Babies Are Their Business

Competition among adoption agencies is anything but child's play

"I got pregnant by accident," Pat says. "I was partyin', havin' fun--what else can I say?" She had been living at home in an uneasy truce with her parents, but after a particularly bad row with her mother, Pat stormed out of the house for good.

Pregnant, now homeless, she turned to her boyfriend. Pat says he urged her to seek an abortion, to rid herself of a pregnancy that was neither planned nor wanted. He still wanted to be part of her life, but he wasn't ready for a family, she says.

Instead, Pat called the Christian Family Care Agency, which she had found through an ad in the phone book. "They came and picked me up and told me they'd house me, take care of me and put the baby up for adoption," she recalls. "It sounded fine so I said okay."

"They took me to a place in South Phoenix, like a small apartment complex, where most of the girls stayed, next to a main house, where about six or seven real young girls stayed," Pat says. "Once we got there, they told me about the rules: One, get a job; two, use the money from it to pay room and board; and three, I had to go to Bible study and church services with the group."

"The younger girls' room and board was paid by their parents," she says. "I was assigned to an apartment with a roommate and she said it was an okay place, so I started to calm down a little."

The following day, Pat says, incidents began occurring which convinced her she'd made a serious mistake in accepting the agency's offer of help. Far from providing a safe and tranquil place to wait out her time, Pat claims, officials at the home seemed obsessed with controlling the pregnant women in their care and making them admit they had sinned.

"The day after I got there, I walked across the street to a Smitty's supermarket to buy a snack and when I got back, the two adults in charge just blew up," she says. "They said I couldn't leave the grounds without permission. I couldn't have my boyfriend or anyone else visit without their permission.

"The other girls accepted the control, but I was 22 years old," she adds. "I thought I would be able to come and go as I wanted."

Pat says she resisted going to Bible study, but her boyfriend urged her to cooperate. "`Pat,' he said, `it's not going to kill you to go to Bible study once a week.' So I went," she says. "They preached to you, condemned you for getting pregnant. Everyone else there seemed to agree with that, that they'd done wrong, sinned, and were giving up their babies because they knew they couldn't be a good mother."

Nothing, it seems, exempted a girl from the Bible study tirade, Pat recalls. "One of the girls was retarded and they even went on at her about how she'd sinned." As Pat saw it, she owed no one an apology. She had "chosen life" over abortion and was following through on her responsibility to her unborn child. "I just wanted to be left alone. I just didn't want anybody hassling me until my baby was born," she explains.

Ekstrom says the facility at which Pat stayed has been closed, and that it is not the agency's policy to force religion on its clients. She admits, however, that some volunteers with the agency at times might do so. "It's unfortunate that young woman had that kind of an experience with our agency because it is contrary to our policy," Ekstrom says. "When [pregnant] women come here, the last thing we need to tell them is that they need to atone. The message we're trying to get across is God's forgiveness and acceptance."

Within days of her arrival, Pat claims, she fled the Christian Family Care home in a panic, after being threatened with transfer to an isolated rural facility because she was "causing problems and not fitting in."

"They said they were going to move me to a house out of town," she says. "I promised to cooperate and they let me go back to the main house for group activities that night. I saw an ad on TV for Southwest and memorized the phone number."

"They locked us in our rooms at night, but after lights out I snuck out a window and went over to the Smitty's and called Mike [Sullivan]," Pat says. "He said he would send someone over for me. When I saw the car lights, I crawled out the window and jumped in the car and we took off."

"I didn't even think about going to the cops," she says. "I was afraid Christian Family Care would come after me. I still am afraid of them."

Sullivan recalls reacting with disbelief when Pat called and told him she was "being held against her will" at the Christian Family Care home. "She said they wouldn't let her leave and I sort of laughed and said, `No, this is the United States of America, you just get up and walk out the front door if you want to leave,'" he says. "I couldn't believe [that] Pat had to crawl out the window of her apartment."

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My Voice Nation Help

Take it from this "baby scoop era" mom who has spent the last 22 years following the progress of todays adoption, mother's unprepared to parent today are still not encouraged to parent. Adoption should only be for those children without a family and then they should be able to keep their true identity and the knowledge of their heritage. 

I pray that the people who can change this system are listening.

Also, that they can change laws in 42 remaining states that deny the adopted their original birth certificate!

Margaret Susan Hoffman LyBurtus

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