Why fostering?

“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?

Wrong.

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.

Please?

Maybe in doing so we can change it for mothers of the future.

Fostering Lies

“The naked truth is always better than the best dressed lie” – Ann Landers

I stumbled upon an adoption blog that had commenters talking about domestic infant adoption, foster care and the use of it once a child has been taken from their mother.

In the commentary there were several adoptees and adoptive parents agreeing that mothers knew their children were going to be fostered and for them to deny it would be just plain, well, assinine. Because, as they all know, mothers who surrender their children are just plain stupid assinine liars who deny knowledge when it suits them. Furthermore, adoption is so ethical in the United States and mothers are told everything they need to know. Are we really expected to believe they did not know their child would be put into foster care? Pfft. Girlfriend, puhlease.

I couldnt read much of the commentary for doing so stabbed me somewhere between my superior vena cava and my right atrium.  I clicked away from that blog so quickly I likely left skids marks on one of my mozzilla windows.

Lying about foster care was part of the Kurtz agency casewrecker tool box. Foster care was a dirty word that brought about images of naked children in soiled diapers living in housing  projects and eating roaches off the walls in between sessions of chewing lead paint off of windows.  Foster care meant many children in cribs cared for by overweight smokers who let the infants “cry it out”.

Not having your child go to foster care was yet another carrot the agencies dangled to get you to sign sooner, quicker and with better handwriting.  Not having your child be fostered was yet another perk of working with the Kurtz agencies. They had those “connections”.  Here sign now. This is a no-foster care time limited offer.

I cannot count the number of mothers that have told me that they believed, completely, that the day they walked out of the hospital, the Uber parents walked right in and scooped up the mothers baby, stuck a new name and birth certificate on the tiny chest and flew off to a McMansion in Upper saddle River, New Jersey.

I have had more mothers than I would like call me and share the horror and pain of finding out their child was not placed with Mr. and Mrs. Uber but rather were put..well..SOMEWHERE… in IL…with someone…

I have spent many late nights on the phone with mothers waking up to the reality of the lies that were told to them so that their precious child could be sold to a Kurtz client. I have spent similar nights with other mothers in the midst of panic attacks caused by thinking, for hours, “WHERE WAS MY BABY!!”

I have held the grieving shoulders of mothers shaking from the reality that they left their child…somewhere…with strangers…after they were told they were going to live with The Ubers.

I have felt their spittle land on my own face as they scream in anger at me at what was done to them and their child.

Not only have I talked, held, and been spat on by those mothers, I am one of those mothers.

Recall the sole reason I had to be taken from my home state of CT and sent to IL was because according to the agency my state had archaic adoption laws that required children to be fostered for a year before they were placed. This was a lie.  The truth was that to get my child Kurtz had to get me out of the State of Connecticut. It had nothing to do with foster care BUT they saw my reaction to the foster care statement. Furthermore, if I had stayed close to home, close to my parents, my boyfriend, their chances of getting my child for sale decreased each day my pregnant belly increased.  I had to leave CT and I had to leave because of foster care.

Imagine my own horror when I discover, a few years ago that my daughter did not go immediately to her personal set of Ubers, but rather was fostered by a family in the Northwest suburbs of Chicago. Imagine how I felt when an Easter House adoptee I was helping to find her mother tells me that her adoptive parents fostered hundreds of Easter House babies. Imagine further how I feel when she produces a photo album of all those children and my own child’s face is among the collection?

To those commenter’s I scrambled away from, I offer the cold hard truth that mothers did not know their children were being fostered. The adoption industry and prospective adopters depend on such deceit and mass cover ups.

For what is the alternative? Tell the mothers the truth? Tell them that their child will go to strangers for some indeterminate length of time in some unknown residence and eventually be placed with Ubers? Tell them that if their baby coughs too much, displays the slightest health problem while in foster care, they may stay there longer because they will be considered “unadoptable”. Tell the mothers that their tiny three day old infants will spend critical bonding time not with them, not with Ubers, but with somebody else, somewhere else and while they are doing their best to wrap their tiny finger around a strangers hand the clock is ticking to take them away again to even more strangers?

Equally interesting to ponder is a question to adoptees. What if you really believed that your mother was lied to? What then? Might you have to believe she indeed loves you and is not some evil doer that abandons children to strangers?  Might you have to believe that hey, you are fabulous and loved and wonderful and your mother did not in fact discard you like yesterdays twinkie wrapper?

And to adoptive parents, how do you feel when you learn that your agency lied to your child’s mother just so you could have that bundle of joy? Just so they could have that money you obtained by refinancing your home?

There is evil here, no doubt.  But rarely, if ever, is the evil in the heart of the mothers.

At least not in the hearts of the mothers I know.

Nor in mine.