30 Years of Waiting for My Mom's Birth Parents - Part 7
We've come a long way on this journey together. Hopefully you've been following this story from the beginning and know where we are at. If not, you can get caught up here by reading the first story and clicking on the links at the bottom of each article.
This update will focus on the arrival and contents of my mom's adoption file from Catholic Charities, including redacted copies of the pages that I received.
The Arrival of the Packet
Twas the night before Christmas and all through the house...oh wait, wrong Christmas Eve story!
I had a sneaky suspicion that the adoption paperwork might arrive on Christmas Eve, but I wasn't completely sure. We had plans with family that day and I kept running out to the mailbox to see if the mail had arrived yet. I was about to step into the shower when I heard the mail truck in front of the house. I quickly shut off the water, threw on some clothes, and ran out to the mailbox...there it was!
I ripped it open and quickly flipped through the pages. It was a treasure trove of new information and I was so excited. Unfortunately, we were already running late (due to my mailbox monitoring), so I jumped in the shower and got ready as fast as I could.
I didn't have time to really read through all of the pages until we were driving to my parents' house. The information that I read there contained SO MANY new details that I am still looking into. Even though I have now had the packet for almost a month, I still flip through it regularly and discover new things that I didn't notice before. Read on to learn the new information that is relevant to the story I have been telling for the last several months.
Adoption Report to the Court from Catholic Charities
The first two pages of the adoption packet consisted of a letter from Ernest Leydet, the Executive Secretary of Catholic Charities, to the judge of the Lake County Superior Court who was overseeing my mom's adoption. In the letter my mom is referred to as "Baby Girl Sha****."
The report was dated March 9, 1964 (17 months after my mother's birth) and started off with a brief summary of her history. I was surprised to learn that she was placed in foster care for four months before being placed with my adoptive grandparents on February 8, 1963. (I had previously heard from a family member that she was in an orphanage with nuns, but nothing about a foster home.)
The letter mentions that the location of the birth mother, Carlene, was unknown at the time of the letter; however, items later on in the article contradict this statement. (More to come on that later.)
Some other items that I found interesting are the following:
- There was personal information about my grandparents that I didn't know previously.
- Medical records and personal references were required for adoption.
- There were some other letters from Catholic Charities later on in the packet that did not provide any new or relevant information worth mentioning in the article.
Copy of the Adoption Report
Adoption Consent Forms
There were three consent forms in the packet that involved transferring my mother over to my adoptive grandparents.
The first is a letter from Catholic Charities to a William O'Connor who I assume is my grandparents' lawyer handling the adoption. In this letter Catholic Charities explains that it is sending over the signed consents from the mother (Carlene). These documents are critical to the adoption process.
The second letter is a notarized document from Catholic Services confirming and supporting the adoption of Baby Girl Sha**** to my grandparents.
The third letter is the one I found most valuable/interesting. It confirms that Carlene was 25 years of age at the time of my mother's birth. She signed over custody of "Baby Girl Sha****" when my mom was 22 days old. I was actually surprised that it took that long for her to be signed over. (Later in the packet I would discovered that m mom was actually living at the foster home when she was signed over and she did not live with Carlene at any point in time.) While this form just had basic information, what I was most interested in was the signature of Carlene. Even though I did not know her, there was something sentimental about seeing her signature on the page.
Adoption Consent Forms
The intake form was by far the most helpful/interesting document in the entire packet. Because there was so much information and detail in this document, I am going to try to make these explanations as concise as possible.
- The intake form is dated July 28, 1964, almost two years after my mother's birth. (More on this to come at the end of the article.)
- The address listed at the top of the form was not far from my workplace. (I later drove past that area and discovered that it was not an area I want my car to break down in.)
- Carlene's son Michael is listed as being age 4 at the time. (What is odd is that Alan is exactly one year older than my mom and there is no mention of him on this intake form.) Another reason why this is odd is because Carlene admitted to having given birth to four children according to the birth certificate.
- Carlene was working as a waitress at the time the intake form was filled out.
- The marriage date on the form matches the marriage date of Carlene and Mike Sha**** that I saw in the newspaper clippings and marriage records.
- I find it very VERY bizarre that the handwriting on the page, especially at the top, is identical to that of my mother. I asked my dad if he noticed anything about the page and he said that he noticed it, too.
- There is a second address listed on the form. That location is also right by my work. I stopped there one day on my way home and saw the home. This is also the same address that was listed on the marriage license between her and her second husband, Bernard.
- Mike Sha**** is listed as being a Catholic. Carlene is listed as not Catholic.
- The due date is noted as mid-August - two months before my mom was born.
- Carlene quit school in the 12th grade and was an average student. Mike graduated from high school and was an inspector at NIPSCO. He was of average intelligence and in the United States Air Force.
- Carlene is listed as Irish. Mike is listed as Hungarian. (More on this later!)
