October 3, 2004

"To say I am connected to someone, that I do have heritage, is important to me," Larry Adams said of the wall of photogrpahs in his Midland apartment. Until recently Larry didn't even have a photo of himself as a baby. "Childhood was a blank, family was a blank. Until a year ago I had nothing. It was like my childhood never existed," he said. (Photo by Ryan Wood/Daily News)

Searching for a Family:
Angela E. Lackey , Midland Daily News 10/03/2004

Midlander Larry Adams has very few good memories of his childhood in foster care.

"My bedroom was a cot out on the enclosed back porch. ... I was given one meal a day. This was dinner and it was expected to last me until the following night. I was not allowed to eat this one meal with the family. A plate was prepared for me to take out to the back porch to eat alone." -- "Lost Son? A Bastard Child's Journey of Hope, Search, Discovery, and Healing" by Lawrence P. Adams.

This was his last foster care home. On his last night there, an older teen tried to sexually abuse him. He wrote that he punched the teen in the mouth and broke a front tooth out. Adams was 11 years old.

Adams was born Feb. 7, 1950 in Detroit's Providence Hospital. His unwed mother placed him for adoption. In spite of at least three prospective families, he was never adopted.

Instead, he spent about a decade in Wayne County's foster care system. He was moved 14 times. He remembers receiving little love or affection from any foster family except the Monshors.

"I had to sit and think really hard of the memories of the Monshors," he said.

Mildred and Ernie Monshor were Mom and Dad to him. Then Mildred Monshor was accused of abuse.

"It wasn't true," Adams said.

He said Ernie would sometimes drink and hit his wife. The couple were fighting one night and the authorities were called. Genevieve, one of the Monshors' adopted daughters, said it was Mildred abusing Larry.

"She didn't like Mildred," Adams said. "She had no idea what she began. ... They used that allegation to immediately get me out of the house."

The Monshors weren't allowed to adopt Adams.

He said Genevieve, who has had a life of drug abuse and mental instability, still doesn't fully understand what she did to him.

However, Ernie Monshor's drinking problem and his abuse of Mildred could have meant more problems for Adams. He readily admits he would not have gone on to college had the Monshors adopted him.

Adams and Genevieve recently made contact. Soon he was getting letters from Genevieve asking for money.

"I had to break that off," he said.

Adams was a college student when he suddenly heard from former foster parent Mrs. Wagner. He stayed at the Wagners Jan. 26, 1955 to Aug. 12, 1955. She said she had $1,000 from a savings bond for him. She brought the money to Adams. He writes:

"Mrs. Wagner seemed rather distant and cold. She would only talk in the lobby of the dorm ... I wrote her after her visit to thank her for the funds, which were much needed by me. I never heard from her again."

Adams suspects the Wagners were potential adopted parents. The Bellmeyers were also prospective adoptive parents. Adams stayed with this family Aug. 1, 1952 to Dec. 11, 1952.

He was then placed back at the Monshors.

Adams' first plane ride was to Boys Town in Nebraska in April 1961. Father Edward Flanagan founded Boys Town in 1917 for homeless, neglected and otherwise troubled boys. Boys Town was a wide open campus with "acres and acres and acres." Girls were placed there starting in 1979 and the name was changed to Girls and Boys Town.

The social worker who flew with him refused to talk.

"I was scared as hell and mad," he said.

His first thought upon landing was, "Where the hell am I?" A priest came to pick up the 11-year-old boy, saying Boys Town was a "place where you have a lot of brothers."

A picture shows Adams when he first came to Boys Town. He's in a white shirt and dark tie, hair combed neatly. He was standing in front of a wooden door, his eyes frightened and his shoulders slumped.

Adams didn't realize at first that he would stay at Boys Town. He expected to be told to pack his bag and get ready to move.

Physical discipline was not allowed at Boys Town. The philosophy was if the boy was given the basics, any discipline problem would take care of itself.

"Boys Town saved me," he said. "It took me a number of years to realize that. ... I could very well be in prison or dead."

Each boy had to leave Boys Town by 5 p.m. graduation day. Adams said more boys were coming in and the thought was, "We've done all we can." It took him 19 years after graduation to go back to Boys Town.

He and another Boys Town graduate moved into a "little dump" in downtown Omaha and got jobs for the summer.

"For $75 a month, we weren't going to complain," Adams said.

Adams began looking for family members in the 1980s after the first of three heart attacks. He was hindered by incomplete records.

"Back then, they didn't have to keep a whole lot in the records," he said.

Throughout the years, he asked this question -- "Why wasn't I adopted?"

"I know I was somewhat unhealthy," he said, referring to a bout of whooping cough at 2. There was no indication of behavioral problems.

There was also no record of his mother's parental rights being terminated. One record stated he was briefly returned to his birth mother, while other records show that never happened.

"I wonder if that could have hindered (adoption)?" he asked.

He met his mother in 1986. Adams never told her he was gay. Then his mother said she rather her son die of AIDS than be gay. The tenuous connection was broken.

"Once I walked out, she realized she did direct it toward me. She didn't care," he said. "That was the last time I ever saw her or talked to her."

His birth sister Claudia was there when his mother said that. After their mother died, he sent flowers, but didn't go to the funeral. He thought Claudia understood. He wrote a few letters to Claudia, but her letters became more distant.

He tried to reach her two years when he was in Chicago. He sent her children a Christmas check, which was cashed. But he heard nothing from her.

He has met many extended family members. He has become close to some, such as his distant cousin Carol.

He has also met 90-year-old cousin Dorothy and 92-year-old cousin Florence. Adams described Dorothy as "mentally sharp," but with several physical problems.

Adams has four siblings on his mother's side and one on his father's side -- or so he thought. He later found out he has another sibling on his father's side, fathered in Germany during World War II. He wrote one of his father's sisters about 14 years ago, but she didn't write back.

He met his father in 1990.

"He admitted to being my father, (but) he always kept a distance," Adams said. "He tried everything possible to put me off."

His father's letters became less and less frequent.

"I think my father felt guilty," he said. "It wasn't intended that way."

Pictures, mainly black and white, hang on his living room walls. A few more are scattered throughout. There is one of Adams when he was 3 days old.

Several of his relatives, including Carol, insisted he had to write and publish a book about his experiences.

"Just to shut everybody up, I decided to research publishers, not thinking I had a chance in hell," he said.

"I didn't think I had anything to say," he continued. "I didn't want to sound like a whiner. Whiners bug me."

He found writing good therapy -- it healed wounds he didn't realize were still there.

"The more I kept writing, I thought maybe somebody could benefit," Adams said.

The result was his first book, published by PublishAmerica. The book is both his story and tips on finding biological family. His second book is called "A Voice from the Voiceless & Forgotten ... An Anthology of a Foster Care System Child Survivor."

"It still seems strange sometimes," he said of having a family.

Family means spending all night at the hospital with his 4-year-old nephew, Tracy, recently hospitalized with a staph infection. It means holiday meals with Carol and her family. It means going to the wake when a family member dies.

"That's what family does," he said.

Adams can be e-mailed at larry@larrya.us. His book can purchased at www.larrya.us.

İMidland Daily News 2004

Article Two from Midland Daily News"