This is a Korean adoption search and reunion update story.
It began around six years old, just wondering why he and his sister were different from his parents. They were honest, “Oh, you were born from a different family, but you’re a part of our family now.”
Both Matthew Blanchard and his older sister, Emily, were adopted. She had been adopted first, two years before Matthew joined the family, and from a different agency in Korea than him.
“You know, I just ran with it, I was a kid. I was like ‘that’s cool.’” But as he got older, more questions came up for Blanchard. What was his background? What was the history of his family? What did they look like?
After graduating from college, Blanchard started his official search. He submitted paperwork and was assigned a caseworker. He said in the beginning, “The search has been going OK, updates here and there, they’re kind of few and far between.” In one update early in the process, researchers thought they had found an address for his actual birth mother. He drafted a letter and sent it off, but there was no response.
“The search has been chugging along, but not many updates so far,” he said at the time.
What he did learn in the early stages was that he was born in a city just outside of Seoul, South Korea called Kyonggi-do, his mother was 16 years old and his father was 18, and they met at the electronic goods factory that they both worked at. She was the youngest of six children in her family. Blanchard was even provided her height and weight during that time in her life.
But the search was stalling out working with just a caseworker from the Eastern Child Welfare Society: the agency in Seoul that placed him. It had been a couple of years and no updates.
Additionally, Blanchard was facing administrative obstacles. In South Korea, many previous adoptions were filed with falsified paperwork. And now, there were new laws in place that may have stemmed from the impression that South Korea was seen as a “baby-exporting country”—laws that could lead to the chances of a meeting between his birth mother and him very slim. The cultural influence of being a young, unwed mother who may or may not have kept her pregnancy hidden could affect the chances of that meeting too.
“I may find her, but she may not want to meet,” he said. “She could be married and have a whole new family, a whole new life. She may not want to uncover things that happened in her past life.”
But he is resolute in his search, despite the obstacles. “It’s definitely a tough pill to swallow, but I don’t let that stop me from searching. I’d rather search and know than not.”
Blanchard tapped into resources close to home: he began working with Trustify on his search securing a private investigator. A sales development representative, Blanchard landed Melanie, who, by her own estimation, has a 96% success rate in these searches.
“She’s an amazing person, an ultra go-getter,” he said. “She’s very dedicated and has kept me updated with details. She has conversations with people I never would’ve thought to reach out to, making contacts with the head of a school and additional caseworkers from the adoption agency that I was with.” Melanie has even reached out to teachers at the school his mother attended.
“She understands the results that they (her clients) want to help them move forward with their lives and get the answers they want. She’s staying up late (to compensate for the time difference) and pulling ideas out, trying to conjure up ideas to talk to people.” Melanie’s dedication to the cases is illustrated by providing the details that she finds, which seems almost above and beyond.
Those additional resources include Jin Stearns, an expert in Korean adoptions, and Molly Holt of the Holt International, which provides critical care and support to orphaned and vulnerable children. While Blanchard’s adoption was handled through a different agency, the contacts and experience with Holt International have been an unexpected resource. Stearns’ expertise in Korean adoptions has provided additional guidance as to where to take the search.
“It’s definitely been more progress than before,” Matt said. “The agency that I was going through would send out like an APB or something and use the police database or like a census to look up your information, but that’s as far as they got. But as far as making contact with any individuals, no, nothing like that.
“Now that there is some progress being made with making contacts, that definitely makes it feel like it’s progressing. It’s heading towards the finish line which, like before it just seemed like it stalled from the beginning.”
With the additional contacts and “boots on the ground”, Blanchard is more eager for answers, especially with Melanie’s experience and previous success. But he is also cautiously optimistic.
“I didn’t know what to expect, to be honest. I kind of went into it just hoping for the best, but it has definitely opened my eyes to how extensive the process really can be.”
“Now with somebody being proactive and having conversations with someone who is actually in the country makes me feel like we’re getting closer. You never know who someone might know, or a contact that they might have, especially with Holt International having a huge adoption agency in Korea. I’m sure they have contacts with Eastern Child Welfare where I came through.”
He’s encouraged by the stories and photos on the Korean Adoption Group Facebook page, where fellow adoptees share their stories, tips, and ideas. Blanchard shared his experience working with private investigators.
“When you become stuck in this search, it can be really tough. Finding your birth family, finding an individual in this world with billions of people, it’s completely overwhelming. Sometimes to find someone you really don’t have any information on or the information you have doesn’t seem to have any results, that’s tough. So if you’re down to your last resorts, I would definitely recommend using a private investigator.”
Does Blanchard feel like he’s in a state of limbo, waiting for the next clue? “It’s nothing new for me, so it certainly doesn’t get me down. I’ve wanted to find out more information about my birth family since I can remember, and this is the furthest along I’ve come to date. Knowing that there is a PI working behind the scenes and making new contacts in Korea makes me excited and encouraged.”
“You can’t put a price on having the answers, being able to meet your birth mother, your birth family. It’s a life-changing event and any avenue is worth taking.”