|my amended birth certificate (the fake)|
What is in "My Adoption File" (Part 2 - How to Open an Adoption)
For the past weeks, I have been doing research on how to open an adoption; it hit me that there are adoptees who will face the same situation I did. When I found my "maternal source," my natural mother Helen, she refused to talk with me or meet me. I was not able to hear her side of the story. I did get an unsigned letter back that said, “Do not contact me again” and she explained her current husband did not know about me.
This took me a full year to grasp and grieve; I was in therapy in Seattle at the time which helped. Honestly, I was too shocked to even think clearly or know what to do next. Eventually I wrote to Helen again and demanded the name of my father, and she complied and sent me his name.
How does any adoptee not take this personally? It is rejection and it hurts. I tried to think about her feelings and what was going on then. I tried to imagine how Helen felt at age 22 when faced with a missing fiancé (my father) and the bulge in her body that was me.
In 2010, I decided to get a copy of my adoption file so I could read the social worker’s report on Helen and what details Helen told them. Last fall I paid $50 bucks for a court order to release a copy of my Wisconsin adoption file. Wisconsin mailed me a copy.
Let me explain what is in my adoption file:
1 - State of Wisconsin Order for Hearing and Investigation, where my adoptive parents petition in writing to adopt me: Laura Jean Thrall and the court ordered Catholic Welfare Agency of Superior, Wisconsin and the State of Wisconsin to investigate, as required by law. Odd this happened on June 5, 1958 – I was born Sept. 9, 1956. I was living in "Legal Limbo."
2 – The letter to my parent’s lawyer from the Wisconsin State Supervisor of Adoptions, Division for Child and Youth who wrote, “According to our incomplete record, it appears this child was committed permanently to the Catholic Child Welfare Bureau and that agency placed this child in this home (DeMeyer in March 1957). If that is true, no action is necessary on the State Dept. of Public Welfare. We are sure that if our assumption is incorrect, the agency will so notify us and appropriate action of the state dept. can be taken upon receipt of the investigator’s report.” Dated June 9, 1958. ALSO in my file, the state of Wisconsin sent a letter to the Judge in Superior, Wisc. acknowledging the date of my adoption hearing: June 24, 1958. The investigator was the Catholic Welfare Agency who had complete control of me. Seven months of my early life, I was living in one of their Catholic foster homes.
3- Report: Movements of Child while Under Care: Catholic Infant Home, Foster Care in Superior (with their name and address) and Foster-Adoptive Home (DeMeyer). First Baptism: 9-18-56 (requested by my mother Helen) and a New Baptismal Certificate was issued on 2-21-1964. Wow – Catholics get this done quick and recorded. Up on the top of the form is Legal Status: Illegitimate and Mother’s Name: Helen Thrall. My Birthplace: St. Paul, MN. In my adoption file is the signed “Certificate of Baptism, Cathedral of St. Paul,” listing my adoptive parents and my new name! It is signed by Rev. Barr and dated March 10, 1959 when in fact I had been baptized in Sept. 1956. This falsified baptismal certificate and my amended birth certificate are two fake documents made to hide my adoptee status – in case my parents decide not to tell me I am adopted.
4- Hospital Discharge Report: The Physical Record of Mother. She was admitted to the Catholic Infant Home on May 23, 1956. Her home address is in Chicago, IL. She delivered on 9-9-56. She stayed in the hospital 5 days until 9-14-56. Children living: One. (This is the proof Helen had already had a child who was also given up for adoption before me!) Delivery: Normal, spontaneous (Helen had an lml episiotomy with no complications). On 5-25-56, Helen’s blood work: Her RH factor was positive. Helen was allergic to penicillin. No Sauk Vaccine given. (I am also allergic to penicillin.) ALSO: The Child (me) Physical Report: full-term, 10 lbs., 3 oz., 21 ½ in., Head Circumference 14” and Chest Circumference 14 ½ in. I was discharged from the hospital on 9-26-1956 as a normal female infant. Social Worker: Miss Underhill.
