Saturday, October 26, 2013

Exciting New World of DNA Family Matching
We recommend that adoptees who have difficult cases to solve and very little non-ID information participate in a DNA study to narrow down their search for families. These are all "non-invasive" tests (i.e., not blood-related) using cheek swabs or spit samples.  In particular, we recommend three companies/sites:

First, Cost here is $100. This is an autosomal DNA (atDNA) test which factors DNA from both of your parents.  You will be placed in their databases and matched with relatives from close to distant cousins.  This one has by far the largest number of participants, more than 3 million as of 2017.  It is most effective when you know at least one side of your ancestry, for example, if you know who your mother is and are searching for your father. You can build a family tree for your mother to sort out matches. which offers a variety of tests. The one most frequently used is the "Adoptee - Family Finder" which will identify both maternal and paternal possible relatives. The cost is $99.  Other valuable tests on this site are the Y-DNA for males only (father's father's father's father) and mtDNA (mother's mother's mother ...).  You can also upload your raw data from Ancestry to this site for a low price of $20 to unlock all matches. Cost is $100 plus postage for genealogy report, or $200 for genealogy and medical reports.  
If you want to expand your search efforts even further, there is a free site (donations accepted) you can load your raw DNA data to called, which will allow you much higher levels of comparison with your matches.
Whichever company you choose, we recommend you join search and support groups on Facebook. There are DNA experts, genealogists and Search Angels there who will help you understand the very confusing information. Be prepared for a long, steep learning curve, but each day will bring more interesting insights into your biological family and genetic makeup.
Each of these sites has very good introductory videos and webinars. Also look for blogs like CeCe Moore's Your Genetic Genealogist and Richard Hill's DNA Testing Advisor for help.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Tips for Families Searching for Adoptees

Tips for Families Searching for Adoptees
[Update 8/2021]

It's always wonderful to see parents and siblings signing up and involved in searching for their lost children.  It gives adoptees hope and courage to persevere knowing their original families might be searching for them, too, and are open to contact and would be happy to hear from them.
  It is very difficult, if not impossible, to find an adoptee who is not also actively searching.  Here are some things that have proven successful:
1.    Get your DNA in the major databases - at least Ancestry23andMe and GEDMatch
2.  Find out what your rights are and sign up at the State registry, if there is one. To find the laws, go to State Statutes Search, choose the state, then click "Access To Adoption Records."
3.  Contact the agency that handled the adoption and ask to put an updated medical/family history report in the file. Also ask if they have a policy about contacting the adoptee or else if they will give you any information about the family who adopted your loved one.
4.     Sign up at International Soundex Reunion Registry (ISRR) (download the form from
5.     Register with G's Adoption Registry.    
6.     IMPORTANT:  In the on-line registries, don’t put every bit of information you have; hold some items back to use for verifying that a respondent is legitimate, some things only your true son/daughter would know.
7.     Purchase a list of all males/females born on that day from Ameridex.  UPDATE. 10/2018:  Apparently Ameridex (Kadima) is now member-only access.
8.    Another option is to get a membership at David Gray's ( (about $25/yr).
9.  Take the names to other sites such as Intelius, Google, etc. and search for other bits of information about them.  Purchase a membership at Classmates to see if there are yearbook pictures.  Other sites for yearbook pictures and public information are AncestryE-Yearbook, and MyHeritage (all subscriptions from $30-$100/yr).
10.  When you search Google, put the name inside quotation marks in the search bar (i.e., “John Q. Public” or “Public, John Q.”) to get the best results.
11.  If you are in the area where you believe they were raised, go to the public library or school library and peruse the high school yearbooks for the years they would have been 14-18.  Many of these yearbooks are now on-line at Classmates, E-Yearbook, and Ancestry (all subscriptions).
12.  Place a "Happy Birthday" ad in the local paper around the time of their birthday.  "I think about you every day,” “Would love to see you again," etc.  
13.  Contact the local newspaper and television station and ask if they are interested in doing a story about families searching for people “lost to adoption.”  This might be more appropriate for siblings searching for an older brother or sister, since the media is usually hesitant to help mothers.  On the other hand, the more mothers who contact the media gets the message out there that we are here and open to contact and longing to know about our son/daughter, which in turn might encourage more adoptees to begin a search.
14.  Set up a special "search page" at Facebook with your name as it was when you gave birth and put in your interests or profile "searching for child born on [date] in [city]".  If you have other children, be sure to add them as friends and post pictures.  Believe me when I tell you how exciting it is for an adoptee to search the internet and find pictures of his or her bio family!
15.  Finally, be sure to have a special email address specifically for your search to field responses. 

