For better or worse: One woman's search for her birth family


Mary Caros
Focus on Adoption magazine

“I made the decision to give her up because I wasn’t able to take care of her. So when I left the hospital, I told the nurse I wasn’t going to keep the baby.” - Vernita Lee

Patricia Lloyd’s adoption records indicate that her birth mother placed her for adoption because she did not think that she could get off welfare if she kept the child. But after trying for several years to discover the identity of her biological mother, Patricia gave up. It was only at the insistence of her two adult children that she began the search again.

She began her search by contacting the state adoption agency and asking for information on her birth mother. She almost gave up after the agency returned her call and told her that her birth mother had been contacted and did not wish to meet her. 

The same day she watched a TV show featuring Oprah Winfrey’s mother, and some more pieces to the puzzle of her birth parents fell into place. But it still took almost four years for Patricia to connect with her birth family.

Recent DNA tests confirmed that Patricia Lloyd is Vernita Lee’s daughter and Oprah Winfrey’s half sister. What was Oprah’s reaction? “Stunned.” Oprah did not even know that her mother was pregnant until Patricia contacted her.

Patricia was born to Winfrey’s mother while Oprah was living with her father and Vernita never told Winfrey about her half-sister, “because I thought it was a terrible thing for me to do, that I gave up my daughter when she was born.” The sisters met this past Thanksgiving for the first time and Patricia appeared on The Oprah Winfrey show with her mother in a pre-recorded segment.