By Lisa MadrasNEW CASTLE NEWS (NEW CASTLE, Pa.)
NEW CASTLE, Pa. — Joni Hernandez was born in New Castle in 1977.Seven months later, she began a journey shared by more than 1.6 million other children in America.She would be adopted.It wasn’t until Joni was six that her adoption was finalized, and her adoptive parents threw a huge party in celebration of the event. Like most six-year-olds, Joni was a little confused.“I didn’t really understand what was going on at the time,” Joni said. “I just knew we were having some sort of party.”Over the years, Joni learned the typical things a little girl learns from her loving, adoptive family. “They really encouraged me to be involved with school,” she said. “I was in chorus, track, theater, gymnastics and a ton of other things.“I put them through a lot at times. But they supported me and never stopped loving me. I have to say I was daddy’s little girl.”Joni, along with her siblings — a sister adopted from another family and a brother who is the biological son of her adoptive parents — enjoyed a childhood that most children hope for: trips to Disneyland, church camp and long summer bike rides to the candy store.“We went swimming at the local pool, and hung out with our friends,” Joni said. “It was wonderful.“And my parents went to every single track meet and basketball game, cheering me on and supporting me. They were proud parents.”Knowing she was adopted, though, left Joni with unanswered questions. Like many adopted children, Joni, even though she was raised in a loving and supportive home and loved her adoptive parents with her whole heart, still felt as if a piece of her identity was missing.“My parents’ wishes were that I not pursue looking for my biological parents until I was 18,” she said. “I didn’t want to hurt my parents, but I knew I had to find the answers to my all my questions. Where did I come from? Who did I look like? I really wanted to know my medical history, too.”When Joni turned 18 and graduated from Mohawk High School, she started what she now calls her “adventure.” Through local government agencies, she quickly tracked down her biological father, who then led her to her biological mother.“When I first saw my biological mother,” Joni said, “we just looked at each other in shock. We look a lot alike. When we hugged, we both started crying, and we both knew in that moment that our lives would never be the same.”Joni is no longer in contact with her biological father for reasons she wishes to keep private, but she and her biological mother began to develop their relationship from that point on, and their bond grows stronger with each passing year.“I don’t know who I get some of my traits from now,” Joni told me. “My biological mom is a neat freak, and so is my adoptive mom. I do know that I’m really laid back and carefree, like my blood mom. We can talk about anything and everything.”“My adoptive parents now understand why I needed to find my biological parents. It took a little explaining, but now I have two wonderful families. I couldn’t ask for anything better.”Joni, a stay-at-home mom who lives on the North Hill with her infant daughter, Cheyenne, someday wants to work with the government concerning the rights of adopted children. She wants families considering adoption to weigh all of the options, and to encourage them to be open with their children with any questions they might have.She also wants adoptive parents to know that even though their children may eventually want to find their biological parents, they will always love them. “My parents chose to open their hearts and family to me. Not all children think the same, but with me, there was just that need to know.”Every adoption is its own unique story. Joni Hernandez’s story is the best of two different worlds. Her's is the story of the love of two families — one that gave her the roots, one that gave her wings, and the sum of the two that makes her whole.