There are a variety of reasons why parents decide to give their child up for adoption, but most of the time, it comes down to the parent not being able to give their baby the life they deserve.
In 1963, a New York family adopted a baby boy from a prestigious adoption agency in New York City. They did everything in their power to make sure he was loved and had the life his birth mother had dreamed of for him, but Howard Burack couldn’t help but feel like something was missing. 35 years later, he decided to start digging into his past, but what he found turned his entire life upside down…
Louise Wise Services
In 1963, Howard Burack was born in New York City and put up for adoption through Louise Wise Services, a Jewish adoption agency in New York City that has since shut down but was extremely popular with Jewish families looking to adopt at the time.
A Normal Childhood
When Howard was 6 months old, he was adopted by a local New York family. “I grew up in a nice, upper-middle-class family in a nice, suburban area north of New York City, in Rockland County, and had a normal childhood, normal whatever, great parents,” said Howard…
Growing up Howard always knew he had been adopted and was loved by his adopted parents. However, he couldn’t help but feel like something was missing from his life. Those feelings never completely went away, so when he was an adult, he decided to try and find his birth mother.
Searching For Answers
“You just feel like you’re missing something, just don’t know what it was. You can’t touch it. You can’t feel it. Something was there,” said Howard, who reached out to Louise Wise Services in 1998 when he was 35 years old to get his birth records and any information on his birth mother they could give him…
A Shocking Discovery
While on the phone with the adoption agency, Howard wasn’t able to find out much about his biological mother, but he did find out an unexpected piece of information about another family member that he and his adoptive parents had no idea he had.
The Twin Brother
According to the adoption agency, Howard had an identical twin brother, who was out there somewhere with no clue about Howard. He was stunned when he heard he had a twin, but the news confirmed there was a reason he always felt something was missing from his life…
The Search Begins
Howard was determined to find his long-lost twin, but the adoption agency told him they could not tell him his brother’s name or release his records to him. “I spent about two years, every day, thinking about this. It never left,” Howard said. “It was pretty disturbing. I mean, it was just an unknown. It’s like, ‘How could I find this person? Am I ever going to find this person? Is this person alive?’”
2 Years Later…
In 2000, 2 years after Howard’s life-changing discovery, Louise Wise Services was shutting down. A woman who worked for the closing agency knew she had terminal cancer and felt she had to make the situation right by telling some of the kids adopted through the agency that they had been separated from their twin siblings…
The Phone Call
The woman called a man named Doug Rausch and told him the truth about his past. “She goes, ‘I’m not supposed to do this. I can get in a lot of trouble, but I’m going to do it anyway.’ So I appreciate that,” Doug said. “She said, ‘Well I have some news for you. You have an identical twin brother.’ And I was like, I literally almost drove off the road. It’s not something you ever expect to hear.”
The Long-Lost Twin
Doug was Howard’s long-lost twin brother, and he allowed the agency to give his name and contact information to Howard. “I finally called him and we talked for a while and it was, you know, like I knew this person my whole life. It was amazing,” Howard said…
Reunited At Last
After that first phone call, Doug and Howard finally made plans to meet at an airport in Columbus, Ohio. “I don’t get nervous really easy or rattled and I still remember sitting on that plane dripping sweat and just being so nervous about, you know, meeting this person that looked like me, that I had no connection with,” Doug said.
An Instant Bond
When they finally were reunited, both Doug and Howard felt an instant connection. “It was just the funniest thing I’d ever seen ‘cause it literally was like looking in my reflection, but then the reflection would move and do something I wasn’t doing. … I don’t know how to describe that and I don’t think most people can relate to it, but it was a very, very weird feeling,” Doug said. “I mean, it’s just like you’re looking at yourself in the mirror and, I think we hit it off, you know, right away and you know, instant connection. I felt like I knew Doug my whole life,” Howard added…
After meeting, Howard and Doug told each other all about their lives and their adopted families. It was then that the twins realized how similar they really were. “We lived parallel lives essentially,” Doug said. Both men got married in 1992, hate all condiments, have kids that play hockey, and coach hockey despite never playing as children.
When talking about their families, Howard and Doug noticed they weren’t the only ones who had a lot in common. “They’ll probably get mad at me if they hear this but I think they’re more similar than me and Howie,” Doug said about his and Howard’s wives. “They both were runners. They both were successful in their fields and they both are pretty type-A personalities. I don’t know, I think they’re similar in a lot of ways. And you can only imagine that’s probably because what we both were attracted to…”
As Howie and Doug compared their lives, however, there was something unsettling about their childhoods. Both men remember strangers coming to visit them throughout their lives filming them, asking them questions, and testing them. They also realized that neither of their adoptive families were ever told that they had a twin brother.
The Research Study
The adoption agency told David and Howard’s parents that their child was part of a research study on adopted children and that they were checking up on them to see how they were progressing in their adopted homes. But that was a complete lie…
Everything Was A Lie
“They decided to separate these twins and triplets, place them in different families, and never told the families that they had adopted a half of a twin set or a third of a triplet set,” said Lori Shinseki, a documentarian who helped Douglas and Howard, and other sets of multiples separated by Louise Wise Services, get answers about their past.
Nature Vs. Nurture
“What they did was they told the families that this baby is in an adoption study. ‘If you want the baby, we would like to continue studying the child.’ And, of course, the families would do anything,” said Shinseki, who made a documentary, ‘The Twinning Reaction’, about helping twins like Doug and Howard get answers about what the agency did to them. But in reality, the researchers were secretly studying twins and what happens when they are raised in different homes…
Fighting For Answers
While the contents of the secret study are being held at Yale University and are sealed until 2066, Doug and Howard hired a lawyer to help them fight to get answers about their involvement in the study. When the results came back, they discovered they were kept together until they were 6 months old. After they were separated and adopted by 2 different families, they both showed signs of distress and motor dexterity declined. They both started rocking and 1 started banging his head until he was 2. “To do what they decided to do,” Doug said. “It’s just wrong. What they did was really, really wrong. The more stuff I read, the more wrong it seems and the more upsetting it gets.”
A Cautionary Tale
Howard, Doug, and other separated twins agreed to appear in Shinseki’s documentary to help reunite other twins that may have been separated by the adoption agency and help them find answers. “Humans are not data… People in power have to be very careful to remember that you can really affect someone’s life, in ways that you just didn’t even mean to,” Shinseki said after finding that some of the kids involved in the study reported serious mental health issues as adults and 3 have actually committed suicide. Doug and Howard, however, are trying to stop themselves from getting too caught up with what happened to them as children. “It would have been awesome growing up together, but I believe we were both very lucky and are not looking backward,” Howard said.