5- Catholic Infant Home Report – Their Address, Nurse: Sister Enid, Physical Exam at Birth and Physical Exam on Discharge from Hospital to Infant Home, 2 doctors signed. Feeding: Similac every 4 hours. (Obviously no breast milk for me!)
6- Medical Exam (Infant to Two Years, Wisconsin Child Center) – Laura Jean Thrall in Foster Care, General physical: Ok with Mild eczema on face. March 12, 1957.
7- Medical Exam – July 15, 1957 – now named Tracy DeMeyer, General Development: Normal and lists all the various immunizations and vaccines I had. (My adoptive mother told me I was covered in rashes and bald on the back of my head when they got me.)
8- State of Juvenile Court, Vilas Country, Wisconsin, Parental Consent to Termination of Parental Rights, dated December 5, 1956. Miss Alverna Underhill (social worker) is the witness. "Father’s consent is not necessary In case of illegitimate child." Signed by my mother Helen Thrall.
9- Leo Block, Director of Catholic Welfare Agency appears before Judge Robert Curran on May 28, 1958, in the matter of Adoption of Laura Jean Thrall and Mr. Block consents to my adoption on this legal form. Block’s reason for consent: for the best interest of the child.
10 – Form letter: Request to the State of Minnesota Dept. of Public Welfare on April 9, 1958, states that Catholic Welfare Agency needs a copy of my birth record to be used as proof of birth to protect the interest of this child at the time of placement of adoption. Required fee enclosed $1.00. Signed Jean Johnson, Supervisor Protection Unit. Certified Photostat April 16, 1958 sent to Social Worker Miss Underhill.
11- Copy of Investigation, submitted by Catholic Welfare Agency, done March 17, 1957 through May 28, 1958 to the County Court in Wisconsin. Describes The Child (me) and Mother of Child (Helen). INFORMATION NECESSARY FOR CHANGING BIRTH CERTIFICATE in bold type. This is the story I wanted – all the details and dates. Helen had moved to Chicago in 1952 and dated my dad, Earl. (Helen doesn’t say they were living together but they were.) In April 1956, she goes home to Minocqua, Wisconsin because she realized she is four months pregnant. Five months pregnant, she and her mother go back to Chicago to place charges against the alleged father. They were unable to locate him. Then Helen desires to go to a maternity home near her home and they decide her mother will drop Helen off in Milwaukee at St. Mary’s on her drive home. Instead they choose the St. Paul (Minnesota) Catholic Infant Home because it is a work home. May 25, 1956: “Helen is using her own name at the Maternity Home as she saw no necessity for further protection…. This was her first physical exam and the doctors felt that she was further along and at least six months pregnant….Helen stated that she is very anxious to get out into a work home as soon as possible and was concerned she would now have one less month to work towards her expenses. She had no money saved and said her family would help as much as possible but she did not want to ask this of them. She wondered how soon she would have to pay her expenses at the Maternity Home. (It doesn’t say how much money they charged her.) She was told that if we (Catholic Charities) could be certain that she would repay us as soon as she returned to work, we (Catholic Charities) would pay her bill at the maternity home and she could repay us in small amounts. This seemed to be a great relief to Helen. …She was uncertain about plans for her expected child and it was apparent she was very desirous of keeping the child is possible. She thought she would return home briefly after her confinement but would have to leave home very soon in order to find work. Helen was told that we could assist her with temporary plans for her baby for six weeks, during which time she could return home and make her final decision… Helen was with the alleged father for several months and has been under the impression he intended to marry her. She seemed to feel that if she could talk to him, they could work things out. He suddenly left his job in Chicago. She heard through others that he’d returned home.” (The next page of the microfilm was missing.) My first months, Helen’s life, and my adoptive parents life and their desire to adopt me, was revealed on four typed pages.
This is what to expect in an adoption file: documents, reports, letters, stories, arrangements, explanations, descriptions, maybe even a Baptismal Certificate, places and dates. Every adoptee needs this.
I know that Helen was not rejecting me but rather wanting to give me a better life. I can see her struggle. I can live well knowing the truth.