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Sarah Peterson and Roberta Peterson are a mother-daughter duo who were recently brought together under miraculous circumstances.

In July 1966, Sarah Peterson was a sixteen-year-old girl who had just given birth to a baby girl named Roberta. Ostracized from her family, Sarah was forced to go it alone, barely making ends meet while living in the historic district of downtown Alexandria, Va.

She relied on outside help and sought out a babysitter for her child during the hours she was at work. She found refuge in Alberta Lathern, a woman referred by family members who lived in nearby Northwest Washington, D.C.


“She came off as very pleasant, very nice, very sweet, very loving person. I couldn’t say anything, at that time, negative about her because she treated her so well,” Sarah told WJLA.

But little did she know by taking the steps to provide adequate care for her daughter that she would be pulled into one of the biggest tragedies of her life.

One evening, Sarah showed up to pick up her child and found Alberta’s home empty. She had vanished into thin air and taken her baby girl with her.

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“She never said she was going to move. She never told us anything. Where in the world is she and she’s got our baby!” said Sarah.

She went to find a lawyer, but could not afford the fees. Local police completely dismissed her concerns, citing a lack of evidence. Days turned into weeks, which turned into years, and slowly Sarah began to accept that she may never see her child again. She would sometimes have moments where she would approach strangers who she thought resembled her baby girl.

“I would just run to the street and say is that her, is that her. I always looked at somebody’s child. Maybe that’s her. It’s like a death and that’s how it was. That my baby had died,” said Sarah.

One day last December, Sarah got a call from her sister that changed her life. It turns out that Sarah’s sister Deborah and Roberta’s daughter Ursula had recently met at a food pantry after realizing they shared the same last name. After talking, they pieced together that Ursula’s long-lost grandmother was Deborah’s sister.

The families arranged for the two to reunite and they finally laid eyes on each other in mid-January, closing a 53-year-chapter.

“I didn’t want to let her go. I think I was crushing her bones. We’re not talking about 10 years, 20, 30 years. We are talking about 53 years. Oh my God, 53 years,” Sarah said.

“53 years. But I always prayed one day. Always, always, always. I always prayed for my momma,” said Roberta. “You just never, never know. There are so many people out here looking for their family. They just got to have faith. Have faith and never give up. Never give up. Because there’s hope. There’s always hope.”

Roberta confessed that throughout her childhood she never really believed Alberta’s claims that she had been legally adopted.  She said that Alberta was a good mother, who did provide but when she became an adult, she went on a search for her real mother, not knowing that she only lived miles away from her her whole life.

Alberta died in 2007 and never confessed to kidnapping Roberta, but mother and daughter say they are ready to forge a new story of redemption and forgiveness.

“I always stayed strong and I forgave her. I forgave her a long time ago,” Roberta said.

“We cannot make up for the past, but we can move on to the future. And that’s what we are going to do. And that’s what we decided to do,” Sarah said.

PHOTO: ThinkStock


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