Scott Merz

Scott Merz

Scott Merz

Scott Merz was illegally sold into adoption and now is searching for his birth mother.

In November of 1959, 18-year-old Dylene Zolikoff was alone, scared, and seven months pregnant.  She was taken in by a nurse in San Antonio named Ethel Nation.  On January 6, 1960, Dylene gave birth to a healthy baby girl.  But while Dylene was still in the hospital, Ethel took the infant away:

“Ethel stole my baby. And I searched, I searched, I tried everything in San Antonio.  I talked to a lawyer.  Ethel wouldn’t help me.  I just couldn’t find my baby.”

Ethel Nation always denied that she had anything to do with the abduction of Dylene’s baby.  But in 1968, Dylene found a photograph of her daughter in Ethel’s house.  It took another 15 years of searching before Dylene and her daughter were reunited on national television:

“When I first saw my daughter, she smiled.  And I was just overjoyed… after all these years… I finally found her.”

While the story of Dylene and her daughter had a happy ending, the stories of two other young people who were sold by Ethel Nation are far from over.  Scott Merz was born in San Antonio in 1965.  His adoptive parents were unable to have children and paid Ethel twelve hundred dollars for Scott.  Scott grew up knowing he had been adopted.  But when he was 10, Scott began having a strange, recurring dream.  Scott’s dream seemed to be about the mother he never knew, and perhaps, the place where he was born:

“I remember walking through the main doorway. Feeling very cold.  I felt like very, very horrible things went on there. Beside this table, there was a man in a green robe and a lady dressed in white.  I don’t know what they were doing there.  When I woke up, I woke up almost screaming, I mean I was really, really scared.”

When Scott was 18, he and his adoptive mother, Mary, began an intensive search for his birth mother.  Scott started his search with a visit to Ethel Nation:

“She seemed really nice… like she wanted to help. 

It was the hallway he’d seen in his dreams

It was the hallway he’d seen in his dreams

Scott and Mary visited Ethel on six occasions. With each new visit, Ethel changed her story.  At various times, she told Scott he had been born in three different hospitals.  However, none of the hospitals had his birth records.  On the final visit, Ethel lost her temper and revealed what, she said, was the bitter truth about Scott’s mother:

“She told me that I was a bastard child, that all my mother was, was a slut, a whore and that I should have no right to even look for her, so for me to go home and for me to stop looking for her.”

Scott and Mary refused to give up.  They decided to visit yet another place where Ehtel said Scott had been born.  According to Scott, the place was a community health center known as the Woodlawn Clinic:

“The very minute that we walked in, I was completely stunned.  I couldn’t even talk.  The feelings that I got from this were just incredible.  I mean it was… a morbid type feeling but yet I felt like I had been there before.  And everything in this dream that I had back when I was ten was coming true before my eyes.  I was so happy that it made sense of the dream I had from many years ago.”

But that was the only satisfaction Scott would receive.  Sadly, Scott never found his birth mother.  He did, however, meet a young woman who had a remarkably similar experience with Ethel Nation.  Dawnette Barker was adopted in July of 1966 by a childless couple from San Antonio.  As a last resort, Dawnette’s parents approached Ethel Nation after years of trying to adopt through state agencies.  Dawnette learned that on the night she was adopted, her parents had to choose between her and two other infants:

“Because my parents didn’t expect that things would happen so quickly they just thought they were going to go to see the baby.  But at that point Mrs. Nation told my parents that they could go ahead and take me home that night.”

When she turned 18, Dawnette found that her mother’s name was listed as Gloria Cantu.  The adoption papers had been notarized by Ethel Nation.  There is no way of knowing how many babies were sold by Ethel Nation, who died in 1991.  Scott Merz and Dawnette Barker now suspect that there may be dozens of young people who, like them, will not be able to rest until they are re-united with their natural mothers.  Dawnette Barker’s birthday is listed as July 21, 1966, but she may have been born weeks earlier.  Her mother, Gloria Cantu, may have been 23-years-old when Dawnette was born.


On the night this story aired, several viewers called on behalf of Dawnette’s birth mother Gloria Cantu Martinez.  A short time later, Dawnette spoke to her mother for the very first time and learned that Gloria had never wanted to give her daughter up for adoption.  Ethel Nation had tricked her into signing the papers.  Dawnette made plans for a long overdue reunion with her birth mother.  Within a few days, Gloria flew to see Dawnette in Washington, D.C.: 

“I just couldn’t believe it. I’ve always wanted to find her and wondered what she was like, if she was married, if she had any children.”

The reunion was made even more special when Gloria met her four grandchildren for the first time.  Dawnette’s dream of having her entire family together had finally come true.

Scott Merz is still looking for his birth mother.