In the fall of 1986, when Kris Smith was just 21-years-old, she had to make a very difficult decision. She decided to give up her three-year-old son, Matthew, for adoption. She thought that she was giving the boy a chance at a better life. In a short documentary by Zone Reality, she told her story of how she came to the conclusion to give up her son.
While living on the streets, Kris became pregnant with Matthew at just 16. She gave birth to him in August 1983. She was young and scared, and was not ready to handle the responsibility of raising a child. Out of desperation for a roof over her head, she entered into an abusive relationship with an alcoholic.
“Emotionally, I just couldn’t handle it,” she explained about Mathew. “You know, when he’d look at me there was all this trust in his eyes, and all these expectations in his eyes, and I was very scared.”
The grief of losing her baby girl catapulted Kris into a downward spiral. She lost her job and became homeless again. “I didn’t have a job so I lost my apartment. I didn’t have anywhere to live. I was living out of a car, and so, that was not a life for him,” she said.
Taking Matthew to the adoption agency was very difficult for Kris. “He grabbed my hand and he said, ‘Mommy, please take me home.’ And I just kind of looked at him and said, ‘I can’t do that right now,’” she said through tears. That moment would be the last time she saw Matthew for seven long years.
7. After Giving Him Up She Was Homeless For Several Years
After Kris gave up Matthew, she hit rock bottom. She was homeless for several years, she lived on the streets and moved from shelter to shelter. But one day, something awoke in her and made her turn her life around. She knew that if she continued this way she would die. So she picked herself up and decided to make a new start.
She walked into a Wendy's restaruant and begged the manager for a job.
“I was very honest with him. I said, ‘Look, I need to get an apartment. I need a place of my own.’ And I just looked at this guy who did not even know me and I said, ‘I need a job,’” she said. To her amazement, she was given the job on the spot. The manager admired her candor and decided to give her a shot.
Her job at Wendy’s allowed Kris to finally get a place of her own. She saved up some money, made new friends and she met a man at the restaurant, Joe Johnson, who she fell in love with. They ended up getting married. Joe had a son of his own, and watching the two of them together made Kris yearn for Matthew.
10. A Fateful Call Lead Right To Matthew's Case Worker
Seven years after giving Matthew up for adoption, Kris contacted the Michigan Department of Social Services. Out of sheer luck, the woman who was Matthew’s case worker, Paula Clegg, was standing right by the colleague who answered Kris’ call. “By the grace of God, she was there, at the identical time that I called. It was a miracle,” Kris said.
However, Kris was disheartened to learn that Matthew never got adopted and that he was in foster care for the past seven years. She felt incredibly guilty. But Paula Clegg allowed Kris to finally visit her son for the first time in seven years.
She could barely get out of the car when she pulled up to the foster home. “And I slowly got out of the van and I looked at him and he looked at me and I ran to him and he ran to me and I just kind of scooped him up and said, ‘Hi Matt, I’m your mom,” Kris said.
After that moment, Kris began the slow process of catching up on all that lost time with Matthew. She had countless supervised visits, and she eventually introduced Matthew to her husband Joe, and her step son, Joe Jr. They were slowly, but surely, becoming a family.
Now Kris, Matthew, Joe and Joe Jr. are one big happy family. Of course, they have their ups and downs, like every family does. But Kris and Matthew both believe that it was destiny that brought them back together.
“It doesn’t matter where you’ve been that counts, it’s where you’re going,” Kris said. “It doesn’t matter what you’ve done. There’s nothing you can do that can’t be undone.”