Pippa

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A year later, we had moved 90 miles north to a smaller town and a quieter pace of life. At least a quieter pace of life was the plan, anyway.

One day, the phone rang in my new classroom. The kids’ state caseworker explained that my children were about to have a new sibling born in a month’s time. The State had already determined that this child would be placed directly into an adoptive home and, since siblings get first priority for placement – was I at all interested in adding to my brood?

I really did have my hands full already, but as soon as he asked, that voice in my gut spoke up loud and clear with the pronouncement that the child was a girl, and that she belonged with us.

Pippa was born on Wednesday, November 10, 1999 – the day before Veteran’s Day. Since the courts were closed the next day for the holiday, I made arrangements for us to travel the 3 hours south on Friday to pick her up after the social worker had gone to court for all proper signatures. Meanwhile, Pippa, while fully healthy, had been placed in the NICU for safekeeping – with a police hold on her. The only people allowed to have contact with her were myself, and the social worker.

Luna woke up especially early that morning – at 3:30am. I couldn’t sleep either, so we woke Camaro, got ready and hit the road hours ahead of schedule. We stopped midway at a friend’s house and I called the social worker to tell him that I would arrive early.

He informed me that, in spite of all precautions taken, Pippa had been kidnapped from the NICU the night before and that her current state and whereabouts were completely unknown. We had no choice but to return home empty handed.

The following weeks were filled with flurries of phone calls, brainstorming, strategies, search updates, and anxiety ridden sleepless nights full of more “What ifs….?” than I care to reflect on. Finally, on the day before Thanksgiving, Pippa’s location was disclosed by a less than savvy private attorney working on behalf of the biological mother. Threats were levied, and a court date with order to hand over the baby was set for the following Monday. Joyful and relieved, I told the children that their baby Pippa would join us in a few days. There was much whooping and hollering and dancing about. That night, piled into my big bed, we all slept well at last.

The following Monday, I drove the 3 hours south again to the DCFS office and waited for the social worker to arrive with Pippa. He stomped in a few minutes later – without a baby. He chucked the car seat across his cubicle, ripped off his tie, and collapsed into his chair. Evidently, in spite of all of the years of child welfare evidence – including the recent kidnapping, the judge refused to make a ruling – thereby granting the child to remain with her biological mother for the time being. Once again, I drove home without Pippa.

Eventually, the full bizarre story came out.

A year earlier, while Olivia and Daniel were waiting for Rose to arrive, the State sent her for a neurodevelopmental evaluation – just to make sure that there were no latent or obvious issues that needed addressing. At the evaluation, an intern was present and he was given the case history – including all family information – as material for his further learning. He read through it, took the confidential information home to his wife, and they hatched a plan for the (inevitable) next pregnancy.

They happened to know a couple who wanted a child, but who could not pass a background check and/or Home Study. So they decided to beguile and befriend the birthmother, hire an attorney and pay all the legal fees to ensure that she got to keep this baby. At some later date, they would eventually dispense with the birthmother and sell Pippa to the couple. The birthmother, oblivious to all of this, accepted their offers of help and so she set about moving into their lives and home.  Their plan was off to a brilliant start.

They set her up with a plan to get her GED, a plan to get her a job, and paid to set up a cozy nursery. They fed and clothed her and introduced her to their “friends”. They taught her to crochet and helped her prepare for the baby’s birth. She started calling them “Mom and Dad”. When she went into labor, they took her to the hospital where she was registered under a fake identity. She, being less intellectually sophisticated than they, and by now on very friendly terms with the Child Protective Services social worker, immediately called to inform him of her location, status, and fake identity so that he could wish her great joy on the arrival of her newest baby and pay her a visit! Her “benefactors” went into the delivery room with her, and invited their “friends” (the baby buyers) to accompany them.

The birthmother was released from the hospital several hours later, and thanks to her own phone call alerting the social worker, baby Pippa was moved to the NICU and placed under police custody. The “Benefactors” returned with the birthmother the next day and approached the NICU nurse who had drawn the short straw to have holiday duty. They asked if the baby was under police custody. While the nurse went to check on Pippa’s legal status, they walked into the nursery, picked up the baby, and walked out into the night. And that was that.

When the time came to go to court, they filed their own paperwork and documentation filled with lies and misinformation and a sob story about their good deeds to support this young vulnerable woman and her newborn. They even supplied photos to further substantiate their story. Thus, the judge had to decide between 2 sets of equally presented credible documentation. Wanting more time to further investigate, the ruling was delayed.

After the State’s first failed attempt to procure Pippa in court, they filed a protest and a new court date was set for a few weeks later. At this court date, custody was granted and at 5pm on December 7th, 1999, I received the phone call that I had been waiting for. Luna, Camaro and I jumped into the car. After 2 hours of driving through the proverbial dark and stormy night, we arrived at an equally dark adoption agency where an outraged and exhausted young social worker stood outside with a hungry baby in her arms. Pippa looked up at me with that newborn searching look as if wondering if I were the one who was going to stay and raise her and, if so, why ever had I taken so long to show up? I looked back just as intently, earnestly apologized for her wait, and told her that she was indeed, home forever.

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