' [Birth Mother] First Mother Forum: 96-year-old mother meets adopted daughter--after 82 years!

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

96-year-old mother meets adopted daughter--after 82 years!

Lorraine at work
Reunion stories are becoming more and more common, the news media loves them, and each one should be celebrated because each is another nail in the coffin of sealed records as A Good Thing. Instead of that, sealed birth records represent social engineering run amuck.

We don't write about them often at FMF, but every now and then one tugs at one's heart strings more than usual, or has a message beyond simple reunion relief. That is the case today.

An 96-year-old mother was found and reunited with her daughter of 82! And in the Very Sealed Records State of New York.

Lena Pierce was only 14 when she had a child in 1933 in Utica. She cared for her baby, whom she named Eva May, for six months until the state of New York intervened,
citing Lena as too young for motherhood. We don't know more details here but we have to assume that her parents--or lack of parents--were involved, and no one fought the forced termination of Lena's right to raise her daughter, or gave her the necessary help.

Eva was adopted on Long Island--where I live--and renamed Betty Morrell. She had no siblings. Her adoptive mother died when Morell was 21. A few years later, her adoptive father died. "I had imaginary sisters, and I had imaginary brothers," Betty Morrell told a reporter for WBNG-TV in Binghamton, New York. "And I had them all named and I would talk to them at night." But for a half century her brothers and sisters would remain only in her mind. "There was no connection--nothing to tie me to anybody," she said.

She did have brothers and sisters, as her biological birth mother had married and had seven other children. But Lena never forgot her first child.

Betty Morrell began searching for her mother, and was given a big boost decades later when an aunt--who knew the details of the adoption--told her that she was born in Utica and her name had been Eva. A call to one of the Utica hospitals led to a birth certificate for a girl born there on her birthday, Feb. 11, 1933. Morrell, now living in Florida, convinced someone at the hospital to send her that piece of paper that held her identity. It's worth noting that 1933 is prior to when records were sealed in New York--that happened a few years later--and besides that, when Eva was born, there was no immediate plan for her to be adopted. It's likely that is why the hospital had the record birth record without any restrictions noted.

Betty Morrell soon had her original birth certificate, and right there was her mother's name!

With the help of a granddaughter, Morrell was able to find a sibling through ancestry.com--and Voila! that led to the reunion recently, a few days after Morrell's 82nd birthday. "When it all came through, and she was alive, and I had been talking to her on the phone...it was like, it's all gone! My life is complete at this point."

Lena, her natural mother said: "It seems unbelievable. All this time, and now I'm finally going to see her again. I would say it's going to be a beautiful day, when I get to see my daughter."

Mother and daughter met and embraced at the Greater Binghamton Airport. "I'm not alone anymore," Morrell said. "I have my mother, and I have sisters and brothers. It's surreal, but so wonderful to be together again after all this time."

What possible good can come out of continuing New York's sealed birth records statutes from the Thirties? They inflict unnecessary sorrow and pain, they continue the lie behind sealed-records statutes, they now only serve only selfish adoptive parents and those mothers wish to remain anonymous. Furthermore, DNA testing and found relatives, as well as ancestry.com are proving that the laws are often mere road blocks to reunion for some, but not all. Millions are still left in the dark about their origins, while nearly all the legislators have their heritage intact.

The few mothers who would continue the lie of their "protection" behind sealed records need to speak up and let legislators know that the blanket of protection afforded by the law has turned into a shroud smothering a natural connection and must be thrown off.

In a connected piece of news that came my way today, Spence-Chapin Adoption Agency in New York City is looking for more mothers to take in and care for newborns while the biological mothers figure out whether they can keep their children. There are a few dozen volunteers who take in newborns from hospitals in New York and New Jersey, but the agency is short on volunteers in the Upper East Side. The agency provides diapers, toys, food and transportation for the surrogate mothers who provide the affection and attention a newborn needs--while the new mother has time to decide if she is able to keep her baby.

