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.

Advertisements

A Case For Adoption

Every couple of years or so I go through the folder in my filing cabinet labeled “adoption.” This is where I store all pertinent papers in regards to my relinquishment of IKL. It is a “keepsake” folder of sorts, as I literally put every paper I received during that time in it. For 14 years a little purple book entitled, “A Case For Adoption” has remained in that folder and I’ve never even read it. I didn’t read it when I was pregnant and I didn’t read it after relinquishment. I acquired it on accident. Among some hand-outs and other “informational” paperwork I was given by my agency, this was left behind, in my home. I assumed it was meant to be left, and have all these years. Several months ago I decided to skim the pages with my newly “out of the fog” eyes. It appeared to be some sort of handbook on how to convince expectant mothers to relinquish their babies. Tonight I decided to read it from front to back and I just had to share it with you all.

There is no author for this little book, only a production company. On the back corner of the jacket, as well as in small print on the inside corner of the front page, it says: Bethany Productions, 901 Eastern NE, Grand Rapids, Michigan, 49503, (616) 224-7413. A quick Google search confirms that this was published by Bethany Christian Services in Grand Rapids, Michigan. This was published by them in 1996. This was the beginning of the mainstream open adoption era.

Bethany

Bethany Productions

Upon further investigation, this book is still available for purchase in the Bethany store. (EDIT: Shortly after the publishing of this post, Bethany has changed their store so that you must have a username and password to shop their resources rendering the link above non-functioning – going to store.bethany.org will redirect you here. I signed up for an account and FOUND the book in their store. However, the description for the book was no longer there. In fact, there was no description at ALL. Hmm……)

Description about the book is now missing. It wasn't when this blog was published less than 2 months ago.

Description about the book is now missing. It wasn’t when this blog was published less than 2 months ago.

Bare bones.

Bare bones.

Search results for the Bethany Store selling "A Case For Adoption." The link is no longer functioning.

Search results for the Bethany Store selling “A Case For Adoption.” The link is no longer functioning.

  On the website it is described as: “This booklet is written for people who counsel women and men who are experiencing unplanned, untimely pregnancies. Its purpose is to educate counselors about the option of adoption. Both the counselor (directly) and the client (indirectly) will benefit from this booklet, as the counselor becomes familiar with today’s adoption practices. Includes the eight myths about adoption, presenting the option of adoption, adoption planning options, role of the birthfather, and post-adoption services information.”

However, this is the “edited” summary of what the book is about. As with the changing dynamics of unplanned pregnancies, and adoption agency tactics, I’m pretty sure the original wording, used originally in 1985 and then re-published in 1996, would not be acceptable. I’ll let you read, for yourself, what that was. I will show the change of language in bold.

“This manual is written for those who counsel women (men left out in this version) experiencing unplanned (untimely left out in this version) pregnancies. Its purpose is to show how adoption can be presented as a positive, life-giving choice. 

The use of the word “manual” is the most troublesome to me. This is, essentially, a manual on how to coerce a woman into surrendering her child for adoption. They even say it’s a manual. Then there is the word, “presented,” not used in the new language they have on their website. A manual on how to present adoption one way – the positive way. How is a woman supposed to make an educated choice, in regards to her unborn child, if she is only presented one version of things? This is the “counseling” women are getting from Bethany Christian Services?

Foreword

Did you read the first page? The Foreword? They even admit to calling an expectant mother a birthmother, regardless of whether or not she ultimately parents. This is also a manual passed out to every crisis pregnancy center in order for Bethany to acquire more clients (see: more babies from expectant mothers who are facing a less than ideal situation). This manual was made, as is stated, to address the frustrations counselors were having “presenting adoption as a loving, responsible, and mature choice that MUST be considered as seriously as parenting or marriage.” (see: counselors were having a hard time coercing young mothers out of their babies so Bethany wrote a brainwashing manual)

See the stamp for the Crisis Pregnancy Center this manual originated from. It somehow made it's way all the way to Wisconsin and was left at my residence.

