ADOPTION. ATTORNEY AND teacher wife desperately seek to adopt infant. Please help us, All expenses paid, Call . . .

PREGNANT? NEED HELP? Please let us adopt your baby! We are a happily married, financially secure couple. Call Pattie/Ken collect . . . Expenses paid.

ADOPTION: A BABY is our dream. Successful married couple will give your baby love, security and the best of everything. Expenses paid. Lynn & Martin . . .

WANTED: BABY . . . We want to adopt your normal white infant, newborn to 4 years old . . . My wife will stay home to be a full-time mom . . . Help us to become a family . . . Please . . . Desperate . . . Please . . .

The want ads come as a surprise to the uninitiated, tucked amid notices of auditions and lost kittens in the classified sections of the nation’s newspapers. You will find them in the Elgin Courier, the Reader, Oak Park’s Wednesday Journal, and the Southtown Economist. They’re in the small-town newspapers of Wisconsin and Iowa and Kentucky–all good places to find the coveted normal white infant–and in bigger papers in the nation’s heartland. On a typical Sunday, the Kansas City Star carries nearly six inches of we-want-your-baby ads, almost all of them with east- and west-coast area codes. For some would-be parents, they represent a last-ditch attempt. But for a growing number, they’re the first resort. The adoption game has changed. Supply and demand is replacing the old agency system.

Who are traditional adoption agencies really serving, after all? Adoptive parents, birth parents, children? Or are they more concerned with their own agendas, like bestowing children on Christian families? More and more childless couples have concluded that they’re better off doing it themselves.

People wishing to adopt have, at least officially, a variety of options. They can go through a county agency. They can go through a private not-for-profit agency, such as Catholic Charities. They can adopt privately, without agency involvement, using a facilitator–a lawyer or adoption counselor–or not, as they prefer. If they want an open adoption, where they and the birth mother meet and perhaps keep in touch after the birth, they must adopt privately. More and more birth mothers are opting for open adoption.

Anyone seeking to adopt a normal white infant through an agency should be prepared to wait. No agency representatives to whom I spoke would give a beginning-to-end figure, but other sources indicate that 18 months to three years is not unusual.

Private adoption is perfectly legal. Baby selling is not. It’s legal for adoptive parents to pay the birth mother’s and child’s medical expenses and the legal expenses involved in adoption. It’s not legal to pay for anything else.

Attorney Lawrence Raphael, who specializes in private adoptions, is one of those who have changed adoption facilitation. His staff places many of those now-ubiquitous ads; his appear in over 50 papers. “Quite frankly,” he says, “I probably do more private adoptions than anybody else in northern Illinois,” about 43 completed adoptions in 1988.

“There’s quite a supply-and-demand situation for Caucasian babies, he observes, “and although the number of illegitimate births is quite high, there are alternatives [to placing children for adoption]–abortion, mothers keeping their babies.” Most of his clients adopt white children; he also handles a fair number of Hispanics. “I would do black adoptions, but unfortunately there are not enough black adoptive parents or whites to adopt them.”

Raphael says he does a lot of counseling of birth mothers, making sure they’re really serious–that they will actually put the child up for adoption and stick by their decision. In Illinois, children may not be placed until 72 hours after birth, and adoptions do not become final for six months after placement. Raphael says he differs from the agencies because he screens the birth mothers and eliminates those who have AIDS or who abuse drugs or alcohol. “As far as I’m concerned, medical [screening] is as important as consent. I’ve had some real wild natural mothers call–they all had substance [abuse] problems.”

He credits a client, Vivian Soballe, with the idea of advertising for babies, something she came up with almost seven years ago. “We were pioneers,” she says.

Like many people who want to adopt, Soballe had been through the medical mill. “I’d tried to get pregnant, and it didn’t work. I had gone to a gynecologist because I had pain; I had an ultrasound, and that turned up endometriosis. They took out one-half of an ovary, scraped me out, and sent me to a fertility specialist. I had drugs; I had surgeries;, I had everything.” In April 1982, Soballe had her eighth and last surgery. In vitro fertilization, she says, was illegal in Illinois, which left adoption as the only alternative. “I always knew I would have a family–and I didn’t particularly care where the babies came from.”

Adoption through agencies didn’t work out. “They looked at me under such a microscope,” she says. “They made me feel guilty for not being able to conceive, and that made me angry. And I’m Jewish and my husband’s Catholic–and that’s a real no-no in adoption agencies’ eyes.”

