Search for family unearths secretMore than four decades after his birth mother gave him up for adoption, Scott Johnson set out to find her. The Superior businessman invites everyone along for the journey in his debut book, “Searching for Juno: The True Story of an Adopted Child.” Johnson said the book, released in July, was written “for all of us who had been adopted.”
By: Maria Lockwood, Superior Telegram
More than four decades after his birth mother gave him up for adoption, Scott Johnson set out to find her. The Superior businessman invites everyone along for the journey in his debut book, “Searching for Juno: The True Story of an Adopted Child.” Johnson said the book, released in July, was written “for all of us who had been adopted.”
His journey was part detective work, part lucky break; at times, he likened it to a secret unearthed, a first date, a cold call. And as he searched for his birth mother, who he nicknamed “Juno,” the Superior man kept a journal of his successes and failures. That became the basis for the book.
Johnson, who owns Northwoods Music and is front man for the band Arcadia, wanted to cover how the search progressed and show what did and didn’t work. He also focused on the constant state of uncertainty brought on by the search.
“It’s extremely frustrating,” Johnson said. “Even a week seems too long for something to happen.”
It wasn’t until he was about 9 years old that Johnson found out he was adopted. He learned about it from the neighborhood children.
“I was always just incredibly curious about it all,” he said. But with his parents being reluctant to talk about it, Johnson put curiosity on the back burner until 2010. That July, he set out to find “Juno.”
He found that internet searches only work if you have a name. All he had was a birth date in 1964 and a birth town, Hayward.
“You learn really fast you have nothing to Google,” he said, and that left him in the curious position of being both the top and bottom of his family tree.
After a series of calls Johnson reached the Adoption Records Search Program, which was set up by the Wisconsin Department of Children and Families specifically for adult adoptees, adoptive parents and birth parents. A social worker helped him navigate the process of cracking open his closed records. Redacted court documents gave him a rare glimpse into the life of his mother, a teen who went to Hayward to have the child away from family scandal.
The search also gave him a peek at his early days.
“I had a different name as a baby,” said Johnson, whose original name was Robert Scott. He also spent a month at a children’s home.
“Mind blowing!” he wrote in the book. “I never once thought that I was cared for somewhere other than the hospital and then by my adoptive parents.”
“Searching for Juno” chronicles the moment Johnson sat down to write the first letter to his mother, asking if they could meet, and his exhilaration when she agreed. It also follows Johnson’s efforts to reach out to his birth parents and bonus siblings.
“We live in a world where a hug can change your life,” he wrote. “The smallest of things can have the biggest impact. That is certainly my case.”
At 46, he gained a new family and a second chance.
“Through this experience I have felt like a lost puppy that had run away from home, only to return months later with everyone on the porch, waiting for me,” Johnson wrote.
Since then, his life has been peppered with a new round of “firsts” — Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, birthdays and graduations.
“It’s obvious that this adventure has no ending, and for that I am thankful,” he wrote.
About 2.5 percent of all children in the U.S. are adopted, according to research by Northwestern University. The estimated total number of adoptions has ranged from a low of 50,000 in 1944 to a high of 175,000 in 1970, according to a 1993 study by Kathy Stolley with Old Dominion University in Virginia. It is estimated that about one million children in the United States live with adoptive parents, and that between 2 and 4 percent of American families include an adopted child, she found.
“It touches parents on both sides, the child themselves and any siblings,” Johnson said. “You’re the story, family folklore, the Easter bunny.”
Since self-publishing his book, Johnson has heard adoption stories of others. Some, like Johnson, found their parent(s). Others hit dead ends or found family with whom they couldn’t relate.
Putting all his feelings down in writing was therapeutic, the Superior man said. He hopes his book will help others who may be starting their own journey.
A book launch party for “Searching for Juno: The True Story of an Adopted Child” runs 6-8 p.m. Saturday at Red Mug Coffeehouse, 916 Hammond Ave. Along with a book signing and discussion, Johnson will be playing some of the music from his new CD, seven songs based on his search for Juno. The book sells for $12; the CD for $10. Or people can purchase both for $20. The book and CD are also available at Northwoods Music, 1608 Tower Ave.