People do not understand what an adoptee goes through. We are born and relinquished without our choice in the matter. It can be for our good or for someone's profit. These are documents recording our birth. Everyone else has access to their original birth certificate except adoptees. Even adoptive parents (non adopted of course) and natural parents (non adopted of course)have access to their birth certificates. They don't have to ask permission to see them.
Unfortunately adoptees have to beg for their information. There is no just cause for any of us. No one can figure out that definition. We are the only group of people expected to be grateful for a situation that we did not cause and we did not choose.
Here is the story.
Emery babies reunion Adoptees from south Mississippi home gather to search and share
Emery babies didn't start life with the proverbial silver spoon, but they started with a chance, given by birth mothers who left them for adoption at the Emery Home in Richton from 1931 to 1963.
About 20 of the adoptees held their annual gathering recently in Mobile. The reunion included adoptive families and, through diligent searching, good fortune and, perhaps, divine intervention, some birth relatives, according to founder Eva Johnson of Sterling, Va., who founded The Emery Babies organization.
As adoptees reached adulthood, some began to search for their birth mothers and others chose not to because of the risks of interfering in lives and being rejected, said Emery baby Michael Childers of Houston. Childers searched, and for four decades, followed a trail with twists and turns that led to south Mobile County.
"I had a loving adoptive family, but I always had a natural curiosity about my birth parents. But it wasn't obsessive. It didn't keep me up at night," said Childers, who was born at the home in 1955 and adopted by a couple from Mississippi who had settled in Houston.
Family medical history was the overriding reason to find his birth mother, said Childers, in part because he has suffered from asthma since childhood. Also, he wanted his two sons to have the possible health advantages of knowing that history.
Lack of records and confusion about the location of the "real" adoption home, plagued Childers in his personal search for evidence of his birth mother, he said in a detailed recounting of his long search.
His adoptive parents always told their son he was adopted and that it took place in Mississippi, but his adoptive mother said the town was Laurel, and withheld the name of the home.
At age 13, he was shown the final decree of adoption by his adoptive mother. It listed the birth mother as Catherine LaBarte from Clarke County, Miss. From that time on, whenever the family traveled, Childers said he would search telephone directories for the name "LaBarte." He had no luck.
At 16, Childers was given a copy of his amended birth certificate by his adoptive mother to obtain a driver's license. He read the certificate and discovered he was born in Richton.
His mother had also told him she named him for a jewelry store called Michael's down the street from the courthouse where he was adopted. Just last year Childers discovered when he obtained a copy of the petition to adopt that his adoptive mother had kept the name given him by his birth mother, Michael William.
"I think that was my adoptive mom's way of protecting me from trying to find my birth family. I think any mother would be that way," said Childers.
In 1982, a year after his adoptive father died, more confusion deflected the search, said Childers. During a visit to the Laurel area, a young Childers relative helped him find what they thought was the adoption home. It was instead the residence of a doctor who had built on the Emery site after the home burned on New Year's Eve 1963. So Childers assumed over time that the current structure was his adoption place and the Emery Home he learned about years later was a second adoption center in the area.
In July 2004, he discovered a reunion notice for the Em ery Babies group while surfing a Richton Web site. He linked to the Emery Babies' Web site and found Sister Mable Cooper's name, which he had known from the final decree of adoption he viewed at age 13. Cooper was the home's superintendent for most of its existence.
"I like to have lost my breath and fell out of the chair," he said, with deep emotion still in his voice and face. "I had been looking for 40 years and here it was. I had been born at Emery House."
He attended The Emery Babies reunion a few days later. "It was quite an emotional thing for me, learning about the history of the home and meeting other adoptees who came there," he said. Childers left knowing that one of the volunteer searchers of birth family evidence for the group, Jan Richards from the Atlanta area, would help in the still daunting task of finding his birth mother.
Through Richards' "invaluable aid and detective work," Childers was led in 2005 to the presence of a LaBarte family in Clarke County, Miss., and the reported death of their son in an auto accident in Mobile in 1975.
Childers and Richards took a chance that the son was buried in Clarke County and found the grave in the Pulley family plot in Stonewall. Then the local 1930 census records online showed that Pulley was his birth mother's name as a child.
The trail was hot and Childers contacted Pulleys in Stonewall, who turned out to be distant cousins. He learned from one of them that his birth mother had died in 2004, a few months after he learned of his birthplace due to the Emery Babies' reunion advertisement.
Two weeks after this discovery he learned that he had a living half-brother, Curtis Robert Highsmith, 60, whose location was unknown, said Childers. Hurricane Katrina hit in August 2005 and communications were severed for several weeks. Then Childers had surgery, with a further delay.
Once back on the trail, telephone calls to relatives led to three cousins, daughters of his birth mother's sisters. The trio, Vickie Wright Gilley, Clemmie Wright Young and Priscilla Wright Jackson, all lived in a family compound in Grand Bay in south Mobile County.
When contacted by Childers, the three sisters doubted the story, even with documentation and pictures of him that resembled Catherine LaBarte. Their aunt had lived near and with them in Grand Bay for many years and never mentioned a son given up for adoption, said Young.
In December 2005, Gilley called Childers and said the cousins had a Christmas present: they had found Highsmith, his half-brother, in Saraland. "It was a very emotional time for me. I was elated," said Childers.
Childers was invited by the three sisters to visit Mobile in January 2006. He came from the Houston area, where he lives and is employed in the information technology department of a large corporation's headquarters.
When she met Childers for the first time, said Young, she saw the physical resemblance to her aunt, Catherine LaBarte. Childers also met Highsmith during that month, but, tragically, his half-brother passed away about six weeks later.
During and after the initial visit to Grand Bay the "new" cousin was more than accepted. "We bonded right away, with something genetic and deep. Michael has become a part of the family, like a brother," said Gilley.
"He went from having no birth family to having hundreds of cousins in a large, close-knit family. That was his gift for searching for his birth mother," she added.
Another benefit of the family discovery, said Childers, is the bonding he has experienced with his half-brother's son, Joseph Highsmith, 16. "A pretty cool kid," said Childers, who has taken his nephew to meet his own two adult sons.
"I wish I could have met my birth mother in person to thank her for what she did for me, loving me enough to put me up for adoption to have a better life. I've had a wonderful life with adoptive parents who loved me," said Childers. "Those who adopt other people's children are very special people."
The medical knowledge gained from his cousins that his birth mother also suffered from asthma has been helpful, he added.
Childers had advice for adoptees and others who are searching for absent family. "Time is of the essence if you want to find your birth parents. Don't hesitate."