FX digs into Children of the Underground for its latest true crime docu-series of the same name, yet the organization itself remains somewhat of a mystery.
Faye Yager's secretive efforts, deemed "a vigilante labyrinth," allowed children and families to escape abusive situations by way of safe houses and a network of volunteers throughout the country.
Though mainly active throughout the 80s and 90s, are there still remnants of Yager's work today? It depends who you ask.
Children of the Underground—how it got started
Yager witnessed an unthinkable tragedy when she discovered her first husband, Roger Jones, physically abusing their young daughter, Michelle. Though the outraged mother attempted to remove her child from the toxic situation, the court ultimately allowed Jones to remain in custody of their daughter—even with medical records indicating that the young child had contracted gonorrhea.
Jones alleged that his wife suffered from mental health issues. Years later, however, he was found guilty of molesting underage women in Florida. After her terrible experience, Yager vowed to work against the court system that had turned a blind eye to child abuse, thus her "underground" network was born.
It's not clear how many families she helped throughout the years—numbers range from 500 to 2,000, if not more—but it was certainly clear that the woman behind these efforts faced plenty of hardship along the way, some of which damaged her reputation.
In 1992, she was charged with cruelty to children, interference with custody and kidnapping in connection, though charges were ultimately dropped. She feared the rise of Satanic worship in the 80s, something ultimately used against her by a mother, Myra Watts, who sought her help.
"She told me my children would come into my bedroom at night while I was asleep and perform Satanic rituals over my bed. She told me my children were poisoning me, feeding me with cyanide. At this point, I realized I was dealing with a crazy lady," Watts said, according to The New York Post (opens in new tab).
Several years later, in 1998, the wealthy Bipmin Shah filed a multi-million-dollar lawsuit against Yager for allegedlly helping his wife and their two daughters go into hiding, charges that were dropped upon his family's return to the United States.
Is the Children of the Underground network still active?
Some, including Yager's daughter Michelle, say that her mother's efforts ended after the Shah case, according to the Family Abduction Watch (opens in new tab).
But this contradicts what Michelle's mother, who now runs a B&B in North Carolina, told Newsweek (opens in new tab) in 2016.
"My group still exists," Yager revealed to the publication. "It's much harder. You can still do it, you've just got to have a lot more—I don't want to get into that too much. The FBI just seizes the moment with that, especially where I'm concerned."
And according to The Post, the docu-series' co-director Gabriela Cowperthwaite has a hard time believing that the network is not up and running somehow.
"It would be very hard to imagine it’s not,” Cowperthwaite told the publication. "I don’t know any specifics, and it’s got to be much harder these days with iPhones and so forth. But I think there are protective parents that are going to continue to do anything and everything to keep their kids safe when the system fails to."
Children of the Underground, a five-part docuseries, aired on FX on August 12, and episodes are available for next-day streaming via Hulu.
For more new releases in the true crime genre, check out I Just Killed My Dad, Netflix's August Skye Borgman release and the forthcoming House of Hammer on Discovery+, an Armie Hammer documentary about his and his family's alleged abuse over the years.
Danielle is a writer for woman&home and My Imperfect Life, covering all-things news, lifestyle and entertainment.
The heart of her time at Future has been devoted to My Imperfect Life, where she's been attuned to the cosmos and honed in on astrology coverage within the Life vertical. She's partial to writing pieces about the next big TV obsession—anyone else impatiently waiting for "Conversations with Friends"—and keeping you up to date on new trends like the latest must-have from Zara.
Before her time at Future, Danielle was the editor of Time Out New York Kids and a news editor at Elite Daily. Her work has also appeared in Domino, Chowhound, amNewYork and Newsday, among other outlets.
When Danielle is not working, you can usually find her reading a new book, coffee at hand, or attempting a new recipe. (Recommendations always welcome!)
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