Banished Babies:The Secret History of Ireland's Baby Export Business

Since this story broke in 1996, the Irish media have been chasing down details of the "export" --primarily to the U.S.--of 2,000-plus infants and toddlers born to unmarried Irish mothers between the late '40s and the mid-'70s. Reporter Milotte did a TV documentary on the subject; his book incorporates new archival material released by the Irish government and the Catholic Church, as well as three involving case studies of efforts by adoptees or the mothers who reluctantly gave them up to get back together.

At mid-century, both church and state in Ireland stressed shame, secrecy, and the religion of adoptive parents over all other considerations; only in the mid-'50s did Eire require confirmation that proposed parents could provide a healthy (as well as a Catholic) home for Irish kids, and several money-based schemes slipped through the Republic's lax rules. An enlightening international sidebar to studies of the consequences of open versus closed adoption.

Banished Babies

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Between the end of WWII and 1965 more than 2,200 Irish infants were adopted out of the country, mostly by hopeful parents in the U.S. All the adoptive parents were, by mandate of the church in Ireland, Catholic. Until the late 1990's and the work of Irish journalist Michael Milotte this was a fact known to few in Ireland and fewer in the U.S. In Ireland Milotte's work, emphasizing both the emotional and physical brutalization of the birth mothers and the country's loss of vital human capital, led to great furor.

In 2001, the Washington Post reported:
Milotte, a senior reporter for the Irish television network RTE, says life was particularly hard for the mothers in these convents, which were largely self-sustaining thanks to the women's labor but also received public funding. In some cases, he says, the priests and nuns received money from the adoptive parents, who paid "confinement and medical costs" associated with their child's birth.

"Where did the money go?" he wonders. "It sustained the people who ran the institutions in a manner they wouldn't have otherwise enjoyed."

But money likely wasn't the primary motivator, he says. Rather, there was a demand for children, and many of the nuns believed they were doing God's work by sending some of Ireland's social outcasts to a better life in the land of opportunity.

"They thought they were doing good," says Milotte in a phone interview from Dublin. "The fact that people might have rights didn't enter into their thinking. They thought they knew best. If, in doing the best thing, there was an opportunity to make money, that was all the better."

In those postwar days, it was not uncommon for Irish children to be adopted by U.S. military and government employees living abroad, Milotte says.
The birth mothers of these children spent their pregnancies and post-natal, pre-adoption lives in various 'homes' (often convents) for girls and women who were seen by the conservative Catholic culture as shame-worthy moral degenerates. The horrific conditions that these women underwent was recently dramatized in the movie the Magdelene Sisters.
Milotte spoke with NPR's Daniel Zwerdling upon release of his book Banished Babies in May of 1998:
Many of these women were seen as the next thing to prostitutes, and were very often told that when their identities became known. Even when girls got pregnant, very often they didn't get married even if -- because there was the stigma attached to having had sex before marriage. So even where a relationship endured, the child would be given up for adoption. And it was all done in secret.
I am one of those kids given up for adoption. It was in that interview in May of 1998, two days after I returned to Chicago following my mother's funeral, that I learned of the controversy. I have always known that I was adopted, that I was a 'true Irishman', and I had always been proud and honored by the distinction. In the days immediately following my mom's death I told my Dad that I had never for a second doubted who my 'real' parents were, that he and my mom were the only ones who can lay claim to me. I feel no different today.
None-the-less, as the NPR story continued I found myself getting information that I'm sure even they didn't have.
ZWERDLING: Here's one of the most curious aspects of this story.It's hard enough for most women to give up a baby for adoption during the first few hours or weeks of its life. But church officials forced the young mothers to stay in their convents and raise their own infants for at least one year or more before adoptive families could come and get them.Reporter Mike Milotte says he's turned up cases where young women changed their minds after their babies were born and tried to leave the convents. But the nuns sent guards to capture the women and bring them back.For her part, Mary O'Connor says, she knew she'd have to give her baby away. She felt she literally had no choice. But by the time the nuns came to take her son, she'd been raising him for 17 months. Then one evening, O'Connor says, a nun told her, "Get him ready. We're giving him away in the morning."

O'CONNOR: So she just carried it over to the convent. There was two parts, like there was a hospital part where the children were kept and then there was the convent part. And the child was brought over to the convent part. And there was three steps up. You went in the side door and there were three steps up. And they went to the top of the steps and they said, "Just say goodbye now. That's it."



O'CONNOR: Yes. I waved and they went off. I have not seen him since.
I was 19 months old, August 1959, when I came to America. My parents had been involved in the details of my adoption since Christmas eve of 1958, eleven days before my first birthday. I have seen pictures of the first moments of my life with Mom and Dad (Detroit International Airport) and I have to admit, I looked significantly less enthused than they did. I now can see why. I came over in the company of another boy and a priest. My family actually maintained regular contact with the family of my traveling companion for several years after our arrival. In my high school were two sons, both from Ireland, of one of the lawyers involved in the adoptions.

In appreciation for their gift from god (with special thanks to St. Jude, the patron saint of lost causes) my parents contributed yearly and generously to Catholic missionaries throughout their lives. Following the directives of the adoption officials they raised my sister and I Catholic, sending us both to Catholic grade and High schools. It took me a awhile to forgive them for making sure that I had nuns for teachers for the first four years of my life but it was a humble and pious decision on their part which had negative consequences unforeseeable by them and ultimately not that traumatic to me. Except that I get way crazy whenever nuns are discussed. If any one thing can be said to be a root cause of my disdain of authoritarianism it would have to be all those nuns early in my life.

Half of the children of my friends from my youth are adopted, as is my Godson (happy birthday A!). Although I obviously had no say in that, I am proud of it none-the-less. I would like to think that my life provided some reassurance that adoption is a great choice.

I am truly pained that the life of the woman who gave me birth and took care of me for my first year and a half was most likely one of shame and depredation. But the end result, for me, has been wonderful and I would have it no other way. She may have been lied to about many things but not about how much better her child's life would be.

This is how I planned to end GT12's Irish Fest. There were fewer posts than planned due to the realities of my life as, among other things, a 'tax professional'. And this one is a day late. Maybe next year we can honor James Joyce, and James Connolly, Synge and Shaw, DeValera and The Dubliners. Thanks for following along. I hope you better understand how important my Irish identity is to me and how graced our western world is by the presence of Eire in it.




We present the shocking statistics of money that the Catholic Church receives, this list denotes money only from Italy.
Below are the links where you will find information in different languages.

Evidence showing corrupt money that bleeds the people and is used to cover up pedophile priests, crimes against humanity. ITALIANO INGLES PORTUGUES ESPANOL

(Industrial Schools)Vatican & Government: Partners in Crime

Christian Brothers and Sisters of Mercy abused thousands of children in catholic institutions

Abuse in Catholic-run Schools, Telegracia Investigates:

TeleGracia Investigates: Abuse in Catholic-run Mental Institutions

  © Banished Babies Sponsored by Protect Your Children Foundation 2010

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