When people would ask her about her ethnicity, Savannah Romero, 20, would answer, “I’m Native American, and I don’t know the rest.” She knew her mother but not her father — that is, until last year, when she met him for the first time.
Growing up, Romero was always involved in her Native culture. When she enrolled at the University of Washington in 2011, she took several American Indian studies classes, which helped her develop an even better understanding of it.
“The more you know [about your heritage], the more you can begin to conceptualize and learn more about yourself,” Romero said.
Romero explained how she was born to a single mother and alternated living with her mom, her grandparents and foster-care homes.
A few men could have been Romero’s father, but her mother always thought that it was someone named “David Young.” Her mother thought she looked like him.
“I don’t look like him,” Savannah said, laughing and showing a photo of him on her phone. “Hella blue eyes, right?”
With his goatee, pale skin and blue eyes, there wasn’t much of a resemblance.
Before Romero met her father, she would search for him on Google in hopes of someday meeting him.
“I kind of grew up with this unconscious belief, I guess, that I wasn’t good enough to get to know,” Romero said, speaking slowly, her face gentle and collected.
When she entered college, Romero gave up trying to find her father and made peace with it. But things changed two summers ago, when she worked at a Christian Young Life camp.
The counselors’ month-long challenge encouraged the campers to examine “the lies of their hearts.” That’s when Romero realized a lifelong unconscious guilt: her belief that she wasn’t “good enough” to know her dad.
“At this point, I had really embraced seeing God as my father and letting that be enough,” Romero said.
But what she didn’t recognize until then was that she had never asked God to find her father because she “didn’t feel worthy.”
The next day, Romero called her mother to check in, and that phone call changed her life.
Romero’s mother had recently helped a distant cousin find her biological father through Facebook. The father was so grateful that he wanted to return the favor and had set out looking for Romero’s potential father, Young. Eventually, he found Young on Facebook and sent the information to Romero’s mother.
“This was the day after I had said the prayer,” Romero said. “I believe that [God] wanted me to see Him as a father before I met this other man. It’s just crazy to me, how everything worked out. But I definitely think that it’s God’s work.”
It took Romero several months to write Young. Even when they did begin to talk, the two took the process slowly. In November 2012, they took a paternity test and confirmed their relationship. But, still, they didn’t meet until Romero returned from studying abroad in April 2013.
Young flew from San Francisco to meet Romero in Seattle, where they met at a restaurant, along with Romero’s friend and Young’s wife.
“It was like meeting someone else’s parents for the first time,” Romero said.
She paused, holding her breath as she looked up as if searching for words to describe the feeling. “It was just really weird,” she said with a smile.
Since their first meeting, Romero has seen her dad about every two months. Last summer, she and a friend spent a week at his home in San Francisco. She’s also met a new half-sister who lives in the Northgate neighborhood of Seattle and the large extended family on Christmas Eve.
Romero said the Christmas party was overwhelming but in a good way. “They were all very loving and welcoming,” she said. “I just don’t think there’s really a way to make that not awkward. I had some wine, so that helped.”
In October, Young put Romero on his medical insurance, something she could not afford since she turned 18. Now with health care, Romero was able to visit the doctor and dentist for the first time in two years.
“He’s just been so supportive in every way,” Romero said. “My grandparents are just so thankful and just so delighted about his presence in my life.”
Today, she is just getting used to calling Young “dad.” Though she’ll text him, “I love you,” she still doesn’t say it face-to-face. She says they just need time to build that kind of relationship.
“It was cool to finally know [the other side of her lineage],” Romero said.
Now, Romero can say, “Yeah, I’m Native American, but I’m also Norwegian and German, too.”
Social-media sites are becoming popular tools for reconnecting people to their birth parents and loved ones.
“For a number of years, I have been suggesting to people looking for their birth parents that they use social media,” said Georgia Kearns, president of Kearns Investigations Inc. in Seattle.
Kearns said that social media has become a more successful avenue than going through a private investigator, particularly for adoptees, since adoption records are sealed in most states like Washington.
Washington Adoption Reunion Movement (WARM; www.warmsearch.org) is a state-approved intermediary system based in Seattle that helps connect adoptees with their birth parents at a 94-percent success rate.
WARM treasurer Pam Queen, a reunited adoptee herself, said that Facebook is a good tool but not one that WARM prefers using because of privacy issues surrounding sealed adoptions.
She said that sites like Facebook could be dangerous for people seeking reunions. “Using social media is like walking up to somebody’s door and saying, ‘Hey, I’m your mom,’ ‘Hey, I’m your child.’”
Queen said if people make contact by themselves, they might run into issues that they won’t know how to handle. She described an incident in which a person used social media to reach out to a birth parent a couple months ago but did not receive an answer. WARM did its best to intercede in the situation, she said.
She said people would be more successful in their reunion if they had someone who is not emotionally involved in the relationship to make initial contact.
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