Catelynn & Tyler of MTV’s Teen Mom – A Lesson in Reality

“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:

catelynntyler

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. 

bethany

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.

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Unconditional Love

A love that will stay and persist without limits, without prerequisites. No matter what. To show unconditional love is to put yourself aside for the well-being of someone else. A sacrifice of one’s self because of this love. To voluntarily endure pain, hurt, disappointment, and more in the name of this love. To put someone else above yourself.

-Astrid

This is my definition of unconditional love.

Unconditional is defined as “not subject to conditions.” Love is defined, by man, as “an intense feeling of deep affection.”

Furthermore, God defines love as patient and kind, free of envy, boasting and pride. It is not dishonorable, self-seeking, or easily angered. It also keeps no record of wrongs. It rejoices with TRUTH and does NOT delight in evil.

If you are a believer in God then you know that you are required to try your best to love one another in the way he has described, unconditionally. However, let’s take the layman’s view and assume you don’t HAVE to love EVERYONE unconditionally. You are free to just “love” people, no qualifiers required.

If I asked you how you were supposed to love your child, based on what I’ve written above, what would you say? Unconditionally, right? Of course. That’s how we’re wired. It’s how it’s supposed to be. We are supposed to love our children in a way that puts their needs above our own. Even if it hurts us. Isn’t that what it is all about?

The act of giving my daughter up for adoption was not selfless. I cannot say that it was because to claim that would be to imply that parenting my other children (all unplanned and coming at times that could be considered “crisis”) was selfish. And it wasn’t. However, when I relinquished her, it was because I was willing to suffer a lifetime of pain or never knowing who she was if that is what she wanted. If she never wanted to speak to me, ever, in her life, I was okay with that so that I would not cause her any emotional pain. Yes, it would hurt deeply, but I love my daughter so much (all of my kids really) that I would take that hurt so they didn’t have to. Wouldn’t we all? Wouldn’t we all take our kids hurt in a heartbeat if we could so as not to see them suffer? Of course we would, if we could.

What if you could? What if you COULD take that hurt away and make it a little better. What would you do?

What if you are an adoptive parent of a teenager. What if this teenager of yours is having a REALLY rough time emotionally? So they’ve asked to send their birthmother a letter. You let them write the letter and many things that are said in the letter hurt you. It’s only human to face insecurities. However, you know that sending this letter and hoping for a response back would be something to help a little with the healing of your teenager, even if it hurts you. Even if the thought of losing the child you’ve nurtured from infancy was almost too much to handle. Would you be willing to let your child continue to suffer and hurt so that you could make yourself feel more secure about your place in their life? If you answered “yes” then you do not love your child unconditionally. You do not love them selflessly. You are not willing to sacrifice yourself for them. Regardless of how many late nights you have stayed up with a sick toddler, regardless of how many bedtime stories you have read them, regardless of how many recitals you have been to. None of that stuff defines the true meaning of being a parent, a mother, a father.

The very definition of motherhood should be unconditional love. As a birthmom, I am willing to love my child unconditionally. I am willing to accept her for all of her faults and for all the things she may do that would make me feel bad. I will love her no matter what and do what is best for her. I will live with an unbearable grief for the rest of my life because I thought I was giving her a “better” life, even if that turns out to not be the case. My actions were in good faith at the cost of great personal pain and sacrifice, at the very high cost of great personal pain of my other children and family members. I did all of this because I loved her so. I let her call someone else “mom” because of this. Because I loved her and thought I was making the best choice I possibly could then.

It baffles me beyond reason how a person would not be able to do the same for their adopted child in return. Why they wouldn’t be able to suck it up, swallow their pride (“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.”) and help their child heal. Not leave their child thinking they have been rejected and ignored. Are you that insecure that you would sacrifice your child’s well-being for it?  You would lie (“It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.”)

Adoptive parents who choose to break promises and cut off birth families for any reason other than they are DANGEROUS, I have this to say to you:

If you think that cutting off communication between your child and their birth family is the way to go – Don’t be selfish. Do the selfless thing. Do the loving thing. Put your child’s needs ahead of your own so that they can have a better life. A life that includes all of their family. You are not giving up your child. You are placing her in a healthy environment that includes knowing her roots. Remember, you are in control of the adoption so there is great power in that. Don’t abuse it.

