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baffles me to see a soul being sold, let alone being sold for as little as $2 as if it was meaningless. Many people are not aware of this problem that devasted most of America. The picture above is only one sad case of the possible thousands, or even tens of thousands, of children that were sold. In the picture above you can see Lucille Chalifoux, a twenty-four-year-old mother who had four children and was pregnant with her fifth one which she, later on, had to also put up for sale. She and her husband were both unemployed due to the lack of jobs in America at the time. Not only that, many factories were shutting down as war production was over, and also many people were migrating to America from countries that had been affected by World War Two.

Lana (top left) was likely adopted, RaeAnn (top right) was sold for $2 along with her brother Milton (bottom left) to an abusive family. Sue Ellen (bottom right) was adopted. David, inside mother Lucille Chalifoux’s womb in this picture, was adopted as well.

They barely had any money to feed the family and were about to get evicted as they did not have the money to pay their mortgage. As I have previously mentioned, this was only one case from tens of thousands and maybe even more.

Who bought the children?

Now you may be thinking that this is absolutely horrible parenting, but we need to look at this issue from a different perspective. These people were going to become homeless and being homeless is hard as it is, but being homeless and trying to feed 5 children is something totally different.

American poverty during 1948
American poverty during 1948 (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

In most cases, the children were not sold for the $2 or how much they were put up for, but this was a means for them to go to a family that would actually have the financial possibility to feed them and take care of them. So the parents were, in a way, more caring by selling their children, as they might have a better chance for a brighter future, rather than die starving on the streets.

This is where the problem begins, as in most cases, such children were not bought by people with strong financial power, but poor farmers that needed workforce or in better words child labor. Besides being used for intense labor around the farm, they were treated very poorly. They were given very small meals and usually chained inside the barn when they were not working.

You may be thinking, why didn’t most parents just take these children to foster homes in order to get adopted by good families? The reason is that foster homes at the time were in terrible condition and the children were not treated very well. Also, those children would have most surely ended up living in the foster system until their eighteenth birthday because, at that time, adopting a child was very expensive (adoption charges ranged from $500 to $10,000).

Child trafficking

Florence Owens Thompson thinking about selling her children
Florence Owens Thompson thinking about selling her children (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

This whole business led some sick minds to think about the possibility of becoming rich. Some criminals pretended to be a lovely family and bought children for low prices like $2 to then sell them to other families for prices as high as $100. As the process of selling children was something neither legal nor illegal, it was difficult to prove on paper the biological parentage of the child due to how easy it was to forge a birth certificate.

However, in those times many people went by the trust factor and did not need papers or other types of documentation to prove something. Emphasized by the point of how desperate they were to have a child or the other party’s desperation for money.

Some even sicker minds started going around kidnapping children in order to sell them. Many people argue that this is where child trafficking started in modern history within the United States. According to a report by Barbara Bisantz Raymond, during the period of 1936–1950 over 50,000 children were stolen from their biological parents, and over 5,000 children were sold.

Families ripped apart

Barbara also mentions that brothers and sisters started crying so hard that the “adoptive parents” felt forced to buy them all so that they would stay together. I can’t even start to describe the sort of mental health problems this would cause, not only in a short term but definitely in a long term, causing severe psychological problems.

It must have been incredibly difficult for parents to let their children go, but I just can’t imagine the feeling a child has when he is being given away by his own mother. The child’s mind would probably perceive this as being denied by his own mother for reasons he is simply too young to understand.

Sue Ellen Chalifouxis (left) and RaeAnn Mills finally reunited
Sue Ellen Chalifouxis (left) and RaeAnn Mills finally reunited (Source: The Times of North Northwest Indiana)

However, I do not want to leave you feeling cold from what you have just read, so let’s end this article with some sort of good news.

In 2013, two of the girls you can see in the first picture (Sue Ellen and RaeAnn) were reunited after sixty-three years of being apart and not knowing anything about one another. They both mentioned that they lived very harsh lives but were happy to be reunited after all.

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