North Dakota families honored for open adoption
FARGO – Angela and Ray Schepp of Stanley, N.D., want their son to know where he came from.
That’s why they’ve kept in contact with 6-month-old Hogan’s birth parents since they adopted him shortly after he was born. The Schepps even named their son after his birth mother, Erika Hoganson.
“We feel very blessed and thankful to his birth parents,” Angela Schepp said. “Without them, we wouldn’t have Hogan.”
Hoganson, a 22-year-old server at a Fargo restaurant, said it means a lot to her to hear that Hogan is doing well.
“It makes it easier to know he went to a good family,” she said.
Hoganson said she will likely maintain contact with the family as long as it’s something they want to do. That’s a sentiment the Schepps echo.
For their open relationship following Hogan’s adoption, the North Dakota Department of Human Services recently awarded the Schepps, Hoganson and Hogan’s birth father with the 2014 Adoption Triad Award.
Hoganson said she was surprised. The Schepps said they were honored to receive it.
“It’s just been a testament to our relationship with the birth parents and our commitment to adoption,” Angela Schepp said. “Hopefully we can be an advocate for the positive experience of adoption, both from the adoptive parents’ perspective and the birth parents’ perspective.”
Carly Gaddie, director of pregnancy, parenting and adoptions services for Catholic Charities North Dakota, said it’s common for families to stay in contact after the placement of a child.
At a minimum, she said the agency requires a semi-open adoption, where pictures and letters are exchanged through the agency.
“Openness in adoption has been around for longer than people think,” she said. “It has become more on the forefront in the last 20 years. It gives birth mothers who place their children for adoption peace of mind to know how their child is doing and to have a role in the child’s life. For the adoptee, it gives them a sense of connectedness knowing where they came from and why they were placed for adoption. They grow up with answers.”
All of Catholic Charities’ adoptive families meet the birth mom at some point, Gaddie said.
“Meeting the birth mom is important because birth moms who make an adoption plan make a very informed … decision,” Gaddie said.
Hoganson chose the Schepps, she said, because their video reminded her of her own parents.
“That’s how I want him to be raised,” she said.
The Schepps had been listed with Catholic Charities for three years before they were able to adopt Hogan.
They had struggled for years, Angela Schepp said, through miscarriages and trying to become pregnant before deciding to adopt.
“We knew we wanted to be parents,” she said.
When they first started looking into adoption, Schepp said they worried about connecting with the child and what would happen if the birth parents wanted him back.
“Now looking back, thank God we did do it,” she said. “Hogan has been a blessing to us.”
They found out they would be adopting Hogan on the day he was born, and they’ve been with him every day since.
The more than 300-mile drive to Fargo was filled with excitement and nervousness, Schepp said.
“It was surreal,” she said. “When we first got the call, we were very excited. But there’s that small part, too, that just didn’t want to be disappointed.”
Hogan was born five weeks before his due date, so he spent his first 10 days in intensive care, and though the adoption was not yet finalized, Schepp said Hoganson allowed her and her husband to be there with the baby.
“I got to hold him for the first time that night,” she said. “It was unbelievable. You wait for something for so long and then it was just an automatic connection when we saw him and touched his little hands.”