John's Help Page
and Birth Families
|This space reserved for our reunion picture,
to appear as soon as we can get the picture
on a scanner.
(2/4/97) Hello! I'm John Shue. Today I found my 30-year-old daughter, Kathy, after 20+ years of searching. I received an amazing amount of help from internet friends, and Kathy was ultimately located by a volunteer on the internet. Karen Conn, who found my daughter, has my undying gratitude. And so do the dozens of others who made suggestions, pointed me to numerous web sites, or were just always ready with moral support. As my way of saying thank you, I decided to dedicate my homepage to helping other people find their natural families. To that end, I will include every link I can find to sources of help, success stories, inspiration, suggestions, and anything else that might come along that may help you find your child, sibling or birth parents. This page will forever be a work in progress, so please keep checking back to see what's new. And please share your success stories with us.
Links Page - a long list of links to various resources for help. It's pretty disorganized, but worth digging through. I'll try to get it better organized soon.
Inspiration Page - the very best resource! How the power of prayer has brought about miracles in bringing families together.
Our Own Story
(Have your box of Kleenex ready!)
My oldest daughter, Kathy, is 30 years old now. A few years after her mother and I were divorced, her mother put her up for adoption. Unfortunately, I had no control over the situation. The last time I saw my daughter, she was 4 years old. She went first into foster care, then was later adopted. I was young and foolish and tried to forget about it, but I couldn't. Soon I started trying to find her. I wrote letters, made phone calls, checked every lead I could find, and had a large network of friends and relatives trying to help.
Meanwhile, I married again and had two more daughters. That marriage ended. Then another woman in my life and two more daughters. But that ended, too. Then in 1980 I met Kate. We married, but never had any kids. But she stuck with me through my searching, and tried to help, mostly by just being there for me, praying a lot, occasionally following up on a lead herself, and teaching me to use this strange machine. Sometimes she had a hard time dealing with my obsession, but she never quit on me.
In April of 1996 we bought a new computer and got online. I started surfing the internet and found that there were a lot of databases, and a lot of places to look for help, even including chat rooms for folks in my situation. Through one chat room, WBS, I found several people who were in my position, or had been where I was but had found the person they were looking for. They were all willing to help. Eventually, one of these people sent me the email address of a lady named Karen, who was pretty sure she could find my daughter, even though we didn't even know her adopted name. The only information we had was her birth name, date of birth and the probable name of her foster family. I think I made contact with Karen on a Friday.
Late the next Monday night I got an email message from Karen. She had searched her database and found what looked like a match. The first name was close, though not exact. The birthdate matched. The location matched. And the last name was the same as the name of the foster family. This information came complete with phone number and address. My wife immediately called our pastor, since we were both at a loss as to what to do next. We had no idea if my daughter would want to have any contact with me or not, and we didn't want to just go rushing in and scare her away. So our pastor, Tom, offered to try to call her for us. It was too late to try that night, so we reluctantly agreed to wait until morning. That was one of the longest nights of my life! The next morning Tom called us first and we talked about what he would say. We wanted to make sure he made her understand that we had no intention of trying to come between her and her adopted family. They raised her (and did a wonderful job of it!) and had earned the right to be called her parents. But we wanted her to know she had another whole big family who loved her. So Tom made the call. Since Kathy still had her maiden name, we figured she would be working, and didn't really expect to be able to make contact until that evening. But Tom called back in a matter of minutes with the news that it was indeed our Kathy, and that she had been trying to find me! I kinda went to pieces. Kate says I was standing on the sofa laughing and crying and yelling.
Kathy was waiting for us to call her, so Kate made the call. She and Kathy hit it off immediately. By the time I had collected myself enough to talk to my daughter, she and Kate were already trying to figure out how to get together! Turns out the reason for the first name not matching exactly is that when the adoption was final, Kathy decided to change her first name to Kathleen. That's also Kate's name. And they both have red hair. With two red-headed Kathleens in my life now, I have an idea I'm in for it!
