' [Birth Mother] First Mother Forum: Former Bethany "recruiter" speaks up

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Former Bethany "recruiter" speaks up

First Mother Forum received this anonymous comment today, but it is too heart-breaking and revealing to leave to a comment that few will ever find. As I can hardly type for the time being* I thought I would post it because what this first mother writes about that occurred in the Eighties--when she relinquished--is still certainly happening today, as we have learned from following the Catelynn and Tyler story. So I am just posting this here today:
I relinquished through Bethany's "counselor" in the 80s. Just weeks later, I was recruited to speak on their behalf (on Q&A panels for potential adoptive couples).

They chose mothers who were only weeks to months post partum. The last time I spoke, I was the veteran at about two years into an open adoption that would later close. Though I spoke for them three times, never during these times did I know open adoption wasn't legally enforceable. They'd lead me to believe it was simply part of the adoption, with all the legalities as such. I didn't question it any more than I questioned the components of any legal process. (I also didn't know birth certificates were altered and sealed, another little omitted detail).

My counsel had been religiously based, and I was ripe for it at the time. Though I continually rejected the notion that I was a vessel to deliver a baby intended for someone else, I bought enough of their "act of redemptive love" feed to be a poster birth mom for a time. For a time.

I had said no to adoption. Had said no to them after giving birth, etc. They knew full well that I wanted to raise my child, but brought the big guns in after I delivered.

That was a long time ago. Looking back, I probably survived the first several years by believing it had been some divinely orchestrated plan.

I worry about some of the newer blogging birth moms. I worry about how this kind of belief system will hold up if an adoption closes or if a child doesn't perceive it the way the adults were counseled to. (I'm certain these moms were told by counselors, to greater or lesser degrees, that their children would be "grateful" for their "self sacrifice.")

I've seen that the age of 7 or 8 is a pivotal one in open adoptions. As the child seeks to forge his or her own relationship with his or her birth mother and begins to ask difficult questions of both birth and adoptive parents, this is where I've seen many open adoptions begin to close down.

Bethany prepares nobody for these questions. At least in the 80s and 90s, they fostered the archaic belief that there would be no need for such questions if a child was "well adjusted."

Some articles suggest that their core agenda is spreading the gospel via adoption into Christian families. I don't know that individual counselors operate with that belief, but the evidence is mounting against their tactics.

As for the bloggers you've mentioned, most are relatively newly into this. Time and experience will likely reinforce the beliefs of some and, sadly, shatter the beliefs of others.

I suspect, so long as Bethany views children as "angels" and relinquishing mothers as "redeemed" (rather than viewing all involved as merely human), the latter will occur more than the former.
*Overdoing everything [including writing] the doctor suspects led to a setback in the recovery of my shoulder surgery, and I have a bicep in spasm.

See also: Inconsolable grief
Catelynn & Tyler's open adoption will stay open; for other first mothers, not so much
 (Pro) Adoption Special: Dr. Drew encourages teen moms to give up their babies


  1. Thank you for speaking your truth, anon.

    I am a Bethany adoptee.

  2. Oh anon ((hugs))...Bethany wasn't the only agency using this tactic of recruiting the "new birth-moms" to speak at various agency functions. The agency I went through did it to me and my bf (baby's father) as well back in 1985. I couldn't do it at the last minute...just couldn't bring myself to face anyone. Apparently this was a well known tactic being used, and apparently is still in use today. They should ask us to come back about 13-15 years later! I've heard that is a common time frame to "come out of the fog" and face the reality of what has happened. Mine hit right at about 14 years post-adoption.

    It just makes me sick. Such common practices and tactics being employed...from state to state, agency to agency. Was there some big adoption social worker convention where they got together to discuss the best, most manipulative ways to take our babies from us?? Guess so.

    Makes my stomach turn.

  3. Wow, I could have written all of that. Almost an identical experience to what she described. :-( They used me to recruit too, but only when I was fresh post-relinquishment up until about the 5th year. After that, I started to come out of the fog, and they no longer wanted me to speak about my feelings. Like her, I was never told my agreement was not legally enforceable. Like her, my relationship closed against my wishes. I was made to feel that all of that was as it should be in order to let the adoptive family "be their own family". It was pesky of me to want contact to continue after the first year. My daughter is 17 now, and I hope and pray that I get the opportunity one day to know what she was told about where I have been all these years.

  4. I am glad that you chose to speak up. All I can say is that time always reveals the cracks in the foundations... Adoption is no exception. I feel your pain.

