In 1948, the world was shocked at a photograph of a pregnant woman in a sundress turning her head away from the camera while her four children sat on the steps in front of her.
While there was nothing untoward with the left side of the picture, the right side was the source of much anger and confusion. It was a white sign with the words “4 CHILDREN FOR SALE INQUIRE WITHIN”, written in cursive.
The woman was Lucille Chalifoux of Chicago. She and her husband, Ray Chalifoux, who was an unemployed coal truck driver, faced eviction from their apartment. Their children’s lives did not turn out well.
Last week in Edmonton, a decidedly modern version of this story emerged. Sarah Vibert took to Twitter, Facebook and her own blog to try and find someone who would take her kids.
Look to the internet and there are seemingly thousands of grim instances of unscrupulous people using social media to traffic their own children, but Sarah Vibert’s isn’t one of them.
Vibert’s story has a completely different tenor than that of Lucille Chalifoux’s, who purportedly sold one of her daughters for bingo money.
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Vibert is confined to a long-term care facility because she has multiple sclerosis and a spinal injury. She says she can no longer care for her daughters, ages eight and nine, and has no family who can either.
Vibert told Global News she felt cornered because the only option seemed to be giving up guardianship to the province of Alberta. She says she still wants to play a role in their lives.
“It upsets me because they are the sweetest little girls and to see them dumped into a foster system that is giving me options of all-or-nothing is unreasonable, she said. “Whether they want to adopt openly or take guardianship, I’m open to a lot of options. “I just want them to be safe and have the security that they’re not going to be shuffled around constantly.”
So did social media produce a result for the struggling family? Sort of. Vibert’s campaign caught the eye of the traditional media in the form of Global News, who sent cameras to interview her. The segment, which aired February 25th, sent more than 300,000 people to her blog. While no specifics have emerged, Vibert is now more optimistic about a solution.
“I am so grateful to be living in a community with so many wonderful people,” she posted to her blog. “My daughters are excited to know that there is a family out there that will be able to take them in and I’m starting to feel a sense of relief that I haven’t felt in months. I look forward to get to know some of you in the coming week; you have all reminded me why I chose Edmonton to be my home.”