Many adopted or abandoned children, now adults, are on a mission to trace down their biological parents. Or at least, to find as much information about them as possible. Sometimes, such a search calls for a man like Michael Flint, the star of my thriller novel, Blood Trails.
Michael Flint is a professional heir hunter. He specializes in finding people who are positioned to gain an inheritance. But there are some parallels between his work and the work adults do when they decide they’d like to learn more about their biological families.
Michael Flint’s own mother actually gave him up at two months of age. In Flint’s case, until now, he had never felt the need to dwell on his past:
“As for his birth mother, experience had taught him that parents who leave their kids have good reasons for doing so. Flint believed he was better off than he would have been if his parents had made a different choice. He was better off not knowing what their reasons were. No need to know, no desire to know. Simple as that.”
-Blood Trails by Diane Capri
Some abandoned children are never formally adopted. And for those who are adopted, closed adoptions were once standard, especially when premarital pregnancy was a bigger cultural stigma. Closed adoptions peaked during the period from the end of WWII to the early 1970’s, but they remained common for decades.
For abandoned children, like Michael Flint, no birth certificate may be available at all. But in a closed adoption, the record of the biological parents is sealed, and, often, the father’s name isn’t on the birth certificate. This is where private investigators come in to play.
The Reasons Behind Closed Adoptions
Parent(s) may opt for a closed adoption for several reasons:
- To help give them a sense of closure
- To protect their own privacy
- To protect the child from a dangerous situation
- To help the adoptive family and child feel more united without the possibility of outside intrusion
- To conceal medical background. If potential adopters know about a child’s predisposition to certain medical conditions, it could decrease their likelihood of choosing to adopt that child.
Despite the best of intentions, some people find that closed record adoptions create complications down the road.
The Challenges Created by Closed Adoptions
Here are some of the challenges of closed adoptions that end up leading people to hire private investigators to help them track down their biological parents:
A closed adoption can mean the child doesn’t know where he or she was born.
Sometimes it can mean their birth certificate is incomplete which can prevent them from getting a passport.
The birth certificate may omit the name of the hospital, especially if it was a hospital that primarily served unwed mothers.
The adopted person doesn’t have a full medical history.
“In my case, as a diabetic, it would have been nice to know if either of my parents had a history of diabetes in their families because it would have meant earlier detection.”
-Karalyn Jeanne, Adopted
Closed adoptions still exist today, but open adoptions are much more popular. Especially now that closed record adoptions are harder to keep sealed, thanks to the internet, evolving social norms, and ancestry hunters like Michael Flint.
Seeking Information About Biological Parents
Even if an adoption was sealed and closed, today, adopted people can often still get non-identifying details about the biological parents, like ethnicity, primary language, profession, and medical records. The rules as to how this is done vary from state to state in the U.S., and sometimes requires a court order.
DNA kits are also available commercially, like through 23andMe. The kits can identify certain genetic traits and medical risk factors. And sometimes, they can even connect relatives if another relative has DNA in the database. Pretty cool, huh?
Beyond that, it gets more complicated and this is where some adopted people with closed records opt to hire an investigator. This may also be the only choice for an abandoned child with no recorded history before he was abandoned.
Investigators have access to databases and registries, including genealogy searches, that aren’t widely available. And investigators have skills that many other people don’t have. Skills that inform the investigation and lead to answers more often.
Could Michael Flint’s own history as an abandoned child be a part of what led him to become an heir hunter? Blood Trails. Click here to buy the ebook, paperback, or audiobook.