Patricia was a 28-year-old single mother who was pregnant with her third child as the result of a date rape that had occurred some six months before she contacted an adoption agency. Already juggling a full-time job and two young daughters, she felt that raising a third child would be beyond her abilities, and planned to place the third child–a boy–with an adoptive family.
Patricia’s childhood had been difficult. Her father, an auto mechanic, had been a violent drunk, and her mother a quiet, passive woman who earned extra money by doing home day care. Patricia was the eldest of three children, the younger siblings being a sister and brother. When asked about the family relationships, she said that, “we girls just loved my little brother, we’d have done anything for him.” As children, Patricia and her sister devised a protective system whereby their brother was protected from their father’s rages: While Patricia drew her father’s ire, her younger sister took their little brother away from the conflict and danger as their mother cowered in the background.
One of Patricia’s significant childhood memories was of a spectacular argument between her parents, which culminated in her mother locking her drunk husband outside the house. Upon finding he had been locked out, Patricia’s father had driven his pickup truck through their living room window. “That was the last straw,” she recalled, “and after that we tossed him out. By that time we were old enough to call the shots, and we told our mom that he had to go. After that, my mom and sister and me did for my baby brother until we could send him off to college. He was the only one of us that even finished high school. We don’t see him much anymore, though. After finishing college, he married a girl from the east coast and now they live their fancy life apart from us. But at least he’s happy.”
Her first marriage had ended when Patricia’s husband inexplicably “turned into a boozer, even though he never drank before, not even at our wedding reception!” Patricia seemed mystified about the abrupt change that overcame her ex-husband once they had their daughters. But she had “run him off, too” and now struggled to make ends meet because the children’s father didn’t regularly pay his child support. Still, she had recently earned an associate’s degree in banking and finance and expected to obtain a better job in a bank or credit union and thus improve her lot in life.
Patricia seemed determined to overcome the effects of growing up with an alcoholic parent, and had been through about a year of counseling at a nearby county clinic before the date rape had occurred. She felt that she had built a better life for herself and her children than she’d had herself, but experienced a great deal of anxiety on a daily basis even before the rape had occurred. When asked what her feelings were about giving up her unborn son, she said that she needed to do the best thing for the boy, even though she had grown increasingly attached to him ever since she’d begun to feel him move and kick.
Patricia’s plan was to give her unborn son a gift, not to abandon him, she explained. “This baby needs to be as far away from us as he can,” she insisted, “so he can have a chance for a different life.” Because the baby’s father was incarcerated on another charge but was likely to be paroled within the next few years, Patricia was concerned about her son’s safety were he to remain with her. Her plans seemed entirely appropriate and were approved by the social worker who did the intake interview for the adoption agency that would be handling the baby’s adoption.
As part of the agency’s routine plan of care for parents placing their children for adoption, the social worker gave Patricia a short list of nearby counselors not associated with the adoption agency who could give her the pre- and post-placement support she would need.
In her report, the social worker wrote that Patricia’s plan was sensible and in the best interests of her unborn child. Everything seemed in order. Everything seemed fine.