1950’s Black Market Babies…

16 Jul

(April 2013 Additional Link) An easier link to read the whole Kafauver Subcommitte Hearings)

Yesterday I was reading a book about social conditions back in the 1940’s – 1960’s specifically as it related to adoption and fully intended to write about it today. That is, until I came upon mention of the Kefaurver Committee that was investigating baby selling, potential for harm for the child placed in this type of home and the concept of profiting from the sale of babies.  Added to that was the crossing of state lines and the lack of power a state had to do anything to rectify the situation.

Frankly, I was floored that this inquiry had taken place and wish congress would take another unbiased look at the industry today, and not have issues with some of the practices and change the laws as needed, to make it back to its original intent of finding good homes for children who have no other option.

This morning I did some searching and found what I was looking for. As I was reading the transcript from a day of testimony something sounded so familiar about the town and it turns out I saw a movie about it.  I watched “The Phenix City Story’ movie a while back and was horrified by what life was like in this small Alabama City back in the 1940’s and 1950’s.  About how a few towns people started the Russell Betterment Association and tried to take back the city from the organized crime syndicate who ran it, but after the murder of one of the members State Attorney General Albert Patterson, the Governor ordered the Alabama National Guard and Martial law. The movie was riveting and horrifying all in one. I do not remember if they included the baby selling in the movie or not.

At the time of his murder State Attorney General Albert Patterson was representing Miss Griggs and after his death his son John Patterson took over her case. John Patterson became the new State Attorney General and in 1955 testified before the SUBCOMMITTEE TO INVESTIGATE JUVENILE DELINQUENCY also known as the Kafauver Committee.

Testimony below is in italics (bolding is mine) but not indented as I normally do.  The transcript can be found here and below is only portions of the testimony due to the sheer volume, redundancy, and text that is not relevant.

It starts of with a sort of preamble on the reason for testimony that day in relation to illegal interstate adoptions.

Chairman Kefauver. During this hearing we will hear of one such case, a case so callous, yet so common, that one wonders why there are no Federal safeguards to protect the child. Let us review for a moment the situation which created the adoption problem. Incidentally, I think I should mention that there are about 90,000 is that the number, Mr. Mitler?

Mr. Mitler. I think it is Chairman Kefauver. The number runs somewhere around 90,000 a year in the entire United States.

Let us review for a moment the situation which created the adoption problem. On one hand, we have anxious couples, hungry for a child. Between them and the child is an agency with rigid requirements and a huge waiting list. The agencies have 20 requests for every child available. The result for the anxious couple is red tape and a long delay.

On the other side of the picture we have the young unmarried mother, anxious to leave her own community, but often lacking the money to do so. Her shame is so great and her emotional framework so shocked that she is susceptible to the first idea that promises to alleviate her situation. It is at this time of greatest need that some private or public agency should render skilled and professional assistance to the young mother.

Instead, all too often, an unscrupulous individual is the first one to reach the mother. His only concern is to obtain a child he can sell. The psychological and social consequences of such behavior is not his concern. To him the highest bidder can have the child. To the unmarried mother he offers medical care and removal from the home community as price for the child. Once he has obtained the child, he offers it to anxious couples for fees ranging up to $3,000.

Even sincere doctors and lawyers who assist these young unmarried mothers in taking the child or in placing a child through private arrangements tamper with the life of the child and often leave life-long scars on the personality of the natural mother.

And then the testimony begins about the case so callous but yet so common.

Mr. Mitler. Your contact with the baby brokerage business in Phenix City originated from the case in which your father was originally the attorney?

Attorney General Patterson. Yes; that is the case of Griggs versus Barnes.

Mr. Mitler. What is the population generally of Phenix City?

Attorney General Patterson. It is approximately 24,000, and just across the river is Columbus, Ga., with a population of about 150,000.

The case revolved around a single mother age 16 who went to see Dr. Floyd and his wife (also a doctor) in regards to being pregnant and about placing the child for adoption. They suggested she stay with a Mrs. Stone whose mother just happened to be the local abortionist who was also present during the discussion (who at the time of the inquiry was serving four years for performing illegal abortions).

The young woman went to stay with Mrs. Stone for about a month and changed her mind about placing the baby for adoption and returned home. When it was time for the baby to come her mother took her to the hospital and registered her daughter under the name of the women who wanted to adopt her baby. After birth still groggy with ether Mrs Floyd had her sign a paper but she had no idea what it was and then she went home. She immediately started asking where her son was and finally her aunt called Mrs. Floyd who said the baby was gone to his adoptive family. As soon as the young woman was able to get up she went to see the lawyer Mr. Patterson who filed suit.