I'm usually not a fan of adoption agencies, but this heartened me today. Spence-Chapin has asked me to speak at the end of March, and I think I will certainly say YES!--lorraine

PS: I tried to post the link to the video but was unable to.
Tales from the Tiers: Mother & daughter reunite after 82 years
THANK YOU ALL WHO ORDER (ANYTHING) THROUGH FMF for remembering us when you do so. Just Click on any of the links or book jackets to get to Amazon.

also see
Review: Reunion Worth the Wait

Hole In My Heart: memoir and report from the fault lines of adoption
"Lorraine and I "grew up" together in reform work, but even so, the ending was still a surprise, a shock and very sad. She poured out her heart and soul to give everyone a different way to think about adoption. I know that her hopes, like mine, are to see dramatic changes in our adoption laws in our lifetime! I encourage you to read this riveting book!"--Sandy Musser, author, To Prison With Love: An Indecent Indictment and America's Adoption Travesty

Finding Family: My Search for Roots and the Secrets in My DNA
By Richard Hill
"A great suspenseful read! And, it brought to our attention that DNA is a new way to search for birth parents. And, the author Richard Hill very nicely answered 2 emails with questions. This lead to my husband finding some birth family! Astounding!"--Redda 1, reviewer at Amazon 

The Waiting: The True Story of a Lost Child, a Lifetime of Longing, and a Miracle for a Mother Who Never Gave Up
By Cathy LeGrow
"Beginning in the days before the Great Depression, "The Waiting" shares the story of young Minka, a shy, innocent girl whose life is forever altered when she is tragically assaulted by a stranger on a remote road. Her unexpected pregnancy is handled with tenderness and love by her family and those who care for her, but she cannot forget Betty Jane, the infant girl she must give up for adoption. As readers, we are taken on a journey through Minka's life, and concurrently the life given to Betty Jane - now Ruth - as she grows to adulthood with her adopted family. Over the years, Minka continues to think about and pray for her daughter, and Ruth wonders about the mother she never knew. Then one day, across the years and the miles, their lives come together."Author Cathy La Grow brings Minka and Ruth's story to life. "The Waiting" reads like a fiction novel, and the wonder lies in realizing that it is a true story - a story of family, faith, and the redemptive power of love. It is a story that will bring tears to your eyes and a smile to your face. I guarantee that, once you pick it up, you will not want to put it down."--Amazon reviewer


  1. Wonderful,story and so very sad. In fact amazing that mother and daughter are still alive. Love, that she finally found her family.

  2. Amazing reunion after so many years. Some of the comments to the article were also shocking, people who had found their birth mothers after searching for 40 or 50+ years. It seems like it shouldn't be. Time is short, and any sealed birth certificates should be opened and available when a child turns 18 and becomes an adult, at the very latest. If anything in life is to tear us apart from our loved ones, it shouldn't be the current sealed-BC laws.

  3. My joy for the older reunited mother was quickly overshadowed by the shock of your mention of the Spence-Chapin/first mother collaboration. I question any personal collaboration of an adoption agency who claims they are there to assist a first mother in trying to decide whether to keep her baby.....really, just really? Aren't they ultimately really there to serve their real paying clients, the prospective adoptive parents? Adoption agencies don't have the best interests of first mothers. They want to make money off the sale of her baby.

    There is a huge conflict of interest when an adoption agency is collaborating with a first mother on whether or not to keep her baby. Adoption agencies are wolves in sheep clothing. They are using a new deceptive hook to emotional lure a vulnerable first mother into their web. These agencies have waiting lists of prospective adoptive parents who are anxiously waiting with their pocketbooks wide open, lest we not forget. First mothers need counseling and assistance from those who don't have a hand in the million-dollar cookie jar.

    The 2013 Form 990 for Spence-Chapin is quite revealing. The agency had $55,895,192 in assets and paid their CEO a salary of $195,878 and their CFO $158,993. Their own in-house attorney was paid $104,740. Looks like this agency is profiting handsomely off the sale of babies.

