Tina: Hello. This is Tina Gilbertson, founder and host of Reconnection Club dot com, an online home for parents of estranged adult children. And today, I’m talking with Thomas Martin, president of Martin Investigative Services of Newport Beach, California. Tom is a former federal agent with the DEA, and for the past 38 years, has been the president of his own private investigation agency. He has extensive experience in the field of investigation. But today, he’s just going to be talking with us about how to go about finding an adult child you’ve lost touch with. So, Tom, I wanna thank you so much for taking the time to talk with us today.
Thomas: Well, you’re welcome, Tina. Thanks for inviting me.
Tina: Maybe you’d like to tell us a little bit about what you do before I start launching questions at you.
Thomas: Well, I started out as a federal agent with the Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs in 1969. And as you mentioned in the introduction, that agency turned into the Drug Enforcement Administration, and I was an agent with them for 12 years. And I was injured in 1981, and decided to start a private investigative agency. I didn’t know too much about any other career. I was a fairly decent investigator in those days. So, I figured that this would be the place to migrate my limited skills at that time. And so, at the time, I had two young kids, and I decided that I would take any case that I could get. And we kinda became full service.
And when I left the Department of Justice, they didn’t let me take any of their computers. Go figure that. So, I started my own, and in the summer of 1981 with a floppy disk. And that has now turned into pretty much a world-class database of information that we use for locating people: asset searches, backgrounds, et cetera. So, there’s not too much we don’t do. I’m very fortunate that I have a staff of about 20 people, and they’re former FBI, DEA, IRS, and Secret Service. So, it’s a pretty good outfit.
Tina: Wow. Heavy hitters.
Thomas: Well, we got a couple knuckleheads. As a group, as a whole, it’s pretty good.
Tina: Well, let’s hope that most of the people listening will never need to hire you. Some of them might want to find their kid though, and be thinking about hiring you. But from what you and I have talked about a little bit before we started this interview, it seems that there are things that people might be able to do by themselves just initially, and possibly get in touch with their adult children by themselves. Can you give us some ideas of how people can get started if they no longer know where their child lives?
Thomas: Well, there’s two things that I would recommend to your audience. And these are things that they can do, and it’ll take a little bit of time, little bit of reading, some research. But it will not cost them any money. They will not need to retain our services. So, the company that I referred to earlier that is one of the world’s largest database of public information is called U.S. Unite. I came up with that name because we were trying to unite people around the country, whether they be missing persons locates, or adults and children who have just become disconnected for a variety of reasons, of which you’re very aware and I don’t need to go into.
So, the first thing that I decided to do is that we have this wealth of information, but there’s also now this thing called the Internet. And as that kinda progressed, I remember in the early ’80s or late ’80s, I went to my office one day, and I said, “I wonder if this thing called the Internet is gonna stick around. I don’t know too much about it.” Anyway, I started going on there, as most people did in those days, and I found there were certain sites that you could use to actually find people, and maybe look for assets, or maybe do backgrounds. So, to cut to the chase, there is a website that your audience can go to. It’s called 888 U.S. Unite.
You can also call that number, and we will try to guide you as best we can at no charge. So, you have the ability to go to the website or to call us. I would request maybe that you go to the website. It’s a pretty simple, straightforward website that gives you clear and precise things that you can do to locate your children, and in this case, your adult children, because everybody in our system has to be over 18. Most of the cases that I have worked that are involved with adult children and their parents, they’re pretty easy to find, and you shouldn’t have to spend a lot of money. We can get to that point a little bit later. But on 888 U.S. Unite, read that.
You should be able to locate your adult children, who are in quote mainstream America. Plus, you probably have the three most important things: their date of birth, their Social Security number, or their last known address within 10 years. So, that’s a good site. Secondarily, my first book called If You Only Knew. We put it online, and that book is online also for free. You can go there and read it, and the website is Investigator Confidential dot com. And if you go to there, you’ll see the website lays out all 16 chapters. And if you go to chapter two, you’ll see fairly extensive writings about finding missing persons. And when I say missing persons, your audience, they may not be missing versus missing in action.
