Couple seeks answer to possible ‘black market’ adoption

By Sarah Brown
Lebanon Local

A bar manager at a tavern near Waterloo delivered a drink to a customer and listened to her story. The patron’s pregnant 15-year-old sister was moving to Lebanon to live with her, and she didn’t know what to do.
The bar manager, Marjorie Perkins, who had four children of her own, offered to adopt the baby. The birth mother, Veda Spencer, eventually agreed to this arrangement and released to Perkins a healthy girl who would be named Kim.
It was 1970, near the end of the “baby scoop era,” a period in the nation’s history when premarital pregnancies and newborn adoptions were on the rise. It was a time when teen mothers were sent to maternity homes to avoid the shame of their situations, and “black-market adoptions” were becoming big business.
Between 1950 and 1965, Dr. Thomas Jugarthy Hicks of Georgia was accused by more than 200 adults for illegally selling babies on the black market. Some 72 years ago, special prosecutor Robert Taylor uncovered an illegal adoption ring run by Georgia Tann at the Tennessee Children’s Home Society between 1930 and 1950, just as the baby scoop era was kicking into high gear.
But illegal adoptions have taken place within the United States as recently as the 1980s, when Brooklyn attorney Seymour Fenichel, along with his daughter Deborah and couple Harriet and Lawrence Lauer, pleaded guilty to 144 counts of illegal child sales in 1988.
According to Kim, now 51, her informal adoption – though not “black market” – was illegal, and she believes others may have taken place in Lebanon, a supposition reinforced by a Sweet Home couple’s story.


On Aug. 21, 1972, two years after Kim was born, 12-year-old Carlynn Wells gave birth to a boy at Lebanon Community Hospital. She held him for five minutes, admiring his eyes for their resemblance to those of her 14-year-old boyfriend, Dale Dietz, she said. Then a nurse took the infant away for cleaning, but never returned with him.
According to Wells, when she asked her mother about her son, the only answer she received – the only one she’d ever get – was a simple, “He’s gone.”
Dietz, who had been removed from the area and cut off from his pregnant girlfriend, said he didn’t know he had a son until last year, a week before the child’s 49th birthday. They believe Wells’ mother sold him on the black market.


“There’s really not a doubt anywhere in our minds that that’s what happened,” Dietz said.
“She did come into a lot of money, because she was spending money,” Wells said. “She was buying shoes and jewelry, and s–t like that.”
Dietz and Wells met in 1970 at a showing of Disney’s “The Aristocats” at Sweet Home’s Rio Theatre. They were nearly inseparable after that.
A year later, their son, who Wells refers to as Junior, was conceived. Dietz was in the ninth grade, Wells the sixth. She didn’t realize she was pregnant until it was too late: Dietz had disappeared.
Dietz fought tears as he recounted his side of the story.
“I got home from school in the afternoon, and we moved,” he said. “My mom’s car was loaded, my dad’s pickup was fully packed, and we moved.”
It wasn’t uncommon for his family to pick up and move, he said, but this time they went 150 miles south, something the young man wasn’t warned would happen.
Wells wiped a tear from Dietz’s cheek as he paused.
“There were a lot of lies told to keep us apart because we were, apparently, too young to know that we were in love,” he said.

DALE DIETZ sits second from left in the first row of this 1972 Sweet Home High School yearbook photo.

