Six years ago, late one Wednesday afternoon, Kim Bertrand received a phone call that would change her life forever. On that day, she and her husband Sterling became parents.
“I was working late. The office was almost deserted,” said Kim. “I immediately called Sterling and told him we had a son, and we could bring him home on Friday.”
“He asked me what Friday I was talking about. Both of us were shocked because we didn’t expect this call to come so quickly.”
Actually, they yearned for a child for a very long time. Kim and Sterling Bertrand married on New Year’s Eve fifteen years ago. She was still in law school and Sterling was starting a new career. A few years later, they began wanting to grow a family.
“I guess God had other plans for us—named Justin and Joshua,” said Sterling.
“Adoption is just not something you think about when you plan your life,” said Sterling, “but it’s the best thing I ever did.”
Adoption was not at all foreign to Kim. She and her twin brother were adopted as infants as were several close family members.
“Kim and I met in 10th grade, and I didn’t know for a long time that she was adopted,” said Sterling. “So when we started talking about it, there was never a moment’s hesitation. Look how great her life turned out.”
Kim says the day she got that phone call was one of two of the happiest in her life. The other was just after Christmas three years ago when she was called about her second son, Joshua.
“My Mom and Dad were living with us while rebuilding their home destroyed by Katrina,” said Kim. “I remember my Mom and me pulling Justin’s baby things out of the attic and making a shopping list for Sterling.”
Kim says that at least once a week a coworker asks her about the boys. Some are curious about adoption and ask me to call friends considering it.
“Some people have a lot of misconceptions about adoption,” said Kim. “It really helps to hear firsthand from someone who has been down that road.”
When asked why they chose Catholic Charities, they said it was the natural choice because both were raised Catholic, but they interviewed at agencies just to be certain.
“When we contacted other agencies, the conversation immediately shifted to money—the adoption fee,” said Kim. “Catholic Charities really focuses on the wellbeing of the babies, the birthmother and couples like us.”
“Our adoption fees are set according to the income of the adoptive family,” said Janice Allen, Catholic Charities Adoption Director. “Our primary focus is the child and finding a good family.”
Allen added that the agency serves people of all faiths, not just Catholics. “We do this work because of our Catholic tradition,” said Allen, “Not because of the religion of the people we serve.”
Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Baton Rouge has been offering adoption services since 1964. Today, the agency places about 24 babies into adoptive homes each year. About half of the children placed, however, come from other countries, like China, Korea and Vietnam.
Twenty years ago, Allen reports the agency placed very few African-American children, but today, works with 4 or 5 African-American families every year.
“In the past, arrangements were more informal in the African-American culture. Kinship care was the norm. Today birthparents are more informed about their options and consider adoption a choice made out of love.”
After an initial interview, couples start their Adoption Journey by attending a 6-week training course. The sessions prepare couples for their home study and teach them about the legal process and lifelong adoption journey.
“I was unprepared for the amount of paperwork,” said Sterling. “But we were really forced to think about everything involved with raising a child.”
“We had to write about our faith, opinion on parenting, our life insurance, everything,” added Sterling. “That process will definitely help you decide if you really want to be a parent because you can’t fake it.”
The couple agreed that parenting is harder than they ever imagined, but definitely the most rewarding job of their lives.
“I can’t imagine life before we had the boys,” said Sterling. “After the whole adoption process, you don’t take your role as a parent for granted.”
“My appreciation for my parents went through the roof,” said Kim. “After seeing the commitment and patience it takes to raise good Christians and responsible citizens, my respect and love for my parents increased tremendously.”
Sterling says he never felt the kind of love he has for both his sons. “When I picked up both of them for the first time, I knew immediately he was my son. I was their father.”
“From that first day, I was ready to be Justin’s lioness,” interjected Kim. “Instinctually, I was ready to protect him, care for him. I felt that same thing instantly for Joshua, too.”
In addition to birthdays, the Bertrands celebrate Adoption Days. Justin, age 6, and Joshua, 3, are as close as Sterling and his brother were as children. Just like his dad, Justin enjoys sports, is outgoing and always on the go. Kim says Joshua worships his big brother, shares his love of Scooby Do and even mimics the way he eats an Oreo.
“Justin loves his brother and tries to be as patient as a 6-year-old can with his little brother,” said Kim. “They are really perfect for each other.”
To find out if adoption is right for you, call Catholic Charities at 225-336-8708.