KEARNS — A Kearns family has been inspired by a recent trend in using social media to track down family members given up for adoption long ago.
Lota Leo and her four siblings are looking for their brother who was born Dec. 18, 1978, in Kearns. Leo said the family has tried more expensive methods than social media in the past, to no avail. They finally turned to social media when they saw others in similar positions getting results after posting for help on Facebook or Twitter.
Leo said her parents, Cynthia Chapman Tai and Maunaloa Kitita Tai, were teenagers when they had her brother and felt pressured to give up their son for adoption. They had no idea they would end up getting married and having four more children, she said.
Her parents hired a private investigator in the 1990s to try to find her brother, but had no success. At the time, that was one of the only options people in such a situation had.
"It was really kind of boots on the ground, hire a private investigator. If you knew what hospital you were born at, you'd try to uncover those records," adoption attorney Wes Hutchins said. "And so that's a very arduous, difficult and lengthy process. The success rate has historically been very low."
Now, though, in the age of social media, more people are turning to the Internet in search of family members — including Jenessa Simons, a Northern Utah woman who in January tracked down her birth parents by posting on Facebook a picture of herself and a plea for help.
Leo' hopes a blog she has created will help the family locate their older brother. Find it here.
The post got more than 166,000 shares and led to Simons eventually being able to meet her biological parents. And she's not alone, according to Hutchins, who said he is seeing a greater number of people turning to social media instead of more expensive alternatives.
Hutchins said the downside of the trend is that sometimes people don't want to be found, which is something Leo said she understands.
"We want to make him aware that he has a heritage and an entire family that loves him and cares for him and prays for him," she said."We really just want to make sure that he's OK, and we want to make sure that he's happy and healthy."
People also have the option to contact the Utah Office of Vital Records. The office has a mutual consent registry that allows parents and adopted children to add their names and contact information to the database. Once both parties contact the registry, they can be matched and connected through those means.
Contributing: Stephanie Grimes