After starting private-adoption proceedings, Soballe struck pay dirt when a doctor called about a 13-year-old girl who was about to have a baby; their son Christian was born in December 1982. “Everyone told us, ‘You’re lucky–most people wait years!’ When we were starting thinking of number two, they all said, ‘You were lucky the first time–don’t count on it.'”

But Soballe and her husband wanted a big family. “I read the classifieds–so I thought, why not put in that we’re looking for a baby? The Tribune didn’t allow it–they thought I was nuts. Larry Raphael also thought I was crazy, but I convinced him it was worth trying. ‘Make sure it’s legal,’ he said, so I called the attorney general of Illinois and they said fine.” Soballe placed an ad in the Cicero-Berwyn Life newspapers; she got her daughter Samantha soon after, two years to the day after the birth of her son. Her ad also changed the face of Illinois adoptions. Soballe says, “Larry Raphael’s adoption career took off–from my one ad, he placed six or seven babies.”

When she started looking for number three, Soballe branched out: she rented an ad bench at the corner of Belmont and Austin. She didn’t get any responses, but the bench did make the front page of the Tribune. Soballe says her third and fourth children–both boys–are her last newborns, although she doesn’t rule out adopting an older child.

An energetic woman who’s seldom around to answer the telephone in person, Soballe got involved in helping other couples “go after the brass ring of starting a family” via private adoption; and last year she became a consultant officially (no licensing is involved). Soballe’s a big fan of private adoption. “It’s cheaper than agencies,” she says–particularly private agencies that make a profit. “The average private adoption is $10,000 to $13,000–medical costs have skyrocketed–but the agencies are higher. Even Catholic Charities expects a donation.”

Catholic Charities expects a minimum “donation” of $5,000; with legal fees and other expenses, it comes to about the same cost as a private adoption. An adoption through Easter House, which is probably the most expensive private agency in the area, costs about $23,000; $2,000 of that is a non-refundable “initial service fee.” A letter over executive director Seymour Kurtz’s signature claims that in 1987, “those of our applicants who received our children waited for their baby the following time period from the effective date of their application: 34% within six months and 100% in an average of 8 months and 18 days.” But there are no guarantees that anyone putting up the initial $2,000 will be found suitable.

“People have to be what I call ‘adoption consumers,'” says Soballe. “Don’t go to places where you have to put up a large amount of money. This is a highly emotional issue, and some of these places are playing with people’s lives.”

When asked to describe what she does as a consultant, Soballe says, “I help couples–before, during, and after adoption. A lot of it’s a matter of networking–most people looking to adopt want to do it as quickly as possible.”

Most of the couples have experienced fertility problems. Most of them are not, as she puts it, “filthy rich. On the average, I see middle- to upper-middle-class people. I help them to see where they can save a penny.” She charges $75 for an application and an initial consultation, then $250 for all other consulting.

“I cannot work with some people. I can’t work with individuals who are expecting something from adoption and have unreal expectations. Those people are very few and far between, OK? I cannot feel comfortable with people who are prejudiced.

“I have a pretty good sense. I go to the home, I sit down and talk with them. I’m not going to judge people and play God. But I have to live with me, I have to say, ‘Where will this baby go?'”

Critics of private adoption point to horror stories like New York’s Steinberg case, where a child who was supposed to be privately adopted was kept illegally and beaten to death by the man she thought of as her father. Proponents reply that the system in Illinois is better: here, all prospective adoptive parents are screened–financially, medically, and for character–by a county agency or by a private agency, and their homes must be licensed. (Private agencies are licensed to screen and license adoptive parents, as well as to perform other functions–to do paperwork, provide birth mothers with housing, and so on.) A caseworker checks out the home environment; after the baby has been placed for six months, there’s a final hearing. Other states require a longer wait before the adoption is final; most require some kind of screening. Of course there is no real way to protect against cases like the Steinberg tragedy, in which no legal niceties were observed.

“Dear Birthmother,

“The love you have for your child makes your search for a special couple to raise your child that much more complex. We both have the utmost respect and compassion for you during this difficult time . . .

“We are products of a strong Catholic upbringing, and our faith has helped us many times throughout our lives. We have always believed there is a baby waiting for us somewhere, and that this and our lives are in God’s hands . . .

