Stephanie, 19, says she has spent most of her life wanting to find out more about her birth mother, Darlene. With the help of professional locator Troy Dunn
, Dr. Phil reunites Stephanie with Darlene — why did she give her up? Then, Troy surprises Stephanie with her older half-sister, Crystal. Emotions run high as the siblings meet for the first time on Dr. Phil’s stage — and Crystal confronts Darlene with some tough questions of her own. When they hear her answers, will the daughters be willing to give Darlene a second chance? Plus, Troy has an exclusive update on the headline-grabbing custody battle involving Baby Veronica
Stephanie says that despite a great upbringing with loving adoptive parents, she’s always wanted to find out more about her birth mother. She says that she recently started searching online and found multiple mug shots and arrests for prostitution, cocaine possession and assault. Stephanie says that finding the mug shots gave her some comfort, but also made her uneasy. “Her eyes were identical to mine. Her nose was identical to mine … Everything just connected, but seeing it through a mug shot was so hard for me to take it all in.”
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Stephanie adds that through her adoption paperwork, she found out that her mother had two children before her and one child after her, all of whom ended up in the custody of the state. “The type of person that would allow the state to take away four of your children is careless,” she says. “This woman is biologically my mother, but she’s absolutely not someone that I would ever call my mother.”
Dr. Phil goes through a list of Darlene’s arrests and criminal charges. “She’s constantly coming into conflict with authorities. How do you feel about that?” he asks Stephanie.
“It hurts, but I’m not surprised,” she responds. “I need the answers. I just need to know that I put myself out there and tried,” she says. “I wish I could just hear it from her view.”
Troy has a word of caution for Stephanie. And, Stephanie meets her birth mother, Darlene, for the first time.
Darlene’s Story … and a Surprise
Darlene confides that she was physically and sexually abused growing up and says she became permanently homeless at the age of 16. She explains that while she was pregnant with Stephanie, a man who she believed was Stephanie’s father offered to take her in. After her daughter was born, Darlene says the man treated Stephanie “like a princess.” But, she claims that he became physically and sexually abusive toward her. “I had to get out of that situation,” Darlene insists. She says that she went back to panhandling under a bridge, leaving Stephanie with the man — she claims, for her daughter’s safety.
“How did you reason through leaving your daughter with a physically and sexually abusive man?” Dr. Phil asks Darlene. “You knew what he was capable of, and you left a defenseless child with him.”
“Because it was just to me,” Darlene insists. She explains that for a time, the man would bring Stephanie to the park to visit her, along with baby wipes so she could clean herself up. But, she says that the last time she saw Stephanie was when she was 1 1/2. Stephanie was ultimately placed into foster care at age 3 and was adopted when she was 5.
“When I located you, I was really concerned about pulling you into her life,” Troy tells Darlene. “You chose drugs over her. You chose alcohol over her. You chose a tunnel.”
“I take full responsibility,” Darlene replies. “I’ve done a lot of foolish things.” She adds, “I think I just didn’t care about me anymore.”
Darlene reveals a source of pain. And, Troy surprises Stephanie with her half-sister, Crystal.
“I do blame my mother.” Crystal’s recounts the abuse she says she suffered in foster care, bringing Darlene to tears.
Crystal confronts Darlene. “You have excuses for everything … It’s time to stop talking and start listening.”
“I’m kind of ashamed to even mention that you are my mother … just because of the hurt that I’ve had,” Crystal tells Darlene. She reveals that seven years ago, she was homeless and reached out to her mother for help. “You chose your ex-husband over me,” she claims.
Darlene insists that Crystal disappeared after contacting her and says she had no way to track her down. “The bottom line is, I’ve been working on getting help. I need a lot more,” she tells Dr. Phil. She adds,”I didn’t know I was here to be the jackass, per se.”
“Well, if you’re a jackass, it was before you got here,” Dr. Phil responds.
“Well, I’m an even bigger one now,” Darlene replies. “How do we heal this, Dr. Phil?” she asks. “What do we do? Where do we go from here?”
An Inch at a Time
“I find it shocking that you are indignant that one or both of these girls have issues with you,” Dr. Phil says to Darlene. “Rather than getting offended by that, I would think you would be saying, ‘I want to see if there’s some way that we can start with a truth-based foundation and move — even an inch at a time — going forward.”
Dr. Phil tells Stephanie that at this point, he thinks she should keep her contact with Darlene very limited. “I would not invite your mother into your active life,” he advises. “You don’t owe that to her. It is a gift of access, if you give it,” he emphasizes. “I would make it very constrained and only under professional supervision.”
Dr. Phil turns to Crystal and says that he has the same advice for her. “You have a lot of unfinished emotional business with this woman,” he says, indicating Darlene. “Most of it is going to have to be finished with you
, no matter what she does.” Dr. Phil offers to provide Crystal with professional counseling. “You need some very specialized help for survivors of the things that you’ve been through,” he says. “Only when you have been able to do that, and you can approach this relationship from a position of strength and forgiveness, should you engage with your mother.” Crystal agrees and accepts the help.
Exclusive: Baby Veronica Returns
Former Dr. Phil
guests Matt and Melanie’s
story made national headlines when they were ordered to give their 2-year-old adoptive daughter, Veronica, back to her birth father, Dusten, because of the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA). In January 2013, the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to take the case, ultimately ruling that ICWA did not apply — and as a result, the South Carolina Supreme Court ordered Veronica returned to her adoptive parents. However, Matt and Melanie say that Dusten refused to turn Veronica over — and Troy stepped in to help.
What did Veronica’s birth mother want to say to Dusten?
“I would love for him to hand her over and let her live the happy, normal life I chose for her.”
Finally, after months of searching, legal battles and mediation, Veronica was returned to Matt and Melanie in late September. They spoke exclusively to Troy about how Veronica is adjusting — and the role that they want Dusten to have in Veronica’s life.
“All the people who love her, all of her family members, will be in contact with her,” Melanie insists.
“I think that’s pretty close to a happy ending,” Troy comments.
“We’re just trying to get back to normal.” Plus, what message does Dusten have for Veronica?