This article is reprinted with permission from People Searching News
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In August 1976 adoptee Mary Kirk placed an ad in the Personal column of the Seattle Times inviting adoptees to call her. Eight did, including Marilyn Dean. It was from that core group Washington Adoption Reunion Movement* (WARM) was created, although known then as “Birthright.” By 1977 WARM had branches in Spokane and Mt. Vernon.
Initially, WARM meetings consisted of adoptees and adoptive parents. They didn’t know any birth parents. During their bi-weekly meetings, they discussed how to search. Without a clue, members began asking the adoptive parents for information at the encouragement of other parents who were WARM members. Their techniques for searching, primitive at best, soon led to wondering how to make contact. They decided that a third party might be safest and best. By February, three reunions had taken place. It was to be a monumental year for WARM.
Adoptive parent and WARM member, Violet Sprague went to the County Court and connected with a social worker and a judge, both of whom were adoptive parents. The Superior Court jurist, the Honorable Norman B. Ackley became a “regular” at WARM meetings and, ultimately, their mentor and guide. In February of 1977 a state-wide agency Task Force had formed for the purpose of discussing how adoptees could access information in Washington. The Children’s Home Society hosted the first of many of those meetings. Meanwhile, WARM was growing and their media exposure had begun to take on a life of its own. Their all-media interviews led to speaking engagements at the invitation of adoptive parent groups.
Encouraged by the spirit and momentum WARM demonstrated, Judge Ackley reviewed the law. Adoption records could be opened “for good cause shown” which was, thereafter, at the discretion of the Court to define. An innovator, Judge Ackley proceeded to write a procedural format allowing adoptees to petition the Court, and for the Court to appoint a Confidential Intermediary to conduct a search. In the summer of 1977, the first file was opened, and the WARM Confidential Intermediary System became an effective reality. By 1980 judges in 35 of the 39 counties had agreed to follow suite. By August of that year, 450 files had been opened with a success rate of 97% (‘success’ meaning a release for contact had been obtained). Today, WARM has completed thousands of searches with a better than 90% success rate.
Some judges in Washington wanted the Intermediary System to be incorporated into the adoption law. It took WARM and a host of agencies 11 years to persuade the Legislature to do that. The bill was passed in June 1990. By 1995, with the WARM CI System as a Model Act, 18 other states introduced intermediary systems.
WARM’s ultimate objective, of course, was (and still is) to persuade the WA legislature to open sealed records “on request.” It is an objective for which they continue to strive with no less energy than they invested for the Intermediary law. Until such time as the Legislature “gets it” — and even after they do — triads in Washington still have the choice of a certified, well-experienced intermediary.
In 1978, WARM started networking with support groups outside Washington state. The concept of a national organization for groups and triads was discussed and formed. WARM assisted in the development and structuring of what became the American Adoption Congress. Today WARM networks with many organizations and search/support groups throughout the United States and abroad in a co-operative effort to educate and change the ways society views adoption.
Over the years, WARM has hosted more than their fair share of conferences with the same success and aplomb they enjoy as a search and support group. The leadership in WARM has balanced the seriousness and sadness genre to the issues with mirth with humor. WARM’s own spirit of networking has encouraged others to do the same, a point of light that has added to the respect, if not splendor, with which they are regard in the Movement.
*Originally Washington Adoptees Rights Movement, then Washington Adoption Reform Movement, and finally Washington Adoption Reunion Movement.