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 40 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.
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.
Where Can I Find a Search Angel?
Thanks to social media such as Facebook and Internet forums over the past 20 years, it has become relatively easy to find a Search Angel. For example, just Googling “Search Angel” (in quotation marks) will bring up many pages of go-to sites to begin your journey. For adoptees especially, there are literally hundreds of support groups all over social media dedicated to specific states - even for individual adoption agencies through which the adoptee was placed or the homes for unwed mothers that proliferated around the country in the years 1940-1980 where their mother lived during her pregnancy. Start by searching for various words: adoptee [state] search angel, etc. until you find a group/page that interests you. Look to see how recent the activity in the group has been before joining to make sure it is not a dormant or lapsed page.
What If I Don’t Want to “Go Public”?
Many people are understandably reticent to put their most private birth information and family circumstances out in the public, even in members-only search and support groups. It is important to us that your privacy and confidentiality are as secure as you want. If you are uncomfortable putting your personal information on social media sites, you are welcome to contact me privately, and I will be happy to try to help or refer you to another Search Angel who is more expert in a particular area. You can also watch the forums and pages to see which Search Angels seem to have the most expertise and successes, and private message them for personal help.
Will the Search Angel Contact My Family?
Not without your permission or request. Your search should always be in your control; no ethical Search Angel will betray your trust and confidence. In fact, I personally have made it a rule that I will not make the first contact even if the searcher asks me to. I believe it should be a personal, private, and discrete matter between blood relatives. We will not let you go off blindly without support, however. In addition to providing Suggested Phone Dialogue for contact on my blog, I - and most other Search Angels I know - am happy to counsel and prepare you on the phone or through emails to help you build up your courage and determination. I am pleased that more than 95% of the reunions I have precipitated are successful. When approached with discretion and respect, the mothers are overwhelmingly happy to be found and look forward to having their lost sons/daughters back in their lives. I have received many letters from mothers, “Thank you for helping my son to find me!”
What About State or Agency “Confidential Intermediary” Programs?
Because of the same privacy concerns, I am adamantly opposed to these state-imposed CI programs for adoptees and, further, because adoptees, in particular, have been discriminated against, controlled, manipulated, and exploited enough without further having government bureaucrats or adoption agency employees basically take over your lives, enabled to look at your personal information, charge you excessive fees to do so, and decide whether and what, if anything, they will share with you. Then, if you pay the additional fees for them to contact your family, you have no control over how, when, and to whom contact is made. If the contact is rejected, you are SOL - no identifying info. This should be between you and your family. As one adoptee put it, this may be your only chance to hear your mother's voice. Would you risk a cold contact from a stranger to ruin your possible reunion?