But Where Is Jill?

Back when I was working through my own genetic identity puzzle (both adoptee parents died without knowing anything much about their origins), I read this book – The Foundling – which is the story of how Jack Rosenthal became Paul Joseph Fronczak. I was reminded of his story today by a friend.

The title of today’s blog was inspired by his own website LINK>Help Find Jill and the search he has still not completed – to find his twin sister Jill. I searched my blogs here to see if I ever wrote about his story but didn’t find anything – so today I thought I would highlight it.

Paul prefers to go by Jack these days but true to his complex identity, he will still refer to himself as Paul on the website. At Help Find Jill he notes – “I recently filed a missing person’s report for Jill with the Atlantic City Police Department, and I also commissioned a forensic artist named Natalie Murry to create age progression images of what Jill might look like today. The images are above, both smiling and not smiling, blond and brunette.” You can see those images at the link above.

At LINK>DNA Angels, I read – “. . . the man who grew up Paul Joseph Fronczak was actually Jack Rosenthal. One half of a set of twins that disappeared quietly and mysteriously from Atlantic City, NJ. Jack has a twin sister, Jill. But if Jack turned up in Newark, where did Jill end up?” So many questions still unresolved, so much time and energy spent on the searching, leaving Jack to wonder, “is the search worth all the pain.”

He writes – “I am hoping that someone, somewhere, will see something in these images that sparks a distant memory, and possibly leads me to the truth about what happened to Jill. The facts are few. Jill and I were born on October 27, 1963, in an Atlantic City hospital. Our parents were named Gilbert and Marie Rosenthal—they have both passed on.”

“Then, in 1965, when I was not quite two years old, I was found abandoned in a stroller in front of a department store in Newark, New Jersey. I was wearing a new blue suit, and I had a cold. A year later, I was thought to be the same infant who was kidnapped from his parents in Chicago in 1964, and police handed me over to that family—the Fronczaks.”

“I have not been able to learn what happened to my sister, Jill, at the time that I was abandoned. There was no record of her being missing, and no information about her since. It is almost as if she never existed. But she did. I have her birth certificate. I’ve spoken with people who met her when she and I were with the Rosenthals. Many different people remember her existing.”

Paul(Jack) is asking anyone who might know anything about Jill, or this case, or the Rosenthals, to please step forward and contact him through his website. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact him. He notes – “I’ve always believed that Jill is still alive and out there somewhere. And I’m not going to stop searching for her until I learn the truth, no matter how long that takes.” 

blogger’s note – His story continues to resonate with me. I am a Gemini and so the idea of twins has always appealed to something deep in me. Also, when my mom’s adoptive mother was working with Georgia Tann to adopt my mom, she wrote that she wanted a “Jill” to go with her “Jack.” My mom’s adoptive brother was named John. My mom’s adoptive parents named her Julie. “Jack and Jill.”

From LINK>Wikipedia – The phrase “Jack and Jill” existed earlier in England to indicate a boy and girl as a generic pair. It is so used, for example, in the proverb “Every Jack (shall/must) have his Jill.” There are references in two plays by William Shakespeare dating from the 1590s.

Family Preservation

This is the topic my heart wanted to write about yesterday but I just didn’t have time to do it justice. Then, today I saw a post by a FB adoptee friend on the topic and thought I really need to address this today. These kinds of coincidences always have an impact on me.

After sharing that she still struggles to heal the deep seated abandonment wound within her. She ends her story with “Family preservation. Even if that family is just a mother and her baby. These are the seeds we should be planting today if we want a better future for our children and grandchildren. We can find a better way to care for children whose family won’t or can’t.”

In googling around on the topic, yesterday, I found what is usually the argument against LINK>Fatal Preservation in something called the City Journal. The author, Dennis Saffran is a Queens-based appellate attorney, writer, and former GOP candidate for the New York City Council. Okay, I know. There are situations where the parents are so damaged themselves that they are not good for their own children. No one who cares about kids would suggest that there are not some situations where the children do need to be removed for their own safety. It is true that any good thing can be taken to extremes.

