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#flipthescript 4: Someone Profited From My Adoption But It Wasn’t Me

adoptees flipthescript

As we close out November — National Adoption Awareness Month — I’ve turned this space over to adoptees, sharing a small portion of the highly successful #flipthescript movement. I  can see that many, MANY of you are reading. But few of you are commenting, so I can’t quite tell how these posts are being received. I hope it’s with the spirit intended — to be helpful to all involved in adoption by adding in the less-often heard voice of the adopted person.

Some believe information is power and some believe ignorance is bliss. I suppose if you fall in the camp of the former, you’ve taken these last few #flipthescript posts  for what they are — cautionary tales of how adoptions can feel to the adopted person (the guest posters have not generalized their experiences to all adopted people). And if you fall into the camp of the latter, you may feel provoked by these posts, worried that you’re participating in a social institution that’s not as glowy as you’d previously thought.

I think  it’s healthy  to periodically examine what we “know” to be true. To paraphrase Maya Angelou, when we know better we do better. A good reason to be open to alternative or uncomfortable points of view.

As you’ll see from today’s guest poster, it’s important for adoptees who have felt silenced for decades to raise their voices and be heard, if only to take back their one story.

adoptees flipthescriptImage: Tracy Hammond

Today’s #flipthescripter is JoAnne Bennett. JoAnne has spent the last 21 years trying to piece together an adoption journey that has too many twists and turns to count. Her blessings, on the other hand, include having raised three wonderful now-adult daughters alongside her supportive husband of almost 40 years. You can find her at her blog, Stories By JoAnne Bennett.


adoptee joanne bennett during national adoption awarness monthI struggle to give myself permission to say out loud that I am angry. It’s not because I am supposed to be nice, or that I always try to find the good in everything. The truth is that this painful story is about my beginnings, and it’s messed up and wrong. Until now, all that once-little-girl in me could do was cry. Over the years, though, mad has replaced sad, and I no longer want to feel invisible and insignificant as an adoptee. I’m flipping the script.

Now that all the players in my under-the-table adoption placement are dead, I feel safe to say without fear of some kind of backlash, I’ve had to pay dearly for the losses; the roles each of you played underhandedly in my bogus adoption for whatever inexplicable reason that is still murky but was obviously criminal.

Whenever I share with others my disturbing story about my not-so-above-board adoption involving a dishonest judge and a conniving delivery doctor (and most likely other players as well) often I hear the words, “Someone profited from your adoption.”

Defensively, I say, “Well, it certainly was not me!” My adopting parents were in the process of adopting another newborn only two months older than me. His adoption appears not quite as sketchy as mine, but both of us had waivers typed slightly different and signed by the judge after-the-fact (fishy), curiously stating that it was not necessary to check the adoptive home we were being placed in.

The reason given for this legal short cut? Both my non-biological brother and I were supposed to be separately related by blood to someone in our adoptive family.

That is far from the truth.

People I’ve spoken with in the courts of this jurisdiction later said they have never seen anything like these two waivers, filed in the 1950s. My file is empty except for this mysterious waiver, according to the State of Nevada.

Many who hear my story think, Oh, my, this must have been a desperate young couple, not able to conceive a baby, for professionals to put their careers on the line to get them a baby at any cost.

Again, that was far from the truth. My adoptive parents already had a biological son and, in fact, were not emotionally fit to raise any children. I’ve always wondered, Did the judge and delivery doctor know what was the deep dark secret that would have prevented these adopters from parenting me had they obeyed the law?

Disappointingly, another professional did know that secret.

Years ago, I spoke with my childhood pediatrician and he said, almost proudly “I knew your adoptive father was an alcoholic. I had absolutely nothing to do with your adoption!”

But he didn’t stop it, even knowing the truth, that my adoptive father had a serious drinking problem and rage issues. The last time I saw my adoptive father was when I was 6. The police were taking him away on one dark, scary night for domestic violence fueled by his alcoholism. It was a terrifying night for a little girl who already felt sad and confused by the constant turmoil in our family. My verbally and emotionally abusive adoptive mother suffered from serious mental health issues, too.

In recent years, when I was searching for my birth father, I sent letters to many of the old-timers who still lived in the small mining town where I was conceived. I enclosed my phone number saying it was okay to call collect if they might have some information about his identity. I heard back from some of the kindest individuals; only one bitter woman called me collect.

