2017-01-26 / Front Page

Finding home: One day needed for woman to find family

By Patti Brandt Burgess
Of The Enterprise staff


KYLE VANSTEE Newton, fourth from left, is surrounded by her new-found family, including brother Fred Raphael, sister-in-law Ruth Raphael and nieces, nephew and great nephews. KYLE VANSTEE Newton, fourth from left, is surrounded by her new-found family, including brother Fred Raphael, sister-in-law Ruth Raphael and nieces, nephew and great nephews. Kyle VanStee Newton’s lost niece was in the break room at Leelanau Sands Casino when she spotted a picture of Newton on the front page of the Leelanau Enterprise.

The niece, who works for the Peshabestown casino, thought she was looking at a picture of another aunt. She knew immediately that she had to be related to Newton.

That was one day after a story ran saying that Newton was looking for her mother and her brother, who she knew were members of the Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians.

Newton, 42, had been given up for adoption at birth and recently began looking for her family.

Phone lines were soon buzzing in Peshawbestorn. The next day Newton, who lives in Saranac near Grand Rapids with her husband, Ben, and their four children, was at a family holiday get-together when she got a phone call from her new-found brother, Fred Raphael.


KYLE VANSTEE Newton, who was adopted at birth and grew up in Lowell, was contacted by her brother — a member of the GTB — just one day after a story appeared in the Enterprise. KYLE VANSTEE Newton, who was adopted at birth and grew up in Lowell, was contacted by her brother — a member of the GTB — just one day after a story appeared in the Enterprise. Raphael lives in Peshawbestown with his wife, Ruth, and their four children.

“It was so quick,” Newton said. “I didn’t even know the article had come out.”

By the next night Newton and Ben had a room booked at a Traverse City hotel and were on their way to the GTB New Years Eve Sobriety PowWow.

She met Raphael, as well as aunts and uncles, nieces and nephews and cousins.

“It was pretty crazy,” Newton said. “Everyone was so awesome.”

Newton says Raphael, an artist, is “cool.” Raphael told her that he found out he had a sister about 20 years ago, but didn’t know anything about her.

He contacted the hospital in Petoskey, where he thought his mom would have gone to have the baby.

“Of course they had no records, because I was born in Grand Rapids,” Newton said.

Newton hasn’t yet met her birth mom, who lives in Traverse City. She has talked to her on the phone a few times.

And she has seen a picture of her.

“I don’t look anything like her, but I look just like my aunt,” Newton said.

Newton’s adopted mom, Sandy VanStee, said she may write a letter to Newton’s birth mom.

“I would say to her that I love the fact that she gave her daughter up,” VanStee said. “There isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t think about what it would be like to give a child up and how hard that must have been.

“Kyle was loved to pieces ... we would not have had that if she hadn’t given her up.”

Newton also found out about her birth father, who is in Florida for the winter, and that she has another brother and sister through him.

“I’ve got his phone number, but I haven’t called him yet,” Newton said.

She said she’s not afraid to make the connection. She just wants to call when she has some privacy, with no kids or family around.

Newton has a full-time job at the Ionia County Intermediate School District, where she works with autistic children. The couple’s own children, who range in age from 10 to 17, also keep her busy.

Newton recently inquired about her birth mom through Grand Rapids Catholic Social Services, the agency that handled the adoption. She was given ‘unrevealing information’ that told her the circumstances surrounding her adoption, but no names, addresses or phone numbers.

Newton knew that her birth mother would be about 65 and that her brother, who was 8 at the time that Newton was given up for adoption, would be about 50.

She knew her mom had a boyfriend, and that the man was not her father. Newton’s mom had kept her pregnancy, as well as the identity of her father, a secret — or so she thought. Newton learned who her father is from other family members.

“She kept it a secret, but everybody knew,” Newton said.

Once she met her brother she called the adoption agency, who confirmed that she had indeed found her family.

Newton said the experience has been overwhelming, but in a good way.

“It took me a couple of days to process everything, it was just so fast.”

Now the family is is trying to find the time for everyone to get together.

“My kids are very excited to meet them,” Newton said.

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