International Soundex Reunion
by Anthony S.
wasnt until Emma May Vilardi pursued answers to why she had been afflicted
by so many illnesses that she was to learn that ancestors and genetics were
the key to the answers. Daring a Probate Judge to unseal an adoption record,
she quickly learned that her ancestors had succumbed to the same diseases.
Isnt it true that all adoptees have wondered
at sometime in their lives about their birth family and their health? Where
would an adoptee go to learn their birth familys medical history? Most
adoptees do not know a name or a place where adopted from to make such an
inquiry. Would any medical history recorded be current? I doubt it, since
most birth parents do not know where to update vital medical history, especially
when the placement was a private one or the agency is gone. Private placements
offer no access to the adoptee upon reaching age of adulthood when the attorney
records are the only placement records and the attorney had retired or died.
Not all illnesses or diseases were known at time of placement and many had
surfaced after the fact of the adoptees birth. Now what?
The answer was obvious to Emma May, and with
an endorsement from the Academy of Pediatrics and the support of pioneer
adoption movement leaders, she launched the International Soundex Reunion
Registry. For the first time, all who had a need or a desire for contact
with their kin, had a place to make themselves available to each other. It
was strictly mutual, no intrusion, and it was a free service. Announcements
were sent to all social services to affiliate with ISRR and to refer inquiries
from searchers to this new registry. In 1975, the State of Montana was first
to affiliate with ISRR. Today many states provide some forms of post-adoption
services resulting from the demands of our growing adoption community. Most
of these agencies impose some restrictions, fees and many must wait long
periods of time for processing applications. This is unacceptable where time
is of the essence. Post-adoption services are not a priority when there are
Is any registry the sole solution to resolve
adoption social issues? Absolutely not! Reunion registries are only one of
a searchers tool. A greater understanding and support is essential
if society is to provide for the unique needs of the American adoption
Lets not deny a birth mothers inquiry
to learn the actual date and sex of the child she bore. How absurd to comment,
we are sorry that is identifying information, You should of
remembered! Or when an adoptee asks, Can you please tell me where
I was born? Sorry, thats identifying info. Is something
wrong with this picture? You bet! Some people are incapable to understand
the meaning of their responses to those inquiring. When a birth occurs in
one state and the adoption in another state neither state seems capable or
willing to provide some post adoption service. This, too, is sad. The lack
of information or misinformation are obstacles the registry must works through
to determine if there is a match. A crystal ball would help.
A registry service is not intrusive. Reunions
go well for most. Registrants choose their means of communication, although
most want to meet as soon as possible. Many observations were noted from
the many thousands of matches. Most notable are birth mothers comments
that, at last theres closure. Yes, its true there
was closure in one chapter of their book of life, however it opened up a
new chapter, title: relationships. What did the adoptee get from
their reunion? They call it connection. They all sought answers
about their ancestors. So many, many questions to ask about health, looks,
characteristics, traits, conception and placement. They love to find siblings.
Adoptees love siblings. These are normal needs for anyone to know answers
to. Adoptees do not seek a replacement for adoptive parents. They dearly
love their adoptive parents whom have nurtured and loved them most of their
lives. They only wish that their parents would be understanding of their
need for answers. Where the adoptive parents have been supportive in their
childs quest, these reunions have faired very well.
Do registrants to a registry match need advice?
Absolutely! Expectations of what each will experience differ vastly. The
ISRR staff is quick to provide counseling to registrants. Adoption support
organizations can certainly help and publications are now available to address
the issues of feelings and expectations of a reunion. Good readings for
What would ISRR support? Thats easy.
First, total access to an original certificate of birth for the adoptee.
Second, an amendment to all state vital statistics act to provide birth parents
a non-certified copy of their child birth certificate. Its use is informational
and it does confirm sex, date and place of their childs birth and name
of attending physician. It may be the only document a birth mother would
ever receive about her relinquished child.
Will that help us? You bet it would. Accurate
information helps make many more reunions.
At this writing, ISRR maintains registrations
for more than 174,000 registrants. The ratio of adoptees to birth parents
and family has remained constant through the years. Five adoptees register
for every three birth families. Obviously, the supposition that birth mothers
do not want to be found has no validity. Also, the cause of the pregnancy
is not a deterrent to a reunion. Births resulting from incest and rape are
included. Some have admitted abandonment of their child. Although rare, ISRR
has reunited a once abandoned child with her birth mother and two full siblings.
Very few will admit to such a deed.
For the many families this registry had reunited,
it was for most, probably their only opportunity for connection to each other.
Yet for many, ISRR remains perhaps their only source of hope that someday
they too will be reunited.
It was a remarkable woman with a vision and
courage who undertook such an important humane task.
This registry is Emma May Vilardis legacy
to the adoption community.
Emma May Vilardi, nee Sutton, was born in Kansas
City, Missouri on June 23, 1922; she died on July 9, 1990.
The ISRR Executive Board of Trustees has been
entrusted to ensure for the future generations the continuing operation of
the registry. United today for the reunions of tomorrow. Call ISRR at (775)
882-7755, or visit our website at
www.isrr.net for information and
Excerpted from the October 2001
edition of the Operation Identitiy Newsletter
© 2001 ISRR