  5. Yep, I know a few moms who have similar stories with them. Did you see that they are now touting themselves as "he premier family preservation agency"? Theymake me nuts.

  6. This type of behavior is still going on within the LDSFS adoption services system (not that any of us are surprised). In fact, they encourage newly minted first mothers to "advocate" for adoption. Some of them go on to start birth mother recruiting organizations, record PSAs about the miracle and blessing of adoption, and deliver speeches throughout the community high schools as part of the sex ed curriculum in Utah (yes, by law, adoption must be included in the sex ed curriculum in UT schools).

    I often wonder what mothers are going to do in 20 years when confronted by their grown child with these blog postings, PSA announcements, and other such media. That's a come-to-Jesus-meetin' I am grateful I will never have to have.

  7. I went in to the agency I gave my baby away through for some counseling about 10 years after relinquishment. The counselor wanted me to attend "Birthmother Group" as an example to the young women who were thinking of (being pressured into) giving away their babies because I was college educated, was married with several more children and financially well off. She thought it would inspire them to see what they could become if they followed through with relinquishment. The irony of the fact that I was seeking counseling because of the complete agony and my broken heart because of the loss of my child was lost on her. All she saw were the outward signs of success.

  8. These comments are just as heart-breaking--and disgusting--as the original post from Anon.


  9. This a wonderful and articulate first-person account of how Bethany and other agencies use young recent surrenders to further their agenda. It is disgusting exploitation that they do this, and yes, it has been going on for a long time. Thanks for writing about your experience and how you were used.

    I remember a panel at an adoptive parent conference years ago that featured a sweet young couple who had recently surrendered their child. They looked shell-shocked and zombie-like as they repeated what the agency taught them to say. It was very sad. The religious aspect and coercion applied by agencies like Bethany is especially deceptive and damaging.

  10. "Bethany prepares nobody for these questions. At least in the 80s and 90s, they fostered the archaic belief that there would be no need for such questions if a child was "well adjusted."

    Thank you for this honest and very revealing post. It is hard to believe that they are still dishing out the same sh*t as in the quote above that children will no issues that their parents gave them to strangers. Sounds like something from my era.

    I do have one question though. I am not being accusatory but I am confused. How does someone who is certain that she does not want to give her child up for adoption end up at an adoption agency in the first place?

    Also, I want to make an observation about something I have noticed by following many blogs and comments. It seems that one of the main keys to family preservation is expectant parents who have parents or other family members who are willing to help. Several first mothers have posted that their family turned their back on them and that they felt adoption was their only alternative. I saw this with Catelynn and Tyler of Teen Mom. So many of the other girls were able to keep their babies because their parents (the new baby's grandparents) were willing to help. Even though there are some resources available, they seem to be few and far between (at least in the U.S.) I see that family support or lack thereof is often the pivotal factor in whether or not the mother (or father) is able to keep the baby.

  11. Oh, gosh. I'm the anonymous commenter.

    To answer Robin's question, I was involved with a church that put me in touch with a "crisis pregnancy counselor" at a "Christian Services" organization.

    I knew adoption was part of what they did, but I didn't think it was all they did. I thought "counselor" meant counselor. I thought they were a charitable organization, like The Salvation Army, etc. And, yes, during my counseling sessions, I did opt to heed the "explore adoption" counsel. I agreed to meet with a couple while pregnant on the condition that they were told that I was uncommitted to adoption.

    In the hospital, to the frustration of some, I still wouldn't commit. After giving birth, seeing my child's face, I called and told my counselor "no."

    My no was not accepted. Instead, phone calls began to come late into the night ... my counselor, offering "more contact than we usually offer birthmothers" (if I "followed through" and relinquished.) She suggested I let the hopeful couple just come to my hospital room to "visit."

    And I trusted my counselor. I liked her.

    There is so much more, but I don't want to write a novel here.

    In the end, something in me began to fissure. I finally believed I wasn't good enough for my child. That he deserved better than me, a single mother without family support. That it would be "selfish" to disappoint a "deserving" couple. That a father was an imperative part of "God's plan." And I did not have one to offer.

    There's much more, of course. Yes, the final decision was mine. Naivete, ignorance, the belief system I held at a moment in time, perhaps even what some call weakness, were all factors. But, in that final hour in the hospital, I viewed relinquishment the way they hoped I would: as strength, as courage, as "an act of self sacrificial love" -- much the same way the newer birthmom bloggers do.