They’re just not speaking with one another. So, that chapter in there has a lot of tips. So, between the two, a lot of information, a lot of data. Happy to put it out there. And we get a lot of people sending us notes and emails. Yeah, I found my father, or I found my son. I found my daughter thanks to the tips on there, et cetera.
Thomas: And then the third thing you can do is if you get nowhere on that, then you can simply call us. And we can shoot you some emails and our corporate brochure, then you decide if you want to use us. And we’re a very transparent agency. Everything we do, we put it in an email, tell you what we’re gonna do, how long it’s gonna take, what’s it gonna cost. Our locate charge, if you’re not successful, is $350.00 flat rate. And the results come back in 24 hours.
Tina: And that’s if the parent has already gone to 888 U.S. Unite or read that book and chapter two and has been unsuccessful.
Thomas: Right. And there’s no sense spending money first. I mean, I think I might’ve mentioned in our talk before the interview that some private investigators don’t understand why I would put all this good information out there. Well, first of all, it’s the right thing to do. And second of all, a lot of people don’t have $350.00, and can use the information, and can use these websites. And so, all we’re doing are just kinda directing them to where to go.
Tina: Right, and that’s great. What are the odds, do you think, of a parent finding their child just using the website and the resources there?
Thomas: Well, great question. With your audience, I would say if we had 100 parents ask us to look for their adult children using one of the three things I mentioned before, the date of birth, Social Security number, or last known address, we find about 99% of the people we look for.
Tina: Wow. That’s really good. That’s if you guys are doing the work, or if the parent is looking at the website themselves?
Thomas: Well, that’s if we do the work. If the parent is doing it, depending on what information they have, and I don’t want your audience mad at me, but you’d be surprised how many parents don’t actually have a Social Security number of their child. Or two, they have a date of birth, but they’re not sure about the month and day. They remember the year they gave birth, but they don’t remember the month or the day. And then some have been in this kinda fractious relationship for more than 10 years. And sometimes, those addresses get a little stale after 10 years. But I think having worked with a number of parents, from a street point of view, and find their kids, we’re not talking now about somebody with drugs, or alcohol, or mental illness.
This is more of a emotional and spiritual disconnect, and they’re out there. And some people don’t wanna take the time. Some people don’t wanna be bothered with it. Some people don’t wanna go to all the Internets. And then some people really do – this is where we come in – really do need help once they find their adult child. And they get an address off the Internet, whether it’s my site, whether it’s from the book, and their child’s at 123 Main Street. Well, they’ll probably call on Tina, say, “What do I do now?” Because what do you do now?
And the worst thing they can do – and I’m talking as just a private investigator who’s been on the streets for, as an investigator, almost 50 years – the two worst people to try to put this thing together would be the mom and dad with their adult child. They’re gonna need somebody like you, me, a third party, if that makes sense.
Tina: Yeah, there can be a lot of emotions and issues that have been there for a long time and really need to be addressed in a constructive way. So, yeah, it’s not a small deal to relocate your child after some time. But just so that I am clear, let’s say that I’m a parent and I do have my child’s Social Security number and proper date of birth. What would be the chances that using 888 U.S. Unite dot com I could find my child myself?
Thomas: The percentages kinda vary over the years, but the most consistent one has been about 75 to 80% of the time you could be able to find your child if we’re in this genre now. We’re not talking about my son got onto drugs, or my son is a drinker, or my son’s got mental illness. With your specific subject matter, I think that your audience should be able to find themselves. Let’s tone it down to the very minimum. I would think at least 70% could be found on there.
Tina: Wow. So, it’s doable. If your child’s in the public –
Thomas: Oh, it’s very doable. There’s some wonderful sites. I’ll give you a tip here that most private investigators would jump out of their skin. Most of all the data on these websites that the public can access, and certainly ours, is driven by the three credit bureaus.
Thomas: And the three credit bureaus use the top half of your credit report, and those are the things that we’re getting the information from. We buy those. We buy those. So, if we look up your name, I don’t even need to know your name, your date of birth, your Social Security number, or where you live. Your name is kind of unusual enough, and I know you’re in a specific city and a specific state. I could probably find you in a couple hours.
