I Think You’ve Been Looking For Me

An emotional reunion of a mother and her son after 48 years reveals the depths of suffering inflicted by a forced adoption and the power of family ties to overcome them.
Available on CBC Gem

I Think You’ve Been Looking For Me

CBC Docs POV

In 1968, Dorothy Steets, a young Catholic woman from New Jersey, is sexually assaulted and becomes pregnant. Unmarried mothers in postwar North-American society were harshly judged and faced enormous institutional pressures.  There was no listening to Dorothy’s desires or needs — she was immediately sent away to a maternity home in another town to allow the “illegitimate” pregnancy to come to term in hiding. When she gave birth, Catholic church services immediately gave the baby up for adoption, leaving a gaping hole in Dorothy’s heart. 

In January 2017, after 34 years of relentless lobbying, a law in New Jersey was passed allowing adoptees to obtain their original birth certificates, giving them access to the names of their birth parents. As a result of this new legislation, Joe Foley, Dorothy’s son, immediately sought out his birth certificate and uncovered the name of his birth mother. An hour later, he found himself chatting on Facebook with his biological sister, Lila.

Through the eyes of Kacim, Dorothy’s youngest son, I Think You’ve Been Looking For Me chronicles Dorothy and Joe’s emotional reunion, exposing a dark cultural and institutional era that has had a lasting impact on thousands of families. Through personal testimonies and conversations with their extended family, we see how mother and son both suffered as a result of this early separation — Dorothy with feelings of shame and detachment, while underlying separation anxiety clouded all of Joe’s relationships. 

As their new mother-son relationship evolves, Joe and Dorothy lead us through the joy and confusion in coming to terms with their new identities. Rather than focus on past errors of institutions and governments, they’re thankful to have found each other and looking forward to forming closer ties with their newly expanded families in the years to come. 

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