At age 17, Kellie Sharpe gave birth to a baby girl she named Brittney. Despite her vigorous protests, her parents forced her to place the baby for adoption. Sharpe spent the next 25 years searching to find her daughter. For many years, the searches consisted of going to libraries or county buildings, but everything changed in 1997 when she gained access to the Internet through her sister’s computer.
According to Sharpe, “That's when the real searching began. I would sit at her computer for 3 hours searching and it would feel like I'd only been there for 10 minutes. I got access to the Internet in my own home in 2000. From that day on, I searched every single day. I registered everywhere on the Internet. I'd even been warned by JoAnne Stanick -- the owner of one of the larger registries (adoptiondatabase.org) -- that I had too much information about my daughter's birth online, and that someone could use that information against me somehow. Well, I wish I'd listened. But I was desperate.”
Almost three years ago, Sharpe was emailed by a girl named Kristin from Bayonne, NJ, who said she was Sharpe’s daughter. Kristin correctly revealed when and where Sharpe’s daughter had been born.
Sharpe commented, “Kristin knew my daughter's delivering doctor, her weight, and several other little details which I thought only my birth daughter would know. In just a matter of hours after I received the email, I was on a plane from my home in Tennessee to meet her in New York City. She had bleached her hair, studied my other kids online, and turned herself into a person who could possibly be my daughter.”
After three emotional weeks, Sharpe found out who Kristin really was. “She was not my daughter,” she said quietly. After that happened, Sharpe started a Facebook page to continue searching for her daughter.
Amazingly, just one month later, Sharpe found her real daughter, who was named Hannah by her adoptive parents. Their reunion was profoundly life-changing, and Hannah’s adoptive parents have welcomed Sharpe wholeheartedly into their daughter’s life. For Sharpe, the agony of not knowing her daughter has finally been soothed.
Since she knows and regularly sees Hannah, Kellie Sharpe was able to respond calmly when she received the following email last week:
Good-day Kellie Sharpe,
First of all my name is Jerry Garstone,one of the sole legal counsels
to late (Brittney Welch) whom we have fully investigated and confirmed
is your biological daughter . I'm sorry but my client who is late died in
the UK, I was contacted by the Financial Institution where my client
held a monetary resource to contact the family members on my client"s
abandoned investment with them.
Throughout my search, I was not able
to ascertain a genuine relative who shall be recipient of client"s
abandoned investment, hence contacting you.
Kindly send me an email so that I could give you more information.
Jerry Garstone , (PhD)
Sharpe noted that this man knew what she had named her daughter, and -- despite the fact that Sharpe had spelled Brittney’s name differently than most people do-- the man still spelled Brittney’s name correctly.
Kellie explained , “The fact that he had the name Brittney can only mean this person is on adoption sites collecting the information that desperate birth moms have provided in their online searches for their children. Of course, he wanted to tell me that my daughter had left me money. I'm assuming if I answered him, he'd ask for a bank account number, saying he could wire transfer the money to me. I called our local sheriff's department to see if there was any action they could take to stop him and, they referred me to the FBI.”
But it’s not the potential for monetary scam that most harmed Sharpe. It was the emotional impact.
She agonized, “His email casually mentioned that she was dead. DEAD. Thank God I had actually found my daughter two years ago, so I knew without a doubt this was a scam. But if I hadn’t yet found her, and I received this message telling me that the child I had spent my whole life missing and searching for was dead, I just . . . I, well, I don’t know what I’d do. I really don’t. I’m afraid for other birth moms who might receive this type of spam email.”
Sharpe wants to get the word out, because she knows how vulnerable adoption makes people. Since finding her daughter Hannah, Sharpe has devoted herself to helping other birth families and adoptees reunite. She is part of a group called Search Angels. She stressed, “We are a group of Internet-savvy genealogists who work for free. Please let birthparents and adoptees know that they should be suspicious of anyone who asks for big sums of money to help them find someone, because there are many reputable groups that will do this work for a small fee ($10) or even for free.”
The bottom line is, if you are a searching birthparent or adoptee, please be careful. There are some really cruel people out there, and they are waiting to pounce on your desperation. Take good care of yourself as you search.
If you are searching, here are some reputable links to help you:
Portrait of an Adoption is written by Carrie Goldman, author of Bullied: What Every Parent, Teacher, and Kid Needs to Know About Ending the Cycle of Fear. If you have a story you would like to submit as a candidate for a guest post, please email it to firstname.lastname@example.org.