Hamilton

This Hamilton family found their long-lost sister. Here's why they haven't met yet

After months of searching, a family in southern Ontario finally found their long-lost sister — but they haven't been able to meet the mystery woman.

Clinician says learning you're adopted or having long-lost siblings can take time to process

Andrea Stevens, Lori Richard, Simone Cameron and Shelley Kay are pictured together. They grew up as sisters in Hamilton and tracked down a long-lost sister. (Submitted by Simone Cameron)

After months of searching, a family in southern Ontario finally found their long-lost sister — but they haven't been able to meet the mystery woman.

Andrea Stevens, Simone Cameron, Shelley Kay and Lori Richard are four sisters in Hamilton who made some shocking discoveries in January 2021.

Andrea took a DNA test on a whim and found out she was adopted. Then, after keeping the secret for a month, her sisters revealed they found out their mom had another daughter.

"It was like the ground was pulled out from underneath me ... I was in complete shock," Stevens previously said.

They couldn't go to their parents for answers because they both died. The sisters called cemeteries and other places looking for answers before finally getting information from the Hamilton Catholic Children's Aid Society.

Months later in August, after "lots of random social media messages," the family told CBC Hamilton they tracked down their long-lost sister.

They say she is still in Ontario and grew up with her adoptive parents. The sister also has an adopted brother and sister.

The Hamilton family didn't speak to her directly though, instead relaying messages through her adopted sister trying to find a way to meet — but the long-lost sister turned them down.

It turns out they found someone who didn't want to be found.

"It was initially very disappointing to learn she did not want to connect with us, especially with how challenging it is to finally find that person, but we also recognize and share the raw emotions that come with all of these secrets being uncovered," the sisters said in an email.

"We know she had a family that loved her and cared for her.  We want her to know we will always be hoping to meet her," the family said, adding Andrea wrote the woman a letter from "one adopted sister to another."

Time is key, says clinician

Allyson Harrison, an associate professor in Queen's University's clinical psychology department, said it'll be key for the family to give their long-lost sister time.

"Having someone come in and say, 'Hey, the reality you thought you've known your whole life is wrong and here, we want to give you this new one,' is not something most people would be happy with," Harrison explained.

"She didn't have a choice in being given up for adoption so the only choice she really has now is whether she wants to meet with people … if you push, you may permanently push her away."

WATCH: This Hamilton family is searching for a long-lost sister they didn't know existed

This Hamilton family is searching for a long-lost sister they didn't know existed

2 years ago
Duration 1:23
Hamilton sisters share how they reacted to learning they had a long-lost sister

She adds the woman may have questions about why she was adopted, if she wasn't good enough and may not want to connect with the family that put her up for adoption.

Harrison said in her own clinical experience, some people become more curious about their origins and try to reconnect — but it's different for every person.

She said it must also be hard for the family looking, since their life has also been changed forever.

Meeting and searching for others

While they're holding out hope they'll meet the long-lost sister, the family says there is some good news.

Stevens found a half sister in the Kitchener area. The half-sister met the family and is keeping in touch. 

Stevens also connected with a half-brother in California and another in Quebec.

And in some ways, the search is still on.

"There is another half brother who was born and adopted in the St. Thomas, Ontario area that we are still searching for."

But whether they get answers or not, the family says it has led to some positive change.

They have grown closer with their extended family, especially the father's side of the family. They also say their cousin is a whiz at fact-finding and researching.

"As sisters, it has brought us closer together," they said.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Bobby Hristova is a journalist with CBC Hamilton. He reports on all issues, but has a knack for stories that hold people accountable, stories that focus on social issues and investigative journalism. He previously worked for the National Post and CityNews in Toronto. You can contact him at bobby.hristova@cbc.ca.

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