TLC's Taken at Birth Investigates Black Market Adoption Ring That Illegally Placed 200 Babies
The six-part, three-night special revisits the case of Dr. Thomas J. Hicks, who sold or gave away more than 200 infants from the '40s to the '60s
Jane Blasio learned at age 5 that she’d been adopted. But the full, darker tale of how she was acquired didn’t emerge until much later, after the death of her adoptive mother freed her to ask hard questions to the remaining parent who raised her.
Her quest for answers broke open a small-town’s secrets.
Blasio would discover she was one of about 200 infants illegally placed in a black-market adoption ring by the same country doctor, Thomas J. Hicks, from his clinic in the Appalachian copper-mining hamlet of McCaysville, Georgia, near the Tennessee border, between the early 1940s and mid-1960s.
TLC examines Blasio’s pursuit of her past — and her effort to inform and unite others like her, collectively known as “Hicks Babies” — in the six-part, three-night special Taken at Birth, which premieres Wednesday. An exclusive clip is above.
A father of three who was married to a Baptist Sunday school teacher, Hicks died at age 83 in 1972, long before Blasio’s digging led to the first headlines about the scandal in 1997. At the time he died, Hicks was without a medical license, having surrendered it to avoid prosecution following his 1964 arrest for performing abortions.
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Blasio knew she’d been born in McCaysville; her birth certificate said so. But the couple who raised her, Joan and James Walters, of Akron, Ohio, were falsely listed as birth parents to both Blasio and her older sister, Michelle, who also came from the same Georgia clinic.
“I went back to McCaysville several times over 14 years gathering stories, but I still had so many questions when it came to finding my birth story. What is going to get me my answers?,” Blasio says in the special. “And I had nothing, other than the birth certificate that said ‘Hicks Clinic.'”
A breakthrough eventually arrived with help from a local probate judge who became Blasio’s ally in her search.
“She didn’t have knowledge of what Dr. Hicks had been doing, and she did not have an allegiance to him or his family,” Blasio says. “And so she went ahead and she perused the birth certificates that he was taking to the county registrar back in the ’50s and ’60s, and found that there were an estimated 200-plus babies that had gone to Akron, Ohio, from the Hicks Clinic.”
“Two hundred?,” she says. “Two hundred babies? To Akron?”
The TLC special unites Blasio with Lisa Joyner and Chris Jacobs, hosts of the network’s Long Lost Family reality show, in an effort to pierce the secrecy and broken biological ties that still surround many of the Hicks Babies, of which Blasio, born in 1965, appears to be the last and the youngest.
It pursues the question of when and why Hicks started selling babies, explores what the birth mothers were told, and significantly, asks whether Hicks himself fathered any of the infants who were sold or given away — a path that leads investigators to use modern DNA technology and to visit a mausoleum.
Taken at Birth airs on TLC October 9-11 from 9 p.m. to 11 p.m. ET/PT.