Predators target adopted teens trying to track down real parents
Adopted children as young as 13 are using Facebook to secretly try and track down their birth parents, risking contact with dangerous online predators.
Adoption agencies have confirmed children and young teenagers, as well as birth relatives, are now making contact with each other in this manner. However, there is growing concern over the psychological impact this kind of 'meet-up' online is having on both parent and child.
Charities have also warned of the rising number of adopted children contacted by their birth parents searching for names or photographs.
This secretive online searching is particularly high risk for children and teenagers because of who they might make contact with on social media.
Experts also warn mothers who kept their pregnancy a secret could be "outed" if the children they put up for adoption get in touch with relatives. The Adoption Authority of Ireland is worried that children under the age of 18 may be making clandestine contact with "complete strangers" through the internet.
"They could trace the wrong person and end up making an approach to a complete stranger," warned Patricia Carey, chief executive of the authority.
"I have heard anecdotally of young teenagers aged 13, 14 or 15 using social media for this purpose. Because they are so young there are obviously many issues surrounding safety and security.
"We are particularly concerned when children are making these searches without supervision - because it's so clandestine and unsafe."
Speaking to the Sunday Independent, Ms Carey also stressed that if a child does meet the actual person they are looking for, they may be left devastated by what they discover.
"Their birth mother and father may have subsequently married, or they may have siblings the adopted child never knew about.
"Finding out that sort of information, in such an ad-hoc way, can be upsetting for all involved. In other instances they could discover their birth mother has died, or that a parent is in difficult circumstances, such as in prison. There's also the possibility that their natural mother or father is not the person they thought they would be. That can have traumatic consequences."