A planned adoption delayed — by nearly three decades

When Regina Louise was 13 years old, bouncing between foster homes and institutions, she met a woman who was kind, who she could trust, and who she wanted to be able to call Mom. For Regina, that was a first. But the plan wasn't to be. At least, not right away.
Jeanne Kerr and Regina Louise finally reunite, decades after a court denied Jeanne's petition to adopt Regina. (Courtesy of Regina Louise)

"Having her lower herself down to my level, having her call me by my name ... it was indelible for me. I knew, instinctively, that she was different.... I could trust her."

Regina Louise is describing the first time she met Jeanne Kerr, the woman she would eventually call Mom.

It was the 70s; Regina was just 13 at the time. She'd escaped a violent foster family two years earlier and had been checked in to a centre for abandoned and abused children, where Jeanne worked as a group counsellor.

The two made an instant impression on each other, and, soon, they made a plan for Jeanne to adopt Regina. And then, the unthinkable happened. 
Regina as a child. (Courtesy of Regina Louise)

"At the time it was not popular for a white woman to adopt a black girl," Regina says.

Jeanne's petition to adopt was denied. The impact was devastating. Hurt and angry, Regina lashed out. In the end, she would spend the rest of her teen years institutionalized and heavily medicated.

Jeanne, too, was crushed. She was told to stay away from Regina; Jeanne wrote letters to Regina that were never delivered. As their lives went in different directions and they fell out of touch, they never stopped thinking about on another and their plan to be mother and daughter.
Regina is 41 when Jeanne becomes her mother in the eyes of the law. (Courtesy of Regina Louise)

Regina says she learned from Jeanne that she deserved to be loved, something that shaped her deeply. She never lost hope they would one day reconnect.

"I knew that one day I would grow myself up to find her. I knew I would find her," says Regina.

When she finally did, it was nearly thirty years later, and their bond was as strong as ever. So much so that Jeanne asked if they could go ahead with that long-ago plan.

Regina, 41 at the time, happily agreed.

This story originally aired on December 1, 2017. It appears in the Out in the Open episode "Unintended Consequences".