Thomas: And some of the information that comes back is you get an address. Sometimes, you get phone numbers. People don’t have as many land lines now, but you get cell phones. And then sometimes, you get email addresses.
Tina: Yeah. And is it helpful to you if the parent has an email address that was good five years ago, 10 years ago, or even a phone number? Is that helpful to you when you’re looking for someone?
Thomas: It doesn’t make me warm and fuzzy. The single most important thing is the Social Security number. I don’t even need your son or daughter’s name.
Thomas: The reason the Social Security number is so important is some of these disconnected relationships, it goes on for a year, five years, 10 years. And I’ve had many, many cases where the female gets married and changes her last name. So, they’re looking for Mary Smith, and she marries Tom Jones, and now she’s Mary Jones. The parents are chasing a ghost. But with the social, sometimes there are a few websites that you can put in the social. But with ours, we’re actually online as one of the premier investigative agencies to been approved to have access to the Social Security Administration records. And there are some sites that are in the chapter and in the book where you can put in – I think if you have a date of birth for your audience, that’d be the best thing. To cut to the chase, 70% of the time, your audience should be able to find their adult child using the name and date of birth.
Tina: Terrific. So, let’s say they have those. With your experience, what are some considerations for parents when getting in touch with their child, given that the separation may have been at least initially somewhat intentional?
Thomas: Well, I think obviously you’re doing physically, emotionally, spiritually, academically, and every which way, the emotions in these cases I have found are on steroids. I mean, both sides are right. The other side is 100% wrong. And there may be some variance in those figures that I just threw out. But I just encourage people to use a third party. If you get the address of your child or your adult child, and you get a telephone number, I mean, maybe another sibling could help in the process, maybe another relative. I have been very successful in having people write letters.
And the theme that I use for the letters is she’s not 100% wrong, and you’re not 100% right. Can we get some medium ground here and just say can we start over? The grandkids wanna see you. I wanna see you, et cetera, et cetera. So, I just think getting the information of where your adult child is is simple.
Tina: That’s the easy part, you’re saying?
Thomas: That’s the easy part, 100%. And we even help people navigate our site. And it’s set up so easily that I don’t think they will have any problems. But I think maybe somebody like yourself, who has this great website and has worked this – I get a call, do a lot of interviews. I just found it fascinating that this is your genre, and that’s why I told my staff I wanted to do this interview. Because I think any PI worth a salt ought to be able to find their children. But then the hard part starts. We’ve done thousands of adoption cases where we find the birth mothers.
Thomas: Or we find the adopted children that they gave up. And they’re very similar in nature. I mean, well, you talk about knocking on somebody’s door to a man and woman who gave up a baby 30 years. And the first thing you gotta be sensitive obviously is did they tell their current spouse that they even gave it up? The women are generally a little more gentile and will do it, want to meet. The men always think they want money. They’re coming after me for child support. But once again, although I’ve done hundreds and hundreds of them over the past 40 years, I don’t think I’ve had anybody turn it down because it’s a process of how you approach the person and let them know that there is a need for that person to hook up with you, and vise versa.
I’ve had many people slam the door in my face, and then I kinda slip a piece of paper under the door and say, “Well, if I can find you, there’s a lot of guys who can find you. So, you may wanna work with me, somebody who is not just gonna give the information to your child where you live. Let’s work together because this could have a whole different outcome.” Same thing with your audience. We often recommend, if we find that the adult child is now in Denver, Colorado, Minneapolis, Minnesota, then we will try to use our network of former federal agents to have you hook up with them, and maybe have them go out and knock on her door.
Tina: Yeah. So, let’s talk a little bit about that process when your agency is the one that goes about finding the adult child. It sounds like just locating an address or whatever is not the whole of the work that you do. It sounds like you get involved in the reconnection itself to some degree. Can you talk a little bit about that?
Thomas: Well, it’s probably the most important step. And the reason that I do it in these cases is that I found out that we’ve done probably 30,000 marital surveillances. And most PIs do the surveillance, catch the man, catch the woman, get paid. See you later. Goodbye. Well, I found early on in my career that 80% of my clients are women that hired us, and we just told them that their husband is dating their sister, or dating their best friend, or dating the neighbor, or dating whoever, and we have it on video. Now, she’s a wreck, as anybody would be. That’s certainly understandable. She’s got two kids. She may not know about the finances. What are we doing here?
