Maybe it’s because of the isolation of the pandemic, or maybe it’s a sign of the times… But in recent months the number of cases coming across my desk from parents seeking the children they put up for adoption and adopted children (now grown) seeking their birth parents has been staggering. Of course, we’re always happy to assist anyone in finding their long-lost relatives. It’s important to be realistic about the expectations in a genealogical investigation.
First of all, although it does sometimes happen, the majority of successful locates of this type rarely uncover a very wealthy set of parents that have been searching for their child(ren) for many years. I’m sorry about that but as nice as it sounds, it’s rare. As the party doing the searching, you have to accept the possibility that you won’t like what you find. You might. But there’s no guarantee.
To take the cold hard honesty a little further, before you ever hire an investigator (or go it alone) there are simple unwritten rules of the universe that apply to everyone.
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It’s not easy or quick in most cases.
Somebody had to say it. I’m sorry but the simple fact is there is a lot stacked against you on this journey. It is very rare for a solution to come quickly or without a period of aggravation, a run of disappointments and several “but that’s not fair!” or “that doesn’t make any sense!” moments.
Investigators are not created equal.
It should also be said that not all investigators are investigators! Just because someone says they’ll help you out doesn’t mean they’re competent, qualified or capable of getting you to your end goal. Sadly, there are more people willing to find your wallet than your lost loved ones. Many of them are hobbyists that make a solid living surfing the web and taking payments. So you’ll need to do more than a quick Google search when deciding. Consider what other “specialties” the agency claims to have. It takes a broad knowledge base to succeed at this type of investigation. Keep that in mind.
Privacy law was not designed to help anyone get answers…ever.
Every country and many of the jurisdictions within those countries have their own views and opinions about what rights a parent or child has to find each other following adoption. Not all of those views are helpful. Additionally, as we “progress” in protecting privacy, getting answers to questions gets much, much harder. If you don’t have everything you need to satisfy the gatekeepers of this information, they will promptly slam the door on you. (And/or your investigator). Here are the privacy laws in Canada.
Are you sure you want to find them? Do they want to be found?
Hand in hand with the Privacy monsters are those that have the opinion that the person being sought should be notified that someone is looking. Yes. From time to time, you’ll get really close to finding your answer. You’ll reach out to the wrong person who feels it’s their duty to inform the birth parents or child that you’re looking for, that you’re looking for them. This can have a spectrum of results including them getting spooked and going on the run. Effectively resetting your search to day 1.
Being “helpful” can result in higher costs!
Often a client will think that they are being “helpful” by simultaneously working on the case and tracking down leads. Contrary to the saying “Two heads are better than one!” this often results in a two-headed monster that wreaks havoc on an otherwise challenging investigation. The best way to help your investigator is to think of potentially relevant information and share it with the investigator. But not reach out to anyone on your own without your investigator agreeing it’s a good idea first. It’s far more likely that your involvement will muddy the waters, spook the people that you’re looking for, ruin potential leads, and add to your costs, than anything else.
You can’t un-ring a bell.
Once you contact the birth parents or child (or someone else does it for you), you have to understand that there’s an elephant in both of your rooms for quite a while. You could be entering a bad situation where that person now feels that you owe them something or that they want something from you other than to get to know you. For this reason, I will often recommend that a client that has found their target, goes a step further to conduct some due diligence work and understand the circumstances of the person they are effectively meeting for the first time.
Who’s your spirit animal?
The investigator is there to help you get answers, keep you on a direct path (though that is never easy!), and minimize wasted time or resources on the journey. But this is not simply a game of hiding and seeking. There is a large emotional component, often anxiety and stress, and a number of times where you’ll need some external support or someone to talk to about what you’re going through.
If you can keep yourself grounded through all of the above and have a lot of patience, you have the right mindset. You’ll still need to remember that it’s critical, to be honest with the investigator and yourself about why you’re looking. What do you want to happen when or if you find your birth parents/child? Can you accept that in some cases, no amount of money or time will answer the questions you have? If you are ready for the consequences, contact your family lawyer and private investigator.