Wednesday, September 10, 2008


Okay I opened my morning google news alert and saw all three of these stories. Doesn't Michigan have a bill pending right now? Hmmm so what is the point of the all of the advice? Of course, there is the issue of whether or not the amended version with the disclosure veto will even pass. I know that many of the Michigan Searching group have fought for a clean records bill. I also know that the legislators have gone back and changed things to this disclosure veto without their knowledge.

I am by no means coming down on the following person's reunion. I just don't like the associated articles. The first article starts out about a search and reunion:

Family reunion: After long search, teen meets woman who gave her up for adoption

Posted by Stephanie Esters | Kalamazoo Gazette
September 10, 2008 14:30PM
Dionne Torrence had received a message that a young woman from Michigan was trying to reach her. Torrence called the phone number and heard the young woman's voice on the other end. A few seconds of silence followed. Finally, the young woman, 19-year-old Anie LaVasseur of Augusta, broke the tense silence: "I'm not angry with you for giving me up. I had a good life.

The comment was followed by tears on both sides, as Torrence and LaVasseur, who Torrence gave up for adoption, took their first steps toward getting to know each other. It felt as if a burden had been lifted from my shoulders," the 39-year-old Torrence recounted recently while sitting in the home of the Augusta couple to whom she'd entrusted her daughter.Torrence, who lived in Ohio when she became pregnant and used a Kalamazoo adoption agency, said she decided to give her daughter up for adoption because she was single, was not sustaining a relationship with the father and wanted the child to grow up with two parents.

Last year, LaVasseur, like thousands of other Americans each year, undertook a search process that eventually led to her birth mother. Hundreds of Web sites offer advice on how to undertake such a search, and the Internet has made it easier for people to find each other. Intermediaries also can aid the process.LaVasseur, a 2007 graduate of Gull Lake High School and sophomore at Western Michigan University, says she had always known she was adopted and that one day she'd look for her birth mother, whose maiden name she knew.She started her search in January 2007, shortly after she turned 18. She requested information from the Kalamazoo County Probate Court and about a year later decided to hire Theresa Heller, a certified confidential intermediary, to help with the search.Heller, who works for the court and in 2002 located her own daughter she'd given up for adoption, has for 10 years helped other people find their birth parents or children.She spent about seven months looking for Torrence, although she initially made contact with her a month into the search. Torrence remembers getting that first call but says she ended it abruptly because she thought someone was trying to scam her.Heller said she looked up 30 to 40 other "Dionne Browns" -- Torrence's maiden name -- but her search came up with nothing. Not wanting to disappoint LaVasseur, she started over again.

Marlou Russell, a psychotherapist who specializes in issues of adoption and reunification and is herself an adoptee who, at 35, reunited with her birth mother and family. Her book, "Adoption Wisdom: A Guide to the Issues and Feelings of Adoption" (Broken Branch Production, 1996), is available online at Her Web site is She can be reached at (310) 829-1438.

This time she made contact with a relative of Torrence's who said she might be able to locate the woman -- "which told me that all she had to do was call her," Heller said.
Heller finally spoke to Torrence and told her that the daughter she'd given up 19 years ago wanted to contact her. "I was so overwhelmed," Torrence said, tears welling up in her eyes as she sat in the LaVasseurs' basement.After their initial telephone contact on Aug. 6, which lasted three hours, the two talked by phone several times.

Among the questions LaVasseur had for Torrence: Did she know the date she was born? (Yes.) Did she have any other children? (No.) Did she want a relationship with her? (Of course!) Did she think they had anything in common? (Yes, for instance, their sense of fashion and love of shopping and their "girlie" styles.)

Meeting face-to-face

After about two weeks of telephone calls, the two met in person Aug. 22 in the lobby of Kalamazoo's Radisson Plaza Hotel & Suites.

Torrence and her husband, Keith, drove there from their home in Clinton, Ohio.
Torrence said she immediately recognized her own facial features in the younger woman as the hotel's elevator doors opened.