We took it upon ourselves to say we just can’t toss her to the wolves. We’ve gotta bring her back, sit her down, and find out who the best attorney would be, who the best forensic accountant might be. Who would be the best therapist to be? Who’s the best family counselor? Similarly, in your world, we try to talk. But more importantly, we try to listen to what the clients, who are the vast majority of time in these cases, 90% are the parents, we try to listen and filter out my daughter’s the B word or my son is a crazy man. Okay. Let’s forget all the name-calling. And what would be the thing that binds you guys when everything was great? Is it gonna be the grandkids? Is there health issues?
What’s the common denominator here? So that when we go to approach the person, the adult child, we have some kind of ammunition to say, “Hey, you may look at me as just a dumb PI, and I’m not gonna even argue with you that. And I don’t have any expertise. All I’m trying to do is give you the opportunity to reunite with your parents. If you don’t wanna do it, that’s fine. I get it. I’m still gonna get paid for coming out and trying.” And sometimes, although it sounds a little sharp and stark, you have to put the adult child maybe in a position of power to let them make the decision. And that goes to all kinds of profiling. And all of us are taught interview and interrogation.
So, it’s a process. Everybody’s different. I mean I’ve had the door slammed in my face by these guys that want nothing to do with them. And I’ve had guns pulled on our guys. I mean it can get pretty contentious. There’s no question.
Tina: Sure. But what you’re saying about giving the child power is something that’s important, that we do talk about inside the Reconnection Club, is that you really can’t force any adult to do much of anything, especially in a relationship. And trying to understand and honor the needs and viewpoint of the child usually gets parents further than anything else really. So, it sounds like that’s the same kind of approach that you take when approaching an adult child.
Thomas: We try to find out who are gonna be the adults in the room. Because if you’ve done this more than one or two times, which we have, I can tell you we are successful in getting the adult child to say, “Okay.” And I’m not talking about five seconds after we meet them, but maybe after an hour, or half hour, they at least, “Okay, I’ll consider it.” So, the daughter now is considering meeting, or calling, or writing to their mom and dad. Now steps in the husband, “I want nothing to do with your parents.” Okay. So, now, we got Mr. Husband who’s a problem. Or now you’ve got two or three grandkids involved, and they’ve been told that the grandparents are the wicked people of the West.
So, a lot of dynamics going on, and I think that’s why I was so glad to hear about you, hear about your company and what you do, because I think it’s important that somebody who’s done this, you could be that person and that bridge as some of these relationships. You just go in it with great hope, great expectations. But sometimes, just to get them to write or make a phone call, you feel like you hit a home run.
Tina: Absolutely. And I’m wondering how often reunions between adult children and their parents go reasonably well in your experience.
Thomas: Generally, it all depends on who’s bringing the news. If you get a private investigator that just gives them the information, and here’s your son, he’s at 123 Main Street, and the parents call up or show up, as they say, that dog don’t hunt too well. It’s not gonna turn out well, okay? You need a third party. You need a Tina. You need Tom. You need somebody. This whole relationship, as fractured as it is now, certainly didn’t happen overnight. As you know, it could be a year, five years, 10 years, 20 years. So, it doesn’t take that long to reconnect sometimes. But it’s not gonna happen in a day.
Tina: It is a process.
Thomas: It is a process, and the process is kind of like when I was fortunate enough at the Department of Justice to be selected to be a profiler. So, once you know interview and interrogation skills, and you know how to interview people, I mean, I can talk to generally somebody who’s committed a murder, and know within two minutes if they did it or not. I mean that’s a skillset that you learn. And you can also use that skillset, or hopefully get somebody, when you knock on the door and say, “Hey, your parents hired me. They would love to reconnect with you. What do you think would be the best way we could accomplish this? Because I don’t know where your head’s at.” And I can tell you within three or four minutes whether this is gonna turn out good.
