What Exactly Is a Diligent Adoption Search?

One of the services I offer as a private investigator is a diligent adoption search for attorneys.  According to the trusty Merriam-Webster Dictionary, the term diligent means “characterized by steady, earnest, and energetic effort; painstaking.”  I would actually like ALL of my investigations as a private investigator to be preceded with the word diligent.  Likewise, I want to be known as a diligent investigator.

Oftentimes, when a birth mother makes the decision to gift her child to an adoptive parent or parents, she is acting alone.  She might not know who the birth father is.  Alternatively, she might know the birth father’s identity, but chooses to keep that information to herself for various reasons.  The birth mother might be making this decision on her own, not by choice, after the birth father has refused responsibility and participation.  She might be giving her child to another because she wants to keep the birth father away from herself and the child for safety reasons.  The background stories of adoptions are as varied as your drink choices at Sonic.  No two adoption stories are identical.  But the point is, there are often birth mothers out there who act alone in their adoption decisions, at least in the beginning.

When a birth mother hires an attorney for an adoption, chooses an adoption agency, or notifies hospital staff of her adoption plan upon the birth of her child, laws must be followed.  Every state has adoption laws in place that protect the child, the birth parents, and the adoptive parents.  Some states have strict and specific laws that require a formal diligent search be conducted for the birth father if his current whereabouts is unknown.  Other states are not quite as strict, but they still require a search to be conducted.  Even in the absence of step-by-step state requirements, many attorneys choose to conduct a diligent search per their own strict standards.  In all cases, regardless of the stringency or leniency of state laws, the adoption attorney must prove steps were taken to find the birth father to inform him of an impending adoption.  When a search is conducted, there are two possible outcomes.

Outcome #1, the birth father is located and the attorney informs him of his child and the desire of the birth mother to place the child for adoption.  Outcome #2, the birth father is not successfully located after a thorough search is conducted.  In a search that ends with no successful location information for the birth father, different states require different actions.  Some states require a formal affidavit to be completed to show proof of the unsuccessful search.  Sometimes, an announcement of intended adoption must be published in a local newspaper and a certain amount of time must pass after the publication to give the birth father time to respond.  In other states, the adoption might immediately proceed after an unsuccessful search for the birth father was performed.

Since no two states are identical in their adoption laws, it is smart business as a private investigator to hold him or herself to the highest standard when conducting diligent adoption searches for attorneys.  I provide a consistent, thorough, and diligent search for birth fathers.  If a birth father isn’t successfully located after exhaustive effort, I complete a professional affidavit that outlines every step of my search.  I research state laws and abide by those laws through ethical investigating.  I tailor my diligent adoption searches to individual attorneys and their expectations, preferences, and formats.

A typical diligent adoption search might include using professional databases for lead information, searching for last known address and phone number, name and address of last known employer, state and local law enforcement records, utility company records, military service, local property tax records and other taxes, voter registration records, social media presence, potential incarceration and probation & parole, regulatory agencies where a subject last resided, inquiring of relatives of a subject’s whereabouts, and other related searches.

So to customize Merriam-Webster’s dictionary definition of diligent as it pertains to a diligent adoption search:  It is a painstaking search for a birth father that is characterized by steady, earnest, and energetic effort. Adoption is a serious business that must be handled lawfully, ethically, and compassionately.