Ever since she can remember, Jennifer Arellano has wanted to meet her biological father.
But she was nervous when she pulled into the parking lot Saturday to meet him at the Motel 6 in Anaheim, California, where he lives.
"I didn't want to get out of the car," said the Victorville 22-year-old single mother of a 2-year-old boy. "My nerves really got me."
But she did. And the two hugged for what seemed like a long time. Davis cried. Arellano beamed.
For her father, Corey Davis, 48, it was the best day of his life.
"I'm the happiest dad on the planet," he said.
Their meeting Saturday ended a yearslong search by Arellano, who always wanted to find her dad but said her mother discouraged it throughout her life. Arellano says it wasn't until her mother died in December that she felt free to begin searching in earnest for him.
"I wasn't gonna stop looking for him and I didn't," she said.
She said her search began on Ancestry and Facebook at the beginning of the year. She found a cousin who sent her a photo of her dad when he was in elementary school, the only photo she had of him.
"At that point I was so excited I started crying," she said. "I was so close to finding him."
From a call with an uncle, she learned a little bit about him. They shared a similar story. He was a foster child. She too was in foster care from age 16 to 21, she says.
After Arellano posted her father's elementary school picture on Facebook with his name and birthdate, someone sent her phone numbers.
She called one, and a woman answered.
"Hello, do you know of a Corey Davis that lives here?" Arellano said. "She was like, 'I know of him, but I don't know him.'"
Awkward, they hung up.
The next morning she got a call from a different number.
"You were looking for a Corey Davis?" said a woman, who Arellano later learned was her father's wife.
She put him on the phone, and they talked for almost three hours.
Davis had been in a relationship with Arellano's mother for a year. They never married. He said he didn't even know she was pregnant. He found out he had a daughter from a letter he got for child support years after Arellano was born, he said. He verified she was his daughter through DNA.
"I was very happy and very angry, angry at her mom for trying to hide her from me," Davis said.
He said the child support letter indicated his daughter's name was Jennifer Davis. He spent years searching for her under that name. He said her mother changed it to Arellano, the name of a former husband.
Davis was stunned when Arellano found him last month.
"I still pinch myself today," he said.
Arellano, who is caring for her toddler while living out of a motel room in Victorville and attending classes online during the pandemic, doesn't know what the future holds. But she's optimistic.
"I'm super happy that I got to meet him," Arellano said. "I've never really had a father figure in my life. It's nice to finally have my dad in my life."