“Family is very special to us . . . Our entire family anxiously awaits the day we can call to say we’ve found our baby . . .

“We live in a cottage-like home, by the lake, in the Northern suburbs . . . [It’s] on a quiet street, and has a lovely yard graced with several tall trees. In the spring, the house is surrounded by Tulips, Daffodils, and other flowers . . . The inside of our house is warm and inviting, a mixture of old and new . . .

“Please be assured that we fully understand the great responsibility we face as adoptive parents . . . We can promise you that your child will know the great love you have for it and the unselfish sacrifice you made to make a childless couple’s dream come true.”

The Adoption Connection lies somewhere between purely private adoption and going through an agency. Located in Highland Park, it ranges far abroad for birth mothers. A good number of baby want ads are placed by the clients of codirectors Deane Borgeson and Enid Callen. Everyone in the relatively small world of private adoption seems to know them; no one has a negative word to say of them. Open officially since June 1988, they offer their services to adoptive parents, but birth mothers are their focus. They tell these women about their options–whether to use an agency or private placement–and resources, such as attorneys. “We started doing it because no one else was,” says Borgeson, herself adopted and the mother of two adopted children. “Nobody provided services if [mothers] didn’t go to an agency. We do it because we have a real belief in what we’re doing. We feel that the birth mothers should be able to get through this, and be able to look back at this period in their lives.

“We offer supportive services at whatever level the birth mother wants: hooking her up with a doctor, transporting her to the doctor, providing maternity clothing, providing housing–I’ve personally housed six–being there in labor and delivery if they need us. It’s basically being a friend.”

Borgeson, formerly the supervisor of a family-planning clinic for adolescents, has been doing this unofficially for six years, working with 40 young women in that time. Callen got involved as a volunteer worker two years ago. Until recently they did not draw salaries for what they do; they now give themselves small paychecks. (A completed adoption through them is $2,000, in addition to the medical and legal costs.) They are now applying for licensing as an agency so that they can do more financially for the birth mothers. Soballe has worked for them as a consultant.

Borgeson says they’re “inundated with couples” seeking to adopt. “We’re telling them they need to be flexible, especially about the type of child. We’ve had a lot of response from [birth mothers in] the Hispanic community, but many couples are not interested in a Hispanic baby. They have to be flexible in terms of communicating with the birth mother–agreeing to send pictures or to have a face-to-face meeting.

“A lot of our couples have spent three to five years going through agencies. Many of them are in their late 30s or early 40s; a lot of them are Jewish–that means they’re restricted from just about every agency. Some of them ask for Jewish babies, but there just aren’t any; if they’re that particular, they’re probably not far enough along in the process.

“When couples come to us, they’re so discouraged. To be able to tell them they can reasonably expect to adopt within a year is terrific.”

Callen and Borgeson advise their adoption clients to get a separate unlisted telephone number for their ads so that they can screen calls and retain some privacy. “It’s bizarre to me that anybody would even look in the classifieds, but it works,” says Borgeson, who adopted her younger child that way. “I’m not sure what makes these girls [birth mothers] look in the paper, but they do. Some girls just go right down the list [of ads] and talk to the couples. It’s much healthier for them to have a voice in it.

“Some couples are not comfortable with the idea of advertising–they don’t know what to say, they feel very threatened. But the girls are just as, frightened, and it’s usually easier [for everyone] after the first .

“Some people see this as a kind of sleazy black-market thing, but it’s not. In order to be successful, couples have to market themselves. We had one attorney couple whose friends said it was ‘degrading.’ They asked them, ‘Do you have a better suggestion?'”

At the Adoption Connection one of the primary tools for placement is the couple biography (the quote at the beginning of this section is an excerpt from one). A birth mother who has contacted the agency will be given several to read; those are selected for her on the basis of what she’s already said she wants in her child’s adoptive parents. The biographies may talk about pets (“one birth mother placed her child with a couple because they had dogs, and she liked that”), the couple’s relationship, religion, other children in the family, relatives, the kind of house the couple lives in, hobbies–and their yearning for a child. “Usually, something in the biography will strike the birth mother.” Since June, the Connection has distributed biographies for 35 couples and placed four babies (four other couples received babies through other private-adoption means); five more babies were due before the end of April. Only one mother backed out after giving birth. “One out of 40–that’s not bad,” says Borgeson.

