Doug Robinson: Reuniting families — One Utahn is helping adopted children, biological parents find each other

Published: Saturday, March 8 2014 8:45 p.m. MST

A man in his 30s signed the registry at Woodward’s office. Later, she called him to say she had a match. He put her off a few days trying to come to grips with this sudden development. He had been born out of wedlock to a 15-year-old girl. The girl was now a grown woman and she also had signed the registry. They had a tearful reunion in Woodward’s office, but the story didn’t end there.

“Your father is waiting for you outside the door,” the biological mother said.

A few minutes later, the mother took her newly found son to the waiting room and introduced him to his biological father. She explained that after giving birth at 15, she didn’t marry the father of her child. She finished school, married someone else and divorced. Through the Internet, she found her high school boyfriend (the father of her child) — he had also married and divorced — and they began seeing each other. Three decades after their teen romance, they married and then signed the registry hoping to find the son they had placed for adoption. There was more. They took him home to meet the children they had had in the interim.

“We all bawled,” says Woodward. “It was quite a surprise. I had not known they had found each other again and married.”

Woodward has been doing this for 13 years. She has a special compassion for those who are trying to find parents or children. She went through the process herself to help her adopted children find their biological parents. “I love my job,” she says. “I can have a terrible time at home and come here and feel good. Even those who get upset and yell, I calm them down and help them.”

The stories don’t always have a happy ending. Some people don’t sign the registry simply because they don’t want to be found. Notwithstanding, people circumvent the system by hiring a private detective — an expensive proposition — to track down parents or children who have not signed the registry. In one case, a woman in her 30s showed up at Woodward’s office who had been adopted and wanted to find her biological mother. The woman explained that because her birth mother hadn’t signed the registry, she had paid $10,000 to a private detective to find her. He located the mother and provided an address to his client. She showed up at the door of her mother’s house, only to have the mother reject her. She had raised other children, but had kept her out-of-wedlock birth a secret. Her family eventually convinced the mother to sign the registry anyway, and it was a match, but she was angry.

“Her family forced her,” says Woodward. “She felt we wrecked her life. She said she never would have gotten on the registry. She never wanted to be reminded of it (the birth). She never wanted to be found. There are lots of reasons people don’t want to be found. If they want to be found, they’ll sign the registry. It was not good that this woman found her mother.”

The woman who hired the detective continues to visit Woodward, who frequently finds herself playing the role of unofficial counselor. They cry together. The woman has no one else to talk to. She told Woodward, “All I wanted was to tell her (biological mother) that my adoptive mother died when I was young and my father never married again, so I grew up without a mother. So I wanted to meet my mother and she did not want to meet me.”

The other lesson of the story: Paying a private detective thousands of dollars to circumvent the registry does not pay no matter how you cut it. It costs $25 to sign the registry, and there is no risk of rejection if all parties do so.

“Sometimes they go do their own thing, but I’m the only one who has the records,” says Woodward. “If someone says they found their mother or son, they should register so they can find out if they’re really a match. I had a boy and a mother come here who were positive they were a match. I found out they weren’t. There are always people trying to get money on the Internet; at least come here and try it.”

Decades ago, parents went to great lengths to hide the scandal of out-of-wedlock pregnancy of their daughter. The girls were sent away, and sometimes the parents even doctored the birth certificate so the child could never find his or her biological parents.

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