It’s one of those successful adoption stories where the child and family are a perfect match and all goes well.
But this story had a surprising twist when the adopted mother and adopted child met the biological mother.
It all began 25 years ago when Tampa resident Nadine Smith, principal of grades 5 through 12 at Centre, and her husband, Kevin, wanted to adopt an infant because they were having difficulties conceiving a baby.
On May 9, 1985, they received a phone call from an attorney, telling them a 21-month-old girl was available for adoption.
The couple lived in Ellsworth at the time and had to travel to the attorney’s office in Russell that day. So, Nadine and Kevin left their jobs that morning exuberant, knowing they were about to meet the child they hoped would be their daughter.
After a long day of waiting and fearing things were not going to work out after all, they finally were told to go into the attorney’s office.
“We walked into the office, and there she was,” Nadine said.
The little girl was sitting on a secretary’s lap with a soda in one hand and a cracker in the other.
The couple took their new daughter, Megan, home to Ellsworth. The family had the usual adjustment period with a new toddler. After all, Megan missed her mother and her home, but she soon became acclimated to the Smiths and life in Ellsworth.
Time passed and Megan became involved in school and community activities.
After graduating from high school, Megan went to Fort Hays State University and earned a degree in communications.
She was working at Youthville Dec. 10 as a public relations professional in Wichita when out of the blue, she received a telephone call from her biological mother, Nita Drake-Schuster.
“I was in shock,” Megan said.
Just six months earlier Megan was curious about her biological mother. Her adopted family had never kept any secrets from her about the adoption, so she knew her biological mother’s name.
Megan had heard many times about that day in May 1985 — affectionately referred to by the Smith family as Gotcha Day. She had searched the Internet and found Nita’s profile on a social network site.
Did Megan look like her biological mother? Was Nita happy, healthy, and safe? When Megan realized that Nita’s life appeared to be happy, her curiosity was satisfied.
“That was enough for me,” Megan said. “I could have e-mailed her but didn’t know if I was a secret (from Nita’s family).”
And now, here it was — six months later — and Megan received a telephone call from the biological mother she hadn’t seen in nearly 25 years.
The two began e-mailing each other and Megan quickly realized that she and her biological mother had a lot in common and Megan wanted to meet her after all.
Three weeks later, they planned to meet.
“I was all for it,” Nadine said. “It’s the best thing that’s happened for Megan. It’s a piece of the puzzle that was missing for her.”
Nadine was so much in favor of the meeting she went with Megan to the Kansas City area Jan. 9 to meet Nita.
“Megan and Nita’s first meeting was a lot like the first time I met Megan,” Nadine said.
Everyone was nervous, anxious, and excited.
So, what was it like for Nita to see her daughter again?
“I was overjoyed to be able to meet Megan, face-to-face,” she said. “I always had that fear that maybe Megan didn’t want to meet me. It was such a relief to know she did.”
Since that initial reunion, Nita and her 12-year-old son, Tyler, have been included in Nadine’s family gatherings, and most of Nadine’s family has meet them.
Megan also visited her “new” family on Easter and they will get together again Memorial Day weekend.
For Megan, her experience at Youthville was invaluable as an adoptee. She learned there is a narrow window of opportunity for children — typically birth through 3 years old — when everything needs to be done to find permanent homes for children.
“There’s a huge need for children to find good homes,” Megan said.
Nadine considers her family lucky to have found Megan during that crucial time period and knows from other people’s experiences that it can be difficult for families to adopt older children, and it was especially so 20 years ago.
“There weren’t services available for private adoptions,” Nadine said. “There was no counseling.”
However, Nadine had a strong network of support because adoption was common in her family with her sisters adopting children and the family’s acceptance of all children into their fold.
This year’s celebration of Gotcha Day is even sweeter as it will fall on Mother’s Day.
Nadine doesn’t see anything unusual with her supporting her daughter’s desire to meet her biological mother. Nadine and Nita are friends.
“What parent wouldn’t want their child’s life enriched?” Nadine asked.
“I never wanted to take anything away from Nadine,” Nita said when she decided to locate her biological child. “Nadine told me later in a letter that she considered me a sister. What a blessing this has been.”
Nadine and Kevin are also parents of a biological daughter, Katelyn. Megan and Katelyn share an apartment in Wichita.
These days, Megan’s job at Youthville has been cut because of budget constraints, so Megan is volunteering as a court advocate for children.
“I have to help children,” Megan said. “I plan to adopt someday. My experience at Youthville and as a CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocate) volunteer is preparing me to be a better parent.”
Nadine, who will leave USD 397 in June for a superintendent position in Mankato, believes that nurturing children is important.
“When a child enters your life, we can make a difference,” Nadine said. “It’s not by what we say, it’s what we do.”
Nadine believes her attribute as a mother is the legacy she passes on to her two daughters, just as nurturing is her mother’s legacy.
“I always knew I was lucky to be adopted,” Megan said, smiling at Nadine.