TLC’s ‘Taken at Birth’ Is Based on the Devastating True Story of the Hicks Babies Adoption Scandal

The story is the stuff of nightmares. In the 1950s and 1960s, hundreds of newborns were taken from a small-town Georgia clinic sold on the black market. It wasn’t until decades later that these adopted children discovered the truth about where they came from. Since then, many have been on a quest to find their birth parents, a journey chronicled in TLC’s new three-episode special Taken at Birth. 

Jane Blasio is searching for the truth about the Hicks Babies 

It was Jane Blasio, the youngest of the Hicks Babies, who in 1997 exposed the truth about the baby-selling scheme run by Dr. Thomas Hicks in McCaysville, Georgia. Since then, many of the more than 200 children illegally adopted out of Hicks’ clinic have been trying to discover the truth about their origins — an effort made challenging by the fact that Hicks falsified birth certificates and left no records to help connect them to their birth parents.  

“How, for nearly two decades, does a doctor get away with illegally selling hundreds of babies out the back door of his clinic?” Blasio asks in a trailer for the series. “How does that happen?”  

In Taken at Birth, Blasio works with to reunite other adoptees with their long-lost relatives. The show also addresses many of the lingering questions around the Hicks Babies scandal. For example, did Hicks lie to some mothers, telling them that their babies were stillborn? And could the doctor himself might be the father of some the children? They turn to DNA testing, knock on doors, and even search a mausoleum during their hunt for the truth. 

“There’s still a lot of questions to be answered,” says Blasio. 

How Hicks’ illegal adoption scam worked 

Jane Blasio
Jane Blasio | Amanda Edwards/Getty Images for Discovery

As a small-town doctor in rural Georgia, Hicks was known for being able to discreetly and safely perform abortions at a time when the procedure was still illegal. But not every woman who came to him ended up terminating her pregnancy. Some carried their babies to term. Once the babies were born, Hicks contacted prospective adoptive parents and told them he had a baby. He charged adoptive parents $800 to $1,000 for a child, according to a 1997 report in the New York Times

To keep his baby-selling scam a secret, Hicks created false birth certificates listing the adoptive parents as the birth parents. It was this unusual number of births to out-of-state parents in a small Georgia town that helped Blasio discover the extent of the fraud when she began visiting McCaysville in an attempt to learn more about her background. 

Hicks’ baby-selling came to the end in 1964, when his medical license was revoked after he was caught performing abortions. He died in 1972. 

While Hicks’ scheme left the adoptees with no way of finding who their birth parents really were, there were those in the community who felt the doctor had the best of intentions in finding homes for children whose parents weren’t able to care for them. 

“He was a very generous person,” said a woman who knew Hicks said, according to a report for Narratively. “I saw him do more good than I think he did harm. I’m not saying he was perfect. I’m saying I saw the man do a lot of good.”

But that’s not enough for the Hicks babies, who must live with the consequences of the doctor’s actions. “I just wish he would have gave us a future to come back and be able to find our history,” said Melinda Dawson, a Hicks baby. “With us, we weren’t given a chance to find out who or where we’re from.”

Take at Birth airs Wednesday, October 9 through Friday, October 11 at 9/8c on TLC.