With almost every introduction of my services, whether with a newly found family member, or a general inquiry about what I do, I’m asked “How did you come to do this type of work?”. Thank you for asking. I truly believe I was meant to fill this need for others touched by adoption. I’m Terry, and this is my story:

As a child, I remember spending hours on end working on jigsaw puzzles with my mother. When one was finished, another was immediately started. That was our quality time together. It was a calm that I looked forward to. I feel as though that activity, as well as my personal adoption experience, are the basis that prepared me for my path of today – patiently helping others touched by adoption in finding the missing pieces - their family’s footprints.

My journey began in 1977 when, as a 17-year-old girl being raised in a very authoritarian home, became pregnant. Like many young girls in similar condition, I hid my pregnancy for as long as I possibly could, terrified of telling my mother. Once the cat was out of the bag I was deemed ‘the bad girl’ in school, at home, and in every arena of my life. I was expected to finish school, and my mother and stepfather refused to help me raise my child. Regardless of how much I wanted to keep him, the decision to relinquish my baby was swiftly made for me. Just a few weeks before his arrival I was sitting in an attorney’s office answering questions geared towards finding a loving home for my child. I fought the choice of relinquishment to the bitter end, but because I was a minor I had no voice in the decision. He was born 12 days before my 18th birthday. Within just days the social worker presented the final papers for signature. I thought I’d never see him again, and my heart was ripped to pieces. I didn’t know if the tears would ever stop. I had never known grief like that before.

He never left my mind. Over the years I wondered how he was, did he feel loved, was he happy, healthy and safe. I had been told that he was adopted by a family that could not have children of their own, a nurse and a lawyer. Those facts were the link to him that stayed in my memory with hopes that one day I would find him.

Many years later, I learned that a woman very dear to me was adopted as an infant. Her daughters encouraged her to seek out her adoption information, as they wanted to learn more about who and where they came from. I started searching for any information I could find to help them with their questions. Armed with only the knowledge of where she grew up, she requested a copy of her birth certificate from that state. She was informed they had no birth records for her, not even in her adopted name. I forged forward, contacting every adoption agency, children’s services and home for unwed mothers in that state that I could find. Eventually, my discoveries turned up the possibility that she had been a child relinquished through one of the Florence Crittenton Homes. Unfortunately, only some of the handwritten ledgers from the 30’s with the assigned mothers’ names still existed - seemingly an insurmountable task to find the birth mother I was searching for. However, several more phone calls, letters and inquiries resulted in locating and obtaining access to her adoption records. After hitting many dead ends, it was apparent that the names and information in the adoption records were intentionally fictitious. So, we turned to DNA. With her DNA test results, I tracked down a 3rd cousin match, and in very short order thereafter, I located a living half-sister and half-brother. They were unaware that they had a sister, but had heard family rumors of a child possibly having been relinquished to adoption. My greatest joy was being able to present this dear woman with the missing footprints of her biological family on her 80th birthday and to be present at their first meeting!

During that post adoption search, I decided it was time to revisit the search for my son that I had started many years prior. Again, I had no adoption papers, no birth certificate or any information to guide me in the right direction, other than I knew when and where he was born. I didn’t know the ins and outs of post adoption laws in Arizona, but I started googling about adoption reunions. I signed up on different adoption registries. I watched every search and reunion show on T.V. I bought books on private investigations, genealogy and people searches, and I took genealogy classes. I took copious notes and tried all the searching techniques I learned. I took a DNA test – my results offered no new answers. After again hitting many dead ends, I started searching for mentorship in the post adoption search process. I was led to a private investigator and Confidential Intermediary for the state of Arizona. She educated me in the laws and processes adoptees and birth parents should take in their search. With her CI services, my son was found in just a few days. As it turns out, many of the facts that I had been told about his adoption were also fictitious, except that his adoptive parents could not have children of their own. In the end, I learned that the likelihood of us finding each other, had I not initiated the search through the Confidential Intermediary program, was discouraging at best. He had never considered searching for me, never registered on the adoption sites and had not taken a DNA test. He had been adopted by wonderful parents. He was raised in a loving home, had always known he was adopted and never felt the need to search for me. He was - as I had always hoped - happy, healthy and safe. And today he has a beautiful family of his own. Our reunion was everything I could have hoped for. My heart is peaceful and we are slowly taking simple steps to learn about each other. I am very grateful to be a part of his life.

Through the course of these searches and the ensuing education I gained in the process, my eyes were opened to the enormity of how many individuals have been touched by adoption. In many instances, those in search of their family members don’t know where to turn or how to start their post adoption search. I am forever changed by having found my friend’s family and locating my son. These experiences inspired me to learn the How-To’s of post adoption search. They created a passion within me to continue my endeavors with DNA testing, genealogical research and helping individuals gain access to their adoption records. There are no words to describe how it feels to help families reunite and get the answers they’ve been searching for. Just as each puzzle has its unique set of challenges, each search leads its distinctive path of discovery - revealing a specific set of footprints - and I follow them one patient step at a time as the pieces of the puzzle come together.