My willful princess was returned to me last night in handcuffs. Observing this homecoming was Daniel, age 19, and Nina, who is 13. Daniel was stunned, he did not understand why she was so unhappy at home and he said: “Holy shit, what the hell?” Nina, at 13 and moderately retarded said: “Co-wa-whine! Why are the po-wice bwinging you home in handcuffs?” Coraline, while still restrained said: “As soon as you take these cuffs off me and leave, I am running again.” The police officer, a tough woman with sunglasses so dark I cannot see her eyes says: “She needs a beatin ma’am; she was very disrespectful to you.”
Eight years ago, Coraline was a foster child placed in my home as an adoption candidate. Today, at 16 years old Coraline is still my most social child. She always had a birthday party invitation or a sleepover to attend. Her early months with us were complicated and challenging but as with all my children, the behaviors associated with anxiety and fear faded within a few months. Coraline and Nina became very close. They called each other “Sis” right away. She helped herself to Nina’s toys and hair ornaments and Nina was proud that Coraline liked her stuff. Coraline could be gruff with Nina, but no more than any older sister.
The descent from a wholesome, happy girl with a bright future began in the summer when Coraline was 14. I needed to increase our household income to meet expenses. I found a job as a courier delivering pharmaceuticals to facilities throughout the state of North Carolina. Our household seemed to adjust well enough. We ate dinner together early, and I left for my job at 6:30 pm. In the beginning, everything was fine, I stayed in touch with the kids by cell phone, and they all knew what they had to do. We continued our night-time rituals by phone. While school was in session, it worked, which meant that everyone did what they were supposed to do, stayed safe and went to school the next day.
A young man attracted to Coraline began hanging out at our house that summer. I let him stay for dinner and he told me he was 15 and went to the same high school as Coraline. He joined us on some of our family activities and came to our house frequently. The young man also promised me that he would not enter my house if I was not home. After a few weeks, Coralines' friend behaved in ways with her that made me uncomfortable and I asked the two of them to stop. They did not stop and I told him not to come to my house anymore. One evening, while I was on my delivery route, my son Fritz called to tell me that Coraline had left with her friend. I decided that for the rest of the summer, at least, I would take my kids on my delivery route. The only person who complained about this new activity was Coraline. My neighbor also told me that she saw Coralines' friend lurking around the neighborhood, hiding behind bushes and coming to my house after I left.
I took Coraline to the Doctor for a “physical,” and a pregnancy test was returned negative. We were lucky this time but it was obvious that my job did not allow me to supervise my kids and keep them safe.
With school in session, kids were not so idle and Coralines' friend did not come around. I noticed some physical changes in my daughter and I started paying closer attention to her physique. It looked like she was in the first stage of pregnancy but the only time she could see her friend was at school. If and when she ever left the house when I wasn’t home, I would have heard about it. A good thing about having multiple children is that someone is always going to let me know what someone else does or doesn’t do.
I quit the courier job. In January it was obvious that Coraline was pregnant. We returned to the doctor and she had an ultrasound which told us the pregnancy test that was negative was false and she was actually pregnant the first time she was tested.
Her baby was due May 27. I learned that the father of the baby lied to me about his age; he was 17 when he made Coraline pregnant at the age of 14. Coraline had not completed the 9th grade and insisted she could take care of her own baby.
I was completely beside myself with worry, anger and frustration and helplessness. At this point, it was past my capabilities to be rational. For several weeks, I did not talk about this with Coraline, or anyone.
After a time of reflection, I was able to consider this situation and think about possible options. I was agonizing over my daughter’s future and the welfare of her newborn. I felt responsible as her mother. Coraline was still insisting that she could care for her baby and informed me that her friends from school told her that I should help her with the baby.
I went to the Juvenile Services division of the DHHS and spoke with a social worker. I explained our situation and told her that I was too old and too tired to provide a good environment for a newborn and I was afraid that it is just a matter of time before my daughter would realize that she was not ready to be a mother. In the meantime, the baby would be at risk.
I already knew that Coraline could not be forced to give up her newborn. In the event my daughter would not give up her infant, the infant and the newborn would be placed in a foster home for teenage mothers and newborns. I would lose my daughter, her life would be forever changed, and her newborn baby would have a very uncertain future. The part of this I hated the most was that I knew a home with teenage girls and babies would be very appealing to Coraline.
I took my daughter out of school one day and drove us to the city about 40 miles south of our town. We went to an adoption agency I had made an appointment with. I had no idea how this would turn out. A lovely young woman related well to Coraline and she took volumes of information from us and also asked about the father of the baby. She was dismissive about his role. Following the intake of information, Coraline met alone with the adoption agency worker. This meeting took at least an hour. I waited in a meeting room with smiling adoptive parents looking at me from their pictures on the wall. My daughter was escorted back to the room where I was waiting. We were left alone while the worker left to process paperwork.
Coraline walked around the room looking at all the photos of happy couples. There were dozens of pictures of healthy babies and young children, but we were focused on the couples. Out of the blue, Coraline puts her finger on a photo and says: “I like these guys; I want to give my baby to them.” Coraline selected a male gay couple, one white, one black. Coraline said they were “perfect” because Coraline is black, I am white and her baby would only have one mother which would be she.