An Indiana family has reconnected with their adopted brother thanks to a process that can often prove successful for people who have given up hope finding their roots.
"We've been looking off and on for about 20 years," said Dave Osborn.
For the past two decades, Osborn dedicated time to searching for his birth mother online from his home in Florida.
He knew he was born in Indiana on April 7, 1964, but his adoption was closed and he didn't know his mother's name. Despite the long odds, he decided to make his own website that featured the little bit of information he knew, in hopes that he could tell his children about his heritage one day.
"This was pretty much me throwing a message in a bottle into the ocean and hoping somebody else was going to get it," Osborn said.
Years after launching the website, Osborn learned that Indiana had several other options for connecting with his family.
The first step for anyone searching is to register with the State Board of Health, which has an adoption history registry. The registry can connect adoptees with their birth parents only if both parties sign off. If that doesn't work, you can also try to contact the adoption agency for help. Finally, you can hire a confidential Intermediary.
Jill Freeman works as a confidential Intermediary in Indianapolis. By law she can act as a middle man between the adoptee and the birth parents. She also has access to sealed birth records.
"This has a name," Freeman said. "This has an age. If the birth mother happened to be born in Indiana, I get her birth certificate, so now I know her date of birth and maybe her parents names. I have lots of information, where by someone who does a search on their own, they don't have a name."
"It took us 20 years of looking and finding nothing and it took (Freeman) 30 days," Osborn said.
Freeman was able to locate Osborn's birth mother, Linda Osborne, and gained approval from both her and a judge to arrange a meeting.
"I wanted to search and everything, but I just didn't know quite how to go about it," Linda Osborne said.
Linda reconnected with her son for the first time in October at Dave's house in Florida.
On Wednesday, he flew into Indianapolis to meet the rest of the family.
"He's got three sisters and two brothers," Osborne said.
"Happy for him, happy for me and happy for the family," said his brother James Cook.
"It's just nice to know heritage," Dave Osborn said as he hugged his long lost brother. "It's nice to see some people that you look like. After a life of not knowing, it's just nice to finally know."
Freeman said she has helped connect nearly every adoptee who she has helped with a search for their adoptive parents. However, she said there are no guarantees. State law requires that she provided very limited information while trying to contact birth parents, and a meeting can only be arranged if they agree in writing along with a judge.
More information on the State Department of Health Adoption History Registry is available online.