Those who bring an adopted child into their lives give them the exact same love and care as a biological child. Still, it’s not unusual for those children, one day, to show interest in tracking down their birth parents. This can often be a cathartic experience for everyone involved.
One such little girl grew up in a loving home with two adoptive parents who showered her with support. Nevertheless, she always wondered who her real parents were. After she eventually began her search, however, a single email brought her to tears…
Samantha Thomas was raised by two loving parents in Tulsa, Oklahoma. She was a smart, hardworking girl who, in high school, earned the titles of homecoming queen and valedictorian. Right out of the gate, she was on a path to success.
She wasn’t an only child either; she was incredibly tight with her younger sister, Marisa. Still, while the family unit was strong, Samantha always had one thing in the back of her mind…
The mother and father who raised her, Cynthia and Richard Powell, adopted Samantha when she was just a few weeks old. So after she got married and had children years after high school, the urge to reconnect with her biological parents grew.
She had tried to find them once when she was 18, but now that she was 27, she decided to give it another go — this time with more eagerness. However, her search didn’t come without its roadblocks.
Through some investigating, she found out her biological parents left a few things specifically for her when they gave her up: a blanket, a photo, and a letter.
To Samantha, this meant they wanted to have some sort of a relationship. However, she learned the letter and photo were destroyed along with the adoption attorney’s files. Had her search come to an end already?
“The 18-year-old me would’ve considered it fate and moved on. But the 27-year-old me is different – I am a wife and a mother of two now. I know the love a mother has for her child.” She wouldn’t let her mission end so quickly.
The search was on: The couple tried exploring social media to find out anything they could about possible family members. But without having a name or location, it was nearly impossible. However, Samantha thought of one more option…
She wrote a letter to a judge asking them to unseal her birth certificate. Amazingly, the judge signed off almost immediately, and Samantha soon had the first and last name of her birth mother: Valerie Lopez.
With her birth certificate in tow, her adoptive parents also gave her the name of her birth father, Eddy. Both of them lived in Chicago, so Samantha pulled out a phone book and got looking.
After some intensive research via Facebook, Samantha narrowed down her options to three potential candidates for her mother. She reached out to the one that had some physical similarities, and then she anxiously waited…
Samantha left a voicemail and sent an email. She wrote, “If you are my birth mother, I would like very much to be in touch and meet you whenever you are ready. Knowing you would mean so much to me.”
For the next several days, Samantha played the waiting game. She found it difficult to sleep; her mind raced with possibilities. Four days later, Samantha’s phone finally buzzed…
It was an email from Valerie Lopez! She was thrilled to hear from Samantha. She went on to tell her the decision she made so many years before was one she regretted. Samantha immediately broke down.
Samantha retreated to her car where she cried until she had no tears left. It was an overwhelming mixture of joy and fear. Her birth mother wanted to have a relationship, but how would things pan out once they met face?
Samantha also found out through her mother’s voice message that her father, Eddy, had actually tried to look for her at one point, but his search was met with nothing but dead ends. That wasn’t all…
Samantha also discovered she had three siblings! Their names were Alex, Bri, and Neeko, and she couldn’t wait to start a relationship with them. So, Samantha flew out to Illinois, and she finally met her family…
Once she arrived, her parents opened the door to their home and tears immediately started flowing! There wasn’t a dry eye as both Valerie and Eddy took turns embracing the daughter they gave up 27 years earlier.
She wrote on social media: “The rest of that weekend, and the trips that followed, are a dream.” She now had a strong bond with her biological parents and siblings, something she intended to keep for the rest of her life!
Journeys like Samantha’s can be anxiety-inducing — there are so many possible results, some good, some bad. A father from Oahu, Hawaii, knew that all too well himself…
United States Army officer Steve Carter was stationed in Oahu, Hawaii in 1980 while living with his wife, Pat, when they decided to adopt a child. They were immediately drawn to a three-and-a-half-year-old boy named Tenzin Amea (below, third from the left), who was in foster care on the island.
Born January 16, 1977, Tenzin had already been in the care of the State for three years. Steve and Pat said the moment they saw him it was love at first sight, and adopted him on September 23, 1980, as soon as they could file the paperwork.
