It’s hard to determine if Susan Saltzman’s involvement with Adoption Network Cleveland is one that stemmed from coincidence, destiny, or a combination of both. Indeed, Susan didn’t come across Adoption Network Cleveland in the typical way a member may join our organization. In addition to being an adoptee herself, Saltzman grew up living next door to the birthparents of Betsie Norris, founder and executive director of Adoption Network Cleveland, and their families were friends.
When Susan was 27 years old, her mother received a phone call from their former next-door neighbor, who now lives in Wisconsin. Edie Nelson, Betsie’s birthmother, had called Susan’s mom to discuss an upcoming article in The Plain Dealer about Norris’s search for her birthparents and their happy reunion.
“We never knew that the Nelsons had placed a child for adoption before they married,” Saltzman said. “Edie said that their daughter had found them and that there’d be an article in the paper about it the next day. She wanted my mom to hear about it from her before reading it in the paper. It was especially interesting to me because I had grown up next to the Nelsons and had friends who knew Betsie, who was about my age.”
The situation couldn’t have been more relatable to Susan, who had begun her own search for her birthparents when she was in college. Since Susan was born before 1964, she was not personally affected by the period in Ohio’s history where access to original birth records was denied to adoptees. She had her original birth certificate but had not yet made contact with her birthparents.
After hearing that her mother had spoken to Edie, Susan called Betsie to see how she could get involved with the newly created Adoption Network Cleveland. She attended meetings and an adoption conference hosted by ANC, and as the organization grew, Susan, a designer at American Greetings at that time, offered to create the organization’s logo. That logo is still in use today, depicting three figures joined together, symbolizing Adoption Network Cleveland’s mission to support the adoption triad – the adoptee, birthparents, and adoptive parents.
“Hearing from Susan was so exciting for me – it was like another mini-reunion.“ says Betsie.
“She had lived next door to my birthparents and was so important to them – a little girl who was adopted, and born the same year I was born. She is in their home movies along with my brothers as children. I had heard a lot about “Susie“ and will never forget what a thrill it was when she called!”
“Everything that Adoption Network Cleveland stands for is so important to me,” Susan says. “They advocate for people, work to change unfair laws, and make things happen for the betterment of all parties involved in the adoption experience.”
Beyond the creation of the logo, over the years Susan supported Adoption Network Cleveland’s efforts to change Ohio law to allow access to adoption records for adult Ohio-born adoptees. An effort that began in 1989 and was finally successful in 2015, thanks to Betsie’s dedication and perseverance. Susan attended an early rally on the issue held in downtown Cleveland organized by Adoption Network Cleveland and hand-painted a dozen T-shirts with the brand-new logo for the occasion.
Susan has since created an extensive family tree online that includes both her adoptive family and her birth families. (At one point they intersect!) Her interest and skill in genealogy research recently led her to join the Adoption Network Cleveland Search Volunteer Program team led by Traci Onders, search specialist for adult adoptees and birthparents.
“I felt that this was the perfect opportunity to get more involved with the Network,” Susan says. “The idea of being able to volunteer with Traci, who’s an expert at doing these searches, is so exciting. I am learning so much, and it’s incredibly gratifying to help people find answers and reconnect with lost family.”
To assist Adoption Network Cleveland with our 2020 Creating Futures Benefit & Silent Auction, Susan, now a metalsmith, created a hand-crafted sterling silver and sea glass bracelet. This bracelet will be auctioned on Ebay soon to benefit Adoption Network Cleveland, so be on the lookout for this opportunity to own one of Susan's beautiful pieces!
To see Susan’s jewelry line SToNZ, visit her website. SToNZ Jewelry celebrates the beauty of the earth’s natural treasures and serendipitous vintage finds and combines them with sterling silver in wonderful, wearable ways.
For those who are looking to understand more about the world of adoption, Susan encourages you to witness the work of Adoption Network Cleveland.
“All you have to do is go to a General Discussion Meeting and listen to people’s stories and hear about what Adoption Network Cleveland can do for people,” Susan exclaims. “It’s so moving.”
Susan has been an active member and supporter of Adoption Network Cleveland for more than 30 years and is one of our original members. We are greatly honored by her continued support of our organization and her willingness to volunteer wherever needed!
Linden Miller is a rising senior at Kent State University and recently completed a summer internship at Adoption Network Cleveland in the Development & Communications department as part of her studies.
Image: Adoption Network Cleveland rally for National “Open My Records Day”, on the steps of Cleveland City Hall on Lakeside Avenue, early 1990s. Susan Saltzman is pictured second from left, first row, and Betsie Norris is pictured second from the right, first row. Tee-shirts were hand-painted by Susan. The event included adult adoptees requesting their original birth certificate at the Vital Statistics window, and upon being denied being (literally) wrapped in red tape.