Look back so you can look forward - Washington Adoption Reunion Movement

Monday, September 23, 2013

By Pam Queen, WARM –WA Adoption Reunion Movement

What makes up an adoptee’s autobiography? Not much ... especially for those not in some way reunited with their birth parents. You have those blank pages for medical, genetics, and histories.

So, fellow adoptees, how do you intend to fill your pages?  Look back by choosing to search.

Under State law, a trained Confidential Intermediary (CI) must be assigned to receive sealed court records, search, make discreet inquiries, and obtain written consent, before a reunion can be achieved. Trained by WARM, our CIs are volunteers who receive a stipend for search expenses. Of the current group of active WARM CIs, three CIs have nearly a total of 100 years of experience among them. All WARM CIs have many search techniques and are sympathetic to the various emotional issues surrounding adoption and reunion. Many WARM CIs are birth parents, adoptees, and adoptive parents (the Triad). In some way, all have lived the life of a triad member and experienced reunion. They are tenacious sleuths.

Since the intermediary receives documents that can be anywhere from 100 to maybe 25 years old, they not only need a knowledge of history but have built a repertoire of various search techniques.  The Internet now plays a part in the search process along with some private sites. Years ago, I remember spending hours at the Seattle Public Library hefting those tomes called Coles or Polk’s Directories off and on the stacks. Not a pleasant way to spend a day but the search can be addictive and very rewarding when a major clue is found.

Each search is unique and some have complex processes. While my current volunteer position with WARM is not as an active CI, every so often I challenge my skills. For a recent case, I used Ancestry.com to determine both birth parents had died along with one of the adoptee’s siblings.  This information was passed to the assigned CI. In a matter of minutes the CI located one of the other siblings, called her, and the consent was out in the mail for the sibling’s signature. Once the CI receives the signed consent, the remaining three siblings are reunited. 

Not all search and reunions have such a short time span but usually that part of the process moves along much faster than the PRE-Internet era. Before the search is forwarded to the CI, lengthy processes occur at the WARM office. Recently, a Board member volunteered to assemble an electronic flow chart of just the basic court requirements. With the help of the office staff, the 24”x 30” flow chart was produced. 

When the CI has 100% or nearly 100% assurances of locating the correct person, a discreet inquiry is made to again verify the correct person has been located, if he/she is free to talk, the reason for the call, answer questions, and the CI requests consent. These few items are only part of the entire conversation.

Why do people search? Many reasons. As I mentioned, each search is a unique experience and personal to the client. Might sound strange but I liken the urge to search as the alignment of the stars. There is a defining moment. For some, their health takes a nose dive. Recently, we had two 40-ish gentlemen contact WARM as each has a very serious health issue. One man needs to know if his condition is genetic as his treatment is predicated on the source of the illness.

Through the DNA site, 23andme, I have become acquainted with many new distant genetic cousins. I always explain about my adoption and WARM. Linda replied:

“Just wanted to touch base and let you know that the work you do with medical histories with adoptees is badly needed. Paul’s sister has been in the hospital the last 4 days and in their family they have a birth defect in their hearts and atrial fib. Medical history is so important. We have shared ours with any adoptee or person that wants it and we explain the birth defect so they will know about it as it does not end up on any genetic testing so far. We also have MTHFR defects which can affect many aspects of health. This is just a short note to tell you that we appreciate what you do. It is so important as these histories may mean life or death for a person.”

Years ago during a WARM semi-monthly meeting where we shared our stories, a young lady rose and talked about the progress of her search and her background. At the same time the lady sitting to my left was becoming tearful.

In the next few minutes, the situation became obvious that the woman next to me was the birth mother of the young lady. As the young lady spoke, the shared information became very familiar to the older woman next to me. The search immediately came to fruition. They met for the first time in an ante-room separate from the meeting room. Neither knew the other would attend the same meeting. Ah, the stars aligned.

The relationship this birth mom and adoptee had in the future is their personal story. The future is what you make of it. You begin to write on those blank pages and how many pages you complete over time is your choice. Those searching who have realistic expectations fare better in reunion than those searching who have such high expectations there is no way the found person can fulfill them. Adoptee/birth parent reunions are no different than any biological family. You like some relatives and some you don’t but if you do not take the step to reunion, you live in a fantasy world. ‘What-if’ is not a healthy environment. People and circumstances can change. Educate yourself to understand adoption search issues.

I highly suggest taking a look at the books listed on the WARM website in the resource section.  Each can expand your view and understanding of what life is like for an adoptee / birth parent / adoptive parent. The psychologist, Reuben Panner, was a pioneer and teamed up with Baran and Sorosky to write the seminal book, The Adoption Triangle. Back in the 70s, nearly nothing had been written on adoption and search. This book broke ground and opened the flood gates for further discussion on the entire subject of adoption and search.

33 years ago I looked back, the stars aligned, and my pages are still a work in progress. I predict someone will read about WARM through this publication and begin their search. Someone will experience the need to fill their pages …. and the stars will align.

Shoreline resident Pam Queen has been a member of WARM since 1977 and is currently the President and Treasurer.


Anonymous,  September 25, 2013 at 6:16 AM  

WARM found my daughter 22 years ago and we are still in contact. The best part is the healing.....no more guilt or remorse. I did the best I could as a naïve young girl that was told to give up my child. Keep up the great work.

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