by Brian Fuld


Adopted children desperately seek their birth mothers.

Birth Mothers seek their lost children.

Sound familiar? If so, read on...

In 1982 a small book, The Selfish Gene, was quietly published and largely forgotten. In it, author Richard Dawkins made an amazing observation. Some scholars now believe his theories about our genes may rival that of Darwin's theory of evolution.

In Darwin's theory, all life seeks to continue despite the changes in environment. It does this by perpetuating small changes in each copy of its offspring. Sometimes these subtle changes, like having a slightly longer neck, provide the animal with the extra reach to obtain more food, and the change continues until we have, perhaps a giraffe, who can graze on leaves that other animals cannot reach. Darwin suggested that our bodies, and those of every animal and plant, were shaped by adaptation to competition and environmental change. Dawkins, in The Selfish Gene, took this one step further.

To Dawkins, the gene itself is the primary unit seeking continuation, not the organism in which it resides. To him, our bodies are merely convenient vehicles created by the genes to allow them to meet, recognize and selectively join with other genes. In fact, Dawkins suggested, the phenomenon of life itself can be thought of as a contrivance of these complex molecules to perpetuate their unique sequences!

Dawkins used examples of altruism (sacrificing one's self or safety) which is strongest among genetic siblings. A brother or mother will easily put their life in danger- even lose it- to save a genetic family member. This action is almost automatic and instinctive but diminishes as the family relationship becomes less distinct.

Further evidence for the importance of genetic altruism can be seen in the often painful and exhaustive efforts that both adopted children and their birth parents expend to locate each other. It's often a quest that only the brave ever achieve.

In the early part of this century, thousands of young women became pregnant out of wedlock and were persuaded to give up their new-borns to adoption agencies. A majority of both adoptees and their biological parents grew up to have families of their own and the "sins" of their youth were forgotten. Almost.

As many of these adopted children reach adulthood, they are finally told what they had perhaps suspected -- that they were not biologically related to "Mom" and "Dad." For some, this matters little. The strong bonds of trust and years of affection will never diminish the deep love that each feels towards the other. Others take this news as confirming something that they have always felt- an sense of being "incomplete" or different. These feelings eventually trigger the long search for their genetic family.

Statistics show that one in ten of us is part of a family relationship that involves an adopted or non-genetically related individual. This is a large number. With the majority of adoptees coming into adulthood, there is a deeply emotional need to be reunited. This need is often frustrated by old State laws, instituted decades ago, designed to protect the identity of both parent and child from future knowledge of each other. The frustration can sometimes be just too much to handle.

Tamara is a 57 year old married mother of two daughters. Her search for a lost child is made all the more urgent by her recent diagnosis of terminal lung disease. She is now focused on the one unresolved mystery of her life: the whereabouts and happiness of her daughter.

"I became pregnant back in the early 1960's when I was dating a guy in high school. Back then it was a big disgrace and my family sent me away to deliver the baby at a so-called 'home for wayward girls' in Ohio. When I delivered the baby, she was taken away and placed in a home and I never even got a chance to see or hold her. She would be 32 years old now and probably has children of her own. I married years later and had another daughter with whom I am closely attached. One day, I told my daughter about her half-sister and she became very excited and wanted to help locate our missing family member. We have tried every avenue and have even spent thousands of dollars on detectives and search agencies but to no avail. We feel a loss and we will not rest until we find her..."

But not all stories are unresolved. Often the adopted children themselves are the most eager and persistent to find their birth mothers.

"I found out when I was 19 years of age that I was adopted. My parents sat me down and told me what they knew about my birth mother. Which wasn't much! They told me that if I wanted to search for my birth mother that they would support me all the way. I wasn't quite sure how to go about doing this so I went on-line to find some help. I was kindly directed to a lady who is a Confidential Intermediary. She basically is the go-between the court system, me and my birth mother. My Parent's gave me the money necessary to begin the search. It took 4 months from the time of petitioning the Courts and locating my birth mother. I spoke to the woman who gave birth to me 25 years ago for the first time in October of 1995.

"My birth mother and I spoke for an hour that night. We cried and we laughed. We spoke to each other many times from then on! On April 4th 1996 I finally met my birth mother in person. She spent about 5 days with me and my family. She is not only a mother again but a Grandmother. Those were the best days of our lives together. I showed her all the photos of me growing up, my birthdays, Christmas, my wedding and the births of both of my children. She was so proud to learn I had a happy life. We both now have the rest of our lives together as mother and daughter.

"I do not want to leave out my Parent's who raised me from the time I arrived into their family at 5 months of age. I love my parent's dearly and nobody can replace them. I just have another family that I can share my life with. In two and a half weeks my birth mother will be visiting me and my family again! I am looking forward to this.

"The other aspect of being adopted is a dark one. All adoptee's in the United States are treated like Criminal's or children by our Government. We are not allowed access to our original Birth Certificate like every other average person in our country. We are not allowed to know our heritage, or medical history just because of something happening many many years ago. It's quite sad that our government wants to hide it's dirty secrets called adoptee's. It seems children born out of wedlock are a black eye to our courts and our government. I do not have my Original Birth Certificate. I have a photocopy. Most adoptee's cannot even get that. It's a shame. OPEN RECORDS FOR ADULT ADOPTEE'S!"

