August 27, 1981
Lawrence Journal World
Court may identify cancer victim's father
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — An adoptee suffering from bone cancer has been turned down again in his effort to learn the name of his mother and any half-brothers or sisters, all of whom could be potential bone marrow
donors. The Missouri Court of Appeals decision Tuesday upheld a lower court decision which denied James G.'s request to learn the names.
The appellate court did say that G., 34, of Miami, Fla. can be told the identity of his father, but only if the man
is alive and therefore a potential donor.
Doctors have told G. a marrow transplant could save his life, but only blood relatives would be candidates for having marrow that G.'s body would accept.
Missouri's laws forbid identifying the natural parents of a child given up for adoption without compelling need.
The three-judge appellate court ruling Tuesday upheld an earlier decision by Juvenile Court Judge Gene Martin that there is no compelling need in G.'s case.
Through Martin, G.'s real mother is aware of the case. She has refused to allow the judge to identify her or any of G.'s half-brothers or half-sisters.
The appeals court did direct Martin to begin a search for G.'s father so he could be asked to submit a blood test
and possibly donate the bone marrow.
The court-appointed attorney for G.'s mother, Michael E. Curley, said he would ask for a rehearing on the issue of contacting the father.
"Getting the father involved is not what the mother wanted to do," Curley said. "Trying to contact anybody creates a situation for a potential breach of her anonymity and confidentiality."
Curley said he did not know whether the father was alive. G.'s mother has said in written testimony the father
never knew of the pregnancy that produced G. in 1947, at the Willows Maternity Home in Kansas City.
Both Curley and Martin said they have not discussed the father with the mother.
"I don't know who the father is, or whether he is even alive," Curley said.
Martin said the man listed in the adoption file might not even be G.'s father.
"I could see all sorts of situations where a prospective mother could lie about who the father is," Martin said.
Mrs. G. said she and her husband would just have to wait for the court's next move.
"Any human being would have made the same pleadings we made to people," she said from her home in Miami. "What else can we can we do?"
December 29, 1991
The Kansas City Star
Kansas City, Missouri
Author: Jennifer Howe
'We think we have the baby you want'
'All babies born of 'good American stock'
Tracking down birth mothers and adoptees
The trains that brought silent, scared young women to Kansas City's maternity homes also delivered beaming couples with bags of diapers and empty bottles.
The city's reputation as a hideout for mid-America's "unfortunate young women" gave it another title: "Baby hub of the United States," said Kate Burke, president of the American Adoption Congress in Washington.
"If you wanted to adopt a child in the '30s, '40s and '50s, that's where you went. The thought of corn-fed, wholesome birth mothers who did it in the hay in the barn and got into trouble made it very attractive. You were getting quote, unquote `quality babies. ' " How many were adopted here is unclear; early record-keeping was sketchy. A former administrator at The Willows once said that home alone took care of 25,000 women in its 64 years of operation. About 90 percent placed their babies for adoption.
Investigators from the American Public Welfare Association found the adoption rate in Jackson County - 552 in 1943, 615 in 1944, for example - to be "three or four times" the rate elsewhere.
More than half the adoptive parents came from out of state.
After providing letters from their banker, doctor and clergyman, couples could pick out a son or daughter and be on the train back to Minneapolis, Tulsa or St. Louis before dusk.
"After arriving in Kansas City, come direct to The Willows and select your Baby," the home's "Directions for Adopting a Baby" said in 1933. "We usually have babies of such diversity of temperament, complexion and physical build as will suit anyone. " The 10 paragraphs on a single sheet of paper tell prospective parents: "Mail us three good letters of reference... Preferable for both husband and wife to come if possible... Bring with you sufficient cash ($38) to meet the cost of adoption. About two weeks later, "they wrote us and told us, `We think we have the baby you want,' " said Ochs, who was then a shoe merchant in Independence, Kan. "They never came down to investigate the house or anything. We just went up there and got her. Everybody went crazy about her. There was all kinds of excitement. Getting that baby changed our whole life. "
The babies born in Kansas City maternity homes were "beautiful" and "healthy" and came from "good American stock" and "exceptional parentage." The homes provided pedigrees: terse, no-names descriptions of the birth parents that included no negatives.
