On February 9, the Florida Senate Health and Human Services Appropriations Subcommittee heard testimony and debate on SB 221, a proposal to legalize Safe Haven Baby Boxes in the state. Currently the state’s Safe Haven Law neither prohibits nor authorizes their use. As a result, Ocala went ahead and installed one, and reportedly more boxes are on the way to the Sunshine State. Since the hearing was in Appropriations I didn’t bother to contact members. I figured it would be a rubber stamp. After all, the cost and maintenance of baby boxes is not (at this time) taxpayer-funded, but paid for by private donations of money and labor. Safe Haven and now Safe Haven Baby Boxes have always been feel-good legislation, and if baby boxes are free, that’s even better—and (re)electable.
But the hearing was not a rubber stamp. (marker 31:27). Although the bill passed out of committee 7-4 strictly along party lines with Republicans winning, (something I’ve not seen before) it engendered debate and opposition. Leading the opposition was, as usual, Senator Lauren Book who last year, as chair of the Senate Health Policy Committee, kept the bill from being heard, even though it had earlier passed the House nearly unanimously. Book was aided and abetted at this year’s Appropriations subcommittee by Senator Gary Farmer, an adoptive father, who had serious reservations about passage.
Farmer brought hard questions to the debate, He asked for instance, how a Safe Haven Baby Box drop could be a legal Safe Haven case since Florida’s current law does not currently include a box alternative to the traditional and legal face-to-face handover. That is, even though a box is not prohibited, it is not authorized as a Safe Haven location or practice. Could the dropper be prosecuted? (My own question was could it be adjudicated as a Safe Haven case since courts, not hospitals or police or social workers that determine legal disposition.) This, of course, seemed a ridiculous question from the SHBB POV. Would advocates feel the same if people started leaving babies in the produce section of Walmart? Lettuce preferred. Maybe I shouldn’t ask. A long time ago New York State Senator Nancy Larraine Hoffman suggested that supermarkets would make a perfect Safe Haven drop-off point.
Another problem Farmer brought up was the lack of medical histories available to the boxed baby —how anonymous baby boxing eliminates that possibility, when under traditional Safe Haven practice, a medical history form is available, but not mandatory, for droppers to fill out now or to mail in later.
Well, Wednesday night (February 10) Monica Kelsey, founder of Safe Haven Baby Boxes, Inc. founder of the movement and of the box, let loose, on that question: and other “problems” presented by the likes of Senators Book and Farmer. In a 5-minute car-talk on her way to Applebee’s, she cogitated:
They said that these kids are entitled to their medical …their medical information. And this is the part that really frosts my tail. This frosts my tail when they even bring this up because as an adoptee. I would rather have my life than know who my parents are. Same thing with a baby being placed in a baby box. I can guarantee you 100% that these babies would rather have their life that know their medical history. Your argument is absurd.
It’s not like I haven’t heard this argument before.
Way back in 2000, when I testified against Ohio’s Safe Haven bill before the House Judiciary Committee, Jim Jordan (yes,THAT Jim Jordan!) brought up the same medical history question that Sen. Farmer raised 20 years later A church lady, who had testified earlier in the hearing that her church would “adopt all of the abandoned babies in the state” was allowed to respond. She said that none of the safe havened would care about a medical history or health issues They “will just happy to be alive” She said everyone gets sick. Everyone dies. She pointed out that her own not-adopted sister, who did have a family medical history, was dead from ovarian cancer. So what? This is the kind of thing one can’t make up except in AdoptionLand.
Bastard Nation does not advocate for adoptee records rights on the grounds of medical history, since no one has a right to someone else’s medical history or records without their consent. That does not mean, however, that we ridicule or dismiss those concerns as “absurd. “ Those who do ridicule it, in fact, are absurd. Medical concerns are real, and for many adopted people central to their lives. For 40 years, adoption professionals have known this and have made an effort to collect the medical and social histories of first parents to pass on to adopters and the adopted. Moreover, traditional Safe Haven advocates have come to recognize the importance of personal background information, including physical and mental health histories, and encourage sharing, though it be anonymous.
Ms Kelsey’s dismissal and ridicule of Sen. Farmer’s questions and adoptee health concerns proves once and for all, that she has no comprehension of the lived- experience of adoptees, although she is adopted herself in a “good adoption,” which apparently obviates the greater truth of adoption for the rest of us. She simply doesn’t care.
