Fargo/Moorhead Youth Fill the Dome Project Exceeds Goal!

My blog normally includes articles written by me or others I find on the Internet about foster care, thus the title of my blog.

However I am so proud of the youth here in my hometown community of Fargo, North Dakota/Moorhead, Minnasota that I just have to share this story beyond our area.

In the fall of 2007 a group of local high school seniors wanted to do something as a gift to their community. They wanted to collect non perishable foods and funds to be given to those less fortunate in our community. Each year since new seniors have continued the effort.

They did not think small but decided to issue a challenge to all the local schools.

Fargo has what we call the Fargodome. It is the site where North Dakota State University plays their home football games and where numerous big time stars have given concerts. The football floor contains 80,000 square feet.

The group decided their goal would be to fill the dome floor with food items. Thus began the FILL THE DOME PROJECT.

Since that first year (2007), though the foor did not get filled, they were able to raise over 60 tons of food and over $60,000 for their efforts for 2007/2008 combined.

This year the set their goals higher than what was reached in the first two years:

Goals for Fill the Dome 2009 include: 
Raise $75,000
Collect 75 tons of food
Engage 7,500 volunteers

Fifty-eight local schools and a few outside the local community were involved in this year’s effort. Each school would have a square on the dome floor to fill with non-perishables.

There is also a square designated for the community as a whole participate by dropping off items on the designated date or to purchase a food bag from Hornbackers ( a local grocery store gain ) which would be collected and taken to the dome on the given date.

Yesterday was the culmination of the 2009 effort. Schools each had a scheduled time to brings the results of ther collection drives as well as the food bags purchased by members of the community.

Early this morning, after boxing, weighing, and placing all the food on a number of trucks for distribution the results were announced:

97.1 tons of food that came in and out of the Fargodome.
$96,000 (and counting)
2311 food bages were purchased by community members at Hornbachers
(Yes I bought a couple)
Over 2,800 people who have signed their name, acknowledging hunger is an issue in the Fargo-Moorhead area.

The Fill the Dome Project not only exceeded their goals for 2009 by a wide margin but also exceeded the total of the two previous years combined.

The Great Plains Food Bank distributes food to local pantries and shelters. Of money raised, 30 percent goes to local groups and 70 percent goes to a mobile food pantry to help in rural western North Dakota.

These same youth, in many cases, helped save the Fargo/Moorhead area by filling and laying over 4 million sandbags this srping in the effort to save our area from flooding. Without their efforts our city would have definitely suffered severe lood damage.

These youth make me proud to live in Fargo and continues to give me faith in our next generation of leadership.

Hats off to ALL involved; many less fortunate will not go without in the months ahead!!

 

Some of the food collected yesterday

 

To date (2007-2009) Fill the Dome has raised over: 

Over 156,000 tons of non perishable food items

Over $157,000

I will be nominating this organization next year for CNN’S Heor of the Year!

 Below are photos from the 2008 drive:

http://fillthedome.org/ftd/Photos.html

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Family Medical History…What About Adoptees?

Former U.S. Surgeon General Richard H. Carmona in 2005 began an initiative to encourage supposedly ALL Americans to learn about their families’ health histories. This would be a way of promoting personal health and preventing diseases.  He has even collaborated with others to offer a new web site and free computer program to help families collect and record this information.

Dr. Carmona stated, “The bottom line is that knowing your family medical history can save your life. Millions of dollars in medical research, equipment and knowledge can’t give us the information family medical histories can.

However, how are the millions of adopted across the country who have their records sealed suppose to obtain the information that Dr. Carmona says could save their lives?

Many question why adoptees search for their birth family or at least information about them. Most of those who question come from people who were raised by their birth parents. They knew their heritage. They had extended family to share their lives. They knew of potential medical problems that might arise in their lives.

They have little to no understanding or appreciation for those of us who have gone through life, without any of the above or the void it left within us. They do not know what it would be like not to have any of the above.

Through the first thirty-two years of my life I did not care about birth parents, family, heritage, medical history or any of that stuff. I had enough issues involved in just growing up and making something of myself, without having to spend time contemplating that bigger picture.

I should note, to this point of my life, I did not know even the names of my birth parents.

1982 changed all that!

I suffered my first heart attack. I still remember the doctor asking, “What is your family medical history?” I was embarrassed when I had to respond “I do not know!”

I am one of the fortunate ones. I was not adopted, but was placed for adoption at birth. I rode the merry go round of the foster care system for eighteen years. After my heart attack and embarrassment of not being able to answer doctor’s questions I began searching for the answers.

Even as one who was not adopted, many closed their doors and records to me during my search. I can only imagine the extreme difficulty adoptees have in getting the answers which could save their lives!

I know adoptees who have been searching for years, without success, to find the very basic of information; a birth parent name. This is due to he laws concerning adoption still on the books in many states.

I have known adoptees, even when the release of medical information about family could have saved their lives, were refused their request for information. This is wrong and has absolutely no justification.

Every child, at some point, questions who they are, where they came from and so forth. Most are able to have the answers easily provided by a parent or other member of their family. Adoptees or many children of the foster care system, such as I, do not have that available to them. For adoptees in particular, of my generation, it is denied them by law. We are expected to go through life never knowing the answers to those questions. Many are even ridiculed for entertaining such questions.

Why, when millions around the world who were raised by their birth parents do genealogical research to learn more of themselves and their heritage is it considered normal? When an adoptee or person in my situation does the same it’s considered abnormal? Seems hypocritical to me!

I now know my family medical history. This, however, came about only after eight long and costly years of searching for my birth family before the days of Google, etc.

My search was, in comparison to adoptees, relatively easy despite the length of time it took.

My search had its ups and downs. My initial search to just find the information needed to locate my birth Mother to get medical information, took four years. It would take another four years before I would find and meet my birth Father. They have both since passed away. During that time, I learned how to be a detective; to ask questions, which to most would have appeared stupid. I even had to learn to lie to just get the information I wanted.

