You’ve finally made the decision to search for your child’s birth mother. Now what? It’s time to choose a search professional. Choosing a searcher can be daunting given that the future of your child’s relationship with her birth family rests in their hands. But as long as you do your research in identifying reputable searchers, choosing among them becomes a matter of personal preference, style and comfort.
1. What information will you receive if the search is successful?
Be sure to get a good understanding of what your search report will contain and make sure that your searcher will give their best effort to obtain the information that is most important to you. Some common report elements are: photos of the family and home, information on the family structure, birth dates of siblings and other family members, educational status of family members, living conditions, family income sources and financial situation, current address and phone number if available, health history if available, searcher’s impressions of the family, answers to any specific questions you had for the family. Of course it is important to keep in mind that some information will just not be available. You’ll also want to make sure the information you are most interested in is included in the initial search fee.
2. What information will you receive if the search is unsuccessful?
Getting the news that your birth mother cannot be found is never easy. But in these cases, just as with a successful case, you will want to be assured that you will have as much information as possible to share with your child when the time is right. Some things to expect when a searcher is unsuccessful in finding your child’s birth family are: specific steps taken to research and locate family, names of towns and places visited by the searcher, photos of the birth mother’s town if it was visited in the search process, the searcher’s best guess as to why the birth mother could not be found.
3. Does the searcher use local translators?
Guatemala has speakers of 21 different Mayan languages and many birth families do not speak Spanish. If a Mayan translator is listed in your adoption documents or your DNA photo shows the birth mother dressed in traje (typical dress) this may be the case for your birth family. Even families who understand some Spanish are usually most comfortable sharing their life details in their native tongue so using a Mayan translator can be seen as a sign of respect for the birth family and their culture.
4. Is the searcher comfortable working in the area where your birth mother was born?
Most searches begin with at least one visit to the town where the birth mother was born. If the birth mother is indigenous than this can mean traveling to remote areas (often walking for hours is the only means of access) where strangers are not welcome, especially those who are not indigenous. On the other hand, many birth families living in Guatemala City or other urban areas may live in what is called a Zona Roja (Red Zone) which are urban areas of extreme poverty and high crime. Often taxis and even police will not enter these areas as they are controlled by gangs. You will want to make sure your searcher is comfortable going to where the leads in your case may take her.
5. Under what circumstances would you be asked for additional money once the search has begun?
Some searches are very straightforward while others require multiple trips to multiple towns to track down leads and locate the birth mother. You will want to know up front if you will be expected to pay for all travel expenses for each trip or if these are included in the base fee.
6. What is the searcher’s position on providing aid to the family and setting expectations for future support?
This may be one of the most important things to think about when selecting a searcher. You want to make sure that the philosophy of the searcher you hire in regard to providing support to the family matches yours. We have all heard stories about adoptive families receiving uncomfortable requests for financial support. Be sure to ask potential searches if and how they set expectations of financial support with the family.
Asking prospective searchers these 6 questions will help you choose the person best suited to guide your family on your journey of forming a relationship with your child’s birth family.
Let me know in the comments or via email if there are other factors you found to be important in selecting a searcher for your family.