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Video: Kidnapped woman fighting identity crisis, mom says

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    >> let us begin with the latest on what's a rocky reunion between carlina white and her biological family . she was snatched from a new york hospital 23 years ago as a baby. we'll talk to her birth mother but first the latest.

    >> reporter: ann pettway is being held without jail at a federal detention center in new york . on monday prosecutors were to announce whether a grand jury had returned an indictment against her. now prosecutors and the defense have asked for two weeks to find out what the grand jury decides and how to move forward.

    >> i want my baby back. they didn't have to do that to me. i had her. i was carrying her for nine months. they didn't have to take her from me.

    >> reporter: in 1987 an unthinkable crime took place. 3-week-old carlina white was snatched from the hospital leaving her young parents without a clue. 23 years later, the unthinkable turned into the unbelievable when carlina was reunited with her biological parents.

    >> i always believed she would find me.

    >> this is what i wanted ever since i found out that lady wasn't my biological mother.

    >> reporter: that lady is ann pettway who confessed to an agent she snatched carlina from the hospital, raised her as her own daughter giving her the name nejdra nance. when nejdra grew up she asked pettway for a birth certificate and pettway had nothing. nejdra started to search and unlocked the mystery of her identity.

    >> looking at the picture it looked like my daughter. i swear i stayed on that article for a good two hours.

    >> reporter: police say dna confirmed nejdra dance was carlina white, but the case is far from happily ever after. the first indication of trouble came from carlina 's biological father who spoke with matt on "today."

    >> i'm happy my daughter came back. it's hard for her to cope with us right now because she hasn't been with us for 23 years.

    >> reporter: family members say carlina has become distant from her biological mother joy white, even questioning her birth family about financial issues. experts say carlina may be going through an identity crisis .

    >> she may be experiencing loyalty conflicts between the family that raised her and the family she's just discovered. that's a difficult place to be put in.

    >> reporter: carlina remains in georgia where she's lived for the last several years and has reportedly started using the name nejdra again.

    >> there is a possibility these biological parents could have experienced lost for the second time. the child may have been lost as an infant and lost as an adult. that may be their harsh reality.

    >> reporter: nbc news reached out to carlina . she has no comment. it turns out law enforcement and the connecticut department of children and families could have solved the case six yearshen pettway told someone at dcf she was not nejdra's biological mother. police were contacted at the time but the investigation went nowhere.

    >> thank you very much. joy white, carlina 's biological mother is with us exclusively for her first live interview. good morning. i know you have been through a lot over the past few weeks. how are you doing?

    >> it's been pretty tough. i wanted to have a relationship with my daughter.

    >> it started positively when she first reconnected with you.

    >> yes. everything was great. i was on such a high when i first reunited with my daughter. you couldn't tell me nothing else, you know. i was floating on air. i was so happy. that moment was so great.

    >> she seemed happy, too.

    >> yes. with the family, we all got together and we enjoyed that moment. we didn't even talk about what went on in her life, you know, with the pettway family.

    >> of the possible allegations of abuse as a child.

    >> no. we didn't talk about that. we just enjoyed the moment and it was so great.

    >> and then she went back to atlanta, four days after. she came january 15 , back on the 18th, came back the next day.

    >> exactly.

    >> she was flown up by the post. she'd changed in just that day.

    >> yeah.

    >> how so?

    >> i think it had a lot to do with the pettway family.

    >> what do you mean?

    >> the family is -- she'd been with them for 23 years. that's her family. i think maybe it's a lot of pressure on her now. being that she found her mom and itle really hurts, you know. it's emotional, overwhelming situation.

    >> do you think she's going through an identity crisis .

    >> yes.

    >> you do?

    >> yes.

    >> where does that leave you?

    >> heart-broken. but i do have to understand that it is her family. she was brought up by them. i'm her mom and she is, you know, is just so -- this is so hard to explain . she's with that family. and that's all she knows. and i'm her mother. and it's hard not to have a relationship with her. it really hurts. i want my daughter back. i want her here. i want her to spend time with me and the family. and i want her to get to know me. it's like we are two strangers, you know? we don't know each other.

    >> she went back and has not returned since but she's asked a lot of questions about money. in particular, what happened to the settlement that you received in 1992 from the lawsuit filed against the hospital as a result of the kidnapping. the new york post says that you and carlina 's father both received about $163,000 and put the rest in a trust fund for carlina .

    >> right.

    >> if she was found before she turned 21, by the age of 21. she's now 23.

    >> right.

    >> what happened to that money?

    >> it's gone. we don't have the money. you know, we both had to live. you know, we put that money up for her, me and carl. we decided to put that up for her ourselves. at the time, things was like really rocky with me as far as a living situation and stuff like that. and i have two other kids -- a son and a daughter. i had to take care of myself and live.

    >> once she turned 21 and you hadn't found her, you used up the money?

    >> exactly.

    >> she asked about the reward money offered for her return.

    >> yes.

    >> a lot of questions about money that she's told you she won't do interviews unless she's paid. are you angry with her about this?

    >> yeah. i'm disappointed. this was a miracle that happened. it's breathtaking. it's mind-blowing. i just wanted to get that out there, you know, that we found our daughter and we're happy, re reunited. you know, i wanted to share that with the world. it really hurts me that it's about money. you know, that's what kids -- you know, it's about, you know. it's u ee's understandable, you know.

    >> quickly, do you know anything about the connecticut officials may have found her six years ago?

    >> yes.

    >> you knew about that?

    >> she told me about that.

    >> does it upset you that they drom dropped the ball on that?

