She's still crazy about kids

January 11, 2002 12:00 am
Marguerite Reed recently retired from 40 years as a social worker and adoption counselor with Catholic Services. (Baker City Herald photograph by S. John Collins).
Marguerite Reed recently retired from 40 years as a social worker and adoption counselor with Catholic Services. (Baker City Herald photograph by S. John Collins).


Of the Baker City Herald

Marguerite Reed pages through the two photo albums she has kept these 40 years, remembering.

Sometimes, she removes a photograph and closes it in an envelope to await the mail.

Reed, 83, retired last October after 40 years of service as a social worker for Catholic Services.

Many of those years are preserved in these pictures, each one a collection of smiling faces and big hugs made possible by adoption.

I havent kept track of the number (of children served), its well over a hundred, Reed said from her home in Baker City.

People still call to talk to me, I hear from people at Christmas, she said, sharing the stack of Christmas cards sent to her from families who adopted with her help as well as the children she helped match with permanent families, now adults.

She keeps copies of her reports on file in her home office. Since the records are confidential, her family has orders to destroy them upon her death.

She has been going through the photo albums and mailing many of the photographs back to the children or their families if she has an address for them.

Reed and her late husband, Payton, adopted five children of their own. Four of those children Gregory, Teresa, Timothy and Veronica are in their late 40s and 50s.

My relationships with my adult children have been wonderful, Reed said proudly. The two girls have followed in her footsteps by getting their masters degrees in social work. Gregory retired from the U.S. Air Force after 20 years of service while Timothy lives and works in the Portland area.

All are college graduates, and there are two grandchildren.

Reed also shared the story of her third child, Monica, who was with the family for such a short time. Little Monica was born with some of her fingers missing and clubbed feet, but the two older children accepted and loved her immediately, Reed said.

Monica had been in an orphanage for 18 months when the Reeds adopted her. It didnt take long for her to become a happy, smiling toddler, secure in the love of her caring new home.

There is sadness still in Reeds voice as she speaks of Monica, who was overcome by leukemia at age three.

We didnt know when we adopted her that she would leave us so soon, Reed said. But it didnt matter. She needed a family and we loved her.

Finding families for children

Reed credits her success in the adoption field to her spiritual beliefs and the fact she has always been crazy about kids.

She believes her experiences as an adoptive mother helped her establish a strong bond between her role as a social worker and the prospective adoptive parents. She is very aware of the needs and issues of adopting, and confesses that on occasion, she has discouraged families from pursuing adoption.

Reed calls adoption the perfect act of love. That a parent can give up a baby so the child has a better life is an unselfish act of caring on the part of the biological parent.

I respect these people (who choose adoption for their child) and I want to tell them they are doing the right thing.

Reed said the modern concept of open adoption has probably discouraged many people in Oregon from adopting children today.

Fears of biological parents intervening in the care and parenting of the child are very real, especially with older children available for adoption.

In Oregon there are many children whose parents have lost their parental rights through the courts. These children need stable, loving homes, but not every prospective parent wants to deal with the issues of adopting a child with a past.

She calls it a great tragedy when an adoption fails and says very few of the ones she worked with failed to be completed. Nor has she heard of any report of abuse or neglect of the children placed in adoptive homes under her supervision.

In the old days (pre-open adoption laws) we placed a child in the religious preference of the mother, she said. They also often tried to place children in ethnically and racially similar adoptive homes.

Today, it has become apparent the more important issue rather than race or ethnicity is the suitability of the parents and their motivation for adopting. But biological mothers have a great deal of say in the adoption process and can reject parents for their child in most cases.

We (social workers and agencies as well as the state) were often caught between a rock and a hard place, trying to place children in homes successfully, she said.

Heritage and religion

Reed is very proud of her French background. Her mother, who passed away at age 92, was bilingual in French and English. As a young woman in France she was accused of being a spy during World War II because of her ability to speak the two languages.

Reed was born and raised in Baker City, attending St. Francis Academy until ninth grade. She attended high school at Forest Ridge Convent in Seattle, the San Francisco College for Women in California then completed her masters at Catholic University in Washington, D.C.

Her religion is very important to her.

Religion was one of the greatest gifts my parents ever gave me, Reed said. If I didnt have my religion I dont know if I could have made it through the years. She regularly attends Mass at St. Francis de Sales Cathedral as well as prayer services and observances.

While Reed claims to have retired, the term is not to be interpreted as quitting. She continues to be active in senior issues in the community, often visiting friends at St. Elizabeth Care Center.

She continues to serve on the Citizens Review Board for cases of child neglect and abuse in Baker County, and she is always available for all her children. Her future plans include opportunities to travel with her children.

Catholic Services has hired a new social worker, but in the hearts of the families of Baker County and Eastern Oregon, nobody will ever replace Marguerite Reed.