Tina: Ah. So, the interviewing skills that you picked up as an agent actually come into play when you’re talking to somebody you’re just finding. Do you feel like you could influence the outcome, or just kinda know where they’re at?
Tina: Well, if I can’t influence the outcome, it’s not gonna ever change. Yeah. I mean, the single most important skill in the law enforcement community, as a federal agent, as a beat cop, across the board, or in private practice as a private investigator, no matter what you’re doing, whether you’re interviewing people, you’re in corporate America, insurance companies, the public, whatever genre you’re working in, the single most important skill is knowing how to interview and interrogate people. If you’re gonna be a cowboy with your ex-law enforcement badge out and tell some adult child that you’re putting together a case to reunite them, your success rate is going to be zero.
You must know how to put your egomaniac days of being an agent back in the drawer, and keep your gun, and your badge, and your credentials out of site, and eat a little humble pie, and put that person in control. And they are in control. I mean, generally, you don’t have to be too smart when they slam the door in your face to know this ain’t going well. But what we find, if you give them a little room where they’ve got a little decision-making, not so much the power, but they get to make a kind of a decision, and you can’t do that. Parents can’t do that generally with their child. I found adult children can’t do it with their parents. So, you need a third party.
And if you hire somebody that’s successful with that, then I think your chances increase tenfold.
Tina: Yeah. So, you think it goes better if there’s the third party involved to kinda grease the wheels a little bit?
Thomas: I think your audience would be wasting time, money, and if they wanna continue down the path that they’re doing, don’t hire a third party. You’re gonna be right back to square one. So, don’t hire us or don’t do all the work the work to find your child, unless you understand when you get to the crossroads of okay, what do we do now, you gotta be prepared. And I’ve had a lot of adult fathers, the parents, “I’ll just call that SOB up or I’ll tell –” Okay. You have a good day, and see you later. Or the mother’s gonna call up, “Oh, I can talk. Or I’ll call my grandkids.” No, no, no, no, no, no, no, no.
Once we give them the address, and once we give them the phone numbers, and once we give them the information, there’s not a whole lot I can do. We’ve told them ahead of time this is not a good road to go down. So, be very careful about what you do with our information.
Tina: Okay. This is super helpful. You’ve just mentioned a couple of attitudes and approaches that you have seen not work very well. One is just kind of an aggressive approach. I’ll tell you a thing or two. And the other is going around the adult child, and trying to get directly to the grandchildren, and kinda do an end run around the child. Is there anything else you’ve seen that –
Thomas: Yeah. I think the biggest thing is that in the process, you have to leave your ego, and your pain, and your righteousness in the living room. Don’t bring it to this process. I tell a couple people, “You know what? You’re right. You were right. Your kids are wrong. You’re 100% right. You’ve been a victim of this. Oh, you’ve been so wrong. Or you’ve done everything for your kids. And you’ve given them money, and you put them through school.” Okay. We all know that, and so do they. But that’s not what we’re talking about here. That is not what we wanna put on the table. We wanna put on the table what can we do to start over and get back to at least having a conversation about together.
Forget about getting together. I want a conversation about thinking about getting together. And sometimes, they look at private investigators. And there’s some world-class private investigators out there that can help in this process. And we’ve got investigators all over the country that we know and are sensitive to this. If they’re not sensitive, if they’re still thinking they got their gun loaded for bear and they’re gonna kick doors down, we don’t wanna use them. But somebody in your profession would be great to have. I’ll tell you one thing. If your audience had the chance to hire me or you to do this, who do you think I’d recommend?
Tina: Uh –
Thomas: Okay. Without question, no hesitation, I would tell your audience to hire you. Here’s why. And this comes right out of FBI 101, FBI Academy, interview and interrogation skills. If Tina and Tom have the same ability speaking-wise, articulation-wise, street smart wise, everything that’s involved in the process, we’re co-equals, right? You’re 100%; I’m at 100%. No matter who you’re talking to, male or female, here’s why a female is better to hire than a male. If you have a male figure talking to another male, they’re mono on mono. You’re talking to the adult child, a man on a man, they’re, “I’m not telling you. You don’t know what I’ve been through. You don’t know what my dad did to me.”
