Abandoned as newborn in Berwyn in 1981, woman seeks answers

By Jean Lotus Staff reporter

Becca Seijo (Courtesy Facebook)

Lois Seijo of Lombard has just one message for the mystery-woman who gave birth to a baby girl found abandoned in a Berwyn apartment building May 8, 1981:

“Thank you for saving our daughter’s life. Thank you for not aborting her and thank you for not putting her in a garbage can.”

The baby in question, Becca Seijo, now of Oshkosh, Wis., was adopted and raised by Lois and her husband Jose. Becca is now 35 years old and a mother herself. A series of health issues has led Becca to search for clues about her origins, and she hopes she can locate biological family members who might come forward with answers.

“All the information I have about myself is I was found in a brown paper bag inside a Berwyn apartment building on 23rd Street,” she said.

Retired Berwyn Police Juvenile Commander Ron Volanti — still living in Berwyn — remembered the incident, which started with a nuisance call at 6636 W. 23rd St. around 11 p.m.

“We got a call about a suspicious noise in the hallway,” he said, “Someone thought there was a cat or something crying,” he remembered in a phone interview. “When I arrived, inside the hallway by the set of stairs was this bundle and inside it was the baby, wrapped in a [shopping] bag. I picked the baby up and I didn’t wait for an ambulance, I put her on my lap and drove the baby to [MacNeal] hospital. She was brand new, with the umbilical cord still on her,” he said. “Somebody had snipped it a couple inches from the baby’s belly.”

News articles from the time, saved by Lois and Jose Seijo, describe how Czech immigrant Karol Turek, 39, was shocked to see the 6-pound, 13-ounce, 19-inch infant, wrapped in a white pillowcase.

“If a bomb went off inside my door I wouldn’t be so shook up as when I saw the baby,” he told a reporter from the Suburban Trib. “I didn’t sleep all weekend. I’m so shook up.”

A newspaper clipping from the May 15, 1981 Suburban Trib tells the story of the discovery of an abandoned baby in Berwyn. (Photo courtesy of Becca Seijo)

The newborn was described as “beautiful and healthy,” by hospital officials. Volanti was asked to give her a temporary name, and he chose “Tina Marie Smith,” he said. The case was never solved, and the child’s mother was never found, Volanti remembered, even though officers canvassed door to door.

“The police had done their initial search and it was a cold case,” remembered Lois Seijo. “When [Becca] was 6 days old, we got a call [from a foster child agency] around 9 a.m. and they asked me ‘how fast can you move?’ I said, ‘for a baby, pretty fast.’”

Their older son was 3 years old, so the family quickly stocked up on newborn provisions such as bottles and diapers, she remembered. “We picked her up at the hospital at 3 p.m.”

The Seijos were foster parents for Becca for a few months, until October, when they were allowed to adopt her, Lois remembered. The process went quickly, with no legal complications because the baby’s biological family was unknown, she said.

Becca Seijo, now a mother of four children ages 8 to 15 years old said she thought about her birth mother after the birth of her own first child.

“I have a feeling my [birth] mom was extremely young when this happened and didn’t know what to do,” she said.

Becca said she registered several years ago with organizations that keep lists of adult adoptees and their parents who have agreed to search for each other.”But she recently hooked up with a Facebook group, “Search and Support: Adoption and Family Reunion Assistance.”

“Becca’s case is a tough one because there’s no [information on a] birth certificate, nothing,” said adoption volunteer Arlene Knudtson. The group paid for Seijo to take a DNA test and hope there might be a match that way, she said.

Adoption laws have evolved in different states, Knudtson said. Illinois has among the most accessible birth and adoption records, she added.

Adoption sleuthing has become more sophisticated, as well.

A clipping from a 1981 Berwyn LIFE newspaper shows baby Becca Seijo with a nurse at MacNeal Hospital after the infant was found abandoned in a Berwyn apartment building. (Photo courtesy of Becca Seijo)

Knudtson, from Chicago, said she worked with “adoption angels” to reunite with the son she gave birth to in 1970 in Colorado at age 25.

“At the time, I drove to Colorado and told my parents I was working on a dude ranch,” Knudtson said. “I’m not sure they ever knew.”

Knudtson said she lived at a Salvation Army house for “unwed mothers” and delivered in a Denver hospital.

Decades later, with help from volunteer adoption sleuths, Knudtson narrowed down a list of men born on her son’s birthdate in Colorado. When she finally found her son, his adoptive mother had recently died, she said. “His wife told me, ‘you found him at the right time. He really needs support.’”

Not all adoptive parents are glad to be contacted by their long-lost children, Knudtson said. “For many people it is a secret that they don’t want their families, or their other children to know about.”

As for Becca Seijo, she says she feels no hostility or anger toward the woman who gave her up.

“Ultimately, I’d love to have a relationship with my birth parents, but really, I would like that medical information. So I know what to look for as I get older,” she said. “My parents will always be Mom and Dad to me,” she added. She said she grew up in a warm middle-class home with a family that took vacations across the U.S.

“I’m not angry, but I want to know why my [birth] parents went about it the way they did,” she said.

In 2001, Illinois passed the Abandoned Newborn Protection Act that allowed parents to relinquish newborn children, no questions asked, at a police or fire station without facing any criminal charges.

Lois Seijo, a retired middle school Spanish teacher, said the family never hid Becca’s story from her.

“We told her: Her parents loved her so much and they knew they couldn’t provide a good home, so they made it possible that she was found and had a loving home,” Lois Seijo said. “And I believe that myself.”

The Seijos had a circle of friends with adopted children, she said. They also volunteered for a regional group that supported adoption of hard-to-place children, “disabled kids, older children, children of color,” she said.

“If I could help Becca find her [birth] mother, I would, but she knows everything I know,” Lois Seijo said.

Persons with information about the biological family of Becca Sjeio can email abandoned5881@gmail.com.



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