    I understand that mind set. How it comes about. Why one holds on to it. I also understand the utter groundlessness when that belief system is called into question years later.

    As for the original comment, I could add a great deal to it. As, I'm sure, others can.

    At one point, I had an anonymous blog and wrote an entire post about it.

  12. Robin wrote: "How does someone who is certain that she does not want to give her child up for adoption end up at an adoption agency in the first place?"

    That is an easy one to answer, someone sends you there to discuss "options" or "alternatives" or to get "counseled" Sometimes you don't even know it is an adoption agency. I was referred from the maternity clinic at a Catholic hospital to the state adoption agency which was then called "Bureau of Children's Services". I did NOT request to talk to an adoption agency, but was distraught because my boyfriend abandoned me and wanted counseling.

    Once they get you in the door, then the pressure to "do the right thing" starts. When I couldn't even talk about adoption, they suggested foster care while I "made up my mind", as if it were a nice informal arrangement with some nice lady who would take care of my baby for a while. I had no idea what I was getting into, what the legal ramifications were. In retrospect it would have been better had I surrendered my child at birth, because he was never with me anyhow, and he went to second or third rate adoptive parents as a toddler because he was "old merchandise" by then.

    Why didn't I get my shit together sooner? Severe post-partum depression, a quack psychiatrist, bad drugs, and fear and hopelessness. Not to mention worthless counseling that my child would soon be "unadoptable". Nobody suggested I just take him home and keep him. Heaven forbid! Ironically he had started out as top of the line prime product, the blond, blue-eyed fair son of two very bright and healthy college students. But he ended up in the bargain basement, adopted by a mentally sick woman and her weakling husband. The man was old enough to be his grandpa, the woman morbidly obese.

    SO yeah, you can walk into an agency wanting to keep your baby, and at some time sooner or later leave without him, having given up and signed in blood. It happened to a lot of us.

  13. Robin asked, "I do have one question though. I am not being accusatory but I am confused. How does someone who is certain that she does not want to give her child up for adoption end up at an adoption agency in the first place?"

    Church. Church leaders. Strong cultural pressures within a religious community to "do the right thing" and that it is "never to late to change your mind."

    If church and religion had been left out of the equation, my daughter would be with me today.

    And like Starr, I had a nearly IDENTICAL experience when I sought help for my grief over loosing my daughter from LDS Family Services. They wanted to me ME an example of how wonderful it is to surrender a child to adoption. I didn't even stay for the full 50 minutes that session as I suddenly remembered I had other things to do.

  14. God how I hate to hear how good "Christian" agencies are still making dupes of new mothers to relenquish. And to hear how maryanne's baby went to such an unfit adoptive home makes me even more sick. There are some very messed up priorities in these "Christian" crisis pregnancy centers. It's afterall the adoptee who has to manage the most through all the messes adoption makes of families. When will this coercion in adoption stop PLEASE!

  15. neventAnd Robin, then there are the so-called Crisis Pregnancy Centres that are used as bait for Bethany and other ultra-Christian adoption agencies:

    "In “Shotgun Adoption,” a truly chilling investigative report in the current issue of the Nation, “Quiverfull” author Kathryn Joyce reveals that so-called (and taxpayer-funded) crisis pregnancy centers (CPCs) often have an extreme-Christian agenda even more corrupt than using false pretenses and scare tactics to pressure women to continue challenging pregnancies. That is: They don’t just coerce women to have children. They coerce women to give their children up."

    From the article:
    "Joyce tells the story of Carol Jordan (pseudonym), a 32-year-old woman who answered a CPC ad and found herself at Bethany Christian Services, which, as it turned out, is the nation’s largest adoption agency — and which is ranked poorly by birth mothers on adoption Web sites, where adoptive parents also express concern about coercion they witnessed.

    There, a counselor convinced her that adoption was a “win-win,” Joyce writes. Jordan “wouldn’t ‘have death on her hands,’ her bills would be paid and the baby would go to a family of her choosing in an open adoption. [The counselor] suggested Jordan move into one of Bethany’s ‘shepherding family’ homes, away from the influence of family and friends.”

