Joan Rivers says that when she comes across an ugly baby and can’t think of what to say, she comments on how nice the crib is!
Here is some background in case you haven’t read my earlier posts. My older brother and I were both adopted from The Willows Maternity Sanitarium in Kansas City, Missouri. We aren’t related genetically, but grew up together and are close. As close as two complete recluses can be.
My brother is four years older. After my parents adopted him, they immediately set the wheels in motion to adopt another baby. Single child households were not common back in the late 1940’s – early 1950’s as these were the baby boom years after WWII.
In order to adopt another child, my older brother was taken to a child psychologist and interviewed. I’ve copied what the psychologist wrote about him.
And she was dead on about my brother. From an early age, he showed incredible mechanical genius. He was a mad inventor even as a little kid. My brother made rocket fuel in the basement. He created a mechanical witch that popped out of the clothes hamper in the bathroom to scare me when I got up in the middle of the night to pee. And on and on. Mom said that whenever she visited his elementary school unannounced, he was always standing out in the hall being punished for one thing or another. Honestly, he was just bored. A.A. Hyde Elementary School didn’t appreciate his aptitude and also didn’t know how to handle him with the exception of making him stand in the hall.
In 1951, my parents were given the opportunity to adopt a baby girl (me). One month after my birth, they drove to Kansas City to pick me up. As you can see, I was skinny, very red and hairy. My eyes appeared oversized, much too big for my face.
The state of Missouri has finally changed their laws on Sealed Adoption Records. If both biological parents are dead (and you can prove it), you can petition the Court to receive a copy of your adoption file. (I have written more on this subject in earlier posts)
I finally received a very thick manila envelope of paperwork from the Circuit Court of Jackson County. Inside were pychological evaluations of my parents, letters of reference, copies of receipts, etc.
Luckily for me, Mom didn’t see me through other people’s eyes. If she had known what the home visitor had written, that I was not pretty and not precocious, she would have driven to Kansas City and kicked her in the butt! Once they got us, Mom and Dad were the most loyal parents ever.
Below is copied from a letter that Mom wrote to the social worker in Kansas City. (a copy of her letter was in my big manila evelope)
Her hair is very dark for a tiny baby and her head is beautifully shaped. I have seen pretty babies, but none as pretty as Jan. Now, if we can just teach her all the things that must go with her being so beautiful.
I wish our pictures truly could show you how sweet our baby is, but some day we will be in Kansas City and we will bring her to see you.
Thanks Mom and Dad! R.I.P.
I was born and adopted from The Willows Maternity Sanitarium in Kansas City, Missouri. During its heyday, the Willows advertised “Superior Babies for Adoption”. After searching for newspaper articles that made reference to The Willows, I came across a scandal that involved The Willows in 1924. (If you would like more background information on The Willows, please see my earlier posts)
Miss Lydia Locke appeared at the Willows Maternity Hospital in 1924 calling herself Mrs. Ira Johnson of Hannibal, Missouri. She had references in place and the Willows was satisfied enough with her story that she left with a newborn baby boy. Miss Locke allegedly “borrowed” that baby in order to receive an additional sum from her wealthy ex-husband, Arthur Hudson Marks. In the divorce decree she received $100,000 but was assured an additional $300,000 in case a child was born to her. (the amounts varied depending on the newspaper) She obtained a birth certificate from the family physician naming the baby boy “Arthur Hudson Marks, Jr.”
The Marks were divorced in September of 1923. Apparently Miss Locke was mathematically challenged or unaware of the average gestational period for humans, but in October of 1924 she appeared in New York with the baby. Miss Locke contacted her ex-husband and asked him to acknowledge the baby as his own.
Mr. Marks, not so biologically or mathematically challenged as Miss Locke, employed private detectives to learn how she obtained the baby. The poor little baby, now six weeks old, was ordered returned to the Willows Maternity Sanitarium. The articles don’t say what became of the infant. In any event, he was better off without the looney Miss Locke.