Friday, May 24, 2013

Saving You From Yourself

Saving You From Yourself

I nominate Kinsolving, Troy Dunn, Pam Slaton, Search Quest, Worldwide Tracers, OmniTrace and all other so-called "professional searchers" who have for years, unchallenged and unregu­lated, engaged in the worst kind of vulture capitalism, price-gouging, exploitation, and manipu­lation, and who have made literally millions of dollars off of the pain and heartache of adopted persons and those who are searching for them, people who, for too long already, have been unfairly disenfranchised and discriminated against by the adoption industry and state laws sealing birth records. To do so unabashedly, all the while mouthing platitudes of support and lip service to adoptee rights to OBCs - their identity, family history, heritage and the identity of those to whom they are blood related - and engaging in offensive self-aggrandizing and self-promoting television programs without informing their victims that there are many search and support groups with no or minimal fees and hundreds of search angels all over the country who charge nothing and have just as great, or better, success rates, is deserving of a group Demons of Adoption Award. – Nomination for Sixth Annual Demons in Adoption Award,

One of the great things about being an independent, free agent (in every sense of the word) Search Angel is the ability to remove myself from associating with the unsavory underworld of adoption.  I refuse to, knowingly, have anything to do with any organization or individual who profits from adoption by trafficking babies and children, such as adoption agencies and lawyers, or paid search companies who exploit adoptees and those who love them.   If you’re here reading my blog, it’s obviously too late to save you from being victimized by the former, but here’s hoping I can save many thousands of you from losing your hard-earned money to the latter.

There are two kinds of paid searchers:  The pay-up-front, no guaranty, such as OmniTrace, WorldWide Tracers, and Search Quest America (which I understand are all tied together financially or have extensive cooperation agreements) and the no-find/no fee firms such as Kinsolving and Pamela Slaton.  Frankly, I don’t have as much of a problem with these two companies, which charge fees upwards of $2,500 to $4,000, because at least they only get their money if they make a successful conclusion to the search.  My only difficulty with them is that they are not fully honest with searchers and inform them of all of their options.

On the other hand, I do not have one merciful or tolerating word for the pay-up-front, no guaranty companies.  I wish people who are considering signing contracts with these firms would do a little research.  Just Googling the company name in quotation marks along with the word “complaint” will bring an eye-opening education, and one will quickly learn that the ethics of these businesses are appalling and that they’re even in cahoots with each other.   For example, I have been credibly informed that, although Troy Dunn claims he is not in the search business any longer, everyone who puts their contact information on his site is immediately referred to Search Quest America, which is run by Susan Friel Williams, a former Dunn employee.  There are also compelling allegations that Dunn receives a kickback for every victim SQA signs up, which he has apparently denied.