That first phone call lasted over 3 hours! Kathy found out that she had four half-sisters, a grand- mother, step-mother, and countless aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews and cousins that were all waiting to meet her. And Kathy was anxious to meet all of them, too, so the call ended with the beginning of plans to meet on Sunday and promises to talk more during the week. I realized that Kathy only lived about 20 miles from one of her half-sisters, and gave her Jenny's number. Then I called Jenny myself and told her the news. Again, the tears and laughter flowed freely. While we were on the phone, her call-waiting beeped, and it was Kathy. So I hung up and let them talk for the first time ever.
Meanwhile, I called lots of relatives and friends,
and emailed many helpers, to tell them the great news. Then the phone
rang. It was Kathy. But I could hear my grandchildren's voices
in the background...she was calling from Jenny's house! Then she
and Jenny said they had to hang up and they'd call right back. When
they did, it was a 3-way call, including Gina, my youngest daughter.
So we had three of my girls, Kate and me all on the phone at once. You never heard so much chattering and laughing in your life! And all three of them laugh the same. Jenny says Kathy looks exactly like me. Since I have a full beard, I found this thought a little scary. This craziness went on for over an hour. Finally we were all worn out, so we hung up with promises to talk again the next day, and more plans made for getting together that weekend. Our phone bills will look like the national debt, but it's worth it.
While Kathy was at Jenny's house, Jenny's fiance came in with a cake that said "Welcome Home". They all lost it again and called me to tell me about it. My future son-in-law is one fine fellow! That gesture may have been the catalyst in making Kathy feel like she is truly part of our family. Thanks, Reuben. I love you, Man!
As I'm writing this, January 4, 1997, the reunion has not yet happened. We just found Kathy this morning. I have been walking on the ceiling all day, but there is no happier man than me right now. And Kate's just as happy as I am. It's hard to believe that after all these years I finally have all my family again. Kate, a genealogist, says that now that we've found all the live relatives she can go back to looking for the dead ones. And Kate and my mother and I are going to Jenny's this weekend to see them all. That's still four days away, and it may well be the longest four days I've ever spent in my life. So I'll try to spend my time constructively, building this page so that somebody else might have a day as happy as this. And after the reunion, I'll tell you all about it, complete with a picture or two.
Today is Monday, February 10, 1997. We just got home late last night from the trip to MD to bring some of our family back together. It was a some trip!
My mother, and Kate and I left about noon Saturday, in the middle of a snow storm to drive across the mountains. The weather was terrible and the roads were worse. But I don't think an earthquake would have stopped us. As we got closer to Laurel, the weather and the roads got worse, and so did my nerves. Mentally and emotionally preparing to see a daughter you've searched for all these years is wonderful, but it's not easy. You just can help wondering what she'll be like. And if you'll measure up to her expectations. And how she'll blend with the rest of the family.
After over 7 hours on the road we finally got to Jenny's house. Kathy was already there. She thought she and Jenny and the grandkids were going to leave early the next morning to drive to Frostburg and meet us there. Frostburg is about the halfway point between us and it's also where my youngest daughter, Gina, goes to school, so the original plan was to meet there. What Kathy didn't know was that we changed the plan so we could have more time together. Poor Jenny had an awful time stalling Kathy, who kept trying to get them to go ahead and leave for Frostburg on Saturday before we got there. But being the resourceful woman she is, she managed.
Just as we were getting out of the car, Kathy came out the front door, on her way go get something from her car. She saw us and stopped dead in her tracks, then ran back into the house! But not to hide. She knew it was us, but she couldn't believe it, so she was looking for confirmation. I think she may have been looking for somebody to prop her up, too. She was even shakier than I was.
Once we got in the door, she latched onto me with a hug that lasted for a very long time. Off and on (mostly on) for about 10 hours, if I remember correctly. She and I had both brought pictures, scrap books, and I had her baby book with me. We looked at the pictures, asked questions, and tried in vain to catch up on everything that had happened in the last 26 years. There were a lot of tears and a lot of laughter. We'd talk for a while, then it seemed she just had to rest her mind before she could absorb any more. I rocked her in my arms and she would fall asleep for a little while, then wake up with more questions. Some of it was sad. Kathy was already upset that she didn't find her mother before she died 17 months ago. And I had to try to explain to her why she was put up for adoption. It wasn't that her mother didn't love her, but she became very emotionally and mentally disturbed and just couldn't cope with her children anymore, so she left. Kathy's mother was a very sick woman, but she wasn't a bad person. She couldn't help herself and wouldn't let anyone else help her. And I learned over the weekend more about why I was given no say in the adoption. Kathy's mother had told everyone that she and I had never been married, and also that I was in prison. Neither of these stories was true, but since I hadn't known what was said about me, I couldn't defend myself. Apparently the adoption agency was so eager to have children available that they didn't bother to check out the stories.
