I have not written about the Dustin and Veronica Brown case until now. Much like the media storm over Kaepernick and his refusal to meet his first mother, this case makes me too sad and too triggered to speak articulately about it let alone write. I will offer one point of support and validation for what has happened. I will draw from my own experience. In doing so, I am drawing a parallel to the reports that Dustin Brown did not know what he was signing and was not around for the mother. I am also responding to the fact the agency intentionally violated his rights.
Easter House met with my mother and me in the Fall of 1985. The first time we spoke was via a phone call that I made to what I thought was a New Haven, CT number. I was connected with an agency worker who eventually ended up being assigned to me permanently. Her name was Colleen Rogers. During our first phone call I learned contrary to what appeared in our local phone book, she and the agency were actually resident in IL. Colleen arranged for an agency person to fly out to CT to meet with me and my mother. It was during this first phone call that Colleen asked me, very pointedly, if the father knew of my pregnancy. I indicated he did not. I was telling the truth. At that point he did not know. Colleen was relieved at this and told me I should not, under any circumstances, tell him. I agreed.
Easter House rep named Richard (later learned he was Colleen’s boss – see references) flew out to CT and met my mother in an empty/abandoned office in my town. He spoke only to my mother as I looked down at my feet with my eyes and my hand on my belly. He told us all the reasons I had to go to Illinois and could not stay in CT. The one that got me was his statement that CT adoption law required my daughter to be in foster care for a year or more before she could be placed. This horrified me. It was under this duress I agreed to go to go IL. I later learned this was not true. The fact was that Easter House was under investigation by my State and to get my child they had to get me out of the state. Also during this meeting Richard reiterated again that I should not tell my baby’s father about my pregnancy or our plans. Once again, I agreed.
Plans were made for me to fly to Illinois right after Christmas. I believe I flew on January 5th. A day or so before I left, I did the unthinkable. I called my daughters father. In my mind at the time it was a last desperate attempt to change things. Maybe he would offer to marry me. Maybe he would come and help me. Maybe. Maybe. Maybe. We had a brief conversation filled with tears and very few words from him. He said he suspected this and was not surprised. He did not have much more to say and so on January 5th I flew to Illinois.
Easter House got me settled into the Gehring Hall Maternity “home” and I began my 5 months of confinement. A month or so into it, Colleen brought up my baby’s father again and I informed her that he was now aware of my pregnancy. She was irate with me. She spouted all these complications I had created (for the agency) by telling him. She told me that she would now be required to contact him and have him surrender his rights to her pre-birth.
A few weeks before my daughter was born my mother drove my ex –boyfriend to the airport in CT. Colleen and I met him at the airport. Again, I hoped he would grant me a stay of execution. I hoped by being with me, seeing me fully pregnant, he might change his mind, offer to marry me, offer to tell his parents about our situation. Easter House put him up for the night in a Comfort Inn on Diversey Parkway.
The next day Colleen came with papers and he signed away his rights to his unborn daughter. He was 18 years old. His parents did not know. He never consulted an attorney. He believed, based on pressure from me, my mother and the agency, he had no rights. He did as he was told. Easter House promptly flew him back home to CT.
He regrets it to this day.
While my daughters father signed his rights away, his name is not on her birth certificate. It likely says “father unknown”. Illinois law also required he be present to sign the certificate. That was clearly not an option. It was left blank.
My point in sharing this is to highlight the very real fact that agencies intentionally exclude fathers and advise expectant mothers to do the same. Additionally agencies violate interstate adoption compacts and lie to expectant mothers and their families in order to procure product (babies) for sale.
So much for informed consent.
One final note that will further support my inability to speak or write clearly about Veronica and her Dad, my daughter’s father has a “drop” of Native American blood in him from his mother’s side of the family. In 1986 I never heard of ICWA, nor had he. But then again, there was a lot we did not know. (I would later learn that Easter House also had tangled with ICWA. See reference below).
My heart goes out to Dustin and Veronica.
In 1995, the Sisseton-Wahpeton Sioux Tribe of South Dakota filed a petition seeking to invalidate the adoption of a three-month old infant boy. The parents had planned to put their son up for adoption because of financial problems, but then changed their mind after he was born. After returning home from the hospital with her son, the mother signed the consent form and reluctantly gave her child to Easter House after repeated calls from the agency. She changed her mind within hours. The Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA), a federal law, was passed in 1978 to protect the rights of Native American children, who were being removed illegally from tribes and reservations and being placed with White families. The law says that a Native American mother can’t consent to an adoption until 10 days after the birth and that she can revoke her consent anytime before the adoption is final. Under Illinois state law, however, a consent to adoption is irrevocable after 72 hours. The mother had told Easter House that she was an American Indian, but the agency did not follow ICWA procedures and refused to help rescind the adoption.
“They told me I could change my mind,” she said. “I felt betrayed.”
The agency’s lawyer said the agency acted legally. The people who were going to adopt the boy agreed to give him back because they said they did not believe that protracted litigation in Illinois courts would be in the best interest of the child.
Sources: Jeff Flock. “Native American Woman Sues to Revoke Adoption,” CNN, Transcript #1084-6. Section News: Domestic. Show: News 10:26 pm et. January 3, 1995. “In Circuit Court,” Chicago Daily Law Bulletin, January 26, 1995. Andrew Fegelman, “Adoptive Couple Agree to Give Up Infant.” Chicago Tribune, Section Metro Northwest, Pg. 4; Zone NW, February 2, 1995. Lou Ortiz, “Mom Sues to Reverse Son’s Adoption; Indian Child Welfare Act Cited.” Chicago Sun-Times, Section News; P. 14, Wednesday, Late Sports Final Edition. M.A. Stapleton. “Adoption dispute ended in best interests of child. Chicago Daily Law Bulletin, P. 1, February 1, 1995. 1-
“Richard” is now director of an adoption resource center in IL. I have spoken to him intermittently through the years and reminded him of his role in my adoption surrender experience. While he admits to working for Easter House, and their shady practices, he claims no knowledge of me or my case preferring to tell me how he and his current agency are so very ethical compared to Easter House.
Read more about the Kurtz Network of Baby Brokers at ehbabes.com