Woman Finds Out She’s a “Missing Person” After Researching Her Adoptive Past

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| LAST UPDATE 08/03/2022

By Jessica Lopez

When adopted children decide to investigate their biological family, they don't always like what they find. Here's the remarkable story of one woman's quest for the truth about her birth parents.

Questions Arise

The quest to find one's biological family is a rollercoaster of emotions for any adoptee. No matter what the destination is, it's almost guaranteed to be a bumpy ride - and it was no different for Shawne Bolton.

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@flowerrage via Instagram

Shawne knew this when she began looking for the truth about her birth parents. She fully expected to experience the same intensity and raw emotions that many other adopted children do when they start their journey of discovery and reconnection. But the 26-year-old could never have expected what the future had in store for her.

Where It All Started

From as early as she could remember, Shawne knew that her parents were not her biological mother and father. Whereas some adopted children don't learn the truth until their teen or adult years, the young woman's family was somewhat open about the circumstances of her birth from the very beginning.

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@flowerrage via Instagram

Despite knowing the “truth” for so long, it wasn’t until her mid-20s that she became genuinely interested in finding out more about her bio family, particularly her birth mother. Her life was settled enough that it seemed like a good time to start the journey.

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Shawne’s Search

So she began making those first tentative steps to track down her mother. And it all started with a criminal check! Shawne had very little info about her birth mother, and it wasn’t uncommon for parents who give up their children to have some kind of criminal background - even if just for petty crimes and misdemeanors.

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HAUKE-CHRISTIAN DITTRICH / Contributor via Getty Images

So she got in touch with local police in the hopes that they could unearth something based on the limited information she had. She gave them the mystery woman's birth date, age, and whatever else she could scrounge up. To her surprise, the police reached out to her in a matter of days with some shocking leads.

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A Strange Case

The police officer in question seemed somewhat disturbed by what he had found and even suggested that Shawne sit down before he shared the news. The police officer's earnestness and concern about Shawne's reaction stunned her and sent all kinds of thoughts running through her head.

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Herwin Bahar via Getty Images

She sat there with bated breath while the officer explained the strange information he had unearthed. As it turned out, it didn't just involve her mother - it also involved her. According to the local police's missing person database, Shawne herself had been classified as a missing person.

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Looking Back Into The Past

Shawne had set out to find her birth mother and could never have imagined she would find terrifying information about herself. Some may wonder, if she had known what she was about to uncover, would she have continued searching? Perhaps we'll never know...

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@loungethelatte via Instagram

But people often forget that the search for one's birth parents is essentially a gamble, rolling the dice against fate with the hopes that one will find some closure. The tragic fact is that while some look into their past and find healing, others walk away learning things they may wish they had never discovered.

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Plunged Into Emotional Turmoil

Yes, it’s true that many adoptees who start down the rocky road to discovering their birth families will also uncover some difficult truths along the way. This is made even more difficult by the fact that many adoptees are raised by less-than-ideal families and may have to discover these truths on their own.

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@deevaa_babe via Instagram

For some adoptees, the truth of their birth circumstances can be too painful to bear, leading them to seek out unhealthy coping mechanisms that can turn into life-altering habits. In many cases, it is recommended that adopted children seek out a psychologist to help them work through their experiences.

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Outside of the clear emotional ramifications of searching for bio parents, these journeys also require an immense amount of detective work, leading adoptees down a maze of searching through records, sending emails, and meeting people from the past. The less information they have, the more true this is.

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vgabusi via Getty Images

Thankfully with the help of the internet, these searches have become easier to carry out. Instead of hunting through physical records and databases, adoptees can harness the power of Google and other search engines to find more information - even if they have nothing but a first name and surname.

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Unhappy Endings?

The same can be said for social media, which can often connect adoptees with people who have first-hand information - and in some cases, even members of their biological family! Of course, there is a dark side to this, as difficult situations can often arise when an adopted child or biological parent goes searching for lost family.

