Mother reunited with daughter she put up for adoption decades earlier

Mother And Daughter Reunited
Mother And Daughter Reunited

It was an emotional day for 62-year-old Candy Wagner, who after decades of searching, found the daughter she had given up for adoption.

Wagner gave birth when she was just 14-years-old, staying at a Salvation Army Home for unwed mothers. She told ABC's 20/20 that "at that time, in a small town where there's no place to hide, it is absolutely traumatic. There's a huge degree of shame attached to unwed motherhood at that time."

Despite being happily married and adopting a son of her own, every April, Wagner remembered the daughter she gave up. In 1996, she began her search.

It took decades longer, but Wagner and her daughter Barbara Jo Gowan were finally reunited -- both living in the same small upstate New York community: first as neighbors, and now, finally as mother and daughter.

"Thank you for finding me," Gowan said in the intimate moment.

Wagner explained that when she was pregnant, "I would take very long showers at the home and because the water (was) running I could talk out loud to her, and I made promises ... I promised I would find her."

According to a report from the Search Institute, 72 percent of adopted adolescents wanted to know why they were adopted, and 65 percent want to meet their birth parents. For Wagner, those numbers had a name and face, one she finally knows as her daughter: "It's just wonderful. I feel liberated. I'm not living the lie. I can let that go now."

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