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Family reunion: Labrador siblings adopted in different families reunited after five decades

The reunited family take a photo. From left, in back, are Lorraine Shiwak, Mina Campbell, Donna McGrath and Daren Ackerson. In front are Ackerson’s wife Linda and son Parker.
The reunited family take a photo. From left, in back, are Lorraine Shiwak, Mina Campbell, Donna McGrath and Daren Ackerson. In front are Ackerson’s wife Linda and son Parker. - Contributed
NORTH WEST RIVER, N.L. —

It’s nearly impossible not to smile when you see photos of Lorraine Shiwak meeting her biological brother - Daren Ackerson of Oak Ridge, New Jersey - for the first time.

Shiwak, 53, lives along the Quebec Lower North Shore but grew up in Rigolet. She has been searching for her brother for decades.

In a story published in the Labradorian in October 2013, she told reporter Bonnie Learning that she and her brother were both placed for adoption as babies in North West River.

Dan and Marion Shiwak of Rigolet adopted Shiwak when she was three months old.

Shiwak said her biological family, the Campbells from North West River, get along well with her adoptive family.

Lorraine Shiwak’s face is filled with joy as she meets her brother at the Newark airport in New Jersey.
Lorraine Shiwak’s face is filled with joy as she meets her brother at the Newark airport in New Jersey.

In 1997, Shiwak contacted post-adoption services with the provincial government. She was told that her brother had been adopted by a family living in the United States - she's since learned he was in foster care and adopted at age two - and that the adoption was handled by Children’s Aid and Family Services in Morristown, New Jersey.

When she contacted the agency in New Jersey, she was told there would be a $400 fee to access information on her brother’s adoption file. Shiwak couldn’t chance spending that money with no guarantee she would get any information in return.

“Each time I’d look for my brother since 1997, I’d talk to the same woman, and money would be an issue. So I’d stop. And then I’d try again,” Shiwak said.

Skiwak took to social media sites in her search, again to no avail.

In June 2018, she decided to contact the agency in New Jersey once again. This time, after paying the fee, the agency sent her brother a letter telling him about Shiwak’s search.

The letter resulted in a phone call from her brother and, in January, Shiwak and two of her sisters flew to Oak Ridge, New Jersey, to meet Ackerson.

They spent five days with the 49-year-old and his family.

Ackerson is planning a trip to North West River this summer to meet other members of his family. There are eight biological siblings, with all except Ackerson and Shiwak living in North West River.

For Shiwak, finding her brother has completed what she always felt was a missing link in her family. It’s a dream come true, she says.

“After 30 years of looking and never giving up, I found him. He was so happy and so was all his family... And our family is so happy as well. We finally get to have our brother back.”

danette@nl.rogers.com


Related stories:

Thirty-year-old St. John’s woman excited to finally be adopted by foster family

Central N.L. man making progress on tracking down birth father and continuing efforts to meet family in Happy Valley-Goose Bay

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