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Adding Up Impact: Adopting Hope

by Molly O'Connell

The following case study is the fourth of eight stories of nonprofit impact we will be publishing in the coming weeks. These case studies are part of MANP’s 2015 Adding Up Impact: Maine Nonprofits at Work report, which will be released during Nonprofit Days at the State House at the end of this month.

The Impact

SteppingStones Birth MotherThe decision to give up a child for adoption is surely a life changing one.  For 35 years Stepping Stones USA has assisted birth mothers in 16 Maine counties make such decisions successfully, safeguarding the future well-being of their children and improving the odds of long-term success and recovery from drug dependency and homelessness for them.

Stepping Stones has:

  • Reduced potential public expenditures for foster care, which can amount to $250,000 per child from birth to 18; this adds up to $7.75 million for 31 infants adopted in 2013-14.
  • Provided counseling to 157 birth mothers during the past two years, reducing the burden on the public mental health system.
  • Launched “Home to Stay,” in partnership with the Maine State Housing Authority, to speed up permanent housing solutions for homeless women and their families with an estimated  annual savings of $8,067 for each person.
  • Helped 100% of pregnant and parenting women in their program to move into safe and stable housing with additional private support services.
  • Conducted almost 1,600 hours of informational and educational programming for government, medical, clinical and legal professionals to inform and improve the complex process of adoption

The Story Behind the Impact

What began in 1977 as a private enterprise handling international adoptions, has grown exponentially to become a nationally-accredited continuum of care for birth mothers, their children and adoptive families. The organization has increasingly served birth mothers throughout Maine, especially women with opiate addictions facing life-altering decisions about doing what was best for their infants.

Stepping Stones emerged as a comprehensive social service agency that now offers case management, permanent housing, job training, and financial and legal assistance, while expanding its adoption placement program to support adoptive families and, most importantly, the children at the center of this complex matrix. Some birth mothers move into the family stabilization program while others elect adoption; all decisions happen only after thoughtful work with mothers by a case management staff that now approaches  40.

Stepping Stones Adoptive Family webThere is no single answer, but the single focus is family: creating new ones or reuniting and preserving existing ones. Adoptive families receive services from 6 to 18 months post-adoption, and many remain in contact with birth mothers.

None of this happens without a constellation of partners that include hospital staff, OB-GYN offices, attorneys, funding partners, such as Walmart and the Sam L. Cohen Foundation, that have invested in a permanent housing solution program, and other nonprofits and companies providing services.

This model illustrates the impact that private nonprofits can have in minimizing state involvement while maximizing positive outcomes for children and birth parents. The state’s Department of Health and Human Services which oversees adoptions and placements when termination of parental rights becomes a question, has been able to take a reduced role as Stepping Stones’ continuum of private services and resources has expanded.

As Marketing and Development Director Paul Golding points out, “Success at the highest level is having two dreams come true – a mother providing what’s best for her child and realizing a more stable future for herself.”

Your Impact

We know nonprofits across Maine are strengthening their communities. Help us make sure everyone knows it. Post your own stories of impact via Facebook and Twitter, and use the hashtag #NonprofitsGoodForME.

Sources: Interview with Stepping Stones Director of Marketing and Development Paul Golding August 5, 2014; 2010 cost study National Alliance to End Homelessness; National Alliance to End Homelessness Cost Study


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