Most people believe the most distinguishing characteristic between the Baby Scoop Era (BSE) and today is the absence of those maternity homes where women were sent to discreetly give birth and have their babies taken from them against their will. However, this is not the defining end of the BSE. “Why?” you may ask. For many reasons but, to stay on the subject of this post, we want to focus on this falsehood. If the BSE ended with the dying out of maternity homes, we would still be in the BSE.
You’ve all heard the horror stories. All the time I hear, “I’m so glad adoptions are not done that way anymore” or “I know that horrible things were done to you but it isn’t like that anymore.” It saddens me that so many people in the world (most maybe?) are so ignorant to how things really work in this day and age. Even the ones who had fallen victim to it cannot see it for what it is. For the most part, like anything else, I think it is laziness in being willing to connect the dots. Or maybe some people just don’t have the intellectual capability to put those dots together, even if they can find them separately. Another issue is not wanting to believe that they, or someone they know, may have actually been used or have fallen victim to the practices of modern day adoption. Whatever the reasons, it truly and deeply saddens me.
We never really got rid of maternity homes. Sure, most of the ones that were operating in the 50’s and 60’s eventually shut down but with something so effective as separating a vulnerable pregnant woman from her family and any potential support system she may have, they never disappeared. They have just been transforming, morphing, through the years to fit the culture and be socially acceptable. They never went away. Ever.
Okay, so maybe I’m being too hard on the public in general. I, myself, had no idea maternity homes still existed until about a year ago. I lived in this happy little bubble and just believed what I was shown in the movies, on TV, in commercials, on the news. No one ever talked about women being sent to maternity homes to give birth and give up their babies. The only time I had ever heard about this was in reference to the BSE and most likely in the form of a heart-wrenching Lifetime movie of the week. Tissues by my bed I would watch the dramatized story unfold of the young unwed mother whose parents sent her away to a maternity home. She would give birth and say she wanted the baby but her parents would forbid her to come home with it. The social worker would come in with the papers and tell her she could sign the paper and give her child a happy life or she could walk out and be on the streets and they would call social services and have the baby taken away anyway for not being able to properly care for it. The tears would flow, I would go through a whole box of tissues and think to myself, “I’m so glad that never happened to me.” Yet, while I was watching that very movie, something similar, or maybe even identical, was happening to another young mother somewhere out there. And while you are reading this it is happening to someone else.
The demand for babies was very high during the BSE. Because of the social stigma, during that time period, of being pregnant out of wedlock, it was socially acceptable to hide these young mothers away to secretly have their babies. Most times no one even knew of the existence of the pregnancy or birth of a child. They had little choice, many being provided for by their parents while their parents were being advised of how horrible the illegitimacy of this child was and the shame it would bring to the family. These parents of unwed mothers were promised that with adoption the child would no longer be a bastard but, instead, become legitimate. Original birth records were then sealed, to “protect” the adoptee from being a little bastard, and people were expected to forget and move on. Because an illegitimate pregnancy was such a shameful thing in the culture back then, this method of practice was accepted.
Other Consequences of the Maternity Home
In addition to being forced into one of these homes, the separation of the young pregnant mother served another purpose. For one, it made it almost impossible for her to get help with her situation. The only support system she had was the one telling her adoption was the “best” thing for her and her baby. There were no other opinions to be had. That was it. Second, the parents of these women were not confronted with the very real pain and anguish their daughter would be going through. Out of sight, out of mind. It would be difficult for many of these parents to deny their child the right to keep hers after watching her anguish for 9 months because she did not want to give her baby up. It would be difficult to deny their child if they were with her while she labored, if they held their grand baby. The will to fight was broken in these women. They truly had no choice. And no one cared how they were treated because they were going to get their baby either way.
