I learned how to search from those helping me reunite with my daughter and I promised that I would help others with the knowledge that I gained. I have helped reunite about 1,000 families. There are several of us that work together so we can solve cases that are very difficult. Lately, we have been aging and not able to work as we did in the past. Living on social security makes travel a little difficult these days so we try to limit cases to our own areas.
Out of these 1,000 or so families, only two mothers have refused contact. I always ask the client (whether adoptee or birth parent) to let me or someone working with me to make initial contact. If I am working for an adoptee, then I can call the mother and hopefully bond with her. If my client is the mother, I make the call to the adoptee to protect the mother--in case there is a refusal. Also, I don't want anyone, mother or child, to say the other "tracked me down." If the adoptee refuses contact, it will be easier for the mother to hear the news from me, rather than her child. However, I have never had an adoptee not want contact.
Adoptive families are often very unkind, trying to keep the adoptee away from any of the first family. However, sometimes the enthusiasm of some family member gets the better of them and they make the call instead of waiting. Twice recently I have had son-in-laws make the call before I was able to find the correct phone number for the mother. These are the only two mothers who refused contact. I have had a few adoptees make the call to mothers, but everything turned out okay there.
One of the mothers who refused contact said to "just let it go". I am still upset about the use of those words--her child is not an it. I have emailed her, but we have not been able to speak. The husband of the adoptee made the initial call, and the adoptee then got on the phone. After being rebuffed by her first mother, the adoptee no longer desires further contact with her. Now I am working on her genealogy--she has two siblings and a lot of cousins, but does not want to cause problems by calling them. In the other case, the adoptee's husband only spoke to the adoptee's mother--it was exactly the same story. I sent this mother a copy of The Girls Who Went Away, wrote her a letter, and asked if I could visit. The mother was in her seventies, and ill, and died shortly afterward.
I did have a first mother once tell me she was not the mother of her daughter. She told me she was a mother, but that I had the "wrong mother." I thought she was lying. Later, she called me back, and asked for more details. She started crying and said, "They told me my daughter had died at birth. I am so glad she is alive!"
I have never spoken to a mother who has not reunited, joyfully, with their children. I believe it is because I am open about my daughter's adoption. I begin the conversation with, "My name is Linda Burns and I am working on your "maiden name" genealogy and I would like to ask you just a couple of questions if you don't mind. I will be glad to give you a copy of the work that I am doing if you are interested in genealogy. It's free!"
Then, I tell them that I am working for "adoptee's name", who is related to someone in the family. I explain I help people who are searching for their roots because someone helped me once, as I am a mother who had to surrender a child for adoption in 1966. Since we have been reunited, we both help others all we can, to show God how thankful we are for all He has done for us. Then the mother and I usually get to chatting, and each and every mother I have spoken to has a special place in my heart for her relinquished child. No one can possibly understand how that feels except another mother who had to surrender a child. I have never spoken to a mother that I did not feel closely connected to, and by the time we get off the phone, I always feel that she is a friend.
I helped an adoptee who had a court intermediary locate his mother. The mother refused contact. Oddly enough, I knew the mother as I was with her at the maternity home. Her son asked me not to contact her as she told the intermediary that she was not ready at this time, and he wants to respect her wishes. I believe this mother has suffered a lifetime from surrendering her son. I know my husband and I could help her, but we always follow the rules that are set out by the one searching.
Linda Burns and her husband Tommy. "Tommy says I must learn to say 'our daughter' and not 'my daughter'. He is not her biological father, but he is a father to her and loves her with all his heart."
To be continued on Sunday, 2/8/09.