KS of Mesa, AZ


"I am an 37 year old adoptee. I searched for almost 20 years prior to finding my birth mother on 6/25/98 through the help of Mr. Paul Brown. Since that time, I have reunited with her and learned many new and wonderful things about my "lost" family. My son, (born 1983)who looked like no one I could think of, looks almost identical to my brother (died 1986). I have a "family" now and for once in my life feel complete.

"After finding her, I didn't feel this large hole in my heart any longer. The actual reunion was more of a nice afterthought than a necessity for me to feel complete. I literally spent thousands of dollars on this search. Most of it needlessly had records been allowed to be opened after I hit 18. I was determined. I've heard so many stories about birth mothers wondering about how their child turned out. I had to let mine know I did okay.

"I'm at peace now...for the first time in my life. Only an adoptee whose been there can understand when I say "I know who I am." I am Baby Girl Schroder. Daughter of Jean Godden-Schroder-Lopez. Sister to Warren Lawrence Schroder-Lopez, Jr. Half-sister to Theresa Lopez. Adopted daughter of Helen and Howard Zimmerman. Sister by adoption to Laura Jean Zimmerman-Duckett. I have a history. I have a heritage. I have a family. I am alive. If I never saw her again. If I never heard her voice on the phone. I am alive and I am. There's nothing more to say.


The location of missing siblings and birth mothers is a complex business but, with the assistance of the internet, this is becoming easier. Viewzone asked one successful adoptee to describe the process.

Viewzone: Is it always the case that these issues are resolved through the confidential intermediary? or are there other ways?

KS:In the beginning when I begun to search for my birth mother I didn't know there were other ways of searching. I could have done it on my own. Many adoptee out there are searching on their own. Other ways that can be done is to petition the courts to have the sealed adoption records opened, Having a Helper out there which we call Angels to help us.

Viewzone: What would have happened if your birth mother did not want to have her identity revealed? Does it have to be mutual?

KS: If by chance my birth mother did not want any contact then I could not have her name or whereabouts. I hope that I could get the basics like medical history and heritage. Yes it has to be mutual! My birth mother had to sign a confidentiality waiver to even get my name and location. Since I was the searching party I didn't have to sign this paper. My birth mother signed the paper wholeheartedly.

Viewzone: I'm so happy for you. many stories of reunions remark how certain characteristics were like "clones" of each other. Did you and your mother see any similarities?

KS: My mother and I saw many similarities. Our laughs the same, our looks are the same. Even down to the love of Dr. Pepper. We both can't live without it! HAHA!!

Sometimes, locating a birth mother or adoptee is a matter of life and death. Certain rare genetic diseases and the need for compatible donors of bone marrow in cancer cases have caused numerous problems with the confidentiality laws. These laws, initially enacted to protect the sensitive nature of these separations seem invariably to be hindering a basic biological necessity that lies deep with our being- the need to be near and to have knowledge of one's own gene pool.

In reading the stories and speaking to numerous adoptees who had located their birth mothers, we heard descriptions of emotions such as feelings of "absolute love," "like a part of myself was given back to me" and "feeling happy for the first time ever in a true and clear way..." Obviously this is quite an emotional catharsis. We also heard descriptions of surprise at the similarities that reunited adoptees noticed in behaviors, preferences for food and novels, and any number of other interests not usually attributed to genes. These subtle similarities have only genetics as a common factor. Dawkins, in his book, The Selfish Gene, called these odd little characteristics "memes" and believes that these memes serve as the basis of our compatibility (or incompatibility) with others of our species. In short, it's a kind of genetic basis for culture.

A preference for Dr. Pepper or anchovies may have more significance to your genes than we would like to believe. Such "memes" may, to our genes, be like the secret handshake or the lapel pin of a politician, indicating that the organism is "one of us." Much more attention needs to be given to the genetic preferences and especially to the need for like genes to associate and celebrate their similarities. Laws and cultural inhibitions against reuniting adopted children with their biological parents clearly inhibits this natural drive.

Adoptees fight for the right to get birth certificates.

Everyone in this country, with the exception of adoptees, have copies of their original birth certificate. They have photocopies with deletions. This is true in 48 states! In November, Oregon will take a vote all of these records accessible to the public. For more detailed information on legislation in your state, and of Federal opinions on the subject, see the web site for "Bastard Nation".

It is important to note that not every adoptee wishes or is prepared to be reunited. It is a matter of personal preference. But the argument for changing legislation that prevents this from being a possibility is viewed as a form of discrimination against adoptees. Like any right, they want the ability to decide whether or not this is important to their life, liberty and happiness - not the government.

Try to search on your own. Here are some helpful links:

  • Ellen's Place:- for the several links that will take you to other sites with registries... If you click the bottom "Home" button, you will go to the main page that has many additional links to help you in your search.

  • ADOPTION.COM: -this is a registry of people seeking people. If you ever felt that you were alone in your searching - look here!

  • PINKERTONS SITE: - you get to play detective - for real.

  • For those on AOL there are search boards... At the keyword they will need to type in "adoption"

  • Also, the following link is a paid registry, but it is free to browse the database. There are so many people on this listing! It's called Birthquest.

  • And, last but not least, this is the one MOST important registry. It is not on-line but it is the oldest and largest registry of it's kind. It is free but will always gladly accept donations. It is International Soundex Reunion Registry (ISRR). See here for info.

Another thing when someone is searching is that they need to be cautious of unscrupulous PI's and professional searchers out there... There are SEVERAL great searchers who are known by their excellent reputation. One we came across was Carol Davis. Best advice: check references and follow up by speaking to adoptees or birth mothers that have had dealings with them.

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