Borgeson admits that placement can be tough on adoptive parents. “Unfortunately adoption is pretty competitive. The bottom line is, everyone’s fighting for the same birth mothers.”

Have things changed in the adoption business? Not very much if you go through an agency, apparently. Mary Jane and Don Krueger (not their real names) went through a county agency for their two children three decades ago, when surgery failed to correct an infertility problem. “Mary Jane felt very strongly about having children, and back in those days you had children or you didn’t count,” says Don, a college professor. “It was a long, laborious process,” adds Mary Jane. “They end up knowing more about you than you know about yourself.”

Adoptive parents had to undergo joint and separate interviews, provide three character references, and present letters of recommendation and complete financial records. Several home visits were also required. “I even made him scrub the basement,” recalls Mary Jane. “We were on trial,” says Don. “All our friends were having children because they were biologically able; we had to prove we were acceptable. There was a lot of emotional stress, a fear of not being found suitable, of having to prove ourselves where none of our friends did.

“All the time you were acutely aware that the social worker had tremendous power over you–that the questions were not just for the record. Rumor had it that you had to fit the supervisor’s attitudes. We heard horror stories–there was one social worker who just didn’t like PhDs. You had to fit their molds–you would do or say whatever you thought you had to do to get a baby. It was a time of tremendous emotional stress because of that power. Today it translates into money.”

The Kruegers were fortunate: a friend’s mother worked in the agency, and they were young enough, married long enough, financially able enough, and religious enough to get first a boy, then a girl, whose backgrounds closely resembled their own. The babies were kept in a hospital for a month or more after birth before being released; the Kruegers were notified at the end of that month that they had a child.

Their son resembled Don so closely that “it was almost embarrassing,” he says. “He looked so much like me as a baby that some people thought he really was [mine], that someone was trying to pull a fast one.” In the nine months after they got the baby, before the adoption was legally final, one of Mary Jane’s duties was to write letters to the family-court judge telling him how much weight the baby had gained and what progress the baby had made.

The Kruegers never considered private adoption. “We didn’t have the money for private adoption,” says Don, “and we had a fear of it–that there would be legal problems, of the fact that it was easier for the birth mother to come back and claim the baby. And it was thought of as almost a black-market operation.”

Then, as now, most agencies wanted adoptive parents to be under a certain age (often 38 officially, but usually the “desirable” age is much lower), to go through extensive screening, and to have completed infertility testing. Most not-for-profit agencies are church-affiliated, which can add hurdles to adoption for Jews, atheists, and people who are just not religious. At Bethany Christian Services, secretary Annette Boersma says, “We’re open mainly to couples from evangelical churches. They have to be born-again Christians.” After a couple gains approval, says Boersma, the usual waiting period for a white infant is 12 to 18 months. Those willing to take a nonwhite infant, she says, are not held to the same strict requirements.

At the not-for-profit Cradle Society of Evanston there is no specific fee schedule, but a donation to the society is expected. A caseworker waffles when asked about the average wait for a normal white baby. “There are only three races,” she says, “black, Oriental, and Caucasian.” Caucasian for this agency includes a wide variety of ethnic backgrounds, including several from South America. When asked specifically about the wait for a child of European descent, the waffling gets worse.

At Catholic Charities, prospective parents must be under 38 and have completed their infertility testing, and at least one must be a practicing Roman Catholic. They must plan to raise the child as a Roman Catholic. (Once again, however, those willing to take a black or mixed-race infant will often find rules waived.) After several months of counseling and after passing the usual screening, an accepted couple is placed on a waiting list and may get a child in one to two years.

“We try not to have a long waiting list,” says adoption-program director Mary Lou O’Brien. “We’re continually looking at the numbers and types of children in need of adoption, and the type of child the family is requiring. If it looks like we won’t have that type in one year, we encourage them to look at other options. We urge them to be flexible. If they come in saying, ‘We want a blue-eyed blond German with a mother who’s had nine months of natal care,’ we explain that may not be the case.”

Catholic Charities has responded to market pressures by becoming more responsive, particularly to birth mothers. Birth mothers can’t choose their adoptive family but can give the agency their preferences. “We work a lot with birth parents in terms of the kind of family they want for their child–a lot of times, adolescents don’t want families in their late 30s,” says O’Brien.