I found my birth Mother, my birth Father as well as siblings. None were very cooperative in answering my questions about family health, heritage or genealogy. If they had been, it might have saved me sixteen more years of research.

My search went far beyond my original intent. The question is; WHY? Why did I go beyond the original intent of getting simple medical information? Why did I want to find my birth Mother? Why did I ever want to meet her? Why did I want to know my roots? Why take twenty years spending great amounts of time, energy and money researching my family history? Why look for living members of an extended family?

I searched for the answers to all those questions because I am like any other normal individual. More importantly, I had the right to know! I searched first for information; then to fill a void in my life. I would like to think if the search had ended with just information, I would have been satisfied. Of course, knowing all I do today, it might not have been. Each person searching needs to know when enough is enough for them.

I have found most the answers to my questions. The void that was in my life has been filled. I now feel I am a whole person; I know who I am and where I came from. I am now in the position that children raised by their birth parents are in. I no longer have to feel different or abnormal. I found far more information about my family genealogy than I ever expected to. I found and met members of my extended family. I can now see in pictures family resemblances and say…see I belong! In learning about my great grandparents, aunts, uncles and Polish people as a whole, I learned, in so many ways, why I am the person I am today.

This is why I and others search, the desire to be made whole. The desire to know, that even when your birth parents may reject you…you still are a part of a family and a heritage. I had a good life prior to beginning my search and have done well during the search. The end result of my search just has made it better.

Since the 1970s, some states have opened up their adoption laws, opening Adoption Registries. Many adoption agencies now enter into open adoption agreements. However, in many cases, the adoptee is at a distinct disadvantage if they choose to search for their birth parents or any information that might identify who they are.

Though things have improved in the past twenty or so years, much more needs to be done. Most state Adoption Registries require both the birth parent and the adoptee to grant permission for identifying information to be shared with the other party. If consent is not given or if nothing is on file indicating either way, any requests for information will be denied.

Current laws, even with updates, still play havoc for those adoptees from the 1930s, 1940s and even 1950s. In many cases, the birth parents or adoptee, do not know the new laws regarding Adoption Registries. Also, the birth parents or now adult adoptees have passed away. Even in death, information cannot be given. In most cases, the law that supposedly was “in the best interest of the child” has become, “best interest of the birth parent, dead or alive.”

I firmly believe ALL have the right to know who they are, where they came from, family medical history, family heritage and genealogy, no matter the circumstances under which they came into this world.

To those who are not adoptees, or from a situation such as mine, I ask you; “Knowing all that you know today about yourself, family, family medical history…how would you have liked to have all that information kept from you? Would it leave a void in your life? These are the conditions under which adoptees are expected to live. In truth, you know you would not like to live this way; why would you expect an adoptee to be any different from you?

To birth parents, I have a message. We understand, in most cases, your decision to give up your child was made only after a great struggle within yourself. We know what a painstaking decision it was that you made. We know you made that decision because of the love you had for your child, and that you wanted what was best for him or her. I ask that you continue to act in the best interest of your child, who is now an adult and no matter how good a good a home they went to, or how well they have done in life, may still feel incomplete. PLEASE, file information with your respective state Adoption Agency from which your child was adopted. Give your consent to have it released to your child when they reach adulthood. Let them fill the void within their lives. Without your consent this information will never be made known to them.

Adult adoptees, who search for answers, do not mean you any harm. They do not want to disrupt the lives you have since built for yourselves. They just want and need answers to questions to which only you can unlock the door. Even if you do not wish for any type of relationship with your child, provide the information that would allow them to be whole.

My search was satisfied when I was able to sit with my birth Mother and find out the true story of my birth; the gut-wrenching decision she made to give me up, and why; my true Polish heritage and the vague medical history that would allow me to better care for myself.
I would have been satisfied if she had just provided me these facts in a letter and not agreed to meet me. I would have had the basic information I desired.

The fact she agreed to meet me, despite how our relationship turned out, was above and beyond what I had hoped for or expected during my search.

Twenty years ago, I knew nothing of my birth mother, my heritage or my family medical history. Today, I know more than I had ever expected to be able to know. Even though I feel I have had a successful life to this point, it is only today that I can declare…I am whole! I finally have a sense of belonging, of knowing who I am. I am finally proud of who I am, where I came from and of those within my family who came before me. I am proud to be able to proclaim my heritage is
Polish!

This is why I searched. This is why anyone would search. To any adoption agency employee, state Adoption Registry employee, or more importantly, birth parent who may read this…allow adult adoptees to have the thrill I have had. Allow them access to the information they may need or want to fill in the blanks in their lives. Allow them to become whole! This is vitally important for adoptees of earlier generations. They need the information while it might still be possible for them to meet the birth parents whom for whatever reason, had to give them up. If the birth parent or adoptee is already deceased, then the adoption records should be opened without question.

My question now to Dr. Carmona is, “Will he join the battle for open records?” He sees the importance of ALL to have their medical history available to them. Does he truly believe ALL or will he allow millions to continue to have the doors to this information closed to them?

Dr. Carmona addresses only one of many reasons adoption records should be opened to adult adoptees. There are numerous other reasons. However, if one’s life can be saved through family medical information or diseases fought or even prevented…this should be enough reason to open the sealed vaulted doors.
  
It is OUR information locked behind the vault doors and we have a right to it!

For those privileged to have their family medical information and wish to organize it, print it out and have it added to your doctor’s records for you; you may download it at: http://www.hhs.gov/familyhistory.
The program is called “My Family Health Portrait.” 

My web site: http://www.larrya.us

My Story in Newspaper

I was fortunate that during August/September 2004 a reporter and photographer spent several hours with me to prepare articles sharing my story in my then hometown nespaper, “Midland Daily News.”