"All the girls played piano, and all the boys were farmers," said Julie Gibala, Jackson County adoption investigator. She grinned. The descriptions, she said, were "almost like a selling tool to get the kid into a good home. " A form letter from Fairmount Maternity Hospital told prospective parents: "We will do our best to get a lovely baby for you at the earliest possible time" and urged them to "return the baby to us" if their family doctors found "anything irregular. " In later years, court workers wrote the descriptions and included more details. A six-page report for a boy born in 1965 at The Willows says the parents met through a folk-singing group and were engaged when the 22-year-old mother became pregnant.
The mother, it says, has a "delightful" sense of humor, is a good listener - "a real `Dear Abby' to the younger girls" - a Girl Scout leader and a piano major in college.
The 24-year-old "alleged father," the report says, "will do most anything for a friend. He has an interest in engineering and farming. " His only health problem: a football injury to his knee.
To Joyce K., Kansas City has always been a curiosity.
She lives in Boise, Idaho. She grew up in California. But she was born here at The Willows in 1963. She and hundreds of other Jackson County adoptees have turned back to Kansas City for information about their birth mothers.
Documents that reveal names have been off limits to them since the 1930s, when Missouri sealed its adoption records. But a law change in 1986 gave the state's adoptees who are 21 or older access to non-identifying information about their birth parents: physical description, medical history, nationality and religious preference.
And with permission from their adoptive parents, the adoptees can petition the court to find their birth mothers and ask them if they want to be contacted.
"More than likely they'll start crying," said Julie Gibala, the Jackson County adoption investigator, who has made the confidential calls to nearly 200 birth mothers.
A few "just deny up one side and down the other that they ever had a child," Gibala said. One threatened to sue her. The identities of birth mothers who refuse contact are not revealed to the adoptees. But about two-thirds of the mothers urge her to pass on their names and phone numbers. Gibala found K.'s birth mother on a yacht in the Bahamas.
K. and she have made plans to meet and the birth mother has sent K.s family heirlooms she had stored in the United States.
"There was still underwear in her dresser drawers," K. said. "I have all her life insurance papers... all her photo albums, her teak furniture, a powder gun from the 1830s... It's just nice to know the truth about where I came from. "
Other adoptees yearning to find their roots have formed at least two groups locally - Kansas City Adult Adoptees Organization and Connecting Adoptees Through Research and Education (CARE) - to help one another through the painstaking detective work. Their quest doesn't mean they're rejecting the parents who raised them, said Joanne Brooks, research director of CARE.
"They aren't looking for parents," she said. "They're looking for themselves. "
December 29, 1991
The Kansas City Star
Kansas City, Missouri
Author: Jennifer Howe
Where Women Went To Hide
For decades, Kansas City offered protection and anonymity to thousands of unwed mothers from across the country. Not many people remember except those women.
In a gray November day in 1929, a 17-year-old farm girl climbed the steps of a train bound for Kansas City.
On the threshold of her first trip away from her southwest Missouri home, Zola T. focused her blue eyes on the toes of her pumps and said nothing. She carried no luggage. She had no time to pack after her parents announced they were sending her away.
No one asked Zola whether she wanted to go. No one explained what would happen after she arrived.
People didn't talk about such things, she knew. She had watched people cross the street in Flemington, population 391, to avoid speaking to the widow's daughter who had a baby out of wedlock. Her parents had not let her leave the house since the woman she cleaned rooms for at the hotel sent word that Zola had been sick to her stomach for days.
Her mother plotted to bury Zola's secret in Kansas City. She would give birth behind the red-brick walls of The Willows, a maternity hospital cloaked in shrubbery on the hill at 2929 Main St. The baby would be put up for adoption, and Zola would return home as if nothing had happened.
Zola knew nothing of her mother's plans. She knew only that a child had been growing inside her since a blind date ended with a sexual encounter that "wasn't volunteer." She didn't tell anyone about that, though - her father might have killed the man - and no one asked.
She leaned her blond head against the train window and watched the cornfields rush past. Her parents had not kissed her goodbye. She was sure no other girl had ever felt so alone.
