Adoption Dilemma, Part 1: Struggling To Find Our Identities

Adoption Dilemma, Part 1: Struggling To Find Our Identities

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It's one of the most basic things every person wants to know: who am I? 

For people who are adopted in New York, that question is much harder to answer. In part one of a series, 7 News reporter Amanda Corna shows us the struggle adoptees and birth parents face as they grapple with the Adoption Dilemma.

Kevin Clark of Watertown was adopted as a baby in 1959 by his parents through Catholic Charities. 

Despite being raised by great parents, Clark always wondered where he came from.

"I think all adoptees always wonder what their story is, if there's people out there that look like them, why was I given up?" he said.

Clark went searching for his birth parents. He decided to do DNA testing through three different genealogy websites. 

After a year and half of searching, Clark had a strong match on Ancestry.com.

"I hadn't looked in a couple of weeks and I opened it up and there was my sister," he said.

Clark met his sister for the first time in person last July. He found out that his birth mother and the two other sons she had already passed. 

But Clark also wanted to know about his birth father's family. He went back to Ancestry.com and found his first cousin.

"It turns out that her mother and my grandmother were sisters," he said. "That pointed me towards the Plourde family."

The Plourde family of Massena consisted of 15 children. Clark did DNA testing with all male siblings who were still alive. 

When the results came back, the oldest living son, Alfred, matched as Clark's biological father. He told Clark he never knew that he existed.

"He's a little nervous around me and I'm a little nervous, too," Clark said. "It's an adjustment for both of us, but I hope we can be friends."

Bridget Gordinier of Hammond also knows what it's like to go searching for family. She spent 17 years searching for the daughter she placed for adoption. 

Five years ago, Gordinier reunited with her daughter for the first time.

 "I was standing in the Pizza Hut parking lot in Canton, New York, hugging her for the first time in 35 years," she said.

Larry Corbett of Watertown is a "search angel." He helps people in the area find their family through genealogy websites, a website that he started to help adopted children and birth parents find each other, and looking through old newspapers.

"I'm real good with especially newspaper archives in the area," Corbett said. "If I can find one person and figure out who they are, who their parents are, rebuild what you call a ghost tree."

Even with all these resources, New York keeps the biggest one hidden. The state keeps the original birth certificates of adopted children sealed. 

Patty Strife of Carthage has been searching for her birth parents for years. She had no luck getting that information.

"It's very sad to realize that in New York state people are dying every day because they haven't a full record of what their background is," Strife said.

In part two of this series, Corna will tell us what's being done to try to change New York's adoption law.

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