Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Alleged Theft of Adoption Records

An article at the Deseret Morning News website (see here) talks about Jill Ekstrom being charged with allegedly stealing microfilm that contained adoption records. Jill runs a research company called UtahFinders with a website that used to be located at Though the website is no longer available, below is an image of what it used to look like. You can click on the image for a larger version.

If you've read my blog, you know from a previous post (see here) about my feelings on adoption and open records concerning adoption. I won't go into those feelings again in this post. What I want to focus on in this post, is my own personal dealings with Jill Ekstrom.

When I was beginning to think about searching for my birth parents, I joined a group on the internet that was run by Jill. I joined this group for ideas on where to look and to see what others had experienced as they had searched for and found their birth parents. As my feelings to find my birth mother became more intense, I decided to contact a paid searcher. I ended up contacting a searcher named Sharlene Lightfoot who runs "Adoption Connection of Utah." I paid her an agreed upon sum and she quickly gave me the information about my birth mother, her parents, and siblings. I contacted Jill with this information and had Jill attempt the contact with my birth mother. When Jill made the contact, my birth mother denied ever having given up a child for adoption.

When my birth mother made the denial, Jill believed her entirely. Jill told me in her subsequent phone call to me that my information from Sharlene was false. She said something to the effect of, "There are many searchers out there who use illegal ways of getting information. I never do that, and I verify all my information from as many sources as possible." At the time, I got the feeling that Jill was a little upset that I hadn't used "her" services to find my birth mother.

I was quite distraught and wondered if I had been scammed. I immediately called Sharlene and told her what had transpired. She said that her information was correct and that she would be willing to contact one of my birth mother's siblings. She made the contact with my birth mother's sister and confirmed that my birth mother had indeed placed a child for adoption and got approval for me to call this sister directly. After Sharlene gave me this information I quickly hung up the phone with her and called my birth mother's sister. I still have a good relationship to this day with my birth mother's sister.

So what would make someone go from "I don't use illegal methods." to allegedly stealing court records? I'm not sure, but, I have my suspicions. It could be the money. According to the article, Jill charged about $850 to find birth parents for adoptees. It could be that Jill was frustrated by Utah laws dealing with closed adoptions and felt this could be a big help to many adoptees. It could be that Jill wanted to find out information for herself. It could also be that the records were not stolen, but, accidentally provided to Jill by a court staff member.


Document said...

I am JILL EKSTROM I DIDNT DO THIS SOMEONe SET UP a press conference so I can tell my side of the story!
I am tired of this being twisted
I am a birth mother and adoptee and birth parent I would NEVER steal records

ebgdae said...

Thad, as an adoptive parent I am interested in your perspective on this issue. I'm curious, why do you think your birth-mother denied placing you for adoption even after you tracked her down? Do you think it was fair to place her in a position where she was forced to do that? Or do you think that's just the price she pays for her decision? Was there a part of you that wanted to force her to acknowledge you and possibly feel bad or apologize for her decision? Do you think if you had found her sooner (as a teenager) it would have caused problems for your family?

During the adoption of our son we had face-to-face contact with his birth-parents. We could easily tell our son enough about them to help him find them, but that is not our decision to make. They asked that thier information remain anonymous, just as many (if not most) of the birth-parents did in the past. It is a betrayal of their trust to open those records or reveal that information after they relied on promises of confidentiality. If they change their mind they can register with the mutual consent registry.

Ekstrom and all other "finders" out there should stop playing God and butt-out. Geneologists are notorious busy-bodies who get a thrill out of digging up dirty-laundry. The dirtier the better. When their victims are dead that is one thing, but in this case there are real lives, families and relationships at stake! As much as I sympathize with adoptees who want answers, we all face questions in life that are unanswerable and we just have to accept the way things are and move on. Refusing to do so only leads to heart-ache. Best wishes.

Jill said...

It was not fair that you stated I was upset that you didnt use me.
You never paid me and I did what I did for you for free. I could not continue to confront a woman who had stated she wasnt your mother that would have been not right.
I am glad you found out the truth and I was nothing but kind and considerate to you.
I did not steal these records and never have.
I did quite an interview with channel 2 which should be on tonight or sometime this weekend.
After doing over 9,000 reunions of many types I have many people who will testify to how I conducted myself.
Jill Ekstrom

Thad said...

Just to clarify, I said in my post that "I got the feeling that Jill was upset." That is how I felt. It may not have been what was intended, but, that is how I felt at the time.

BB Church said...

"As much as I sympathize with adoptees who want answers, we all face questions in life that are unanswerable and we just have to accept the way things are and move on. Refusing to do so only leads to heart-ache."

Social workers, judges, legislatures and confidential intermediaries all play God over the lives of adult adoptees all the time, so I'm taking your opinion with a grain of salt as big as my head. This entire case, from start to finish, guilty or innocent, simply points to the obvious point that adult adoptees deserve the same access to their records of birth that everyone else has. Then nobody can pretend to play God with our lives.

What intrigues me most in this case is the investigation methods of the police. How did they come up with the idea of posing as an actual adoptee? Did the DA sign off on this identity theft? Did a judge? This is clearly unethical, if not illegal. I've read that the adoptee and his mother have settled with Davis County, quick work. I hope that Ms. Ekstrom's attorney is diligent in getting to the bottom of this.