Zola had no idea that 292 other young women from 25 states slipped into Kansas City that year to give birth at The Willows . Or that scores more came from out-state Missouri, Kansas, Iowa, Illinois, Minnesota, Oklahoma, Texas and Nebraska to Kansas City's other maternity homes.
The business of hiding the pregnant daughters of mid-America's bankers, ranchers and baggage handlers - and finding homes for their offspring - had been thriving behind brick walls in Kansas City since the turn of the century.
Until the Pill, abortion and changing attitudes spurred the homes' closings in the 1960s and '70s, Kansas City was called "the `baby hub' of the United States," said Kate Burke, president of the American Adoption Congress in Washington.
The rails that brought Zola here were part of a web that caught Kansas City's Union Station in its center. When pregnant young women got off the trains, they found taxis waiting to take them to one of the city's maternity homes, including The Willows , Fairmount, St. Vincent's, Florence Crittenton, Eastside, The Rest Cottage, The Veil.
The city was big enough for them to disappear in but not so cosmopolitan that their parents feared they'd go further astray here. Zola's family doctor probably recommended that her parents send her to Kansas City. Ads for the city's seclusion services ran in medical journals nationwide.
"For the young woman who finds herself confronted with the possibility of social ostracism and even moral ruin as a result of a misstep usually due to ignorance or youthful passion, The Willows offers a way out of her difficulty," says a 1927 issue of The Willows magazine. The management sent it six times a year to 16,700 doctors throughout the Midwest.
"The endeavor to hide such a condition by tight lacing, necessary while at home, is removed upon entering the hospital. " And so Zola - a girl who liked to fuss over sick people and daydreamed about becoming a nurse - found herself in exile. She lived first with strangers her parents described as "distant relatives. " She discovered later that they, like some other Kansas Citians, made their living boarding pregnant girls in their spare bedroom.
When her labor pains started, they put her in a taxi, gave the driver The Willows ' address and slammed the door.
Zola can't remember eating a bite of food during her three months in Kansas City. She's not sure how she dressed without any changes of clothes. She supposes she washed her striped blue flannel dress and her underwear by hand each night and hung them up to dry. No conversations come to mind. "Everything was just quiet...
"I was afraid. I was ashamed. I guess I just blocked everything out of my mind. " Zola doesn't recall meeting other residents of The Willows , but they were a lot like her. The patients who came to Kansas City ranged from 12-year-olds who still played with dolls to women on the verge of menopause, caught in extramarital affairs. But most were small-town girls in their teens or early 20s who were four to six months pregnant when they arrived.
Dancing and a lack of sex education, wrote The Willows management, brought most to the maternity homes' doorsteps.
"To be wrapped in each other's arms and moving in perfect unison of rhythmic vibration...under the influence of the voluptuous waltz and jazz music of the day, induces sexual excitement that is only restrained from consummation in many cases by the presence of others and the light of the ballroom. " Most had heard little or nothing from the fathers of their babies by the time they arrived at the homes. The earliest patient log from the Florence Crittenton Home lists the fathers' names under the heading "The Betrayer. " Willows patients in the 1920s included 817 students, 804 "home girls" - young women between school and marriage - 295 teachers, 151 stenographers, 124 nurses, 13 beauty operators, two actresses and a chemist, accord ing to statistics the management published.
"I assumed I would be surrounded by women with terrible reputations, prostitutes even," said a woman, now living in Olathe, who dropped out of college to deliver a baby at Fairmount Maternity Hospital in 1949. "I was relieved to see that they were just girls who had made a mistake. They were really madly in love with the birth fathers, or they thought they were...
"Most of the girls were very quiet, as if they were holding all their secrets inside. " The "unfortunates" - as pregnant women without husbands were called - entered the homes under made-up names or by first names only. Their parents or the management insisted on it.
To seal the deception, parents spread various tales. Their daughters were away at school, staying with an aunt, recovering from surgery, touring Europe.
Life at the homes followed routine. The girls got up at the same time and ate meals together in the dining room, sometimes in assigned seats. Calcium and iron pills waited at each place. At the non-profit homes - St. Vincent's, Florence Crittenton - everyone did chores: dusting, mopping, sweeping, folding laundry. At the commercial homes - Fairmount, The Willows and others - some patients worked in the kitchen or laundry to help pay their way. The other girls were free to sit in the sun, write letters or go walking. At The Willows , they walked laps around the fenced garden they called "the bullpen. " They could leave the grounds once a week to go shopping with a staff member, always coming or going by the back door.
