After 30 years of combing through databases and Internet search results, a mother and the son she gave up for adoption have been reunited, thanks to a random message posted on the family history record-keeping site Ancestry.com.
Janice Lobaugh, a 48-year-old married mom of two who owns her own real estate company in Wasilla, Alaska, was just 17 when she was forced to give her 5-month-old baby boy, Therman Randall Blair, up for adoption.
"I had a very stressful childhood," Lobaugh told Yahoo! Shine in an interview on Friday. She and her younger sister discovered they were both pregnant on the same day, and their mother — a single mom already struggling to raise three kids — was not supportive. One Friday when Therman was just a few months old, Lobaugh left him with her mother so she could pick up her paycheck. When she called from a pay phone to check on him an hour or so later, her mom said that Therman wasn't there.
"I said, 'What do you mean he's not there? Where's my son?'" Lobaugh remembered. "She said, 'He got fussy, I couldn't deal with it. I called the police.'"
The police took the baby to a nearby social services organization; when Lobaugh went to go get him, the employees wouldn't let her see her son. Instead, they told her she needed to meet with a case worker the following Monday.
"So I went in and met with them," she told Yahoo! Shine. "The lady asked me if I had ever considered adoption, and I said, 'No.'"
"And she said, 'Janice, what do you want for your son?' And I said 'I want him to be loved, I want him to be in a good environment, I don't want him to be run through hell.'"
"I made the decision to put him up for adoption because I didn't have any options for the future," she told Yahoo! Shine, in tears.
Lobaugh visited her baby in foster care a few times, but she only found out that the adoption was in progress when his foster mom stopped her on the street. She told Lobaugh that the new family was changing Therman's name to Spencer Parrish.
"That was the last time I saw my son," Lobaugh told Yahoo! Shine.
She spent the next 30 years trying to find him. "Every time I'd see somebody with a small child, I'd look to see if it was him," she said, crying. "Never found him, never saw him." When she was 23, she asked state social services if she could contact the adoptive parents, and was told that it was a closed adoption and the family had left the state.
By 1997, Lobaugh was an Alaska state government employee. "So I would look to see if I could find him with the databases available to me," she told Yahoo! Shine. She started searching for him online, but Internet searches pulled up "pages and pages" of people named Spencer Parrish. "I had gone to some adoption sites and posted notices looking for my son, hoping he would find me," she said.
On February 21, 2013, she typed "Spencer Parrish" into Google, along with the last place she knew her son had lived: Juneau, Alaska. "And the first thing that popped up was a note that he wrote to me on Valentine's day, back in 2001," Lobaugh told Yahoo! Shine. He had posted the note — "Therman Randall Blair DOB Feb. 1983 looking for mother" — on Ancestry.com a few days after his 18th birthday.
"My name is Spencer Parrish Williams," the note read. "I was given up for adoption when I was about 5 months old. I have been looking for my mother for the past two years."
Former Army soldier Spencer Parrish Williams, 30, was in an airport in Atlanta, en route to Afghanistan as a civilian contractor, when his mom Teena Williams — formerly his foster mother — left him a voicemail saying that his birth mother had called.
"I broke down crying in the airport," Williams told Yahoo! Shine in an interview on Friday.
Now a married father of four in Sunset, South Carolina, Williams had always known he was adopted. "My parents never really hid it," he said. "They were very open about the fact that I was adopted. I guess they didn't want me to have any resentment growing up."
He decided to search for his birth mother when he was a teenager. As a kid, "I didn't really understand what adoption was," he told Yahoo! Shine. "I knew that it meant I was taken from my birth mother and went to live with another family, and I was OK with that until I started getting older and had questions I wanted to ask. I wanted to know who I was, where I was from."
His adoptive parents, Monty and Teena Williams, were always supportive of his desire to find his birth mother. He started small, with Internet searches that yielded nothing. He called the hospital in Alaska where he was born, trying to find out his birth mother's name, and then called every similar name he could find in the phone book. Finally, in 2001, he found an adoption message board on Ancestry.com, and posted a message there.
"I kept track of it for a couple of weeks," he told Yahoo! Shine. "Nothing ever showed up and I kind of lost track of it."
Twelve years later, Williams is amazed that the short note he had posted online as a teenager had led his birth mother to him. The two friended each other on Facebook, kept in touch while he was in Afghanistan, and finally had a long-awaited reunion in South Carolina on Thursday.
Lobaugh started sobbing as she hugged her son for the first time since 1983. Behind his sunglasses, Williams had tears in his eyes.
Williams told Yahoo! Shine that he is already in touch with the children of his biological father (who passed away in 2000), and is looking forward to meeting his newly discovered half-sisters someday soon.
"I would love to go back [to Alaska] and visit them," he said. "It's in the making."
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