“During times of universal deceit, telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act” – George Orwell
I was recently asked the following question. The person asking the question is an individual with no connection to adoption however they are doing research for an adoption related project. I found the question to be a good one particularly as it came from an adoption ignorant person. The question? Ready? Wait for it.
Why did my daughter (and nearly all other babies that are adopted) go into foster care following mother signing surrender for adoption?
From the individuals point of view it seemed as if the babies should go right to their new mommies and daddies, no? Why do they go into foster care?
I answer from my own experience. I answer with the knowledge of what was done and told to me as well as countless other mothers that surrendered their children to a Kurtz baby brokering agency. I do not answer for the many other mothers whose babies went to foster care nor do I answer for the legions of adoptees who after losing their mother were shuffled from stranger to even stranger. I encourage anyone researching the foster care question to ask more than just me. The reasons will likely vary by state, by agency, by mother.
Now to my answer.
I need to back up the story a bit. This may be a story I have already told in parts of my blog. I will try to be brief.
Prior to Easter House entering my life, prior to my parents learning of my pregnancy, it was my intent to leave home and raise my child on my own. I had graduated high school, was working full time in retail. After researching many options, I decided I needed to run away. Home was not going to be a supportive place (I was obviously right in this regard) and I knew I could not stay there, I know I would not be welcomed. Unwed, unplanned pregnancy in my conservative catholic household DID.NOT.HAPPEN. I was a “good” girl from a “good” family. I knew I had committed the ultimate sin against the family and their gods. I had sex outside of marriage and had become pregnant. To make it worse, the father of the baby and I were not together anymore. Marriage would not be an option.
(This story is far more complex than I state but the details are not relevant to the point I am attempting to make).
My parents, really, my mother, learned of my pregnancy (thanks to my sister) and my plans to leave the family of my own accord came to a screeching halt. Adoption became part of the conversation. Easter House entered the picture.
Easter House, an agency we found via the yellow pages, flew an agency rep to CT after having conversations via the phone with my mother and I. We were instructed to meet this rep in an empty office building less than a mile from our home.
My mother and I met this man in a room that was not at all warm or cozy. It was sterile and empty. The rep spoke only to my mother and not to me. They discussed me and my unborn child as if I was not in the room. And I allowed it.
I sat to the right of my mother, head bowed in shame, my hand on my bulging stomach. I was vaguely listening the conversation. Plans were being discussed.
Could I stay in CT or would I go away?
If I went away, where would I go?
What would it cost?
What would my mother and father be required to pay?
My mother asked the questions and the agency rep answered them. This was when my dissociation started. I wasn’t there. I was but I wasn’t. The pain, the horror, the intense shame, the feeling of being an emotionless object began to take over me. It was the only coping mechanism I had to deal with the crazy feelings I had.
I wanted to scream, I wanted to run away. I wanted to bang my hand on the empty desk in front of me and demand they stop talking about me and my child as if neither of us were present in the room.
I didn’t. I couldn’t.
I was bad. I was wrong. They were right. My unborn child’s life hung in the balance. Swung between my desires and theirs and theirs were clearly the right ones. I was wrong and my daughter deserved better, could have better, than this wronged version of a mother. I conformed.
The conversation droned on and the words “foster care” flew around the room.
I snapped to attention.
“Whaa?” I asked.
The agency rep repeats himself and still without looking at me, tells my mother that I if I stay in the State of CT my child will be in foster care for a year before being placed with her parents. The rep states this with a thinly disguised disgust in his voice. His voice tone paints the picture of foster care that I had already had in my head.
I am horrified. Foster care? Visions of neglected children in empty rooms covered with roaches and peeling paint fill my head. Foster care was where abandoned unloved children went (that’s oddly amusing to me now, as if leaving your child to an agency rep is NOT abandonment? I was so naive and so trusting.) My child deserved better. My child was loved. My child was wonderful. (These days I have no idea why that is what I thought foster care was but that is the truth. Foster to me was lower than an orphanage.)
I spoke up at this point.
“No, Ma, you can’t. We can’t. That is horrible. You can’t. No…” I squeaked out of my voice.
And with that, the decision was made to send me away to Chicago. In Chicago the agency would be able to take my child right from my milk laden breast to her new mommy and daddy. She would not be placed in foster care. She would go from less than good to better than ever within less than an hour.
Or so I thought. So my mother thought. So I believed until only a few years ago.
This foster care statement was but one of the many coercive tactics the Kurtz agency used on my mother and me. Scare tactics appealed to the mother in me, the good mother, the mother that wanted better for her child. Foster care? NO! Immediate placement? Yes! And I wanted to be a good mother. Good mothers made sure their children went right to their new families. Bad mothers stayed home, close to support systems and risked the evils of foster care or even worse, bad mothers KEPT their children.
From my perspective (I cannot speak to my mothers), I can tell you that I wholeheartedly agreed to being sent away BECAUSE IT WOULD BE BETTER FOR MY DAUGHTER. I was thinking of her. Her needs. Giving her the best. I practically begged my mother to let me go to Chicago (and years later my mother would tell me I wanted to go there. Her views, her understandings are very skewed but I understand why they are). I did. But I did it to give my child a better chance, a better life. better than me, the lowly single slut mother that would risk foster care if she stayed close to home, close to a place where her boyfriend could come find her, close to a place where she had support, close to a place where that family might change their mind and decide to welcome their first-born grandchild.
It was staying home, thinking of myself, and risking a year in foster care or going away and giving my daughter an immediate forever family complete with ponies and rainbows.
And so I went.