He wrote her letters, relying on his mother to mail them. Meanwhile, Wells contacted Dietz’s cousin and brother, both of whom still lived in Sweet Home.
She asked them to inform him of her pregnancy. The attempts to get in touch, as they would only learn nearly a half-century later, had been taken from them just like Junior was taken from them.
According to Dietz, his brother Wayne did tell him one thing: that Wells was sleeping around with all their friends.
“It was a lie,” Wells noted.
“Because I had not heard from Carlynn in quite some time, and my brother was pretty descriptive as well as adamant, I got pretty upset,” Dietz said.
He was so upset, in fact, that he dropped out of high school and joined the Army.
Following Junior’s birth, Wells started using drugs to cover her own anger, she said. Not only was she furious with her mother, but she also thought Dietz knew about the pregnancy and had abandoned her.
Fast-forward a couple of decades. Dietz returned to Sweet Home, where he’s now known around town as “Troll,” maybe in reference to his bushy, frizzy hair. He and Wells would see each other in passing but offer only a “hello” or “bye.” That is, until Wells realized she was going to have to tell him something she thought he already knew: They had a son.
Everything seems to have accelerated since then. Dietz married Wells this past New Year’s Eve, and the couple submitted their DNA to several popular genealogy sites.
What they describe as lies and cover-ups started coming to light.
“When I found out about it, as soon as I got over the shock, I started looking for records, and there aren’t any,” Dietz said.
That’s because they have no name to inquire about. And, Wells said, she never signed any papers during her 1972 hospital stay. Family members who may know what happened are either deceased or inaccessible. They believe their only hope to find Junior lies in their DNA if someone from that lineage submits their own.
When Kim heard their story, she felt compelled to help, though there was little she could do.
“I have my answers, and I’m happy with who I am and happy with my life,” she said. “I just feel bad for people that don’t have their answers.”
Kim always knew she was adopted, but the real story remained clouded until she saw her birth certificate at age 21. What she found was very unexpected.
The name listed as her birth mother was Marjorie Perkins’ daughter, Pam, with whom Kim had grown up as a sister. Her real mother, Veda Spencer, had forged Pam’s name, which Kim could tell because “she misspelled it and then she wrote over it to correct it.”
Perkins had died by the time Kim saw the evidence, but she deduced that using her sister’s name was a means to get insurance coverage for the birth and allow Perkins to say she was raising a granddaughter.

Veda Spencer in her 20s. Contributed by Kim Perkins

Kim has since found her birth parents and met two younger siblings. One of her biological sisters apparently told Kim she used to eavesdrop on family talk, picking up on conversation possibly related to Kim.
“My little sister just said that she remembered hearing talk,” Kim said, “(She) remembered hearing our mom and our aunt talk about something about black-market babies being auctioned off in the back of a bar (in Lebanon).”
But she’s at peace with her situation, she said.
“I look at it like this: God put me where he put me for a reason,” she said.
She thinks about Dietz and Wells, and about Junior, who’s out there somewhere.
“What if this boy’s adopted parents died and he has no clue that anybody’s even looking for him?” she asked.
Doctors who worked in Lebanon during the 1970s said they don’t know about any informal adoptions in the area. Some nurses, however, shared a little information, provided their names weren’t used.
Two Lebanon and Corvallis nurses were allegedly approached by a doctor about adopting a child, and another nurse who worked for doctors in Lebanon during that time recalled a handful of “casual adoptions” taking place.
Samaritan Health Services, which acquired the Lebanon hospital after the fact, issued a statement on the matter.
“We do not retain medical records from the 1970s, nor are we able to confirm any details specific to informal adoption processes from that time period,” it read. “Current adoption practices prioritize respect for all parties involved and are fully compliant with Oregon legal requirements.”
According to Oregon Department of Human Services Press Secretary Jake Sunderland, it would be “near impossible” for Dietz and Wells to learn what happened to their son due to adoption record laws. Only the child himself can access his sealed records.
Today, though it might be quite different from the process 50 years ago; children surrendered to the state are placed into foster care after a comprehensive assessment determines there is no other option, Sunderland said. And today, a 12-year-old giving birth would “almost certainly result in a mandatory requirement for medical providers to report suspected abuse.”
So Dietz and Wells wait. They wait for DNA results to offer clues. They wait for more information to come to light. They wait for an answer.
“It’s a deep hole for Dale and me, emotionally,” Wells said.

*Are you from Linn County and have a “black market” or illegal adoption story? Do you have any information about the Wells-Dietz baby? Do you have any information about illegal adoptions in the area? If you want to share your story for consideration in a follow-up article, contact Sarah Brown via email at [email protected], or call (541) 367-2136.