The Search For Long-lost Family

Susan Page
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Wednesday - July 06, 2011
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Once upon a time there was a marriage between two people. Then came a baby daughter. The separation of World War II caused a divorce and the wife and child moved far away. Remarriages happened, and the dad had five more children, who never knew about their half-sibling.

Suddenly, at nearly 60, that first daughter, after years of searching, shows up in his home town to reconnect with her long lost papa. To say this stunning news (bombshell!) caused some family drama would be understating the obvious.

However, the father was thrilled to have her in his life for the few years he had left. Their reconnection filled a deep, inexplicable longing in them both, and no one, not even the other siblings, could deny the joy it brought him.

I took some literary license in writing my uncle’s story since over time details have faded and are largely irrelevant to the topic at hand: the growth in the numbers of searches for family members.

My uncle’s situation, and the fact that I recently became hooked on the reality television show The Locator on WE tv, changed my attitude that people who were adopted by a loving family should, as they say in Texas, “let sleeping dogs lie.” Why poke a stick into a hornet’s nest?

But now, it’s clear how separation from a parent or child can manifest a yearning so profound it can trigger not only deep emotional pain, but harmful behaviors like drug and alcohol abuse.

The laws about opening adoption records vary from state to state. Some are sealed, some readily available. But, today, because of the Internet and shows like The Locator, plentiful resources exist for finding someone.

I found the official site of The Locator star Troy Dunn at, which sells his investigative services. Another very helpful site is It gives thorough personal search resources and advice. Particularly fragile folks might benefit from a professional “detective” who can provide a buffer from potentially negative outcomes.

The Locator is six 30minute shows that air Mondays back-to-back with one dramatic reunion ending just as another one starts. It’s a formula so it’s clear that a positive result is coming, but each compelling episode is as unique as people are. (Warning: It’s addictive.)

Painful separations come in various forms: adoption at birth, removal by Child Protective Services, and often by bitter divorces with the custodial parent moving and withholding information about the other parent from the child and/or lying about the reasons he or she never contacted the child.

One episode wasn’t at all about animosity, but well-meaning omission. Troy Dunn’s client was a young soldier whose best buddy was blown up right next to him by an IED in Afghanistan. The inconceivable pain of loss led him on a mission to find a father he’d never met and knew nothing about.

Turns out the soldier was the “result” of two people in the military having a one-night stand, then both getting transferred far apart before the pregnancy was discovered. Both being young, the mother didn’t want to burden the father with a seemingly impossible situation. Rationalizing that the deception was justifiable, she admits now that denying her son knowledge of his father was wrong.

Predictably the father was located, but astounding was how genuinely ecstatic he was to have a grown child he didn’t know about. His wife and other children were, too. They embraced him like the proverbial “prodigal son.”

Kleenex alert: Each of these TV reunions trigger an abundance of crying. Tears seem to help mend pain-parched hearts after years of thirsting for answers. “Who am I? Why did you not keep me? Why didn’t you try to find me? (In reality, not all these searches yield joyful outcomes, but most seekers are willing to risk rejection.)

Here’s what I have come away with:

1) Children need to be told the truth about their parents, both of them.

2) Regardless of not knowing birth parents, adoption is still preferable to a child being neglected for lack of means.

3) Those who say casual, consensual sex, especially between teens, is a victimless act are wrong. Unwanted children bear lifelong scars.

4) No matter what the mistake, redemption is almost always possible when saying the words “I’m sorry” and “I love you,” and meaning it.

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