At night, the girls gathered in fours and fives in one of the rooms. They sprawled on the twin beds and turned on the radio. They passed novels back and forth, played bridge and taught one another to knit.
"We shared our dreams for the future and what we wanted to do with our lives," said the Olathe woman, who did not want to be named. Her roommate once pulled a skimpy bathing suit out of her dresser and announced: "I'm going to fit into this or die trying. " "She couldn't wait to give her baby up. Then she was going to go on a Caribbean cruise so she would look tan and healthy when she got home. " They speculated about the older patient with the wedding ring who cried every afternoon after a visit from a tall, handsome man and about how many thousands of dollars their fathers were spending to keep them at the homes. (The fee for a four-month stay in a private room at The Willows in 1962 was about $1,600, including medical bills for a normal delivery.)
The girls did not talk much about the past or their pregnancies, said Jeanine P., the daughter of a wealthy Oklahoma builder who came to The Willows in 1957. "We lived in the very, very present here and now, and that's all... We never saw or heard a sign of a child, ever, or a labor pain, ever. I remember once coming out of the cafeteria, I heard a scream. But a door quickly closed, and you heard no more. We were treated very well," P. said. "Nobody was shaking their fingers in our faces or lecturing us, which was a relief. They didn't condone what we'd done. We were in trouble. That was the word that was used, and they were lovingly trying to help us through that trouble."
"My stay in Kansas City, as I look back on it, was probably the best available for that situation. It wasn't the place that was the horror. " Zola T. pushed a baby girl into the world on Jan. 21, 1930, at The Willows .
"They laid her in my arms - I remember that well," said Zola, now 79 and living in Las Vegas. "She was like a little doll. She opened her eyes, as if she could really see me, and just nursed as though there'd be no tomorrow. " She named the baby Billy Jo Davis, borrowing her best friend's last name, and nursed her for the next nine days. On the 10th morning, "they didn't bring her to me," Zola said.
"They brought my clothes in and they told me a taxi would be waiting for me outside. " When she was ready to go, she asked for her baby. The baby would not be going with her, someone explained. The papers she had signed a few days earlier meant she had severed her right to hold or see or hear of Billy Jo again.
Zola had never heard of adoption. Stunned, she got into the cab and rode to Union Station. Her milk-swollen breasts ached all the way back to Flemington.
"I had no feelings," she said. "Everything in me was gone. " When she walked into the house, her father, whom she remembers as "a very gentle, kind man," said: "I don't know how you could come home without the baby. " "I don't either, Dad," she said. Neither her father nor her mother ever mentioned the baby again.
Her aunt showed her how to bind her breasts with rags to make the milk dry up. Zola soon went back to Kansas City to work in a cigar factory. When her brother sent her a bus ticket to California, she packed her bags for good. She married and raised two daughters. She came to believe that her parents were thinking of the plight of the widow's daughter when they left her at the railroad platform that November day in 1929.
"They did it to protect me," she said.
But years later, the sound of trains still unnerved her.
In 1956, a woman in her mid-20s sent a letter to Jackson County Juvenile Court, asking for information about her birth mother. A couple from St. Louis had adopted Marna S. in Kansas City when she was 9 days old. She felt incomplete, not knowing anything about the woman whose genes she shared.
"Every birthday that I ever had I wondered if she's thinking of me today. " The letter she got back contained only a name: Zola D.
Over the next 34 years, whenever Marna traveled from her home in Las Vegas, she looked for Zola D.'s in the phone book - even called one once, near St. Louis. She had no way to know that D. was not her birth mother's last name.
Then on a summer morning in 1990, Marna was working a crossword puzzle and feeding her grandchildren when the phone rang.
"Marna S.? This is Julie Gibala," the voice on the line said. "I'm an adoption investigator from Jackson County Juvenile Court. I think you better sit down... " While going through an old box in the warehouse at 26th and Holmes streets, Gibala had found Marna's 1956 letter in a file of court documents. The name "Zola" leapt out at her. Then she remembered why. A woman from Las Vegas named Zola T. had come to her office about a year earlier. She wanted to find the daughter she had given birth to in 1930. Gibala had saved her phone number. Zola and Marna, she discovered, lived 10 miles apart.
