Local woman reunited with birth family after legal restrictions on adoption fall

ST. LOUIS – November is National Adoption Month and it's Thanksgiving weekend. This year, many families are thankful Missouri has lifted critical privacy restrictions. In years past, adoption records were automatically sealed to protect privacy but after searching for decades, 48-year-old Tamara Baxter is happy that things are changing.

“I have a lot to be thankful for. I’ve met some of my family, and I believe that it's a blessing,” says Tamara.

Tamara Baxter was adopted by Margaret and Hudson Baxter when she was four weeks old. The record was sealed, concealing the names of her birth parents.

“Every time I asked for a birth certificate, it was the official one that I got after I was adopted,” says Tamara.

This year Missouri law changed, allowing adoptees and birth parents access to the adoptees original birth certificate. Tamara is grateful for the support of advocates like Annette Driver and the bill's sponsor Rep Donald Phillips. Now the door was wide open. That’s when she found out Pamela Weems was her biological mother.

Tamara needed the information because of health issues. She has multiple sclerosis.

“My whole thing with starting off this search was to find my biological family, and find out their medical history,” says Tamara.

Her adoptive mother encouraged her search. With a name and lots of sketchy contacts, she received a hopeful response from her biological siblings. Her sister, Alois Bell, was anxious to talk with Tamara.

“When I pulled up her picture I said, ‘Oh my God, she looks just like mom.’ And I inboxed her and said, ‘Yes, you are our sister call me now,’” says Alois.

Alois Bell says their mother told them about a sibling given up for adoption. Once connected, Tamara found out she is the oldest of nine children. Their mother passed in 2016 two months after the bill was signed into law.

“It was love at first sight, because it was a part of us, like the missing piece. We are complete as a family now,” says Alois.

Margaret Baxter is very pleased that her daughter has found her biological family.

“It’s been a really exciting thing and what I’m thankful for, she has found them and it’s making her happy. And it makes me happy cause she’s happy,” says Margaret.

You'll find extensive information online for adoptees looking for original birth certificates at the Bureau of Vital Records with the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services in Jefferson City. The phone number is 573-751-6387.