Here’s how these companies operate:  First, they get referrals by harvesting contact information from on-line adoption registries that have public contact information.  They have also spent years scouring the Internet, harvesting sites and have formed their own new registries to entice victims.  These searchers will then be contacted by sales marketers who will make grandiose promises and pressure them into signing contracts for minimum fees of $1,500, which are good for only six months and for which there is no promise or guaranty of a completed “result.”  These marketing agents adhere to strict company guidelines to persuade the victims to sign.  For example, they are not allowed to inform searchers of all their alternatives (i.e., that they can get their original birth certificate in certain states, that they should sign up with ISRR – International Soundex Reunion Registry – the largest free on-line registry in the world) or tell them that there is free, competent, very successful help available in search and support groups and through independent search angels.  We have even heard of instances where they have falsely told the victims that they "have no option" but to hire them.  Even if they know a case is fairly easily solved (something anyone reasonably savvy on the computer can do by themselves in a few minutes), the marketing agents will push the victim to sign up and pay the full fee, thus boosting the company’s "success stories" with easy searches.  Even worse, the sales reps know there are cases that cannot possibly be solved (black/grey market adoptions, or private adoptions where there is no birth name and no non-identifying information), yet sign them up anyway just to get the $1,500 non-refundable fee.

Whenever a consumer who is vulnerable, in confusion and distress,
is not fully and honestly informed of all their options,
it is exploitation!

The amount of money these companies have been ripping off people is staggering.  Just an example, an employee of Search Quest America recently slipped up in an on-line forum and declared that the company had “302,000” clients.  Accounting for an errant ‘2’ in there (the message was obviously typed in angry haste), I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt and say they have 30,000 clients.  In a recent press release, Williams wrote, Since the company was founded in 2008, over two thousand families have been reunited!  For the sake of expediency, I am willing to round that up to 3,000.  Subtracting 3,000 from 30,000, then, would leave us a figure of 27,000 clients whose cases have apparently not yet been resolved.  Then is it reasonable to assume that, at $1,500 each, SQA has raked in $45,000,000 to solve 3,000 cases?  (!!)  I wonder if the IRS is aware of this?  Even just considering the solved cases, it comes out to $4,500,000.  Pamela Slaton on her website claims, I have solved over 3000 cases to date.  Her fees range from $2,000-$2,500.  Again, using the minimum fee, that comes to $6,000,000.

I have been saying for years, if we had put just half of the money and effort that we have been giving to these unsavory rip-off artists over the years into adoptee rights and efforts in state legislatures to unseal original birth certificates, we would have been over and done 20 years ago!

UPDATE - 18 Jun 2013

Since publishing this post "Saving You From Yourself" I have been hearing more stories of how paid search companies have been scamming and ripping off victims. Some have been successful in getting their money back, but that doesn't make up for the emotional pain and suffering they have had to endure. And it leaves these vultures free to prey upon other victims with impunity. I hope you will all take just a few moments to file a formal fraud complaint with the Attorney General's Office. We have got to put a stop to this and make the public more aware.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

What is a Search Angel?
A “search angel” is someone who gives of their time and expertise, without charge, to help people separated from family and lost loved ones by adoption, foster care, divorce, and alienation, to find their information and reconnect, if they choose. We are men and women of all ages and from all socio-economic strata. Some of us are members of the adoption community – adoptees, mothers of loss, grandparents, siblings – and some of us are just concerned genealogists and researchers who have not been touched by adoption, but understand and appreciate the importance of the work. Thanks to the wealth of publicly accessible information now on databases on the Internet, virtually everything we do can be done on the computer with an occasional contact with a library or other public record facility.

Why do we do this work?
We are united in our belief that every human being has a right to their identity, family history, heritage and the identity of those to whom they are blood related. However, for adoptees, this presents a unique problem. There are an estimated six to seven million adopted persons in the United States. Most of these were babies and children who were adopted under “closed and sealed” adoptions, meaning their original birth certificates and other identifying information are filed away under lock and key in state capitals or court or agency records. In 43 states adoptees – and only adoptees - are forbidden by archaic, outmoded laws from accessing this information – their very own personal information. Yet, every year, as the importance of knowing one’s genetic and health history is generally recognized, and simply because they rightfully believe they have a right to know, more and more thousands are beginning to search for knowledge about themselves and their origins. Unfortunately, until now, many thousands have been exploited and ripped-off by highly publicized professional search companies who prey upon adoptees’ naivety and vulnerability and have charged thousands of dollars, many times with no results, nothing to show for the money lost. These professional companies then had the funds to advertise and promote themselves, thus reeling in more victims and perpetuating the vicious cycle.

