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What Is Your Definition of "Family"?

Hey everyone, this is Paul. Thanks for visiting. Since I began my search five years ago, I’ve had to answer a lot of tough questions. Questions about character, about the meaning of identity, about the impact of my search on other people.

But maybe the toughest question of all to answer was the question of what it means to be a family.

Despite the fact that I was abandoned on a New Jersey street when I was two years old, I consider myself lucky—after all, I grew up with a mother and a father. As far as I am concerned, Dora and Chester Fronczak, who identified me as their kidnapped son and brought me to their Chicago home when I was two, are my parents in every way except one—biologically. The Fronczaks (in the photo above, coming home from the hospital a few days after the kidnapping of their newborn son in 1964) housed me, fed me, cared for me, loved me, sent me to school, threw me birthday parties and basically did their very best to turn me into a good, decent person.

So why, then, did I feel so compelled to go out and find my biological family? The parents who raised me were very, very clear that they didn’t want me to do it—they didn’t want to have to relive the nightmare of their son’s kidnapping. Still, I went ahead and took a DNA test and started my search anyway. Finding my identity, and my biological family, became the most important thing in my life.

But why? Why was it so important to me? The main dictionary definition of a parent is “one who begets or brings forth offspring.” But the secondary definition is “a person who brings up and cares for another.” That implies that raising a child makes you as much of a parent as giving birth to one.

And the definition of “parent” as a verb is “to be or act as a mother or father to someone.” That doesn't have anything to do with biology at all.

In other words, the Fronczaks are my parents—period. During my search I heard from a lot of people who felt just this way—people who believed I should give up my mission to find my biological family. They insisted I already had parents, and that what I was doing wasn’t fair to the Fronczaks. I couldn’t really argue with them.

Even so, I had very valid reasons for wanting to find my birth family. For one thing, once I became a parent myself, I needed to know more about my medical history, for my daughter's sake. But there are many other reasons why adoptees and other people like me set out to find their true identities and their birth families, and they are all valid. I guess the question of what it means to be a family is a question we all have to answer for ourselves.

This is a theme I explore more fully in The Foundling, and an issue I will probably have to grapple with for a long time to come.

Thanks again for all your support, and keep visiting for updates in my search.


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