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RapidChat: Erica Curry VanEe on meeting her biological family, a push for adoption reform & more

While Urban Curry Consulting will always be her lifeblood, Erica Curry VanEe is currently embarking on a newfound adventure. Due to her circumstances of being relinquished for adoption at birth, she has recently been re-inspired to impact the lives of other adopted children through The Legitimacy Movement, an organization that is looking to bring awareness to the need for action on adoption policy reform. 
Erica Curry Van Ee

While Urban Curry Consulting will always be her lifeblood, Erica Curry VanEe is currently embarking on a newfound adventure. Due to her circumstances of being relinquished for adoption at birth, she has recently been re-inspired to impact the lives of other adopted children through The Legitimacy Movement, an organization that is looking to bring awareness to the need for action on adoption policy reform. 
 
Rapid Growth Media: At birth you were relinquished for adoption, but recently were given the chance to meet with your birth parents for the very first time. What was that experience like?
 
Erica Curry VanEe: Reuniting with my biological family has been the most transformative experience of my life. It is hard to put into words what it is like to discover so many aspects of one’s identity later in life, but is most certainly a gift that I cherish and am thankful for daily. It was as if I was looking in a mirror my whole life, but I only saw half of my reflection.
 
When I was reunited with my biological mother, father and siblings last summer, I saw people who resembled me physically, emotionally, intellectually, and spiritually for the first time in 45 years. When I look in the mirror now, I see my full reflection.
 
RG: I imagine all of this has had a pretty significant impact on your personal development?
 
ECV: Yes, the impact on my personal development has been profound, and this has been by far the most complex and rewarding experience of my life to process. Being reunited with my family has been an extremely positive experience. It takes tremendous courage and risk to go on this journey. You cannot be wedded to any outcome.
 
It is a roller coaster ride, and one has to be anchored and prepared for the worst while hoping for the best. I cannot put into words the depth and breadth of my gratitude for Betsie Norris, a fellow adoptee who had the agency to change the law. She advocated for the 27 years for legislation to release original birth certificates to adult adoptees in the state of Ohio. My own search for my identity paralleled these 27 years. I filled out adoption search registries, contacted my adoption agency, petitioned the courts for my records, and even hired private investigators. I never thought this day would come.
 
Applying for my original birth certificate was only the first step. I still needed to do the search, and that may have led to a dead end, literally or figuratively. Amazingly, we found my biological mother in less the than an hour on Easter Sunday morning. We found my biological father and siblings by early afternoon. And they welcomed me with open hearts and minds.
 
I found my tribe and over the past year, we have met, fallen in love with each other, and become a family. With that being said, I love the family I was raised in and would not trade that experience for anything in the world. My mom and dad are the people that raised me, and nothing can ever change that, I am so thankful for them. But knowing my biological family has brought a wholeness to my identity that I was searching for all my life.
 
RG: Do you ever feel hostile towards the situation?
 
ECV: I love myself and my life, and know that I would not be who I am were it not for every experience, including my adoption and reunion. I know my birth parents made the best decision they could at the time and it was the right one. I ended up in the family I was meant to be in. And I married a man and family that I adore. What I feel sad about is the way adoption was handled back then. It’s a time in history known as the baby scoop era, where there was a lot of shame, secrecy and almost all the records were closed and sealed for life. I disagree with this practice, as it's not healthy for anyone in the triad to have the relationships severed in this way.
 
RG: Because of your experience, you are advocating for adult adoptees to have access to their original birth certificate nationwide. What does this mean for other adoptees?
 
ECV: The period for each of the 30-plus remaining closed records states differs, but in the state of Michigan, records are sealed from 1945-1980. That means if you were born before 1945 or after 1980, an adoptee has the legal right to their original identity after they turn 18. But for those in that 35-year window, records are sealed for life. There is a program in place called the Confidential Intermediary program, which is costly and involves a third party to help facilitate a transfer of identifying information if both parties are on a registry and consent to contact.
 
These patchwork policies have been marginally effective and it’s not a viable solution, particularly in the case of death of either or both the adult adoptee and biological parent. Sadly, the oldest adoptees are now in their early 70s, and many of their birth parents are likely dead, which means they too will go to their grave never knowing their true and full identity. It’s just wrong, and I want to work to change this.
 
RG: That’s amazing! Furthermore, you are a pretty big advocate for several local issues within Grand Rapids.
 
ECV: Yes, I speak out for what I believe in! I am creative, adaptive and future-oriented in my thinking, and this can sometimes clash with policies and practices that are designed to protect and preserve the status quo. I am passionate about social justice, equity and inclusion, hospitality and home-sharing, and radical love as a response to all forms of hate. I believe as a community we need stand in the gap to ensure the voices of our citizens are heard and acted on, particularly those that are the youngest, oldest, and most vulnerable.
 
RG: You have some great passions! Is there anything else we haven’t covered?
 
ECV: My number one passion is to live out my life purpose: to love and serve God all the days of my life. My husband Brian is my greatest love on Earth. I found him later in life and am grateful for every moment we spend together. We invest a lot of time into our relationships with family and friends, because in the end, that’s what matters most. We recognize how precious and short life is, and how fortunate we are to see our family grow over this past year. Our life is full with parents, siblings, kids, grandkids, Godkids, nieces, nephews and cousins who are always close in our hearts even if we don’t see them every day.
 
Outside of work, Brian and I are active in our local church Tribes, and are co-owners of The Loft at Union Square, a bed and breakfast we started in 2014. We have absolutely loved welcoming people from all over the city to our home on the West Side. We promote local restaurants, events and cultural institutions, and we also give back 25 percent of our profits to nonprofit organizations that are changing the world of children, youth and families in our community. We both love to travel and dream of engaging in more mission work in our future. I have heart for mentoring, especially young women making their way in the world.

Jenna Morton is the RapidChat correspondent for Rapid Growth Media.
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