To my surprise when the articles appeared they were on the front page of the October 3, 2004 (Sunday) front page on top of the fold. The newspaper has a subcription of 42,000.

I have placed them on my web site, there is a link at the bottom of the first  page leading to the 2nd article.

 The URL is: http://www.larrya.us/midland.html

Since I am still receiving E mails almost 3 years later from the articles I thought I would also share them on my blog.  

Story of My Search for Birth Parents

I shared the story of my youth in foster care in the entry entitled, “One Child’s Horror.”

Throughout my twenties, my concern was about my career, my life partner and the things any normal twenty something would be concerned about.

I laid my childhood and adolescent years aside and hoped they would be memories of the past. I had hoped that those memories would stay locked up deep within me, never to reveal to anyone the heartaches they had caused. However, my life was soon about to change and never be the same again!

In May, 1981, I was supposedly a very healthy man of thirty-one. The night before my life changing event, I had jogged my usual three miles through the streets of Brooklyn Heights, NY; had eaten a healthy dinner and went to bed early enough to get the rest I needed.

The next morning I did my usual exercises before getting ready for work and felt great as I left for Manhattan. When I arrived at work, I had a meeting and suddenly found myself grabbing my chest and collapsing to the ground. I had suffered a massive heart attack, the first of three heart attacks.

Until that day I had not spent any time in the hospital since early childhood…for eye surgeries and to have my tonsils removed. One of the routine questions doctors ask is “What is your family medical history?” I was quite embarrassed and turned red faced to have to answer the question with an “I don’t know.” When I returned to health, I went on with my life and thought no more of the episode.

In the spring of 1982, my partner and I decided to travel to GREECE for vacation. I needed a passport to do so, and to get it I needed my birth certificate. I knew where I was born…so I applied for it from the state of Michigan. In a few weeks it arrived. I was not ready for the impact this little piece of paper would have on my life until this very day.

On the certificate, I saw the name of a birth mother for the first time in my life… ROBERTA ADAMS. To see a mother’s name blew me away. Could the story the Monshors had told me so many years ago be untrue? Could this name be made up by the nuns that supposedly found me in a dumpster? I continued reading the content of the certificate. It listed the hospital I was born at. It listed a home address for her. It gave her age of nineteen at the time of my birth, even gave a birth date! It even gave her place of birth. No father was listed. Finally it indicated I was her first born. The nuns just could not have made all this information up. For the first time since the Monshors had told me “the story” so many years ago, I had the sinking feeling it was untrue!

I made the decision at that moment…I must find this woman! I had to find out if in fact she was my Birth Mother. The questions began!!!

Who is this woman? Why did she give me up for adoption? Is she alive? Does she think of me? Where is she? I remembered my heart attack of a year earlier and questioned what is her medical history? Is her or her family’s medical history impacting me?

THE SEARCH BEGINS

Upon my return from Greece, I began the search to get a few answers to those questions. Little did I know of the process I was about to enter into. I went to the hospital where I was born…PROVIDENCE HOSPITAL in Detroit, Michigan. They would not release any records of the birth. I went to Catholic Charities, whom I was a ward of until my eighteenth birthday…they would not release any records…they said…”Forget the past, it doesn’t matter.”

I tried various organizations for almost three years, but to no avail. I scoured books that had to do with adoption and foster care for clues as to how I could do my research…again no answers. I thought I was at a dead end and would never have the answers I was looking for. I had already spent thousands of dollars and hours too numerous to count; all in vain I thought!

Finally, in late 1985, the first big break I needed in my search came. I wrote to BOYS TOWN, where I had spent 7 1/2 years of my youth, asking if they through their records since I had spent over seven years their in my youth, could help me. They indicated since I was now an adult, I could have a copy of my records from my days at BoysTown and sent them to me. What a treasure chest!

On the application form filled out by Catholic Charities twenty-four years earlier, they listed not only my mother’s name but my father’s name ROBERT IRWIN MARX; my maternal grandparents JOHN & SARAH ADAMS and two aunts DORIS & FRANCES. They gave a description of my birth parents and what they were doing at the time of my birth, as well as that of my grandparents. I could not believe all that I was reading.

I also saw for the first time that my last name should have been PIECHOWIAK and my heritage is POLISH. I quickly remembered all the Polish jokes I told during my school days and even adulthood.

I knew now that YES, I had a family out there somewhere and I had my OWN heritage. But this was only the beginning…how do I find them??? I was determined they would be found!

I lived in New York City at the time. They have a great research library and I spent week upon week devouring records with no results. Finally, I decided, on a whim, to check DETROIT phone books going back to the time of my birth, which the library had.

I did not find my birth parents, but found my grandparents. I tracked them in the phone books. My grandfather had a unique way of listing his name, from 1950 thru 1971. Suddenly they were gone. Had I reached another dead end?

On a second whim, I decided to apply for a Michigan death certificate for my grandfather…in the event he had died. Three weeks later came the envelope bearing the seal of the state of Michigan. Indeed, he had passed away. The certificate listed the funeral home and I called them. I was in for the shock of my life!

The funeral home agreed to send the obituary notice to me. I couldn’t wait, and asked them to read it over the phone. My birth mother was alive, at least in 1971. My aunts were also listed as survivors. Suddenly they stated ROBERT, MICHAEL, CLAUDIA, SHERRY…grandchildren of my grandfather…children of ROBERTA…I had BROTHERS AND SISTERS!!!

It was a race back to the phone books which had provided the answer before. Scouring all the phone books from cities the survivors were listed from, almost came up empty.

An aunt from TUCSON, ARIZONA was listed. Tense feelings began in the pit of my stomach…should I call her? Would she remember anything? Would she tell me anything if she knew the answers? It took over a week to work up the courage to face what I might face and make the call.

