Florida deacon among hundreds of babies taken at birth from Georgia clinic and sold

Taken at birth

Bobby Falcone and his wife, Stephanie, pose for an Easter picture at church with their children, Alyssa and Zachary.

By Diana Chandler

TAMPA (BP) – Florida deacon Bobby Falcone was seeking to become the legal guardian of his handicapped sister when he discovered a trail of stolen, black-market babies that led to his biological father who never knew Falcone existed.

Bobby Falcone sits at right on his adoptive father’s knee in a family photo taken in Akron, Ohio. Both he and his sister, Vicky, were bought by their adoptive parents from a clinic in McCaysville, Ga. Photo courtesy of Bobby Falcone

“These poor people,” Falcone said to his wife, Stephanie, in September 2020. “Two-hundred-plus babies illegally taken at birth from their mothers.” Some of those mothers, he added, were told that their babies had died when they were instead sold to families in Akron, Ohio, and elsewhere.

“My wife looked at me and said, ‘I hate to tell you this, but you’re one of those 200-plus people that are in the story.’ And so, the reality sunk in.”

Falcone, a deacon and sound technician at Mission Hill Church in Temple Terrace, Fla., hopes to use his story to encourage others in the knowledge that God is sovereign and maneuvers all things for the good of those who love Him and are called according to His purpose. His tale is engulfed in documented facts found in DNA, historical records and oral stories unearthed as early as the mid-1990s.

Hours after Falcone was born a twin at The Hicks Community Clinic in McCaysville, Ga., in August 1963, a Dr. Thomas Hicks, now deceased, handed the prematurely-birthed baby to a couple waiting in their car in a back alley.

The couple, Falcone’s adoptive parents, had driven 600 miles from Akron, Ohio on a moment’s notice to the clinic and exchanged $10,000 for a baby and a blank birth certificate signed by Hicks and a witness. They then turned around and drove back to Akron, raising Bobby as their own. His parents filled in the remaining lines on the birth certificate – including his birthday incorrectly occurring in December – and filed it with the state of Georgia.

Nearly two years later, the couple bought a baby girl from Hicks. She became Falcone’s sister, Vicky, who was diagnosed with mental developmental delays and has the cognition of a 5-year-old at 56, Falcone said.

Falcone said his adoptive mother, now 94, has confirmed the facts. His adoptive father, a physician who died 20 years ago, had moved his medical practice and the family from Akron to Tampa when Falcone was 12, about the time Falcone learned he and Vicky were adopted.

“My pastor Paul [Purvis] and I, we prayed about this this morning. I want this story to help people,” Falcone told Baptist Press. “I want this to be something that I can do to try to help others and to be a light that many might see in a dark time or a dark place. And again, it doesn’t have to be a Hicks baby. It can be anything in life that you can apply a bad circumstance to.”

Purvis, pastor of Mission Hill for 10 years, has provided pastoral counseling to Falcone.

“All of this speaks to the power of adoption. And you can’t tell the Gospel story without understanding Romans 8, that we are being adopted into God’s family,” Purvis told Baptist Press. “I think everything about this is an opportunity for Bobby to cling to and to hold on to that faith he has through the Gospel. But also, as he meets new family members, he has the opportunity to have exposure, to just point others to the Gospel and to the hope he has because of that.

Bobby Falcone, shown as a child with his sister, Vicky, learned that he and Vicky were among several hundred babies born at The Hicks Community Clinic in McCaysville, Ga., and sold on the black market. Photo courtesy of Bobby Falcone

“Certainly in the moment, what that individual (Hicks) did was extremely disturbing, and again going back to Romans 8, our God really does specialize in taking all of these things that take place on this sinful Earth, these things that are so often not good. And yet to those of us who love Him and are called by His name, He’s constantly in the process of working them together for good.

“I think He has done that in Bobby’s life, and I think He’s going to continue to do that and I think He’s going to get glory through this situation that started out of the sinful acts of an individual.”

As the stories go, unwed mothers from McCaysville, Ga., and nearby towns would go to The Hicks Community Clinic for abortions as early as the 1940s when the procedure was illegal. At some point, researchers say, Hicks began convincing mothers to carry their babies to term.

Sometimes giving the mothers temporary residence, he evidently induced labor at around 32 weeks and sold the small fragile babies for prices as low as $1,000. He was never formally charged with a crime related to the purported events. Some mothers are believed to have willingly given their children up for adoption; others were told their children were stillborn with Hicks supposedly burying them in unmarked graves.

About 50 of the children have been found, but the true number of impacted babies is not known, as no records from the clinic have been discovered. Research has hinged on doctored birth certificates linked to Hicks Clinic, personal accounts, DNA results, photos and other items.

The stories are chronicled in the 2019 TLC documentary “Taken at Birth,” the recently-released book “Taken at Birth” written by Hicks baby and researcher Jane Blasio and also told in July’s People Magazine.

“Every time I tell the story a piece of me goes out,” Falcone told Baptist Press. “I went through probably two days where I just couldn’t really talk about much. I just didn’t know how to process it in the beginning.”

Falcone relies on his faith and God’s sovereignty, recalling one of the first sermons he heard Purvis preach.

“One of his sayings was, ‘Nothing takes God by surprise.’” Falcone recalled. “Another thing he used to always say in a sermon was, ‘You are in one of three areas in life. You are either headed into a storm, you’re in a storm or you’re coming out of a storm.’

“Fast-forward 10 years later when this stuff happened and everything that I found out, the first thing that came to my mind was his comment that nothing takes God by surprise,” Falcone said. “I think that’s been something I’ve lived through this past year going through all this knowledge, and every time I uncover another stone, I think this doesn’t take God by surprise.”

Falcone credits his adoptive parents with loving him and giving him a life filled with everything he needed and most things he wanted, a privilege he believes many of the Hicks babies did not enjoy.

Falcone met his biological father and his father’s current wife of 30 years in May in Knoxville, Tenn., in what he called a “hallmark moment.” Falcone is among seven children of his biological father’s, including Falcone’s twin sister, a half-sister, and four other half-siblings. His biological father had not known of the twin birth from a pregnancy launched in a brief affair, Falcone said. DNA has confirmed paternity, and Falcone is searching for his biological mother.

“I looked at the past life of my biological father – and he’s just distraught over the fact that this happened and he’s so apologetic every time we talk – and I said to him, ‘It’s OK. I don’t harbor any hard feelings against you or even my biological mom, whatever her reasons were. Was I taken and stolen from her at birth? Was I given up willingly? Whatever the circumstances are around that, I’m O.K. with that.’

“So anything we’ve done, it doesn’t matter what it is – just stolen a candy bar from the grocery store – whatever that is, that comes to light later in life. Whether it’s a criminal record, or an accidental pregnancy or whatever that looks like, it’s not the end of the world. God knew that was going to happen.”

The key for Christians is to get to the next level, Falcone said, and to make tomorrow better than today.