Before adoption became a compassionate process of placing children in healthy homes, it was more like the dog pound. Below is a clipping from 1906 for “The Willows” that reads like a “free to a good home” pet adoption ad.
My daughter called me tonight and we talked a bit about my blog. I said that I am trying to be sensitive since I am dealing with the lives of my very much loved relatives. Adoption as it pertains to me was due to babies being born to unmarried mothers. It was a hidden event during the forties, fifties & sixties. And since then, everything has changed. My adopted mother, Harriett, was very aware of this change in social mores and wrote me this poignant note in 1995. I clipped out the center part of the letter as it revealed too much personal information about one of her friend’s unmarried granddaughters who chose to keep her baby.
My parents never concealed the fact that I was adopted. All of the announcements contained the word adopted and it was never a secret in our family. Harriett & Ray were such great parents that I am surprised that Harriett would ever have any doubts in her skills. As a parent, though, I know I have many regrets as to my parenting skills (or total lack of). But as immature as I was, at least I got a chance to grow up with my daughter . And I am still sorry that I never created a fabulous baby book — but of course Nanny (Harriett) did that for me.
From 1940 until about 1970, up to 4 million mothers in the United States surrendered their newborn babies to the adoption process.
I’ve copied the text below from Wikipedia
Adoption is a process whereby a person assumes the parenting for another and, in so doing, permanently transfers all rights and responsibilities, along with filiation, from the original parent or parents. Modern systems of adoption, arising in the 20th century, tend to be governed by comprehensive statutes and regulations.
Beginning in the 1940s and 1950s, illegitimacy began to be defined in terms of psychological deficits on the part of the mother. At the same time, a liberalization of sexual mores combined with restrictions on access to birth control led to an increase in premarital pregnancies. In most cases, adoption was presented to the mothers as the only option and little or no effort was made to help the mothers keep and raise the children.
All of that said, I was an extremely lucky newborn and was adopted into a loving and secure family. While I was searching through old photographs today, I found the cross stitch picture that my Mom made for us. They truly felt this way about us and we never doubted their love or loyalty.
I’ve been a lot more researching than just looking for records online. I’ve also sent my DNA to be analyzed at http://www.familytreedna.com and http://www.23andme.com. Both of these sites will match your particular DNA with others & predict how closely you are related.
Familytreedna calls their test “Family Finder” and 23andme calls their test “Relative Finder”.
They both use autosomal DNA (inherited from both the mother and father, four grandparents, eight great-grandparents, etc.) to provide you a breakdown of your ethnic percentages and connect you with relatives descended from any of your ancestral lines within approximately the last 5 generations.
And, if you wish to share your DNA ancestry with people who haven’t tested with either of these companies, you can go to http://www.gedmatch.com and upload your autosomal DNA data in order to compare it with a broader audience.
All of that said — I got a message one day from Wendy saying something to the effect, “Hi, we are related as Distant Cousins.” At that time I didn’t know as much as I do know about my biological family, so I replied that I was adopted at birth and didn’t have a lot to share.
Wendy replied that she was adopted also — and expressed how ironic it was that two adopted people with no knowledge of family background would match! Wendy has a powerful blog — it is about her search for her biological background, adoption and all that she has done to try to uncover her past. The text copied below is from Wendy’s blog
I began looking for my birth mother on the day that I turned 18 in Columbus Ohio. When I entered the court I had thought that I would leave with my adoption records in hand. After the clerk laughed at my request she informed me that Ohio is a closed records state, and that I would be leaving with no such file.
It was 14 and a half years later, with the help of Reunite of Ohio Inc. that I was given my first mothers name.
The following day I found out that she had died in a car accident in 1973, and I was also given the name of my sister.
Since the law allowing adoptees to receive identifying information was passed in 2011, there has been a huge amount of interest and it has created a backlog of adoptee’s cases waiting for review. There is a very small staff available for this review and they feel the need to cross all t’s and dot the i’s. Individuals requesting information have a several month waiting period before their file reaches the top of the pile. The request for information is not the top priority of the Family Court. The Family Court attorney has so many other activities to pursue like child welfare, support and family disputes that reviewing the adoptees’ requests is at the bottom of their list of priorities.
