A family reborn
In 1966 at age 6, a tiny Phillise Wines was surrendered to foster care.
Born severely retarded, Wines’ mother decided that a foster home could better meet her needs.
After that, the family lost track of her.
On Sunday, Wines, now 42, laid eyes and hands on blood relatives she never knew existed, but who knew she was out there somewhere.
“We always knew about her, but nobody ever spoke of her. We never knew where she was,” said first cousin Loralie Renteria.
“She looks like her mom,” Renteria said, eyes wide, a smile on her face, as Phillise rolled on the floor of the laughter-filled room with the children.
Phillise has been in Carson City since 1998 staying in an EduCare Nevada Community Living Corp., home with five other equally-challenged roommates.
EduCare’s philosophy is what they call “person centered.”
“We focus on the individual. We are interested in who the person is and they’re actually happier now because they’re people with choices,” said Tim Elam, EduCare social worker. “We don’t warehouse people.”
Elam said during the years, Wines has had behavioral problems he attributes to not knowing her family.
“Whenever someone else’s family would show up, Phillise would be real despondent over the whole experience,” he said. “She had a real emptiness inside of her.”
Elam got a lead on a last name and began calling around until eventually he ended up speaking with Renteria.
“I was surprised they found us,” Renteria said. “I called my mother as soon as I spoke with Tim. Phillise’s mom and my mom came up from Owyhee last year and my mother asked her about Phillise, but she never answered. I think she doesn’t like to think about it.”
Renteria, with sisters Pearl and Lynn Blackhat, and her husband, Ramone Renteria, piled the seven nieces and nephews in the cars and closed a 36-year-old gap with a 35-mile drive from Sparks.
“She does look like her mom,” said Pearl Blackhat. “It’s funny.”
Wines reaction upon first seeing her family was interpreted as disbelief.
“I don’t think she even thought it was real for a second there,” said Bruce McDaniel, mental retardation specialist with EduCare.”But she knew they were her family.”