"We just cried and hugged," Torrence said.

The two sat in the hotel lobby for about three hours, laughing, crying and talking as they tried to bridge a gap of 19 years.

They later went up to the Torrences' hotel room, where LaVasseur met Dionne's husband, who suggested that, because of the lateness of the hour, she stay over.

"I was totally amazed because they look so much alike," Keith Torrence said. "It's made Dionne a different person -- seems like she's ... complete."

Birth mother and daughter talked even longer into the night, only getting about three hours of sleep before it was time to head to the LaVasseur home the next day.

Meeting the families

In Augusta, the Torrences met with Anie's parents, Tim and Janet LaVasseur, and their son, David, 18, who was born after Anie was adopted and after they thought they could not conceive a child Tim and Janet prepared a brunch, while the others chatted and enjoyed an occasional game of pool downstairs.

Frequently, Anie and Dionne fell into private conversations, seemingly oblivious to the others.

Janet LaVasseur said she has always supported Anie in finding her birth mother. "People ask me, 'How do you feel? Are you OK with this?' Anie having one more person to love her can only be good."

Janet said she urged her daughter to talk to a counselor before starting the search process, even though Anie was initially hesitant to do so.

That was very good advice, Heller said. It is important for all the parties involved to understand that they all have concerns, she said.

"Both birth mothers and adoptees have the same set of fears" about whether the other person will want to sustain a relationship with them and how persistent or pushy they should be or may be perceived as being, Heller said.

For instance, adoptees who have dreamed their whole lives about reuniting with a birth parent might be disappointed when that person does not seem to mirror their enthusiasm, Heller said. What is likely happening is that the person being contacted is dealing with a whole range of emotions surrounding the fact that a child they gave up for adoption wants to contact them.

"A surprising number of adoptive parents are supportive, like Anie's. It's really a good gift that they give to the child," Heller said.

After visiting at the LaVasseurs' home, Anie and Dionne spent a few hours on an outing at The Crossroads mall before the Torrences headed back to Ohio.

The Torrences came to Michigan to visit with Anie again the next weekend. Both birth mother and daughter say they hope their newfound relationship will continue.

"I'm looking forward to learning all I can about her," Anie said of Dionne. "I want this relationship to last forever."

Again I do not begrudge this young woman and her mother the reunion that they both deserve. I however get a little pissy when someone makes it about their agenda. Granted right now, this is the only way but it is a horrible way. The confidential intermediary system is a system that treats adoptees and their families like they are incapable of handling their own affairs. If a CI mishandles the reunion, its the adoptee and the mother that suffer as a result.

The title of the next article set me off right off the bat.

Reuniting with birth parents: Proceed with caution

Posted by Stephanie Esters | Kalamazoo Gazette September 10, 2008 14:30PM

While adoptees and birth parents might have fantasized about a reunion for many years, they should not expect a meeting to be a cure-all for their own life issues, New York psychotherapist Joe Soll said.

"Reunions will not heal one's pain," said Soll, himself an adoptee who counsels those planning adoption reunions via his Web site, and nightly chats online.

Here, he and Theresa Heller, a certified adoption intermediary for Kalamazoo County, share advice for those considering an adoption search:

1. Prepare beforehand. Visit chatrooms, go to support group meetings, read relevant materials and talk to as many people as you can who have attempted adoption reunions to learn what you need to know about your own reunion, Soll suggested. For help, find a support group where you live.

2. While you search, move forward with your life. Heller said searchers should not wait on pins and needles for the results, but should continue with their lives, "because that's really a high-stress way to live," she said.

3. Have realistic expectations. It's very common for one person in a search to want to push into a new relationship, Heller said. But the other person may not share that intensity. "Then they jump to the conclusion that the (other) person is not going to want to move forward in a relationship with them," Heller said.

