We needed way more than a minute to share a very unique adoption story.
Kathy Pfannenstiel McClain, a social worker from Kansas is both an adoptee and has placed a child for adoption. In fact, adoption was so dominant in her family that growing up being adopted was normal for her and she and her siblings were always told how special they were because their parents chose them.
Kathy and her 3 siblings were adopted through Catholic Charities and (the youngest) through KCSL; each a closed adoption. Adoption was never far from Kathy’s family. Her adoptive mother has an identical twin sister that wasn’t able to have kids either. She adopted 3 children. Kathy’s adoptive father has a sister and a brother who also each adopted a child.
Kathy’s Birth Parents
Kathy’s birth mother lived with her parents in a small town in Nebraska. She worked as a waitress right up until 2 or 3 weeks before she was born. She had a one year old daughter and no desire to marry the man with whom she was pregnant with. In fact, he did not know she was pregnant despite him working closely with her family and she serving him lunch every day.
Born in November of 1959, Kathy weighed only 3.5 pounds with underdeveloped lungs. She would remain in the hospital for 6 weeks before her adoptive parents were able to take her home. Her birth mother was greatly worried that Kathy’s health would be a factor in finalizing the adoption plan, so she wrote a letter to the Catholic Charities and told them if Kathy’s health was a factor, if she was unable to be placed for adoption, she would come get her and raise her herself. Kathy’s birth mother clearly wanted the best for her newborn child.
Kathy grew up knowing she and her siblings were adopted. In the family photo album there are pictures of the kids with social workers. Kathy’s adoptive father passed away when she was just 15. Her mother was left to raise 4 children at 15, 13, 9, and 7.
When Kathy was 30 years old she sent a letter to Catholic Charities asking them to contact her birth mother in hopes for a mutually desired connection. Ironically, her birth mother had also notified Catholic Charities that same year letting them know she wanted contact if Kathy ever wanted the same. Within a matter of a few weeks, Kathy and her birth mother spoke on the phone for the first time.
Kathy found out that her birth mother and her husband live in Colorado Springs. About a year after meeting her, Kathy asked her birth mother to contact her birth father and tell him about her. She did, and Kathy has since made contact… He lives in Nelson, Nebraska and has a son and a daughter. Kathy shares, “He is a very sweet man.” And met one year over Thanksgiving. She was even able to sit with her birth mother and birth father looking through old photos. “It’s a memory I will always treasure.”
Kathy has shared her life with her birth parents since 1990. She has 2 half-sisters and 1 half-brother from her birth mother and she has a good relationship with them.
When Kathy was 18 years old, she placed her oldest daughter for (a closed) adoption through Catholic Charities.
Kathy was raised in a very strict Volga German, Catholic family in Ellis County. Very proud, her mother was not pleased about people talking about Kathy being pregnant. First, she insisted that she and the baby’s father get married. Neither Kathy nor the baby’s dad wanted to get married. They agreed to turn to their priest for his opinion. To Kathy’s delight, Father Julian determined it was not ideal for Kathy and the boy to be married. Kathy’s mother agreed to move Kathy to Saline through her pregnancy where a Catholic Charities family would host her until the baby was born. She remained with the family from June 1978 until Laurie was born in September.
Laurie’s birth father relinquished his rights after Kathy did.
Kathy’s daughter was adopted by a wonderful Catholic family in Osborne, Kansas.
When she contacted the parents, via Catholic Charities, Laurie was about 16 years old. Fortunately for her, the adoptive parents had always wanted an open adoption, but adoptions just weren’t handled like that in 1978. Once they received Kathy’s request for information they sent letters and pictures. A face to face meeting was imminent although it took Laurie a few years to be ready. Kathy respected that. In fact, Laurie actually went into Walmart with her brother once. Kathy waited on her (Laurie unknowingly) in the jewelry department, replacing a watch battery. Kathy says, “I kept it together and put in the battery and sent her and her brother on their way.”
She later wrote Laurie’s adoptive mother sharing the encounter. It wasn’t until many years later when Laurie was married with 2 little boys that they met. Through letters and now social media, the family stayed connected.
Kathy shares that she has met Laurie’s adoptive parents a couple of times and have been to their home. “They are so genuine and just an awesome family.”
Along with the 4 half siblings Laurie has with Kathy’s children, she has an adopted brother and her parents had one biological son also.
She has never regretted her decision, though, her mother did. Kathy expresses that her mother was a very good mom; she liked things done her way. Kathy knew that if she brought her baby home, she would not have gotten to be her mother; her mom would have taken over. Not because she was mean, but because she cared. Kathy already saw her mom working so hard to provide for her own 4 children, always maintaining at least 2 jobs, that she didn’t want to add to the financial struggle.
But Kathy says she mostly placed her daughter for adoption because she was a daddy’s girl and she wanted her daughter to have a daddy.
Kathy has been a social worker for 18 years. She received her master’s degree in 2012 and is now an in home family therapist with Family Preservation at St. Francis in Salina. During her years as a social work case manager she enjoyed adoption work. From 2001 to 2005 she solely worked adoption cases with KCSL and Lutheran Social Service in Topeka. She tells us, “It was the most rewarding case management work I have done.”
Thank you Kathy for sharing your beautiful adoption triangle!! We admire the joy in your words and special relationships you have maintained throughout your adoption journey!