    Yes: “shepherding family,” and no, we don’t mean she was sent to live with her grandfather in the Alps. Jordan wound up with a family in Myrtle Beach who — hovering, it seems, like the weird neighbors in Rosemary’s Baby — referred to her as a “birth mother” even though, while committed to continuing the pregnancy, she was still on the fence about adoption. The agency sent scrapbooks of letters from hopeful parents. “‘Once you say you won’t kill [the baby], they ask, What can you give it? You have nothing to offer, but here’s a family that goes on a cruise every year,’” Jordan recalls.

    Jordan did choose a couple. They attended the birth. But — despite Bethany’s promise — she would never find out who they were. “The next day, the counselor said that fully open adoptions weren’t legal in South Carolina, so Jordan wouldn’t receive identifying information on the adoptive parents,” Joyce writes. The baby was summarily relinquished. “Five days later, she used her last $50 to buy a Greyhound ticket to Greenville, where she struggled for weeks to reach a Bethany post-adoption counselor as her milk came in and she rapidly lost more than fifty pounds in her grief.”

    When Jordan called Bethany’s statewide headquarters one night, her shepherding mother answered, responding coldly to Jordan’s lament. ‘You’re the one who spread your legs and got pregnant out of wedlock,’ she told Jordan. ‘You have no right to grieve for this baby.’”


  16. Maryanne, I am so sorry for what you have been through. Have you considered trying to "adopt back" your son? I'm not suggesting you directly fight for him; rather, have a third party ask his adoptive parents if they'd consider letting you have him. I know most adoptive parents would never consider this, but your son's aparents sound like losers who perhaps don't want to deal with an active little boy anymore. It may be worth a try...

  17. I was asked to speak for LDS Social Services days after my relinquishment in 1985 in SLC, and I did. One time. I stood in front of those other girls, gave the party-line I was expected to say. Inside I was sick to my stomach and broken-hearted. Afterwards, I got good and drunk and never went back. I remember that all I wanted to say to them was, "Run! Run!"

  18. Robin to answer your question. "I am not being accusatory but I am confused. How does someone who is certain that she does not want to give her child up for adoption end up at an adoption agency in the first place?"

    There are many reasons and I believe most of them are acts of desperation. In my case it was post partum depression and not knowing where or how to get help. Couple that with no extended family help, and in fact intense family pressure and physical illness and we became desperate.

    When you are ill you look for someone to take care of your baby. My mother was an abusive foster mother. So foster care seemed like the worst case scenario in our desperate times.

    There are more reasons then mine. I find it ironic that the money that is given for adoption credit could be used to help desperate families in need and help family preservation. I think the money would be much better used that way. That is another topic all together though.

  19. Hehehe....Anon, all this happened in 1968, my "little boy" is 44 and six ft.3 in.!So no, not about to adopt him back:-) I did not know any of it until years later when he finally told me about his family. When I surrendered him I was told nothing about the family he was going to. The adoptive parents are dead now. He did not even attend the mother's funeral.

    My son is ok now, happily married, buying a house, a good man despite a difficult childhood. I am ok too, after many years of grief but it has been a long hard road.

    I find it very interesting that my story and anon 4:06 PM are similar in some ways as far as how we ended up at an adoption agency when we never asked for one. I am assuming from other details that her surrender happened years after mine.

    It is also interesting that you assumed I was talking about a recent surrender and young child. It is sad that some bad things in adoption practice have gone on for years and are still happening.

  20. Robin,

    I can't answer your question. My daughter will be 43 on Monday and still don't know why or how.

  21. Check out this link:


    Look under the first posting "Serious Ethical problems" dated 1/14/08. There is a comment from Courtney Hutchison, ABC News dated 5/23/11 that she is investigating this issue.

    Our anonymous commentator is hardly the only one who had these kinds of issues with Bethany.

  22. @Lorraine,
    Please take it easy on your arm. We need you around and able-bodied for a long, long time to speak out about the real consequences of adoption.

  23. This comment has been removed by the author.

  24. Wanted to send the link to this article yesterday, but had problems with posting. It lists all the usual suspects and explains how they interconnect:



  25. BFA Hospital Protocol for Unwed Mothers in the USA:

    The BFA Protocol Consisted of the Following:

    1. *****The pregnant young women's hospital records were marked with the codes and terms: "BFA," "Baby for Adoption," "Babe for Adoption," "Adoption," "A," "UB," "DO NOT SHOW" (baby), "A Babe." Showing the premeditation to unlawfully remove their babies at birth so that they could be procured for adoption purposes.*****

    2. Drugged with a lactation suppressant without the new mother's knowledge or consent, rendering her unable to feed and care for her own baby. One must ask how can not providing a newborn with breast milk be "in the best interest of the child."