See the stamp for the Crisis Pregnancy Center this manual originated from. It somehow made it’s way all the way to Wisconsin and was left at my residence.

This manual is, literally, distributed nationwide to crisis pregnancy centers to serve as a guide into talking a woman, facing a difficult time, into surrendering her child for adoption. Or, at the very least, planting that first seed of doubt in her mind. “I’m in no position to raise a baby. Adoption seems like a great choice.”

Let’s look at some excerpts in this manual.

“To relinquish a child for adoption can be a very loving and mature choice. A woman experiencing an unplanned pregnancy must be encouraged to understand this fact.” Oh boy. This is a fact, eh? I thought a fact was something that could be proven. Ask the many birthmothers and adoptees out there that have been hurt by adoption if they agree that this is a fact. They will disagree. This is an OPINION. Yet, they are encouraged to present this as fact to young vulnerable pregnant women.

The introduction goes further by saying, “Those who work with these women must present the alternative of adoption in a positive and knowledgeable manner. Society as a whole must recognize adoption as a legitimate choice, affirming it as something good for birth parents and their children.”  This is a loaded statement indeed. Essentially, this is emphasizing that adoption MUST be brought up as the POSITIVE choice and that in order to keep obtaining babies for adoption society has to also see it as something that is good for birth parents and the children they relinquish. In other words, the illusion of how great adoption is will be key in its continuing success. Yes, I used the word illusion. How many adoptees out there view adoption as something that was positive for yourself and your birth parents? Smoke and mirrors, my friends…and a handbook to be successful with it. Here IS a fact, everyone. Adoption is not always something good for birth parents or adoptees. A lot of the time it is downright traumatizing. But, remember, they have to give the positive spin so they don’t go out of business. Also remember that Bethany was the same agency bragging that their “birthmother dorms” were completely full on their website. They were overjoyed that all these women, who were facing uncertain situations, were living on their property about to hand over their babies. Nothing about helping these women if they didn’t hand over their infants.  

IntroductionObviously I can’t post the entire 48 pages of the book here. I would like to give some excerpts. They are ALL so truly appalling that I don’t even know how to choose….hopefully you’ll get the idea.

I’d like to categorize this excerpt under “Why is it so important to talk a woman out of single parenting when many have been doing a find job of it.” I let you read these two pages for yourself. You can see my comments at the end.

Page 1

2

So, Bethany’s solution to the disadvantages a single mother may have is to take their babies from them instead of actually doing something to help the mother. Sounds about right to me. Exactly what I have been saying. The adoption agency wants the baby. A good Christian agency should be helping the single mother, the fatherless child, instead of taking the child and discarding the mother. Tell yourselves this is Christian all you want, it isn’t. Its self-serving.

The manual goes on to dispel “myths” in adoption. It guides the counselor through addressing concerns the expectant mother may have about “choosing” adoption. I’ll list the myths here:

1. A birthmother who cares about her child would not consider adoption.

The manual goes on to explain and emphasize (to the expectant mother) that choosing adoption is the most loving choice. It uses words like “be a birth parent resource” “affirm their choice” “affirm their love” “facilitate contacts (with prospective adoptive parents).” Yes, this is definitely a manual on how to coerce. This section right here should be entitled, “How to convince a mother that adoption is the loving choice and parenting is not.”

2. Birth parents will never know anything about their child and his or her adoptive parents in the following years.

As expected, this section goes on and on about open adoption and how secrecy is no longer preferred because we now know that it isn’t healthy for the adoptee or birth parents. This, as we know, is true. But then they lie. “The counselor can correct the misunderstanding about secrecy by educating the client about the range of openness common in adopting today. (goes on to explain different levels of openness) Exchanging non-identifying information, gifts, and pictures are activities that can also be suggested to birth mothers struggling with secrecy conerns. These will be discussed later.”  Nowhere, anywhere, does it say open adoptions can close and there is nothing a birthmother can do about it. Nowhere in this manual that was made to help people “counsel” expectant mothers into the choice of adoption. Lies.