Kate finally fell asleep about 4AM, but I don't think Kathy or I got more than 30 minutes sleep (in 5-minute increments), and by 7 we were all back in full swing with getting to know each other.
Somewhere in there we gave Kathy a teddy bear. She collects them (and so do I!), so we had gotten her a big cuddly one. Kate had embroidered Feb 8 1997, the date of our first seeing each other again, on its scarf. So Kathy will have something to remember that day by.
About 9:30 on Sunday morning, Kathy's half-brother, Kevin, arrived with his grandmother, Louise, who had kept Kathy in her home when she was little, before she was adopted, and who felt like Kathy was one of her own grandchildren. Louise would have been more than welcome to this reunion anyway, but since she had been very instrumental in helping us find Kathy, she immediately became part of the Shue family. Kathy's two grandmothers had a lot of stories to swap!
A little while later, my niece, Joyce Ann, arrived with her husband, daughter and son-in-law, and her son and granddaughter. Joyce Ann's granddaughter, Lizzie, is my Mom's great-great granddaughter, and Mom had never seen her. Mom hadn't even seen Joyce Ann or her kids for 20 years. So you can imagine what a reunion this was! And Kathy was surrounded by a great big loving family and she loved it.
Things were pretty crazy in that small house for a few hours. Then some of the folks went home and Kathy, Gina and Kevin went to get a lot of film developed. They came back in an hour with a big bag of pictures that we distributed to everybody, and then we took more pictures. This time somebody had had the foresight to get some Polaroid film. So we already have lots of pictures to show, and will soon have at least one on this page. While they were out, Kathy and Gina also bought another teddy bear for Kate and me to give to Kevin. That seems to be becoming the traditional way of welcoming a new member into the family. Though Kevin isn't biologically my son, he's Kathy's half-brother, and both of his parents have died. So we've sort of "adopted" him into our family. I was proud of my girls for thinking of getting the bear for him. And very proud of the way Jenny and Gina opened their hearts to their new sister and "brother".
One of the really odd things that happened was that Kevin already knew Joyce Ann's son and daughter. They had gone to school together, but never had any idea there was any family tie between them. It's so ironic how close we've all been to finding each other for all these years.
By 5PM we started trying to say goodbye so I could begin the long drive back home. This was the hardest part for all of us. But we promised to get together again as soon as possible, and I don't think it will be long. Just hope the weather's better next time! My poor Mom is usually in bed by 9PM, but last night she was a trooper. We got her home about 10, but her neighbor was there waiting for her and I bet they stayed up half the night with Mom telling her every detail. When Kate and I got home, neither one of us had to be rocked to sleep! I don't remember the last time I slept that peacefully. I finally have my family all back together! Thank you, Lord!
I have two more daughters besides the ones involved in the reunion. But Angie is in California and Pati is in Indiana. I hope it won't be too long before I can have all five of my girls and all my grandchildren together in one place. Kate says we better move to a much bigger house first! But it doesn't really matter. As long as we're all together it can be anywhere.
Now I intend to get down to the business of trying to help other birth parents and adoptees find their families. God has blessed us so much, and the best way I know to thank Him is to try to help others.
During the next 6 weeks, Kathy visited us in West Virginia a couple of times and I went back to Maryland once. Kathy was very unhappy with her life in Maryland, so she decided to move to West Virginia. So we helped her find a house 18 miles from our house. In ever-perfect hindsight, I see that this was way too much, way too soon. Kate and I both thought this was probably a less than great idea, but how do you say no to the daughter you've just found? The adjustment period has been rough on all of us. Kathy and Kate have a major personality conflict, but we're trying to work it out. Kathy, raised in the north, is very...uh... assertive. Kate, raised in the South, is quietly (well, usually quiet) tough. It's been a case of the irresistible force meets the immovable object. Almost like a culture clash.
