From left, grandmother Cindy and mother Nicole Patzkowsky stand outside the Infant of Prague office with Jaxon, 4, and Jordyn, 1. The Patzkowsky family adopted Jordyn through Infant of Prague. Jaxon was adopted through another agency. Photo by Donald Promnitz
Written by Donald A. Promnitz
What started as a haven for expecting mothers to place their children up for adoption has turned into one of Fresno’s most trusted and longest-lasting institutions of charity, connecting thousands of families.
Located at 6059 N. Palm Ave., Infant of Prague Adoption Services is licensed to operate in 17 counties in California and to accept adopted children throughout the state. The organization has been in operation since the Roman Catholic Diocese of Fresno set it up in 1953.
“Women would come to, say, a priest in their church,” said Infant of Prague Office Manager Gloria Ridenour, “looking for help and guidance if they were facing an unexpected pregnancy.”
“64 years ago, that was looked upon very differently than it is today,” said Infant of Prague Executive Director Sylvia Coyle.
Seeking to find a way to help these women and girls in their time of need, Infant of Prague was founded. Named for the ornate Catholic statue of the infant Jesus in the Czech capitol of Prague, it became the first adoption agency in Fresno. In 1997, the agency separated from the Catholic Church, but continues its mission of counseling and family building.
For Infant of Prague, the process begins the moment an expecting mother approaches their agency. First, the agency will speak with and provide counseling, deciding whether it is best for the mother to raise or give up the child for adoption. If it is decided that adoption is the best course of action for the child and the mother, Infant of Prague will begin the process of matching the child with the right family.
Parents seeking to take in a child through the agency are put through an adoptive process. This includes a background check and home inspection.
If chosen, they put together an album for the inspecting mother to look over. If the waiting family is found compatible, they will adopt the child.
The birth parents, however, do not have to end their role in the baby’s life after adoption. As the agency that introduced open adoption to Fresno, Infant of Prague works cater to what they call the “triad”— that being the needs of the child, the adoptive family and the birth family.
If the mother chooses, she can be a part of her child’s life after adoption and know the new family.
“That makes it easier for them because that’s not the easiest thing in the world to do — to give up your child — or to place a child,” Coyle said. “So it’s important that they can have that ability to maintain that peace of mind that they’ve made a good decision with the right family.”
This has been the experience for Nick and Nicole Patzkowsky, who adopted their daughter, Jordyn, 1, through Infant of Prague. When she had started her family, Nicole had been skeptical about the concept of open adoption.
“I was very turned off — to be honest — because I felt like this was my chance to have a family and you have all these selfish feelings, rightfully so, I think,” Nicole said. “But it’s crazy for us, we really feel like God just changed our hearts, and just the love we have for our kids’ birth families.”
The Patzkowskys had adopted their first child, Jaxon, 4, through another agency before turning to Infant of Prague to adopt their second child. After being interviewed by the birth mother, it was decided that they would raise the child.
The adoptive parents bonded with the mother and were present for Jordyn’s birth.
“When they moved her out of the delivery area into a room… they had wanted to put her on the floor that wasn’t with kids because they thought it would be too emotional,” Nicole said. “But she wanted to be with us and I said: ‘Well, let’s just share a room.’ So the first night in the hospital, her and I stayed in the room together with Jordyn.”
Nicole stated that the Patzkowsky family maintains good relations with the birth parents of both of their children and are open to them about their adoption.
“Our philosophy, and I think definitely the philosophy of Infant of Prague and most agencies nowadays is if your child remembers the day you told them, you waited too long,” Nicole said.
In order to raise money for the agency, Infant of Prague will be holding its 15th annual Toast to the Children fundraiser. The event will be held in the Bankers Ballroom at Fulton Mall on Nov. 3.