O’Brien is understandably somewhat leery of private adoptions. “I would suggest that couples explore agencies first–we have more service, we’re ongoing. Both birth and adoptive parents can update their files and have a mechanism where they can be in touch through the agency. We have seminars for families with preschoolers who’re beginning to ask their parents ‘Where did I come from?’ and workshops for older children.”

When asked about want-ad adoptions, she says, “There are many dangers in that: is the birth parent really getting what she thinks she’s getting? And lawyers who specialize in this have to be careful that they’re not turning into agencies.”

In private adoptions, O’Brien says, there’s a lot of pressure on the birth mother. “The baby’s born, the next day a dozen red roses arrive [from the adoptive parents], and 72 hours later they’re in there getting the release signed. But after the baby is born, a lot of birth mothers have to go through that whole decision-making process again. Agencies ask, ‘Are you sure this is what you want to be doing?’ With private adoption the birth mother knows there’s a family in mind–she has that pressure. Agencies don’t tell parents a child is available until after it’s born.”

Karen Kuenn, who adopted her two children through Catholic Charities, is now coordinator of Catholic Charities’ adoption clubs, which offer couples the opportunity to meet and talk about their experiences. “We have children’s conferences in the summer–a very valuable experience. Private adoption could not provide this sort of service for children.”

The youngest children in the conferences are six years old. Last year, almost 30 youngsters took part, broken into three age groups up to 13. “In high school, they look for personal, individual counseling,” says Kuenn. Of the conferences she says: “You can let them read [about adoption], you can read to them, you can give them information–but they’re the ones who are adopted and have to cope with it. It’s a support group.

“You can’t say, ‘OK, my child is adopted, but now I’m going to close the book on that and get on with my life.’ It’s going to be a part of your life. We want it to be a positive experience for children.”

Private adoption wasn’t the first choice for Joan and Chuck (not their real names), Catholic Charities was. Educated, middle-class, well under the magic age, and both Roman Catholic, they’d been married for more than a decade, hadn’t been using contraceptives for most of that time, and hadn’t had a child. “We began to pursue adoption at the same time we were working on the fertility problem, before we’d completely exhausted it–and that was a big mistake,” says Joan.

“We went to Catholic Charities, where they have big meetings periodically involving couples who want to adopt–maybe 20 at a time, with group discussions and smaller groups. We talked about our reasons for wanting to pursue adoption and our requirements–if we’d be willing to take a handicapped child, the child of a druggie, a child from a family without a strong medical history, the age we wanted, and so forth. We were told that if we made the first cut, we’d be contacted within three months, and if not, we’d never hear from them again.

“We never heard from them again.

“We were disqualified by things you wouldn’t even think about. They’re in the position of having to make judgments based on something–so they go for the most ‘normal,’ even though that doesn’t always have any bearing on how you’d be as a parent.” Joan is several years older than Chuck and suspects that was a factor in their rejection, but they’ll never know for certain. She calls it “a very crushing experience–most people who are really interested in adoption are convinced that they will be good parents, are excited about the experience and being a family. It’s so crushing when you’re rejected in an area where you are feeling particularly suited. And when you don’t even get a letter saying ‘Sorry’–nothing, not even a form letter–it’s really awful.”

Still, “adoption was an option that appealed to us,” she says. “it may sound sort of, oh, egotistical, but we had the idea, the feeling that we could really offer something to a child.” After looking into the possibility of adopting a handicapped child through another agency, they began actively pursuing an international adoption, specifically a Latin American child.

“One night the phone rang. We had, of course, talked to our families and friends, and our acquaintances all knew we wanted a family. This was a friend of a friend, you could say, who wanted to know if we would be interested in adopting a baby, due shortly. The baby’s mother had spent her entire pregnancy trying to decide whether to keep it or put it up for adoption, with support from her family and counseling; she decided a private adoption would be better–she wasn’t comfortable with the idea of simply turning her baby over to an agency. She said she felt better knowing the situation she’d be placing the child in.”

Chuck and Joan talked to the mother of the teenage birth mother, but not to the young woman herself; the birth mother decided she liked the sound of them. Three weeks later Chuck and Joan had a son. Although of different nationality, he looks amazingly like them.

It’s been four years since the adoption of their son, and Joan sees “a dramatic change in attitude” toward private adoption in those years. “We were out buying baby furniture and it somehow came out that we were adopting privately, and the salesman asked us, ‘Is that legal?’ We got a feeling from a number of people that they thought that somehow it wasn’t on the up-and-up. I think that’s definitely changing.”

