What Herb Chislett knew about his daughter he put in the small newspaper birthday greeting.
“Happy 50th Birthday Lisa on Aug 8, 2018,” read the introduction of The Chronicle Herald announcement, published the day before his daughter’s birthday. “You were born in the Grace Maternity in Halifax at 9:16 a.m. You were adopted Oct 1, 1968. Your birth parents are anxious to hear from you or your adoptive parents.”
He closed by listing his phone number and St John’s address.
“I just would like to see how she’s doing. Is she doing OK? Does she need anything?"
— Herb Chislette
Chislett isn’t even certain whether his daughter goes by Lisa, her birth name. He’s gotten no response to his latest effort at finding her. His repeated attempts over the past three years to right what he calls the biggest regret of his life have proven fruitless. Up until now, Chislett’s quest to find his daughter had been a secret shared only with his niece, who directed him to the Adoption Disclosure Services Program in Nova Scotia.
“I just feel really rotten about what I did in the first place, but that’s history and I can’t do anything about that,” said Chislett, who’s currently married with two other children. “I just would like to see how she’s doing. Is she doing OK? Does she need anything?
“I would hate her feeling like she has no roots, having no idea where she came from. I wish to hell I did the right thing back then.”
Back then he was 22 and a navy man based in Shearwater when he met Lisa’s mom at a Halifax wedding. The relationship lasted about a year and at the time they agreed to put the baby up for adoption.
“I was young and foolish and too much into myself. It’s been on my mind forever and more so as I get older.”
He left the navy after a five-year stint, found work as a technician with defunct telecommunications company MT&T, before moving back home and launching a successful roofing company 25 years ago. He’s still roofing.
After confiding with his niece, she suggested he contact the adoption disclosure program. He’s spent the last three years making countless phone calls and writing letter after letter to the provincial government program, looking for help to locate his daughter. He’s been assured his daughter’s alive but has little more to go on. He said the program, which falls under the Department of Community Services, has refused to pass along a letter he wrote for her attempting to explain the circumstances of her adoption and inviting her to get in touch.
“It’s been three years, and I went through a lot of red tape but it was worth it because at least I know now she’s alive. I assumed my daughter would be quite happy to know I wanted to connect. But I don’t really know if that much information has gotten to her.”
He says her birth mother, living in Lunenburg and with whom he communicates with occasionally through a mutual friend, is also eager to connect with their daughter.
The Adoption Information Act states the disclosure services program can’t provide information that could identify an adoptee without the adoptee’s permission.
Ultimately, it’s the woman’s decision whether she wants to connect with her biological parents, says Heather Fairbairn, a N.S. Department of Community Services spokeswoman.
“A request for contact is submitted via our provincial adoption disclosure program,” said Fairbairn. “A search is conducted and the response to the request is dependent on whether the adoptee wishes contact or is willing to receive identifying information. If the adoptee refuses, we respect their decision but we would be available to assist should they change their mind.”
But Chislett says he’s just looking for assurance that his daughter knows he wants to get in touch. He said knowing this and that she has his contact information would give him some peace of mind.
“I would like to establish some kind of a relationship if she’s willing,” said Chislett. “But at the very least I would like to leave her something because she would have quite a sum of money coming to her from inheritance. I would like for her to share that with my own kids.”
He’s also hoping for forgiveness.
“I would like to do something right for her now. I didn’t do it in the first place but I would like to do it now.”
The Chronicle Herald