Skip to comments.The Cole babies: Years later, they search for identity
Posted on 11/07/2010 7:43:38 AM PST by Saije
Cyn Bird grabbed a torn piece of notebook paper to scribble the secrets spilling from her mother's mouth as she neared death: The mysterious Miami doctor named Katherine Cole who delivered and supposedly sold babies to couples. The phone call on Jan. 12, 1962, that a baby girl with sky blue eyes was available. The $2,500 price tag.
After 46 years, Bird had learned the stunning truth about her birth from her mother. Bird was adopted. Illegally. ``How do you wake up at my age and realize you have no idea who you really are?'' asks Bird, a New Jersey wife, mother and artist who discovered her adoption in March 2008, four months before her mother's death. ``I am still trying to wrap my head around this.''
She turned to the Internet and found others like her. The people of this new community even had a name for themselves: Cole babies.
In what authorities call one of the most haunting, widespread cases of illegal adoptions in Florida history, Cole reportedly placed more than 1,000 babies, most without legal documentation, out of her two-story Southwest Eighth Street clinic from the 1930s to the 1960s. She died in 1981, leaving no records and without ever admitting the full scale of the shadowy operation that created three generations of Cole babies struggling to piece together their identities. For most, the discovery was triggered by a revelation and a birth certificate on which Cole listed the adoptive parents as the birth parents.
``She absolutely played God,'' said Josette Marquess, a retired Florida adoption official who shepherded dozens of Cole babies through mostly fruitless state searches for family. ``We have no official record of their adoptions -- like they never happened -- which makes it nearly impossible to help these folks find their birth parents.''
(Excerpt) Read more at miamiherald.com ...
“The truth” is that they were raised by a pair of loving parents who didn’t share their DNA.
“The truth is that they were raised by a pair of loving parents who didnt share their DNA.”
How do you know they were “loving”?
I was rasied in foster care, and, I’m an adoptive parent of two Chinese children who will likely never know the circumstances of their births.
Parenting comes from the heart, not the uterus.
Really? Just becasue you found out you were adopted in an unusual/illegal manner doesn't mean you suddenly don't know who you "really are". Learning this information was no doubt startling and even shocking, but it does not negate the 46 years you have lived so far. The life you have lived, the things you have learned, the things you have done, the people you have met who affected you and who you affected: THAT defines who you "really are".
Had to be better than no parent at all, ever, or being aborted.
Dr. Cole made it so that couples who couldn't meet the financial standards, could adopt. I think she was actually doing the new parents and the adopted child a favor by not recording the biological parents info.
I ‘think’ that this ‘cause celebre’ that all adopted children need to return to their ‘roots’ to be made whole is a bunch of HOLLYWOOD CRAP.
Every case is different, but most of the time, the ‘feeling’ that you MUST go back and find the parents who gave you up, seems to be very unproductive, in the long run.
I am not adopted, so my opinion is really irrelevant, but I said it anyway.
Sounds like she provided a simple paperwork free service. I can’t get too worked up about it.
“``We have no official record of their adoptions — like they never happened — which makes it nearly impossible to help these folks find their birth parents.’’”
Dear Cole babies: If you are happy with what you are now, why try and find a way to change that? What if the info you seek unsettles you?
For the most part I agree, altho I think there is a natural curiosity about your ancestors. My mother was very interested in family history and spent her life researching it. It was always fun when she found out about people we didn’t know we were related to.
But, in addition, there can be medical reasons to want to know close family relationships. Of course, with DNA science where it is that may be less and less important.
>> How do you know they were loving?
I don’t, but what I DO know is that childless couples don’t go through all that krap unless they really, really want to be parents. I saw this firsthand; my older brother adopted two. Alternatives?
Is it better to whack the little piece of human trash in the womb?
Is it better to have the Gummn’t support welfare “baby cannon” mothers who krap one out every 10 months? To have 10 kids (from 8 different fathers; none of which are present) sleeping on the floor of a dump with 8 different fathers? (I’m not kidding here - talk to any small town or urban EMT.)
Sounds to me like these kids had a pretty good deal in life. As my adopted nephew said once: “I know who my parents are, and they aren’t those anonymous DNA donors”.
I have a friend who was adopted. She was an only child and both of her adoptive parents had passed away. She managed to find her birth family, and altho her birth mother also was dead, she now has half brothers and sisters and cousins all of whom never knew she existed. It turned out wonderful for her (it could have turned out badly tho).
I don’t think any of us can judge this stuff if we aren’t in the situation. I don’t know what it would feel like to wake up one day and discover that the people I thought were my parents weren’t. I can’t imagine I would love them less but I suspect I would have a great deal of curiosity about the people who WERE. I simply don’t think those who are not in that position can tell those who are how they should feel.