Steve and Pat knew little about their new son’s birth parents. His father was said to be native Hawaiian, and his mother was arrested in 1977 when Tenzin was just five months old. When Steve and Pat adopted the little boy they renamed him William Steven Tenzin Carter.
The young boy once known as Tenzin started going by Steve Jr. and settled into a new life with his parents in the wealthy town of Medford Lakes in southern New Jersey. He had the kind of “normal” childhood that many kids would be envious of, participating in local sports and enjoying plenty of friends.
Andre Engels / Wikimedia Commons
As Steve Jr. (below, middle) grew into adulthood, he was never was able to shake off his curiosity about who his birth parents could have been. Even his family took his heritage as a joke. “With his blonde hair, blue eyes, and light complexion,” Steve Sr. said in an interview, “[he] does not strike one as being of Polynesian extraction.”
With that in mind, Steve received a unique Christmas gift in the form of a DNA test, and was shocked to find out that he had Scandinavian ancestry. Even so, that seemed like it might have opened him up to even more questions than answers.
That wasn’t the first time Steve Jr. was struck by the idea of DNA testing: In 2011, he read a story about a woman named Carlina White (below), who was kidnapped as a baby from a Harlem hospital and raised in Connecticut, believing her kidnapper to be her birth mother until she was 23. She learned the truth after researching missing persons.
Carlina White / Facebook
Recalling Carlina’s story, Steve Jr. didn’t stop at questioning his Scandinavian heritage. He began a quest to learn more about his past, starting with a search on missingkids.com, which is run by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. After combing through records, he made a startling discovery.
CNN / YouTube
Under a listing for a person named “Marx Panama Moriarty,” who’d been missing since July 1977, there was an age progression sketch of how the missing boy may have looked in his teens. Steve Jr. couldn’t believe his eyes. “I got chills,” he said in an interview. “I was like, holy crap, that’s me.”
Steve got in touch with the appropriate authorities as soon as he could for a DNA test. Eight months later, they had proof that he and “Marx” were indeed the same person! Steve Jr.’s wife, Tracey, encouraged him to pursue the truth even further.
CNN / YouTube
After more research, this is what he found: On June 21, 1977, Mark Barnes, a Vietnam War veteran who was working as a journalist at the time, was gardening outside his home in Hau’ula, on the Hawaiian island of Oahu, when his girlfriend, an artist named Charlotte Moriarty, said she was taking their six-month-old son, Marx, on a walk around the neighborhood.
Charlotte, who had a reputation for being a free spirit, never returned. After three weeks, Mark finally called authorities to report his son and girlfriend missing. Unsurprisingly, the police struggled to find any traces of their whereabouts.
Devastated, Mark spent over a year searching for his missing partner and son all over Hawaii. He didn’t want to give up hope, but he had no way of knowing for sure that his son was alive, living a new life in a completely different part of the globe, but that couldn’t have been further from the truth.
Because the truth was when Charlotte and Marx went on that fateful walk, they weren’t just strolling around the neighborhood. They made their way to the opposite end of Oahu, where a resident saw them loitering and called the police.
Carissagalardo / Wikimedia Commons
Once the police officers showed up, Charlotte made up fake names for herself and her son: Jane Amea for herself, and Tenzin Amea for her son. She even provided a fabricated birthday for the boy. By the time Mark reported his girlfriend and child missing three weeks later, police couldn’t make any connection.
As Charlotte was taken to a psychiatric hospital, and the boy once known as “Marx” was put into the care of the state, Mark had no idea that his son was in an orphanage just 30 miles away from his house. Worse yet, when Charlotte disappeared after checking herself out of the hospital, Mark lost his way of retrieving the boy.
Mark wasn’t the only one upset about this turn of events though. “Steve Jr.” also had a biological half-sister named Jennifer, who was eight years his senior. She convinced Hawaiian officials to reopen the case in 2001, which is how they commissioned the sketch of an “adult” Marx.
Once Steve Jr. learned about all of this over three decades later, he was reluctant to reunite with his long-lost family. A few months later, though, he called Jennifer and spoke to his biological father, who’d moved to California.
As for Steve Jr.’s adoptive parents, the news wasn’t easy to hear. “On an emotional level, I felt like we’d taken someone else’s child,” Pat admitted in an interview. In time, however, they accepted the strange circumstances of the boy they raised.