As people set out to search for natural relatives, some are in a position where they are unable to get to the Research Room at the General Register Office and in these instances, some people have been fortunate enough to receive help from volunteers, sometimes referred to as ‘Search Angels’. The following is some advice based on our experience.
Only use a volunteer if you absolutely have to
First and foremost, please bear in mind that people who assist in other’s searches are volunteers. They are not employed by anyone and they give of their time to help people who are unable to go to the Research Room for themselves.
Volunteers will not necessarily have a lot of spare time and they offer the time they do have because they know that some people genuinely cannot travel to the Research Room. Therefore we strongly urge you to think before asking a volunteer to help. If you are based in Ireland, take a day or two off work rather than asking someone else to do it.
Respect for volunteers’ privacy/time
We would also ask you to not pass volunteers’ contact details to other people – firstly ensure that the person concerned is genuinely not in a position to do the work themselves and then before passing on contact details (even email addresses) please check with the volunteer first, as it is unfair to put someone in a difficult position where they might want to decline, but feel unable to as the person has been referred to them.
Volunteers are not paid for their work so please don’t leave them out of pocket and make sure that their expenses are covered. Don’t assume that the volunteer will have the money up front and offer the basic costs up front before the person travels to the Research Room. Volunteers in turn should supply receipts and furnish any certificates to the adopted person/natural relative once payment has been received.
Please bear in mind that photocopies at the Research Room are €4 each and a General Search fee is €20, so going through a process of elimination (e.g. to obtain an adopted person’s birth certificate) can be quite costly. There are also parking expenses – usually €20-30 a day in Dublin and fuel expenses, not to mention lunch etc, so please bear all this in mind.
Agree Spending Limits
We also recommend that you agree a spending limit with your volunteer prior to any money being spent by that volunteer. Volunteers should not spend more than €10/€20 without checking with the person they are assisting.
Beware of inexperienced volunteers
On the other side of the coin, people should beware of inexperienced volunteers, who may mean well, but are not necessarily very capable in terms of searching skills. It is absolutely essential that you are in control of your own research at each stage of the journey and volunteers should bear this in mind. E.g. if you need to take a break after obtaining information and before making contact, then this is your choice to make and volunteers should respect that.
IMPORTANT: Respecting boundaries
We strongly recommend that adopted people and natural parents should never arrive on the doorstep of the person they are searching for. We suggest a discreet letter rather than calling in person or on the phone. Adoption Rights Alliance categorically disagrees with search volunteers going to the houses of the people they are researching. We recommend that those receiving help from search volunteers make their wishes very clear in this regard.
Please beware of people offering their services for a fee. Moreover, under the Adoption Act 2010 only entities which have been accredited by the Adoption Authority can offer tracing and information services. Search volunteers are merely the adopted person’s eyes and ears in the Research Room, nothing else.
Remember, it is important to ensure that the person conducting the research is responsible and has the necessary experience and knowledge to ensure that the research is carried out in an ethical, discreet and thorough fashion.
Finally we remind people that we advise against using Private Investigators, who, in our experience, are usually neither trained nor experienced in the area of adoption and will often employ methods that are completely unsuitable to adoption research.