What do private adopters want? “We want a healthy white infant–the same thing as everyone else,” says Pattie S. She and her husband, Ken, are advertising for a second baby in the want ads; they have an unpublished telephone number dedicated to the search. “The rules of adoption are changing. With the agencies, there’s anonymity [you don’t get to meet the birth mother]. Ads are much better because there’s personal contact. I enjoy talking to people.”

Pattie and Ken, married since 1978, “went through the whole infertility thing, and it didn’t work.” They adopted their son through a doctor. “Conventional routes take so long. Getting a second child [through an agency] is really difficult: ‘Oh, you already have one, and there are all these people on the waiting list.'”

Pattie, a drug counselor, is clearly a woman who knows her own mind and who wants to protect her own privacy. “Our big thing,” she says, “is drugs–there are a lot of people out there using drugs. This way, we get to screen people personally and get a feel for the person.”

You can end up spending a considerable amount on classified ads, Pattie observes. She advertises in the Reader and in two out-of-state papers; it’s her theory that there are fewer drugs in rural areas. They haven’t had any luck so far. They did reach two birth mothers who seemed good prospects, but after a few months each claimed to have miscarried; Pattie suspects they had abortions. “It’s kind of emotionally draining. We let it go over the holidays–the holidays are a bad time–and we’re just trying to pick it up again now [in late January].”

Pattie says they’ve had several calls from women who essentially wanted to sell their babies. “One wanted an escrow account [for herself]; one was upfront–she just wanted to sell it. She wouldn’t put a price on it; instead it was, ‘Will you pay for my apartment? Will you pay my utilities?’ Like an open-ended check. I called her back some months later and asked her if she’d found someone willing to do what she wanted to do. She said yes, she had. And she said her sister had done it the same way.”

Tara and her husband, Terry, found their baby through the want ads, with the help of the Adoption Connection, even though at one time they had strong reservations about advertising for a baby. They had considered an agency adoption, looking into a number of them, and would have been considered good candidates. Tara had to have a hysterectomy two years ago, obviating the question of fertility (“the agencies can be cold in dealing with that,” says Tara), but there was a possibility that they would be transferred out of the area. Agencies don’t like the idea of prospective parents moving, especially during the initial six months after adoption.

Beginning last August, they advertised for about six weeks. “We had several responses,” says Tara. “We decided not to work with two birth mothers; the Adoption Connection found others who did. Those were both Hispanic-Caucasian mixes, and we wanted to at least try for a Caucasian child. Overall, the procedure worked very well for us. We were very comfortable with the Adoption Connection–we thought that it was really important that the birth mother got as much support and care as possible, just given the stress she was under.” Their daughter was born in September.

“Adoption was a real special experience for us,” says Tara. “I try to talk to as many other couples as I can. It’s a little bit of paying back our good fortune.

“I would definitely do it again–we probably will do it again. It’s fulfilled our dream, and we’d love to have another child. We’ll probably do it the same way–we’d be forced to do it the same way. A lot of agencies won’t even talk to you once you have one child.”

Patricia is 24 years old, single, and has two children already, one four and the other 17 months. Her third child was due in March of this year, but she wasn’t planning to bring it home with her. She found the Adoption Connection while reading through the want ads.

She’s on public aid ($342 a month) and living in what she calls “a stressful situation” with her mother and two nephews in Albany Park. “I had planned to get a job, get my own place,” she says. “and then I found out I was pregnant. I decided this is not a very good atmosphere to bring any more children into.” She did not consider abortion an option.

Patricia read through “eight or nine biographies” provided by the Adoption Connection. “I wanted them to own their own home because when I was a child we moved every two years, and that’s not very good for a kid.

“Some of these people are just flaunting their money: ‘We have a big house and we’re adding on to it.’ I was more interested in their relationship. Some of them write, ‘Oh, we’ve traveled here and here and here.’ I don’t think they realize how much a child changes your life. I was afraid they’d miss their old life too much.” She also wanted a couple with no children. She settled on a North Shore couple, Larry and Kathy.

“Kathy seemed so much like me–we have the same hobbies, the knitting, the crocheting, the needlework. I like music, and she has a music degree. I have an Irish background, and so does Kathy. They have a dog and a bird, and I love animals, especially dogs.” Patricia, Kathy, and Larry met and talked, and Patricia made up her mind. “I looked in their eyes and saw what they were like.”