Because they are such sticklers for detail, they even feel the need to “review” requests when the birth parent would be over 100 years of age. I guess the parent might still be alive, but it is doubtful. I can only imagine the Court interviewing the birth parent in their respective nursing home. The poor birth parent probably wouldn’t remember what they had for breakfast, that they once had children or that they even had sex for that matter.
Perhaps it would benefit the Court to temporarily hire someone to clean up the backlog and free the Court Attorney to work on more pressing matters. But again, I am not a stickler for detail or even for keeping secrets that are no longer important to most people. My adoptive parents told me from day one that I was adopted. We had way too many cousins in the family who would have known the truth and we all know how children love to keep family secrets — not.
I know passing legislation is difficult. And then once it has been passed, even more difficult to enforce when there isn’t enough staff in place. My answer to the problem is to simply make the records available once the adoptee is of a certain age. Or if the birth parents are dead. Wait, isn’t that what they just passed? So why the wait and why all of the review? Anyone with a computer can access the Social Security Death Index (SSDI) which contains over 90,000,000 records.
ugh, I hate to have to admit failure, but poor Ms. Schottel is only the poor creature that stops the buck that falls on the Jackson County Family Court when angry adult adoptees (like me) strike. I wish to publicly apologize to Ms. Schottel. Especially if I exasperated your Chron’s Disease, Colitis or Irritable Bowel Syndrome.
Unless you are an adoptee who has been searching for years and years, it is hard to imagine the incredible buildup of anger that occurs. When you know that there is a “forbidden” sealed file hidden somewhere with all of the secrets of your being & you can’t see it — a storm starts forming in your brain. I personally have known a couple of “adoptees” whose lives didn’t end well because of this.
Again, Ms. Schottel, I am sorry. I know I couldn’t do your job for ten minutes. I would tell everyone to meet me outside after work and I’d spill the beans about the entire contents of their sealed records. The entire culture has shifted & to continue to keep these secrets would be more than I could bear.
I first received a copy of my “void” birth certificate from an anonymous search angel in the 1970’s. It arrived in a plain envelope after I had requested help from one adoption help site or another. Because this was before the internet, all of this was done in “writing”. How antiquated.
I continued searching, but because the internet hadn’t been formed — it was tough going. There are so many kind individuals working within the system willing to risk their jobs to send you info.
I next asked for help about finding my father’s identity and I got a phone call from another “search angel” telling me his name — William L. Engle. Oh joy, now I know the identity of both of my parents. Only now I have to fit the pieces together.
I have had many people tell me over the years that I should feel lucky that my mother chose life. After finding out more about my mother & father, I feel lucky that they both ordered that additional “Manhattan” or “Whiskey Sour” that lowered their inhibitions enough to let them “go to town” and create me. I wish to thank “Jim Beam” or “Johnny Walker” for giving me life and the fact that abortion wasn’t legal.
copied from the Kansas City Public Library http://www.kclibrary.org/kchistory/adoption
Two factors made Kansas City the “baby hub” of the United States: the railroads and only one child placement agency, the adoption department of the Juvenile Court.
Parents from all over the United States used to pack their pregnant, unwed daughters onto the train and send them to Kansas City where taxis waited at the station to transport them to one of several maternity homes, including The Willows, Fairmount, St. Vincent’s, Florence Crittenton, Kansas City Cradle, and others. In 1929, “292 young women from 25 states slipped into Kansas City that year to give birth at The Willows, the city’s largest maternity home.” And scores more came to the others.
Reporter Norma Lee Browning wrote in the Chicago Sunday Tribune Grafic Magazine on July 2, 1950, “There is one city, however, that has solved its own ‘black market’ baby problems by devising a simplified court adoption system that has gained a nation-wide reputation for its high standards, fine work, and success in the child placement field. That is Kansas City, Mo. The adoption court there places about 1,000 babies a year, thus making it one of the largest and possibly ‘the’ largest child placement agency in AMERICA.”
