A Chesapeake family’s search for a sibling leads to a bittersweet end

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CHESAPEAKE, Va. (WAVY) – The frustrating search for a sibling has a Chesapeake family speaking out.

For years, the Kuchman family has been searching for their half-sister. The three siblings and their mother spent years trying to find her, but hit roadblock after roadblock. Thanks to new technology, they finally found her, but it was a few years later than they had hoped.

“I’ve known for 30 years that I have a sister,” said Sean Kuchman. “Had no idea how to find her.”

Kathleen Marie Kuchman had always wanted to meet the baby she gave up for adoption when she was 17.

“It was a story that my mom told us our whole lives,” Sean said. “That she had called Catholic Family Services and was always given the same information: ‘Yes, we’ll pass along your information, if she contacts us’.”

Kathleen passed away in 2015, having never met her daughter.

“That was one thing that she always wanted, more than anything,” said Mary Brewer, Sean’s sister.

Fast forward to this spring. A cousin matched with someone on Ancestry.com who looked a lot like Kathleen.

“I almost passed out because I was like, holy, that’s my mom,” said Susan Grothe, Sean and Mary’s sister. “As soon as I heard her, it was like I was talking to my mom again. She laughs like my sister and it was just surreal.”

They eventually found their half-sister, Suzanne Mande. She grew up in Wisconsin with her adoptive parents, just 8 miles away from where her mother was born. Suzanne says she started looking for her mom when she was 11 and kept hitting walls.

“I would get no answers. No answers whatsoever,” Suzanne said.

She now knows that her mom was trying to meet her. However, because neither party filled out an “application for disclosure” form with the state, there was nothing they could do.

Suzanne said, “I feel super cheated about it all.”

Both sides didn’t know that the form existed, so they’re speaking out, hoping they can help another family avoid this situation.

“She lives her whole life thinking that this girl doesn’t want anything to do with her, doesn’t want to reach out, doesn’t want to find her and that was the farthest from the truth,” said Sean. “She started when she was 11, trying to find my mom and now, she can’t and it’s just unfortunate that she’ll never get to meet her.”

A bittersweet resolution to a frustrating search, but one that has increased their family love.

“It’s brother and sister because love is never divided, it can only be added,” said Sean.

The siblings will be meeting for the first time in person next month.

For more help on requesting adoption information, visit the Virginia Department of Social Services website. https://www.dss.virginia.gov/family/ap/index.cgi

Copyright 2019 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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