The Washington Adoption Reunion Movement (WARM) is a group that has helped adoptees reconnect with their birth families for nearly four decades. However, volunteers are cautioning people after a relatively recent change in state law allows adopted people access to their original birth certificate.
"Ever since the law was passed, we have had people call us or email us in sort of a panic because they made contact and it did not go well," said Valerie Oren Stewart of WARM. "Even if they were prepared, the person they contacted was unprepared."
Generally, this is when a person reaches out to a birth parent. WARM recommends having a go-between, so there is sensitivity for both sides of the reunion. Some states still consider an original birth certificate a sealed state record, but with the 2014 change in Washington law, anyone can have access to their records.
"Everyone should have access to their own records," says Oren Stewart. "And adoptees, for many years now, have said, 'I have been denied this basic right that other people don't even think about.'"
Dave Rowan recently used WARM's services. He requested his original birth certificate and saw his birth mother's name on it. Rowan later called the group and asked them for help. A short time later, he and his birth mom Nina were sitting at her home in Lynnwood.
"I think it's a fantastic idea to use this group of people," says Rowan. "They're compassionate, kind, wonderful, easy to talk to and very efficient at what they do. I've got nothing but thumbs up for those guys. They're great."
Rowan grew up in Edmonds but now lives in Oregon. He has met three biological siblings and has information to begin the search for his birth father. Rowan said he never felt the need to search for birth family when his [adoptive] parents were alive but got a little curious after their deaths.
His birth mother, Nina McFarlane, said she fell apart out of excitement when she got the call from WARM. But McFarlane said she's glad it worked out the way it did.
"I was just absolutely amazed," said McFarlane. "I very much like the way it happened. I would have been happy if he would have just called me up. That would've been fine, but a lot of women might go, 'what is this popping up in my life now that I thought was over?'"
WARM's mission is to reconnect families who are separated through adoption. Sometimes volunteers help uncles find nieces or information of a deceased parent -- it is not always birth child to birth mother. Since the group started in 1976, it has more than 10,000 clients on record.
To find more information, contact WARM here: https://www.warmsearch.org