This was the goal and normal for adoptions until abortion was legalized by the Supreme Court.
The overpopulation believers don't like adoption. They want those babies dead. So, they set out to turn adoption from a wonderful, respected and permanent thing to a desperate search for lost identity. Feminism joined in to make single motherhood acceptable (which it was not).
It has all done the hard work of making the family less respected and important in America.
According to family legend, I have an ancestor who—as an infant—was picked up from a destroyed wagon train by the next train through and raised as one of a new family.
As I see it, adopted families are just NEW families for the adoptee.
I guess, though, because I’m not adopted, I can’t truly understand.
Government should have been involved in this, and gotten its cut.
And CPS! They ALWAYS have the best interests of "the children" at heart.
If the government had been involved these children would have lived far better lives.
Maybe not. I wonder if/how many “missing” children were adopted out by this woman. I dread to think there were parents out there never knowing what happened to their children; thinking the worst....
If you noticed, I already said that I wasn't adopted, therefore my opinion was irrelevant.
I wasn't judging. I was asking them to think of whether finding some biological parent is that important an issue for them, or whether it's the heat of the moment. (such as the case in this type of group action)
I am adopted, I found my birth family at age 43. You can’t understand the rage at being denied your own biological origins, given a fake birth certificate and told it is true, and being an adult and never being old enough to know the truth about your own history because of archaic laws and court orders, unless you have been there. Adoptees are the only class of people who are not allowed their own, unamended birth certificate in 47 states. How is that for less government control, all of you conservatives?
Adoptions are handled much better now in the modern era. I suggest those of you who know so much about how adoptees “should” feel or be grateful for, read “Journey of the Adopted Self”. Also my mother was 17, raped, and sent away to deliver me. The shame heaped upon women in those days was crippling. I support adoption, but not the way it was done in the 60’s. I feel for the Cole Babies.
Oh, I agree. I already said MY OPINION was irrelevant because I'm not adopted.
When did you find out you were adopted?
I know it was just an opinion, that is why I was offering my experience to the thread, from someone who has actually lived this; for review by those who have a lot to say about it but actually know nothing about it. I found out when I was about 5. Another good book that talks about the shame of that time, both for the mother and the child is The Girls Who Went Away. I don’t really fault the doctor. There are too many babies that end up in terrible circumstances, especially when the meddling DHS gets involved. She was actually pretty courageous. It is adopted parents who are prone to these deathbed confessions that wreak havoc. The Cole Babies would have been better off never knowing the truth at this stage of their lives.
Well, they found her in quick order ~ couple of decades ~ she ran off to Nebraska with a guy named Cheney! (probably one of Dick's great great Uncles in fact.).
But there still remained the question of what happened to her 8 children she abandoned for that Confederate renegade. That was much harder.
First the lists of names of brothers and sisters ~ there were several. Then the thousands of hours of digging through the census of a dozen states looking for kids of the right age named Murphy, or something else, or what ever happened here.
Couple of more decades they figured out where each child had gone as their father, a returning wounded Civil War veteran tried to retrieve his life. He'd assigned them to relatives and friends from the war, all without any legal papers at all. With more work the two researchers examined the records and recreated the lives led by those children, then added on a couple more generations, and finally published their findings.
As far as they could tell from newspaper clippings, notes in Bibles and clippings, each and every child was loved by the people who took them in ~ and each was raised up to be a fine citizen and a credit to the community. They all looked back fondly on the father who'd been forced by circumstances of life to place them with others ~ there was no rancor.
Mary Murphy did not fare so well once folks found out what she'd been up to, but she had more children with this Cheney guy, and no one was interested in pursuing those lines at all ~ still aren't.
Do you think it is better to find out you were adopted at 5 , or say, 40?
My husband is one of 6 kids, 5 adopted, including him and his twin sister. Out of the 5 adopted kids, only his twin sister ever showed any curiosity about birth family. She searched for years and finally found them. She has since moved halfway across the country to live with them. My husband, on the other hand, still has not met them in person and really has no desire to. His opinion has always been that he was raised by his real parents.
When we first adopted our Chinese children, we would be asked if we were going to tell them if they were adopted.
I seriously wanted to smack some of them on the head and say “duh”....
I've often read statements by adoptees that they want to find their biological families because, well, the people who raised them were nice enough, but they weren't their "real" families, and they never felt like they belonged with those people.
I'd counter by saying that the feeling of never belonging has nothing to do with biological relatedness. I've felt that way all my life, and aside from miraculously discovering that babies were switched at the hospital on the day of my birth, I have the certain knowledge that I *am* related to those people.
While there may be valid reasons to want to find one's birth parents, feeling like you never were a real part of the adoptive family shouldn't be one of them.