Attorney General Patterson. While this girl was still under the influence of an anaesthetic in the hospital, she signed a statement purporting to give consent to the adoption of this child to these foster parents. Just a few hours after she got home from the hospital, she wanted to know where her baby was, and no one would tell her. As soon as she was able to get up and get about, she came to our law firm and employed my father to represent her. She stated that she had signed this paper while under the influence of ether, and that she did not really intend to part with her child, and she wanted it back. She claimed that from just a few hours after the birth of her child she tried to get her baby back continuously.

We tried every possible legal means. The first was a petition for habeas corpus that was filed, and that case was tried in the Circuit Court of Russell County, Ala. She lost her case in the lower court, and the supreme court later reversed the case and ordered her child delivered to her. The sheriff of Russell County was one who made no serious effort to deliver the child, and several days went by, giving the attorney for the foster parents time to prepare another petition and get the case back into the courts again. It went all the way back up to the supreme court again, and just last year the Supreme Court of Alabama ordered the child turned over to the natural mother, and in the meantime the National Guard had taken over Phoenix City, and the new sheriff of Phoenix City delivered the child to the natural mother.

This was the first time that the natural mother had seen the child since its birth, and the child was nearly 4 years old. Of course, it was a very sad thing to take the child at that age, but the natural mother under the law was entitled to it, and she was not at fault in the long period of time that had passed because she had tried diligently, from the very beginning, to get custody of her child, and it was through the efforts on the part of certain people in Phoenix City that she was unable to do so.

Mr. Mitler. Could you describe some of the pressure put upon the natural mother during those years by local groups to prevent her from getting her child ?

Attorney General Patterson. I was informed that she had been threatened and intimidated on numerous occasions, and she had had cases made against her. In one instance, a fornication case was laid against her, and there was not sufficient evidence for such a case, and that case died on the dockets of the court.

Mr. Mitler. Do you know who paid for the official reporter in that case, without mentioning the name of the individual?

Attorney General Patterson. Yes. This case, of course, was tried in the recorder’s court, which is not a court of record, where normally no testimony is recorded. Apparently, to get some testimony against this young girl, the foster parents who had custody of the child at the time hired a court reporter to take testimony in this case.

Mr. Mitler. With respect to the interstate element here, was it your understanding that Mrs. Stone lived in Columbus, Ga.?

Attorney General Patterson. Yes, she did.

What is interesting to me is that nothing has changed in regards challenging an adoption today.  Stall, file petitions, appeal, make the natural parent look bad.  There should be no if’s and’s or but’s – if the mother or father do not agree to the adoption the child goes back.

The Alabama National Guard with help from Russell County Betterment Association started an investigation into baby selling and were actually successful in prosecuting Mrs. Floyd on baby selling in 3 cases, but unlike performing abortions the penalty was just a fine and the crime only a misdemeanour that is detailed in testimony by Captain Peacock who was a member of the Alabama National Guard and a reporter.  I cannot understand how baby selling is a misdemeanour and a fine, and performing abortions is worthy of jail time but nothing seems to have changed since then – bad guys today seldom if ever get jail time.

Mr. Mitler. This situation with the baby brokerage business was cleared up on a local level?

Attorney General Patterson. It certainly was.

Mr. Mitler. It was not exclusively by regulatory legislation; is that correct?

Attorney General Patterson. No. It was cleared up by local action. It is my belief that in a clean, law-abiding community, where the law is enforced, you would not have such an organization as this baby racket. It could not grow out of a clean community. It comes out of a community where there is a disregard for the law.

Mr. Mitler. You have been informed and you know that one notorious figure received a child through the Floyds?

Attorney General Patterson. I am informed that one person received a child from the Floyds, and he has quite a long criminal record. He is rather a notorious individual who at the present time is a fugitive from the State of Alabama, and he is wanted by the Alabama authorities.

Mr. Mitler. Is this individual one of the most notorious hoodlums and gangsters?

Attorney General Patterson. He is probably the most notorious one in our community and he has a long criminal record.

Mr. Mitler. Attorney General Patterson, what is the legal status of the child who is received into a home under the circumstances that the Griggs child was placed with the adoptive parents?

Attorney General Patterson. Of course, the adoption proceedings of the Alabama law were never carried through. So, in the position that this child was in, being in the hands of the foster parents, it would have had no rights of inheritance, and would be considered to be illegitimate. If later in life the foster parents would have died leaving an estate, this child would receive nothing.

Chairman Kefauver. That is generally true of all of these children that are victims of this type of procedure which we have discussed that has happened in Phenix City?

