Adoptions With Love Blog

Joni Mitchell Placed Her Daughter for Adoption: Here’s Her Story

Music fans rejoiced with historic moments and incredible talent at the 66th Annual Grammy Awards. Legendary singer-songwriter Joni Mitchell made her debut performance at the awards ceremony, where she was honored with a standing ovation and presented with her latest Grammy. Joni Mitchell remains to be one of the most influential artists in the music industry, but she has a lesser-known tale: Joni Mitchell is also a birth mother—she placed her daughter for adoption nearly 60 years ago. Below we share the story of Joni Mitchell’s daughter, why Joni Mitchell chose adoption, and the eventual reunion of this duo.

“Help Me”

Before birth mother Joni Mitchell was singing about a “River,” she was a 21-year-old in Toronto facing poverty and an unplanned pregnancy. The birth father, then-boyfriend Brad MacMath, did not wish to be a father and headed to California, leaving Joni on her own. On February 19, 1965, Joni gave birth to Kelly Dale Anderson. Knowing she could not take on parenthood, Joni placed Kelly for adoption. Her adoptive parents, David and Ida Gibbs, renamed their 6-month-old Kilauren Gibb.

Joni’s adoption was a closed adoption. Kilauren did not find out she was adopted until she was 27 years old and pregnant with her own child. Joni kept the adoption a secret, as well. A former roommate of Joni’s very unfortunately sold her private adoption story to a tabloid magazine.

While Joni lived with the secret for nearly three decades, she never stopped thinking about her daughter. Her song “Little Green,” from her 1971 album, “Blue” is about the daughter she lost but never stopped loving. She named her daughter Kelly, as in Kelly green.

Born with the moon in Cancer
Choose her a name she will answer to . . .
Call her green for the children that have made her . . .
Child with a child pretending
Weary of lies you are sending home
So you sign all the papers in the family name
You’re sad and you’re sorry, but you’re not ashamed.
Little green, have a happy ending
–Joni Mitchell’s Little Green, from her 1971 album, Blue

In an interview on CBC Newsworld’s Pamela Wallin Live in 1996, Joni explained that she felt she had no choice other than adoption.

“I didn’t have a penny,” she said. “I had no money for diapers, or a room to take her to. There was no career on the horizon. Three years later, I had a recording contract, a house, and a car, but how could I see that in the future?”

“Day After Day”

Over the years, birth mother Joni Mitchell quietly made attempts to find her daughter, but with no success. Then, in 1994, while promoting her album “Turbulent Indigo” she was asked about a tabloid report of a “love child.” In 1996, Joni told “The New York Times” that she wanted to find her daughter.

Meanwhile, Kilauren was also searching for answers. She started to search as a teenager. It took the long-lost daughter nearly five years to get the adoption documents she requested from the Children’s Aid Society. The paperwork did not offer any helpful information, but the two were finally brought together after a Joni Mitchell fan created a website to help filter people who could be a true match.

Kilauren says that she always felt loved by her adoptive parents. She knows they thought they were doing the right thing by keeping her adoption story private.

“They were nurturing, loving parents who wanted to protect me,” she explained to the Toronto Star. “They didn’t tell me because they didn’t want me to feel like an outsider. And they were afraid they might lose me.”

“See You Sometime”

Joni and Kilauren first met in 1997. Their reunion was a memorable one, and Joni was described by a friend as being “overjoyed.” Kilauren also said they gave each other hugs during the meeting. She described their reunion as if she had “gone away on a trip for a couple of months and was now coming home.”

The mother-daughter duo agreed that it felt “healing” to spend time together.

Joni has also spent time with her grandchildren, Marlin and Daisy Claire Gibbs.

The Power of Adoption

As many fans and friends have noticed, Joni Mitchell has stepped into the role of mother for both her adult daughter and her two children. While they spent nearly three decades apart, they formed a close bond later in life. Their story is inspiring. They were able to find one another and make a connection despite having a closed adoption. While the search and reunion process was a lengthy one, it was well worth the wait.

Most adoptions today are open adoption, meaning there is ongoing communication between birth and adoptive families. This gives many expectant/birth parents the peace of mind that their child is well loved, safe and thriving, while there is still the opportunity for a relationship.

Learn More About Adoption

If you are considering making an adoption plan, or you want to adopt, contact Adoptions With Love today. We can help guide you through the adoption journey every step of the way. Call 800-722-7731, text (617) 777-0072, or contact us online.