"Your birth mother would like to talk to you," Gibala told Marna.
"I could never describe that minute," said Marna, now 61. "The blood just rushes from your body. " Ten minutes later the phone rang again.
"Hi, Mom," Marna said.
"Hi, daughter," Zola replied.
For a moment, she was back in Kansas City, holding a doll-like blond infant named Billy Jo.
"I was stunned," Zola said. "Numb. It was just such a relief knowing that I didn't have to go out of this world not knowing if she was all right. " The next day, Zola drove home from a trip to California and went straight to Marna's house.
" ` She looks just like me,' " they both thought the instant they saw each other.
"When she opened that door, that was the happiest moment of my life," said Zola, who had traveled several times to Kansas City, looking for Marna. "There was never a time that I stopped trying to locate her...It's just like the whole world opened up for me. We just sit down and have real good conversations. Seems to me like it's awfully free and comfortable. Just like it should be. " Zola has no secrets now. And for the first time in 60 years, the clack of an approaching train is just noise in the distance.
October 4, 1992
Kansas City Star
Kansas City, Missouri
Garnet Marie Haworth dies at 89 She ran Willows for unwed mothers.
Kansas City lost a page from its rich social history Friday when Garnet Marie Haworth died. For 15 years, Haworth ran the Willows, a haven for unwed mothers from around the world.
Haworth, known as "Peggy," died at her home in Kansas City. She was 89.
Haworth's mother-in-law founded the Willows hospital in 1905, and it became renowned as a refuge for young unwed mothers from prominent families. Haworth ran the home at 2929 Main St. from the time of her mother-in-law's death in 1953 until it closed in 1969, when bearing a child out of wedlock had lost the stigma that made such homes so necessary.
In those years, friends remember, she worked hard to match the babies with the best adoptive families and developed a reputation for tireless devotion to the young women she served.
"She delighted in doing anything for the girls," said Joan Nichols, a social worker at the Willows from 1959 to 1969. "If a girl would get a little homesick, she would get up in the middle of the night and come over to comfort her. "
Haworth's daughter, Carol Price, has similar memories.
"She lived and breathed the home," Price said. "It was a 24-hour-a-day job. If someone was flying in at 1 a.m., she would go to the airport and meet them. " In a newspaper interview when the home was preparing to close, Price told a reporter: "You ought to see mother when someone is in labor. You would think all the girls were her own; she paces the floor just like any parent. "
In the same article, Haworth herself described how all-encompassing the job had become. "I haven't had a vacation in 15 years or seen a movie in four years," she said. "Please don't think I'm complaining. I wouldn't give anything for the years here, and when I decided to come to the home after Mother Haworth died, I knew I would never regret it. But there are some things you have to accept along with reality. "
After the Willows closed, Price said, Haworth devoted her energy to her five grandchildren, Matthew, Christopher, Scott, Edward III and Elizabeth, who range in age from 13 to 33. Barbara Close, who grew up in the same neighborhood as the Haworths, remembered Haworth as a pioneer in balancing career and family during the 1950s and 1960s. She radiated dignity, humor and an impeccable fashion sense, Close said.
"She was the only woman I knew in those days who worked (outside the home)," Close said. "She was before her time in being a role model for a contemporary woman, a working woman, a professional woman. " Nichols agreed, describing Haworth as a savvy businesswoman who nevertheless was a maternal confidante for her clients. But the Willows was much more than a career for Haworth. Long before she arrived as its director, she went there as a hopeful parent.
Haworth and her husband adopted Carol when she was 6 weeks old.
January 4, 1999
By Bethany Behrhorst
Moro woman reunited with birth mother
MORO - Fate and faith led Moro's Janice L. to her personal miracle on West 34th Street last November.
The area woman said she is facing the new year with the family she always hoped she would find. She said she thanks God for being able to find the missing part in her life.
After locating her mother through a registry which locates people throughout the United States, Janice was able to contact her birth mother for the first time. Her mother, Sally, lives on West 34th Street in West Milwaukee, Wis.
