“Bethany was really supportive of me. They helped me answer any questions or any worries that I have, they taught me about grief and how to go through that; just kind of show me that I’m the person who makes my adoption plan. I’m the person that makes it look how I want it to look. They’ve just always been there. I could call them at four o’clock in the morning and they would talk to me and answer my questions.”
-Catelynn, PSA for Bethany Christian Services, April 9, 2014
Just a few short days ago the world looked on as MTV’s Teen Mom stars, Catelynn and Tyler Baltierra, received the news that they would not be getting a yearly visit with the daughter they relinquished to adoption, Carly. The short video clip shows the Teen Mom stars meeting with their social worker, Dawn Baker, in what looks to be a cafe of sorts, so that she can deliver the bad news. Dawn has worked with the couple as an employee of Bethany Christian Services throughout the duration of Catelynn’s pregnancy, birth, post-birth, post-relinquishment.
In the clip, Dawn has come prepared with a folder of papers to remind Catelynn and Tyler what they agreed upon in their “open adoption contract.” Open adoption contracts are more common, nowadays, than not and usually stipulate what both parties agree to as far as openness after an adoption. However, even in states where open adoption contracts are “legally binding,” these contracts are mostly faith-based and cannot really be enforced. (See more about open adoption contracts here) It is assumed that all parties will act ethically and hold up their end of the deal. During part of the clip you get a glimpse at the contract that Catelynn and Tyler signed:
If you read the paragraph under “communication” you’ll see phrases such as “the first 2 years” or “through the age of 5 years old” and “exchange of these items will take place through Bethany.” Having watched the show you may be wondering why there are age stipulations in this “open” adoption contract. Surely Catleynn and Tyler have, and always did, want to be a part of Carly’s life for all of her life.
When Catelynn questions why Brandon and Teresa have not answered her texts about a visit, Dawn is quick to remind them what they agreed to in their “contract.”
“I wanna take you guys back to 2009 and I want to show you some things you signed with me. And I made a copy so you guys could have, so… This was the foundation of where you started, yeah you said ‘no’ to ongoing face to face and you could REQUEST visits with the adoptive family in the future to be initiated by Catelynn and Tyler, which is what you’ve been doing, and at the discretion of the adoptive family, as they determine what is in the best interest of Carly…”
Hold the phone. They said “NO” to ongoing face to face visits? Hmm. Has anyone watched the show? Can anyone think of any reason that they wouldn’t want to continue to see their daughter? Let me tell you what I think happened here based on my experience.
Catelynn and Tyler are “counseled” by Bethany. Bethany tells them that the contract they are signing is just a bare bones deal. They can still see Carly as long as Brendan and Teresa are okay with that, and why wouldn’t they be? As long as your relationship continues the way it has this shouldn’t even be an issue. We’ll just have the contract in writing with the bare minimum. Yes they could choose to stop ongoing visits but that’s not likely to happen since this is what everyone wants. And, by the way, Bethany suggests that all gifts and letter get filtered through them and that updates three times a year should stop at age 2 and videos of birthdays should stop at age 5 because, ya know, birth parents just kinda start to forget and move on and it shouldn’t be that big of a deal. Can you taste my sarcasm?
So Catelynn and Tyler agreed to this contract after being counseled by Dawn and Bethany Christian Services. They really did understand that at anytime their visits could be taken away. Yes, they did. But they were reassured that wasn’t likely to happen as long as everyone continued this great wonderful relationship that they were promised. I would also go so far as to assume, because it happened to me, that Catelynn and Tyler didn’t even know they could say “nope, sorry.” Because, ya see, they make you fall “in love” with this adoptive couple. They make you feel like these are THE people for my child. If I ask for more they may back out. And agencies have a great way of making you feel like maybe you WON’T find parents for your baby if you’re too picky. So they agreed, because asking for any more may mean missing out on this ideal, “perfect” couple for their baby. And they truly did want what was best for their baby.
Ahh, but Bethany has a history. They even wrote a book. It’s called “A Case For Adoption.”
