to be BBQ chicken. And a taco, give me some meat, cheese, and lettuce and I’m good.
Coffee is usually doctored so that it looks more like hot chocolate, not much coffee flavor. Otherwise, Propel; I don’t leave the house without a bottle of Propel.
Cathy meets with clients within three hours of Sioux Falls, South Dakota. Reach out today.
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