Elizabethton man continues decade-long search for adopted half-brother

Published 9:38 am Monday, February 22, 2016

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After ten years of separation and no chance to say good bye, one Elizabethton man is broadening his decade-long search for his half-brother.
On January 24th, Brandon Church, 28, posted a photo of himself with a sign explaining his half-brother, Zachary Braxton Church, born Nov. 3, 1996 entered the Tennessee foster care system at age 9, and he hasn’t seen him since.
“We didn’t get to say goodbye,” Brandon said. “The very last time he was taken, the final time, I went to my mom’s after school to see him, only to find out the state had picked him up from school. I’ve not seen him since. That was it.”
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Brandon was raised by his grandparents and was living with them in New York when Zachary was born. They returned to Tennessee when Zachary was one year old, and Brandon said the two had a very close relationship after that.
“My grandparents would take me to mom’s house so I could spend time with him, and when I turned 16 and could drive, I would go over and hang out with him — we were just like brothers,” said Brandon.
“I was always excited from day one to be a big brother, and he was obsessed with me,” Brandon recalled. “I used crutches and a wheelchair and he would use sticks out of the yard to mimic me.”
Brandon was one of the only stable figures in Zachary’s life, he said, other than their aunt.
Though he has photos of his half-brother, he does not know what Zachary looks like now, and said this has made the search more difficult.
Despite this hurdle, he has continued this important search, and even said he has probably “weirded out hundreds of people named Zachary” by asking on Facebook if they were adopted.
Additionally, he does not know if Zachary’s last name has been changed, so searches through social media outlets — which began when MySpace was the dominant social media platform — have yielded no substantial results.
“Sometimes random people add me on Facebook and send messages of encouragement, and that’s nice,” said Brandon, adding that none have been his half-brother.
The posting of Brandon’s photo with the poster board was initially shared more than 5,000 times, catching the eye of area news outlets as well.
“I want to spread the message nationwide,” Brandon said, though he believes Zachary may still be in Tennessee.
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“He’s now 19 years old, he could be going off to college, and with social media, I have a hope of contacting him,” Brandon said. “I began searching a matter of months after he was originally taken in 2006.”
Around 2008, Brandon saw him on an adoption website, but without intent to adopt, no information could be divulged. He believes that Zachary was located in Chattanooga at the time.
Efforts to contact him through the Department of Children’s Services (DCS) have been a dead end for now, as the agency is bound by state law to not disclose information till the adopted child turns 21 and consents to be contacted.
For now, Brandon plans to submit a Contact Veto Registry form with DCS, which will put his contact information into the his half-brother’s file and the DCS database. When Zachary turns 21, if he requests his file, he will have the means to contact Brandon this way.
Brandon welcomes any related information and may be contacted on Facebook at Brandon Church or via email at brandon.church@johnsonu.edu.
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