Hell’s Bells! It’s a cloying adoption story worthy of National Adoption Awareness Month, aka A Month in Adoptee Hell. I assume this is a preview of what to expect in November. Hang on!
The Chicago Tribune featured a story Saturday about the adoption of Baby Mila by Crown Point (Indiana) High School baseball coach Steve Strayer and his wife Jennifer, who recently left her private clinical social work practice to be Mila’s full-time mother.
Ordinarily, I’d just dismiss this story, but there’s a catch.
On December 5, 2019, Baby Mila, now known as Charlotte Sue Ann Strayer, was dropped in the newly installed Crown Point Fire Station Safe Haven Baby Box (the fourth boxed baby in Indiana since the program began in 2017). She is not to be confused with another possible Baby Mila (aka Baby Grace) baby boxed in Hammond in September 2019. (I know! It’s confusing, but I can only go by news reports; see note at end) Our current Baby Mila’s adoption was finalized on August 31 of this year. The process appears to have been fast-tracked, no doubt because there were no pesky parents and kin, best practices, and due diligence to get in the way.
Coach Strayer, 53, says he and his wife had always planned to adopt, but he was stressed with teaching and coaching, and Jennifer with her work; and—well they just forgot about it. God intended them to remain childless. Personally, I find that refreshing.
But as fate would have it, they remembered adoption after Coach Strayer’s parents died within a year of each other, and the couple was left alone in the world. As a consequence, he says they renewed the adoption plan.
So, while some people adopt to replace a child they lost either in a miscarriage/stillbirth or later in life, the Stayers went looking for replacement parents. Seriously!
We just thought, “Who is going to be there to take care of our personal stuff after we are gone? ” That was one of the reasons we decided to adopt.
They were looking for a personal assistant? A trustworthy executor for their estate?
But it gets worse. Coach Strayer calls Mila/Charlotte’s first mother “a champion.” Without knowing anything about her or her unhappy and perhaps abusive circumstances, he speculates that Mila/Charlotte’s first mother could have aborted and then felt guilty about it later. In other words, the Baby Box saved her from feeling bad. As if feeling helpless and friendless and shunting your baby off to the adoption mill doesn’t? All to God’s glory.
Now, I am always wary when I see these kinds of stories. Reporters have a habit of picking the most stupid thing you tell them and headlining it. I would like to think that’s what happened here, but these are direct quotes. I am fairly certain that Mrs. Strayer, a clinical social worker, wouldn’t have made these clueless comments, even if the thoughts are there. She, in fact, isn’t quoted at all in the article, but her picture with Mila/Charlotte is included in the article.
Mila/Charlotte is too young to speak for herself and control her own information. How will she feel when she is older (1) having her own family and history stolen from her by legalized Baby Box abandonment, and then (2) the rest of her story getting taken from her and interpreted by the Strayers and published in the Trib? (And no, I don’t blame the reporter. That’s his job, and the Strayers are happy to violate the child’s privacy and spread it all over Chicagoland.) As she grows older, will the Strayers continue to mediate her experiences with saved-from-abortion/dumpster tales and slavish praise for the Baby Box system that “saved” her and gave her new parents a family clerk?
Nearly every adult adoptee I know finds the idea of being left in a box-in-a-wall by a mother an abhorrent and cruel. act –-absurdly characterized and pushed as a loving and heroic deed performed by a loving and heroic parent who without the Baby Box option would just have killed them and not been so loving and heroic. The trope adoptees live by: She loved you so much she gave you away.
Adoptees who object to Baby Boxes, as well as the adoption system in general on social media, are routinely harassed and pilloried by box fans (and more traditional adopter types who just love adoption) with taunts of, “so would you rather have been aborted,/tossed in a dumpster?” The nicer ones offer thoughts and prayers since something must have gone horribly wrong with us.
Absolutely no one but adoptees and allies wants to talk about how Baby Box abandonment notches up already imposing adoptee abandonment issues that leave the victims feeling without roots and context, not to mention a right to their own birth records. Strangers in their own skin. At least with sealed adoption records, there is still a chance of knowing. With Boxed Babies, the only relief will be if someone comes forward years later or through DNA.
I certainly wish Mila/Charlotte the best and hope that her history–when she learns it– isn’t too traumatic for her. Adoptees, current and future, stand with you, Mila/Charlotte. We are here to protect and support you. You will not be alone. No matter how kind your new parents may turn out to be, you deserved better than a Safe Haven Baby Box.
Note: It’s a funny thing about baby boxes. Advocates advertise their Baby Box program with the slogan, “Women demand anonymity” while the babies that are boxed and “relinquished ” in this same anonymity (and the people who adopt them ) are paraded to the press and on social media like they are prize Holsteins. Advocates publicly admit that these media appearances are advertisements to recruit more mothers (usually, but fathers aren’t exempt from dropping their newborns into their deposit boxes instead of killing them). I chose not to post a picture of Baby Mia/Charlotte here, though there are pictures of her with the Strayers in the article.
NOTE: October 7, 2020
I have corrected my original post where I referred to the baby as baby Mia. That was my initial mistake, and I corrected it with “Mila” and her circumstances.
But then, as I said, it gets confusing.
The Baby Mia that was boxed at Franciscan Health in Hammond was known as Baby Grace and the name consistently is used in news reports. She has since been adopted and is known as Grace. Elizabeth. In a feature story on the birthmother broadcast by Channel 6 in Indianapolis, she is called “Grace,” but also is referred to as “Mila” toward the end of the story. Then, it gets more confusing. When Monica Kelsey, founder of Safe Haven Baby Boxes, posted the Chicago Tribune story on the Strayer adoption, she wrote: “Baby ‘Mila” has been adopted!” (SHBB, October 3, 2020)
This is what happens when you play musical babies.
I have no idea where Mila comes from, but I wonder if it’s Baby Box code for Baby Ameilia, a newborn found abandoned and dead a few years ago, whom the boxers have fetishized and spiritually adopted. Baby Amelia’s footprint adorns the door of baby boxes.
Originally published in The Daily Bastardette on October 4, 2020