' [Birth Mother] First Mother Forum: Jennifer Lauck's "Found" reveals the painful truth of adoption

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Jennifer Lauck's "Found" reveals the painful truth of adoption

“This is your mother,’ my mother’s voice is weak and broken, a frail warbling. ‘I want you to know not a day has gone by that I haven’t thought about you.’” Thus begins 44-year-old Jennifer Caste Lauck’s reunion with her mother Catherine as recounted in her new memoir, Found.

As she hears Catherine’s voice, Lauck feels "a rise of love so pure and utterly familiar. It is the same feeling I have for my children, which began sprouting the moment I knew I was pregnant with them.…I know I have been waiting--for my true mother, for Catherine—in order to finally release this universal love in the other direction. Love has always been in my heart waiting for the right person to trip the code.”

 Found: A Memoir Found is beautifully written, a great addition to the adoption library. Louck uses the events of her life to make the case that mothers and children belong together. A seemingly obvious statement but one that threatens the institution of adoption as it is practiced in the U. S. today. Here's an excerpt:

"Had I known anything about myself, I would have known that my mother married my father when she was nineteen. If I had been given some sense of her path, I would have seen that I was doing exactly what she had done and perhaps would have chosen differently for myself. ...My first compass of being in this world had been an abandoned child whose mother did not hold her and later, did not search for her. Unloved. Yes, I had a strong sense that I was unloved and unlovable. 

"Who is closer to us than a mother but the lover? How hungry is the child who has not bonded with her mother? By nineteen, I was starving for human contact and love. I didn't care if the human contact was cruel or painful or confused. That is why I endured Jeff...."

Found begins with Lauck's birth in 1963 in Reno, Nevada, the daughter of 17-year-old Catherine and 18-year-old Bill. Because Catherine was unmarried at that time, Lauck was placed for adoption with Janet and Bud Lauck. They had a biological son, Bryan, two years older than Lauck. Janet (Lauck always refers to her by her first name) had failing health and believed that adopting a child would restore her health since God would not allow her to have a baby if she was going to die.  "I was like a handbag or a scarf. Any baby would have done. It wasn’t personal.”

Blackbird: A Childhood Lost and FoundJanet died when Lauck was seven. Bud remarried and died two years later. Lauck lived with her stepmother, Deb, for two years. Deb was “like every evil stepmother in every fairytale.” In her first book, Blackbird, Lauck recounts in detail abuse she suffered at the hands of her stepmother.*

Lauck moved into Bud's parents' home and then lived with Bud's sister and brother-in-law who adopted her. Her brother, Bryan, killed himself when she was 20. In the next two decades, Lauck attended college, married and divorced twice, had two children with her second husband, and moved to Portland, Oregon.  She studied Buddhism and married her third husband. During her study, she took as a guide Tara, the Buddha of compassionate action. “Tara was a powerhouse of compassion with a purpose." (After her reunion, she learned that her mother named her Tara after the plantation in Gone with the Wind.)

The Primal Wound: Understanding the Adopted ChildAfter the success of Blackbird which made the New York Times best seller list, Lauck was invited to speak at an adoption conference. She began reading about adoption and received counseling from Nancy Verrier, author of The Primal Wound, whom she credits for pressing her to “take that final step in the journey and to finally find my mother.”

Once Lauck found her mother, Catherine, she pursued (pursued is not too strong a word) a relationship. When her mother did not respond to a request for second meeting, Lauck simply bought a ticket to Reno and told Catherine she was coming.

Lauck embraced the similarities between herself and Catherine. They were both “bossy and confident and annoying.” She took the differences—Catherine admired Sarah Palin, for example--and Lauck did not--in stride.

Like her model Tara, the Buddha of compassion, Lauck was understanding of her mother: “My heart breaks for my mother and what she has endured. I have no right to judge her and when I find I am judging her, I make myself think again—I push my heart to open wider still. I look for the love that is my original connection to Catherine and I keep my focus there."

She concludes her memoir with the question all adoptees ask: What if I had been Tara Wright instead of Jennifer Lauck? She answers that she “will remain Jennifer Caste Lauck for this life. That is who I am and who I always was. But I suppose I am also Tara.…My Self, prior to meeting Catherine, was a patchwork quilt, a jagged mosaic of trial and error. I am now in a phase of refinement.”

Shefinishes an End Note criticizing adoption practices in the U. S.:

"My general feeling about adoption is that we are not thinking very well about this very important subject, nor are we applying common sense to the biological connection between mother and child....

"Adoption is big business. ...It is distressing to learn that the U. S. leads the world as the single largest adoption nation. It seems startling to me that Americans are so fast on the scene of international disasters, and we scoop up orphan children and have them adopted in American homes before body counts are added up....

"Helpful is keeping children within their own culture and empowering the people of those lands with resources, food, medicine, and water....