Dennis notes – “It is hard to imagine a more conservative-sounding name for a social policy than family preservation. But in fact, those on the Left who are usually the most hostile to ‘family values’ and parental rights have shaped the policy into its present form and are its most vehement and dogmatic advocates. Family preservation is a classic example of a seemingly sensible and humane liberal reform gone awry because of the ideological single-mindedness of its supporters. The policy now badly hurts those it was meant to help.”

Even so, a rational application of family preservation and reunification efforts by the child welfare agencies in our states has merit. It is true, sometimes parents are not given the time they truly need to address their various issues. A rush to move cases through the courts does cause a miscarriage of what really does need to happen to keep families together.

As a movement, LINK>Family Preservation is actually fairly old (dating back to the 1890s) but has been poorly and improperly applied at times. Family preservation was the movement to help keep children at home with their families rather than in foster homes or institutions. This movement was a reaction to the earlier policy of family breakup, which pulled children out of unfit homes. Extreme poverty alone was seen as a justified reason to remove children.

And that still happens today – poverty is often the main reason that children are removed from their biological, genetic parents. I did like this article in Huffington Post on the topic – LINK>Lifting Families Out of Poverty, One Crib at a Time by Katherine Snider.

She notes – “There are too many stories of need in this country. And nearly all of them start the same way — with the unspeakable stress endured by families in poverty. They tell of parents who reuse disposable diapers; children who are sent home from school for hygiene issues because shampoo and soap are luxury items for a poor family; parents who can’t afford a crib so they put their newborn babies to sleep in a dresser drawer, a hamper, or in a cardboard box. These are the everyday, constant challenges for families in poverty.” Blogger’s note – I was originally put to sleep in a dresser drawer after I was born. That is not abuse, just necessity. I will also note, that although we did use a bassinette, my children never slept in a crib but that is another story for some other day.

One final observation – this country really does not care about families as much as it pretends to. There is a severe lack of resources and the will to supply them does not exist. Money still talks, profit in the adoption industry motivates and adoptive parents still rule over the lives of many children, especially babies, that could have been raised, given adequate supports, by the mothers who gave birth to them (with or without a father present in that household).

Failed Reunions

Herb and Homer

When we don’t have a Netflix, we rotate through some of our dvd collection – one episode of The Simpsons (only the first 10 seasons as my sons claim they lost their way after that, though they remained commercially viable for Fox for a long time after) or one episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation or one from “the hat” – a box with slips of paper we draw as to what we have to watch next.

Last night it was Oh Brother, Where Art Thou from Season Two. Grandpa Simpson almost dies from a heart attack and thou he promised Homer’s mom never to reveal to Homer about “that carnival episode” which resulted in a pregnancy and baby given away, he goes ahead and lets an adult Homer know.

Homer goes on a search for his brother and discovers that he is the head of a car manufacturing company and fabulously wealthy. He is also almost a mirror image of Homer – with exceptions. This is something that adoptees encounter when they finally meet genetic relations that look a lot like them. It is a very warm feeling.

But even reunions that start out happily, sometimes crash and burn. I have read about many. Same with this episode. Homer’s weird design sense tanks Herb’s car company and causes him to lose everything. At the end, Herb expresses the hope that he never sees Homer again. As any fan of the series knows, he does eventually return . . .

More about this episode in Wikipedia at this LINK>”Oh Brother, Where Art Thou?

Dionne Quintuplets

I stumbled on a reminder of these girls searching for something else. Blame it on being a Gemini and always fascinated by multiple births. The birth of these girls was quite remarkable in the days before fertility drugs. DNA testing proved that they were the product of a single embryo splitting into 3 separate egg sacs in their mother’s womb with 2 babies in each sack. One of the fetuses was miscarried early. There is so much more to this story than I will have time or inclination to go into. My source, where you can read more, is the LINK> Wikipedia article about them.

The identical quintuplet girls were, in order of birth:

  1. Yvonne Édouilda Marie Dionne (died 2001)
  2. Annette Lillianne Marie Allard (living)
  3. Cécile Marie Émilda Langlois (living)
  4. Émilie Marie Jeanne Dionne (died 1954)
  5. Marie Reine Alma Houle (died 1970)

Each girl had a color and a symbol to mark whatever belonged to her. Annette’s color was red and her design a maple leaf, Cécile’s green and a turkey, Émilie had white and a tulip, Marie blue and a teddy bear, and Yvonne pink and a bluebird.