The recognition of the Search Angel is dawning.
Quietly working away for over thirty years have been hundreds of search and support groups all over the country, in person and on-line, with very successful search angels who have solved hundreds of thousands of cases. Until the advent of the Internet and social networking, we have not had the organization or funds to make our availability known.

New search angels joining the fold.
We are delighted to receive inquiries daily from people asking how they can become a search angel and join the network. We are working toward developing programs to assist these new angels, such as training webinars, networking, and groups for sharing expertise and guidance.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Excerpt from Australian National Apology for Forced Adoptions

Excerpt from Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard's National Apology for Forced Adoptions, delivered on March 22, 2013
  Today, this Parliament, on behalf of the Australian people, takes responsibility and apologises for the policies and practices that forced the separation of mothers from their babies, which created a lifelong legacy of pain and suffering.
  We acknowledge the profound effects of these policies and practices on fathers.
  And we recognise the hurt these actions caused to brothers and sisters, grandparents, partners and extended family members.
  We deplore the shameful practices that denied you, the mothers, your fundamental rights and responsibilities to love and care for your children. You were not legally or socially acknowledged as their mothers. And you were yourselves deprived of care and support.
  To you, the mothers who were betrayed by a system that gave you no choice and subjected you to manipulation, mistreatment and malpractice, we apologise.
  We say sorry to you, the mothers who were denied knowledge of your rights, which meant you could not provide informed consent. You were given false assurances. You were forced to endure the coercion and brutality of practices that were unethical, dishonest and in many cases illegal.
  We know you have suffered enduring effects from these practices forced upon you by others. For the loss, the grief, the disempowerment, the stigmatisation and the guilt, we say sorry.
  To each of you who were adopted or removed, who were led to believe your mother had rejected you and who were denied the opportunity to grow up with your family and community of origin and to connect with your culture, we say sorry.
  We apologise to the sons and daughters who grew up not knowing how much you were wanted and loved.
  We acknowledge that many of you still experience a constant struggle with identity, uncertainty and loss, and feel a persistent tension between loyalty to one family and yearning for another.
  To you, the fathers, who were excluded from the lives of your children and deprived of the dignity of recognition on your children's birth records, we say sorry. We acknowledge your loss and grief.
  We recognise that the consequences of forced adoption practices continue to resonate through many, many lives. To you, the siblings, grandparents, partners and other family members who have shared in the pain and suffering of your loved ones or who were unable to share their lives, we say sorry.
  Many are still grieving. Some families will be lost to one another forever. To those of you who face the difficulties of reconnecting with family and establishing on-going relationships, we say sorry.
  We offer this apology in the hope that it will assist your healing and in order to shine a light on a dark period of our nation's history.
  To those who have fought for the truth to be heard, we hear you now. We acknowledge that many of you have suffered in silence for far too long.
  We are saddened that many others are no longer here to share this moment. In particular, we remember those affected by these practices who took their own lives. Our profound sympathies go to their families.
  To redress the shameful mistakes of the past, we are committed to ensuring that all those affected get the help they need, including access to specialist counselling services and support, the ability to find the truth in freely available records and assistance in reconnecting with lost family.
  We resolve, as a nation, to do all in our power to make sure these practices are never repeated. In facing future challenges, we will remember the lessons of family separation. Our focus will be on protecting the fundamental rights of children and on the importance of the child's right to know and be cared for by his or her parents.
  With profound sadness and remorse, we offer you all our unreserved apology.
  This Apology is extended in good faith and deep humility.
  It will be a profound act of moral insight by a nation searching its conscience.
  It will stand in the name of all Australians as a sign of our willingness to right an old wrong and face a hard truth.