THE CALL TO CHANGE MY LIFE

Doris is the aunt that lives in Tucson. It was a Saturday night that I sat down to call her. She answered on the third ring (yes, I remember the details)…”Hello.” I stumbled for words.

Finally I asked her a bunch of “do you remember” questions. After letting me ramble questions…she asked very clearly…. “ARE YOU ROBERTA’S MISSING SON?”

I said “YES, I am Larry.”

The tears began to flow…the spine is tingling as I write and recall this experience all these years later. “Yes, your mother is alive…you have brothers and sisters…your mother has been waiting for this phone call for over 36 years” were her next statements.

She then told me the story of my birth and my placement for adoption; not the reason for it. The tears overwhelmed me as I heard the story for the first time…I sat in stunned silence and let her speak and the tears flow.

After a long period…my next question; the important one… “DID SHE THINK MY MOTHER WOULD WANT TO TALK TO ME?” “Yes,” was the immediate reply. Doris wanted to be the one to break the news to my mother and asked for my phone number. She indicated it might be a few days before my mother called, as this would probably put her in total shock.

My partner and I went to dinner later that evening. When we arrived home, there was a message on our answering machine; “LARRY, THIS IS YOUR MOTHER…I WILL CALL BACK…I CAN’T BELIEVE AFTER ALL THESE YEARS YOU HAVE FOUND ME!” Needless to say, more tears followed. I don’t know how many times I listened to that message that night before we decided to go to bed. Less than a half hour after calling it a night, we were startled by the ringing phone. My partner answered the phone and could only say: “LARRY, YOU WANT THIS CALL!”

That phone call will always remain private with me…it was and is, the best phone call I have ever received. My mother and I spoke for almost 4 hours that first night. We talked about everything but why she gave me up…I wasn’t ready to hear the answer. We ended the call by agreeing to write, do phone calls and hopefully someday meet. I wasn’t ready to meet…it was ALL happening too fast for me.

The search had begun to find a family medical history and have a few questions answered. Now I faced; did I want to face the woman, no matter what the reason, who gave me up at birth? I did not know.

THE MEETING

My birth Mother and I continued to write and talk on the phone for a few months. Finally my partner and I decided it was time for us to meet.

I invited her from Pontiac, Michigan (only forty-five miles from where she lived when I was born) for an ALL EXPENSE paid trip to New York City, knowing she would not be able to afford the trip herself.

I knew the meeting would be difficult for both of us, so I arranged a suite for her at a nearby hotel. This way, we both could spend some time alone to collect our thoughts and feelings. She accepted the invitation.

May 24, 1986…a day never to be forgotten by me. Newark International Airport…the day has arrived…36 years, 3 months and 17 days after I was born…I would meet the woman who gave me life. To say I was tense or nervous would be putting it mildly. I arrived at the airport hours before the flight was due to arrive.

I brought with me 36 long stem RED ROSES, one for each year of life I had thus far been blessed with.

Should I call her mother? Should I hug her? What should I do? Let nature takes its course was the only answer that came back to me.

The plane taxis to the gate…there is no turning back now. There she was (I had an old photo of her that she had sent) walking down the ramp. We shake hands, then hug…I call her ROBERTA; not mother.

After getting her settled in her suite, we strolled down Fifth Avenue for a while. I took her to lunch and Central Park. As the day began turning to evening we went back to her hotel suite.It was time to hear the answer to the question that had yet to be asked or answered…WHY?

HER STORY

My father was her next door neighbor. He had fought in World War II as a MERCHANT MARINE and had returned to live with his folks. They had a date…..I was conceived on that date! My father wanted nothing more to do with her. He had gotten what he was after.

My grandfather, being a strict Polish Roman Catholic, would not allow her to remain in the house and sent her off to a home for unwed mothers (SARAH FISHER HOME) and told her “not to bring that bastard child home with her.” She had two choices, either give birth and having no place to go…give me up for adoption and return home or have a back alley abortion.

She gave birth in the early hours of February 7, 1950, and saw me only briefly before they took me away. She went home to go on with her life, but was never able to forget the baby she left behind, and hoped that one day I might look for her.

She hated her father for what he had forced her to do and even though I learned he had been dead 15 years, the remaining hatred was still obvious.

She didn’t realize that I was never adopted, but rather moved to various foster homes until eventually being sent to Boys Town. She thought I may have gone to Vietnam and been killed.

We both shed many tears that evening in her suite. I told her she made the only choice she could have made and was thankful she had not chosen abortion…for selfish reasons of course! We talked, cried, talked some more that first day deep into the night…we had over 36 years to relive!

She stayed a week in NYC. I treated her to Broadway shows, and we toured all the sites of Manhattan and Liberty Island.

During that time, I learned other things. It became obvious very quickly she was an alcoholic. She told me of my youngest brother’s drug addictions; my one sister’s fancy for a different man each night, though she had two children. She also told me of the brother and sister who made it. In short, within the week she was in NYC I became even more thankful for her giving me up for adoption, for Boys Town and the life I have had.

A few months after our initial meeting, I took a trip to Pontiac, Michigan to visit her and also meet my half-brothers and half-sisters for the first time. Two brothers and a sister, after meeting me, told her they wanted nothing to do with me, as I wasn’t their brother, but a stranger and it was best left that way. One sister (Claudia) did reach out and we had developed a warm, loving relationship over the years.

While on my visit there, my Mother took out several photo albums to show me. She didn’t realize how painful it would be for me to look at pictures of her past holidays, family events and the likes. Though I was thankful she gave me up, I did not want to see pictures I could have and should have been a part of.

Our relationship over the years following the initial meeting was strained at best. We had never developed a mother/son relationship. Of course, I had not expected that, since at 36 I did not need a mother to raise me. She remained an alcoholic in denial.

The relationship we had developed would be destroyed Christmas night 1998.

