It’s truly amazing to think of the way one person can change another person’s life in an enormous, permanent way. The story of Officer Michael Buelna, an officer on the police force in Santa Ana just doing his routine job until he encountered a situation he’d never been in before, is one of those situations. Officer Buelna changed the life of not only Baby Adam that cold November night, but the lives of the baby’s biological parents, the baby’s future siblings, and the baby’s future adoptive parents, as well as Officer Buelna himself. Little did he know, one simple act of kindness would create a world of love.
A Cry in the Night
California police officer Michael Buelna wasn’t looking for a baby on Nov. 21, 1989. It was a cold night in Santa Ana and officer Michael Buelna was investigating an unrelated crime. Michael Buelna was a hard-working police officer on his beat when neighbors reported they had a concern: they heard a baby crying from the alleyway, and wanted to know if the police could investigate the source.
Police are there to protect and serve and this definitely includes doing so for the most vulnerable of our population, which are children. The sound of a baby crying from an alley was certainly concerning because there were no people there. Officer Buelna decided to investigate and approached the sound of the crying baby.
Behind the Bins
It was just before the Christmas season when officer Buelna investigated a reported baby crying in an alleyway. He walked alone in the dark alley and paused. Yes, he heard the sound: a baby crying, very close. He moved toward the dumpsters, where the sound grew louder, and officer Beulna’s footsteps grew quicker.
The officer heard the cry again and looked behind the dumpster. There were piles of trash and rubbish left behind the bins. “And I moved some of the trash, and I saw the little baby,” officer Buelna said to CBS Los Angeles News “And I was kind of shocked at first because it’s kind of hard to grasp what I was seeing.”
Buelna immediately called for backup: this baby needed an ambulance ride to the hospital, immediately. Officer Buelna then cleared debris off the baby and right off noticed that the baby appeared to have just been born: his umbilical cord was still attached. The baby was also covered in a thin, white substance.
Bits of trash and gravel were sticking to his brown skin. Buelna gently picked up the infant and blew some breath into the baby’s lungs, as the baby’s breathing was getting faint. Officer Buelna heard the backup arriving and headed toward the sound of the ambulance making its way to the alley.
When the paramedics arrived, Officer Buelna took the baby to the EMT, who asked, “You just had a baby; what are you going to name him?” Officer Buelna replied, “Adam,” Buelna said. “Because Adam was always one of my favorite names.” The EMTs took over the baby and assured Buelna that he had done a great job, and it looked like the baby was going to be OK after he received some good care at the hospital.
Buelna went to the hospital with the EMT’s and saw that Baby Adam was going to be OK. It turned out, Baby Adam was just four hours old and weighed 4 pounds, 2 ounces. It was amazing he was alive. Who was going to care for this baby now?
Adopting Baby Adam
The infant was registered in The Orange County register and it was noted that he was abandoned. Clearly, his parents were unable to care for him. Officer Buelna wanted to adopt the tiny baby that he had rescued from behind the trash bins before the Christmas season, but another family put their interest forward and became Baby Adam’s adoptive family instead.
Adoption is a lengthy, serious process and there was a family who had been waiting to adopt a child, hoping so much that this miracle baby with mysterious origins could be part of their family. It was not meant to be for Officer Buelna, despite his heroic efforts.
The New Family and Shocking Secret
Elizabeth Barton and Daniel Fernandez of Orange County adopted Baby Adam and so his name was now Robin Barton. Robin was raised in a happy home and grew up like any other healthy child. In fact, he grew up never knowing the terrible circumstances that led him to be discovered by his adoptive parents.
Shockingly, Officer Buelna had his own past with abandonment. It turned out that Officer Buelna and his four siblings had also been abandoned by their mother when Buelna was a child. Officer Buelna understandably responded with his entire heart to this baby left to die behind a dumpster at only four hours old.
The Truth Is Told
Robin Barton–aka Baby Adam– did not find out the truth of his beginnings in life until he was in his mid-twenties. Robin’s parents loved him unconditionally and his mother Elizabeth said, “It’s been an honor and privilege to be your mom.” Once Robin found out that a police officer had rescued him from an untimely death, he immediately wanted to find the man, to meet him and to thank him.
But how to find him–this was twenty-odd years ago? Robin Barton decided to call the police station, and through the station, he was able to receive the address and phone number of Officer Buelna, who had saved him so many years ago.
Turns out, officer Michael Buelna had continued to work on the force until his retirement. He had retired at some point in his late 50s and went to live a quiet and peaceful life in his Orange County home. Yet Buelna had never forgotten that little baby he breathed life into one freezing November night, and when the call came to ask if he’d like to meet the now adult man, he said yes.
So Robin Barton made his way directly to Buelna’s home and greeted him with a large, warm hug. Barton and Buelna were both grinning, and Barton said, “Nice. Wonderful to finally have met you, to see the man who found me first.”
Tears of Joy
The two men hugged a few times and then sat to talk a long while about what life had brought them since their fateful meeting so many years ago. Robin was delighted to meet the officer of the law who saved his life, and to have the opportunity to embrace him and to say directly to Buelna, “Thank you for saving my life.”
Buelna was teary eyed and assured Robin that it was his pleasure to do so and that he was thrilled to finally know how things had worked out for that baby from long ago. Soon their strange bond was revealed: Buelna had also been abandoned as a child by his mother and had later searched for her.