    3. Drugged with barbiturates both during labour and post partum to facilitate the Abduction of her baby.

    4. Medical staff were told that they were not allowed to speak to the young mothers in case they asked for help.

    Mothers' Personal Accounts Include:

    1. Left completely alone during labour, shunned and humiliated during labour and delivery. Poked, proded and sexually and physically assualted and battered (Medical Rape).

    2. Used as a teaching tool during prenatal visits and during labour (Medical Rape).

    3. During delivery sheet hung vertically at pregnant young patient's neck so that she could not see anything that was being done to her person, done to her infant, and to restrict her from seeing her newborn infant. This was all done to prevent mother-infant bonding.

    4. Restrained to hospital bed by wrists during labour and delivery sometimes for up to 5 days after delivery.

    5. Baby unlawfully removed at birth on the delivery table.

    6. Segregate mothers to surgical ward away from married mothers and babies.

    7. Restrict mothers from accessing their babies, refuse mothers to see, hold, touch babies.

    8. Drug mothers with mind altering, amnesiac barbiturates post-partum without their knowledge or legal medical consent. Some mothers drugged for up to 5 days post partum while restrained at wrists to hospital bed.

    9. Administer off label carinogenic lactation suppressants without the mothers knowledge, legal medical consent or without profiding their lawful right to refuse this inhumane treatment.

    10. Babarically bind mothers' breasts.

    11. If mothers continued to request to see and hold their babies they would be drugged further and restrained by their wrists, to the hospital bed for up to 5 days postpartum.

    12. If mothers continue to request to see and hold their babies they would be confined to a psychiatric facility and diagnosed as bieng "Deviant," "Incorrigible," "Mentally ill" for becoming pregnant outside of marriage (even in cases of rape). Mothers in this instance were drugged for several months and some given electric shock treatment in an attempt to get the mothers to "forget" their babies.

    13. Some mothers were told their babies had died in childbirth to later find out 20, 30, 40, 50 years later that their babies were abducted and then trafficked for adoption.

    Drugs Unlawfully Administered:

    Secobarbital (Seconal): http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Secobarbital

    Scolpolamine: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scopolamine

    Tuinal: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tuinal

    Twilight Sleep: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Twilight_sleep

    Parlodel aka Bromocriptine: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1479-828X.1998.tb02977.x/abstract

    DES aka Diethylstilbestrol aka Stilboestral: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Diethylstilbestrol

    For further information please contact:



  26. I keep hoping that the Teen Mother website will post the episode of the reunion of Catelynn and Tyler and their daughter Carly, with the adoptive parents. I did not watch it when it was televised.

    All I can find out is that they did not meet at the adoptive couple's house, Catelynn and Tyler do not know their real name or how to contact them themselves. I can only hope that in the future the adoptive couple (who apparantly do not use their real name on the television show) who appear so fab on their promotional video (available at the site, including a testimonial from friends about how terrific they are will ultimately open their hearts and home to Catelynn and Tyler, as other adoptive parents have done to the natural parents of the children they have adopted. If they are so damn terrific, they will bring Catelynn and Tyler into their extended "family."

  27. Thank you for your post. I gave a baby up for adoption through Bethany christian in California in 1991. It's been 21 years and a complete disaster. Never received any post adoption counseling, well I take that back I think once. I called them many times desperate for help never got called back. Years later they did ask me to speak for them which I declined and even 15 years later asked me to do a radio interview on their behave, I also said no. I had a semi-open adoption which I never felt comfortable with, being 19 at the time I wish I could do it over. My daughters adoptive parents turned out to be crazy, the mother is seriously mentally ill and when I started suspecting things were not right made several calls to Bethany which nobody wanted to respond to. I feel now that I was pushed into this situation and completely duped by this agency. The sad thing is my daughter is the one who is paying the price.

  28. Shelley, thank you so much for your comment; I think I may make it the basis of a post as we have been getting criticisms telling us how out of date we are, etc, that we are old dinosaurs, adoption today is soooo different. Plus, the current post from Jane seems to have struck a nerve with some people.

    I hope that somehow you are able to help your daughter today.



COMMENTS ARE MODERATED. Our blog, our decision whether to publish.

We cannot edit or change the comment in any way. Entire comment published is in full as written. If you wish to change a comment afterward, you must rewrite the entire comment.

We DO NOT post comments that consist of nothing more than a link and the admonition to go there.