Janice said finding Sally was her personal miracle from God. Only one week after signing up on the registry, she was able to locate her mother. Sally had been on the registry for 12 years.
Janice, 40, came into this world with the name Faith W. She said she had a wonderful childhood and two loving parents, but always felt like she was missing something in her life. After many years of praying for a miracle which would reunite Janice with her birth mother, her prayers were answered.
She was able to contact an adoption investigator through the Internet to find out some information she needed to locate her birth mother. She knew she was born in Kansas City, Mo., at Willows Hospital on July 4, 1958. Her mother was scared and unmarried.
By going online she was able to find out that Sally, who was 16 at the time, lived in the hospital for the last few months of her pregnancy and then went back to her home town. She was able to rock baby Faith for 30 minutes before turning her over to a new family. Sally told her daughter that she carried an image of her child burned in her mind with her through the years.
She said "The very first thing I want you to know is that there was never a day that went by in my life that I didn't think about you," Janice said. "She told me I have my father's eyes and that I'm left-handed like my father was."
Janice's biological father died when she was 10 years old. She said she wished she also could have met him.
As an only child, Janice said she always wanted a large family. She and her husband Steve have five sons: Jason, 20; Daniel, 18; Jacob, 13; Jordan, 6; and Justin, 3. Spending Christmas in Wisconsin with her birth mother was something special.
While there, Janice and her husband decided to renew their vows in front of her birth mother at a chapel in the area. Being a pastor, Steve was able to perform the ceremony in which he was the pastor and the groom.
Steve asked Sally for her daughter's hand in marriage and the song "You Light Up My Life" was played while Janice and Sally lit a unity candle.
Janice said she was happy to learn that about her birth mother's life. She said her biological parents loved each other and that her father knew about her. The young couple wanted to be married and raise the baby, but because Sally was so young decision to give her up for adoption was made for her. She said this Christmas was
a love story worth retelling.
Janice said Sally plans to prepare a room in her home for the Lowrys for when they visit. Janice said she wants
to learn more about her birth mother's life. She said her family is planning on making more visits to Wisconsin.
Their only one word to describe it," Janice said."It was awesome. I've never walked into a place and felt totally at home."
She said she hopes Sally will come to the family's home in Moro and spend some time in the area.
February 18, 2005
The Kansas City Star
Kansas City, Missouri
Author: Ina L.
Adoptees deserve access to their stories
I am one of the approximately 5 million to 6 million individuals in this country who, because of the circumstances of their birth and the actions of others, have been given two different names and two different sets of parents. We are the adopted.
I am one of many older adopted individuals in the United States who are fighting for access to the basic facts of my birth. Like everyone else, we want to know where we came from and how we came into the world. We also want to know our family's medical history - for our own sake and for the sake of our children and grandchildren.
Although so far I have not been allowed to see the state's records, still I am fortunate: I know more than most people in my situation.
When I was 16 years of age, I began asking questions about my adoption and wanted facts. My adoptive mother had some documents about my biological parents and gave them to me to read. (I am not certain where she received this information, perhaps from the family physician.)
At the time, I felt satisfied. But since then many questions have arisen, and, sadly, over the years the papers disappeared. Still, thanks to my adoptive mom, I at least know that I was born at the Willows Maternity Home and my biological mother and father's names, and the name I was given at birth.
Like many others, I have jumped through the hoops at the Jackson County Family Court system.
For $50, the court will release non-identifying information. For $250 and up, individuals approved by the court can search for additional information about the biological family.
But in my case, as with many older adoptees, I learned that my biological mother and father have passed away. Without their permission, the court will not release its records about my birth nor approach anyone else in my biological family for permission or information. In my case, I learned that I have two half-sisters.
Adoptions today are much more open and many include informational exchange between the biological parents and the adoptive parents. This is beneficial in many instances. In a society that believes in such openness, people like me should have greater access to their own history.
I have a fundamental right to the information that the state of Missouri has about my birth and about who I am. At present, adoptees in Missouri like me have no legal right to find out even the most basic information about themselves.
Our more contemporary sister-state of Kansas and several other state jurisdictions have opened adoption records for adoptees who have reached a certain age and are seeking answers about their birth and their birth family. It is time for Missouri to do the same.
Ina L. lives in Blue Springs.