Don’t ya like how all those things that we were told during our “adoption plans” can also be used for you?

How to Find Your Child’s Adoptive Parents – A Step by Step Guide

With an alarming number of women who were promised open adoptions having the door slammed shut in their face, I thought I would write about some methods that can be used in order to solve this problem. Almost every search group will not search for a child until they are 18 or 21 years of age, regardless of whether or not it was supposed to be an open adoption. However, I think that searching for adoptive parents, who promised to always keep you in the loop, is something that all first moms should know how to do.

Most women who were promised open adoptions would probably not have even considered adoption,at all, if they knew they would spend years wondering if their child was healthy or, at the very least,alive. The promise of open adoption does seem to lure in a good number of mothers who would not otherwise have signed the dotted line. This “glamorizing” or “dolling-up” of adoption is a way to fill the demand for babies. While a good number of adoptive parents do keep their promises (and should be given kudos for that), the sad reality is that the majority do not. Some don’t even give their real first names, as advised by the agency, which can sometimes make it almost impossible to find anything.

Where does this leave us? Pretty much in an era of closed adoptions that are initially sold as open. I think it is despicable that anyone would take someone else’s child, promise they will always know how that child is doing, and then shut and lock the door. It’s deceitful and there is a special place in hell for people like this.

I’m here to hold them accountable. I don’t care if your child is 2 or 22. If I am able to help you find just a picture of your child to ease your mind, after the sacred promise made to you by the adoptive parents has been broken, then it has made everything worth it.

For those who may want to do this on their own, I’ll outline my methods. I do not have any kind of access to any secret databases. I am armed with Google, Facebook and intuition.

Step 1 – Knowing first names is probably a necessity to use this method. Knowing what the adoptive parents have named your child will also help tremendously. Knowing a possible state they may live in can bump that success rate way up. Knowing how to utilize Google, when searching for anything, can help you weed out thousands of unnecessary search results. For example, if I want to search for two people named Larry and Kate who live in Utah and type that into the search bar I will get results for any web page that has all three of those words. And that’s not what I need. I need a webpage that has those two people together and living in Utah. So, to narrow the results, I will search for “Larry and Kate” Utah. The quotations around the names will tell Google to ONLY search for pages that have those exact words in that exact order with that exact spelling. I don’t put Utah in quotations, at first, because I don’t want to narrow my results too much. I can also switch the order of the names to “Kate and Larry.” If you have the name of your child you can add that as well. It would look like this in the search bar: “Larry and Kate” “Haley” Utah.

Step 2 – Obituaries are a great source of information. If my search for Larry and Kate, daughter Haley, from Utah, isn’t getting me results I want or think are pertinent, I can try this: “Larry and Kate” “daughter Haley” Utah. In obituaries, the survivors are listed. Again, like before, you can switch the order of the names as well. If you find you are getting too many results, you can also put the state in quotations. I do this as a last ditch effort because sometimes people move and I don’t want to rule out neighboring states that may pop up.

IF YOU HAPPEN TO FIND AN OBITUARY

If you happen to find an obituary that has a Larry and Kate (that are listed as a married couple) and they have a daughter named Haley, and it is saying they live in that state, the chances are really good you have just found a last name. We’ll get to last names later.

Step 3 – Maybe you can’t find an obituary listing them as survivors. Next we look at things like hobbies, jobs, and religion. What DO you know about the adoptive parents? Are they a certain religion? Do they have a hobby they love? What is their occupation? Using the same method as step one, plug it into Google. Let’s say that Larry and Kate were members of the LDS church in Utah. I could plug in “Larry and Kate” “Haley” (or “daughter Haley”) “LDS” Utah. Sometimes churches have PDF files of flyers or announcements and you will find the names of members listed. Let’s say that Larry is an art teacher. A search for “Larry” “art teacher” Utah will yield results. You will have to sort through those results and maybe make a list of all the possible last names for our future steps. Let’s face it, how many Larry’s are also art teachers in Utah? Even if the answer was 50, is it worth it to explore each one?