I share the story of this event in then entry entitled, “Final Letter to My Birth Mother.”

BIRTH FATHER’S SEARCH STORY

I did not begin a search for my birth Father until I had found my birth Mother. I purposely chose not to do so until then. Though I had his name, I felt I had enough on my plate just searching for my birth Mother.

During the initial meeting with my Mother, I had asked her about my Father. Other than telling me that he was the next door neighbor and agreeing the name I had was correct, she provided no information. I would have to attempt to find him by myself.

It was back to the NYC Library once again to scour the phone books for Detroit from 1950 through 1986. There was not a single Robert Irwin Marx listed, nor was it listed in any other variation.

During my earlier search, I had learned many things about searching for someone. Thus, with the above result, I did not feel like I was at a dead end. I tried various other resources but each produced the same negative result.

I was down to my last avenue and I thought it would be a just shot in the dark. I had earlier checked the Polk City Directory for 1950. I had found my grandfather’s listing, but did not see a Marx listing. The listing given for my grandfather’s neighbor was a Clarence/Ruth Weikert. However, if I was to believe my Mother, my Father was her next door neighbor.

I decided to write to the Wayne County Board of Elections, my last resource, to see if my Father had registered to vote. I gave the neighbor’s address as his.

Three weeks later, an envelope came from the Wayne County Elections Board. Bingo…I had hit pay dirt. There was my Father’s name, date of birth and address, as I had submitted it, and his Mother’s maiden name: Ruth Goode. Ruth had obviously married Clarence Weikert. The question arose as to why was my father’s father named Marx? I didn’t waste too much time on that question at the moment, as I figured if I found my father I would get an answer then.

I remembered the company listing for Clarence Weikert in the Polk Directory. I checked with the Detroit phone book for 1990, (four years had passed since this search began) to see if the company was still listed. It was!

A simple deduction by me concluded that Clarence had long since retired from the company, but maybe they could provide me with a little information.

I took time to make up a story for my calling and placed the call. Yes, Clarence had retired and according to their records was deceased. They could give me the phone number of his daughter that was listed on their records as the person to contact in the event of an emergency. I gladly took the phone number.

I took a few days to sort through my thoughts and approach before making the call. I remembered the awkwardness of my call to my birth Mother’s sister four years earlier.

Finally the call was made. I babbled some story about doing genealogical research; a partial truth. After asking Judy several general questions about family, I asked her about her brother Robert. Why was his last name Weikert and not Marx?

She indicated that her mother remarried after Robert’s father ran off when he was a child. After confirming that information, I determined it was time to tell Judy the truth.

I simply said, “I was looking for Robert in particular.”

Her reply, “OH MY GOD! ARE YOU WHO I THINK YOU ARE?”

“If you think I am Robert’s son, the answer is yes,” I said.

She repeated, “OH MY GOD!”

After we got a few more OH MY GOD’S out of the way, we began an hour conversation. She asked my name? I asked how she knew about me and did my father know?

She said it was family conversation many years ago and that yes, my father did know about me. Judy was close to my mother’s age when I was born, she remembered my mother going away in late 1949. Her mother told her it was because she was pregnant and that her brother was the father.

The Weikert’s and my Grandparents being neighbors, were close and shared family information. My paternal step-grandmother also shared with them when I was born, my name and that I was being placed for adoption.

I continued general conversation, asking questions about my father and then came the key question. “Would my father acknowledge my existence and would he talk with me?”

She felt that he would not deny I was his son, but could not answer if he would talk with me or not. She and my father had not communicated with each other for a couple years, due to a family quarrel. She felt the best thing for me was to call my father directly and proceeded to give me his phone number since, it was unlisted. She also gave me his address in case I decided to write him instead.

I made the decision that I would not wait for the mail, but would call him. After working up the courage for a few hours, I placed the call. It seemed the phone rang forever. Finally a woman’s voice answered. I asked if I could speak to Robert and was told to hang on. The heart raced and hands trembled as I waited.

Suddenly, “Hello.” It was my Father. I responded with, “hello, is this Robert?” “Yes,” came the reply. I made an instinctive decision to not beat around the bush. “Robert, if you’re not sitting down I suggest you do so for what I am about to tell you,” I said. “I’m okay, go ahead,” he said. “Robert, THIS IS YOUR SON LARRY CALLING,” I blurted out.

The silence was deafening. “Robert, did you hear me?” I said after waiting a few moments. “Yes, how did you find me?” was his reply. Without saying it directly, he was acknowledging I was his son!

I needed to hear directly from him that I was his son! “You know you have a son named Larry,” I asked. “Yes, I do. Did my sister Judy help you find me?” he answered. He seemed more concerned about how I found him, rather than the fact that I did find him and it was his son talking with him for the first time in forty years.

I told him of the search for Roberta, my birth Mother, which had concluded fours years earlier. He asked a few general questions about her. I then told him of the past four years of searching for him and how it had all fallen into place just a few days earlier.

He seemed shocked by what I was able to do. He asked a few questions about me. It did not turn out to be the type of first conversation I had with my birth Mother. It seemed somewhat distant and cold. I chalked it up to the suddenness of this being presented to him. I felt we might just need some time.

We agreed to communicate further through letters and maybe one day plan on meeting. With that, a thirty minute or so conversation was over. I did not have the elated feeling I did when I hung up from my birth Mother for that first time. I felt somewhat numb and out in the cold.

We did keep our commitment to write each other. He wrote his first letter to me a few days after our conversation. Though more feelings were expressed in it, it still seemed to be rather general in nature. I do still have his first letter, though it is beginning to fade with age.

My Father and I met one time. In the spring of 1992, I was on a business trip to Detroit and called him. I asked if we could finally meet. He was hesitant, but finally agreed and gave me directions to his home in Taylor, Michigan.

