Blog by LSSNCA Director of Outreach, Dana Lea
One of the pleasures of my job as the Director of Outreach is speaking directly with current and former clients to collect stories we can share with our community of partners and supporters. Because I do not work directly with clients in my daily capacity, it is always inspiring when I am able to connect with expanded families, refugee youth, and recently resettled refugee families to hear and record their stories of success, challenges, and gratitude. Sometimes these stories are light-hearted and even funny, other times they are extremely personal and heart-warming, sometimes even heart-breaking.
This week, I had the opportunity to connect with Sharron to record the story of her successful reunion with her sons. Sharron came to LSSNCA social worker, Imelda Rempson, to perform a Break the Seal. Break the Seal is the process of a birth parent or adoptee petitioning the courts to release information from an adoption case file after that case has been closed and the adoption finalized. Often those that initiate Break the Seal are hoping for a reunion with a birth parent or child. LSSNCA can provide this service for those whose adoption cases we previously processed.
When I interview a birth parent on adoption, my first question is personal: why did you decide to put your child up for adoption? I asked this question of Sharron first. But I was taken aback by her candid and emotional answer: “I never gave up my boys. They were taken away from me.”
Sharron went on to explain that she lost parental rights to her sons when she went to prison. Sharron was a chronic drug user and had sons ages one and two years old that she could not care for without a job. When she was arrested while soliciting in a residential neighborhood, her sons went into the care of LSSNCA.
Sharron was able to go back and forth with visitations until she was convicted with a felony and placed in prison for three years in Northern Virginia. Upon conviction she was served papers terminating her parental rights to the boys. Unfortunately, Sharron had no other outlet for them since she was distanced from family members because of her drug usage.
After being released from prison, Sharron tried to find her sons but they had been adopted and their case finalized. Making it even more difficult to relocate the boys, the spelling of Sean’s name had changed and her older son’s name changed to Corey.
Sharron wanted her sons to know that she never stopped loving them and never gave them away. The Virginia law terminating parental rights for parents convicted of a felony does not exist anymore, except in extreme cases like murder or sexual assault. According to Sharron, “today you are able to come out [of prison] as reformed and get custody of your children back.” Unfortunately, that was not the case for Sharron.
Sharron tried to find information on the boys herself but could not. Additionally, the boys’ adoption social worker was no longer with LSSNCA and the adoptions occurred when everything was done on paper. It was going to be difficult to relocate them years later.
Two years ago, Sharron says she “decided to get myself together and try to find them again.” She got in touch with LSSNCA and was connected to Imelda Rempson. Sharron says “Imelda went above and beyond the call of duty to locate them. I did everything she told me to do and we finally set a date for me to reunite with the boys.”
“I thank God that Imelda stepped in and found them,” says Sharron. “They were both living in two different locations. She used social media to find them and we had to petition the court and legally make that connection.”
On September 17, 2020, Sharron was reunited with her boys. She rounded up their other two siblings (a 28 year old sister and 22 year old brother) to come and rented an AirBnb so they could all reunite together. “I could have all my children together in one place for the first time,” says Sharron.
Now, Sean, 27, lives with Sharron and her husband in New York and is doing well. Corey, 26, lives in California and calls every day on video chat. He is thinking of trying to visit soon (when it is safe to travel) and Sharron would like to reunite with all of her kids again.
I asked Sharron what she was surprised to learn about her sons, who were taken from her when they were so young and are now grown men. Sharron had a few responses. First, she noticed that Corey was like his father’s identical twin – his mannerisms and everything. Sean also has the exact same smile as his sister, who has the same father.
Further, she learned that the boys’ adoptive parents passed away when the boys were teenagers. After this Corey joined the Marines and Sean traveled as a way to search for himself.
Sharron also learned that she searched for them at the right time. Corey told her that if she had looked for them sooner, they might have felt reluctant because they were attached to their loving, adoptive parents. It would have been too difficult to be pulled from them. Sharron says, “God allowed me to find them when I found them. It wasn’t time the other times.”
In conclusion, I asked Sharron what her advice was for other birth parents hoping for a reunion. “Never give up. There is always somebody who will help you along your process. Not everyone is the same that you speak with. Keep revisiting the situation and see who is going to come on board and help your process and search.”
After questioning Sharron I stop to thank her for her time and her openness. Her candid and emotional story might help other parents that are looking to reunite with their children or give faith to an adoptee that their birth parent is out there still thinking of them. I for one want to thank Sharron for her strength. Not only did Sharron overcome a drug addiction, but she never gave up in the many years searching for her sons.
Ultimately, families are made in so many different ways. But the one thing they should have in common is love – whether or not they are formed by genetics or adoption, or reformed through reunion and hard work.
If you are interested in expanding your own family we encourage you to reach out to LSSNCA. We work with families to foster Unaccompanied Refugee Minors and conduct home studies and adoption services. Visit LSSNCA.org for more information.