She started our phone conversation by saying, “Now I know what that money your mother borrowed was for and she never repaid me!” Her insinuation was that she’d been the one who paid the hospital bills from my birth, which was downright insulting but probably not far from the truth. My birth mother was married to a man other than my birth father and already had three older children. She was in a bind in more ways than one.

When I hear sirens even today, sometimes for a quick second it triggers that dark, scary night when I was 6 and my abusive alcoholic adoptive father was taken away forever.

I am not about a pity-party for myself, but rather I want to be a voice for changing mind-sets. I believe there are many people still wearing blinders, much like my childhood pediatrician. As a society, who are we trying to fool, and why won’t we look behind the veils of secrecy? With adoption being a lucrative multi-billion dollar business, I am sure it wouldn’t be far from the truth to suggest there are many individuals and agencies still profiting off adoption.

The doctor who delivered me decided after he retired he would talk with me on the phone. Of course, he was evasive in answering any of my questions, no matter how non-threateningly I tried to present them. It’s what he said at the end of our brief conversation that left me speechless with anger. This man, who had played a major role in putting me in harm’s way as a newborn for his own personal gain, had the gall to ask me, “Have you had a good life?”

I can’t tell you how many times we adoptees have heard that being adopted is supposed to be a magic cure for being conceived in less-than-perfect circumstances. My hope is that even those who have no connection to adoption will start thinking about the consequences of people in power making decisions for the defenseless. Please understand that what happened to me still can and does happen now.

Flip the script and listen to us adoptees – the ones whose voices have been silenced by the powerful for decades. It’s time we are heard.


JoAnne’s passions are writing and making a difference in young people’s lives.  She contributed a chapter to the new book Dear Wonderful You, written by adult adoptees for adopted and fostered youth,  and she’s proud  to have an essay in an upcoming anthology, The Adoptee Survival Guide.  Painfully transparent through her words, as an author her heartfelt desire is to reach others whose voices have been silenced by abuse and adoption issues.


Thank you, dear readers, for opening yourself to these stories, for completing the #flipthescript circuit simply by listening.


Other Posts in the #flipthescript Series:



21 Responses

  1. Every time I think I’ve heard it all, well, I read something like this. I had no idea stuff like this went on, inexplicable stuff, and that so many were complicit. Well, I did know but thought it was rare.I am so sorry for this. I will never understand the motivations for the behavior, the silence, the conspiracy. Blessings to you.

    1. Yes, Carol, it came as a shock to me as well to learn that a group of individuals motivations could have nothing to do with the innocent child, until it involved my beginnings and life story. Thank you for your kind comment.

  2. JoAnne’s story has left me both angry and speechless. This is such a case story where the most important party who had ZERO choice about the matter got used and abused. JoAnne, I am so sorry. This never should have happened and it is important to make sure that stories like your’s become nonexistent.

    In light of all that has happened recently in our world, one of the big messages is how important it is to listen. Everyone has an opinion, but too often we tune people out when we hear something we don’t agree with. Lori is right about it being important to listen, even if the story is hard or the opposite of what we’d like to believe. Hence I’m thankful for these posts. I’m learning a lot with each of them, which is helping me better understand how to support my family, my students and how to be a better citizen in this world.

    1. Cristy, “It’s important to listen, even if the story is hard or the opposite of what we’d like to believe.” Yes, Lori is right, can you imagine how a child’s beginnings could be more positive if just one adult would not turn a blind-eye when they know something is not right. Thank you for taking the time to leave such a compassionate comment!

  3. Such a heart breaking story. I know things of this sort have happened in the past and still happen today. I’ve read the stories of babies from certain Central American countries being sold for adoption in America against the wishes of the birth mothers. It truly sickens me. And you are right, money (greed for money) is most often the driving force that keeps these criminals working. I like to think that this doesn’t happen so often in the USA with independent adoptions, but I know it does.

    As an adoptive mother, I feel some guilt for turning my head when I’ve heard of these cases. I’ve told myself that I just never felt strong enough, emotionally, to lend my voice to the cause of stopping these illegal
    practices. I think it may be time for me to research other ways to help.

    Thank you for writing this post. You are a courageous person and I wish you all the best.

    1. Suzanna,

      Thank you so much for your thoughtful response. I would love to hear your voices as adoptive parents in helping find ways to stop the profiting off adoption and the illegal practices. I know it would mean a lot to me personally that all children’s lives mattered as being important and special.

