MINOT — Catholic Charities North Dakota has provided numerous services for almost a century, for people in all stages of life, from birth to old age.
The international adoption service, as well as the parenting and counseling services, are just two of the many programs it provides.
Kristie Urness, head of the pregnancy parenting and international adoption services, explained what her job is, and thus what those programs are for.
“There’s a couple different parts of my job, one is outreach,” said Urness. “Outreach to different community providers, let us know about our services. The other pieces that we do, pregnancy counseling services. So we help anyone who’s experiencing an unplanned pregnancy, just provide support for them, kind of walk that journey with them, help them explore their options like do they want to parent, do they want to make an adoption plan. We just kind of wrap resources around them.”
Urness said part of the counseling includes “wrapping resources around the parents,” by providing support and walking the journey with them.
“The other piece that I do is the adoption services,” said Urness. “We have a North Dakota infant adoption, out of state adoption, which is basically infant. But then we also do services for international adoption. My job’s kind of all-encompassing.”
Urness explained that Catholic Charities North Dakota is its own separate agency, but it is also affiliated with Catholic charities USA. It is Hague accredited which allows it to work with international adoption services.
“Hague accredited means we all kind of have our ducks in a row and are following these laws, policies, procedures,” Urness explained. “Some countries are Hague accredited, some are not, but we are working with any country that’s Hague accredited. It is safeguards put in place to protect children going through international adoption.
Urness said because Catholic Charities does not do the actual adoption process internationally, it would not need to be Hague accredited, but it is anyway.
“We’re not doing the work on the ground in those other countries, we’re just doing the before and the after stuff,” said Urness.
Much of Urness’ job in that program is to provide specific home studies, education and support for families who are looking to adopt, but Urness also is in charge of programs that simply aid birth parents in need of resources who choose to parent their child.
“When the birth mom or birth dad decide to make an adoption plan, that is voluntary,” said Urness. “So we provide a lot of counseling for that, because there’s a lot of grief and loss that goes with making an adoption plan.”
Urness believes birth parents choosing to parent has been an upward trend due to modern day resources that may not have been available in the past.
“A lot of that had to do with the cultural change as well,” said Urness. “The stereotype of a baby born out of wedlock back in like, the 50s and 60s, that’s much different than if a mom is pregnant and not married today, it’s accepted a lot more by society now.”
Urness said the ages she helps with range from 13 to 45 or 46 years old.
“Sometimes they’re in high school, sometimes they’re in college, sometimes they’re married,” Urness explained. “It just depends on what they need.”
Catholic Charities does take donations, despite it often working with the government in many areas. The parenting program takes much of the donations since it provides free resources, according to Urness.
“There’s no fee for a birth mom, birth dad to come in and work with me,” said Urness. “So we are always looking for donations whether it’s baby clothes, diapers, wipes, toys, books, bedding, or whatever.”
Urness said the adoption families do pay for the home studies. Otherwise, her program will even take financial donations that may be used for advertising to get the word out to rural communities.
Urness also works with agencies such as Dakota Hope and Project BEE.
“We’ll either get referrals from Dakota Hope or we’ll refer people to like, their parenting programs, or for emotional support,” Urness described. “Project BEE has been helpful with their diaper pantry, or even the warming center in the winter. So we work with a lot of community agencies, connecting them.”
Catholic Charities also provides general counseling across the state, though there is no position for that in Minot.
More information on Catholic Charities North Dakota can be found on its website.