Louisiana congressional delegation members walked among angels last week.
The lawmakers participated in the annual Angels in Adoption program that recognizes constituents who have enriched the lives of foster children and orphans throughout the United States and abroad.
The program, operated by the Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute, recognized 190 people across the country with angel pins, including two couples from Baton Rouge and another woman from New Orleans.
Dr. Robert Kenney and his wife, Kay, were honored for over the years caring for about three dozen infants up for adoption through the St. Elizabeth’s Foundation in Baton Rouge.
The Kenneys are part of the foundation’s Cradle Care program that holds newborns until adoptions can be worked out. The Kenneys were nominated by Republican U.S. Rep. Bill Cassidy, of Baton Rouge.
One baby at a time, the Kenneys have held infants as long as four months.
“We just keep the infants and love on them until they go,” said Kay Kenney, a nurse who participated in the Washington ceremony last week. “We get out of it more than we give.”
Baton Rouge residents Charlie Cusimano and his wife, Vicki Crotchet, also received pins after being nominated by U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La.
The two attorneys have two adopted children and Cusimano has donated his time, legal experience and assistance to the Maternity and Adoption Department of Catholic Charities since 1994.
He has also served on the Louisiana Adoption Advisory Board and has spent hundreds of hours advising birthparents and young couples who wish to adopt.
Crotchet has served on the boards of the Battered Women’s Shelter and the Baton Rouge Speech and Hearing Foundation. The couple have a hearing-impaired daughter.
“Without adoption, we wouldn’t have had children, we wouldn’t have a family,” said Cusimano, the attorney for the Diocese of Baton Rouge. “This is just giving back to the community and to God for all that we’ve been given.”
“We didn’t even know we were on the radar,” Cusimano said about the honor. “It means a lot to us because our whole family has been built through the adoption process.”
Landrieu, who has two adopted children of her own, founded the adoption institute to promote the cause among policymakers and participated in a luncheon ceremony last week honoring recipients nominated by their legislators.
Landrieu estimated that of the 300 million people in America, 100 million are children. Of that group, 500,000 are in foster care. About 100,000 of those children are up for adoption.
With a push from agencies, such as churches, the number of children up for adoption in the country could be eliminated, Landrieu said.
“There is not an unwanted child,” Landrieu said. “There is an unfound family.”
Danna Cousins, of New Orleans, was nominated by U.S. Sen. David Vitter, R-La. Cousins has served for the past 20 years with the Associated Catholic Charities in New Orleans in its maternity and adoption services division.
Cousins never intended to enter the adoption arena, she said.
“I heard it said, ‘How are you called to this work?’ ” Cousins said “I say, ‘I didn’t choose it, it chose me.’ ”
Vitter, of Metairie, praised the program.“It’s been a huge success story that grows every day,” Vitter said at the luncheon ceremony.
When asked how many children she had placed through her two decades of work, Cousins couldn’t count the number, she said.
“What I say, ‘Its not really a number, it’s stories,’ ” Cousins said. “I can’t imagine being in any other place.”
Gerard Shields is chief of The Advocate’s Washington bureau. His email address is GerardShields@aol.com.