A conversation with Noblin on Lifeline Children’s Services

By ANTHONY WARREN,

John Noblin was recently named state director of Lifeline Children’s Services, a nonprofit adoption agency that serves children across the state. Noblin, who previously was director of the Mississippi Blues Marathon, is a graduate of the University of Mississippi and the Ole Miss School of Law. He recently spoke to Senior Sun Staff Writer Anthony Warren about his role and about Lifeline.

How are things going since being named director?

“Lifeline is new to Mississippi after taking over the operations of Bethany Christian Services. Bethany was here for 30 years and transitioned out of the state. Lifeline took over operations on January 1 of this year. I was appointed in June, so I kind of jumped on a treadmill that was already running full speed. It’s been a pretty steep learning curve.”

Law school graduate, former race director for the Blues Marathon. What got you interested in this job?

“I felt for a while that I wanted to do something in ministry, but at 54 I didn’t think I would be going back to seminary school. When this job opened up, I saw it as a unique opportunity to take advantage of my professional experience and use my relationships in the Christian community. The position will allow me to use my skills in communication, development and fund-raising to help vulnerable children. I don’t have adoption in my immediate family, but I like what Lifeline is doing and how they are doing it, so it’s a good fit.”

What are your plans for Lifeline?

“I’m only three months into the job, so I have a lot of learning to do about Lifeline operationally. I’m still at a point where every other day is something new. Having spent the last month or so working on our banquet, I haven’t gotten really into the nuts and bolts of everything I’d like to do yet. A lot of what we plan to do is invest in local churches – train them in how to support families who adopt and foster children and train them how to support children that are being fostered by a family in that church. We also want to connect churches here with some of the churches Lifeline serves in Uganda, Haiti and India.”

What is Lifeline?

“A ministry that serves families and vulnerable children. What that means is we do certified adoption in every state we’re located, as well as international adoptions, crisis pregnancy counseling. There are some international ministry operations, as well as a family restoration component of our ministry. We are sort of multi-faceted, but our ministry primarily is focused on helping vulnerable children.”

What do you mean by vulnerable children?

“Those are children that are in or do not have a traditional family situation. They’re either about to be born to a birth mom who has decided she wants to make an adoption plan for a child, or the child is at an orphanage already, or there is some other circumstance that prevents children from having an ideal family situation.”

Why did Bethany leave?

“Bethany is international, in all 50 states and in various countries. They made the decision from the top down to change the direction of the ministry. They wanted to serve more refugee children and pursue more government contracts.

“Dealing with government agencies, there would be limitations on what they could say and do, and that would compromise Bethany’s ability to be a real Gospel ministry. The local board felt that was one piece they were not willing to compromise. They were not willing to make the Gospel message of our mission secondary to meeting government requirements. There was a mutual agreement between Bethany and our board that they could pursue a new parent organization. The Mississippi board found Lifeline out of Birmingham and aligned with them.”

Will people notice any changes as a result of going with Lifeline?

“We have the same local board, the same offices, the same employees and the same phone number. The only new employee is me. The previous director, Craig Brown, is now on our board.”

How did y’all find Lifeline?

Craig Brown called his old seminary professor and asked for advice, and the professor said, ‘here’s what I’m doing now.’ God directed that conversation, because Craig didn’t know what his professor was doing at the time. As it turns out, he was the vice president of church engagement for Lifeline. It matched up perfectly.

Have other state groups left Bethany?

“I do not know and wouldn’t want to speculate.”

How many kids does Lifeline serve in the state?

“So far this year, we have placed nine domestic adoptions. Just for a frame of reference, there have been 18 adoptions in all of Lifeline this year and nine of them have been from Mississippi. We haven’t done any international adoptions yet, but we’ve only been in the state going on 10 months.”

What does it take to place a child?

“In some cases, a lady will call our office, tell us she just found out she was pregnant and that the pregnancy was unplanned, and will begin a relationship with our pregnancy counselor. Our counselor will walk her through the nine months. With Lifeline, we do mostly open adoptions, meaning the birth mother, if she wants to, has an opportunity to look at family profiles to choose a family for her child, and then meet with them before and after the child is born.

“In other cases, in the last month, for example, we had hospitals call us three times and tell us ‘we have a baby here the mother doesn’t want. Can you come get it?’ In those cases, the child generally goes into interim care, because Mississippi requires a waiting period before a mother can relinquish her rights. Once the mother signs all of the paperwork, we can have direct placement. The family will come to the hospital or to our office, so they can meet their new baby.”

How long does the interim care last?

“Generally, the baby will go into interim care – that’s with families who are certified through Lifeline and regularly care for babies – for three days, three weeks, three months, all depending on the legal circumstances involving the birth parents.”

What legal circumstances does Lifeline run into?

“If the birth mother has not planned the adoption prior to giving birth, we give her time to think about her decision. We would not want her to feel rushed. Also, we want to locate a birth father and see what his intentions are. In Mississippi, birth fathers have the same rights as birth mothers.”

Is there ever a case where a mother wants to give up her baby for adoption and then changes her mind?

“That just happened. A mother delivered and we placed the baby in interim care. She got home, decided (giving up her baby) was more difficult than she thought, and gathered support from her family so the baby could return to her.”

What about fathers who want to keep their child? Are there any of those?

“Yes; there are those that do not agree with the adoption plan and decide they want to be a parent. Sometimes that is worked out between the birth mother and father privately, or it can go to court. Nancy Selph is our pregnancy counselor. If people have more questions, they can contact her. Our office number is (601) 366-4282, or they can log onto www.lifelinechild.org.”

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