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Board member helps agency that aided him at his birth, adoption

Fifty years ago, Marty Tobben's biological mother placed him for adoption with Villa Maria, then an agency of Catholic Charities. He grew up in a loving household with his adoptive parents, Bob and Mary Tobben of Washington and two siblings.

Now he's giving back to Catholic Charities as a board member of Good Shepherd Children and Family Services, which connects children with families and keeps families connected through foster care, expectant parent support, adoption and maternity shelter. Good Shepherd includes the functions of the former Villa Maria maternity program.

"Today they help pregnant moms, give them room and board, their basic needs, therapy if they need it, etc." Tobben said. "The reason it's important to me is that my biological mother spent the last three months or so of her pregnancy under the care of Catholic Charities. Then my parents ... adopted me through Catholic Charities."

November is National Adoption Month, and the archdiocese celebrated the gift of adoption with a Mass Nov. 19.

Tobben also touts Good Shepherd for its foster care program, which helps children removed from their homes because of neglect and abuse. The goal is to care for those children until they're in a temporary home and eventually a permanent home, often with a family member.

The agency helps people who are in poverty, Tobben said, including expectant mothers who need care, such as teenage moms who need support in choosing life for their baby instead of abortion. The maternity program serves moms ages 12-21 who qualify as homeless or are at risk of becoming homeless or are in foster care.

In his second year as a volunteer with Good Shepherd, Tobben began as a member of the finance committee and now is a trustee of the finance committee and a member of the agency's board. He's a financial advisor at Edward Jones and puts that background to use for Good Shepherd.

A member of St. Alban Roe Parish in Wildwood, Tobben attended Our Lady of Lourdes Grade School in Washington and is a 1986 graduate of St. Francis Borgia Regional High School. He went to Southern Illinois University-Edwardsville where he earned a bachelor's degree in business administration with a specialization in finance. He has two children: Jamie, a high school senior, and Justin, a sophomore.

About 15 years ago he met his biological mother in Idaho and two half-sisters. He learned his father's name from his biological mother, then did a search and ended up finding him.

Tobben said he realized as a young man years ago, sitting in a big, beautiful church, that people who went before him donated their time and money so that the church would be there for him and others. He later decided it's his turn to give back. "I feel very strongly about Good Shepherd, of course," he said. 

Good Shepherd

In 2006, the boards of four Catholic Charities agencies merged to form a more efficient system for delivering services to children and families in St. Louis and surrounding areas. The entity eventually became Good Shepherd Children and Family Services.

The original four agencies — Catholic Services for Children and Youth, Father Dunne's Newsboys Home, St Joseph's Home and Family Services, and Marian Hall (including its maternity shelter program, Villa Maria) — date back to 1831.

The goal of Good Shepherd is to serve at-risk children who are poor, abandoned, abused and neglected; troubled families facing a crisis pregnancy; and families seeking to adopt throughout the metropolitan St. Louis area and surrounding counties. Besides infant adoptions, Good Shepherd provides adoption services for older children in the foster care system. The agency does home studies for potential foster or adoptive families, post-adoption services, supervises foster care families and places children, does safety checks, background checks and other required tasks with the goal of providing safe, good homes for children. It also has a pregnancy and parenting support program, a home-based pregnancy counseling program; and a maternity shelter program.

To donate, volunteer, collect items in need or become a foster parent or to learn about programs and services, visit www.goodshepherdstl.org or call (314) 854-5700. To donate by mail, write to Good Shepherd Children and Family Services, 1340 Partridge Ave., St. Louis, MO 63130. 

Adoptee rights act

In Missouri, starting in 1941, adoptions were closed. Original birth certificates containing the names of birth mothers and fathers were sealed, only to be released by the Missouri Bureau of Vital Records upon an order of the court performing the adoption.

But during the 2016 legislative session, the Missouri General Assembly passed HB 1599. Sponsored by Stone County Republican State Rep. Don Phillips, an adoptee himself, HB 1599 opened the door to the release of an adult adoptee's original birth certificate.

Known as the "Missouri Adoptee Rights Act," HB 1599 will permit adult adoptees, 18 or older and born in Missouri, to have access to their original birth certificate starting in January 2018.

More information is available through a Missouri Catholic Conference report at www.stlouisreview.com/jIi. 

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