- The notes read, "Mrs. S and ex-husband lived together 10 months - could not work difficulties out - he left home - she heard he was in the Air Force - divorced in February 1964." (Interesting intake notes for a birth that took place 2 years prior...)
- Carlene noted having no friends during this time. She was struggling to support her son Michael during this time (questionable based on other information I know) and was definite about putting up the baby for adoption.
- Finally, there are some medical notes regarding doctor visits.
Intake Form & Notes
The next document in the packet is one that made the "foster care" situation come alive for me. Though it was briefly mentioned on the first page of the packet, this next section actually put names and an address to the people who who were my mother's foster family.
According to the timeline on this sheet, my mother was placed with her foster family at 5 days old. She was transferred into the care of my grandparents on February 8, 1963 when she was almost 4 months old. She stayed there until moving out when she married my father in 1985.
The final significant piece of information on this page that I did not notice the first several times I looked at it was the name given to her at birth - Sandra. You will recall that I was surprised (and a little saddened) that a name had not been listed on her original birth certificate. When I found out that she wasn't adopted until 1964, I couldn't understand how a human could exist so long without a name. Now I have my answer, though I will likely never know who gave her that name or if she would have liked it.
Placement Information Form
The next two pages were the documents filed with the courts for my grandparents to adopt my mother. The pages summarize the details of the adoption and consist of information that can be found elsewhere in the packet.
I had called the Lake Superior Courts to get access to whatever they had in their files. It took over a month, but they finally located the file. I keep forgetting to call them back to find out, but I imagine the file consists of the pages pictured below.
A Letter Dated September 14, 1962
On September 14, 1962, exactly one month before my mom was born, the representative from Catholic Charities sent a letter to my grandmother's doctor, confirming that she was putting my mom up for adoption. In this letter, the due date was listed as late September. (You'll recall that the original note said mid-August, now late September, and her birth date was mid-October.)
A Letter Dated September 14, 1962
Another Letter Dated September 14, 1962
A second letter from Catholic Charities was addressed to a nun at St. Margaret's Hospital. The letter was a request for the hospital to notify Catholic Charities when my mother was born so that they could accept her into their care.
The biggest mystery/item to note about the entire letter was the following line - "Mrs. Sha**** has also requested that the alleged father be permitted to remain with her during labor. We have no objection to this providing it is in accord with hospital policy."
Who was the alleged father at that point in time? Was it Mike Sha**** like the entire packet notes? Was it her second husband Bernard DeB***? Was it someone else? And was the man that she was requesting be in the hospital room with her the actual father? Was anyone even there with her when she gave birth? I don't think I will ever know the answers to many, if not all, of these questions.
Another Letter Dated September 14, 1962
The birth information that was provided to Catholic Charities had a wealth of information on it. Only some of it, however, was noteworthy.
- The original birth date was listed as October 15, 1962. Someone handwrote the correct day in.
- The length of labor was 8 hours and 15 minutes.
- Gestation was 9 months.
- Her weight was 5 lbs., 12 oz. - smaller than both me AND my sister (who was the result of an emergency c-section).
- Her color was poor.
There were many idiosyncrasies in the adoption packet that just didn't quite make sense or add up. You can find them outlined below:
- Carlene's due date changed throughout the packet. First it was mid-August, then late September, and then the birth finally occurred in mid-October. This may or may not have influenced who Carlene said was the father during this time. It's possible she didn't really know the due date and was just guessing initially or that she was being strategic about when she said it was in order to use the Shaffer name.
- Carlene's address changed throughout the packet, as well. I drove past almost all of these addresses and they were all in the same general area of Hammond (Black Oak). Multiple documents mention that her whereabouts were unknown, but, with so many addresses on file, I'm sure they could have found her.
- There is no mention of Alan anywhere in the entire packet, even though he was born in October 1961.
- Carlene is listed as Irish. (She wasn't.) Mike was listed as Hungarian. The non-identifying information that was mailed to my mother in 1996 (and later to me) said he was German. I am not sure why I was provided different responses.
- The dates on the intake forms are a huge red flag to me. They are dated 1964 (after the adoption was finalized) even though my mom was born in 1962. I obsessed over this so much that I eventually called the adoption agency and asked the woman in charge about it. Obviously she would not have any firsthand knowledge of the situation, but I thought perhaps she had heard of similar issues or that there was some past practice that would explain it. Without getting into a long explanation of the phone call, she provided a very lazy, bulls*t response that didn't explain anything. She did not take the time to listen to what I was saying or asking her. I suppose that mystery will never be solved.
Despite some inconsistent information that doesn't quite add up, this adoption packet was like a dream come true to my mission. It contained a wealth of information that I would not have been able to find any other way.
The next article will feature information on my new uncle, Michael, who lives in Washington state. We've slowly been getting to know one another and building a relationship and I'm really happy about that. You can find that article here.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
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© 2019 Kasey Kolosh