Every family has its fair share of secrets. This goes double for the estimated 400 million children living without parents worldwide who may never know why or how they came to be on their own.

Thirty-five-year-old Janet Barnicoat had always wondered who her biological mother was. After being found abandoned in an alleyway with her umbilical cord still attached, she had sensed there was a dark secret at the heart of her desertion.

When she finally learned the truth, however, she realized it had all been in front of her the entire time…

A sad reality of our world is that, every year, thousands of parents abandon their children. Because of this, there are countless people all over who will never know who they really are, and who will never meet their biological parents.


Janet Barnicoat, a 35-year-old woman who was abandoned as an infant herself, had quite the distressing start to life. After she was born in 1981, her biological mother left her next to a dumpster, her umbilical cord still attached, in an alley near their Lawndale, California, home.


After Janet learned that she was abandoned by her own mother—especially in such a cruel way—she couldn’t help but wonder: who was the woman who left her for dead? Still, the truth about her mother’s identity eluded her for years.


When Janet was born, her biological mother had wrapped her newborn daughter in a towel and put her inside of a paper bag, leaving her next to a dumpster in a hidden alley. Fortunately, a woman riding her bike spotted the bag and looked inside.


The woman, whose name was Joann Hauser, quickly alerted the police of what she’d found. Janet was subsequently put up for adoption, and after a short while, was brought in by a loving family. She was raised roughly 100 miles away, and by all accounts, led a normal childhood from that point forward. Joann, meanwhile, was hailed as a hero.


As life went on, however, Janet felt she needed to learn the identity of the biological mother who had abandoned her. “I got really mad and angry at my birth mother,” Janet said in an interview. “I held onto that for quite a long time.”


Janet continued to search high and low for her mother, but her investigation never led anywhere. So, she focused on other things, like joining the military and establishing a barber shop with her adoptive father.


Not only that, but Janet started her own family and had five children of her own. Realizing the love she felt for her family, she struggled even more to come to terms with how her biological mother could’ve abandoned her. “Once having my own children, you know, you figure out what that natural, true love is. And I just couldn’t understand how she didn’t have that for me,” she said.


Despite her earlier attempts having stalled out, Janet decided to begin the search for her biological mother once again. Even though she was still unable to locate her, she did, however, manage to find Joann Hauser, the woman who’d found her in the alley. It was a good start…


Janet then turned to the genealogy website Ancestry.com in an effort to locate her biological mother. Not long after, a DNA test yielded a match—her half-brother, Dean Hundorf, who lived in Wisconsin, and was four years her junior. He, too, had been abandoned…


Janet and Dean quickly made plans to meet one another. “It was like we had known each other forever, like we never skipped a beat,” Dean said in an interview. Janet added, “It was a brother hug. And going [30 years] without having any siblings, it was nice to have that connection and that bond.”


Once the two got to talking, Janet learned that Dean had been abandoned on someone’s doorstep near the alley Janet had been left in. Furthermore, he’d still had his umbilical cord attached and was placed inside of a paper bag. The similarities in their scenarios were uncanny.


Determined to get further results, Janet and Dean contacted genealogist CeCe Moore, who specialized in identifying the parents of abandoned children. She quickly cross-referenced the siblings’ sample DNA and discovered they had another half-sister named Julie Hutchinson, who lived in Baltimore, Maryland.


They were shocked to discover that Julie had also been abandoned in California in 1985, and much like them, was searching for the answers to who her biological mother was. Once the DNA samples were cross-referenced, they learned that they’d all shared the same mother.


“These three people were so much alike. They had the same sense of humor. They were cracking each other up,” CeCe said. “There is something about biological and genetic bonds that survives any sort of separation.” Still, the question of who their mothers was continued to haunt them…



The search for their biological mother continued, but it never seemed to lead anywhere. Every time they’d think they were onto something, it would come to a dead end. Then, after years of searching, the woman who’d given birth to the trio came forward…


While Dean and Julie had no idea who the woman claiming to be their biological mother was, Janet knew exactly who it was. When she finally found out, she realized the truth had been in front of her all along.


The trio soon learned that their birth mother was none other than Joann Hauser, the woman who had “found” baby Janet in that alley. As it so happened, Joann had been the one who abandoned Janet, and her other two children, after being unable to care for them.


After a series of poor life choices and several pregnancies, Joann had felt she wouldn’t be able to raise for any of her children, and she abandoned each of them just like she had Janet. Despite this, she claimed that she loved and thought about her children every day.


Even though all three children had unimaginably difficult starts to their lives, they’ve chosen to see the silver lining in their respective situations and don’t hold it against their biological mother. “She did us a favor,” Janet said. “All three of us had amazing families.”


It really shows how incredibly strong some people are in the face of adversity, and that it’s possible to forgive even those who’ve done you incredibly wrong.

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