A teenage girl gave birth to a healthy baby boy at a hospital on Paterson’s east side at 5:28 p.m. on December 13, 1992.
She and her boyfriend called him Sergio.
The less-than-fortunate young couple tried to hide the pregnancy from their families and, just days after giving birth, they gave him up for adoption to the parents who raised him in a loving home on Belmont Avenue in North Haledon.
That child is now a man named Joseph Federico, and for the first 30 years of his life, Sergio was almost like himself.
Federico was aware of the name Sergio, he said in a series of telephone interviews this week, because it had been typed on his birth certificate. And when he came of age, he was tattooed in italics on his left chest.
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But that name evoked in him a sense of emptiness and nostalgia.
I’ve always felt a void, said Federico, a police officer. I wanted to know more about myself.
The missing pieces of his identity didn’t fall into place until last year, when he sent half a teaspoon of his saliva in the mail for DNA testing.
Now Federico has learned just about everything about his past, including an explanation for the most elusive question of all: Sergio is not only his original given name, he has discovered, but it is the name of the man who relinquished his custody three decades ago. does.
Sergio is her natural father.
Federico received the results of his DNA test in November. It was performed by 23andMe, a biotechnology company based in South San Francisco, California.
23andMe is the world’s largest genetic research crowdsourcing platform. The company, according to a presentation to its investors, had 13.6 million customers at the end of last year.
Federico said his DNA test results showed he had a first cousin in the 23andMe database, who lived in East Orange. Lui said she contacted his match, the company that allows users to chat online with genetic relatives and she told him he resembled her uncle, Sergio.
Before long, Frederick’s cousin connected them. And on December 16, 30 years after the day he was given up for adoption, father and son reunited in person.
It’s like having a whole new family, Federico said. Much of my life has changed.
‘chosen for each other’
Catherine Federico said she and her husband, Joseph Federico, had their names added to a waiting list for adoptive parents and that divine intervention played a crucial role in choosing their newborn children for them.
The Federicos have a second son, Carmine, 21, who is also adopted.
My children were chosen for us and we were chosen for them, she said. We were chosen for each other and God played a big part in that.
Catherine, 59, recalled attending a healing mass at the former St. George RC Church on Getty Avenue in Paterson in the late fall of 1992. She said it was the first time she hadn’t prayed to get pregnant, instead she prayed for a young mother to find the strength in her heart to give her child up for adoption.
The next day Sergio was born, later renamed Giuseppe.
It was the best gift I’ve ever been given, she said.
Joseph always understood he was adopted, Catherine said. There was never any need, she said, to sit him down and explain it to him.
But she said she felt anxious when her son entered kindergarten at Memorial School on Squaw Brook Road because Joey was the only black child.
At North Haledon, darker skin tones can stand out. Census data for the time Joseph was adopted shows that 96.7% of the district’s population was white.
To put my son in school for the first time, I was excited at first, he said. I got very excited about this.
His race was never an issue and he was accepted and well liked by his peers. He is a 2011 graduate of DePaul Catholic High School at Alps Road in Wayne, where he played baseball.
At that point, Joseph said he had begun to wonder about his birth parents. But all he could tell from his medical records was that they were of Ecuadorian and Haitian descent, he said.
I started asking a lot more questions, she said.
On his 18th birthday, Joseph contacted the agency that handled his adoption: Catholic Family and Community Services in Paterson. He wanted to know how to reach his biological mother and father, but the news he was given was devastating.
His file was closed and his birth parents did not want to be found.
‘I won the lottery’
Adoption laws vary from state to state.
In New Jersey, the Adoptees Birthright Act allows birth parents to change their preferences for contact with children they have given up for adoption at any time.
Sergio Casimir, of Fort Lauderdale, Florida, said he and his then-girlfriend had no choice but to put their baby up for adoption. I didn’t want the fight for him, he said.
Referring to his family, he added, it was difficult for them to feed us. Bringing another child home I’m not saying they wouldn’t take it but I was scared. It was difficult for both of them. We had to make the decision together.
Casimir, 53, who emigrated from Port-au-Prince, Haiti with his family when he was 8, had a difficult upbringing.
He grew up in East Orange and has said his father kicked him out of the house when he was a teenager. They would later reconcile, but not before the secret birth of his son and years of trying to find myself, he said.
Casimir is now the sales manager for an automobile dealership in Plantation, Florida and a personal fitness enthusiast, an interest he shares with his son. He has two other children.
His heart started pounding, he said, when his cousin called to tell him that she and Federico were in touch via 23andMe.
I didn’t think it was real, Casimir said. It looked like I had won the lottery. It was the best thing that ever happened to me, finding out I could see my son again.
Federico said that he and his father clicked from the beginning and that they talk to each other on a daily basis.
When Casimir and Federico got together in December, their families gathered to celebrate at the Grand Lux Café at Westfield Garden State Plaza in Paramus.
The following day, they traveled to Hamilton Township, Pennsylvania, nine miles southwest of the East Stroudsburg district, for a party at Casimir’s sister’s house.
This past weekend Federico visited his father and his large extended family in Greensboro, North Carolina for a cousin’s high school graduation.
It was also an early celebration of Father’s Day, but as Federico and his dad noted, any day now will feel like Father’s Day.
I’m happy that Joey has turned out to be the person he is, Casimir said, and I’m so proud of him.
Philip DeVencenti is a local reporter for NorthJersey.com. For unlimited access to top news from your local community, sign up or activate your digital account today.
Email: [email protected]
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