1 user 2 critic

Missing Children: A Mother's Story (1982)

A young mother hands her children into what she thinks is a childcare center while she finds a new home, but returns to find that they have been adopted out without her knowledge.


Nominated for 2 Primetime Emmys. Another 1 nomination. See more awards »


Add Image Add an image

Do you have any images for this title?

Learn more

People who liked this also liked... 

Who Will Love My Children? (TV Movie 1983)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.5/10 X  

Based on a true story of Iowa farm wife Lucile Fray. Ann-Margret plays a dying mother of ten whose last wish is to find loving families for her children.

Director: John Erman
Stars: Ann-Margret, Frederic Forrest, Cathryn Damon
Stolen Babies (TV Movie 1993)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.6/10 X  

A 1940s Tennesee welfare worker learns that Georgia Tann, the charismatic head of a local adoption agency, is actually running a black-market baby ring behind the Tennesee Childrens Home ... See full summary »

Director: Eric Laneuville
Stars: Lea Thompson, Kathleen Quinlan, Mary Nell Santacroce
James at 16 (1977–1978)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.3/10 X  

James, a daydreamer and photographer, must learn to cope with life as his father moves the family from Oregon to Boston MA. Though there is much humor here, the series dealt with many ... See full summary »

Stars: Lance Kerwin, Linden Chiles, Lynn Carlin
God Bless the Child (TV Movie 1988)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.6/10 X  

Single mother, Theresa Johnson, becomes homeless, loses her job and tries to survive with her young daughter, Hillary, through charities and public shelters.

Director: Larry Elikann
Stars: Mare Winningham, Grace Johnston, L. Scott Caldwell
A Little Sex (1982)
Comedy | Romance
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 4.9/10 X  

The story of one man's hilarious - and doomed - attempts to wield life's ultimate double-edged sword: infidelity.

Director: Bruce Paltrow
Stars: Tim Matheson, Kate Capshaw, Edward Herrmann
Twisted Love (1995)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 4.7/10 X  

Janna Riley is the awkward and shy girl nobody ever seems to notice. Not being able to live up to her mother's expectations of popularity, Janna walks through the school hallways alone, ... See full summary »

Director: Eb Lottimer
Stars: Lisa Dean Ryan, Sasha Jenson, Soleil Moon Frye
Biography | Drama
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7/10 X  

The story of Ernie Kovacs, a talented radio and TV presenter and entertainer ahead of his time, who tried to make his shows as innovative and quirky as budget and censorship would allow. Ignored during life, celebrated after death.

Director: Lamont Johnson
Stars: Jeff Goldblum, Melody Anderson, Madolyn Smith Osborne
For the Love of Nancy (TV Movie 1994)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.6/10 X  

The parents of an anorexic woman fight to save her life.

Director: Paul Schneider
Stars: Tracey Gold, Jill Clayburgh, Cameron Bancroft
Windy City (1984)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.5/10 X  

The lives of a group of young Chicago men, as seen through the eyes of one of them, a writer.

Director: Armyan Bernstein
Stars: John Shea, Kate Capshaw, Josh Mostel
I've Been Waiting for You (TV Movie 1998)
Horror | Thriller
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 5.5/10 X  

A girl moves to a small town with her mom, only to be compared to a legendary witch with the same name.

Director: Christopher Leitch
Stars: Sarah Chalke, Soleil Moon Frye, Ben Foster
The Burning Bed (TV Movie 1984)
Crime | Drama
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.2/10 X  

An abused battered wife has had enough of husband beating up on her. Everywhere she turns for help, there's not much anyone will do. After he rapes her one night, she sets the bed on fire with him in it asleep.

Director: Robert Greenwald
Stars: Farrah Fawcett, Paul Le Mat, Richard Masur
Drama | Western
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.9/10 X  

Final episode in which the town of Walnut Grove is destroyed.

Director: Michael Landon
Stars: Melissa Gilbert, Dean Butler, Richard Bull


Cast overview, first billed only:
Kate Bradshaw
Mary Gertrude
Stanley Willard
Elaine Rogers
Mose Wheeler
Hunter Burgess
Judge Eloise Walker
Mrs. Sims
Susan Tyree
Lander Hughes
Robert Alan Browne ...
Mr. Lester
Conlan Carter ...
Reverend Hamner


A young mother hands her children into what she thinks is a childcare center while she finds a new home, but returns to find that they have been adopted out without her knowledge.

