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Wednesday, January 5, 2011

An Interview with Mary Weilding of ICARE: MAKING MIRACLES

My interview with Mary Weilding, founder of ICARE, one of the first adoption registries in the United States, based in Wisconsin.

How did you come to choose the name ICARE, the Wisconsin Adoptee-Birth Family Registry?

Mary Weilding: It describes me. It also stands for Independent Confidential Adoption Research Efforts.

When it was founded?
MW: 1980

What was the main objective?
MW: To reunite those in search and end their inner pain at no cost to them.

Are you adopted?
MW: No. I am a birthmother.

Did people mail you requests before the website was up?
MW: Yes, and word spread by mouth who sent more people my way.

Tell us about you and this search registry?
MW: I have devoted 30 years to helping others, before and during the ICARE Registry. I have reunited 1000's of people over the years. I say touched their lives. I did the Pilot TV episode search for “Find My Family” on ABC. I have reunited people of all walks of life and professions, including I helped to find my doctor's sister for her. I am a Birthmother and know the pain we feel/felt. I understand adoptees, having found my own birthdaughter first.

How many family members have you helped?
MW: Over the years I never kept a count. Success was far more important than keeping numbers. Once a search was completed, I always felt the file findings were theirs and I never kept duplicate copies. They were private and confidential, belonging to the person I was helping.

Do you have a few reunions that stand out in your memory?
MW: The best is Kevin who ICARE REGISTRY is dedicated. I did the eulogy at his funeral.

Mary, you’ve been doing this work 30 years?
MW: Yes, finding my birthdaughter first and then realizing the methods (ALWAYS legal) would work for anyone.

What lead you to start a registry for others?
MW: It was a quicker easier way to reunite others without financial cost to them. MANY reunions have occurred because of ICARE REGISTRY.

Do you do this with a team of people?
MW: I worked alone most of the time with help now and then from my daughter. Over the 30 years I was able to establish contacts (other Searchers) in all States except North Dakota. I was helping them for free and they did the same for me. I was always trying to hold costs down for Adoptee or Birthmother. I never felt the need to make a living and only charged expenses. We accepted donations, which often helped if someone else couldn't afford even a tank of gas or reimbursement.

Are you working from an office or home?

Are you supported by advertising?
MW: No. I only charged what it cost me. Often over the years I got stiffed because I trusted too much, giving the information then waiting for reimbursement. As recently as my 2nd to the last search, I didn’t get reimbursed. But someone else will come along and send in a donation, making up for the one who didn't. I think it all worked out in the end. Even if it didn't, I will never know because I didn't keep track. I left it up to God to guide me in giving..... It was a no-pay position, often unappreciated and taken advantage of, which reminds me of many mothers. :)

You did not make an income from all this work?
MW: No, I really didn't but as one grateful person said Sunday night after matching a Registry reunion, “…another jewel in your crown when you reach Heaven. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.” OMG… that sounded so wonderful to my ears. I felt so good inside. Reuniting two people and never leaving my chair!!!!

I have been asked many times--what can an adoptee do when their records are sealed?
MW: Contact the State Search Program or contact a Judge for a court order.

If an adoptee wants to find their natural mother in Wisconsin, what do they do?
MW: Contact the Wisconsin State Search Program but the adoptee will have to pay $75 per hour and accept results based on Wisconsin laws in regard to release of information. The birthmother must be willing and sign an “Affidavit of Consent” when she is contacted. Or if an adoptee has their Adoption Social History from the State of Wisconsin - a separate charge - and with enough clues... I can do the search for my expenses. There is NO provision in the Wisconsin State Search Program for Birthmothers but that's ok. I can do those or guide them to do their own. Of the 72 counties in Wisconsin, 64 are searchable.

Do you work in other states?
MW: I mostly refer to other State Searchers or work through them to do a search.

As a search angel, and if you've been doing this 30 years, you are among the first ever.
MW: Yes, and proud of it!!!

Did you read about Florence Fisher and ALMA or other notable adoptees when you started?
MW: Yes. I read anything and everything I could find.

It's tremendously important people utilize the search angels and registries.
MW: I agree. Post everywhere you can and as often as you can. Utilize the State Search Program if you can afford it. Contact everyone you can find in the movement. Ask for help. Offer to help. Do what you can for legwork to keep costs down.

Do you have someone running the website in your absence?
MW: YES...two other people whom I trust to match have access and free rein.

Did ABC’s “Find My Family” television show utilize your services and your contacts when they were producing their program? Why do you think the program disappeared?
MW: ABC only had a 6-week slot to fill after “Dancing with the Stars” concluded. “Find my Family” got those slots. I am hoping for its return as all the reviews were favorable.

Have others mentioned your work with ICARE?
MW: I did the pilot show for “Find My Family.” I am referenced in two privately written books and adoption blue books, adoption sites, etc. I had three featured newspaper articles about me.

Do you believe lawmakers are going to wake up and open adoption records in Wisconsin?
MW: Yes...but not in my life time. I am 65 and have terminal cancer. Hopefully within the next 10 years.

What can we do to speed up the lawmakers?
MW: Keep nagging your State Representatives. Keep it alive on Facebook or wherever… tell them your plight and your need to KNOW.

Have you done any campaigns for opening sealed adoption files?
MW: I lobbied and testified at every hearing in Madison, Wisconsin concerning adoption over the years and I got what we do have with the State Search Program. I asked for the Sun.... and settled for the moon.

From the ICARE website:
To Searching Adoptees without Birth name:  We suggest that you contact the State of Wisconsin Search Program. When doing so, you will receive a Search Packet that must be filled out and returned by you. The packet will detail your options, whether it is just requesting your Medical/Genetic/and Birth family Social History or asking the State to actually do your Search and contact your Birth Mother to see if she is receptive to having contact with you. There is a fee for their service. Be sure and ask up front what will be required of you so that you will know what to anticipate. You may qualify for a reduced rate based on need. Please inquire. You can make your initial request for a Search Packet to:

Adoption Records Search Program
P.O. Box 8916
Madison, WI 53708-8916
(608) 266-7163
E-mail -

Include your adoptive name, DOB, Adoptive parents names, place of birth, a current phone number, your current address, and the Agency that handled your Adoption, if known. Tell them ICARE referred you to them. Should they complete your search for you, let us know the results so we can post accordingly. Good Luck!

Visit ICARE at

I wish to thank Mary Weilding for her many miracles and her tireless work on behalf of adoptees and birthmothers. Mary, you are appreciated more than you know. You are a true hero and inspiration to me.

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