"Nor is it helpful, within our boundaries, to take a child from a mother due to her economic struggles, her age, or even her education. It is helpful to offer support, education, and solutions. We can fund wars and build bombs, but we cannot empower mothers to keep and care for their children?...

"I do believe women, especially the educated women of the West, have the power to heal this world.... To create generations of children nurtured by their mother's touch and care will make this world worth living in."
*(According to an 2001 article in Portland's Willamette Week, Deb and her son, Lauck's step-brother, deny abuse occurred. Other facts are disputed as well. Any factual discrepancies, however, do not take away the truth of what Lauck writes about adoption.)


  1. Beautiful. This one I will read.

  2. Boy, is Ms. Lauck challenging the adoption system. And I commend her for it.

    Thanks for the book review.

  3. "Waiting for the right person to trip the code" What a beautiful image that brings to mind. I don't read that much but this book I want to read

  4. An interesting review:

  5. Thank you for this, Jane. I have read all of Lauck's works, except this one, so I know most of her story. I will definitely get Found.

  6. This post is really touching...and no, I don't know the writer but the review made its way to me. Found has been out for four months now and before publication, I lay awake at night--scared to death and nearly convinced not to release this book--because I did not want to be hit with backlash and anger. Another writer, a birth mother, told me it was a nightmare to write and release her book about her truth. I did not want to be abused for speaking my truth. And yet, out it came and here it is...in the world.

    It's amazing we are changing as a culture and can hear the hard truth. I am sorry for all that we, as mothers and children, have gone through. I pray for change.

    This review, my book, these comments, they all move us in that direction. Thank you.

  7. How profoundly pathetic a person adopting
    because they thought it would help them regain
    their health. Never thinking about the child only
    about themselves so true in many adoptions.

    This will be my summer reading both of these

    Beautifully written words by author
    …I know I have been waiting--for my true mother,

  8. " She answers that she “will remain Jennifer Caste Lauck for this life. That is who I am and who I always was. But I suppose I am also Tara"

    This is sort of off topic but I need some advice. I use my a-father's last name and it is driving me crazy. I feel like everytime I tell someone my last name that I am lying that this isn't really my identity. Since children take their father's last names in this culture I feel like I would be much more comfortable with my natural father's name. I spoke to an attorney about this and boy, was it expensive. I'm wondering if anyone has any information or suggestions about changing my name.

  9. Robin, It should not be expensive to change your last name. It's a simple procedure. You can probably find forms on the internet that will take you through it. If not, go to a legal stationary store; they're usually located near court houses and they should have forms. It's also possible the clerk's office at the court house has forms.

    Let us know if it works for you.

  10. Excellent review Jane, and Jennifer I remember your article at the HuffPo and how so many people had a very hard time with that.

    @ Robin, Jane's right it is a simple procedure, the forms are on-line, let me go find them for you.


    this is California. Fill it out, take it to the probate clerk in your county, have him/her review it and pay a couple of hundred dollars or whatever. Not a big deal. You do not need an attorney for this kind of thing.

  11. Thank you Jane and Joy. To hijack your blog for another moment. Since this name change would be changing my maiden name rather than a married name would my birth certificate be changed to reflect the new last name?

  12. Robin,
    No, your birth certificate would not be changed if you change your name. Laws regarding amending birth certificates are totally separate from laws governing name changes.

    The name changes process goes something like this: You file a request (called a petition) to change your name at the clerk's office at the court house and pay a fee. You post notices at the court house that you have filed the request. After a certain number of days, you ask a judge to approve the change which the judge will do if no one has objected. The judge signs a paper saying your name is changed from Robin to Sparrow. (The paper is called a court order.) You can use the paper to change your social security records, driver's license and so on.

    The forms you download should explain this. Note, you have to get forms for your state.

    Hope this helps.

  13. I'll be putting both these books on my reading list.

    @Robin, one thing to consider is getting a passport important to you? If you already have a passport you will need to go through the entire process again, which can be a nightmare. That is the only thing stopping me from changing my name. Good luck to you.

  14. Jane:
    Yes, it helps very much. Thank you. This is exciting. It sounds easier than I thought it would be :)

  15. And from Robin to Sparrow. ha ha ha. Actually, I was going to change my last name to Redbreast :) lol

  16. @Elizabeth,

    Yes, I do have a passport. Why is the process a nightmare if you change your name? Is this bc of being adopted? I remember we had a discussion about this before. My ABC was filed when I was 10 months old and I thought that was within acceptable filing limits for getting a passport. But thank you for mentioning this potential pitfall. I definitely want and need a passport and don't want to get involved in another big hassle.

  17. I read this book yesterday and was deeply moved. It is one of the best adoption memoirs I have encountered so far. Thank you for highlighting this important and evocative book by an an adoptee here on FMF.




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