Recently, The MMB was contacted by WeTV and asked if we would like to interview Troy Dunn, host of the TV show The Locator. The timing was incredible as we (Brittany and Motherboard) were working on the finishing touches for the Adoption Guest posts. Without hesitation we accepted this incredible opportunity, and Brittany prepared for the interview. She put a lot of research and time into preparing some thought provoking questions.
In 1990, Troy Dunn helped his mother, who was adopted as a baby, locate her biological family. He went on to build an organization helping reunite people with lost loved ones. The Locator follows Troy and his staff as they solve "Angel Cases," cases chosen for their urgent nature and exhaustion of all other methods.
Troy is from Florida and is also a Bishop for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Brittany asked him about his show, his faith and his opinions on openness in modern adoption practices. Following is the interview, and I hope you find it fascinating!
1. What influence does your faith have on your job as The Locator?
As someone who has been taught and firmly believes families can be together forever, I find great joy in rebuilding fractured families in time for them to share some time together here in mortality. I have witnessed many miracles along this twenty year journey and I know it's because the Lord has his hand in our efforts.
2. What are your views on the move to openness in adoption?
I believe that open adoption is a beautiful scenario that can bring peace and joy to all three sides of the triad. It can also be less than that if not managed properly, so I always advise adoptive parents and biological parents to begin with clear boundaries and sensitivity to all concerned. There are certainly scenarios where open adoption is not the answer, but I believe those situations are the exception. The best interests of the adoptee should always be first priority and final decision on boundaries should belong to the adoptive parents, at least until the adoptee reaches adulthood.
3. What are the main reasons adoptees/birth parents decide to search for their child/birth parent?
Regardless of the numerous superficial reasons most people claim as their motivation for searching, it is my belief that most simply want peace. For adoptees, it is a need to fully understand why they were relinquished and if their birth parents ever thought of them. There are also issues of curiosity about looks, lifestyle, talents, etc. And of course, most adoptees consider a need for current medical information to be a driving force. But nothing compares to the need for PEACE.
For the birth mother, it is virtually the same. She generally seeks the peace that can only come once she determines her baby went to a good family and life is wonderful for her relinquished child. Most birth mothers seem to wrestle with the past decision to relinquish a child until they are able to see the child ended up in a far safer or more stable home than she could have provided at the time. (This is nearly always the case by the way.) She also goes thru life wondering if her child ever thought of her or wondered about her life. She also tends to remain restless until she is finally able to look that baby in the eye (now grown up) and tell him/her it wasn't because she didn't love him/her. Again, my experience is that most birth mothers were eaten up with anxiety over the decision to relinquish their new-born. I consider them very brave women to carry the child to term and able to hand that beautiful baby over to another woman to raise and nurture. Such an extraordinary, selfless decision.
4. Do you have any suggestions for adoptive parents who may feel anxious about their child wanting to meet his/her birth parents?
First of all, with rare exception, I do not suggest minors search out their biological parents. (Unless it has always been an open adoption from the start.) Childhood is hard enough without having to divide time and attention between 3 or 4 parents. But in an effort to provide some true peace to adoptive parents may I share the most common outcome of adoptees seeking their biological family; the overwhelming majority of adoptees who seek out their birth parents return home afterwards filled with a deeper appreciation for the life they have had growing up with their adoptive family. Again, leaning on my experience of counseling with thousands of adoptees over the past couple of decades, I can confidently state that adoptees are not seeking new, better parents. They are seeking answers, closure, a sense of identity, NOT new parents. The best thing an adoptive parent could do for their adopted son or daughter is to express their support and cooperation when their son or daughter announces they are considering searching out their bio-family. They are going to do it either way, but giving your blessing (guilt-free) is an extraordinary opportunity to truly LOVE your child and to demonstrate it.
5. What has been the most painful reunion on your show and why?
For me, the most painful cases are usually the one's that simply do not get solved. Or we solve a case but the person being sought is deceased. This season, I have experienced both of those scenarios; so tough to tell someone those results.
6. What has been the most special/joyful reunion on your show and why?
I actually grow to love these people who are so generous to share this special experience with the world. Every reunion touches me deeply. I usually rush back to my rental car and cry myself all the way back to the airport. But it's a good cry. :-)
7. How do you prepare yourself to tell people the news that their missing loved one either has passed away or does not want to be located?
I remind myself that this experience can still provide closure to the family and definite healing. There is simply nothing worse than going through life wondering but not knowing for certain. I believe you cannot find peace until you find all the pieces. But I will confess, I still walk away feeling like I failed them if I can't facilitate a full reunion. I really think people under-estimate the healing power of a good long hug!
8. If you were to ever adopt a child, what kind of relationship would you want with a birth mother and why?
As I say all of the time, I consider birth mothers to be heroes because of their courage to make the painful decision to offer their child a better, safer life, regardless of the personal suffering or shame they may endure from outsiders. I would want a birthmother to know how grateful I am and always will be. If she is open to being a steady part of my child's life, I would welcome the opportunity to structure a place in my child's life. If she felt she would be unable to be consistent in such a relationship, I would offer to keep her updated and informed on life events of our child, both the exciting and the mundane. This is sometimes the preferred relationship by more birth mothers than you may have thought. The frequent updates provide peace to the birthmother that is sometimes all she really desires.
The Locator airs this Saturday at 9pm/8c