When you told them, did they say,
“Ok, mom. Can we go out and play now?”
This quote from the article:
“And this was decades before Roe v. Wade offered more choices.”
I have an older friend who found out that she was adopted when she was in her 30’s. OK. That was a blow, but she dealt with it.
Then, five years ago, she found out that there’s much more to the story. Her mother couldn’t have kids. Her parents really wanted kids and her father wanted an heir.
So they found a woman of “low morals” and paid her to carry the husband’s baby. They took care of her during the pregnancy, paid her once the baby was born and she went away.
Strangely, finding out that her dad really *was* her dad was more of a shock than the news that she’d been adopted.
On my FIL’s deathbed, he broke the news that *his* dad had been adopted (unofficially) and that they didn’t know anything about his family. (He’d been found by a farmer and taken in.) That ended all the research on Ancestry.com... *sigh*.
Kids have been taken in by strangers for thousands of years and none of it was documented. I honestly think that we put way too much stock in our genes and family history. When you add to the random adoptions the number of men who’ve raised kids they *thought* were their own, none of us can ever really know where we come from.
Oh, here’s one more! An ancestor got “in trouble” as a teenager. Some friends of her parents had a son. They forced their son to marry the girl and claim the baby as his own to save her family’s reputation. That didn’t come out for decades.
There are so many branches to a family tree that we can’t keep track of ‘em all, anyway. Our “Taylor” branch was a graft, but it’s just as good as any of the other branches.
My Great Grandmother had a similar experience in 1852, Family died on the way West. She and her sister were given and raised by an accepting Family, she was two.
Those blood lines stayed a lot closer than we imagine today.
Going back before modern times (and records), it's best to consider your lineage as essentially that of your family, in general, and not as precise as we might like.
Then there are tribal affinities. The genealogy sites are useful for identifying them ~
They trains would stop along the way and people who wanted children would go meet the train and get them. Sometimes a farmer might want a son to become a "hand". A housewife might want a helper.
The bonds were sometimes so tight that no one ever commented on them.
Well, the point was the stupidity of the people asking...the kids are chinese, we are not...at some point the kids would have caught on.
We have always celebrated their “gotcha” days like an extra birthday (much to the faux consternation of our biological children, who love their adopted siblings dearly). We have social outings with other families that have adopted, and we meet up with our travel group a couple times a year.
Adoption is celebrated here as a good thing, not some dark secret to keep hidden.
I think you are right about that.I know two people who were both adopted.One is a guy who basically has the attitude that his Mother didn’t want him why should he be worried about finding her.He seems to be ok with it and say while it would be nice to know the medical history that in reality knowing wouldn’t stop anything that is going to happen anyway.....The other is a female who has obsessed for years trying to find her real Mom.She lives on a roller coaster of thinking she’s found smething to the let down of no she hasn’t.It’s pretty much taken over her life.She is now in her later 40’s and was so busy with this pursuit that she is now alone and will probably never have a family of her own.It’s sad what this has cost her and still she has no idea.
Depends on what we mean by West. If it meant Indiana, which it frequently did in those days, yup, there were trains. Still, the plagues I mentioned happened in from 1854 to 1929, as did the trains.
Be sure to learn and then teach them about some East Asian peculiarities ~ like eating rice ~ they appear to be adapted to it with some genetic changes. And about kim chee ~ necessary to live in a world where people are all the time trying to kill you by adding milk and milk byproducts!
Well gee I gues they would never notice? DUH! People really can be stupid sometimes!
From what I understand, those of us that did Wagons West, picked up the strays and raised them as our own life was hard.
Otsego New York perhaps?
Ah, yes.... but when has that ever stopped FReepers from offering their commandments from on high?
Your post made me smile. Good for you, mom.
The Oneida took another 160 years to win a lawsuit to allow them to reacquire their property.
A VAST number of white folks got wagons and went West all over the place as a consequence. A little bit later they had what were called the Tenant Strikes (riots) near Livingston NY ~ this involved tenant farmers refusing to pay rent and demanding the right to buy land from the old Dutch estates. The owners refused to deal. The people there hitched up wagons and took off.
The folks running New York brought in illegal aliens who were more amenable to oppression.
Hasn't been the same since. Horrid place.
That would be....never.
Are they really? How many times have we seen an adopted child taken away from the only parents they know, who cared for them and loved them as their own and returned to a "birth parent" who obtained a good lawyer or father who crawled out of the woodwork?
The system isn't perfect but in my opinion the only solution is the complete destruction of all documention relevant to the child's parents as well as that of the persons who chose to give the child a loving home.
My point, and question, was did it cause a major change in their lives, or did they just view it rather casually and go on.
Seems like, from your description, it was the latter.