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@sugeng.riyadi.2687 via Instagram

It’s not just the adoptees who face hurdles, though. Sometimes parents who give up their children will try to get in contact years later, only to discover that the adoptive parents will refuse contact. And in some cases, even when the adopted children and bio parents meet, it can be distressing and confusing for the child.

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Just One Piece Of Evidence

It's clear that the search for someone's biological family can be a struggle for everyone involved. But even with that knowledge, it doesn't stop many people from searching anyway. And often, all they need is a single piece of information they can use to kickstart their search.

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@flowerrage via Instagram

Sometimes all it takes is a name, a birthday, an address - or just a vague location that can act as the key to unlocking a personal biological mystery. But in some cases, it can be as simple as contacting the relevant adoption agency, most of which will hold their client's information indefinitely.

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Starting Off Small

In Shawne’s case, she had a small amount of information that she could use to start her search. She had been keeping that information close since she was a teenager, as she knew she would want to use it someday. At 26 years old, that day finally arrived - and she took to TikTok to share her journey.

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@pumpkin_princess_baby via Instagram

"For the first ten years of my life, I didn't know that they weren't my parents," she shared in her first video about her adoption. "I thought that my dad was my dad, and my mom was my mom." When she was just 10, her parents told her the truth - while still leaving out some key information.

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New Leads

In those early days, her parents had only told her the area she was born in. She was never given her birth mom's name or the circumstances under which she chose to give up her baby daughter. Still, Shawne had the location. But she couldn't help but fear that it wouldn't be enough.

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Thomas Stone via Getty Images

As it turned out, that location was all she needed. By contacting the local police near her birthplace, they were able to use the little information she had to track down any more hints of Shawne’s past. And that was when she discovered that first life-changing piece of news.

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Getting Down To It

As we mentioned, adult Shawne had a normal, peaceful life when she started down this path. She had a small family, including children and a fiance. Things were going well for her, and the only thing that was missing was the family that she had never know - all the way back at the beginning of her life.

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@flowerrage via Instagram

Shawne shared the next stage of her search with her TikTok followers. “[The sheriff] became extremely interested in who I was and my personal information and, after a few minutes of having a conversation about who I was, he asked me to please sit down and that he had something to tell me.”

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Could It Be?

Immediately, the request struck her as strange and foreboding. Why would she need to sit down? What could he possibly have to tell her? Suddenly her mind began to race with all kinds of possibilities, many of them dark. Her first thought was that her birth mother was simply not alive any longer.

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@thebeardedmom via TikTok

But she honored his request, taking the seat nearest to her. “I sat down,” Shawne continued. “He told me that he couldn’t find any information on my mother but that I was a missing person.” It seemed impossible that after a few days of searching, Shawne hadn’t found her mother, but she had technically found… herself.

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Gone, Without a Trace

As she began to respond, the sheriff registered Shawne’s distress and quickly began to explain himself further. According to the sheriff, in 1980, the year she was born, a missing person report was filed by a distraught mother in the same town she had been born in.

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@danni_gaminglove via Instagram

According to the woman, her newborn daughter had disappeared. She was convinced the infant had been kidnapped and had struck out on her own to search for the child as well as notify the police. Tragically, the little girl had vanished… only to reappear 26 years later.

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A P.I Gets Involved

The police didn’t let the case rest, however. They had continued to keep their eyes and ears out for the missing child, with no luck. Since the child would eventually grow up and look unrecognizable, it was assumed that she would probably never be found. But this strange discovery raised a host of disturbing new questions.

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@arik_dafan_investigators_team via Instagram

Who were the people she had called mom and dad her whole life? How did they get their hands on a child who had long been reported as a kidnapping victim? Shawne needed answers, but she knew she had to tread carefully. She made the decision to hire a private investigator who could help shed some light on the strange situation.

