Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Facebook reunites mother and long-lost son

Snagged this story off AFC. I'm updating this post to correct my faux pas of not giving credit where credit is due!

Social networking scores again!!

Linda Nguyen
Vancouver Sun

Lori Haas, 37, of Vancouver has spent every day since July 3 with her son Travis Sheppard, 20. Sheppard had moved to Vancouver four months ago from Winnipeg in hopes of finding his mother. She found him through a search on Facebook.
CREDIT: Handout
Lori Haas, 37, of Vancouver has spent every day since July 3 with her son Travis Sheppard, 20. Sheppard had moved to Vancouver four months ago from Winnipeg in hopes of finding his mother. She found him through a search on Facebook.

Lori Haas never thought the journey to find the baby boy she gave up in a closed adoption 20 years ago would end on Facebook.

The closed adoption meant all the relevant documents were sealed, and Haas spent a decade waiting to get her son's name through an active registry, where the names of birth parents and adopted children are revealed at both of their requests.

When she got the name but no other identifying information, the 37-year-old nurse tried Google searches to see if anything would come up. It wasn't until June 24 that a friend suggested she try typing her son's name into the popular social networking website.

"I thought, Let me put his name in and see if anything comes up,'" said Haas, a Richmond resident who had been a Facebook member for less than a month. What she got was a list of Facebook members with the same name as her son. "There were probably about a dozen names, but when I saw one of the tiny pictures, my heart went crazy."

She showed her older sister and friends the small photo, three by two centimetres. Haas knew deep down it was her son. He had her smile, her eyes. But it took her a week until she overcame uncertainty and messaged him on Facebook.

"I wrote to him that I was looking for someone I might be related to and asked him if this was his date of birth and full name," she said. "Twenty-five hours later, he messaged me back confirming it was him. I freaked out."

Haas said that when she became pregnant at 17, she never told her parents, friends, or the child's father that she was carrying a baby until after she gave birth a few weeks before her high school graduation.

"Just knowing that I was very young, I knew that I couldn't take very good care of him," she said. "His father and I had just broken up after being together for a few months. It was very high-school-drama and such a traumatic time for me." She went off to Langara College and dropped out after a year.

Looking back, Haas said her attempts to get away from her hometown of Richmond, including moves to Toronto and Texas, were all the result of not being able to deal with what she had done.

"I thought I could continue with my life as normal. I was naive. I couldn't focus on anything. I couldn't move forward. My life had been halted," she said.

But life went on. She eventually married and had two more children. Her son, 11, and daughter, 9, grew up knowing that they had an older brother out there somewhere. Little did they know, their older brother Travis Sheppard was also dreaming of some day finding his birth family.

Four months ago, Sheppard packed up his life in Winnipeg and came to Vancouver to track down the mother he knew only from adoption papers.

"All I had about her were two or three paragraphs when she was 17 about her goals and ambitions, that was it. All I knew was that she wanted to be a sports therapist and that she wore glasses," said the 20-year-old, who works for a collection agency.

Sheppard grew up in Victoria before his adopted parents moved the family to Winnipeg. His adopted parents told him "as young as I could remember" that he was adopted and were supportive of his journey out to B.C.

It was fate that Sheppard met Haas on Facebook at all, considering that he had planned on deleting his account. He said that when he clicked on Haas's profile after she sent him her message, he started to shake.

"I just knew she was my mom," he said. "I was so shocked and overwhelmed that I had to send her photo to all my friends just to make sure I wasn't getting too excited, to make sure I wasn't seeing things."

Since meeting in person in a Commercial Drive restaurant on July 3, the two have grown close, visiting Vancouver landmarks together. They resemble each other so much, they're commonly mistaken for siblings.

Sheppard has also met his birth father, Paul Baker, 39, and his maternal grandparents. He hadn't expected the reunion to be so complete.

"When I came out here, I didn't want to get my hopes up just in case my mom didn't want to meet me," Sheppard said. "I heard the horror stories before, but it's been everything I dreamed of."

According to the Adoptive Association Families of B.C. website, there were 280 children adopted in the province last year. One adoption expert says people using Internet tools like Facebook to search for children given up for adoption should be cautious, since they don't know what state of mind the children are in.

"On one hand, the child might have no interest, and on the other hand the child might've been thinking about this reunion for a decade," said Doug Chalke of the Sunrise Family Services Society. Chalke, executive director of the Vancouver-based licensed adoption agency, said parents should be ready to handle high emotions.

"You should be ready for rejection, disappointment and to involve adoption counsellors to assist in paving the way for what is going to be really traumatic," he said.

Chalke said parents who give children up for adoption these days usually want to stay in touch, making closed adoptions a thing of the past. "Things are definitely changing in B.C. with more and more open adoptions from the start," he said. "The old secret days are pretty much gone."

7 complaints from ingrates:

Anonymous,  July 17, 2007 at 10:09 AM  

"The old secret days are pretty much gone."
I wish that were the case.
Thanks for a great tear-jerker to start the day!
Waiting, waiting along with you.

jim, a dirty little secret from michigan.

Unknown July 17, 2007 at 2:30 PM  

3 million members and growing.

not surprised facebook had a reunion. im sure there will be many more!

Anonymous,  July 17, 2007 at 7:14 PM  

That's a great story.

She looks so great that they do look like they could be brother and sister. And I say that in the most un-icky way possible. ;)

Kelly July 17, 2007 at 10:03 PM  

This is a good story; I agree:)

Thanks for the comment:) I am in shock; can u tell?

Hugs from Atlanta,

MOL_Am_Ris July 18, 2007 at 9:45 PM  

Awesome awesome story, thanks for sharing it!

Lizard July 19, 2007 at 10:20 AM  

Great story but I hate the end. Damn adoption "expert" says to be cautious because they "don't know what state of mind the children are in," and that these ADULTS should involve adoption counsellors to assist in paving the way. Sigh. Terminal children.

Ungrateful Little Bastard July 19, 2007 at 11:13 PM  

They need to ju$tify their existence; otherwi$e they may loo$e out on their confidential intermediary fee$$$$

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