For years, letters came into the Catholic Charities offices in Charleston.
They offered birthday and holiday greetings, life updates and words of love from a mother to a daughter she had never met. An uncle who had only briefly held his niece sent her letters and photos each year on her birthday, telling her about family events and milestones, sending love.
One by one, these messages went into a file that had been set aside just in case a girl who had been born in Charleston and adopted through Catholic Charities in 1991 ever came looking for her birth family.
In the summer of 2017 that girl, whose name is KerryEllen Worley, began a search for her biological family and eventually found her birth mother through social media.
She then learned of the letters in her file and contacted Catholic Charities. Workers sent her the written proof that through all those years, her biological family hadn’t forgotten about her.
Worley, 26, is now married, living in the Upstate and working as a massage therapist. She tells her story as a testimonial to the special love offered by parents who adopt children, as well as the lasting love of God that not only has nurtured her through childhood but also helped her reconnect with her birth parents in adulthood.
Her birth mother and father were college students in 1991 and unable to care for a child when they decided to put their baby up for adoption through Catholic Charities. KerryEllen was adopted by a couple from the Upstate who already had one adopted daughter. She became part of a loving family imbued with strong faith in God.
“My parents were always very adamant in letting us know about our adoption, telling us we were special and chosen children, and God had a special plan for us,” Worley said.
Like many adopted children, she eventually became interested in learning who her biological parents were.
In 2017, Worley was able to track down the names of her biological parents. She contacted her birth mother through social media and eventually met her, plus her half-siblings and maternal grandparents.
After reading the letters from her Catholic Charities file, she said they are among her most treasured possessions.
Worley said her parents have been supportive of her searching for her biological parents, and have met her birth mother, but she acknowledges there have also been some emotional ups and downs during the process.
She said some people make the mistake of telling adoptees they have “found their real family” when they locate their birth parents. That, she said, is not an accurate description at all.
“The people who raised me are my parents and they always will be,” Worley said. “Family is not just blood. Family is the people who God put in your life, the people who surround you and walk with you every step in life. My parents are the people who picked me up when I was three weeks old and brought me into their family. There is no way I can explain the depth of love I feel for them.”
She explains that the experience of finding her biological parents and reading those letters her birth mother and her uncle sent to her over the years has added a rich, new dimension of love to her life.
“I tell people that my family has grown,” she said.
Top photo, provided: KerryEllen Worley (center) stands with members of her biological family: from left, grandmother Mary Storch, birth mother Christine McCloy, uncle Eric Storch, and grandfather Bob Storch.