Once again I’m continuing my series on search options and this post will focus on search angels. So far, I’ve looked at self-searching, confidential intermediaries, and mutual consent directories. In future posts I’ll examine other search options such as independent intermediaries, agency assisted searching, independent search consultants, private investigators, search organizations and DNA testing.
The first and most obvious question is, “what is a search angel?” A search angel is a volunteer who offers search assistance to adoptees and birth family members in their search. Search angels can help in a variety of ways but the main function is to review documents or records available to the public. This can include searching records at a public library, going to a local or state government office (such as an office of vital statistics or city hall) and even going to a public school to view year books. While search angels can be very helpful they are not professional intermediaries and should not be asked to make contact with anyone on your behalf. They are basically your eyes on the ground in a specific geographical area. Search angels do not charge for their services although they will ask for reimbursements for mileage and photocopies and the like. A Google search will bring up numerous websites that list search angels by city and state. One useful site is G’s Adoption Registry.
For many adoptees trying to conduct a search in another state or region of the country one of the biggest obstacles is geography. It is difficult for most people to hop on a plane to go look at a public library’s newspaper microfilm collection in another state or region – especially when such a trip may yield no useful information. Search angels are dispersed all throughout the U.S. so most searchers can find an angel in their desired geographic area. Before reaching out to a search angel it is important that you have gathered as much information as possible on your own. The more information you can share with your search angel the more likely they will be able to find additional information for you. Remember that search angels are volunteers so the level of expertise and commitment may vary. And the amount of time a search angel has to devote to this volunteer work may vary as well.
Adoptees that have already conducted a search for birth family members have the knowledge and skill to help others. Search angel groups are always looking for volunteers so you may want to offer your expertise and time to others. For example, see the Volunteer Search Network (VSN) site or see the About.com pages dealing with search angels. Also check with adoptee or search support listservs and discussion lists in your local area to find volunteer opportunities. Remember to thoroughly check out any website or organization before sharing your personal information.
Search angels are yet another option in your birth family search. Next time I will look at the issues involved in hiring a private investigator.