In 1992 Grace Dulaney, the founder of Agnus Dei Foundation, was a struggling, divorced mother with two young children when she herself was faced with an unplanned pregnancy. Grace knew she could be a great single mother and her children had loving, involved father. She also knew she could not provide a father for her baby. She chose open adoption for her son, Dylan, so that he could grow up with a father and mother. Grace knew this would require her to give sacrificial love to her baby and that in her case, especially with her two older children, she would need to know where and with whom her baby would be. She chose a wonderful couple to be Dylan’s parents.
Although confident in her decision and supported by her family and close friends, she came to realize how misunderstood adoption is and how unaware most people are about open adoption with all it’s long term benefits for birthmothers, adoptive parents, and the adopted child. Grace became passionate about “changing the listening” for adoption in our culture, to one that understands it as a beautiful solution to a challenging situation. She dreamed of one day opening a maternity home for unwed mothers to support their decision to place their babies with forever families through the gift of adoption.
Fast forward to 2012…after a very special visit from her grown son, Dylan, and a startling article in the New York Times stating that new statistics now show the majority (53%) of babies born in the U.S. are born to single mothers, Grace knew this was her defining moment. Every year over 750,000 babies are aborted, and in many cases the girls who choose to parent their babies have no father living in the home, yet two million couples are on waiting lists to adopt (in may cases regardless of ethnicity or special needs)! Why is it that less than 1% of young women in unplanned pregnancies choose adoption?
For Grace this was no longer about the story of her personal crisis pregnancy, it was apparent to her that we were well into a major societal crisis that will impact our nation’s economic and cultural future. It was time to take action, build a bridge of hope, and make the dream a reality.
The first people Grace reached out to with her vision and goal were faithful Catholic philanthropists, Terrence and Barbara Caster, owners of A1 Storage, and NFL quarterback, Philip and Tiffany Rivers. The reception was very positive, so Grace put together a very strong board of directors, including the Rivers, a pro-life activist adoption attorney, San Diego’s premier adoption facilitator, and several successful business leaders. The Agnus Dei Foundation was incorporated May 4, 2012 and in short order received its 501 (c)(3) non-profit tax-exempt status.
Within a few weeks (well before the actual maternity home was purchased and operational) the first call came in about a woman who was open to choosing adoption after finding out the reality of aborting the fully viable 32 week old baby in her the womb. She and her two young children moved in with Grace, her husband Kirk and their family. DanniLynn was born on the 4th of July and the first blessing of a successful adoption took place.
Within months a second birthmother had moved into their home and it became apparent that the foundation needed to establish the Lamb of God Maternity Home as soon as possible. A perfect home in North County San Diego came onto the market and by the grace of God, generosity of donors, and faith of Silvergate Bank, the home was purchased.
The Sunday before escrow opened Grace was thanking God in mass and making her next request for Him to send houseparents. She walked outside 20 minutes later and was approached by friends, Armando and Laura Soto, who said they’d been praying about God’s will for them. Would she be open to them being Lamb of God’s first houseparents? Upon close of escrow they moved into the apartment on the first floor of the maternity home and served as the ministry houseparents for the first year.
As the saying goes, “If you build it, they will come.” And come they have! The Lamb of God Maternity Home can accommodate up to six girls at a time in big spacious bedrooms, each of which was “adopted” by various ministries, church groups, or individuals in the community. They took on furnishing and decorating the bedrooms, which are bright, cheery, and new! Others helped with furnishing the main rooms and there is even a gift registry established at a local store to help set up the kitchen.
As the founder and CEO, Grace Dulaney continues to focus on the “big picture”, which includes outreach, fundraising, marketing, public relations and speaking engagements (including keynote address at West Coast Walk for Life 2014 in San Francisco), marketing media relations, and expansion strategies. Additionally Grace heads up quarterly board meetings, annual Advisory Council meetings, conducts weekly staff meetings, staff reviews, and oversees operations of the maternity home and it’s policies and programs. Grace’s work is pro bono.