User Stories She Discovered She Was Stolen as a Baby — and Found Her Birth Mom & 8 Siblings By Daniella December 29, 2022 Share Share Copy Link Cristina Prisco was adopted as an infant by Italian-American parents living in New York. When her father flew back from Chile with her as a baby in 1980, he was told that Cristina’s mother had been too poor to provide for her and had chosen to place her for adoption. Cristina as a baby It never occurred to Cristina or either of her adoptive parents to question that story — until one day this past April when she happened to turn on the TV while eating breakfast and saw Tyler Graf being interviewed on Good Morning America. Tyler, like Cristina, had been adopted as a baby from Chile, and also like Cristina, it had never occurred to him to question the narrative that his parents had placed him for adoption due to financial instability. It was only when he found and made contact with his birth mother in Chile last year that he learned the awful truth: he had been stolen from her at birth and placed for adoption by a complex international child trafficking network. She had awoken from anesthesia in the hospital to be told her son died at birth, and that she was not allowed to see the body. Many thousands of babies — some estimates run as high as 50,000 — were stolen from their Chilean parents in a similar way and placed for adoption outside the country, as part of a sinister political campaign to control population growth. Tyler, who is a firefighter in Houston, Texas, went on to found Connecting Roots: a nonprofit organization that helps adoptees from Chile reconnect with their birth families, many of whom discover that they too were taken forcibly. MyHeritage is proud to support them by donating free DNA kits to beneficiaries to help confirm family relationships. Another non-profit organization we are proud to support, Nos Buscamos, is based in Chile and helps families affected by coerced adoption and kidnapping to reunite with their loved ones abroad. The two organizations help each other and share data, and many families have been successfully reunited thanks to their combined efforts. Tyler’s story gave Cristina goosebumps. What if the narrative of her origins that she had always known was wrong? Could it be that she was also one of these stolen babies? She decided to call Connecting Roots and was surprised when Tyler himself picked up her call. They talked for a long time. There were so many similarities in their stories. She felt like everything she knew to be true about herself was crumbling around her. Tyler offered to take a look at her adoption papers, and within a few days, through the joint work of Connecting Roots and Nos Buscamos, Cristina’s birth mother was found! The child was gone When Laura Rosa Fuentes Caceres delivered her fifth child at the Hospital Regional de Talca in 1980, she was told that the baby had jaundice and needed to remain in the hospital. Laura Rosa, who was extremely poor, could not afford to stay in the hospital another night herself, so she was forced to take the bus home without her baby girl. The next day, she returned to breastfeed her — but the child was gone. The receptionist told her that the discharge papers she had signed were actually adoption papers. Laura Rosa was extremely distraught and lunged at the social assistant, but she was removed from the hospital by security. She had no resources to fight or try to find her baby. Unfortunately, she knew better than to believe this was an unintended mix-up: her second child, Marcela, had been taken from her under similar circumstances a few years before. Marcela had been born at home and was never registered with the government. When she was showing signs of developmental delay, Laura Rosa took her to the local hospital to get checked out, and was told the child was sick and needed to be admitted. When the baby’s father came to check on her, he was told she had died and her body had been donated to medical research. Laura Rosa went on to raise 8 other children — never believing she would see her stolen daughters again. Cristina’s birth mom, Laura Rosa, with a Mother’s Day card and flowers from Cristina Reunited at last And suddenly, within days of Cristina’s first call with Tyler, Laura Rosa and Cristina were speaking to each other on a video call. Cristina was overcome with emotion to see the resemblance between herself and the people on the screen. Having been raised as an only child, the idea of having 8 full siblings was a lot to process! Cristina (center) with her birth mom, adoptive mom, and all 8 siblings The next step was to confirm the relationship through a DNA test. MyHeritage is proud to support Connecting Roots through the donation of free DNA kits, which were sent to Cristina and her mother. DNA doesn’t lie: they were a 50% match, indicating a clear parent-child relationship. “Finding out the way I did was a bit shocking,” Cristina told The New York Post in an article on her story, “but I’m happy I now know the real story and am a little angry at everything that my mother went through. The people involved were evil people and they robbed me of my family.” In July, Cristina traveled with her adoptive mother to Chile to meet her birth family for the first time. Her birth mother and siblings were waiting for her with signs welcoming her back, and she went straight to her mother for a long, emotional embrace. Watch a video of their emotional reunion here: Cristina’s birth parents supported her through the whole process — though her adoptive mom, Ann Marie Zagaglia, admits to being a little anxious about how she might be received by Cristina’s birth family. “I was nervous because I didn’t know where I would stand,” she told People magazine in a recent interview. “Am I the person who took this child away all these years? I didn’t know if they would resent that I had her for 42 years, or if it would be okay.” But she needn’t have worried: the family welcomed her warmly and hugged her when she arrived. “To me, that was another miracle, that I became part of their family from the minute they saw me.” Cristina (center) with her birth mom (left) and adoptive mom (right) Cristina told People that that moment felt like being born again. “It was the greatest day,” she said. The fact that Cristina returned to the family after so many years gives them hope that Marcela, who would be 48 now, might also be found someday. Cristina is also now a board member and administrative assistant for Connecting Roots. If you or someone you know may have been affected by coerced adoption or child trafficking from Chile, we encourage you to reach out to Connecting Roots or Nos Buscamos. You are also more than welcome to write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll be happy to assist you.