Or if you have a man talking to the, say, adult daughter or mother, there can be a little bit of hesitation there. Why’s he there? What does he know? And she’s a little drawn back. Now, Tina comes in, a female comes in, and she says to the male – well, he wants to puff up his chest and tell her everything that’s good because he wants to impress her. Secondarily, when you have a female talking to the adult daughter or mom, they feel less threatened. I mean, it’s kinda why the last few classes at the Department of Justice, you may be shocked to know the makeup was all females.
Tina: Huh. Interesting.
Thomas: So, if the single most important thing, quality to have, is interview and interrogation, and you have two people the same – you don’t have to be, unless you got your head in the sand – certainly a female, in these type cases, might bring a sense of calm, a sense of less urgency. We can just calm the process down a little bit. Take it a step at a time. I’m not saying I couldn’t get the same outcome as you. I’m just saying if you get the chance, and you’re interviewing a male and a female, go with the female.
Tina: Interesting. And do you have female agents or investigators in your agency?
Thomas: We do. We do. Oh, yeah. We do.
Tina: Yeah. The Reconnection Club tries to give parents skills that they can actually use on their own. We try to equip them so that if a therapist isn’t standing there, or a third party isn’t standing there, they have tools in their toolkit to reach and grab. I’m putting you on the spot here because I didn’t ask you about this. But I’m just wondering if you can think of any stories that seemed to turn out well where a parent was seeking an adult child, and you did locate the adult child, and the adult child was open to hearing from the parent.
Thomas: Well, I would answer that this way. I don’t feel like I’m being put on the spot because there’s hundreds of examples that come to mind. And probably one of the most vivid for us was we were actually hired by one of the adult children to reconnect with the parents. And she kinda lied to us a little bit and said that she was an only child, and da, da, da, da, da. And said she wanted to reconnect, and her father was this, and he was that, and the mother was this. And when I went out and interviewed the parents, I got a totally different picture. I was stunned, in fact. And as I left the house, I just happened to look over on the table or counter, and there was five or six pictures of small children.
And I said, “Oh, wow. She must have five grandchildren.” And they go, “No, we have four daughters, and we have six grandchildren.” I went, “Excuse me? You have three other daughters?” “Yes.” “Are you in connection with them?” She goes, “Oh, no. We haven’t talked to them either.” And I went, “Oh my goodness.” So, I took that information, and I went back to the client, and I go, “Okay. So, we’re done. Because once you lie to me, we’re done.” And she was all upset, and she goes, “Well, I didn’t really lie to you. I just didn’t tell you the truth about how many – ” And I go, “Okay. Call it what you want.”
And we took that opportunity to say, “Where are your other three sisters?” And they’re all here in Southern California. And so, when we got down, it really was kinda easy because they were all professionals, and they were all just busy. And it was one of those great things you feel we can put it together. So, what I decided to do is I took the mother first because the dad was kind of a little bit of a handful. And reunited the mother with the four daughters, and we actually had a luncheon with them at the restaurant near our corporate office. And we sat down, and we did that, and we had some kumbaya moments, and we had some other moments where it wasn’t all perfect. But it turned out great.
And then we took the mother aside and said, “Okay. You now have to go back and tell your husband that we’re gonna meet. We’re gonna do this again with him, but you’re gonna be there. But I think we should do it not as a group because each of these girls have a separate problem that’s all different.” And we did that, and it turned out pretty well for all four. And how I explain this sometimes, unless you have a professional – and I try to talk the parents out of doing this on their own, and I try to talk to adult children doing it on their own, without somebody like yourself or a mediator, here’s why. It’s like giving you the keys to an airplane. What would be the point? You have no skillset here.
If you had the skillset to fly the airplane, you wouldn’t have called me, and you wouldn’t have this problem. So, whether it’s your kids’ problems or your problems, there’s a problem somewhere. Now, if you can just discount it and be the adult in the room, and say, okay, I’ve made my mistakes, it’s not 100% my fault, okay. Fine. We need somebody to do that. Somebody’s gotta be the adult, or else you’ll never, never, ever succeed in this.
