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Adoptees searching for their birth parents....on Facebook

There is a growing trend on Facebook of people setting up pages devoted to finding their birth parents.

It’s helped some adoptees. But some long time advocates worry that such a public search could create barriers to a reunion.

Dave Crispin has known since he was about eleven years old that he was adopted.

“It’s like the big unanswered question in my life,” Crispin says at the dinner table of his Springport, Michigan home, “I don’t know where I’m from.”

Now forty, Crispin is looking for his birth mother. The information he has about his mother is very sketchy. All he knows is that his mother was 21 years old when she gave birth to him at Lansing’s Sparrow Hospital in 1972. She had red hair and green eyes. And that’s about it.

After reaching a dead end searching a very limited paper trail, Dave Crispin is now trying something different.

Dave’s wife Shantell had seen a Facebook page where another adoptee had asked for help in searching for her biological mother. Shantell says Dave is a very private person. She wasn’t sure her husband would do it.

“When I brought the idea home…I really didn’t expect him to say ‘Yeah, go ahead and do it’,” she said with a laugh.

In the two months since Dave Crispin set up his Facebook page, it’s attracted a lot of attention. Not just with people offering clues to where he can find his biological mother, but dozens of other adoptees who are also looking for clues about their biological families.

A Facebook spokeswoman wasn’t sure how many people are using the social media website to search for their birth parents or families. But the number of pages is growing.

And while it may seem like a shot in the dark, it is working for some people.

18 year old Michele was adopted soon after she was born. She knew she had seven siblings. And she knew the name of her oldest brother Shane. 

“I found his picture…and I thought he had…very similar facial features to mine…and I went down and showed my mom…and they thought it wasn’t him,” Michele said over the telephone, “I messaged him anyways…and I asked him. I told him I was looking for family….and I asked him who his mom and dad were.”

It turned out Michele was right; this stranger on Facebook was her brother Shane.

We’re not giving Michele’s full name because several of her younger siblings are minors. Michele says she was careful to contact the adopted parents of her younger siblings first.    

I spoke with several people who successfully used social media to find and connect with their birth parents and families. Some admitted having concern that using Facebook may put off some birth parents who would prefer privacy. 

Donnie Davis is the president of the American Adoption Congress. The group encourages reunions of adoptees and their birth parents. 

She says in the past the preferred method of contact was in the form of a letter. Davis says that would give both sides time and privacy to decide if they wanted to make further contact. 

“It’s not that the birth parent hasn’t thought about their son or daughter their entire life, because they have. Probably daily,” says Davis. “And it’s not that the adoptive person hasn’t thought about their birth parents their entire lives because they have. There is a reality of finally making that connection.”    

Davis admits she was a little leery of an adoptee sending a Facebook message to a possible birth parent since that may be seen as too intrusive.    

But she says social media has become so commonplace that using it may actually be less damaging than she initially feared.     

Meanwhile, Dave Crispin is still waiting. And he knows he may not get the answer he’s been wanting for so long.

“It could go either way. But I’ve been preparing myself for that…it could be hurtful I guess,” Crispin says, “but I think it’s worth the chance.”

Steve Carmody has been a reporter for Michigan Radio since 2005. Steve previously worked at public radio and television stations in Florida, Oklahoma and Kentucky, and also has extensive experience in commercial broadcasting.
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