When attitudes began changing in the 1960s and ‘70s, most of these homes closed.
Because so many children were adopted in Kansas City during the first half of the twentieth century, the Missouri Valley Special Collections department receives numerous requests for information about the maternity homes and also about their records. We have information about the homes, but we do not have any records.
The following excerpts are from a booklet titled “By-Paths and Cross-Roads; Accidents of Fair Travelers on the Highway of Life”, published by The Willows Maternity Sanitarium, primarily for physicians, copyright 1918 by E. P. Haworth.
The Willows Maternity Sanitarium is an institution devoted exclusively to the care and seclusion of unfortunate young women, offering them congenial, homelike surroundings before confinement and exceptional medical and hospital care during delivery and convalescence. In most cases arrangements are also made for the finding of a home for the patient’s baby for adoption.
The institution will not knowingly accept a young woman of the immoral or degenerate type, its service being reserved for worthy and deserving young women who have made a misstep and who face social and moral ruin. The Willows’ method is the safe, Christian and ethical solution to one of the most difficult problems of the medical community.
Early entrance during gestation is important for preparing the patient for accoutrement through systematic hygienic methods and massage. A special system of abdominal and perineal massage has been originated for preventing striae gravidarum and as an aid to labor. The abdominal markings of a single girl, caused by carrying a child, are telltale signs that might be discovered at any time and cause her misfortune to become known. This combination of massages, including the skin, perineal and vaginal massage, has been successful in sending numbers of girls, who have taken them, away from The Willows without marks or signs to show of their experience.
Dear Ms. Schottel,
I have complied with the law in regard to obtaining information about my biological parents. I hired a Search Specialist, Laura Long, in 2011. She submitted to you a report stating that my bio. parents are deceased.
You sent me a letter on June 6, 2011 stating that my biological parents are deceased. From your letter — “Regretfully, the search has uncovered the fact that both your biological parents are deceased.” Are you saying that you no longer believe in the contents of your letter?
Obviously something is wrong with the system of the Circuit Court of Jackson County, Missouri. I have a right to obtain the identifying information about my biological parents and I feel that you are denying me access.
I have sent you the form requesting information, a photo copy of my driver’s license and proof of my adoption. I have also sent copies of my bio. mother’s birth and death certificates. And now you want the original records. What will you want next?
I am a 61 year old adoptee whose biological and adopted parents are deceased. Are you hoping that I will also die before you have to send me information on myself?
Senator John Lamping of the State of Missouri was the sponsor of the above bill. SB351 went into effect on August 28, 2011. The part of the bill that I am most interested in says
If a biological parent authorizes the release of information or if a biological parent is found to be deceased, the court shall disclose the identifying information as to that biological parent to the adopted adult so long as the other biological parent either:
-Is known but cannot be found and notified
-Is deceased or
-Has filed with the court an affidavit authorizing the release of information. SECTION 453.121.7
In my case, both of my biological parents are deceased. I even went to the extent of hiring a Court Search Specialist to try and find them. She reported back to Rosalee Schottel of the Family Court Division of the Circuit Court of Jackson County, Missouri that my bio. parents are deceased.
Rosalee Schottel then sent me the following letter on June 6, 2011
So — under the new law, not the law quoted above — I have tried to obtain my sealed records from the State of Missouri and Ms. Schottel has continued to stand in the way. Even though she previously informed me that my parents are dead, now she wants original documents proving that they are dead. I don’t understand why I even have to send her anything as she had previously written me to inform me of their deaths. I don’t know what I am missing here, but there is a disconnect between Ms. Schottel’s office and the Senator’s legislation. I have forwarded a complaint about this to Senator Lamping, who sponsored the new bill and I am waiting to see if anything happens. And I’ve also sent a complaint to Ms. Schottel.