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Clearing The Air

The private investigator was almost as perturbed by Shawne's story as she was. He quickly got to work finding the missing pieces of this disturbing puzzle. And in a matter of months, he had begun to put the pieces together. He found her birth mother's true identity. And much more besides that.

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@flowerrage via Instagram

The true story was finally coming to light, and the result was beyond shocking. First of all, Shawne’s parents were not her legal adopted parents, but they didn’t kidnap her either. What had started with a strange piece of information from a policeman was about to turn into a world-altering revelation for Shawne.

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An Elaborate Scheme

After a few weeks of searching, Shawne didn’t just discover who her birth mother was - she discovered that she had been sold by that very same woman. Not adopted, not kidnapped. Sold. Her birth mother had taken Shawne to her now-parents and handed her over for cash, only to turn around and put on the performance of a lifetime.

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@thebeardedmom via TikTok

Her birth mom went back to the police, pretending to be distraught and telling them an elaborate story about her child's kidnapping. She assisted in the investigation and told everyone she knew that her daughter had essentially been stolen. "My mother's family - they all believe I was kidnapped," Shawne told her followers.

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A Shred Of Honesty

And it didn’t end there. Shawne’s mother took her story to the next level, sharing the horrifying tale with anyone who would listen. She even gave the policemen who were heading the investigation a tipoff - she told them she believed a man named Steven had stolen her daughter.

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@thebeardedmom via TikTok

The strangest part of this chapter in the story is that Shawne’s mom was telling the truth! Steven was the name of Shawne’s new “adoptive” father. But if she had sold her own daughter to this man, why would she share this detail with investigators? It didn’t make any sense.

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The Truth About Her Parents

Even though they had the name of Shawne’s “kidnapper,” the detectives and investigators on her case never bothered to look any further. And the newly relocated Shawne slipped under their radar as a result. Meanwhile, Steven and Angie, his wife, returned home with a healthy baby daughter.

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@emilyselegance via Instagram

And despite the shady exchange with Shawne’s birth mother, Steven and Angie continued on with their life with no idea of the investigation that was taking place at the same time. In their eyes, there was nothing inherently wrong with purchasing a child… and they would feel the same way about even more terrible things.

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Trauma After Trauma

As some readers may have guessed by now, Shawne’s adoptive mother and father were not the kindest and most loving parents when she was growing up. After all, these were the same parents who illegally bought a child from a stranger. As a result, Shawne’s upbringing was a painful one.

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@0becki0 via Instagram

Throughout her life, she was subjected to horrors that are hard to imagine for most adults, let alone a child. There was no stability or security in her early life, and she accepted trauma after trauma from a young age. Looking back, Shawne made the connection between their illegal purchase and the actions she was subjected to.

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A "Terrible" Truth

Though many traumatized young people understandably grow up afraid and ashamed to talk about their abusive childhoods, Shawne was the exact opposite. She openly shared her harrowing past with friends and followers on her social media accounts - and there were many who could relate.

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@0becki0 via Instagram

For those who couldn’t understand the trauma she had been through, Shawne made various videos explaining how she was treated growing up and how it affected her as a child. “It was confusing,” she said. “ I couldn’t work out why they didn’t love me and why they treated me as terribly as they did.”

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Some Kind Of Closure

Her unhappy upbringing was part of the reason she was so intent on reaching out to her birth parents. She had always held out hope that her biological family could give her even a tiny bit of the love she had been missing in her childhood. She had no idea that it would end up making everything worse.

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@thebeardedmom via TikTok

As we mentioned, the PI Shawne hired had managed to track down her birth mother, and she reached out to the woman in hopes of getting some kind of closure. Though the two women did eventually meet, her mother backpedaled and refused to acknowledge the pain she’d caused. She didn’t even apologize to the daughter she sold.

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Meeting Grandma

Suffice to say, Shawne's meeting with her mother left her feeling even more hopeless about the situation. So she decided to try again… this time with the rest of her biological family. In her eyes, there was still a chance that she would be warmly welcomed by her birth mother's relatives.