Kathy has been starved for a real family all her life. So she kind of plowed in like a bulldozer. She wants to be the constant center of attention. Kate understands this (or tries to), but she's a very private person who doesn't take to being crowded or pushed. She's had a hard time dealing with Kathy's constant demands for attention and her being around far too much. Kathy, on the other hand, has had a hard time understanding why the father who searched for her for 26 years doesn't feel the need to be with her every waking minute. She didn't know us before we found her, and hasn't figured out that we had our own life, too. But we're all working on adjusting and we'll get there sooner of later.
The point? Just a word of warning. If you're looking for a lost family member, and you're blessed enough to find him/her, PLEASE remember that things don't always turn out like a fairy tale. In some cases the person you find might not appreciate being found. Luckily, this wasn't the case with us, but you should be prepared for it, and ready to accept it. If that person did want to be found, don't try to rush a relationship. You may be close blood kin, but you're still strangers. Give it time. Don't make demands and don't let that person make demands of you. Let the relationship grow slowly and naturally. Be grateful for gradual growth and don't try to force it. I'm lucky because I love my wife and daughter, and they both love me. And I hope they'll eventually learn to love each other. But we went too fast and there has been anger and hurt feelings. Now we have some repair work to do that can only be accomplished with time and space.
Don't get me wrong...Kate and I are both very glad we found Kathy. But we have made mistakes and I hope you won't make the same ones. And whatever you do, don't get caught in the middle!
It has now been over six months since we found Kathy. Things have gone from bad to worse to intolerable and Kathy is supposedly packing up to move back to Maryland. During the last several months she has made a valiant effort to destroy our entire family. She has disrupted all of our lives and has tried to break up every family relationship...between Kate and me, between us and my other daughters, and between her sisters themselves. She has lied to everyone and lied about everyone. All the time we were trying to be patient with her and give her the benefit of the doubt, she was doing all she could to tear us down. If it weren't for the fact that we have many loyal friends, this might have taken much longer to come to light and the damage might have been worse. But Kathy pushed several other people to the point that they felt they had to tell us the things she was saying about us. We didn't want to believe it at first, but we heard it from too many people. There seems to be no limit to what she will do for attention. She has been banned from our home since June.
This is a very hard story to tell. It's heartbreaking to have such an ending to a story that started out so happily. And it's disappointing to realize that the dream I've had for so many years of having all my girls together as a family will never come true. But it has taken years of work on everyone's parts to build the relationships that Kate, my other daughters and I have. We can't allow Kathy to keep trying to destroy us.
The up side of all this is that in her efforts to destroy all our relationships, Kathy has actually brought the rest of us much closer together. I guess you could say we had to circle the wagons. But I've never been closer to my youngest three daughters than I am now. It might sound heartless, but as far as I'm concerned, I only have four daughters now, not five.
Do I think there's a chance that things will ever work out? Not really. Kathy has shown herself to be extremely immature and destructive. The only way she could ever be allowed back into the family is for her to prove to all of us that she has changed. Not only do I not think she can change, but she will probably never get the chance to prove it if she did. None of us are willing to allow her back in for a second shot. If there were nobody else involved in the equation but me, I probably would give her chance after chance. But I love my wife and my daughters too much to let Kathy keep wreaking havoc on their lives. She has already ruined her own life and seems bent on taking the rest of us down with her. But we're sticking together and have become much stronger because of it.
Have I become cynical about adoptee/birth family reunions? NO!!! I hope and pray that this is a very unusual case. Kathy is a disturbed little girl. But I think in most cases reunions can be worked out in ways that will benefit and enrich everyone involved. But as I said before, heed my warnings and TAKE IT SLOW! Don't try to force emotions that need time to grow naturally. And don't expect anyone to put their entire existence on hold to center their life around you. It most likely won't happen and people will get hurt. Do try to find the person you're searching for. Just remember they have a life of their own and need time to make a place for you in it. I sincerely wish you the best of luck. I have only told you our story so that you can be prepared for the worst. It isn't likely to happen to you.
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