Attorney General Patterson. That is true. A child might go through life thinking that he was the natural child of his foster parents, and the public records would show that he was the natural child of another parent. He might find it very difficult some day to prove his true birth. Should the facts be reversed and he would like to prove who his natural mother was, it would be very difficult for him to do that. All kinds of legal problems could arise as a result of this type of practice.

Captain Peacocks testimony is similar and speaks to the problems of not being able to subpoena the so-called adoptive parents from other states as they had no power to do so between states.  Again the same method of checking the mother into the hospital under the name of the prospective adoptive mother and listing the prospective fathers name. No adoptions were needed to be filed because the baby was registered as the natural-born child of the parents. The mothers were underage and there were no laws protecting their rights.  The people who arranged these so-called adoptions were simply selling babies for profit.

What I find interesting is that at the time this was happening parents had to wonder if their adoptions had fraud in them, and how they would ever be able to tell their child things weren’t on the up and up.  Today parents are still having this happen and finding out after the fact that ethics were not part of the adoption and have to deal with it.  But why is it still happening?  Why isn’t the government putting some teeth into the laws and going after both the bad guys and those who know they are doing it but say nothing – to me one is as guilty as the other.

April 2013 Note: Those coming from Facebook may enjoy reading the post below as the deeper I got into the Kafauver Subcommitte Hearings – I found names still known today “Bessie Bernard” is testified about, “Dr. Catherine Cole” is also testified about, and also testifies.  Adoption History – Thanks for linking by the way…


Posted by on July 16, 2011 in Adoption, Ethics


Tags: , ,

5 responses to “1950’s Black Market Babies…

  1. Raven

    July 17, 2011 at 8:12 am

    Big Boss Grump…

    Could you send me the title of the book you’re reading? It sounds right up my alley!

    I remember a thread several years ago in which someone admitted that “their birthmom” was going to be admitted to the hospital under the adoptive mother’s name. The adoptive father also planned to be listed on the OBC as the biological father.

    Not one person objected on that thread. Scary….


  2. Franceen George

    September 5, 2019 at 11:14 pm

    Hi again! I read the testimony (5 times, and once out loud to my husband). My father & mother (Adoptive) told me constantly that my father testified in the hearing. Yet, for the last 40 years I’ve never been able to find his testimony nor the whole hearing transcript. Well here it was!!! Thank you over and over again. My father is “Mr Boyd” in the hearing. He testified behind a screen and with a fictitious name, to protect him and his livelihood (a Dr. who illegally participated in the illegal adoption, but also decided to turn state’s evidence against Sara Weiman and probably Mr. Munier who also testified, probably for immunity. Now able to read the whole thing, it is clear to me Mr Boyd is my adoptive father, Dr. Barney Polskin from Plainfield NJ. Very obvious. Putting together the fragments of previous knowledge gleaned from various sources the blanks are now filled in completely. I researched a lot during the past 5 – 10 years and put together a story where I only had to fill in speculative small pieces to make it whole. Now I know for sure those pieces were correct and the WHOLE STORY is not a lie or a figment of my imagination. When I tell the story to people, it is so out of their realm that they look at me like I need a psychiatrist and usually tell me to write a book (they are probably thinking of a novel, not a memoir). ….So I did some further research from the links and info you gave me here and found multiple newspaper articles about the hearings and a couple pictures of Sara Weiman, the woman who ran the baby business at 4221 Ave Laval, Montreal, where I was born and adopted out of. I’ve been to that house and the formerly attached Church – Eglise Saint-Jean-Baptiste. I wonder if I was babptized there? The baptism records of that church and many others in “the Drouin Collection” on stop at 1941 – probably for a reason! I may have to go back and ask at eh church (again) and at the local Historical society. So much more to do. HOWEVER, this path of research doesn’t really help my quest for alive immediate biological family – DNA matches (I have many in the 6+ companies I’ve tested or uploaded with/to. And the relatives matching are getting closer and closer all the time………………So Now I will return to my endless pursuit. Thanks again for the Testimony Transcript!

    Liked by 1 person

    • TAO

      September 6, 2019 at 1:19 pm

      Happy you’ve found the missing pieces to your story. Thanks for updating.


      • TAO

        September 6, 2019 at 1:21 pm

        The Drouin old records were photographed in 1941 which explains the weird cutoff date.


  3. Roscoe

    August 13, 2021 at 5:00 pm

    I was sold through Bessie Bernard’s organization. Back in the 40’s there was a great demand for Jewish babies. Although I was born Greek, and for whatever reason, my mother (17) went through her org. Hebrew Infants and Kindergarten Home in Queens. she was told to check into Wickersham Hospital under a Jewish surname and I was adopted just 6 days later.
    Bob (Frangos) Lesnick



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