He greeted me at the gate and we went around to the back patio. He introduced me to Angie, who then went into the house. I can’t honestly say I have any feeling about the meeting. He appeared cold and distant as he had since I found him. The fact that I was there in person, didn’t seem to cause any change in him. I stayed only an hour, as I did not feel comfortable. During the time there, I was not invited into his home nor offered any beverage or anything.

At least I could say I met the man, who because of sperm, was my father. He did not fill the role of father or even friend in the way most would understand the terms.

After my meeting with him, our letters became less frequent. Part of it I know, was due to the cataracts he had in both eyes, making reading and writing difficult, I also believe it was partially due to his wanting to keep a distance between us.

My Father had cataract surgery performed in April of 1994. On July 24, 1994, he suffered a heart attack and died. Though I sent condolences to his sister Judy, I did not feel the need to attend his funeral. Aunt Judy and I have maintained erratic communication in the years that have followed. She is the only one on my father’s side of the family to do so. I have never met her or any other member of my Father’s family. Angie, his wife, died just three months after my Father in October, 1994.

It is amazing how history has repeated itself in my family. My birth Father came from a broken home. His father had deserted his mother when he was a young boy. His Mother later divorced his father and remarried…he had no memory of his birth Father.

My birth Mother also came from a broken home. Her Mother deserted her Father shortly after her youngest sister was born. My Mother had no recollections of her Mother.

Despite what both my birth parents faced as youth themselves, they repeated the same destructive cycle. How unfortunate for them and for us kids that they brought into the world.

A Search Guide for Birth Parents/Adoptees/Foster Youth

I created this special tips blog for adult adoptees, birth parents and some foster children, as I am a strong proponent of “open records.” I believe every person has a birth- given right to know who they are and where they and their ancestors come from.
If states will not pass open records laws for adult adoptees, they should have the right to search if they so choose. I do not believe this right should be extended to minors.

I also include foster children because of my own situation. I was placed for adoption at birth, but instead ended up in the foster care system until I aged out at age eighteen. I had been totally disconnected from my birth family. Sometimes a foster child’s search can be as difficult as an adoptee’s.

I wish many of the tips I am including here were available to me at the time of my own search. However, despite my limitation, my search was successful.

The tips listed below are not listed by importance, only you can determine which might be important to you and what priority it is given.

TIPS
1. Create a search journal. This may assist you in keeping track of the steps you have taken in your search.
2. Discuss the search with your adoptive parents. They may be willing to assist you in your search or be able to provide you with necessary information. Remember to let them know that you love them and your need to search does not, nor will not, affect your relationship with them. This will help them to not feel threatened by your need to search.

3. As early in your search as possible, if you have a computer with Internet access, join adoption and genealogy newsgroups and/or support groups. They cannot only provide resources to search, but may also offer moral support during your search process.

4. Locate your amended birth certificate. Write your State Office of Vital Records for it.

5. Obtain a copy of your final decree of adoption. Write the court that finalized the adoption for it.

6. Obtain your petition to adopt. The same court that finalized your adoption should have this as part of their records.

7. Contact the adoption agency that placed you to obtain non-identifying information. You may possibly receive information you might not expect.

8. Contact the law firm or attorney who assisted in your adoption for the same reason as above.

9. Contact your delivery physician again for the same reason as above.

10. File a waiver of confidentiality with the adoption agency, law firm and courts. This will allow your information to be released to a birth parent or sibling in the event they are searching for you.

11. Apply for medical records from the hospital where you were born ONLY IF you have the name of your birth mother and/or father. Adoption should not be mentioned as you may find this avenue immediately closed to you.

12. Attempt to retrieve your original (pre-adoption) birth certificate. You may not receive it, but you have nothing to lose by requesting it.

13. Formally petition the court to open your adoption records. To forward identifying information, the court will need a reason. An example would be a medical reason. Unfortunately this has not proven very successful, but again, an avenue to try.

14. Register with the International Soundex Reunion Registry (ISSR). Also, if the state in which you were adopted has an adoption registry, register with it. This allows the registry to release information if family is looking for you.

15. Check both county and state records for marriage or divorce records for either birth parent. If you know the names of your birth parent(s) this will be a very useful tool, especially if your birth parents were in fact, at one time married.

16. Learn about the adoption laws for your state. Ignorance of the law is not an acceptable excuse.

17. Check county or state death records for birth parents and both grandparents. This record will include who provided the information on the certificate, as well as the funeral home involved. The funeral home could provide you names, addresses and possibly phone numbers of survivors. Requesting my paternal grandfather’s death certificate, on a hunch that he was deceased, is what unlocked all the doors for me in the search for my birth mother.

18. Send for a copy of Where to Write for Birth, Marriage, Divorce, and Death Records available from: Superintendent of Documents, US Government Printing Office, Washington, DC 20402.

19. Write to Adoption Regulation Unit to access your adoption records.

20. Order a copy of The Guide to Genealogical Records in the National Archives from: The National Archives, Washington, DC 20408. You will also want to check the tips I provide for genealogical research, as some of them could be useful to you.

21. Find maps for the area where you are searching.

22. Create a profile of the hometowns or regions where each of your birth parents is said to have been from.

23. Create a list of all the libraries in your area and the areas where you are focusing your search. They will be a good source for finding obituaries for family members who may be deceased. The obituaries will list survivors which may lead you to your birth family.

24. Check local newspapers from where you were born for birth announcements. Your local library usually has old newspapers going back several years.

25. Check local newspapers from the area where your birth parents were born for their birth announcements.

26. Check local newspapers for wedding and engagement announcements for your birth parents.

27. Check in old city directories to try to locate your birth parents or other relatives. These can be found at many local libraries or historical societies. I tracked my maternal grandfather for over thirty years using this resource. When his name suddenly disappeared, I then requested a death certificate from the state.

