Generation to generation
When Janine Koch met her birth parents, she also met two future colleagues with Deloitte.
"This is Family and Children's Services of Baltimore calling," the voice on the phone announced. Janine Koch, a Houston-based partner in AERS Advisory, says she remembers the words as if it were yesterday, not 16 years ago. Thinking it was a request for a donation from some charity, she began to brush the caller off. But the woman on the phone quickly said, "Hold on, hold on. Don't hang up, don't hang up." It was at that moment that the words "Family and Children's Services" rang a bell with Koch, who had been adopted as a young baby. Unexpectedly, she pictured a receipt for $150 her parents had always kept. It was from the Florence Crittenton Home for Unwed Mothers, and the reason for the call slowly dawned on Koch. "I just knew," she says.
The caller asked if Koch was interested in meeting her birth parents. But did she really want to know the people who had given her up? She had grown up with warm and loving adoptive parents, and a terrific brother who had also been adopted. Her adoptive parents had recently passed away, however, and she had been feeling somewhat orphaned. "I think you'll be very pleased," the Family Services woman assured her. So she agreed to let her birth parents get in touch.
On Mother's Day 1997, Koch, her husband, Bruce, and their two daughters (they have since had a third) gathered at Houston Intercontinental Airport, waiting for Jim and Leslie Hammond, her birth parents, to come into the terminal. Her birth mother emerged with a video camera whirring. Her mother panned the camera onto Bruce, white as a sheet, and commented jokingly, "This is a man who thought he was not going to have any more in-laws and look who just got off the plane."
The Hammonds were indeed his in-laws. "I had always wondered about my birth parents, of course," Koch recalls. "When I was young, I'd wonder, ‘Will I grow taller? Why are my eyes blue?' And then when I found out that both of my parents were in financial services, I thought, ‘Okay, that makes a lot of sense.'"
Just as Koch had no idea who her birth parents were, they had had no idea about who had adopted her. "My mother just felt so worried that I might have been sent off into the wilderness," Koch says. "She always hoped that I was living a good life and was so relieved to learn that I had been."
Koch also came to know that Leslie had been sent to the Crittenton Home by her parents after she became pregnant (by Jim) as an 18-year-old high schooler. She lived at Crittenton throughout her pregnancy. Two years after giving up their baby, who they had named Bonnie Elaine, Jim and Leslie got married. They had two more daughters, one of whom is also an accountant. "At first," Koch says, "it was a little strange for their eldest daughter – now my middle sister – to hear she wasn't the oldest anymore. But she got over that. We're all close now. I was the matron of honor at my younger sister's wedding."
All in the family
Initially stunned to learn that her birth parents were still together even though they had started dating as teenagers and after the tumult of giving up their firstborn, Koch remains impressed by how much love they have for each other after being married 48 years. "They still tell one another how beautiful and lovely they look," Koch says. "They have a truly amazing relationship."
Koch now receives her share of that warmth. "I had terrific, loving parents who I grew up with and who loved me unconditionally, and now I have this whole other set of incredible parents who took their place." Even legally. The Hammonds adopted Koch as an adult, affirming her status as their daughter. Koch has brought her adopted brother into the fold as well by including him in family activities whenever possible. He's family too, after all. "He gets a kick out it," she says. "He'll say to people, ‘I'm off to see my sister's mother.'"
Beyond their commitment to family, Koch and her birth parents have an additional tie. Currently, all three of them work for Deloitte; both Jim and Leslie are in AERS Advisory in Virginia, where Jim is a director in the Federal practice. And although they lived in different cities, Koch and her father discovered that before they were reunited, they once (incredibly) attended the same Coopers & Lybrand holiday party when she worked there.
"It pleased my dad so much when I made partner at Deloitte," Koch says. Although they rarely cross paths in a professional setting, Koch and her parents do have some mutual acquaintances at Deloitte. "People tell me he likes to brag about my successes. He's so proud." The pride is mutual. "My father is just this genuinely nice person," she says. "Everyone loves him and thinks of him as a great friend, father, and husband."
Recently the Deloitte connection has extended to a third generation. After completing her junior year last May at Boston University with a major in accounting, Koch's daughter, Katheryn Koch, interned with the firm and received a full-time offer in August. "We all know how competitive it is to get a job at Deloitte," Koch says, "so we're all extra proud that she made it and she's here with us."
Today, what Koch thinks really unites them all as family is their desire to do a great job – in their professional and personal lives. "Family is not just about giving birth to a child, it's about caring for and loving children as they grow up," she says. "I have known my whole life what it means to be loved by family and to be encouraged to succeed. And I am so grateful for it." So grateful, that she is even considering adopting a child. "I feel like I should give back," Koch says. "After all, being adopted twice has worked out very well for me."