Denny Domecon had eight "mothers." And every six weeks, eight more would take their place; planning his nutritious diet, his naps and tending to his every need.Adam Pertman sure had it right when he said: "It's strange on so many levels," said Adam Pertman, executive director of the Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute in New York City. "On its face, the fact that we could, as a society, as educated people, think this was a good idea, is quite amazing."
The 4-month-old was a "practice baby" in 1952 at Cornell University's home economics program in upstate Ithaca, N.Y., cared for by a group of "practice mothers" -- young 22-year-old students -- in a "practice apartment."
Denny's real identity was anonymous and, like so many other Domecon babies, his surname meant "domestic economy."
He was one of hundreds of babies, mostly children of unwed mothers, who were on loan from orphanages to colleges like Cornell, University of Minnesota and Eastern Illinois State University and many others. There, students could practice the latest child-rearing theories of the day on a real newborn.
"It was a science," said one of Denny's mothers, Margaret Redmond, who is now 80 and living in Englewood, Fla. "That was the whole emphasis."
After a year or two, the babies would leave their multiple mothers -- in some programs up to 12 young women -- to find homes in adoptive families.
The Angrier Adoptee, part 1
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