Leading the Witness

"Deception is a cruel act… It often has many players on different stages that corrode the soul.” – Donna Favors

In the course of cleaning out and repacking my home for my big move, I stumbled across several emotionally triggering items from years past.

One of them was a folder that was dated 2000. It contained all my pre-search information. It also had a letter from the Illinois Department of Public Health stating they had no record of my daughter’s birth. This was no surprise. It was a long shot. I had attempted to get a copy of her OBC by requesting it (sometimes people at those offices make mistakes or send stuff they aren’t supposed to). It was interesting to muse over the letter and reflect back on the person I was eight years ago when I read it.

Also contained in the folder were certified mail return receipts that indicate I had mailed information, updates, to the agency. They were signed for by a "Lisa Steiner". I know they were received. Will they ever make it to my daughter? No. But I can confidently state I tried to do everything possible for her to find me.

The final and most disturbing item in the folder was about five pages of hand written notes. The notes were written on yellow lined paper. They were written by my caseworker at the time, Colleen Rogers. It is the profile of my daughter’s adoptive parents.

In May of 1986, these documents, along with several others, were shoved in front of me while I sat on my hospital bed and I was told to "pick" one. This is a common agency tactic. Presenting mothers with profiles and leading us to believe we are empowered and are choosing our children’s families. In reality, with this network of agencies, no such things occurred. It was a tactic. While many of our children did go to those yellow paper thin profiled families, many did not. Classic bait and switch. Many mothers discovered upon reunion that the families they had chosen for their children were not the families they were placed with. Many mothers were devout Catholics and begged, pleaded that their children were placed with Catholics. They were presented Catholic profiles and they picked them. They found upon reunion their children were raised Jewish. Other mothers were told their children would remain in IL. They were raised in NJ (where an surprising number of Easter House adoptees were placed).

Coercion, plain and simple. I am quite confident if a mother told the agency she wanted her child raised with wolves, the agency would have promised it just to get her to sign.

Not only did the agency coerce mothers with false empowerment, but many of the profiles were doctored and modified to stack the deck in the favor of the family they wanted us to pick. My daughters family profile clearly states there is NO history of substance abuse in either side of the adoptive family. This was planted there for me. I had spent months with my caseworker telling her how much I feared my daughter would be raised as I was – within an alcoholic family system.

I learned from my daughter early in reunion there is alcoholism in her adoptive family system and there always was. If the agency had told me the truth would I have "picked" this family? I would guess not. Did I pick that family or was I lead down the only path they wanted me to follow?

I don’t have the words to express how violated and used and manipulated I felt (and still feel). I don’t know how much more of that profile is false. I have told my daughter she is welcome to review it (and keep a copy) but to date she has not asked to even read it. I have also told her that I would like her to someday separate the truth from the lies for me.

I deserve that.

I always did.

I did not spend much time re-reading the profile yesterday. I couldn’t. I was surrounded by my sons, my ex-husband, a family member visiting from Germany and another friend (a first mom). When I found the document, I felt like I had been hit with a cannon ball. I had to stop for a moment and compose myself for I was about to burst into tears.

Reviewing the document always sends me back to two days post partum with my baby girl in my arms. It is an emotionally crippling memory.

I put the document back in its folder and immediately took it into the house.

Someday, I hope my daughter does read it.

Someday, I hope I learn the truth.

5 Thoughts.

  1. I’m so sorry for the lies, and more, for your loss. I know how it feels to recognize that you were violated and manipulated. I like your writing.
    mother of loss 1984

  2. It’s messed up how they gather all of the information we are so willing to give, and then use it against us. I said I wanted an open adoption, and the abductors of my daughter promised this to me. That I would always have a relationship with her. I’m sure that they were told to say it, because it is what I wanted to hear.

  3. Jeez, Suz. It was all so wrong. Still is. I didn’t keep any papers. Sometimes I wish I did. Or maybe not. It is a time bomb…

  4. Suz–I’m so sorry this has happened to you and so many others. I hope someday you can get the truth/lies sorted out. Wouldn’t it be nice if someone who was actually responsible for the whole thing were the one to do that for you?

  5. Yep! Pretty big people when you are in such a vulnerable position.
    Then the walls came tumbling down and the execution of neatly typed papers to keep you silent and still. We should have been tatooed with a number also!

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