Kevin Butlers adoption reunion resonates with readers who share their own adoption stories – cleveland.com

CLEVELAND, Ohio The texts and phone calls, the emails and social media posts, the hugs and the handshakes started last Sunday morning for Kevin Butler and his birth parents, Chris and Jan Frey.

And it has continued nonstop, said Butler. I am treading water just trying to respond to the nice messages we have received.

On Sunday, The Plain Dealer and cleveland.com published the story of Butlers reconnection with his birth parents at age 42. When Ohio law changed in 2015 opening birth records for individuals adopted between 1964 and 1996, Butler sent away for his birth certificate and discovered who his parents were, a couple who eventually married, had six kids and lived in Euclid.

Butler, the Lakewood law director, also discovered that his birth father, Chris Frey, had served as law director of Euclid. He knew him. It took two years for him to tell Frey, and their happy reunion was a tearjerker.

Lots of tears. Everyone that sees me wants to hug me. I expected reaction from people who knew us, but I never expected reaction from strangers, said Jan Frey.

The Plain Dealer

Kevin Butler sits on his front steps with Chris and Jan Frey, his birth parents. Butler requested his birth certificate two years ago when the law changed and allowed adoptees to do that. He discovered that his birth father was the law director of Euclid, whom he's known much of his professional life. October 11, 2019 (Gus Chan / The Plain Dealer)

The story has been viewed more than 220,000 times online and it was shared tens of thousands of times on social media. Facebook and Twitter posters say it brought them to tears and many also said the story resonated because of their connection to adoption, either because of friends they know or their own stories.

Betsie Norris, executive director of Adoption Network Cleveland, said Butlers struggle with how to approach his birth father struck a chord with her because she counsels many adoptees facing the same issues.

People dont have to struggle through alone. We are here, she said.

Many adoptees are still on that journey.

Said Butler: I did get a lot of messages from folks who I didnt know who said, Hey Im adopted, and I have a somewhat similar story. One has invited me to a Facebook group where she blogs about her reunion and family situation.

Tracy Wise, of Bay Village, shared her own reunion story on Twitter after reading about Butler. Adopted in 1983, she never sent away for her birth certificate and has long wrestled with whether she wanted to find out about her birth parents.

Earlier this year, a friend at work bought her a 23andMe DNA kit as a gift. She sent in the saliva sample. A short time later, she was contacted by a woman in South Carolina, 37-year-old Vanessa Logan, who is just a year older than she is.

And thats when I found out I have a half-sister, said Wise.

Logan had registered with 23andMe after Wise did. When Logans DNA report was finished, she was notified of a possible relation to Wise, whose DNA profile was already in the system.

Thats when Logan reached out.

Logan told her that their father was a man named James Logan, a former North Olmsted councilman and mayoral candidate in the 1980s. He and his wife divorced soon after Vanessa was born. Wise already knew from non-identifying information provided to her through Catholic Charities, which facilitated her adoption, that her birth mother was 19 when she had her. She learned from Vanessa Logan that her birth father was 29.

Wise was born in Euclid Hospital. Her birth mothers identity is still unknown and its unclear whether her birth father ever knew her birth mother was pregnant. Wise cant ask him; he died several years ago.

His childhood best friend, who I talked to, didnt know I existed, Wise said.

She and Logan talk weekly and keep in touch on social media. They hope to meet soon.

It really is a small world and Cleveland is small, Wise said. Vanessa moved to Florida after her mom was divorced and then moved back. I grew up in West Park and she lived in Fairview and Westlake at that time. We found out we share a lot of friends. When we connected we were on Facebook and she was like, How do you know this guy? Hes my best friend. And it turns out hes good friends with one of my best friends.

Wise also saw a photo of her birth father when he was younger. She said he looks so much like her son.

The fairy tale reunion of Kevin Butlers story doesnt happen for everyone. Some never seek a reunion. Some dont find open arms, as he did. Wise said the joy of the Butler and Frey families after their reunion has made her think about whether she wants to seek her mothers identity and reconnect. She wouldnt even have considered it while her adoptive parents were alive, but theyre both gone now.

Maybe I should file with the state. It just gets your wheels turning, she said.

Still, shes hesitant.

Ive got a pretty full life. Im married with three kids and I work, she said. I am not sure I want to put someone else in that position. I respect her choice [to place me for adoption.] Id accept a reunion; I just dont think Im proactively seeking it.

A mother reconsiders adoption

Kelly Flannery Standish was set to place her son for adoption in 1980 when she was a teenager. She connected with Jan Frey, the mother who placed her son for adoption and featured in The Plain Dealer. Flannery decided not to go through with the adoption. Her son, Tim Smith, is an assistant basketball coach at St. Edward High School where her brother, Eric, is the head coach. (Photo by Rolly Standish)

Another Plain Dealer reader, Kelly Flannery Standish, felt a connection with Jan Frey because she, too, became pregnant in her teens and she, too, left home for the final months of her pregnancy.

It was the first time Id ever seen my father cry, she said. I felt like I had disappointed [my parents] so much, I would have done anything they told me to.

Like Jan Frey, there was a cover story: She was visiting relatives out-of-state. Her fathers business acquaintance in Kentucky would take calls for her there and relay messages, she said. Her mail was sent to her, too.

Standish gave birth to a son in 1980 at the now-closed St. Alexis Hospital in Cleveland and the plan was to place him for adoption, a plan laid out for her father by a friend, who was a priest.

But she said she changed her mind.

Unlike the Freys, she hadnt signed relinquishment papers. Her son was placed for several weeks in the same Cleveland infant home Kevin Butler had been in, she said. She and the boys birth father, Brian Smith, were to go in and sign documents for the adoption, but it didnt happen, she said.

I said. I cant do this. I cant give this child away, Standish said.

She took her son, Tim Smith, home and finished high school as her mother-in-law took care of the boy during the day.

We got married because they said thats what we had to do, she said. They had another child, and they divorced a few years later.

Standish said she understood the emotion Jan Fry experienced, and the pressure to place the baby for adoption and to keep the pregnancy quiet.

The first thing I thought of was her and how she hoped for a reunion, she said. When I look at my child, I think, What would my life have been if hed been adopted. Would I be looking for him? Would he have wanted to find me? I cant imagine Kevin meeting his mom and dad after 42 years. That doesnt happen. Thats movies stuff.

Its the feel-good movie of a lifetime, said Jan Frey.

My God, how incredibly lucky we are. I just pinch myself, she said.

Everybody mentions the coincidence [Kevin and Chris both being law directors and knowing each other before Kevin discovered Chris was his birth father]. But honestly, to us, thats a little sidebar.

The story for all of us is that hes back in our family. It just makes me want to cry. Im so happy.

Originally posted here:
Kevin Butlers adoption reunion resonates with readers who share their own adoption stories - cleveland.com

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