Kathy and Larry are active in a nondenominational church; Patricia is a nonpracticing Roman Catholic but says, “I believe in God, I believe going to church is important for children.” Kathy has been working three days a week but planned to quit her job when the baby was born. And Patricia says, “I’m an old-fashioned kind of person. It sounds like the way I’d want my child to be raised. My children, the fathers don’t come around that often. I felt good about it having a father and a mother.”

Patricia is pleased with the treatment she’s had from the Adoption Connection. “Like, lawyers are so cold–it’s all business. Enid and Deane understand–they have children. Most people today are all money, money, money.” She had thought about going through an agency but wanted an open adoption. Kathy and Larry have agreed to make Patricia a first-year baby book and to send her an annual Christmas photo. Patricia will make them a family tree of her side of the family, and what she knows of the father’s. “With agencies it’s: ‘You don’t get to see the child and that’s that.’ But you want to see what the child looks like, at least. It’s like having a pen pal–you want to know what they look like.”

“I had always thought, all my life, that if I ever got pregnant I would have an abortion. Then when it happened, I put off having an abortion for a long time. I went to a clinic for a pregnancy test when I was three-and-a-half or four months pregnant. I walked in and told them I wanted to have an abortion; I wanted a referral. Well, they were pro-life, a pro-life clinic, I guess, and they showed me a video on abortion. After I saw that, there was no question. I decided to have my baby and keep her–there’s lots of help out there. But I really loved my baby more than anything else in the world, and I didn’t want to raise her in my crummy little studio apartment, taking her to day-care every day. I wanted her to have a father.”

Amy is 20 and unmarried. Her baby was born in December and given up then; at that time she had not seen the father of her child for some months. Her voice trembles as she talks about her baby. “It was very difficult for my family, especially for my mother. The hard part for her was having to tell me that this was my decision. My family could have supported us. My family is not poor; they live on the North Shore, and they could have taken care of us. But I didn’t want that.”

Amy rejected the idea of an agency adoption. “The birth mothers seem to just get left out. Some girls don’t want to decide who will get their baby; they don’t want to have anything to do with their baby. But I know girls who have gone to agencies, and they are treated like they’re just not important. I wanted an open adoption. I wanted it on my terms.”

She found the Adoption Connection when she was referred to them by the paralegal of a lawyer who didn’t do open adoptions. “As soon as I met Deane and Enid they seemed so nice,” she says. “They really seemed to care about me. They gave me biographies to look at and choose from. The couple I chose–I love them very much. They’re real special. As soon as I saw their biography, I just had a gut reaction–I knew they were the ones.

“If I couldn’t have known where she was going, I couldn’t have given her up. I know where she is. I’m sad about her a lot–but I know where she is, I know she’s happy, I know she’s content, and that makes it easier.” Amy has entered her name into an adoption network so that her daughter can contact her, if she chooses, when she turns 18. She’s also written her daughter a letter. Her adoptive parents have promised to send pictures.

“I never planned on seeing her–I thought [not seeing her] would make it easier. It was real hard–I just kept telling myself, ‘I’m doing the right thing, I’m doing the right thing.’ But as soon as I gave birth, I knew I had to see her. While we were in the hospital, I spent as much time as I could with her. It’s the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do–I almost didn’t sign the papers. But you want that baby to have everything. A lot of me has changed since I had her. I’ve never known the kind of love I had for that baby. “Two months later, it’s still real difficult–when I see a couple with a little baby, it’s real difficult. But in the grocery store the other day I saw an 18-year-old with a newborn, and she was just screaming at that baby. And I thought, that would be me. I’m just not financially ready, I’m not emotionally ready. Now that I’ve had her, I want to have tons of kids–but I want to be really ready.”

Don Krueger, who adopted a generation ago: “As far as having adopted or biological children goes, once they’re in hand, I don’t think it makes a cotton-pickin’ bit of difference–your children are your children.”

Joan, who was given up on by Catholic Charities: “It’s my conviction that adoption is a unique experience, and there is a very real way that this child is shared–the responsibility for his existence is a kind of shared endeavor.”

Patricia, who chose a couple with no children as the adoptive parents for her child: “I believe that if someone really wants a child, they should have one.”

Amy: “You really want that baby to have everything. You want her to have the best start and the best life she can. And I needed to make sure of it. I needed to know where she was.”

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): illustration/John Figler.