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Finding Pieces of the Puzzle: Adoption Search & Reunion, Part 1

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Erin & Angie“You must be prepared for the realm of possibilities that you might find, and you need to know how to prepare yourself for the emotional ups and downs that will happen!” – Erin, adoptee

We all love a good adoption search-and-reunion story. But what happens after that first find, that first phone call, that first hug? Can it possibly work out for all parties involved?

Not all adoption reunions are successful. But when the reunion meets the needs of all parties involved, it can add a new dimension and level of understanding to the lives of both adoptees and their birth families.

Lutheran Adoption Services of Texas (a program of Lutheran Social Services [LSS]) has facilitated more than 8,000 adoptive placements since 1944 and can initiate adoption searches for all members of an adoption triad when the adoption was completed through LSS:

  • an adult adoptee searching for a birth parent,
  • a birth parent searching for an adult adoptee
  • or an adoptive family searching for a birth parent.

Contact usually begins with a letter or a phone call and evolves based upon the mutual consent of both parties. The following story chronicles the search and reunion of Erin, a 27-year-old kindergarten teacher, and Angie, her birth mom. Both currently live in Austin, Texas.

Erin & Angie’s story:

When Erin was 15, her parents presented her with a hand-written letter from her biological mother.  They were planning to give it to Erin when she turned 18, but she had become so inquisitive about where she came from, they decided to give it to her early.

Angie was only 16 when she became pregnant and the birth father Trey was 18. The couple broke up when Angie went off to college.  She wrote that she loved Erin, wanted a better life for her daughter and would like to meet her someday when Erin was ready. She wasn’t.

Erin hesitated to proceed with an inquiry for years, until her 24th birthday when her friends raised money for the “gift of a search.” Erin waited approximately a year as she and her family became more comfortable with the idea of reaching out to Angie.

“I think I waited until just the right time, and it all worked out the way it was supposed to,” said Erin. “At 18, I was definitely not mature enough.”

In July 2012, when Erin turned 25, she went to Lutheran Adoption Services and opened the case. The following November, she initiated contact with Angie and sent her a letter using LSS as the intermediary. They first began communicating via texts and by sending photos. “The main reason I felt I needed to find my birth parents was to thank them for the opportunity they gave me to lead a great life,” Erin said. Erin grew up in South Austin and attended Bowie High School; she has an older brother who is also adopted.

On January 2, 2013, when it came time to meet Angie for the first time, Erin was “really nervous.” They arranged to meet for dinner; Erin brought along two friends who had been her support group throughout the entire journey and Angie came with her husband. “It was all very natural and comfortable as we sat there for three hours talking about life, families and our interests,” Erin said. Erin learned that Angie has twin girls (they were 15 at the time), and the girls have known about her since they were 10.

Another interesting discovery was that the year prior to their first meeting, Erin had had dinner with Angie’s stepbrother and didn’t realize it! They had been living close to each other for a long time. “Our paths crossed many times and we never knew it,” Erin said.

History in a Trunk

A nice surprise for Erin was the trunk Angie presented to her made by her birth grandfather.  It was filled with things about her birth father Trey and birthday and Christmas cards that Angie had written to Erin every year and just saved in the trunk. There was also a diary about her feelings about placing her daughter for adoption. Angie’s father was most influential in having the baby adopted, and the trunk included a five-page letter written by him in 1997, apologizing and explaining his actions.

Angie told Erin that every year on Erin’s birthday, the family sat down together and talked about her. Angie said she had given up hope of a reunion once Erin turned 21 and she hadn’t heard from her. “I had always heard it was better to let the child make contact when ready,” Angie said.

Completing the Circle

The next step came when Erin finally met Trey. She found his brother on Facebook and reached out to him via a personal message with her email address. Trey’s brother passed along the info. Trey was so happy she contacted him. “I’ve been waiting for this moment all my life” he said. Erin met him and his wife for the first time for dinner in August 2013. Erin learned she has a half-sister who is 22.

“He is a big teddy bear of a guy, 6’3, and sitting across from him I thought, ‘I have his eyes!’” She learned he had been a baseball player who had injured his knee and wasn’t able to pursue an athletic career after that. Erin said that explained a lot, “I’m athletic and no one else in my family is. I played volleyball and softball throughout my school career and still play co-ed softball.”

Today …

Erin talks regularly with Angie and her family and sees them often. She also gets together with Trey about once a month.

What would she recommend to others curious about searching for their birth parents?  “Go for it, but you need to keep an open mind to all of the different people involved in the decision and the relationships that could be affected,” said Erin. “My adoptive mom and dad will always be my first priority.” Erin feels very lucky about how her search and reunion have turned out but knows it doesn’t always work out so well.

Erin’s biggest surprise, after having played out every scenario in her mind beforehand, was how many people knew about her and wanted to meet her. She has also developed a relationship with the grandfather who was instrumental in her adoption.

Erin concluded, “It has been very healing for all of us, and my birth family has peace of mind too knowing they did the right thing for me. Beyond having my questions answered and seeing where I came from, the most healing thing was to be able to say THANK YOU!”

Look for Part 2, Angie’s Story next week.

For additional information about adoption and reunification searches, or to begin an inquiry through Lutheran Adoption Services of Texas, call 800-396-4611 or contact Tanya Graham: [email protected]. [Note: Texas Family Code 162.413 requires that individuals initiating an adoption search must have an hour of counseling before a reunion can be facilitated.]

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