    Their mission statement "is to provide adoption and adoption-related services of the highest quality". I guess so, $55,895,192 would certainly allow them to do so. Part 3, 4a states:

    "Our primary domestic program and service is our infant adoption program, where we are finding adoptive homes for babies, insuring that they have a permanent family at the youngest possible age in this program..."

    Hmmmmmmmm, something stinks about the "let's-help-out-the-first-mother-while-she-decides-whether-to-keep-her-baby" marketing scheme.

    1. I agree with you Patsy. Although some adoption agencies do provide counseling to help mothers keep their babies, there is a built-in conflict of interest. Counseling about whether to keep a baby should be done by a source not funded by adoptive parents.

      While there will always be mothers who cannot care for their infants, adoption should be handled by government agencies rather than what are essentially profit making organizations. As you note, even though they are organized as non-profit organizations (meaning they have no share holders), they are a business and pay high salaries.

      The US has an extremely high number of infant adoptions, about 15,000 a year. In Australia and western Europe, infant adoptions are rare, numbering only about 100 or less. The US infant adoption rate is 25 times higher than the rate in England and Wales. A main reason for this disparity is that adoptions in Australia and Europe are arranged by the government. Other reasons include less support for new mothers in the US and the pressure of certain religions on pregnant single women to give up their babies.

    2. I agree that pressure on single women to relinquish would be far less if private adoptions were eliminated. But I still don't think they would fall to the levels we see in the UK.

      I could easily see a state like South Carolina setting up social service programs designed to encourage women and girls to consider adoption. A large part of the problem is cultural. Too many lawmakers believe that it is sinful to have a child out of wedlock and that adoption represent an opportunity for redemption.

    3. Jane, agreeing that it would be better if private adoptions were illegal as they are in many civilized countries, and all adoptions were uniformly regulated through the federal government as I believe is the case in Australia. The USA has as dismal a record with adoption regulation as it does with gun control compared to the rest of the world. As someone once said it is the Wild West out there with private adoptions.

      Also agreeing some independent agency or counselor that has no stake in the outcome of either keeping or surrendering the child should counsel pregnant women in crisis. If you go to a meat market, they are not going to tell you equally about vegetarian options, to make a weird analogy. it is not really in their interest, they are there to sell hamburger, not to direct you to the vegetable market next door. My advice to pregnant women unsure about what they want and are able to do is to never contact an adoption agency or provider, unless they have already decided that their own choice is to surrender the child. There is a huge conflict of interest with adoption providers that even the best intentions cannot erase.

      That being said, why is Spence Chapin seen as being more questionable than Abrazos? Both are private non-profit adoption agencies with well-paid staff and aggressive programs to bring moms with troubled pregnancies through their doors, and both promise open adoptions. How is one better than the other? Both seem to be trying, but for both the bottom line is still adoption.

  4. Unfortunately, there are going to be adoptions of newborns, and I would rather it happened through an agency than a private attorney. Some women and teens have no place to take their babies while trying to figure out their lives. An in home care giver sounds better to me than a nursery--or a drop off of the baby without any paper trail at all.

    Adoption agencies--even "non-profits" pay good salaries. If every adoption agency closed up shop, more babies would simply be left somewhere. A quick search on the internet found this:

    How to Drop Off an Unwanted Baby
    Questions and Answers
    New laws in the United States (“U.S.”) have made it possible for unwanted newborns and/or infants to be dropped off at various locations, known as safe havens, no questions asked, and without the threat of prosecution. The baby must be unharmed, and showing no signs of neglect or abuse. To drop off an unwanted baby, follow the steps below.

    1. Love this true story, thanks for sharing, Lorraine.

      Regarding Spence-Chapin, I understand that there will be adoption agencies but, like Patsy, I too am skeptical about their "let's give the first mother time to decide" program. I knew several prospective adoptive parents in our local foster program who gave lip service to the role they were supposed to play: be supportive to the first mother / father and give them every opportunity to rehabilitate and reunify with their children. Only if all efforts fail, should adoption be proposed. What these foster parents in fact would do is make it so difficult for the first parents to follow through on their rehabilitation / reunification plan that the foster parents would end up "getting" the child (as they had planned all along). I even read an egregious court case where one foster family pretended to be friendly and supportive of the first mother, then spiked a drink they offered her and immediately reported that she was still using drugs (and they of course found drugs in her system but, thankfully, the truth came to light and she got her baby back).