28. Check in city directories to match an occupation to a name. Some older city directories actually listed companies where people worked. Finding out where my paternal grandfather had at one time worked led me to my birth father’s sister and eventually to my birth father.

29. Cross reference city directory information year by year.

30. Check in city directories to locate old addresses of birth parents and possible neighbors. Former neighbors of a birth parent may be able to tell you where they might be now.

31. Check phone books and national telephone directory discs for birth relatives.

32. List yourself in the telephone directory of the area where you were born, and in the area where you live now. An unlisted number could lead to a dead end for someone who might be searching for you.

33. Check any possible surnames against a book of name deviations.

34. Speak with your local librarian. They will prove to be invaluable in directing you to many of the resources in this guide.

35. Locate all churches of the faith of your birth parents in the area where they were living at the time of your birth and where they may live now.

36. Check local churches in the area where you were born for any baptismal, marriage or death records.

37. Check local churches in areas where you believe your birth parents may have resided for their baptismal, marriage, or death records.

38. Join a local or national search and support organization, and sign their registry if they maintain one. Support of others during the very stressful search process will prove invaluable to you and they may also be able to provide tips and clues for you to use. One group that proved very helpful during my search was ALMA (Adoptees Liberation Movement Association). Most major cities have a local chapter.

39. Create your own library of search and reunion books.

40. Advertise in adoption search magazines. Be sure to list your “birth name” if you know it as well as your “adoptive name.”

41. Advertise in newspapers where you believe your birth parents may now reside.

42. Order a copy of How to Locate Anyone Who Is or Has Been in the Military 1-800-937-2133.

43. Contact old neighbors for forwarding addresses and other possible information.

44. Visit old neighborhoods in person to locate past acquaintances of your birth parents.

45. Check with former employers about possible forwarding addresses of birth parents.

46. Check old high school and college yearbooks in the areas of your search.

47. Check with high school or college reunion chairman about the current address of a birth parent or request a list of entire class.

48. Contact a private investigator or consultant. I suggest this only if all else leads to a dead end. Investigate any investigator before hiring them.

49. Request from the court that finalized your adoption the appointment of a Court Investigator. The CI will attempt their best to locate a birth parent or sibling. However, they will only be able to provide non-identifying information directly to you. They will ask you to write a letter to the person found without identifying information. All communication will be through the CI. Only if the person found agrees to have contact made can the CI then assist in a reunion or the exchange of identifying information.

50. Leave no stone unturned…you never know where you might find the gold nugget of information you have been looking for!

Might I make one more suggestion? If you find your birth parents and a reunion is planned here is an idea for a gift. Make a book which might include pictures, any news articles of accomplishments and possibly a letter about you, why you searched and that you are happy you located them.

When I met my Birth Mother for the first time, I gave her a red rose for each of the thirty-six years of the life she had given me. As I left her suite at the end of our first day together, I gave her “my book” so that she could read it privately after I left. When I met her the next morning she greeted me with tears, a hug and a thank you. Despite how our relationship ended twelve years later, I believe that book is something she treasured for the rest of her life. She passed away in October 2001.

This guide of tips does not guarantee success. It is a tool to use in your search and not an all inclusive one at that.

I hope you will find it useful and I further hope your journey will in the end meet your goal.

Was Search for Birth Family Worth It?

Having done a successful search for my birth family, but a not so positive reunion…I still say the journey was worth it!

I began my journey years ago after suffering a heart attack at age thirty-one and having to answer the embarrassing question from the doctors about family medical history with a, “I don’t know.”

I was placed for adoption at birth, but ended up never being adopted. In the first eleven years of life I was moved to three institutions and eleven foster homes before finding stability at Boys Town, Nebraska.

Though I was fortunate to have my birth mother’s name from the start of my search, it still took four, long years of searching before she was located…it would take another four years before I found my birth father.

My birth mother was an alcoholic and still years after my birth, harbored the hatred toward her father for forcing her to give me up for adoption. Her life had not been an easy one. I believe she also resented the fact that my life turned out better than anything she could have been able to offer me, such as a college education and good career.

She had four more children after me. She did raise those children and was unable to offer them the opportunities I had been given.

My birth father ran when he found my birth mother was pregnant as he had done once before while serving in Germany during W.W.II. He had one more child after my birth.

Neither reunion was a positive one. After twelve years my birth mother gave me up a second time because I am gay. She wished I had never been born and that I would die of AIDS rather than her having to bear the burden of being the mother to a gay son.

My birth father was always distant and cold. I only met with him once for an hour out on his back patio.

Both have since died.

My five half-siblings rejected me.

I was able to thank my birth mother for at least giving me life and also thank her for her decision to give me up the first time. Her decision was a wise one.

She also was able to provide the needed medical information.

She provided just enough information for which I have after several more years of searching, been able to locate extended family and spent my first Christmas with a number members of my “real family” in 2002. This Christmas past I met yet another twenty-eight entended family members. They have welcomed me with the openess and love my immediate birth family could not.

I have also discovered my heritage and have been able to trace my great, great maternal grandparents roots back to Poland.

Yes, it took years of searching and yes, the reunions were not all positive. Yet they provided the answers I was looking for and finally answered the main question of WHO AM I?

I went into the search expecting little to nothing to result…I found far more than I could have ever expected.

I share all this to let you know…despite the ups and downs of the journey…I found the journey was worth it and I would do it all over again.

If you are considering a search you may have fears as you search, but don’t let them stop you…even if you end up with a rejection or a negative reunion…you will end up a far stronger person…I know I did.

Hopefully, during your search, you will find that as you grow as an individual, you will also become stronger and develop realistic expectations for what you may discover during your journey.

If you have made the decision to search, please remember these few items of advise:

1. Think about the reasons you want to reunite with your parent, child or sibling.

Remember, they have a family and so do you. You can’t turn the clock back or expect to fill the role that you have not played all these years. You are adults, strangers with genetic ties, coming together to build a relationship. Be realistic about the role that you feel you can play in their life and vice versa.

