Finding Mom: Adoptees take to Facebook to find their birth mothers
It's probably something most of us take for granted - knowing our mother. But it's estimated that more than 300,000 Hoosiers not only don't know their own birth mother, they have almost no way of finding out.
Many are turning to social media as a way of finding mom.
On her computer Beth Passmore is on an online mission. She's trying to unlock a 38-year-old mystery.
"It's something that I wonder about all the time, especially on my birthday. I wonder if she's thinking about me...or does she miss me," said Passmore from her current home in New Albany, Indiana.
Born in Indianapolis, she spent the first three months of her life at an orphanage before being adopted. She's filled out paperwork to find her birth mother.
"This is the part; birth information. Unknown, unknown, unknown," she said, pointing to a form requesting personal information from the state. "That's the part that I want to know."
Because of Indiana laws that keep some adoption records closed, Beth turned to Facebook to search for her birth mother.
"As babies, we don't ask to be born into the situation we're born in. We didn't have the right to find out and I'm not sure that that's fair," she said.
Beth is searching for what Kate Hibler and Lisa Brady have already found.
"My youngest daughter, I think, was 13 at the time and I had a Facebook account and she goes, 'We could get on Facebook and look for her'," said Brady.
An overwhelmed single mom, Lisa gave up Kate for adoption at birth in 1993.
"I had profound sorrow. I've had profound sorrow for 18 years until I found her and then it stopped," Brady said.
In 2011, with help from her daughter Hannah, Lisa set up a Facebook page looking for Kate.
"Then Hannah and I did a lot of searching for 'Kates' that were born in 1993 that lived in Indiana...and I didn't find her, she found me," Brady said laughing.
Two months after she started searching, Lisa got this text:
"I'm 100 percent positive you're the person I've been looking for."
It was from her daughter, Kate Hibler, at the time, she was 18 years old.
"Instantly, we're online, calling, talking," said Brady.
"The whole family contacted me!" said Hibler. "Everyone was really excited!"
A connection made, thanks to social media.
"I don't know what steps I would have taken if I didn't find her through Facebook, because of Indiana laws and I've heard they're pretty rough to get the records open," said Hibler.
In fact, private citizens do not have access to Indiana adoption records from 1941 through 1993. Some at the Statehouse want to change that in the name of fairness, but others argue it's potentially unfair to a mother, who may after years, get a surprise knock at the door.
"The chances of saving lives are great and the chances of someone getting that unwanted knock is like one-tenth of one percent," said State Senator Brent Steele (R- Bedford). Once opposed to changing the law, he is now one of the biggest proponents of opening records. He argues the need to pass on vital hereditary health information and points to the thousands of postings of parents and children trying to reconnect.
"We're not talking about just tens of thousands we're talking about hundreds of thousands. And society's changed. What are we trying to protect people from when we're as connected as we are today?" asked Steele, rhetorically.
That connectivity has helped an unknown number of people, including Kelley Baumgartner. She posted her search on the WTHR Facebook page. It was shared more than 340,000 times and weeks later, she met her birth mother after more than a decade of searching.
While Kate Hibler maintains a strong relationship with her adoptive parents, she has bonded with siblings and her birth mother. A parent and child grateful their search is over.
"Facebook worked for us. It was kind of a meant to be thing, how it happened that easy," said Hibler.
And Beth Passmore will keep looking, hoping persistence will pay off.
"As long as those records are closed, I'll still be searching online on the registries and on Facebook for Facebook pages and the way social media is the way it is now, if she were to put something out there I would find it...I would find it," she said.
Where government closes doors, our interconnected world has the power to force them open.
Later this summer, the legislature will discuss changing the law, possibly bringing up the proposal for a vote next year. Proponents of changing Indiana law have been trying for several years to open adoption records but have failed.