Two years ago, at the age of 51, I finally opened up to my counsellor about how I felt about my adoption.
Since then, the floodgates had opened, and I was curious to learn more about where I came from and who I came from. But I had no idea how to go about it.
I googled it (don’t we all!) at first, and it didn't seem easy, and I feel it shouldn’t be that way. However, after going round the houses several times between various county councils, they put me in touch with my local adoption caseworker in Oxford County Council (I live in Berkshire!). She helped me do the first job of tracking down my adoption records. This process takes an incredibly long time for reasons nobody could give me. Two years later (yes, two years!) I am finally in possession of those vital notes!
Once I had taken the time to digest all the information provided by the adoption agency and birth mother/father and biological parents, I decided I would like to know more from my birth parents. This part is not for the faint-hearted. My birth parents were older than I thought they would be, and now at 74 years old, I felt the time was getting on, and I would regret not making contact with them.
This part you can either do yourself if you have a whole load of spare time and a degree in searching websites, ancestry sites and Facebook when you don’t have a great deal of information! Or you can hire someone to do the job for you. I decided on the latter after an incredibly fraught afternoon of searching on various government/council/adoption & library sites/pulling my hair out, and generally staring at my computer with a glazed look on my face! I realised this wasn’t a job for me!
I went back to my adoption caseworker to ask if she could recommend what to do next? She advised me to contact an Adoption Tracing Service in the first instance, provided me with a long list of them and warned me to be careful as there are lots of “charlatans out there” willing to take your money! Great!
I called a few and was slightly horrified at the costs involved. One very famous and renowned company quoted me £2k per person I wanted to trace! I politely told them that was outside of my financial capabilities, and although I am sure they were outstanding, I can’t afford that! And more to the point, why should I have to pay that?
I finally found a company called Adoption Tracing Services, whose ethos is that no adopted child should have to pay a small fortune to track down their birth families! If only they all had this attitude! So I enlisted their help, and after sending off birth records and birth certificates, I waited. It turns out I didn’t have to wait very long! Within four days, they had all the information I needed in great detail on my birth parents, including addresses/phone numbers/wives/husbands/siblings and social media accounts. I was shocked and amazed that they turned it around quickly and verified everything. It was a surreal feeling to be sitting staring at my birth father on Facebook! They sent me a full report, and the cost was only £350 per adult.
Then, of course, begs the question, what next? The tracing service recommended I use an Intermediary to contact my birth parents. You can scare them off if you go direct via social media or writing/phoning out of the blue. You have a slightly better chance if you use an intermediary. They are more tactful and discreet about making approaches. And I want the best possible outcome, so I am using a recommended intermediary who has been fantastic. She has contacted my birth mother by post as I write this, and I am awaiting a response. I know I have gone about things at least in the right way, whether the outcome for me is negative or positive.
So what is the point of this? It’s really to say if you do decide to search for extended lost family that, from my personal experience, it is entirely possible, but you will need a bit of help (and money) along the way. As well as a LOT of patience as the process can be slow, and sometimes you feel like you go round in circles. It shouldn’t be like this, as we have a right to know where we have come from and our heritage. However, until things change, you need to factor in the time it takes once you have decided to search. So be mindful of that. It isn’t easy and you may not get the fairytale ending you hoped for. But so many of the blanks of my beginnings have been filled in for me and that has been incredibly helpful to me.