With the recent introduction of our Search Angels program video on our community site and the announcement about Spokeo’s Search Angel award and winners, we asked Priscilla Sharp, a member of the Spokeo Search Angels Advisory Committee, and a search angel herself, to share some thoughts about how to get involved and what searching on behalf of families is all about.
Priscilla Sharp, www.priscillasharp.org
In your words, how would you describe a Search Angel?
A “search angel” is someone who gives of their time and expertise, without charge, to help people separated from family and lost loved ones by adoption, foster care, divorce, and alienation, to find their information and reconnect, if they choose. Search angels are men and women of all ages and from all socio-economic strata. Some are members of the adoption community – adoptees, mothers/family members of loss to adoption, and adoptive families– and some are simply passionate genealogists and researchers who have not had first-hand experience with adoption but appreciate the importance of the work.
Why is this work important to you?
I believe that every human being has a right to their identity, family history, and heritage. There are an estimated 6 to 7 million adopted persons in the United States today. Most of them were adopted as babies or young children under “closed and sealed” circumstances, meaning their original birth certificates and other identifying information were sealed upon adoption and are inaccessible to them. In 43 states, adoptees are forbidden by outdated laws from accessing their own personal information.
How do Search Angels start and conduct searches?
Typically, I get an email or call from someone asking for help in finding a loved one. From there, we start to piece together whatever details they have (birth date, birth city, names, “non-identifying” information provided by agencies). Then, using publicly accessible information housed in databases on the Internet, like Spokeo, we search for the families. Thanks to rapidly-expanding 21st century information technology, almost all of this research can be done on the computer with an occasional visit to a library or other public record facility.
Why is Search Angel awareness increasing?
Search angels have been around, quietly working in the background, for the last 30 years solving hundreds of thousands of cases. Until the advent of the Internet and social networking, we have not had the organization or funds to make our availability known. Now, thanks to Spokeo and Mixed Roots Foundation, in consultation and cooperation with adoption organizations and individuals, the spotlight is finally shining on these selfless volunteer workers, and I believe it is going to take our efforts to the next level by helping us to coalesce into a strong and highly visible network.
How can we teach new Search Angels to help more people?
Thanks to the Spokeo Search Angel Awards and increasing public awareness of who search angels are and what we do, we are excited to receive daily inquiries from people asking how they can become a search angel and join the network. To meet these requests, we’re working towards developing programs to assist new angels, such as training webinars, mentoring, networking, and support groups for sharing expertise and guidance. Keep checking on Spokeo’s Search Angel site and Facebook group to stay up to date on the latest developments.
I also encourage folks to join some of the search and support groups on the Internet and Facebook, read the files and messages and learn. Two of my favorite groups are TheRegistry and NYAdoptees on Yahoo. We look forward to working with you and sharing the exciting, rewarding successes you will experience.