Richard was born Shelia Broussard in 1958, and grew up in Lafayette.
In her junior year at Northside High School, she became pregnant. The father of her child was “with someone” at the time, and wanted nothing to do with her or their child.
Richard was only 16. “My parents sent me to a home for unwed mothers, and arranged the adoption through Catholic Social Services in Lafayette. When my baby was born, I didn’t want to give him up, so I refused to sign the papers. But because I was a minor, my parents signed. I didn’t want to give him up,” Richard said.
Richard finished high school and went on to graduate from the University of Louisiana-Lafayette. She married and had three children by her first husband. But she always wanted to find her first child.
“When I was 24, I decided to start searching for him,” Richard said.
She contacted Catholic Social Services, but was told that since it was a closed adoption, they couldn’t release any information.
Richard struck up a friendship with one of the case workers, however, and eventually learned several tidbits of information.
Recently, she learned that her son was adopted in November 1975 by an African American couple living in Eunice.
After that discovery, she ran an advertisement in The Eunice News on March 6, asking anyone with information to contact her. To date, she’s had a lot of helpful suggestions, but no new leads.
According to the information she was given, the adoptive father was the fifth of eight children, age 24 at the time of placement. He worked offshore and was a Baptist deacon.
The adoptive mother was 22; she was a homemaker and high school graduate who came from a family of seven children. Her mother died when she was seven, according to the information.
The adoptive couple, who had no other children, were renting a small home, but were in the process of building a new home in another town.
In the past, Richard hired three different investigators, but they failed to turn up any promising leads.
It’s not just a desire to reunite with the son she never knew; there are hereditary medical issues at stake, too.
Richard has early onset Parkinson’s Disease, with Chronic Restless Leg Syndrome, which has gradually worsened as she has gotten older.
“They didn’t think I’d live past 52, so I’m in a rush to find him; I turn 53 this year,” Richard said.
Parkinson’s generally is a disease that affects individuals over 50; when it manifests at a younger age, it is often hereditary.
The three children Richard raised were spared the disease, but her two-year-old granddaughter was recently diagnosed.
Richard needed to have brain surgery last year, to control her symptoms.
“My child needs to know, not just for himself, but for his children. These are major medical issues, and they can be inherited,” Richard said.
Richard worked for 13 years as a teacher with the Lafayette Parish School Board before leaving for AT&T, where she has worked for almost eight years as a customer service representative and union representative.
Richard said her second husband, William Richard, a disabled rail road worker to whom she has been married for four years, has been very supportive of her search, as have her three children; Styles, 28, a surgical technician working as a contractor in Iraq; Chase, 24, an industrial engineer; and Tabitha, 22, an orthodontic pediatric dental hygienist.
Five years ago, Richard was named KATC Channel 3’s “Mother of the Year”, after being nominated by her children.
“My children have been encouraging me to search as well; they want to know their brother,” Richard said.
“I want my children to know each other. That’s where my heart is. I have been at this search since I was 24 years old, but I’ve had no luck,” Richard said, adding, “This is my heartfelt search for someone I have dearly missed and did not give up willingly.”
Richard asks anyone who may have information to please contact her at (337) 315-2111 or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.