*Note: The more unique names are, the more likely you are to have ease of finding what you’re looking for.*

Step 4 – Now, once you have done your diligent searches, or maybe while you’re still going through possible names, open up Facebook.  It is very likely there is a Facebook page for them. Let’s say that I’m pretty sure, based on an obituary, that Larry and Kate are really Larry and Kate Dawson who live in Salt Lake City, Utah. The way Facebook searches are working now, I would type into the search bar: Larry Dawson Utah Salt Lake City. If nothing pops up, get rid of the city and just try for the state. You will have to click on the very bottom of the list that pops up where a magnifying glass is and what you typed in is next to it.

Click where the red arrow is.

Click where the red arrow is.

Once you have done this, another page will pop up. You will want to click on “People.”

Click where the red arrow is.

Click where the red arrow is.

After that you will get a list of results of all people with that name who are associated with Utah.

You will probably have to play around with this a bit and use both the adoptive mother and adoptive father’s name. If your child is of an age that they would probably have a Facebook account you could try them as well. But, I caution you, I would not contact them directly as it could result in a restraining order against you if the adoptive parents choose to do so.

Step 5 – “I can’t find a profile for them.” If you have an obituary, now you need to start looking at relatives. If you don’t have an obituary, go to Advanced Background Checks and find relatives there. It’s a simple search tool, no need to pay, and it will list names and relatives associated with people. (You can also use the “paid” search sites without paying. It will list relatives but ask you for money if you want more info. Sites such as Intellius and People Finders. Just use it for what you need – relatives or maiden names) You’ll need to use your abstract thinking. Obviously someone who is estimated to be 78 years old is not the right person and someone listed as a relative that is 90 years old most likely won’t be on Facebook. Additionally, the White Pages can be very helpful for finding “associated people” as well as addresses and phone numbers, once you have a last name that is.

Step 6 – Once you have been able to locate a relative on Facebook, it is likely the adoptive parents are on their friends list, if they have a Facebook page that is. Many people, nowadays, have their friends lists private. If you find this is a problem then don’t panic. Even the most locked down profiles, I’ve found, have a few public posts or pictures. Look at the “likes” and “comments” on these posts! These are these people’s friends – not hidden! Even if you can’t find the adoptive parents through likes or comments, see if you can find someone with the same last name or someone that has commented and seems close to the family. Go to their page. Is their friends list private? No? Good, search it. If you can’t find the adoptive parents there, look for the last name. How do you search a friends list? You simply type a first or last name into the little search bar.

facebooktutorial3Okay, great. Now we have that settled. You will find that opening up a new tab by right clicking will be helpful so you can go back and forth between people’s pages.

What if the friends list of the family member is private as well? Repeat step 6.

Step 7 – If none of this is working for you, go back to basics. Is there anything specific that the adoptive parents are interested in? Maybe there is a group for it. Members of all open and closed groups are visible to the public. Try that.

Much of this is intuition. And although I used Facebook here, the same could be applied to any social media account with some tweaks. I could Google “Larry Dawson” “twitter” Utah. You’d be surprised what those magical little quotations marks can find for you. There’s also common sense. Most likely, in a church flyer, a husband’s name is going to be listed first. I adjust my search accordingly. Many churches also have Facebook pages now, too. If you can determine what church the adoptive parents are going to, and they have a Facebook page, you may find pictures of your child there.

A WARNING

While it may be extremely tempting to reach out to the adoptive parents or your child, I must say this. If your child is under 18, you run the risk of alerting them that you have figured them out. This means any future pictures they may publicly post will most likely be taken away from you via the “block” button on Facebook. Even if they blocked you, they may still lock down their accounts which will make it impossible to get any new pictures even from a friend’s account. If you are thinking there may have just been some mistake and that’s how you lost touch….I’m so sorry to say that is most likely NOT what happened. They cut you off for a reason and will most likely not welcome you with open arms. Instead they will probably FREAK that you’ve figured them out and know who they are. You do what you want, though.

Edit: Additionally Priscilla Sharp has created a WONDERFUL list of search resources and that can be found HERE.

