The Throwaway Girls
One of the lingering sorrows of the work we do is witnessing the numbers of the throwaway girls in our society, and how easily young women can fall between the cracks when drugs, poverty and broken families destabilize their lives.
USA Today published a story in January 2018 about victims of child trafficking and how little justice the system offers them, and it brought to mind a call that came into Abrazo several years ago.
It was a normal workday, at least it was until this call came in.
“Yeah, I got a pregnant girl in my truck, and I wanna know if I can bring her there.”
He was a long-distance trucker, he told us. He had picked up a runaway teenager in St. Louis months ago, and she had been with him ever since.
Originally, he said, she’d told him she was 18, which would have been more than half his age. Based on this information, he began a sexual relationship with her, but it wasn’t until after she got pregnant and then refused to abort that he learned she was actually younger. (Much younger… fourteen, in fact.)
Now this trucker was panicking. He wanted to get rid of her. He was afraid she might turn him in, and he didn’t want her coming after him for child support, either, lest his wife find out.
He wanted a safe place to drop her off, and he wanted nothing more to do with her or her baby. Her family didn’t want her back, he insisted. He refused to give us more than a first name, and our agency didn’t have caller ID at the time.
But he wanted assurances that we would take this pregnant child off his hands, place her child for adoption, and prevent her from ever identifying him in the legal process.
That was not something we could do for him, given the laws. We had reason to believe that this girl did exist and was in danger, so we kept the trucker talking, and in the meantime, our staff used the other office lines to contact the phone company, law enforcement and the National Center for Missing Children.
The National Center for Missing Children had no reports from the St. Louis area that matched the missing girl, but as the Center told us, thousands of runaway cases go unreported every year, either because of abuse in the home or because the parents kicked the child out.
The phone company and law enforcement ran a trace on the call while we kept the trucker talking. The trucker said he was calling from a Wal-Mart payphone in another state, but he refused to tell us where he was. He wouldn’t tell us who he drove for, nor what he was hauling.
We asked him to put his pregnant passenger on the phone, but he refused, saying she didn’t know yet what he was planning and he didn’t want her to bolt from his truck “for her safety” (but presumably, also for his, of course.)
We gently explained to him that although parental consent is not required for a teenager to place a baby for adoption, no mother (whatever her age) can be required to place by any private entity or individual, and that in accordance with Texas laws back then, he would need to sign a waiver indicating his consent to adoption if that was the choice she ultimately made for her child.
At that point, he balked. He wasn’t going to sign anything, he said, and if he couldn’t just pull his semi into our parking lot on a weekend and push her out, he was going to have to do something else.
The words “do something else” made our blood run cold. We did our best to engage him in further conversation, but the trucker had clearly gotten spooked. He hung up on us, then, and law enforcement assured us that they had gotten enough time to track his location.
They traced the call to a payphone at a WalMart store in Arkansas, but unfortunately, store security cameras later showed a man leaving in a hurry– before the police could get there. We were very grateful to the Heidi Search Center for their guidance throughout this call, and we did file a police report on the trucker and a missing persons report for the child, but without full names or DOB or other relevant information, it is unlikely either was ever of any real use
We never knew what became of this pregnant teen, and it haunts us still. No young woman deserves to be discarded by anyone– certainly not by a partner nor a parent, nor by anyone else.
The adoption laws in Texas have changed, since then. Whether for better or worse is unclear, but pregnant females making adoption plans in Texas are no longer required by law to identify the baby’s father unless he is a husband or legal father. And alleged fathers are no longer required to sign waivers of interest for children they refuse to claim. Statutory rape, however, is still a crime. And child trafficking is still on the rise, although the Heidi Search Center had to close its doors– due to lack of funding, not due to any lack of missing child cases.
Yes, the world is full of young women that some consider to be the throwaway girls, like the pregnant teen in the truck that day. If you know a runaway in need of services, contact the National Runaway Helpline, and if you ever encounter someone you believe is a victim of human trafficking, find them help here: National Human Trafficking Hotline At Abrazo, we see a certain number of them placing babies for adoption each year, and we do our level best to ensure that even if their own families of origin have rejected them, our adoptive families will not do the same thing to them.
There’s no way of knowing if that pregnant teen the trucker was calling about would ever have come to see adoption as the right choice for her and her child. There’s no telling where she and her child may be now. We’ll always regret, though, that we weren’t able to help get her to safety– if in fact she did exist?
The sad irony is that the person most in need of a loving adoptive home may have been the teenager. And therein lies the tragic truth; so many of the women who do make voluntary adoption plans for their children nowadays are desperately trying to give their little ones the kind of lives they themselves always wanted and never had.
Open adoption is not a panacea. When done the right way and for the right reasons, though, it does have the potential to give the throwaway girls and their children a better chance at a brighter future, and for this reason, Abrazo remains open to those who do most need our help, whatever the circumstances.