Tina: Right. It sounds like you do a lot more than just locate the person.
Thomas: Well, I don’t know if I mentioned there’s 100,000 private investigators in the United States. And most of them, unless they’re complete boneheads, ought to be able to know how to locate people. I mean that’s the skill of an attorney doing a subpoena or a chef making a hard-boiled egg. I mean if you can’t do that, you might as well get a new profession. The real distinction in our world, and what separates the men from the boys, is who can take the process to the next level? And what I tell people – they go, “Oh, it’s very nice of you. It’s very benevolent of you to do all – ” Well, I learned early on that most private investigators give out the information, and then they walk away.
So, all they’re doing is taking a can of gasoline and pouring it onto the fire because the parents and the children are not equipped to put this thing together. And sometimes, a private investigator doesn’t even tell them, “Hey, get a third party to help you.” So, that’s why when you go to these websites or go to the book, it gives you the tools to get there. But we’re pretty clear. Make sure you get a professional to help you, now that you have the information.
Tina: What is the process if someone wanted to hire your agency to find their adult child?
Thomas: It’s as simple as you getting up and putting a piece of toast in the toaster, or a piece of bread in the toaster, I guess. The process is pretty simple. You can either call, and we’ll take it over the phone, or you can email us. And then what we like to do is we like to send you an email that says here’s what we’re gonna do, here’s what it’s gonna cost, and how long it’s gonna take. So, we send you an email that says we’ll locate your child, $350.00. Give us the three things that we need, at least one of them, your name, obviously, and then a date of birth, social, or last known address within 10 years. And then that same day or within 24 hours, you’ll have your personal printout of either your parent or your child.
And it will say: this is their name; this is their Social Security; this is their date of birth; this is other names that they’ve used. Here’s their 20-year address history. So, you know the first address will say hopefully August 2019, so you know that’s where the person’s living. Then there’s another section that will have relatives. So, sometimes, other siblings will be listed there. And then you also have telephone numbers, cell, landlines. And we actually give you a percentage. We say, “There’s a 90% chance they’re using this cell phone.” And then we give you the emails. So, you have a nice personal profile of the last 20 years, basically.
We start getting people into our system when they’re 18, and we keep them in the system until they’re deceased, until they enter the DOD or the date of death index. So, now, you have what you need. And the next step is, okay, since you don’t know how to fly the airplane, what are you gonna do with the keys? Who are you gonna hand the keys to to get the process to the next level?
Tina: Okay. Might that be you or your agency? I’m just wondering when are you [inaudible – crosstalk] [00:37:22] the door for them?
Thomas: It can be. Well, it’s a good question. And if you’re in Southern California, from San Diego up to San Francisco, we do many of those. And it’s pretty straightforward. If you’re, as I said, Denver, Minneapolis, Chicago, New York, some people do fly us. They have great confidence in our abilities, and our people, and our staff’s abilities. We try to talk them out of it to save them money and time, and we’ll try to get them somebody in that particular area. Which sometimes, we have to take a pass on. I mean, we do have people in a small city in a remote state, and there really isn’t anybody up there with the skillset.
I guess the best way is not every pilot can fly a 747. Not every private investigator can walk up and knock on a door, and do these types of cases, or do adoptions and stuff like that.
Tina: And I’m thinking that it might just be safer, in many cases, for the parents to write a good, thoughtful letter as a beginning, knowing for sure that the current address is where it will go.
Thomas: I think that’s a great idea. The only thing that I would add from street experience and having done literally hundreds of these: sometimes, you might wanna have that hand carried. In other words, have somebody actually deliver it. You can think about it. It goes to a little bit expense. And so, I think you have to sit down with the person and say, “Are you hiring a private investigator because he doesn’t have any business, and he wants to charge you $100.00 or $150.00 an hour just to deliver a letter?” No. The process would be to deliver the letter and say, “Hey, your mom and dad hired us.”
You give them the little spiel, and try to tug at their hearts, and just be honest and sincere about yeah, your parents are really struggling, and they wanna see if we can start over. And you’ll know within a couple minutes. And here’s the letter that they got. Here’s my card. If we can be of any assistance, let me know. And sometimes, they call their parents; sometimes, they don’t. Sometimes, they call us; sometimes, they don’t.
