Answers Heal Debra's Heart

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Answers Heal Debra's Heart

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Posted: 3/28/2009
Note: Names, Identifying informaiton and details may have been altered to protect personal identities.

/images/stories.asp?i=20110523134327.0.jpg"Over 30 years ago my brother and I were given up for adoption because my mother was unfit to take care of us. I already found my brother John, but I need to know the rest of the story."

A few months ago, all Debra knew about her birth mother was her name--Barbara Lowery. She remembers her mother as a kind, loving woman, but those pictures are stained with memories of abuse and neglect from Barbara's boyfriend, John's father. When Debra was just 3 and her brother 4 they were taken by social services and put into foster care. Debra was fortunate to be adopted at age six, but she never knew what happened to her brother or her birth mother.

She was 16 when she first felt the need to find her birth family. She was 30 before she found her brother. He was not as fortunate as Debra, and she was heartbroken to discover that he was never adopted, but bounced in and out of foster homes and group homes throughout his childhood and adolescence. As a teenager he sought for belonging and found a place in a prominent Los Angeles gang. Unfortunately this path led to drugs, prison, and a life of heartache.

"I jumped through so many hoops to try to find John. A friend of mine used his resources in law enforcement to help, but John was listed as a 'transient' in the database. I went to his last known address hoping to find some direction, but it was a rehab clinic. I could have stopped looking then. In fact, when I sat down with his parole officer, he told me to leave it alone. He recited my brothers criminal record and emphasized that John is not the same person I knew as a kid, he has changed. I knew there was a chance I might not like what I found, but I had to find out anyway. Finally his P.O. gave me the information. John was incarcerated and scheduled for a hearing the next week and I could go--if I wanted to.

"I thought about it. I agonized over it, but I had come this far and I couldn't give up now. So I went, and brought with me an old photo of the two of us together. As I looked into the faces of each criminal I tried to identify my brother, but couldn't find any trace of the John I knew. A few days later I went to the jail to meet him. I'll never forget sitting across from him for the first time. My heart was in my throat, but when he started talking, I knew it was him. All I could think was 'this is my brother.'"

Debra wrote to him for months afterwards and they began to get to know one another. She started to piece together his life story and reflected a hundred times on how different their lives had been. Sometimes she blamed her mother for the circumstances that led to their separation. "I wondered what ever happened to her, if she thought about us or if she had other children. I asked myself what kind of woman lets her kids get taken, and why she never came back for us," Debra said.

Finally in 2008 Debra decided to get the answers. Her husband and children encouraged her to call Search Quest America after seeing Troy Dunn on an episode of Dr. Phil. "We didn't have the money, but my husband talked to my kids and they decided to do it for me as a Christmas present."

Thanks to Debra's investigator, Susan, she was able to find the answers to her questions. But as Debra says, it was 'bitter closure.' Her birth mother passed away several years ago, but Susan did find her sister living not far away. The only problem was that there was no phone number. "Susan told me to write to the address and wait a few weeks for a response. I said I would and hung up the phone. But then I called back a few minutes later and said, 'Susan, I just have to go over there, I cant wait!' She warned me to be careful, but I figured, what's the worst that could happen? I took my husband with me and we just knocked on their door. My auntie opened the door and all of a sudden I couldn't think of anything to say. My husband asked her if she had a sister named Barbara. She said she did, and he pointed to me and said, 'then this is your niece.' She looked at me hard in the face, and then went pale like she had seen a ghost. But she let us in!"

Those two hours changed everything for Debra, including her perspective. She discovered that her mother was also a victim of abuse. "Getting involved with the wrong man cost her more than just her kids. It cost her life. Just a few years after we were taken, John's father locked her in a room for several days without food or water. The only thing she had was alcohol and she drank herself to death. All of a sudden the pieces came together and I realized that the reason she never came for me wasn't because she didn't love me. Its because she never got away. I realized that I wasn't the victim, I was the survivor."

According to her aunt, Debra looks just like her mother, and sounds like her too. Her family always wondered what happened to Debra and John, but had given up hope of ever finding them. Debra hasn't decided yet whether to tell her brother what she found. "Now that I have the information I can put this chapter of my life to rest. But that man was John's father, and I don't know if it would help him or devastate him to know what happened. I can give him an aunt and extended relatives he never knew he had, but is it worth it? I just dont know."

When asked what advice she would give to individuals searching for answers of their own, she said, "Pray about it and if its right, pursue it. Be confident that it will all work out one way or another. It can be painful, but finding the answers brings closure."

Debra wants to send a message to the world about the terrible consequences of abuse. "This situation ruined my brother's life and scarred mine. All my life I have had abandonment issues. Now I'm just trying to break the cycle and teach my children a better way." Debra's son, 20 and daughters, 17 and 2 are proud of their mother for her strength of character and determination. We are too.

(Written by Mica Burton on Debra's behalf.)
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