In December 2022 we shared the story of Cristina Prisco, who discovered as an adult that she had actually been stolen from her birth parents in Chile. She was able to reconnect with her birth family via an organization called Connecting Roots, which we are proud to support — and which she now belongs to as a board member and administrative assistant.
Cristina’s is just one of many stories of Chilean adoptees discovering the awful truth about how they were separated from their parents. It is estimated that thousands of Chilean families were victims of coerced adoptions as part of a national strategy to reduce poverty under the military dictatorship of General Augustus Pinochet from 1973–1990.
Connecting Roots was founded by one of those “stolen babies.” Tyler Graf, a firefighter from Texas, found his birth family at age 38, and discovered to his horror that his mother had never wanted to place him for adoption. He had been born prematurely and taken from her, ostensibly so she could recover from her C-section, and was later told that he had died. In December of 2021, Tyler started Connecting Roots to help other victims of coerced adoption reconnect with their birth families in Chile. MyHeritage provides the DNA tests necessary to confirm the relationships.
While Cristina was watching an interview with Tyler on Good Morning America and starting to question her own adoption story, the same thing was happening to Mary Van Der Loop on the other side of the country. Mary had adopted her son, David Avary, from Chile, and Tyler’s story sounded chillingly familiar. She wrote a letter to the city of Houston and it found its way to Tyler.
‘A hundred questions to ask’
Tyler’s team got on the case, and when they started looking into David’s story, they found the telltale signs: his root number, similar to a Social Security number in Chile, still existed, which meant that no emigration had ever been officially registered. This is a perfect example of why DNA testing is such an important part of the process of confirming the truth: paperwork can lie.
“It’s like you’re excited at one point, and then at the same time, you’re worried and you have hundreds of questions to ask. A bunch of whys,” said David in an interview with ABC13 in November 2022.
Before long, David’s birth mother, Teresa del Carmen Campos, was found, and a couple of MyHeritage DNA tests later, the relationship was confirmed. David learned that he had 3 brothers, too.
“I’ve lived my life knowing I’m adopted,” David told ABC13. “Here’s paperwork to prove I’m adopted, and now that some of that is not real, I kind of looked at it from a moment of like, my whole life is not real. It’s been falsified.”
Teresa, David’s birth mother, shared what had become a familiar story: when David was 10 months old, he got sick and Teresa took him to a hospital for treatment. The Chilean government officials told her they could offer financial help to cover the costs of his care, and asked her to sign a document to give consent. Then they kicked her out of the hospital and told her she had given up her son for adoption.
“I was in pain for so many years,” she says.
‘Now I take you everywhere with me’
The similarities between David and Tyler were uncanny. Both learned that they’d been stolen at birth at 38 years of age while living in Texas and working as firefighters; both of their adoptive mothers were born in Wisconsin and currently live in Colorado; and both of them had lost their adoptive fathers. The two felt an instant connection and are very close. When Tyler planned to travel to Chile to celebrate his 40th birthday with his birth mother, David decided to come along to finally meet his own birth family. David’s adoptive mom, Mary, joined them — and so did Tyler’s adoptive mom, Carol.
Watch some footage of his journey and the moment of reunion below:
As soon as his brothers and mother saw him, they cocooned him in a big, long-overdue family hug. One of them, Gabriel, showed him the tattoo he’d recently had done of his long-lost brother’s face, wearing his firefighter helmet. “Now I take you everywhere with me,” he says.
For David’s adoptive mother Mary, the meeting with his birth mother, Teresa, was especially emotional. “I did not know what to expect,” she said. “He was so loved. He was so missed. When I adopted him… he was the most beautiful child, he was wonderful, he’s a great man. And I’m so proud to be his adoptive mother. And I’m so sorry,” she said, turning tearfully to Teresa, “that my joy was your pain. I’m so sorry.”
Teresa says she is indebted to Mary for caring for her son and giving him a good life.
“It has been an unforgettable and humbling experience,” says David.
“I’ll tell you what, it never gets easier,” said Tyler in an interview with ABC13. “I feel that when I started this foundation, I didn’t quite fully heal, but it gave me a purpose. Every time we do a reunion like this, it opens up a wound, but every time that hole gets smaller.”
Connecting Roots has reunited 37 families so far, and hopes to increase its cooperation with the Chilean government to facilitate as many such reunions as possible. Time is of the essence: the parents of babies stolen under Pinochet’s regime are aging, and Tyler wants to be sure they will still have time together.
Visit Connecting-Roots.com to learn more about the organization and how you can help support them. If you or someone you know may have been affected by coerced adoption in Chile, we encourage you to contact Connecting Roots.
The post Texas Firefighter Reunited with the Chilean Family He Was Stolen From as a Baby appeared first on MyHeritage Blog.
Source: My Heritage
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