After 34 years, mother reunites with daughter who was sold as a baby

Rhodes and Hudson hug after 34 years. (Brittany Wait/Times Beacon Record)
Rhodes and Hudson hug after 34 years. (Brittany Wait/Times Beacon Record)

Last week, Kathleen Rhodes held her daughter Sara Hudson for the second time. The first time was 34 years ago, just before her five-day-old daughter was stolen away.

Hudson was sold on the so-called "grey market" in a baby brokering scheme operated by Seymour Fenichel, a New York lawyer who exploited young unwed mothers and sold their children for up to $35,000 to wealthy families.

In 1977, teen mom Kathleen Rhodes and her boyfriend Larry were desperate for help with their unplanned pregnancy. They spotted an ad in the paper promising counseling, medical, and housing help for pregnant women. After a follow-up call with a woman named "Sister Marie," they were given a place to stay and health care, and coaxed into giving their child up for adoption. Rhodes believed she was giving her child up to a good home, when in fact her daughter was being sold to the highest bidder.

"I prayed I was doing the right thing," Rhodes told the New York Post.

After relinquishing rights to her daughter (by a forceful Fenichel) Rhodes never saw or heard from her first-born daughter until three decades later when she received a message on her Facebook page. "I was born in June of 1977 in Smithtown, NY," wrote Hudson, now 34, "and I am looking for information about my family."

Hudson, a Virginia-based EMT, began her search for her biological mother after a life-threatening blood-clot made her family medical history a necessity. She followed a paper and web trail of leads in search for her mother's name, with the help of her husband, and her adoptive parents, who were also swindled by Fenichel.

"I poked around on Google and was absolutely shocked," Hudson told the Utica Daily News. "I called my adoptive mother ... and she advised me that she knew almost nothing of the situation, save for a few details regarding my biological parents. She said that Fenichel had told them that my mother was 'very, very young, and very, very pretty, and she had auburn hair,' and that 'she was working in a bakery in Smithtown, New York, and my father was a park ranger,' and also that my grandfather was away working on the Alaska Pipeline and knew nothing of the pregnancy, which 'needed to remain a secret.' Surprisingly, this information turned out to largely be true."

Finally, Hudson pieced together her mother's married name and found her profile on Facebook. She was equally shocked to discover her biological parents had four other daughters, ages 21 to 26. Last week the entire family, including Hudson's adoptive mother, was reunited through tears.

It came 23 years after Fenichel was arrested for child trafficking. He eventually entered a plea deal and died in 1994, but his name isn't forgotten to a lost generation of adoptees he traded for cash. A Facebook group called Seymour Fenichel Adoptees and First Moms has become an online resource for biological parents and their adult children (now in their 30s and 40s) victimized by the baby broker. So far, at least 12 Fenichal adoptees and one mom have joined the group, in hopes of reconnecting like Rhodes and Hudson.

"Finding them has gone way beyond worthwhile," said Hudson of her experience meeting her long lost family. "I imagine it's rather like putting on a pair of glasses and bringing into focus so many things that have always been blurry, or down right impossible to see. These people all look so much like me! And it's as if I have known them all my life."

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