3. Adoption is an irresponsible solution to an unplanned pregnancy.

This section goes on to explain that getting pregnant before being ready to parent was the irresponsible thing to do and can be redeemed by doing the responsible thing – adoption. Bleck. Ugh.

4. A birthmother will eventually forget the child she released for adoption.

This myth is accurate. The explanation on how to counsel a woman worried about the pain of relinquishment is sickening. Phrases such as “Explain the pain” “Show you care” “Focus on her needs” “Accept her sadness” and “Encourage bonding” are included for this myth. Remember, this is a manual on how to get a woman to relinquish her child. Doing the above makes her more secure in a decision to relinquish her child.

5. All adopted children will grow up to have serious psychological problems.

I don’t even need to address this one. I love how the words “all” and “serious” are used. That’s because a lot of adoptees DO have serious psychological problems. No not ALL have SERIOUS psychological problems. If you’re only concerned about SERIOUS problems, the odds are okay because not ALL will have them. If you’re not concerned about minor psychological issues…go for adoption! It will be interesting to see how my adoptee survey turns out in regards to this question.

6. A birthmother will have serious emotional problems if she relinquishes her child.

This is a myth? Seriously? Are they really saying birthmothers don’t have serious emotional problems after relinquishment? They didn’t even bother to add “not all.” They just said a birthmother wouldn’t. And that’s a straight up lie. Of course it is. Who in their right mind would relinquish a child if they knew it may cause them serious emotional problems. As we learned in my birthmother survey this is the rule and not the exception.

7. A child really doesn’t need a father.

Yeah, two parents are preferred…sure. And adoptive parents aren’t immune from divorce. Didn’t see an quips in there about that.

8. No one can love a child as much as the birthmother.

I have no doubt that most adoptive parents love their children tremendously. But I say they can never love their children in the same way as the person who gave birth to them. They simply can’t. It’s not possible. They did not carry them for 9 months so the bond is different.

Oh this manual.

The next section of the book is entitled, “Developing Adoption Positively.”

Essentially this is all about how to spin adoption as the best and most positive choice. It even includes a section on using appropriate terminology. Yes, agencies know that the terminology you use has an influence on how positive you see adoption. They use it to their advantage. It’s called coercion. Here’s those pages.

language

l2And did you notice, after the terminology usage, that they even have a section on style and timing of the presentation? It’s a damn elevator pitch for your baby!

Oh and then there is the pressure they are encouraged to put on. On page 34 it says, “When birthmothers do not initiate a discussion of adoption, the counselor will have to reintroduce the concept. The following introduction should facilitate a nonthreatening discussion:

We’ve spent the last few weeks talking about your plans to parent. Because this is such a tremendously big decision, I think it’s important for you to be informed about all your choices. So I would like to spend part of our time today, if it’s okay with you, talking about adoption.

Most birthmothers will agree to this.”

So, even when the mother is making a parenting plan, counselors are coached to introduce adoption. Sick, sick, sick. Again, this should be a manual called, “How can I guilt a mother into giving her baby to someone else by making her think parenting means she’s a shitty mom and doesn’t love her child and is irresponsible.”

And then they talk about birthfathers.

“Birth father’s rights are taken much more seriously now than they have been in the past. Although laws may vary from state to state, courts today generally make every reasonable effort to secure a birth father’s voluntary termination of his parental rights before a child can be legally released for adoption. For this reason alone, it is essential that a counselor discuss with the birthmother the birth father’s interest and intentions regarding their child.”

Um, ya think? For this reason alone….not because it’s right, just because the birth father may end up being a pain in the ass.

The end pages go on to encourage using birthmothers (ones who have actually placed, not expectant mothers) in order to convince uncertain young moms to place.

It goes on to say that one year is a good time period for contact to continue from the birthmother. Ugh.

The conclusion states, “There is no magical way to present adoption so a birthmother who lacks the ability or desire to parent will view it as an acceptable solution. However, a change of heart often begins when a counselor who recognizes the advantages of adoption presents it in a knowledgeable and sensitive manner as an excellent choice.”

Need I say more? What, again, is the definition of coercion?