Wrongful Adoption: Return Baby Elliott, Part I
By Mirah Riben
Kimberly Rossler, 25, gave birth to her son, James Elliott Rossler, on May 28, 2015 in Providence Hospital, Mobile County, Alabama. She brought her son home and they were doing fine. There was never a question about her fitness and no involvement whatsoever from social services or CPS. No complaints or reports were made, to Kim's knowledge. Yet, three weeks -- almost -- to the day after Elliott was born, three Mobile, Alabama, Sheriffs knocked on her door while she sat breastfeeding her newborn son. They seized the suckling infant.
What happened to Kim and Elliott is an American tragedy. This young mother and son were victimized by the market- and demand-driven American adoption industrial complex and predatory, private, independent, entrepreneurial adoption that allows baby brokers and unethical practitioners to operate with impunity. To fill the demand (and earn their living), practitioners coerce, pressure and exploit expectant and new mothers with a justification that their babies would be better off being raised by those who pay the brokers' fees, and with the belief (knowledge?) that in the vast majority of cases, even if the mother cries foul, she would not have the resources to fight the injustice. Unlike the real estate industry, there are not even ethical guidelines for adoption practitioners, and there is no government oversight.
Kim learned she was pregnant in October 2014. Baby Elliott's father, Greg, whom Kim had been "on and off" with, pressured Kim to abort and wanted nothing to do with the child:
"Once I told Greg that I didn't have an abortion, he began threatening me, saying that he was going to make my life hell and that I was a horrible candidate for raising a human, etc. I now understand and recognize emotional abuse, and am recovering."
Then Kim made one phone call that changed her life dramatically. She thought she was calling an adoption agency by the name of Adoption Rocks -- the first to pop up in her Google search. Unbeknownst to her, she was in fact calling an attorney named Donna Ames, who called her back Sunday evening at 6pm and arranged for them to meet for lunch the very next day, at which time Kim was told:
"Things like, after I placed the baby, I could go on with my life, my education and that this choice, the one so many girls like me have chosen, brings a sense of relief -- and I have reason to feel courageous and even heroic for making such a selfless decision."
According to Kim, Donna also told her that:
"She had 'the perfect' Mom in mind for me. She was single, very wealthy, from Birmingham, and was someone who would like an open adoption. She said things like Christmas and birthdays, we could do together. She also said she had other families seeking to adopt, but none who had quite as much money as Kate."
Kate (Katherine Gilliard Sharp of Birmingham) called Kim the following day and they arranged a meeting two days later.
"I liked her. I liked that she was single and a powerful business woman. I also could tell she really wanted to be a Mom. I really liked the idea of giving her my baby. I hadn't even felt the baby move yet and it seemed a relief to be able to tell Greg about my choice and to have a plan. I was exhausted from fear, tired of the endless texts and threats from Greg, and glad I could do something special for this stranger, who somehow didn't really feel a stranger at all. She talked a good bit about her family and loving parents who she had pictures of. The idea of giving him storybook grandparents and private school seemed surreal. Kate talked about hiring a Spanish nanny because she really wanted her child to be bilingual. It sounded like the movies. I was sold."
Kim told Donna she liked Kate, and Donna assured her she would take care of:
"...all the legal stuff and paperwork and for me not to worry. We met to go over my allowance that she referred to as 'my monthly gift.' She wrote down my expenses, including phone and car, even though I specifically stated I did not currently have a car and that I was on Greg's cell phone plan. She said, it's ok-you can use if for something else, we just have to put a figure here for the judge to approve you getting money. Naïve, I said ok and trusted her...."
Herein lies one of the most troubling adoption practices in American domestic adoption. Most every state allows for prospective adopters to pay expectant mothers' expenses. These include living expenses, such as rent, medical, clothing allowances, and transportation. Judges decide upon a "reasonable" amount.
In February 2015, Donna prepared a budget for Kim's monthly allowance or "gift" as Donna called it.
"Before I ever felt my baby move, Kate, Donna and I went before a judge where I signed a pre-birth agreement. That day, the judge, his explanation, it all felt like a routine court proceeding. I know the judge told me I had five days to change my mind after birth, and Donna told me before and after that day, that nothing was final until the baby was born, and this court proceeding was the way to secure my 'monthly gift'."
Judge Don Davis approved a monthly allowance and plans progressed.
"Kate quickly became something like a sister/friend. We texted multiple times a day, every day. We talked about the baby and I began confiding in her about my emotions related to the adoption. I felt myself growing depressed and found myself sleeping day in and out, crying about what life would look like once I gave my baby away. The baby was moving quite a bit, and I began allowing myself some thoughts to consider what being a Mom would look like. It was a war in my head. I could hear Greg and many before him telling me I am worthless, a step mother telling me I would never be good for anything or anybody and Kate -- I really loved the idea of my 'selfless' act giving her what she always wanted, to be a mother. But then I had parts of me saying: 'You can do this'; 'You don't have to pay for private school to be a good Mamma'; 'This is going to be hard-but you are going to do this.' The conflict within became so intense that I knew I needed help. These weeks were so dark, all I could think was 'I hope I die in labor but my son lives. Kate will be happy and I won't feel the pain.'
"I confided in Kate about my depressed thinking, and constant crying. I couldn't keep food down, had little appetite, and leaned on her for every bit of encouragement I could get. ...Kate would text with me in the wee hours of the morning when I could not sleep, comforting me, telling me I was going to be okay, etc. I mentioned to her I think I needed a counselor and she said she would reach out to Donna to see if she could find me one."
Kate and Donna found Kim a counselor who helped her sort out her anxieties and fears. She began to address issues of self-esteem and get in touch with her self-worth, regardless of whether she chose to parent or place her son for adoption. Her depression lifted and she began to see parenting as a real possibility. Her only fear now was hurting Kate, whom she had grown to care about.
"I could not bear the thought of letting [Kate] down. She had been so good to me and I really liked her.
"For many therapy sessions we talked about the practical steps I needed to take to be able to parent; how to cope with Greg in a co-parenting venture. I even had him come to a therapy session to discuss the possibility.... He came and was very hostile and said he would sign his rights away if I chose to parent....
"Kate came to my Dr.'s appointments and every time I saw her, I would get more confused. The war in my mind kept fighting."
Upon securing a good housing situation with a friend, and knowing that she could return to her job in daycare and take her baby with her, Kim knew in March 2015 that she was ready, able and wanting to maintain her role as mother of her yet-unborn son.
"I chose to parent. It felt right and good. Though scared and feeling incredible responsibility for Kate, I knew this is what I wanted and was determined to give my son what he needed."
NOTE 8/6/15: The facts of this specific case, as reported in this two-part piece, are as told by Kimberly Rossler who stands by them. Some of the facts are denied and/or disputed by Adoption Rocks and Donna Ames and will be ruled on when the case has its day(s) in court.
As stated, payments for expenses of expectant mothers considering adoption are currently a legal practice that creates many problems. Also as stated, pre-birth contracts are legal in Alabama but illegal in 48 states and, combined with direct payment of expenses, attemt to turn a woman trying to make the best decision for her child and herself into a paid surrogate. Adoption in America is under-regulated as attested to by L. Anne Babb, Ethics of American Adoption and by Adam Pertman, former Executive Director of the Donaldson Adoption Institute, who on more than occasion has been quotes as calling it "the Wild West" for its lack of ethical guidelines and regulation.