Imagine my horror, imagine what I felt like when I found out, she was indeed fostered. Imagine what it did to me to discover that the agency had lied to me and my mother about foster care.
The real reason they had to get me out of CT was that at that time, the agency was engaged in several lawsuits with the state of CT. They had been forbidden to take any babies from the state a well as place any within the state. To get my unborn child, they had to get me out of CT. And they beat me with the foster care stick to do it.
Back to the original question. Why did my daughter have to go to foster care?
To understand that one would need to be on the inside of the agency. I know only this.
The agency lead me to believe she would be placed in IL. This seemed logical to me. No foster care meant taking her from my trembling arms in St. Joseph Hospital in Chicago and turning her over to some wealthy family in the Northwest suburbs.
This was not the case. (She was placed with a family in NJ).
Easter House would likely tell you, if questioned today, that my daughter went into foster care due to the family I picked. Yes, me. They would say it had been my choice. See, they showed me hand written profiles of three families (see photo, left, for a sample page). They told me I could pick the family. And I did.
The missing ingredient here is that I had NO IDEA where they lived. I did not think to ask. It did not even occur to me. I was again functioning under the belief that foster care would never be part of the picture.
My daughter actually went to the family I “picked”. The profile I was given matches up with her adoptive mother and father. I was a lucky one. Easter House made similar promises to other mothers and they were not honored. My friend G was promised a Catholic family in IL. Her son was raised by a Jewish family in CT. My friend Mary was told her daughter was placed in IL. Her daughter was raised in NJ.
The agency likely could not call my daughters adoptive family until I had officially “picked” them and signed the surrender document. Since they were out-of-state, they had to arrange airfare. I am assuming this. I don’t really know. I don’t know if my daughters adoptive parents retrieved her in IL or if the agency took her to them.
I do know that my daughter was fostered by a family in Northwest suburbs. I know this because this family adopted two children from Easter House and I helped one of those children find her first mother. During our friendship and search for her mother, she shared with me that her parents had fostered hundreds of Easter House babies AND that her adoptive mother kept photos of all of them. Friend scanned all the pictures and I saw my daughter in the pile of pictures.
The pictures foster family has of my daughter match photos that the agency sent me. Same clothing, same background.
I have no idea how long my daughter was with this family. I know she was with them long enough for them to name her Kimberly (why couldn’t the agency tell the foster family what I named her? Why did they have to strip her of her original name even in foster care?).
I want to know how long she was in foster care. I dont know why it matters to me now but it does. Sadly, the only person who can tell me this is my daughters adoptive parents. They will know their “gotcha day”. From that date I can determine how long my daughter stayed with the foster family.
Learning my daughter went into foster care sent me into a downward spiral. It took me back to those days, that cold empty room filled with those empty promises. It made me think about my child being shuffled from stranger to stranger during her most vulnerable times. (Is it any surprise to anyone that adoptees have issues bonding with people?)
(crying now as I write this).
It literally makes me want to vomit to think about my child crying, alone, left with strangers and to know that I DID THAT. I DID IT WITHOUT KNOWING I DID IT WHEN I TRIED WITH ALL OF MY SOUL TO AVOID THAT. And yet it was done.
Another important point here.
Easter House, as a baby broker, provided children to couples in astonishingly short time frames. One of their marketing letters (I have a copy) literally cites the short time frames from applications to receipt of baby. While other adoptive families waited many months, even years for their agencies to provide them with their bundle of joy wrapped in pink or blue, many Easter House families waited ninety days or less. All placements were considered foster placements until the adoption was final and all families needed to qualify as a foster family (this is not unique to Easter House) prior to a baby being placed in the home. Very important to note that Easter House services came with a hefty price. Many adoptive families, desperate for a child they could not conceive on their own, blinded by baby lust, were as ignorant to the workings of Easter House as mothers like me. If they dared to question the outrageously high fees (compared to other agencies) they were told that their money went to help the mother get on her feet, get counseling, pay her hospital bills. Adoptive parents fell for that. They believed it. Any guilt they may have felt over taking the child of another was extinguished when they realized they were “helping” the mothers. It was a win/win, right?
They money lined the pockets of the Easter House coffers.
Why was my daughter fostered?
I can only guess. And I guess it is because her new mommy and daddy needed time to process paperwork and retrieve her. Maybe they had just applied to the agency. Maybe their home study was not yet complete. I dont know how long it took them from application to approval to receipt.
I cannot know.
One might naturally ask why my daughter couldn’t stay with me until her parents were ready to retrieve her. It seems like a very good solution.
Also an excellent question. And to answer that you must understand that the more time a mother has with her child the less likely she is to sign the surrender papers. The industry knows this. Easter House knew this. To guarantee they could acquire their product for sale, Easter House HAD to separate mother and child as soon as possible, generally within 72 hours (if the child was born in IL). If I had kept her with me longer, her father might have had the crazy idea of coming out to see us, he might have proposed, GASP, marriage. With each passing hour the agencies chances of getting my child lessened. The stronger I became (since three days post partum one is still not exactly able to fight powers that be when you are without any legal representation or even a person of love and support on your side), the less likely I would be to surrender her.
Separation as soon as possible was critical. Even if it meant fostering. After all, I would never know.
I am not sure if this answers the question that was asked to me. I encourage others to provide the facts, the legal issues, for my friends research. Clearly I rambled here. This is painful stuff for me to discuss.
I hope I answered the question. And I hope others do too. Tell my questioner your knowledge, your experience with your child being fostered and if you knew about it.
Maybe in doing so we can change it for mothers of the future.