Along came a little thing called the women’s rights movement. Women were burning bras, having sex, getting pregnant outside of marriage, getting jobs – O.M.G. No way. The culture shifted. It was a slow but gradual shift. It was suddenly not unacceptable to be pregnant outside of marriage. There were still some groups of people who were appalled by it (and there continues to be those today) but the majority of people were okay with it. Suddenly an illegitimate child was not such a big deal. We don’t even use the word “illegitimate” to describe a person born out of wedlock anymore. Shoot, I’m only using it to get a feel for the context of that era. If I hear the phrase “illegitimate baby” today I think of babies who were taken from their natural parent(s) through coercion, manipulation or unethical practices. Maybe one of the totally able-bodied fathers whose rights were terminated when the expectant mom was sent to another state to live in a maternity home until she delivered, maybe someone who had a social worker sit on there lap (practically) and tell them to sign their rights away. This is what I think of when I think of illegitimate babies. Illegitimately gained by the adoption industry. So, what do you do if your job is in the adoption industry and all of a sudden it’s totally acceptable for women to just go ahead and have babies when they aren’t married? You aren’t allowed to use any of the tactics that worked before to get the goods. You have to do a TOTAL 180 in this field. Since the expectant mother now has all of the control you need to seduce* her and make her believe that you really care about her and her child. You need to make her think that adoption is the best thing she can possibly do for her child. You need to put the proverbial gun to her unborn baby’s head.
You do know one thing, though. It is still a good thing to separate a vulnerable young woman from any potential support system she may have that would enable her to keep her baby. The fact that she is in a crisis pregnancy will mean that she is, most likely, facing a difficult financial situation. What’s the best way to lure or seduce her into the world of adoption? Offer her free housing. On site. Make it a real sweet deal.
Modern Day Maternity Homes
Before writing this article, I knew where I wanted to go with it. I had heard all the stories. I have a pretty good idea of what goes on. I had to do some research, however, if I wanted to lend any kind of credibility to what I was saying. I could tell you all day long that this birthmom told me this and that first mom told me that. I have to back it up with real facts. Well, since I’m not pregnant and in a crisis situation the facts that I have to work with is what these agencies advertise. I hope that will suffice since they aren’t talking about it any time soon.
The first thing you should know is that if you Google “maternity homes” or “unwed mothers homes” on Google you will come up with a mixed bag of results. Some will be articles about the BSE and some will be actual maternity homes that are operating today. This was actually quite shocking to me. I looked up “maternity homes” about 10 years ago and there was very little to go on in regards to modern-day ones. Only Bethany and Gladney (agencies) showed up as real maternity homes. Here are the Google results for the time period 2000-2005 when you search for “unwed mothers homes.”
I have seriously wondered why there would be more maternity homes in existence today than there was 10 years ago. However, I could not make the assumption that just because they were not being advertised on the internet did not mean they didn’t exist. Most likely they, like the ones before them, were just not talked about unless you were “that girl” or “that family” who had a use for one. I digress.
Today a search for either of those phrases brings a great variety of results. Even a search for “pregnant free housing” will give you results of modern-day maternity homes. These specific search words bring up the “posh” maternity homes. They have really done well in the seduction part. Let’s take, for instance, Adoption Network Law Center in California. Their free housing is advertised as, “a safe, secure and supervised environment for women in need of living assistance.” They also boast “a spacious living area, large swimming pool and an extensive exercise facility with the latest equipment available.” Now this line really got me. From their website: “These facilities allow Birthmothers to be discreet and avoid conflict with family and friends about their decision.” 1) An expectant mother is NOT a birthmother until she has terminated her parental rights. Calling her a birthmother before then, in my opinion, is a form of coercion. It puts her mind in the place that she has to relinquish her child. After all, she is already a birthmother. She has already made this decision. WRONG. My agency told me that while I had already made an adoption decision, I would have to reevaluate that decision again once my baby was born because my feelings may change and that was okay. THAT is ethical and honest. 2) Supposedly, under the guise of protecting the expectant mother from her family (privacy), they are removing her from the only support system she may have that actually gives a hoot whether she gives up that baby. In other words, “We don’t want anyone to talk you out of handing over this baby to us.” You all should seriously check out their “birthmother” digs. Beverly Hills style apartments – supervised of course.