    >> it hurts me very bad. it's a difficult situation.

    >> i'm sure it's hard. it started so positively. we wish you the best. hopefully the families will come back together

TODAY contributor
updated 2/8/2011 10:05:10 AM ET 2011-02-08T15:05:10

It was a “miracle,” Joy White said. Twenty-three years after her infant daughter, Carlina, was abducted from a New York City hospital by a stranger who raised her as her own, the grieving mother who never gave up hope was at last reunited with her long-lost child, now a grown woman with a daughter of her own.

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But as the international media frenzy has faded in the weeks since Carlina White and her biological family found each other, a cold and painful distance has opened up between them, Joy White told TODAY’s Meredith Vieira in an exclusive interview Tuesday.

“I was on such a high when I first reunited with my daughter,” White said. “I was floating in air. I was so happy and that moment was so great.”

Now, she says, “it’s like we’re two strangers … we don’t know each other.”

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Lost and found
The two decades the young girl spent living as part of another family, the stress of having to come to terms with a new identity and, to some degree, the issue of money have all played a role in keeping White and her daughter strangers, White said.

Carlina was just 19 days old in 1987 when she developed a fever, and White and the infant’s father, Carl Tyson, took her to Harlem Hospital. There, authorities say, they were comforted by a woman posing as a nurse. They left the hospital, but when they returned, their baby was gone.

In the years that followed, White and Tyson never gave up hope that someday they would be reunited with their daughter. In 1992, the City of New York settled a lawsuit the family had filed against it in connection with kidnapping. The family received $750,000. Half of it went to the parents; the other half went into a trust to be paid to Carlina if she were found before she turned 21.

She was not. But in January, at the age of 23, Carlina White found herself.

Related: Kidnapped girl finds her own mom after 23 years

Now a mother herself, the young woman who had been raised in Connecticut and Atlanta under the name Nejdra Nance had long suspected that Ann Pettway, the woman who purported to be her biological mother, was not. She regularly checked the website of the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children and, while looking through New York photos, found one that looked nearly identical to her own baby picture. She contacted Joy White through the center.

After 23 years, Carlina White’s (center) reunion with her parents, Carl Tyson and Joy White, was a happy one — at first.

Joy and Carlina met in New York on Jan. 15 before DNA tests were complete, confident they were mother and daughter. After the test results confirmed it, Nance returned from Atlanta to be with her long-lost family. But, in that short space of time, something had changed, White told TODAY.

Strains behind the scenes
“I think it had a lot to do with the Pettway family,” White said. “She’d been with them for 23 years. That’s her family. I think it’s maybe a lot of pressure on her now, being that she found her mom. It really hurts, you know? It’s an emotional, overwhelming situation.”

While the media touted the reunion as a joyous occasion, behind the scenes, there were strains. Carl Tyson hinted at them in an interview on Jan. 24 with TODAY’s Matt Lauer.

Video: Father to alleged kidnapper: Why, for 23 years? (on this page)

“I have joy, yes,” Tyson told Lauer. “I’m happy that now my daughter came back to me. The only problem I’m having is that it’s hard for her to cope with us right now, because she hasn’t been with us for 23 years.”

Related: Abducted girl’s aunt: Kidnapper ‘destroyed my family’

There were reports that White’s childhood in the Pettway family was not an entirely happy one. Both the New York Post and the Daily News reported at the time that there were allegations of drug abuse in the Pettway household, and allegations that Carlina White may have been beaten, including one incident where she was hit in the face with a shoe.

NBC News
Ann Pettway, the woman who raised kidnapped Carlina White, is in custody in Connecticut.

But White said she did not discuss those allegations with Carlina, and despite those reports, the young woman remains attached to the family that raised her. “She’s with that family and that’s all she knows,” an emotional White told Vieira. “I’m her mother, and it hurts not to have a relationship with her, it really hurts.

“I want my daughter back. I want her here. I want her to spend time with me, and the family, and I want her to get to know me,” White added.

Video: Kidnapped woman fighting identity crisis, mom says (on this page)

Money matters
Money also factors into the gulf between Carlina White and her biological family. The young woman has told her mother that she will not do interviews with the media unless she is paid for it. What’s more, the trust fund that White and Tyson established with proceeds from the settlement they had received in 1992 until Carlina White’s 21st birthday has disappeared. By the time the young woman resurfaced, that money had already been spent.

Video: Kidnapped girl, family ‘picking up’ from where they left off (on this page)

“It’s gone,” White told Vieira. “We don’t have the money ... we both had to live … Things were like really rocky for me as far as the living situation was concerned … and I have two other kids, a son and a daughter, you know, and I had to take care of myself.”

Joy White said she was “disappointed” that her daughter seems to be placing so much emphasis on money. “I’m disappointed because this was a miracle that happened, it’s breathtaking, it’s mind-blowing, and I just wanted to get that out there, that we found our daughter and we have reunited and I wanted to share that with the world. It really hurts me that it’s about money.”

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In a cruel twist of fate, things might not have had to turn out that way. Six years ago, when Carlina White was 17, Pettway told the Connecticut Department of Children and Families that she was not the girl’s biological mother — an admission that, if it had been followed up, might have led to an earlier reunion between Joy White and her daughter. But Connecticut authorities failed to pursue the matter.

“It hurts me very bad,” White told Vieira.

Pettway remains in custody in Connecticut. Prosecutors were supposed to announce Monday whether a grand jury had returned a federal kidnapping indictment against her, but now prosecutors and the defense have both asked for more time — two weeks to find out what the grand jury decides and how to move forward.

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