Separated by foster care system, ND man reconnected with siblings after over 20 years

“We feel whole again, we feel like a family again.”
Published: Nov. 26, 2020 at 6:09 PM CST
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FARGO, N.D. (Valley News Live) - After being separated in the foster care system, a North Dakota man is celebrating Thanksgiving with his sisters today for the first time in over 20 years.

It was a reunion David White was convinced was never going to happen— Separated by decades, states and with new names, he says he felt like everything was working against him.

“There wasn’t a single night that went by that I wouldn’t stand outside and look at the sky or the moon and wonder if they were looking in that moment so I could feel like I was connected to them in some way,” White said.

Meanwhile in Ohio, White’s baby sister Amber was exhausting every resource and following all leads.

“I looked them up by Betty Winkle, Jay Winkle, Jacob Winkle. Any names that they had,” Amber Johnson said.

While her efforts didn’t pay off on her hunt for her brother, in 2015 Johnson did find her sister Courtney, previously known as Betty. Johnson also discovered they had two half siblings as well. Johnson says once all four reconnected, they spent the next five years scouring the internet for David.

“I knew eventually, if it was meant to be, it would happen,” Johnson said.

Using information detailed in years of letters between the two as an investigation tool, Johnson eventually found a Facebook group for those who had lived in a St. Cloud, Minn. group home where White also stayed in the early 2000s.

“In these letters I had, I knew that he was in cottage three and I knew he was in cottage four in 2004. So, we would get on there and post pictures. ‘This is David White. He went by Davey, Dave. Does anyone know him?’” Johnson explained.

Johnson says their relentless posts finally paid off two weeks ago.

“I’m not kidding you, it was probably five, ten minutes and somebody posted, ‘Hey! I know him!’” Johnson said. She says the person then sent her a screenshot of David’s Facebook profile.

Johnson immediately messaged her could-be brother: “Crazy question, but I am looking for my long-lost brother. His name used to be Jay Winkle, but changed it to David White after he was adopted. Could this be you?’”

When White didn’t answer, Johnson says she messaged his wife who soon sent him a frantic text to leave work immediately.

“When I walked in the door, she turned the phone around and she said, ‘It’s your sister!’” White said. “I had waited for that message my entire life.”

White says he and his siblings have texted and called one another every day since, and says he feels like they never missed a beat.

“We feel whole again, we feel like a family again,” he said.

And while their Thanksgiving celebrations will only be via Zoom this year, White says he’s just thankful they are finally back together.

“It’s just good to wake up and to know that they’re apart of my life again, and to just know that my sisters are back,” he said.

White says he and his wife are planning to make a road trip to Ohio to finally reunite in person with his siblings before the end of the year.

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