People Finder: A Personal Journey

My parents split up when I was seven. My Dad took off to another city. From the day he left, any mention of him was strictly forbidden. My mum just wouldn't talk about him. All photographic evidence of him and our life together was destroyed.

In time, my mum went on to remarry and have two more children. I really got on with my step-Dad and siblings while I was growing up, but always felt the odd-one-out, somehow. Two years ago my Mum passed away following a sudden illness. Grieving for her was really difficult, because as well as sadness, I also felt so much anger towards her. She had denied me being able to talk about my 'other half' for all those years.

With the support of my step-father and my younger siblings, I finally came to the decision: I would try and find my father before it was too late. I feared that it would already be too late: that he would either be dead, or so entrenched in a new life, with a new family, that he wouldn't be interested in meeting me.

Luckily I knew his full name and his date of birth. The specialist agent at RIDING told me that these were the two most important pieces of information in a trace. He talked me through the process and I felt supported and involved. To allay my fears, his first port of call was the death register. To my delight, he confirmed that my father was still alive.

That was the most fractious, stressful week I've ever experienced- waiting for news, jumping every time the 'phone rang- but my case manager dealt with me brilliantly. Having had so much experience with people in circumstances just like mine, he understood exactly how I was feeling. He assured me that he really didn't mind me ringing up every day!

One day, he rang to say he had found my Dad. Remarkably, he was living in the same county as me, not even a fifteen-minute drive away! My case manager gave me all the information I needed. Now it was up to me to make that first contact. He advised me to approach my father in writing first. My instinct was to just turn up and knock on his door, but in hindsight I realise how inappropriate that would have been! I am really glad I had someone with empathy and expertise to guide me through this difficult time.

Once I had sent the letter, there was another agonising wait. Would I have been through all this for nothing? It would be a crushing blow, but at least I could say to myself that I had tried everything I could. Even at that stage, I had no regrets.

However, a couple of weeks later, I was overjoyed to receive a reply. It was surreal to see my father's handwriting. It seemed so familiar, somehow. And when we met, it was as though no time had passed at all.

As well as being able to catch up with Dad and fill in those gaps, I also have the joy of a new extended family.

This is something I could never have done on my own, and it is something for which I will be grateful forever!

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