The original description from their website stated:
“This manual is written for those who counsel women experiencing unplanned pregnancies. Its purpose is to show how adoption can be presented as a positive, life-giving choice.“
Basically, Bethany wrote a manual in 1985 about how to convince women to give their children up for adoption. And this manual is still being used today.
Where were we? Oh yes. Dawn presents “legal” documents to remind Catelynn and Tyler that they aren’t fitting into the perfect little birth parent box they were supposed to stay in. When Catelynn expresses frustration that Carly’s adoptive parents would not answer her directly when she asks about a visit Dawn is quick to “counsel” them with this answer:
“If the conversation is kinda shut down about the visit, let’s move on to another converstaion…”
Catelynn again expresses frustration, “I hate not having an answer.”
Dawn, being the great counselor that she is to help them through this difficult time replies with, “I know you do but you’re not getting it right now, you’re not getting an answer right now. I know this is hard you guys.”
Here’s what I heard – I know you don’t like it but tough shit. You aren’t getting what you want so move the fuck on. I’m only hear to make Bethany look good. I’m only here because Brandon and Teresa were too chicken shit to tell you themselves. I really don’t give a shit about how you feel. I get my paycheck regardless and I have you and all the other hundreds of girls just like you, to thank for that.
That’s what I heard. Not what she said, but what I heard.
And then my favorite part. Catelynn’s response.
“No its just fucking frustrating because I was fucking 16 years old when I made these decisions.” And there it is. Almost like an epiphany. How can a coup of sixteen year olds be expected to understand the depth and magnitude of what they are doing? How can anyone, really? Unless you’ve lived it you have no idea. Unless you have had the door slammed shut in your face, you DON’T KNOW. You CAN’T know. You believe everything the counselors tell you. You believe that you will doom your child to a lifetime of pain and unhappiness. You believe you aren’t good enough. And I’m here to tell you, it’s all lies. The people telling you this are the people who profit from your loss.
Bethany Christian Services paid almost 5.5 MILLION dollars in employee salaries and wages in 2014 – the year Catelynn and Tyler recorded that PSA for them. Their total net assets were over 34 MILLION dollars. Their total liabilities and net assets were almost 45 MILLION dollars. William Blacquere, CEO and President of Bethany Christian Services in 2014 had a salary of $210,812, Over TWO HUNDRED THOUSAND DOLLARS a year as a salary for being the President of an adoption agency. A “non profit” one at that.
“I’m the person who makes my adoption plan. I’m the person that makes it look how I want it to look.”
“No its just fucking frustrating because I was fucking 16 years old when I made these decisions.”
I really really feel for Catelynn and Tyler. They are in the public eye which means every misstep is recorded for all to see. Yes, they made a choice to be in the public eye, but there will never be any going back for them in that decision as well. As far as their views on adoption and how they feel about being denied their yearly visit, well, as all of us first parents know, any vocalization against the adoptive parents of our kids or adoption as an institute puts us at grave risk of being totally cut off from our children – until they are of age to decide for themselves. I can see it in their faces when I watch the show. The fear. One wrong move and it all crumbles down and how are we supposed to continue living life if that happens?
Tyler seems more outspoken, but he still can’t say what he wants, if he wants.
But Catelynn, Tyler, they do grow up. They do have minds of their own. And sometimes they do come calling. And sometimes they’re FUCKING PISSED about what’s happened. I’m learning this first hand.
I don’t care if you smoke pot. I don’t care if you’re depressed because having another baby made you realize the enormity of what you lost. I don’t care if you have a beer now and again. You aren’t unsafe for your daughter to visit once a year. There is absolutely no excuse for it. None. You may not be able to say it, but I will. Carly loves you, she’s had a relationship with you, and now it has been, at the least, interrupted. At the most, ended. How will they explain that to her? How will that hurt her? Has anyone stopped to think about that?
Family preservation. It has been my only life line. It is what helps me heal. Catelynn, Tyler, please reach out. Even if under an alias. There’s a whole community waiting for you.