California adoption laws hinder a woman’s quest for the truth

Smith told Temple her story, about how as a young teacher, she’d had a brief affair with a serviceman by the last name of Hall, who probably never knew she got pregnant. Smith put the baby up for adoption and went on. But through her life as a teacher and eventually as a mother again, she never forgot about the child she gave up.

For Temple, meeting her mother ended years of longing. She came to realize, after several visits, that the reunion was even more important for her mother. After a visit by Smith to Temple’s home in Los Angeles, Temple found an index card under a seat cushion on which her mother had written: “Redeemed from shame, guilt, self-loathing.”

When Smith died in 2000, Temple was at her side.

Temple’s new family of cousins humbled her with their loving embrace. Kroeker says Temple has a habit of closing her eyes while formulating an answer, just like another of his cousins. At a gathering of 12 cousins, Temple learned that eight are doing or have done missionary work. Temple runs the Integrated Recovery Network, which helps keep people with mental illnesses from jail and homelessness.

Temple’s search for her biological father, a man her mother could tell her little about other than that his last name was Hall and that he’d been a child preacher, has been more complicated. She’s researched hundreds of Halls.

Olney recalls attending a Tennessee church service led by a fire-and-brimstone preacher known as Brother Hall. The California visitors must have looked out of place, Olney says, because one curious worshipper approached with a question.

“Just passin’ through?”

Brother Hall, now deceased, insisted Temple couldn’t be his daughter, and he eventually agreed to a blood test that proved him right.

Temple has since come to believe her father was from Philadelphia and died many years ago. She is treading carefully, knowing that if she’s right, her very existence could come as a shock to his survivors. Still, she has a fervent wish to know for sure, and she believes many of California’s thousands of adoptees do, as well.

She supports a bill introduced by Assemblyman Sebastian Ridley-Thomas that would allow access to information without court intervention. He said nine other states allow access, and despite understandable privacy concerns on the part of some biological families and adoption agencies, he and Temple believe there should be at least minimal information available to those who want it.

“You’d get to know the name, but you aren’t entitled to a relationship,” said Temple. “What this is all about is knowing the truth.”