The girls were legally removed from their parents and placed in the custody of the Red Cross, ostensibly to prevent their exploitation. In reality, they were exploited their entire childhoods. A compound was built just for them across the road from their birthplaces. The compound had an outdoor playground designed to be a public observation area. The sisters were brought to the playground, two or three times a day, for viewing by the crowd that would gather. It was surrounded by a covered arcade, which allowed tourists to observe the sisters behind one-way screens said to prevent noise and distraction from disturbing the children. The girls knew they were watched, as they could hear screams and laughter. The one-way screens did not fully block out the visitors, acting more like frosted glass.

The Canadian government realized there was enormous public interest in the sisters and developed tourist industry around them. They made the girls wards of the provincial Crown, originally planned to be in effect until they reached the age of 18. An example of that exploitation was the doctor who delivered them. Up until 1942, when Dr Allan Roy Dafoe retired, he was known as the world’s best doctor. He wrote a book, numerous pamphlets, and had a radio broadcast. Eventually Dr Dafoe was viewed as taking advantage of his newfound fame. He was removed as one of the three primary caretakers of the quintuplets partly in response to legal action instigated by the girls’ father, Oliva Dionne, seeking to regain custody over his children. The general public did not know Dr Dafoe profited in 1943 dollars at $182,466, which is equivalent to millions of dollars today.

Even their father got in on the act. Oliva Dionne ran a souvenir shop and a woolen store opposite the nursery and the area acquired the name “Quintland”. The souvenirs, picturing the five sisters, included autographs and framed photographs, spoons, cups, plates, plaques, candy bars, books, postcards, and dolls. Available to the public for free in bins were stones from the area that claimed to have the magical power of fertility – the bins would need to be refilled almost every day. Women without children touched Oliva Dionne because they believed he could increase their chances of fertility. The quintuplets brought in more than $50 million in total tourist revenue to Ontario.

The sisters, their likenesses and images, along with Dr Dafoe’s, were used to publicize many commercial products including condensed milk, toothpaste, disinfectant and candy bars as well as specific brands like Karo Corn Syrup, Quaker Oats, Lysol, Palmolive Soap, Colgate Dental Cream, Carnation Milk and Baby Ruth Candy Bars.

Although the quintuplet’s trust fund was secured by the Canadian government, they were not rich nor living comfortably. They were making $746 monthly. The money in their trust fund decreased through spending on marriage, houses, child support, and divorce. It was discovered that their trust fund contained less money than what was made from advertisements and photographs of the quintuplets. The sisters requested $10 million from the Canadian government and received no response. They then turned down offers of 2 and 3 million dollars. They accepted 4 million dollars and an analysis of their trust accounts. Premier Mike Harris visited the sisters and apologized on behalf of the government. The quintuplets finally had their story in the public eye by challenging the Ontario government.

By 1939, the family was reunited because their parents made efforts to regain custody over their children. One factor was that the Dionnes had never agreed to the removal of the quintuplets from their custody. In 1942, the Dionne family moved into the nursery where the quintuplets had grown up, while they waited for their new home to be completed. In November 1943, the entire Dionne family moved into their new home. That building is now a retirement home.

When they were reunited, many struggles followed. They were not one big happy family and the quintuplets felt distanced from their siblings. They struggled to communicate as they spoke French and their siblings preferred English. Once Oliva received custody, he wanted the attention. He made police accompany his vehicle as he took the quintuplets out, constantly drawing attention to them and himself. The quintuplets were unaware for many years that the lavish house, the expensive food and the series of cars the family enjoyed were paid for with money they themselves had earned. They were aware of the fact that their upbringing meant they would never feel truly a part of the large Dionne family, and called their time in the big, new house, “the saddest home we ever knew”. The quintuplets left the family home upon turning 18 years old in 1952 and had little contact with their parents afterwards.