Since we last spoke, Matt has begun his search in South Korea with the help of Melanie S., one of the best private investigators in Trustify’s global network who specializes in adoption reunion cases both domestically and internationally. By her own calculations, she has over a 96% success rate with adoption cases.

We interviewed Melanie about the difficulties of investigating adoption cases overseas, and to get an update on how Matt’s adoption search was proceeding.

So, How is Matt’s case going? I understand these cases can be a little slow-going at first.

As far as progress goes, I am still researching and networking. I have found the teacher who knows the principal from the South Korean school that Matt’s mother attended. I have also found some people on the ground who will be able to translate and offer me some guidance on navigating the system over there. I have reached out to Matt’s caseworker as well, but I haven’t gotten a response yet.

Once things get a little more sorted, we’ll be in a position to reach out to the school principal and try and learn more about the adoption process. It’s important to have some information before we start contacting people – they are much more likely to help if we already have some information to go on.

What’s the most difficult part of investigating adoption cases overseas?

This is definitely a challenging investigation. In Matt’s case, we face every type of obstacle, including the language barrier, the difference of cultures, and the local time. For starters, the time difference is 14 hours!

We can research, make calls, investigate, find new leads, and cross things off our list here in the US, but this has its limits. I cannot simply make calls or research public records overseas. For South Korea, I am not even able to contact the court or adoption center and inquire about how the process works in their country.

For these cases, I have to learn everything from the ground up. Where are the records? What do I need to do to obtain those records? What are the laws?

Fortunately, I have plenty of experience and I know what questions to ask.

Are there any specific tools or resources that you use for these searches?

International cases rely more on open-source resources. I network with people in the target country, search social media and genealogy databases, and use public search engines like Google. My US databases and usual tactics will not work for these cases, so I have to get more creative.

This case will focus on a lot of research and networking. The majority of the cases I take are cases that have been unsolved, passed over, or worked by other agencies without success. In about half of these cases, there have been at least 2 investigators or agencies who could not make positive progress on the case.

I’ll usually begin my case without reviewing other notes or tactics used by the previous investigators. I think outside the box to create my own road, to find a new path to the answer.

I have also been researching cases where others have searched for their birth parents in South Korea, to learn about the paths they took, the failures they faced, and (most importantly) what led them to success.

What sort of information do you need to start a case like this?

As much as possible!

We had some basic information from Matt to start, which will help us connect with more leads. They (the adoption agency) gave us his birth name, his DOB, the city he was born in, his birth parents’ names, place of birth, age, and a bit of non-identifying info for his mom regarding her family. We also have the adoption agency’s case number as well as the name of the social worker, the agency branch where Matt’s birth mom had her consultation, and the clinic where she gave birth.

Every little bit of information helps – even if was rumored or if it is something that was mentioned unofficially.

For people looking to start a case like this, how long does it usually take? How often is the outcome successful?

It goes without saying, but every case is different. The length of the case and its outcome depend on the specifics of the case, on the patience of the client, and, to a certain extent,  luck.

For adoption cases in the US with identifying information, it can take anywhere from 4 hours to 2 weeks. For adoption cases in the US with non-identifying information, it can take 4 months to a year on average. For international adoptions, I have no idea! There are too many factors at play. We will find out!

I will note that I have about a 96% success rate with my adoption or reuniting family cases. The cases I have not located are still open and being worked on. Most have very unusual circumstances such as the adoption agencies closed down, the adoption records were burned, or the information listed in the records is false.

Are there any interesting idiosyncrasies that South Korean officials and the law have that affect your investigation?

I’m finding a lot of interesting facts out about South Korean adoptions. For example, birth mothers have no voice in South Korea, and most were forced into placing their child for adoption. There is a lot of shame for unwed mothers and many documents are falsified, pregnancies are hidden, and babies are raised with other family members.

There is also great importance placed on bloodlines in South Korea. I have learned that family is everything and adoption are frowned upon, even when South Korean families are adopting babies that are in the state’s care in children’s homes.

Apparently, they pose the question of “Why would you want to raise someone else’s child?”This is often because that child is not part of your own bloodline and, apparently, of less value to you. A South Korean adoptee may not be able to find work because the employer will ask about their family registry and relatives. The South Korean government became embarrassed that their reputation was that of a baby-exporting country. They changed their laws in 2012 and placed more restrictions on international adoptions and now many babies are abandoned, it seems.

This is the second post in a three-part series about Matthew (AKA Matt) Blanchard, an employee at my company, Trustify, and an adoptee. The last time Matt saw his birth mother he was leaving the hospital in which he was born in South Korea – but in 2018, Trustify is using its private investigator network (and Melanie in particular) to track down his birth parents. To read the first part of this series and watch a quick video in which I interview Matt about his story, check out my first post.