  4. Heartbreaking 🙁 By knowingly allowing your placement in an abusive home with an alcoholic a-parent, those in power contributed to the abuse against you. How people like your adopters (and mine) got away with it, I’ll never know, but keep speaking your truth. Bless you, my friend.

    1. My friend, Jodi, I really struggle to admit that I was knowingly placed in an abusive home as an adoptee. I have tried so hard to turn the focus to making a difference in children’s lives, as making a powerful statement that no one should feel small and insignificant as a human being.

  5. Your story is horrible and I am sorry this is what you have experienced. It’s unthinkable that people of power prey on the innocent and defenseless and emotions involved in adoption for profit. As a mother to two amazing children that I adopted, I hate to hear of experiences like this. There is so much wrong and btoken with the ado ption process of the past and the present day as well. Today, there are so many supposed safe guards in place to screen potential adoptive parents, to protect adopteea, etc. But in the end, private and agency adoption is the united states is still a huge profits game. Both of our adoption experiences cost thousands of dollars, with little of that money going where it should have, and much too much of it going to lawyers, social services, and adoption agencies, that are supposedan to be following a process to ensure a good, safe, and emotionally healthy adoption plan for all involved, but instead are raking in huge profits, and leaving birth patents, adoptive parents, extended families, and adoptees to navigate the complicated waters all on their own. It is so maddening and seems sometimes overwhelming impossible to change the climate of how things are done. I don’t mean to be all negative, in the end my husband and I are left with two amazing blessings. Children that we love and will cherish always, and that we intend to do everythin in our power to help them grow to be happy, healthy, emotionally fulfilled people!

    1. Nancee, I didn’t see your comment as being negative at all, but the rather the truth. I especially was moved by the part of your thoughts that said to the effect, “they have huge profits and leave birth patents, adoptive parents, extended families, and adoptees to navigate the complicated waters all on their own. It is so maddening and seems sometimes overwhelming impossible to change the climate of how things are done.” Can you imagine if all parts of the adoption triad were to get on the same page and know that when anyone is profiting off adoption, it can’t be possibly all good? Thank you for reading my post!

  6. Thank you, JoAnne, for telling your story. When we tell our story, it’s like we’re reclaiming our life anew. I know I started to heal as I got older and started writing it all out. Our stories are important, and we must keep writing them and sharing them.

  7. Thanks again for hosting these posts, Lori. JoAnne, I am so sorry that a system that is already so flawed was manipulated even more horribly in your situation. Thank you for sharing your story, and I’ve bookmarked the book you contributed to – glad to know such a resource exists!

  8. Joann, thank you for having the courage to speak up. Your voice helps to create awareness, outrage and hopefully action for change in adoption practices. Without such testimony, nothing will change. As an adoptive parent, it sickens me to hear of placement where the child’s interest were ignored actually, correct that, the child was endangered to fulfill an adopting couple’s desire for a child. This is human trafficking, an unspeakable evil and is the antithesis of the reason any adoption should occur.

    1. Thank you, Gayle for your kind words. I believe the hardest part of my journey was to find anybody to fix or take at least some accountability for all the wrongs. Many of the mindsets and attitudes in the courts were like so what if it was your messed-up beginnings/childhood and a group of influential people are still playing hardball with the truth after all these years, For the longest time, I felt like my voice didn’t matter because certainly nobody who could have helped me was truly listening or cared.

  9. This takes courage. Courage to face the ghosts who linger and courage to face the backlash that often comes with “speaking your truth”. I applaud you, Joanne, for continuing to speak out in the hopes that change will come to the profit driven adoption business, and I applaud you, Lori, for publishing (and re-publishing) Joanne’s story. Truth is the way.

    1. Thank you, Corie. I have really enjoyed being FB friends with you. Many of your posts are so enlightening. And we are going to meet sometime now that you live closer. I’ve been making great strides on facing my fears and not letting those “ghosts” linger and think they still have won somehow. I appreciate your encouragement.

      1. I cannot “know” your pain and suffering and I am truly sorry you suffered so. I do appreciate that you are standing up for the little ones who follow on the adoption time line so that they might be better served.

        1. Thank you so much Gayle for your understanding. My hope is that in some way, I have and will continue to make a difference in the lives of our future generation of adoptees, as well all young people to always remember their lives matter. It’s the part of my sometimes painful journey that makes any sense to me — to continue to find ways to make sure it doesn’t happen to any other innocent child.

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