Are you looking for your birth parent or finding the birth parent of your adopted child? Finding birth parents can be a long and daunting task. There are a lot of concerns with privacy, finding them and being sure you have located the right individuals. We have spoken to Private Investigator Jax Menez Atwell from Atwell Investigations to help our readers understand how a Private Investigator can make this process a lot easier.


What information would a birth child need to start the investigation?

There is really no easy answer to this.  In a perfect world, you would have a person’s basic information such as full name, date of birth, maybe an old address, and a social security number would be amazing.  That is not the world we live in and I’m guessing that if you had that information you might have stumbled onto the person yourself.

The first thing I do is remind them that at one point this person DID NOT want to be found or known of or you probably wouldn’t be where you are today (or your child).  I usually make the person stop talking on the phone, stop texting, or messaging and start writing everything down.  It’s amazing how much you “might’ already know but you are not thinking about it clearly.  Remember your investigator has not spoken to grandma, read a book insert, found a box of collectibles in an attic…nothing.

So, what do you need?  All of it, no matter how insignificant it might seem to you, it could be a major part of locating the person.  It will take every little piece of information that you can gather.  What I find in the writing process is that the mind starts working.  Inevitably, the client thinks of things a few hours after sending the investigator the information or the next day, even more light bulbs go off…the brain is an amazing thing!  You have to dust off those file cabinets in your mind!

Why is it better to hire a private investigator rather than to do the investigation on your own?

I think exhausting your own resources is always a good method as this always helps trigger things in the mind.  Utilizing sites like GOOGLE and BING or other search engines may help you stumble onto the information or at least maybe some extra leads.

What I want to CAUTION you with is utilizing pay for it sites.  I won’t use any by name but please understand that the majority (if not all) of these pay for it sites are OLD information.  The best analogy is when you go to the grocery store, buy a can of soup and then take the can of soup home. Does it grow another can?  NO!  It is what you bought and paid for.  So, by using that analogy the data in those sites is bought and paid for just like your soup can.  Nine times out of ten you will be dissatisfied with this information and have wasted money.  The algorithms in database companies utilized by law enforcement, lawyers, and LICENSED private investigators are constantly churning, constantly growing, constantly eating up new data.  It still is not 100% but it’s much better, and very less frustrating, to hire someone with access to this type of database systems.

When adoptive parents are helping their adoptive children find their birth parent, what tips should they look for in hiring a private investigator?

The number one thing you should ask is about your exact type of case.  Nobody can guarantee you 100% they can find someone.  If they do, use caution.  The investigator should be able to tell you the pros and cons to the investigation, give you some insight on some recent cases that were similar, and check their reviews.  Hearing from others that they were satisfied helps a lot.  The day and age of fake reviews are long gone.  Review Streams properly created and reviews on Google, Yelp, Bing, etc. all have fail safes and parameters for those reviews.

Above all else, you should always go with your gut.  If something feels fishy or not right then move to the next option!  No options in your area?  Don’t fret as there are many investigators like me that will travel to your area.  Paying for that might not be cheap but knowing your case is in the best hands is worth its weight.

What are the laws in regards to a birth parents privacy?

Unfortunately, there is no easy answer to this.   Every place will have its own laws but that being said there is not very much to worry about here.  It isn’t a crime to “locate” someone.  Now whether they will be receptive to your intrusion into their life is a far different question.  This person may face embarrassment or judgment from their current family or the opposite may be true and this could be one of the most joyful, healing moments of their life.  That is the decision that you will have to come too.  Usually, as the investigator gets close to locating the person they might have some insight into how the person might respond.  I have even made initial contact for my client in some cases if they so desired.

Why should a family choose a private investigator over trying to create a viral post on Facebook?

When something goes viral you cannot take it back.  If the person could face embarrassment, judgment, or God forbid something worse for a prior indiscretion this viral post could ruin their lives.

There are some situations where I would approve of viral posts and that is if your health or the health of a child is in imminent danger.  It is possible in some medical situations that only the birth parent could hold the key to saving a life or a debilitating situation.  In these situations, you do what you have to do.  The outcome outweighs the risk for sure.

What kind of records can a private investigator access to help find a birth parent?

Again, this is going to vary from place to place but a good investigator has access to public records, as well as the knowledge to know where to look, who to involve, organizations that can help, etc.

This is a real-life puzzle and many things might have to be brought into play for a positive outcome.  A good investigator must know how to use his/her resources.

Once you have found the birth parent, do you approach the birth parent or do you give the information to the birth child and their adoptive family?

This is 100% on the client.  My motto is this:  The client is the owner of whatever evidence I find.  So basically, what the client decides to do with the case when the investigator is done is all on them.  To be honest the investigator has no play here at all.  Many times, we never know the outcome unless the client tells us.  Our job is to do our best to put the puzzle together and when it’s done hand it over.

Now that does not mean I wouldn’t offer advice because I do.  Often the client and the investigator establish great rapport because this is a very intimate part of the client’s life.  I find that empathy is the key here and being there for the client in this troubling time.

Can private investigators help with finding medical backgrounds of a birth parent’s family history?

Yes and No.  The easy answer is “yes” but there are degrees to this yes answer.  Finding old archives and things can happen but it is extremely hard.  You’d probably have better luck “pre-digital age” with records in dusty boxes or microfiche at a library.  The risk there is that much of these items get destroyed over time by flooding, fires, varmints, etc.  The “no” answer is basically this: in the modern world, our medical records are sealed for our physician’s eyes only.  The only real way is with court subpoenas from attorneys, getting a court to force a medical establishment to procure documents, and/or warrants.  Let me tell you that in the United States this is next to impossible.  I’d imagine in Canada and Europe this would have the same roadblocks.

Your best bet is always the respectful, relationship developing route.  No reason to go and make enemies or get people back on their heels.  Talk softly, learn a little about the other person.  Try not to just jump them for information.  More than likely this is just as tough for them as it is you.


What if a birth parent does not want to be found?

This is a true option that needs to be worked out heavily in your mind.  The circumstances as to which you were let go of or your child was let go of probably is not the greatest story, nor a proud moment for the person, and more than likely something they try and forget on a daily basis.

Show the person respect.  Be prepared for this answer as it truly needs to be thought out prior to making contact.  As mentioned above there might be some emergency or medical condition that trumps the slow and steady route but please, seriously, get your mind wrapped around this possibility.

Here is what I tell my clients:  It is always better to have a bird in the hand than not to have a bird at all.  In other words, having the evidence you need and not using it is much different than not having the evidence and wishing you had it.  This holds true for many investigations but I truly believe having the keys in your pocket is a much better mental place to be in than always anguishing and wondering.

In Conclusion

Like many investigations, this is a very intimate time for all involved.  Choose your investigator wisely.  Be mentally prepared for all options on the table.  Take your time.  Except in the rare case of an emergency medical issue, more than likely a good amount of time has passed already.  Allow the necessary time for a good investigation to develop and to allow your own mind to be able to wrap around the unknown.  You have probably always wondered about this other person.  It may not be what you think or it just might be better!

Jax Atwell

Twitter:  @jaxmenezatwell