4. Be aware that birth parents and adoptees share the same set of fears. It is not uncommon for both the birth parents and adoptees to feel as if the other might not want to sustain a relationship with them, Heller said.

5. Don't wait to search. If you feel compelled to search, "just do it," Heller suggests. However a reunion attempt ends up, the searcher can walk away with one positive outcome -- knowing that they attempted to find a birth parent or child.

Then the last article set me further into the deep end.

How to search for a parent or child

Posted by Stephanie Esters | Kalamazoo Gazette September 10, 2008 14:30PM

In Michigan:

Michigan is a considered a mutual-consent state, meaning both the adoptee and birth parent have to agree to information about them being released and to being contacted before that can happen. Generally, adoption records with non-identifying information can be accessed when the adoptee turns 18, and then either by the adoptee, the birth family -- including birth parents, siblings and grandparents -- or the adoptive parent.

• Start with your county's Probate Court to see what non-identifying information the adoption files might contain, such as the birth parent's age at the time of the adoptee's birth, the parent's heritage and religion, any medical history provided, the number of years of high school completed and the parent's hobbies, interests and occupation.

• Request that the court or adoption agency consult the Adoption Central Registry in Lansing to see if either the adoptee or birth parent has filed a consent or denial form. The court or adoption agency can review the records and determine if identifying information, such as a name or address, can be released to the searcher to help their search.

• If a consent form has been filed but contact information is out of date, searchers can continue to look on their own or hire a certified confidential adoption intermediary like Theresa Heller at the Kalamazoo County Probate Court, who charges $300, plus expenses, to conduct a search.

• If the adoption agency has closed, you can find who hold its records here.

• For more information, call the Adoption Division of the Michigan Department of Human Services at (517) 373-3513.

In other states:

• For an overview of each state's laws concerning adoption records, visit the Web site of Adoption Reunion Resources here.

Other resources

• Adoptees' Liberty Movement Association (the ALMA Society), is a nonprofit, tax-exempt adoption reunion registry created in 1971 to assist searchers with their search through its established chapters and search assistants. For details, visit www.almasociety. org/index.html, or write to The ALMA Society, P.O. Box 85, Denville, NJ 07834.

• Operation Reunite is a nonprofit organization dedicated to providing information and support to Vietnamese adoptees and to help reunite families separated by the Vietnam War. For details, call (609) 992-7196 or visit

Is it me? Did anyone else notice that they did not mention the adoptee rights bill currently in the process? What the heck is going on in Michigan? I wonder if the bill has been kicked to the curb.

1 comment:

Gershom Kaligawa said...

Marketing right? They want to get the whole "searching" topic hot in peoples minds just before the Senate votes on the bill. ( rolls eyes )

Heres an update on their bill that came out YESTERDAY at their site:

House Bill 6287 PASSED the House of Representatives this afternoon, by a vote of 99 - 10 (with one abstaining). There were, just so you know, three amendments made to the bill. They are as follows:

1. HB 6287 was tie-barred to HB 4896, so that the two of them will be considered together in the Senate. We knew that this would be happening, so it is no surprise.

2. The Contact Preference Form will be amended - specifically, Item #3 of the form - to include wording so that a birth parent who denies contact but allows the OBC to be issued understands that the OBC will include the birth parent(s) name(s). Pretty much a given, but it'll avoid any confusion to an already emotional form.

3. If the bills pass the Senate, there will be a six month waiting period before the laws take effect. This is, presumably, to give birth parents time to submit their Contact Preference Forms.

So, there it is. Now, it is on to the Senate, where we will really need the birth parents in the groups to step up and be heard. I will post more of what we need to do tomorrow - right now, I've got a KILLER headache.

Thanks to all who wrote, e-mailed, and called in support of these legislative efforts. Our fight is not over; in fact, it is just beginning.

Hugs to all,
Dee Lindeman
Moderator, MiOBC
Co-Moderator, Michigan Searching