2. You must go into the reunion with realistic expectancies, not fanciful hopes.

If you make someone out to be perfect, you are guaranteed to be disappointed. People get hurt when they have unrealistic expectations, and those expectancies are dashed. These unrealistic expectancies can set you up for failure. It is not what happens in people’s lives that upsets them, it’s whether or not what happens in their lives is what they expected that upsets them. Don’t allow yourself to think that everything in your life will suddenly be resolved overnight once you reunite, or you will be let down.

3. A reunion is an event, but the relationship is a process that needs time to unfold.

You have to really work to build a relationship and you have to be patient. Start out with the goal of finding something that is comfortable for everybody, and don’t put any pressure on yourself.

Allow a natural evolution of things to take place.

Like all relationships, expect your relationship with the person you have reunited to go up and down. Your best chance for having a good relationship long term is to take it slow and move at a measured pace. This is a marathon and not a sprint. Be patient and let it unfold naturally, so that it will be lasting. You don’t want to do anything that would cause this coming together to separate you again.

Why Search for Birth Family?

Why search? Why not leave the past alone? What do you hope to gain from your search? These were just a few of the questions asked of me during the course of my search.

Most questions came from people who were raised by their birth parents. They knew their heritage. They had extended family to share their lives. They knew of potential medical problems that might arise in their lives.

They had no understanding or appreciation for those of us who have gone through life, without any of the above or the void it left within us. They do not know what it would be like not to have any of the above.

My search went far beyond even my wildest dreams.

The question still is; WHY? Why did I go beyond the original intent of getting simple medical information? Why did I want to find my birth Mother? Why did I ever want to meet her? Why did I want to know my roots? Why take twenty years spending great amounts of time, energy and money researching my family history? Why look for living members of an extended family?

Every child, at some point, questions who they are, where they came from and so forth. Most are able to have the answers easily provided by a parent or other member of their family. Adoptees or many children of the foster care system, such as I, do not have that available to them. For adoptees in particular, of my generation, it is denied them by law. We are expected to go through life never knowing the answers to those questions. Many are even ridiculed for entertaining such questions.

I searched for the answers to all those questions because I am like any other normal individual. More importantly, I had the right to know! I searched first for information; then to fill a void in my life. I would like to think if the search had ended with just information, I would have been satisfied. Of course, knowing all I do today, it might not have been. Each person searching needs to know when enough is enough for them.

My search had its ups and downs. My initial search to just find the information needed to locate my birth mother to get medical information, took four years. It would take another four years before I would find and meet my birth Father. They have both since passed away. During that time, I had to learn how to be a detective; to ask questions, that to most would have appeared stupid. I even had to learn to lie to just get the information I wanted.

I found my birth mother, my birth Father as well as siblings. None were very cooperative in answering my questions about family health, heritage or genealogy. If they had been, it might have saved me sixteen more years of research.

I have now found most the answers to my questions. The void that was in my life has been filled. I now feel I am a whole person; I know who I am and where I came from. I am now in the position that children raised by their birth parents are in. I no longer have to feel different or abnormal. I found far more information about my family genealogy than I ever expected to. I found and met members of my extended family. I can now see in pictures family resemblance’s and say…see I belong! In learning about my great grandparents, aunts, uncles and Polish people as a whole, I learned, in so many ways, why I am the person I am today.

My search was satisfied when I was able to sit with my birth Mother and find out the true story of my birth; the gut-wrenching decision she made to give me up, and why; my true Polish heritage and the vague medical history that would allow me to better care for myself. I would have been satisfied if she had just provided me these facts in a letter and not agreed to meet me. I would have had the basic information I desired.

The fact she agreed to meet me, despite how our relationship turned out, was above and beyond what I had hoped for or expected during my search. Of course, because I found out I was Polish and because my grandfather was ashamed of this heritage, I continued my research to find out as much as I possibly could about my family. I wanted to know why and when my ancestors came to America, what they did with their lives… I wanted to be proud of them. I have achieved that goal.

My only real regret is that I waited so long before I began to search. If I had begun at age eighteen or twenty-one, I might have been able to meet many aunts and uncles who were still living at the time. By the time I did begin my search and found all eleven children of my great grandparents, they were deceased. What a missed opportunity on my part.

I have been privileged to get to know some of my extended family and they have added so much to the picture. Through them, pictures and stories have been shared with me. You can only imagine the intense feelings I had when I saw the pictures of my birth parents, great grandparents or other family members or the first time; the feelings when I walked through the homestead my great grandfather built with his own hands 112 years ago; the feelings when sitting with an 89 year old first cousin and hearing stories of my great grandparents, her mother, aunts and uncles or the feelings when being able, at the age of 52, to spend my FIRST CHRISTMAS with family I could call my own.

This is why I searched. The desire to be made whole. The desire to know, that even when your birth parents may reject you…you still are a part of a family and a heritage. I had a good life prior to beginning my search and have done well during the search. The end result of my search just has made it better.

Twenty years ago, I knew nothing of my birth mother, my heritage or my family history. Today, I know more than I had ever expected to be able to know. Even though I feel I have had a successful life to this point, it is only today that I can declare…I am whole! I finally have a sense of belonging, of knowing who I am. I am finally proud of who I am, where I came from and of those within my family who came before me. I am proud to be able to proclaim my heritage is Polish!

This is why anyone would search.

Why, when millions around the world who were raised by their birth parents do genealogical research to learn more of themselves and their heritage is it considered normal? When an adoptee or person in my situation does the same its considered abnormal? Seems hypocritical to me!

I firmly believe ALL have the right to know who they are, where they came from, family heritage and genealogy, no matter the circumstances under which they came into this world.

It is OUR information locked behind vault doors and we have a right to it!