Grateful and Curious
While Officer Buelna had lived a quiet life for twenty some years since finding Baby Adam now Robin, so had Robin and his parents, Elizabeth and Daniel. Robin was an only child, and Elizabeth, his mother, and Daniel, his father, were tremendously grateful to this stranger, a man who without, they would not have their family.
At this meeting, there were teary eyes all around, and Elizabeth and Daniel also finally had the chance to thank the quiet and humble police officer who breathed life into their only child. “I had the opportunity to shake his hand and look in his eyes and say, ‘Thank you for saving his life,'” Daniel Fernandez said.
The Mothers Who Left
Robin and Buelna were shocked to find out, as their conversation went on during their first meeting, that they had a sad secret in common: both had mothers who abandoned them. “I spent over 20 years looking for my mother,” Buelna said.
He determined that he would assist Robin in finding his biological mother. Although his mother had abandoned him, Robin had an open heart toward her, understanding that she must have been in desperate circumstances to give up her newborn baby in such a terrible way. “I was blessed with a great family,” Robin said, and yet he felt driven to find his biological mother.
The Group Works Together
How to start in finding someone from so long ago? Since Officer Buelna had looked for his own mother for twenty years, he knew the ins and outs of such an undertaking and was tremendously helpful in Robin’s own search. He could also use his police connections and resources to assist in the search for Robin’s biological mother.
The first thing they found out about Robin’s biological mother was that her name was Sabrina Fabiola Diaz, and she would be forty-five years old at the time of his search. This gave them a starting point, something Robin hadn’t had at all before he met with retired officer Buelna. Soon they would find out shocking information.
More Information Comes to Light
Robin Barton’s biological mother, Sabrina Diaz, had been sentenced to three years in prison for child endangerment and attempted murder after her abandonment of her infant son. Although shocking to hear, Robin still wanted to continue the search for his mother and believed that if he made contact with her, it would give him the opportunity for some closure.
Robin wants to tell his mother that he forgives her for leaving him behind the dumpster and to tell her that he has a beautiful, loving family who gave him a safe and loving childhood. Robin would soon find out even more about his missing mother.
As Buelna helped Robin discover more information about his mother, it came to light that after her time in prison for child endangerment, she had been deported. She was no longer in the United States, making it even harder to pinpoint her location. But Robin still wanted to pursue finding his biological mother and find that elusive closure he was looking for.
He knew that a relationship was unlikely and simply wanted to make contact with Sabrina Diaz. “I’m not angry or upset with her, and I forgive her because she was a young woman in a very compromising position,” Barton said.
Connected to Sabrina
Sabrina Fabiola Diaz had been deported after spending several years in prison, and now Officer Buelna and Robin Barton were trying to track her down outside of the United States. They found that she had been deported to Mexico.
That information along with her full name gave former officer Buelna enough information to work with. Using his police connections and resources he was able to track her down and provide Robin with her phone number. Robin was then able to fulfill his goal; he called and talked to his biological mother. Although the didn’t meet face to face, he had done what he set out to do. Something more still lay ahead…
The Missing Father
In the search for his biological mother, the idea of his biological father had been lost. But when station ABC7 ran the heartwarming story about Robin and the Buelna’s reunion, Barton’s biological father contacted the station. Apparently, he had been searching for Robin for years.
Marcos Meza, Robin’s biological father, had an affair with Sabrina Diaz when she was nineteen. Meza didn’t know she was pregnant and had only found out about his abandoned son after police questioned him. When he found out that his son was alive, he began searching for him, in a process that mirrored Robin’s search for his biological mother.
A Big Family
The station of course immediately contacted Robin, who decidedly did want to meet his biological father. On a Sunday, Robin and his father finally met, embracing emotionally. “Many people told me, he looks like you, the nose, the ears, everything. He looks like you,” Robin’s father said.
Shockingly, Robin also had five sisters! That Sunday he was able to meet with two of the five sisters. This reunion was overwhelming and emotional for all. Robin and the family had many photos taken, and Robin had his photo taken with both his biological father and the father who raised him.
A New Family
Although the reunion was joyful, it was also overwhelming for Robin. Robin had recently not even known his origin story, and suddenly not only had he spoken with his biological mother, but also his biological father, and found out that he had five sisters.
Meza, Robin’s father, on the other hand, said that he and his whole family always knew about Robin’s existence, but they simply could not find him. The adoption records for Robin had been sealed, and so no information about his new name or location could be given, even to his biological father or family. They had found themselves unable to track him down.
Not a Dream
“It’s like a dream? Or what?” Meza said, still trying to wrap his mind around finding his son after so many years of searching. Robin Barton said that the huge family would take some getting used to for him. “I was raised as an only child, so this is more of a shock,” he said.
Robin, Meza, and his sisters had all agreed to spend time as a family when they could. “I want to try and talk like father and son if he says it’s okay,” said Meza. Robin Barton, gracious as always, said he was cool with that. Robin told CBS Los Angeles that he had learned to be grateful for the officer who saved him, his adopted parents, and the family who raised him.
Robin’s situation as an abandoned infant is unfortunately all too common. Every year, thousands of unwanted or unplanned children are left out in the cold and horrifyingly, most of them do not survive.
Keep your eyes open, don’t be afraid to request the police to take a look at a concerning situation (like the neighbors did for Baby Adam) and never be afraid to help an infant or small child alone in any kind of suspicious circumstance. If you have any information regarding an abandoned child or have encountered a child you are concerned about please contact your local police department or child services bureau for assistance.