March 20 is the 8th anniversary of Ohio’s “Opening Day” in 2015 – the day the state fully implemented S.B. 23 making previously closed original birth records accessible upon request to 400,000 adult adoptees. For Adoption Network Cleveland this was the culmination of decades of work advocating for adoptee rights, and we celebrated with Ohio-born adoptees from across the country. On this anniversary we examine an important piece of the historical context of secrecy in adoption.
The Baby Thief and You
How has a woman who died in 1950 affected you? Barbara Raymond, who spent over a decade researching and writing her nonfiction book, The Baby Thief: The Untold Story of Georgia Tann, the Baby Seller Who Corrupted Adoption, will attempt to answer that question.
Tann operated out of Memphis, Tennessee, from 1924 to 1950, stealing over 5,000 children from poor, often single parents and selling them to wealthy people. In the process, she invented modern American adoption, popularizing it, commercializing it, and corrupting it with secrecy. Barbara, an adoptive mother herself, was the first person to discover that Tann began the practice of falsifying adoptees’ birth certificates, sealing their true ones and issuing false ones that portrayed their adoptive parents as their birth parents. Eventually every state began issuing false birth certificates.
Barbara will discuss Tann’s actions and their consequences, which are still felt today. She’ll also talk about her search for her daughter’s birth family, and the ongoing, happy reunion that followed.
About Barbara Raymond
Barbara Raymond is the author of The Baby Thief, as well as articles for The New York Times, USA Today, Writer’s Digest, and other publications. Publisher’s Weekly named The Baby Thief a Best Book of the Year. Academy Award winning actress and producer Octavia Spencer has optioned The Baby Thief for film.
Barbara is the mother of two and grandmother of six. She is very grateful for the help of Betsie Norris and Adoption Network Cleveland in finding her daughter’s birth family.