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The Lurid Past Of Georgia Adoptions

Last month, the online magazine Narratively published a luridly detailed account of a Georgia adoption scandal that took place in the mid-20th century. It centers on the Hicks Community Clinic, which operated out of McCaysville, and whose founder, Dr. Thomas Hicks, offered secret abortions and adoption services to desperate young women.

Between 1955 and 1964, the Hicks Community Clinic sold an estimated 212 children – now known as the Hicks Babies – to adoptive parents. The transactions were clandestine and, of course, illegal. Poverty was at their root. Namely, in most cases, the birth mothers could not afford the costs of raising a child, and needed help placing their offspring in the hands of caring families.

Infants for profits

The extent of Dr. Hicks’s dealings came to light in 1997, when several of the Hicks Babies began to investigate their roots. The story has gained attention again more recently, as several of the adoptees underwent DNA testing, enabling them to reunited with long-lost cousins and sibling and, in a few cases, with their birth parents.

Since then, rumors have abounded. Some theorize, for example, that Dr. Hicks intentionally impregnated young women so that he could sell his children for profit. Yet the Narratively article indicates that Dr. Hicks’s dealings were more likely the imperfect solution to problems imposed by destitution and economic hopelessness.

Changes in adoption procedures

Thankfully, Georgia’s adoption practices have evolved quite a bit. Nearly any responsible adult can adopt, and there’s no need for secrecy. (Our state, moreover, has a clause stipulating that one must reside in Georgia for at least six months before adopting, which guards against the rushed, secretive adoptions of the past that in some cases led to trafficking).

As for the Hicks Babies: they were separated from their original families, but have forged a new one with each other. “We may have lost the ability to contact our birth parents,” one of them noted, “but we’ve gained each other…It’s not about Dr. Hicks anymore. It’s about us.”