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@flowerrage via Instagram

Little did she know that for 26 years, only her mother (and her adoptive parents) knew the truth: that Shawne had been sold rather than kidnapped. For all that time, her biological grandparents and extended family had believed the terrible lie Shawne’s mother had told everyone.

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Too Much Hurt

Understandably Shawne’s grandmother had been elated to hear that her granddaughter was alive and well, and she was more than happy to meet her. But the older woman had built up a lot of expectations for her long-lost granddaughter and was apparently disappointed when they finally met face to face.

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@thebeardedmom via TikTok

In the end, the older and younger woman couldn’t see eye to eye, and Shawne came away from another family reunion feeling rejected and defeated. It was becoming clear to the young woman that she was unlikely to find closure with her blood relatives. After years of anticipation, things were looking bleak.

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A New Plan

But Shawne wasn’t ready to let her story fade into nothing. She continued to update her TikTok followers, sharing the pain and isolation she felt during such a rough period of her life. Soon enough, thousands of people were drawn to her unusual adoptee story, and she garnered plenty of support.

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@thebeardedmom via TikTok

Many of her new fans began to share their own ideas with Shawne too. One particular follower even generously offered to help the woman track down her biological father, a figure who had been surprisingly absent from the story so far. This follower believed that he could be her last chance for closure.

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Searching For Her Father

Despite all the pain and rejection she had already experienced, Shawne was compelled by the idea. She accepted the follower's help, and in a surprisingly short amount of time, they had uncovered her father's identity. Though no one quite knows why (or how), the follower did everything they could to get that info to Shawne.

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@bluebloodi_ via Instagram

For Shawne, that wasn’t at the top of her agenda. She now had the name and contact details of her biological father - and he could be the key to understanding her past. Perhaps he could provide her with the glimpse of familial happiness she had always been searching for.

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An Emotional Reunion

So she got in touch with the man and asked him to take a DNA test. It was a strange, spontaneous quest, but the man said yes! And what was more… the test was positive. He was her father. The pair finally met, and Shawne finally felt the bond she had been looking for that she couldn’t find with her maternal family.

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@thebeardedmom via TikTok

And what’s more, her father was able to fill in the gaps of her past. He told her that he had gotten Shawne’s mom pregnant, but he didn’t have any real relationship with her and was never involved with the pregnancy or birthing progress. Despite this, he was willing to forge a new relationship with his long-lost daughter.

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What’s Left Behind

So, after all of the shock and hurt involved in Shawne’s search for her family, there had been a light at the end of the tunnel. She had a real, caring parental figure. But there was no denying that she had gone through an immense amount of emotional turmoil in the process.

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@flowerrage via Instagram

And even the support of her biological father didn’t heal the pain she felt. What should have been a journey of healing and discovery had turned into a long process of confusion, horror, frustration, and rejection. It all felt like too much for one person to deal with.

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"I Did Feel Love…"

But Shawne didn't let the hurt destroy her. Despite the frightening truth of her past and her disastrous meetings with her mother and grandmother, she now had a relationship with her father. And despite everything, she still felt a tenuous connection to her adoptive parents.

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@thebeardedmom via TikTok

"I did feel love at times…" she admitted in one TikTok when discussing Steven and Angie. "When you're in an abusive situation, you will take even little bits of love and cherish that. It's complicated." Regardless of that glimmer of feeling, Shawne still made the decision to cut them out of her life.

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Love Yourself, No Matter What

Today Shawne has done plenty of healing and no longer looks to her parents for validation. “I’m doing much better now,” she said. “I own my own business. I don’t have any contact with any of my family. I do have a very complicated relationship with my children that I would love to repair.”

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@thebeardedmom via TikTok

"I spend every day trying to do that. I'm not perfect," she continued. "Love all the pieces of who you are. We grow and become different people with every choice we make! Choose happiness and self-love." It's an important message anyone can learn from - and we're confident this strong woman will keep moving from strength to strength!

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