Thursday, October 16, 2008

TAKING ADVANTAGE OF THE VULNERABLE

More and more blogs are being written by those who do rip off those searching. Some of the blogging does give good searching information while I've read some that is misleading. A blog about searching for adoption records will lead those searching to read it. Then there will be links to check public records, for birth records... Searching for a name is free but getting the information is not. BUT believe me, you will not always get the information that you are led to think is forthcoming by paying a fee or subscribing to a database for a month or a year. I just searched at one website for a birth record for an IL adoptee. I was told that it is available. It is NOT available. Plus it was misleading to be told how much information is available on this person when I know that it is not. This person lives like a hermit with no street address and not nearly as many public records are available for him as the average person. I had no reason to pay the current special of $39.95 annual subscription. But if someone else who does not know this person were searching for him, they might pay it. I have no idea what information they might receive but it could not be much and maybe nothing at all.

If a PI say claims to be able to find a birth parent for $250, think about what information you have. Chances are they will not find a birth parent for $250 unless you provide the name and last known address. Many adoptees don't have a copy of their OBC. Some are fortunate to know the name of their birth mother from another source. But if you have the name and last known address, you might be able to find the person yourself. One never knows how much more money might be asked for after the $250 initial fee either when it is discovered that a marriage application/license or other documents are necessary in order to complete the search.

The only thing that makes me more angry than those taking advantage of the vulnerable are those who are fighting open records with no restrictions.

We must continue to fight for ALL adult adoptees to be able to request and receive their OBC. If you have not joined in to see what you can do to help with the adoption reform movement, please do so today.

6 comments:

triona said...

You are so right. There is so little factual information about searching that many of us end up inventing the same wheel over and over again. I have to wonder if that is part of the point; don't tell people how to search, so they are dependent on agencies, intermediaries and other third parties (who, naturally, charge for the service).

I think all searchers should be in charge of their own searches and not expect a paid search firm or intermediary to automatically do the trick. There are no guarantees when you pay those hundreds of dollars (the Illinois CI program costs on the order of $500) that you will get any results at all. And, you will not know what steps were taken on your behalf, so you have no idea if all the bases were covered or if there are steps you can eliminate when searching on your own.

When I first started searching about ten years ago, I hired a PI who supposedly specialized in adoption search. This firm didn't even figure out that my adoption occurred in another state--it took another few years before I learned that all-important fact on my own. I'm glad I didn't pay them to petition the court for me, as it would have failed due to the interstate adoption (I was later able to petition but had to hire a lawyer to do so).

This is why it is vital that adult adoptee access to original birth certificates be restored--indeed, that records access be restored to all parties involved including birth relatives. Between states not cooperating with one another, ineffective programs and unaffordable costs, the only way to ensure that all people party to an adoption have equal rights is to allow them unrestricted access to the records.

Pennagal said...

You are SO right! There are far too many people out there who are ready to rip-off adoptees by promising information that they cannot deliver.

Maybe you should tell your readers that they should always check with the Better Business Bureau in the state where the "search professional" is licensed. And yes, they should ask if the searcher is a licensed private investigator. Anything less, and I'm afraid, sometimes even then cannot help you. But a reputable licensed PI will tell you what they can and cannot do. And if a licensee deliberately misleads customers they can lose that license.

So check first, get a reference from someone else who has used the searcher (by checking them out with search & support groups online) and call the BBB, chamber of commerce, etc. Make sure they are not some kind of "fly-by-night" operation that will disappear with your money at the first opportunity. Get a contract that spells out what they will do for that fee.

And, never invest more in a search fee than you can afford to lose.

Good luck!

Anne said...

So many people are ripped off for various money schemes, even adoptees who are desperatly searching for their birth families are easy prey. I feel that adoptees need to do a lot of their own searching themselves, it can be done with determination and patience but adoptees need an idea of where to start. When I searched almost 20 years ago, I used the suggestions provided in the guidebook I obtained from the now defunct ALMA organization(Adoptees liberty movement association) that book was precious and had loads of info available and it helped me find my birth mother within 6 months!
Adoptees should not have to spend loads of money and fall prey to schemes just because they want their own vital information about themselves. It really is a crime against us adoptees that we are treated in this way. For those searching in NJ, I have provided a link on my website about how to obtain vital records from NJ (www.adopteesvoice.com) but when I used them when I was searching I was careful about how to word my search request and this is the information adoptees need in order to effectively search on their own. One important point is that you never let any vital record bureau that you are trying to obtain records from that you are an adoptee searching, many will deliberatly withold information from you based on their own prejudiced views about adoptees being ungrateful. Hope this helps!
Anne
www.adopteesvoice.com

Mary Lynn Fuller said...

Triona, I think the Illinois CI Program should be avoided just like professionals claiming to be able to find anyone.

Pennagal, you are right about people checking with others about a professional searcher before hiring them. It would be good too to check with others about paying a subscription to get public information although $39.95 is not as bad as being ripped off for hundreds of dollars.

Anne, I did not realize that ALMA is now defunct. Back in the late 1970's I was a member of ALMA for a year & did not find them to be helpful. I'm glad to hear that they did improve. Early on in my own search I learned to never mention the word adoption because it is a word that can lead to closed doors.

Anita said...

Adoptees as a group are so vulnerable because our "official" information has been locked up.

The state has forced us into using quasi-legal methods to find out informatiion about ourselves - information that every other non-adopted person has at their fingertips.

Not every adoptee has detective genes yet they want to know their origins like everyone else and they should be able to. They shouldn't be penalized because they don't know how to do research.

Thanks to the Internet,wonderful adoptee groups have been formed to help other adoptees find their families and they don't charge each other a penny. They do it because it's something they have been through and now they want to "give back" what they have learned to new searchers.

They are the real Angels of Adoption.

Anita

Mary Lynn Fuller said...

Anita, it is very true that not every adoptee has detective genes. I do think that they are the most likely to be ripped off. Those who have Internet access should join mailing lists. There are many sponsored by Yahoo and there are others. It is very important to converse with others who have searched. In my own case I first met you on an Internet mailing list and you were invaluable help to me during the final days of my search. You are a true adoption angel.