Arizona Supreme Court intermediaries are helping bring natural families back together again.
PHOENIX – Though she gave him life, she couldn’t give him the life he deserved.
So Sally Baylor, 19 at the time, swallowed bitter tears, said goodbye to her newborn and gave him up for adoption. She didn’t even get a good look at his face.
“They took him from me right at birth,’ Baylor recalled. “I didn’t even know if it was a boy or a girl.’
For 28 years, Baylor had not succeeded in finding any information about her child, because all state adoption records are kept sealed and confidential.
But on Nov. 19, Baylor found help in Karen Crary, a court-appointed researcher with the legal power and expertise to handle adoption files.
Within 40 minutes of research she had found a name for Baylor’s son: Thomas Miller Morgan.
On Dec. 20, she found an address for him in Roanoke, Va. Crary decided to wait a few days before sharing her information, just in case Miller did not want to learn about his mother.
“I did not want to spoil both their Christmases,’ she said.
By Dec. 26, both parties knew about each other and had agreed to make contact. Three days later, they spoke over the phone.
Last Thursday, Miller was expected to meet his mother for the first time at Sky Harbor International Airport.
“She did a miracle for me,’ Baylor said of Crary.
Crary belongs to an elite group of court-appointed investigators who achieve such miracles daily. They are members of the Arizona Supreme Court’s confidential intermediary program, and go by the non-heroic moniker of intermediary.
Intermediaries also are experienced in public records searches and are adept at tracking down people who may have left the state decades ago.
When both parties agree, they can then give each information about the other, sometimes leading to meetings between blood relatives.
In 68 percent of the cases since July 1993, the program’s debut, both parties have agreed to contact each other, by phone, mail or in person, according to Torin Scott, program supervisor.
But the real proof of the program’s success lies with the stories of searches and reunions.
Intermediary Delite Gaddie recalled a search she conducted about a year ago for a 40-year-old man, adopted at birth, who was dying of lung cancer and wanted to find his birth mother before death.
Because of confidentiality laws, she did not give the man’s name.
Gaddie had no problem finding the man’s mother, but she did not want to meet her son.
Just when Gaddie had given up, the woman called her back and said she had changed her mind.
“He was able to fly and meet her in her home state,’ Gaddie said.
“He was one week or two from death. This woman, who had needed to give up her son to another mother, was there in his last days to take care of him.
“She bathed him, took care of him just like he was a baby.
“It was just a fulfillment for both,’ she said.
Not all cases end in success. Of the 32 percent that don’t, 8 percent failed when one party refused to cooperate, and another 8 percent failed when the searchers couldn’t find the missing party.
The remaining 16 percent covered parties who had died, adoptions outside Arizona or cases where parties agreed to share only medical records.
Beverly Quidort, an intermediary, recalled such a search from two months ago, where a young woman approached the program to find her birth mother.
Quidort was able to find the mother, who was terminally ill.
She refused to contact her daughter, because she said she was too ill to handle the stress. She had other children since and did not want them to know she had given up a daughter for adoption.
“She wouldn’t even talk. She said she would only sign an document to say that she wouldn’t be bothered again,’ Quidort said.
The adopted daughter was devastated. Though parents have a year from the time of first contact to change their minds, her mother was not likely to live that long.
“Sometimes it can be emotionally draining,’ Quidort said.
“The first search that I did, I dreamed about them every night. I couldn’t get them out of my mind.’
Other intermediaries say their victories and defeats take an emotional toll. They try to avoid the emotional roller coaster by not getting too close to clients.
Regardless of that professional distance, they say the successes motivate them to stay on the job.
Most intermediaries do the work in their spare time, keeping full-time jobs elsewhere. Most earn about $300 per case, volunteering up to half the time they spend on each search.
“They are a very dedicated bunch,’ Scott said.
Meanwhile, Crary was to show up Thursday at Sky Harbor’s Terminal 3. She was taking the afternoon off to meet Miller and witness his reunion with his mother.
“Sally wanted me there,’ she said.
She needed no more reason than that.