Meet Ayo Kells, The Woman Who’s Launching The First Black-Owned, All-Female Staffed Adoption Agency

It all started when, during an argument at her middle school, a classmate told Kelly Jamison she was adopted. This would’ve been considered an innocent jab between the two 12-year-olds in any other circumstance, but for Jamison, it went far beyond that.

“I remember back then going home that day and telling my parents about the incident and they just stopped in their tracks,” she said, now in her early 30s and goes by the professional pseudonym Aye Yo Kells.

Her parents told her the truth: she was adopted as a newborn and her birth parents willingly turned her over in a closed adoption, meaning their identities were sealed. The news prompted the then-preteen into a tail spin, enlisting her parents’ help in finding out the truth about her biological mother and father. However, due to the nature of her adoption, she would have to wait until she turned 21 to gain access to her files. Then, after nearly 10 years she finally began the search to find her birth parents.

“I was determined to learn more about who and where I came from,” Kells told ESSENCE. “So, I finally obtained my records and found there weren’t many details about my biological father, but enough was included about my mom to put some pieces together,” she shared, pointing out that although the records were overturned to her, much of the information was redacted.

Unfortunately, Kells noted this is typical in closed adoptions, especially in the 90s when analog systems were predominantly used at agencies.

Undeterred, Kells enlisted the help of a private investigator but because of the vacuous adoption records, the expert had little to no leads. That’s when Kells took matters into her own hands.

“I was able to find my birth mother’s last name and went to Google to see if there were others in my area that might be related to her,” the North Carolina-native said. She said that because she lived in a small town, she was able to utilize Facebook to quickly track down her birth mom and siblings. Her super-sleuthing not only led her to find the rest of her bio-family, but a new professional passion.

At that point, Aye Yo Kells had built a successful public relations practice working with entertainment and small business clients. However, she decided to expand her entrepreneurial footprint and build her own adoption agency as well.

“Something just kept being calling me to do it, and I finally answered in 2021,” she said. Kells said she’s already secured more than $2M in funding and laid plans to open the fully Black-woman staffed agency early 2023. This was intentional, as Kells said she want to focus on placing at-risk BIPOC children in loving homes.

“All of my agents are fully credentialed to work with potential adoptive parents and are trained to be compassionate because these kids need special care because of their backgrounds,” Kells said, acknowledging the importance of cultural competency in the adoptive process.

“I am the product of an incredibly successful adoption—my parents are everything to me and I want to help others find the same.”

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