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis







Release Date:

1 December 1982 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Baby Thieves - Geraubte Kinder  »

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:


Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


Soleil Moon Frye's TV debut. See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

This FAQ is empty. Add the first question.

User Reviews

I really, really liked this movie
27 October 2003 | by (USA) – See all my reviews

I watched this movie on TV when it first came out. I was a senior in high school. I will never forget how affected I was by it.

In the reading and studying I have done since then, I have come to believe that this film was at least loosely based on the story of Georgia Tann, the director of the Tennessee Children's Home Society in Memphis, TN. Ms. Tann placed over five thousand infants and small children, usually under the age of six, beginning in the early 1930s, which was, coincidentally, around the time that "closed" adoption records came into vogue in most states. The closed record system originally had a noble purpose: to allow unwed mothers relinquishing babies anonymity and confidentiality, and to allow children adopted in the system to be spared the "stigma" of illegitimacy which would have been theirs had they been raised by their birthmothers in those times. However, as time has tragically revealed, the closed record system was extremely useful in concealing the illegal or unethical activities of social workers, attorneys, doctors and other personnel who found it quite profitable to engage in flat-out baby brokering.

Georgia Tann appears to have been in collusion with the Honorable Camille Kelley of the Memphis Juvenile Court, through whose courtroom custody of adoptable children was awarded to Ms. Tann, who would then place the children out of state. "Adoptable" children is a bit of a euphemism here, since it was eventually revealed that Ms. Tann's motive was to remove children from poor or slum conditions and place them with wealthy families. Children were literally stolen from hospitals, parks, and right off the streets. From 1947 to 1951 alone, over a thousand babies were placed with couples in New York and California (the most common states of placement) through the Tennessee Children's Home Society.

An investigation began in the late summer of 1950 after numerous complaints to the governor. Ms. Tann died of cancer that September, and in November Judge Camille Kelley resigned from the Juvenile Court after she was ordered to submit court files to the investigators. She died in 1955 and her role in the case was never fully investigated. The Tennessee Children's Home Society closed shortly after Georgia Tann's death.

One of the most famous children to be placed by Georgia Tann was Christina Crawford, who was adopted by movie actress Joan Crawford in 1939. Unfortunately, the main reason she became famous was her bestselling autobiography, "Mommie Dearest," which detailed the abuse and cruelty she suffered at the hands of her adoptive mother. It is not too farfetched to conclude that many other cruel and abusive, if less famous, adoptive parents with money to spend also had children placed with them by Ms. Tann.

This film narrates the story of Katie Bradshaw (Mare Winningham), who is struggling to raise her three children without much help from her husband, T.C. (Robert Wightman), who is presented pretty one-dimensionally as a hard-drinkin', skirt-chasin', bad-tempered ne'er-do-well who isn't above raising a hand to the little missus when he thinks she needs it, nor above taking the rent money to buy a night on the town and ultimately deserting his wife and the kids -- but then coming back to steal Katie's hard-earned wages after she lands a job.

In order to land said job, however, Katie first has to swallow her pride and apply for assistance. The crooked caseworker who interviews her notices that Katie can't read, and denies her application so that she will be desperate enough to take him up on his offer to refer her to the Children's Rescue Mission, a facility run by Mary Gertrude Tyler (Polly Holliday). Miss Tyler clucks sympathetically over Katie's situation, assures her that the Children's Rescue Mission can help, and Katie leaves the children there, accompanying Miss Tyler to court a few days later, where she signs what Miss Tyler has told her are papers to allow the Children's Rescue Mission to seek medical care for the children. What Miss Tyler does not tell her, and Katie cannot read the papers to realize, is that what she has signed are relinquishment papers granting the Children's Rescue Mission legal custody of her three children. When she returns to the facility a few days later, her children are nowhere to be found and Miss Tyler politely informs her that "a miracle has occurred, and just yesterday we were able to place the children with a fine family." Katie is naturally horrified, but soon learns that a woman in her position -- no money and no attorney -- is no match for Miss Tyler.

Through a series of fortuitous introductions and happenings, this story does have a happy ending. I found myself wondering if any of the real Georgia Tann children enjoyed a similar one, but the odds seem poor. If nothing else, seeing this movie should convince people of the evil that was the closed adoption era, and of the necessity for open records, honesty, and compassion for all members of the adoption triad.

26 of 26 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

Message Boards

Recent Posts
Where can I watch this movie? crazy_smilers

Contribute to This Page

Create a character page for: