Search & Reunion – Doing The Right Thing

As guest speaker this week for a group of Confidential Intermediaries through Arizona’s CI Program, I spoke on:  “Engaging the Agency in A Search.”  Arizona’s Confidential Intermediaries are trained by and certified by Arizona’s Supreme Court to do searches for adult adoptees seeking birth family contact and birth parents seeking contact with their now-grown children who were placed for adoption in Arizona.  One central point I made was that, although a CI can get enough identifying information through the Court that they can complete a search without visiting the agency, if there was an agency involved, they should contact the agency as part of the search.  There may have been contact through the agency after placement, and the file may contain updated information that can aide in the search.  Or there may be letters in the file that should be given to the party being searched for.  Here’s how I ended my presentation:

 I’ll end with a story of a search case that Barb worked on.  (Some of you know that Barb was the administrative assistant at Catholic Charities for three years, an adoptee who became a CI and handled the communication log for the agency.)  It was a case that she wasn’t obliged to search for but it was The Right Thing to do.   

Barb received a letter from birth grandparents whose daughter had placed an infant through Catholic Social Services almost twenty years earlier.  These out-of-state parents had sent their young adult daughter to work in Phoenix, she got pregnant, didn’t tell her parents and placed the child for adoption through Catholic Social Service.  Several years later, the mother’s younger brother was diagnosed with a rare genetic condition that the parents suspected their daughter also had.  As the family discussed who needed to be told about this genetically linked condition, their daughter tearfully admitted that she had placed a child, her parents’ first granddaughter, for adoption.  After learning about this child (who was at that time aged seven) the birth grandparents began a respectful letter writing campaign to the agency, sending a birthday card every year to their unknown granddaughter, to be placed in her file.  Now, the birth grandparents had retired, moved to the Valley, their granddaughter was ‘of age’ and could be contacted.  They had two questions:  Had their years of letters been shared with the adoptive family, and could the agency help them find their granddaughter?  When Barb pulled the birth mother’s file, bulging with birthday cards, she realized that while the baby was in temporary care with CSS, the baby had shown dysmorphic features, displayed a seizure disorder and, after being in a CSS receiving home for months awaiting approval for placement, had finally been placed with Arizona’s public agency, the Arizona Department of Economic Security (DES), because CSS could not find a family for the child.  There was no evidence of correspondence in the file to these grandparents recognizing their plight or giving them any news of their granddaughter. 


Barb, a grandmother herself, wanted to reach out to them.  She came to me as her supervisor to ask if we could look for this child, now an adult, to let her know of her birth family’s love and concern?  Unfortunately the agency’s file only covered the child through the time of legal transfer to DES; we didn’t have the name of the family who took her.  We couldn’t tell from the agency’s file what the fate of the child had been.  Was she adopted? Raised as a foster child?  Did she  survive to adulthood? 


After hearing back from DES  that their file couldn’t be located without more detaild information, we searched through our file again.  The last item was a court order transferring custody from CSS to DES.  On the side of the order were the names of the individuals who were to receive a copy of the order. Along with names we did know, there was a name we didn’t recognize. In the case notes, a potential foster mother was discussed without naming her, just that she was a special education teacher and she and her husband were open to many different situations.  Following this hunch, Barb asked the Private Investigator who did some work for us to see if he would help look for this person.  Bingo.  Within an hour he called back with the news that this was the special ed teacher, also the adoptive mom, and he had a phone number.  Barb called this woman, discussed the situation, got written releases from everyone and then gave out phone numbers. 

A few weeks later on a Friday I was notified that there was someone in the lobby asking for Barb; Barb didn’t work Fridays.  I went downstairs to explain why Barb wasn’t there.  The visitors were the birth grandparents, who had come to say Thank You to Barb with a box of See’s Candy.  We sat and chatted about what it had meant for them to meet their granddaughter, a child with a more severe version of the family malady, but who is living an independent life thanks to the support and encouragement of her adoptive parents.  They were ever so grateful to the family who adopted their grandchild, and to Barb for going out of her way to help them find her.  At a meeting on the previous weekend, they had taken pictures of their daughter, their granddaughter, and the adoptive parents, and they promised to email a copy to Barb.  Receiving the photos let Barb know that she had done The Right Thing.  And the chocolate helped, too.






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7 Responses to “Search & Reunion – Doing The Right Thing”

  1. Teri Brown Says:

    What a wonderful story! It warms my heart when I read stories like this. I wish more CI’s would go that extra mile. Unfortunately there are stories of CI’s who discourage reunions and this makes Barb even more special. I’m glad they have you give talks for CI’s to help educate them into how important their help is. Thanks for posting this. :o)

    Teri Brown

    • bethkoz Says:

      Hi, Teri.
      Thanks for reading my blog and for commenting on this story! I had trouble with the font size, and am so new to blogging that I haven’t figured out where to locate the how-tos of corrections.
      Are you an adoption professional or a triad member?

  2. kitekampgirl Says:

    I am an adoptee who got burned by a CI. You don’t meet too many CIs that go that extra mile. I am a volunteer search angel primarily for Texas. I have found in a few other states. I would rather give someone the information and let them make contact. In fact, it is a personal policy that I do not make contact. I do not want to ever take that choice away from someone else. I read this yesterday. Its a nice story but sadly in my mind this is not the norm at least in Indiana.

    • bethkoz Says:

      Thank you, kitekampgirl! And welcome to my blog. I agree with you that this is not a ‘typical CI story,’ which is why I wanted to record it. The compassion that the CI had, to go beyond, was exceptional. And appreciated! I do, however, think there are folks who very quietly go out of their way, and listen to their heart!
      I know just a little bit about search angels, and what I know is positive. Good for you for bringing your zeal to the table! I’ve known adoptees who’ve searched so long and hard that when the search is over, they feel something missing from their lives. Using the skills you’ve learned in your own search to help others — I am impressed!
      Please do cross-post. I welcome others to my blog!

  3. Stella Says:

    We may be writing to the converted here, but pleasse see the link >

    • Bethkoz Says:

      Six months passed before I caught this comment on my blog. It is my opinion, based on 30 years of working with adult adoptees that the majority of them do NOT have debilitating issues with having been adopted. That said, there are many who agonize over their ‘lost past’ and even more who feel the ‘missing piece’ issue. Openness and honesty in adoption are more helpful than keeping secrets. This I believe after working in open adoption for approximately 20 years, and having witnessed the fall out from the years of secrecy that preceeded the changes. Changes that were brought about because of adoptees, birth parents and adoptive parents who returned to the agencies to tell them what was most distressing in their lives. I encourage feedback to agencies; it helps them grow!

  4. bethkoz Says:

    Hello. Without knowing more details, that’s a hard one to answer. Things like how old you are, what state you live in, what details you know about your birthfamily would be helpful for me to answer you more specifically.

    Beth Kozan, LPC

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