This is not the first time Ms. Kelsey has dismissed adoptee concerns about baby boxes. On January 19, 2021, during her Beyond the Box Facebook vlog she said, responding to criticism coming from a therapist opposed to baby boxes, that was posted on the website of A Safe Haven for Newborns, a traditional Safe Haven advocacy organization based in Miami that opposes boxes. Ms. Kelsey said:
Yeah, well…and let me let me just say this out there…let me just, let me just put this out there. So, one of the, arguments that she said was can you imagine the trauma that is going to be with this child that is placed in this box. And how unfortunate it is for this mother or that you know this mother and stuff, but she kept talking about how this baby was going to feel abandoned and stuff and I’m sitting there thinking to myself, it is a box, or it is a dumpster. Those are your choices for some women, and you’re choosing to degrade the fact that this this baby that’s going to be placed in this, you know, electronically monitored box that’s heated and cooled patented, cleared by the FDA,…you’re going to say that that’s not a good option for this child. When the only other option available is a dumpster. It’s like, what have we come to… I mean, I got asked today. What about the medical information and medical history? You know when some of these babies…. I was like, do you really think that if they were placed in a dumpster that they’d be worried about their medical history, and in their parents.
It’s like you know, I look at my life and I think I would rather have my life and know who my parents are right I mean how can we argue this I mean how can this person come out, and somebody that’s been abandoned that’s been in this position, and say, Well, you know, you might feel really really bad that your birth mom, you know, abandoned you and placed you in this cold box in the sight of a firehouse it’s like, lady….
Kevin Albin, also adopted, and a key member of the SHBB team responded:
I don’t understand how trauma even comes into, into the equation, laying in a box for. It’s not even boxes such a. It’s ridiculous. It’s just, I’m trying to be. I’m trying to be nice about it but it’s just a ridiculous argument.
Followed by Jamie Cameron, SHBB’s PR and Fundraising Coordinator, but not-adopted:
It’s not like they’re putting them in an Amazon box, you know, and just sitting on a doorstep and you bring in a bell and run away. And that’s my point, that they really have no argument, and they know they have no argument, but they just want to argue for the sake of arguing, because they can just ever be happy. It’s a very… It makes sense, but a lot of people in this world, just do a lot of things that don’t make sense. And, you know, it’s just… it’s a pissing match. There you go. I said it.
Neither Ms Kelsey nor Mr. Albin, though adopted, has a relationship with the adoptee rights movement. If they did, they wouldn’t say something so stupid. Ms. Kelsey says she supports OBC/records rights, yet her entire agenda, both political and personal, undermines the adoptee rights movement and adoptee autonomy. Her advocacy and encouragement of abandonment-by- baby-box and her belief that boxes will have no negative consequences for the babies as they grow up, reject even the simplest adoptee rights doctrine. If Ms Kelsey did associate with adoptees she would be well aware of the negative effects that adoption has on adoptees as a class—even in “good adoptions” like hers.
I don’t believe that being put in a baby box per se is traumatic. The infant is only in it for a couple minutes. But it is what follows years down the road that is traumatic, or disturbing or detrimental, or harmful or whatever you want to all it. When consciousness sets in, so does abandonment, and very young adopted children shape abandonment in their heads where it stays. Even at the age of 3 I suspected something was rotten. It was!
Children personalize unhappy or stressful situations beyond their control, experience, and intellectual understanding. Those preconceptions stick with them as adults. Abandonment sticks to us no matter what our story turns out to be. The sense of abandonment. Isolation. Rejection. Nothingness. All are real for adoptees whether or not we were literally abandoned. The sense of abandonment is harmful. It is dangerous. Until the age of 38 when I got my OBC from Ohio (a right I never knew I had, until then) I felt I’d been dropped out of the sky. No context. No history, and the constant haunt that I would never ever know. I wasn’t allowed to know. Ohio’s law back then let me read my OBC, but I had to order a copy through the mail to get it for keeps. I stood at the counter of the special records department in the old Vital Stats office and cried. I had the privilege of a name. I had the privilege of a beginning. I was on the way to knowing where I came from.
Ms. Kelsey also enjoys that privilege. Although she was abandoned 2 hours after birth she somehow found her first mother and was reunited. (I am waiting for her book to come out shortly to learn how she did that.) She has that history. She has that context. Yet., she advocates for a law and social practice that will stop others from enjoying that privilege—that right. She says that being boxed is not abandonment. Boxed babies are surrounded by love from first mothers (who miraculously didn’t murder or dumpsterize them) and adopters (who saved them—along with SHBB). Playing with words.
A week doesn’t go by when I don’t read adopted folks say on social media that they wish they’d never been born. That they wish they had been aborted. That they wish they were dead. Some of that may be cyberdrama, but much of it is real.