      So, I don't know about this program...doesn't give me the warm fuzzies, but I hope I am wrong about its intent.

    2. Right on Jay. There's a lot of shenanigans on the part of foster parents and state child welfare agencies to provide children for those wanting to adopt. One of the main drivers of the Adoption and Safe Families Act of 1997 was adoption agencies. This Act cut the time parents had to get their children back from foster care and make it easier for the states to terminate the rights of the parents.

      The adoption agencies' main source for adoptable children -- The infants of single women -- was drying up because of Roe v Wade and changing mores. Agencies were at risk of going out of business unless they found a new source of children. The agencies also lobbied to get state child welfare agencies out of the infant adoption business, allowing them to handle all "Gerber" baby adoptions. The private adoption agencies also have gotten contracts to handle foster care adoption. Agencies also turned to intercountry adoptions as a new supply of children.

      While it's compelling to want children who cannot be returned safely to their homes to "be freed for adoption", state agencies often don't provide the necessary services to help parents care for their children. Under the Act, states have a perverse incentive not to help parents. States are awarded adoption bonuses from the federal government.

      Much of what Americans feel is necessary in child welfare is driven by adoption agencies and substitute care providers. They have considerably political clout; parents in crisis have none.

      For more on this see the work of the National Coalition for Child Protection Reform, www.nccpr.org.

    3. I wish there were laws that no pregnant women could contact an adoption agency until after she has her baby. That would stop so many adoptions it wouldn't even be funny.

    4. Jane, you are an attorney right? So do you think there is any chance of getting laws enacted like I mentioned above? So a woman could not be harassed, manipulated or coerced by an adoption agency or salivating PAP's? Or how about at least county statues?

    5. Lorraine, I am also wondering if you made it to Father Unknown last night? If so, how was it? What was the movie like? I think everyone should do this in their own town or nearby one.

    6. YO! The screening of Father Unknown is March 3. I am hoping to get there, but I have a busy week because I need to be in the city also on Feb. 29 for a friend's reading on a non-adoption topic.

    7. I doubt that a bill which prohibited mothers from contacting adoption until after they had their babies would pass in any state. The adoption industry and child welfare officials would oppose it.

  5. This is such a sweet story. I'm so happy for them, but wished they could have been able to find each other sooner. It is true, that no matter how old a mother is, she never forgets her child, no matter what the circumstance.

  6. What I found interesting re the program was that caregivers are lacking on the Upper East Side. The UES is the wealthiest section of Manhattan and certainly where prospective adoptive parents live. So It may be so clear to caregivers that they cannot adopt the children they give short term care for. It's not a perfect world, and if this is truly a stopgap measure while women get their feet back on the ground, I'd say it's better than a more formal nursery. I found it somewhat telling that the UES is where they are lacking.

    1. Yes, this piece of information definitely makes me feel more optimistic about the program. If it truly is about caregiving without an underlying objective of getting a baby, it is a good thing.

  7. Lorraine, no offense but this post doesn't make any sense. You state that this woman tried to find her mother when she was 21 or 22 and was able to get her BC but then she doesn't find her until she is in her late 60's? I don't understand. Also, where is this article on the internet?

    1. Decades later...her aunt told her. You are right, I left out that salient detail...now included! Many thanks for pointing that out.


  8. Steve,
    Those same legislatures are on wife #2 or more. They also may not be able to father a baby. So they make use of the laws they put in place. Sealed records in order to protect themselves.

  9. Was the adoptee 21 when her adoptive mother died or was the adoptive mother 21? I understood the adoptive mother was 21 and thought that was only a year older than myself when I was considered too young to be a mother by the adoption agency and my parents.

    1. Her adoptive mother died when the adoptee was 21.

    2. "When her adoptive mother was 21, she died. A few years later, her adoptive father died."



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