CLEVELAND – When Tom Dent began a search for his birth parents, he didn’t know where the journey would take him.
He not only found his birth father, Ross, in 2011 but also discovered they both worked for the same company, PNC Bank, in two different Ohio cities.
“I was surprised when his contact information popped up (on the internet) and not only did I find him, but his profile picture was as a mortgage advisor for PNC in Columbus,” said Dent, who is a small business lending manager for PNC in downtown Cleveland.
After finding Ross online, Dent sent a letter. Dent received a phone call from Ross four days later.
“We first started talking in October 2011 and it became apparent very quickly that we wanted to meet each other,” Dent said. “By Thanksgiving, we were making plans to meet.” Four years later, father and son continue to see each other regularly.
Dent grew up in Columbus and learned at a young age that he was adopted at birth. His adoptive parents, Thomas and Maureen, discussed it often when he was growing up with him and sister, who was also adopted.
“Being adopted wasn’t a big deal for us because we knew that they loved us more than anything,” Dent said. “Actually, we used to tell people we were adopted.”
According to Dent, he didn’t feel a sense of rejection by being adopted because his childhood was normal like any other child. His adoptive father was a high school chemistry teacher who coached his sports teams while his mother was a bookkeeper at a law firm – and the disciplinarian at home.
“My fondest memory of my adoptive dad was the summer evenings when he would come home from work and after dinner, we would go and sit out on the back porch and listen to his favorite team, the Cincinnati Reds, on the radio,” Dent said.
Dent was 21 years old and had just finished his third year in the Naval Academy when his adoptive father died. His adoptive mother died in 2009.
Dent, who moved to Cleveland in 2002, remained curious about his birth parents. He decided to aggressively search for them and got help from a local non-profit organization that provides support to the adoption community and agencies.
Tom Dent Jr. (center) poses with his two children. He found his birth father (top left) in 2011 and now sees “Pop” regularly. He also has fond memories of his adoptive dad, Thomas (top right)
Dent, who learned his birth mother was deceased, was glad he found his birth father, or “Pop” as he calls him.
It was a really positive experience. We shared pictures, told stories and spent time getting to know one another and by the middle of the afternoon we were already poking fun at one another.
Dent, his wife Tricia of 20 years and their two children, now get together with his birth father every few months and at major holidays. And Dent is an active member of the Adoption Network Cleveland board of directors.
Not everyone who was adopted has been fortunate as Dent to find their birth parents. In March, an Ohio state law went into effect that allows anyone adopted in Ohio between 1964 and 1996 to request a copy of their original birth certificate from the Ohio Department of Health.
The birth certificate is something Dent did not have but he used the new law to get a copy, which he views as an “artifact” of his life history.
Dent said that the new law helps adoptees discover medical history, finding a sense of closure or what he had – a genuine desire to meet his birth family.
“Our family is a lot bigger now,” he said.
Tom Dent Jr. and his wife Tricia have two children, Sofie and Liam
Tom Dent is an active member of the Adoption Network Cleveland board of directors
My advice to adoptees is if you want to know your birth family, go find them because everyone has a right to know where they came from. It’s not for them, but for you.
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