Posts Tagged ‘adoption reunion’

Search & Reunion – Doing The Right Thing

December 4, 2008

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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