I cannot confirm, like I said – I’ve never lived in one of these homes, but have been told stories of mother’s changing their minds while living at the maternity home. They were told to sign their rights over or be sued for the tens of thousands of dollars for the living expenses that were paid for on their behalf. I have more than just “heard” these stories. A few weeks back we had one of these women come to our group for help. She didn’t know what to do because she was living there and had changed her mind. If these places really wanted to help you make an informed choice, the “best” choice for you and your baby they wouldn’t hold a lawsuit over your head for changing your mind.
I won’t go into detail of each one of these homes I have found but I will offer some links if you care to check them out yourselves. Basically they all say the same thing, in my opinion.
Courageous Choice (note the coercion even in the name!)
Bethany Christian Services – Notice they are VERY happy that their maternity home, Bethany House, is at full capacity (of course they are)!
And some of these homes claim to just help women facing unplanned pregnancies. They say they support you no matter what your decision. Yet, they offer adoption services. I feel that this is even more coercive and unethical as it lures (seduces*) women into the environment only to be bombarded with how great adoption is as an option. They can even reel in women who were never even contemplating adoption and plant that seed. Here are some of those.
It is so pervasive, to me, to offer women help with their crisis pregnancy when you know full well that the moment she walks through that door that all you will do is plant the seed of adoption and water it subtly with what you know she needs to hear to have the best chance at gaining that infant to give to someone else who wants it. That is SO SO wrong. When the intentions of your “help” come with strings attached then it no longer becomes a gesture of true kindness. It becomes a perverted version of what kindness and generosity really means.
And then, on rare occasions, you find gems. Diamonds in the rough. An example of one of these is Kathy DiFore’s place called Several Sources Shelter. Not run by an agency. Not perverted by the adoption industry. Kathy has absolutely no stake in any of these girls lives and whether their baby is given up. You may have seen the movie, “Gimme Shelter” and already know the dramatized version of Kathy’s story. Her place offers pregnancy shelters, monthly care packages, daytime shelter, a sonogram center and an education center. She started this program in her OWN home with her OWN money. She does have religion in her program, but doesn’t push it and certainly doesn’t use it to convince these young, pregnant mothers that adoption is their “best” choice. Through her program young, pregnant women are given the chance they need (and help) to parent their babies and give themselves and their child a good life. So why is it that for every one of Kathy’s places that I find there are 200 maternity homes that are adoption-centered? Why aren’t these good “christian” agencies/people doing what Kathy has done? Why aren’t they providing shelter to pregnant women so they can parent their babies? Why? Why are places like this almost non-existent. Why are women being fooled into moving into a place that they think is like Kathy’s place when, in reality, the goal is for adoption? How can all these good “christian” services do this? It’s an atrocity. Follow the money…the root of all evil. No matter how “christian” you think you may be.
My friends, it seems that for a while the rights of the expectant mother considering adoption had begun to come into a clearer picture. The adoption industry knew well to stay aligned with the women’s rights movement. But, as we have seen, it was all for show. I am afraid that more and more of these homes are popping up and we are, again, reverting back to the dark days of the BSE. Not in the way that we know it. In a more pervasive way. Instead of physically keeping women from parenting their children, we are now using psychological mind games. And don’t for a second believe that this industry has not consorted with the best of the best to understand the human mind and the best way to put it in the mind-set of “I’m not good for my baby. Other people will be better.” Do not believe the rhetoric. Do not believe the propaganda set forth before your eyes. It is all a show. It is smoke and mirrors. Behind the curtain lies the truth. The truth lies within the ones who are now old enough to speak for themselves about the challenges they have faced going through life as an adoptee. The truth lies within the women who live it, everyday. Even the ones who are not yet ready to admit it to themselves because it would break them so much it would be unbearable. While you have read this article, a mother has given birth at a maternity home….
*Seduce – I would like to thank a fellow first mom friend for the use of this word. I had never thought about how appropriate it really is for how the agencies “woo” expectant mothers.