A MESSAGE TO ADOPTIVE PARENTS WHO HAVE CLOSED OPEN ADOPTIONS

I have decided that my life’s goal is to find each and every one of you. Lock down your profiles all you want, I’ll get that address, phone number, email. You can’t hide. Not in today’s world. It’s as simple as that. I will hold you accountable. If you are thinking of adopting and have stumbled upon this post – let this be a warning to you as well.

The Christmas Hangover

Please see “EDIT” at the bottom before reading.

While New Year’s hasn’t yet come upon us, Christmas is said and done. Holidays and birthdays are always really hard in this life as a “birthmom.” I imagine that for some adoptees it is as well. I can only write from my point of view, in my role, though.

Open adoption was supposed to be a way for me to not feel so sad. To not wonder. To have a small part of my daughter, especially around birthdays and holidays. At first I would get pictures (even a video on her first birthday) on these hard days to make it a little easier to cope. It’s been some time since I received actual birthday pictures or holiday pictures. I haven’t seen pictures of my daughter opening up birthday or Christmas presents in years. I always send an email or letter on or just before these days to let them know I am thinking of her (and them) and I always hope that they will find it in their hearts to send something along for me to make those days better. Something to let me into that little part of their lives, their celebrations with her. This year I sent my Christmas email a couple days before Christmas and have yet to get any response. I don’t think I’m going to. Like I said, it’s been years.

Other emails, those not written around holidays and birthdays, are usually responded to within a few days or a few weeks. Sometimes they include a picture, sometimes a short line letting me know they received whatever I sent. These emails that I send are not usually time sensitive so it’s okay if they are answered late. Sometimes I play the devil’s advocate and think, “Maybe they aren’t aware that I would like a picture of her on her birthday or Christmas. I can’t expect them to be mind readers.” But these are just excuses. Why WOULDN’T I want a picture on these days? An update? It doesn’t take a mind reader to be considerate and think of me. Sometimes it feels almost willful and purposeful. I can never say for sure so my mind allows that sliver of hope that says it’s just an oversight. My heart says otherwise.

Sometimes I feel as if I’m still being purposely punished for the falling out we had 12 years ago when I changed my mind about relinquishing my subsequent child to them. They did promise I would never see IKL again and, so far, that promise has been kept. And that is when everything changed.

So this is what I call the “Christmas Hangover.” While the holidays (and birthdays) themselves can be a hard time, it’s the silence that comes afterwards that lingers. Like the headache after a heavy night of whiskey and beer. It’s the reminder that you are really not important enough to be considered. It’s the reminder that you have no control and they have all control – and they will use it accordingly.

In a few weeks the holidays and their hangovers will be officially over and things can return to somewhat of a norm. I won’t have to start processing these deep emotions again until October/November when her birthday rolls around again. For that I am thankful.

**EDIT** I am leaving this up to further reiterate the mind set of a birthmom. I wrote this under the assumption that I had been disregarded and found out shortly after that the reason for the silence at the holidays was because of the surprise in the mailbox. (SEE: The Letter) One of the horrible things about the bad side of being a birthmom is the insecurity it holds.

CUB Birthmother Survey – CLOSED

THIS SURVEY IS NOW CLOSED.

CUB is a wonderful organization representing birthparents nationwide. CUB stands for Concerned United Birthparents and was founded in 1976 by Lee Campbell and continues to be a driving force in adoption education focusing on the rights and welfare of birthmothers. Currently CUB is gathering information on birthparents who are/were in open adoption that do not have what they were promised.  In other words, betrayed open adoptions. CUB has a birthmother retreat each year and this year’s retreat will be from October 17-19.  The information gathered in this survey will help Dr. Gail Hanssen Perry, a founding member of CUB who holds a Ph.D. in social policy to possibly create a document to educate young vulnerable women and will be used as a discussion tool at the upcoming retreat. This is a chance for your voices to be heard!! The easiest way to complete the survey is to hop on over to my friend Claudia’s website and complete it there.  You can also read more in-depth information about the survey and people behind it. To make changes in policy we must speak up! This survey is very important. If you were in a betrayed adoption, please use this as an opportunity to be heard.