An Irish American mother who gave up a daughter for adoption after being raped as a teenager spoke about the pain of her daughter trying to contact her.
After sixteen year old Kathleen Hoy Foley was raped, she was unable to have an abortion because abortions were illegal in 1964. She gave the child away in a closed adoption and hoped to close the door on that episode in her life. The now 65 year-old Foley told the Daily News, “The day I walked out of that hospital, it was the day it ended for me. I was emancipated. I truly believed I was free.”
But she wasn’t yet free, as her daughter Elaine Penn repeatedly contacted her in the late 1990s.
In a closed adoption the children do not learn the names of their biological parents. Foley believes that Catholic Charities, who handled the adoption, gave her information to her daughter. Catholic Charities denies this.
Foley says that Penn tracked her down with the help of a private investigator. Penn denies that she received help from Catholic Charities or a private investigator. She says she tracked her birth parents down by library documents and public records.
Penn’s repeated attempts to contact her forced Foley to tell her husband and her grown-up children about what happened. Foley claims that Penn attempted to contact other members of her family. She says the whole experience was “humiliating, degrading and dehumanizing.”
Foley said the worst offense was when Penn contacted her son-in-law, a lawyer who then revealed Foley’s past to his wife, Foley’s daughter. Penn claims she did not know Foley was connected to the lawyer whom she contacted after finding an old public deed of Foley’s.
Penn, now 48, said she felt the need to contact her biological parents after she gave birth to her own child in 1996. The Daily News reports she said giving birth smacks a lot of adoptees in the face because it’s the first time you see anyone who is biologically connected to you.” She discovered that her father had died and said her mother’s reaction was like “a knife to my heart.”
She said, “But I would hope that whatever happens in that situation that at this point, I would get myself help and I wouldn’t take it out on the person I gave birth to.”
During the 15 years that Penn has contacted Foley, they have still never met.
Foley has become a campaigner for the rights of women who have given up their children to maintain anonymity, regardless of what the children want. She wrote about these events in her life titled “Woman in Hiding: A True Tale of Backdoor Abuse, Dark Secrets and Other Evil Deeds.” Penn is a proponent of opening adoption records.
Donald Cofsky of the American Academy of Adoption Attorneys told The Daily Mail that the case is tragic, but since both sides want different things, “There’s no way to fix it.”