May 21-June 17, 1998

Once upon a time there was a social worker. She became a social worker because once upon a time she had been a scared, lonely, unwed, pregnant teenager and a social worker had helped her. She thought that the social worker had been a fine, brave, heroic character and she wanted to be like her.

So what happened to the baby she had? Good question. The baby had been given up for adoption on the recommendation of the mentor/social worker. Her absence in the birth mother’s life had allowed the birth mother to get her college education and to be very empathetic with clients who came to her in the same way: pregnant and unmarried. She had a very good percentage of placements for her clients’ babies, meaning that a higher than average number of her pregnant clients placed their babies for adoption, too.

After many years in the social work arena, she began to receive visits from women whom she had assisted in the placement for adoption of their babies. Likewise, many babies she had placed began to seek her out as a link to their mothers. As this trend continued, she became curious herself about the child she had given up so long ago, and she began to make inquiries about her own case.

After writing to the hospital in which she had given birth, she one day received a strange reply. The letter stated that the files she had requested would be released to her after the hospital received back from her, signed and notarized, the attached statement. The statement they wished her to sign was a promise that the institution would not be held liable for any information she learned from their files. It appeared to be legal “tap dancing” to protect the hospital from frivolous suits, and she willingly signed it.

Several weeks later, she received her file--all 223 pages of it! “My goodness,” she thought, “I was only there a few days! What’s all this!” As she began to read, she began to remember for the first time, some of the events of that time...

She had been 17. Her mom and dad had been disappointed that she’d become pregnant, but they would have allowed her to stay at home with them if her boyfriend hadn’t been so violently opposed to the continuation of the pregnancy. When he beat her up for the second time, they sent her out of state to a friend of the family, where she stayed until several weeks after the birth.

It was here that she’d met the social worker who had helped her find her life’s career. The social worker took her to medical appointments and made all the arrangements for her hospital stay. When she was admitted to the hospital in labor, it was the social worker who stayed by her side until the anesthesiologist came to “put he out” for the delivery. When she awoke, the social worker was in the room with her and had all the papers ready for her signature. She was informed that the baby was a girl and termination of rights must be signed immediately because the baby had some health problems that needed to be taken care of and the state would pay for them if the mother had terminated her rights--otherwise, the mother, herself, would be saddled with possibly thousands of dollars of medical procedures.

The social worker then arranged for the young woman to be transferred to a whole different wing of the hospital so that she wouldn’t need to be around the other new mothers and their babies. She was advised that she should not visit the nursery at all, as it would not be in her best interests.

After reading the hospital files, she began to realize exactly WHOSE best interests might have been served by her avoidance of the nursery! She had, indeed, delivered a baby girl. And a baby boy. And another baby girl. She’d had triplets! No one ever told her about that little fact. The release she had signed terminated her rights to “an infant” born on the given date. They would have been able to use that same form for each child because the original was kept by the agency and the courts accepted photocopies of it.

After many years of search, the social worker/birth mother found that the first born girl had, indeed, been placed for adoption through the agency. Her son and other daughter were never found. Coincidentally, the doctor’s wife gave birth to a boy and the delivery room nurse gave birth to a girl on the same day.

HINT: Although this story is fiction, elements of it resemble actual scams used for years by hospital personnel to steal newborns from single and disadvantaged mothers. This was especially true in cases of multiple births. If you believe that you were scammed out of a baby or babies through deceit by hospital personnel and want help exploring the possibility, contact: Jo Anne Swanson.

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