I have had contact with thousands of adopted people over the last 20 years, and I can think of only one person who does not suffer from some level of “adoption issues,” and I’m not real sure about him. No matter how “good” the adoption is, (and let’s not even get into the bad adoptions) abandonment is just under the surface, popping up at inconvenient and unexpected times It affects direct and generational relationships; attitudes towards marriage and family; friendships, jobs, finances, self-esteem and confidence; personal autonomy, coping mechanisms, decision-making processes, trust. The adoptee identity is fragile, cumbersome and all-pervading. And, to top it off, when adoptees object to their treatment and status, including schemes such as sealed birth records and baby boxes, utilized to normalize their abnormal circumstances, they are generally ridiculed, laughed at, scolded, bullied, and ignored by society and the state alike for being ungrateful–or simply called the product of an anomalous “bad adoption.” “Get over it !” we are told by those with codified rights and no shifting identities
According to numerous studies, depression and suicide run high among adoptees. While it is beyond my interest and experience to address this issue head-on ,I suggest checking in with therapist Moses Farrow and his gut-wrenching posts about the effects of adoption on those whom the likes of Ms Kelsey strive to create and claim to care about—to “save.” Just as I was getting ready to post this, I saw that Farrow has launched a new website, #truthislouder.
Abandonment and secrecy define adoption, and there is no way a Safe Haven Baby Box will make someone feel wanted or good about themselves. Generations of adoptees are told “your mother loved you so much she gave you away.” This trope is barefacedly spewed repeatedly at Baby Box Blessings along with the warning—“but she could have killed you” For example. Ms. Kelsey’s speech at a press conference* at the Decatur Township Fire Station October 12, 2020, a few days after a baby had been left there:
It’s not that these women don’t love their babies. This woman left a note with her child and it’s heartbreaking just to read it because she expressed how much she loved this child. And so, thank this fire department for having this resource available
followed by the admonition:
But thankfully this option is available for them because where would this baby have been found. We don’t know if this baby would have been placed in a safe place. It might have been found dead. Wed don’t know.
And re-looped back to:
I can tell you this. By reading this letter that she left, this mother loved her child. And it is evident by the letter that she wrote.
SHBB associate Linda Znachko, founder of the discarded baby burying ministry, He Knows Your Name gives a canned speech at box blessing ceremonies that vaporize actual physical infant abandonment, wipe-out- by-baby-box identity and history, and then praises the adoptions she assumes will follow. . This is from her speech at the Ocala, Florida blessing, December 15, 2020:
Every mother. I say, is a hero that chooses to exercise ..provides a safe haven. I love to say that this very box behind us has a forever family waiting for this baby. This baby has a name, has a future, and is a birthday party waiting to happen.
This is mind fuck on a deep level.
Little kids are trotted out at SHBB events to illustrate the happiness the baby box brings to them and their adopters who like to say that their baby-box-acquired child and Safe Haven Baby Boxes, Inc. are part of “God’s plan for them.” Of course, these children are happy. They are only 1-2 years old. Wait until they are older and learn that they are excised from their own history—when they feel thrown away, no matter how much they may be loved by adoptive parents. In the late 1990s, decades after my adoption, my then-boyfriend was being a dick one night. I screamed at him, “you threw me away just like my mother did.!”
Where did that come from? If you are adopted, you know.
I’ve been hesitant to call adoption a form of trauma, but it is something. Abandonment and lack of context is real. It is lonely. It is agonizing. That the state promotes and legalizes this absurd dysfunction-under-law makes it worse. The lived-experience of adoptees cannot be dismissed with “they are only glad to be alive” because many are not glad. To dismiss adoptees who suffer from loss of civil rights, abandonment, grief, physical and mental illness engendered by church-state secrets, lies, and political agendas–because they should be “happy to be alive” is despicable. To sell this lie to the public should be a crime or at least a huge embarrassment in a civil society. Ridicule is a fine weapon.
That Safe Haven Baby Boxes, Inc. does not address adoptee opposition to their baby trading scheme is puzzling since the organization claims in some weird way to represent us and the future adoptees they create in some adopta-sugarplum fantasy spinning in their heads. And that’s the problem. We are real people who’s existence they wish away. We work tirelessly in states across the country to restore our rights and dignity, and Safe Haven Baby Boxes comes along right behind us negating us–claiming that our rights don’t exist. We should just be happy we weren’t tossed..
Sidenote: SB 221 also increases the age infants in Florida can be safe-havened from 7 days to 30 days, a whole other issue that needs to be addressed, but apparently is OK with the boxers.
Follow adoptee rights legislation including SHBB bills on the Bastard Nation Legislative webpage
*Video no longer online. Recording and transcriptions in my files.