Tina: So, you can be like the third party to go between if the child is willing to somewhat open the door, but maybe not completely ready for a one-on-one conversation with the parents. But they are interested in finding out, well, what might be another baby step toward each other? And your agency can be involved in that process.
Thomas: We are. We can. And it’s just that we’re in Southern California. That’s where our corporate office is. But as I said, I’ve got great contacts in a lot of the states. It’s just when you get in some of these remote areas – I guess the best example, I mean, I’ve got a great guy in Missoula, Montana that I’ve known for 20 years, and he can cover. But he can’t cover the whole state of Montana. Gets too expensive, or we’re gonna have to pay for it. So, if you’re in a small town, let’s say like Conrad, then that’s a little more arduous process. But I think it’s important that you kinda interview – obviously, you’re gonna interview the parents if they’re the clients.
Eighty percent of our clients in these regards are parents. The parents hire us before the kids do. And I’ve had cases where I’ve had to locate adult children that have either run away or they just fell off the face the Earth, and I have sat across from his mom and dad and said, “God, if you were my parents, I would’ve run away a long time ago.”
Thomas: A long time ago. Oh, yeah. They’re just obnoxious, self-centered, either druggies, alcoholics, or just so ego driven, hard on their kids. And I’m not talking about a parent who wants their kid to succeed. I’m talking about driving them almost to suicide to make sure they get straight As, that kinda mentality. I mean you see it all over. So, I think the private investigator initially has to take that and be objective. Don’t think that your client is perfect because they’re not. And you must take that same attitude when you go to the door of the adult child. They’re not perfect either. So, let’s try to get what they’re perfect at and mesh that together. And that’s a skillset. There’s no question about it.
Tina: Yeah. Well, this has been fascinating. Is there anything that you’d like to share with parents who may’ve lost touch with their adult children and might be interested in finding them again?
Thomas: Never, ever, ever give up. Even if your PI or your person may not be able to bridge the gap, always keep an open mind. I have had cases, and I’m not proud to say that we weren’t able to get it because of a number of different factors. And I’ve even told those people, “Give it a rest for six months or a year, and then try again because things do change.” And as long as you are trying to be the bigger person and you’re trying to mend it, then the finality of possibly not being reunited – the sting of that is not fun, but it’s a lot less because you’ve done everything you can to try and get this uniting back together. And if it doesn’t work after a few tries, fine.
But don’t give up. Don’t give up. Keep trying. Surround yourself with people that know what they’re doing and have done it before. I mean our success rate is pretty high. So, I’m not a pessimist in this regard. I’m a total optimist. So, I would leave that with them. And if somebody’s listening now, sit down. Find out where they’re at. Go to our website. Go to our book. Get that information. Then your biggest decision is how you get it. And I’m not saying that maybe you know your son or daughter well enough that you don’t even need to hire a PI. I don’t think so, but you could certainly try that. I mean is it really worth $300.00 or $400.00 not to have a pro do this? I don’t think so.
Tina: Right. Okay. Great. So, what is the best way for people to get in touch with you?
Thomas: Well, I appreciate this opportunity. We have six websites, but the main website that drives everything is Martin PI. So, it’s M-A-R-T-I-N, P like private, I like investigator, dot com. And they can go there. They can go to our blog section. I’ve written 400 in the last six years. They can put in locates, reconnections, whatever they want. They can go through the different sections and get some confidence on who we are and we’re about. And then every page, you can hit an email, and you can send us an email. You can call our 800 number for free, five, seven, seven, 10, 80. And you’ll be surprised that my staff is pretty much on that. And don’t be surprised if you get a call back personally from me or from one of the guys that have been with me 30 years.
So, in this regard, we know what we’re doing. But you have to get the confidence that we’re gonna be your cup of tea and we’re gonna be your person. And sometimes, if it’s just impossible because of logistics, we’ll do everything we can at no charge to get you to the right people.
Tina: Well, Tom, thank you so much for all of this wisdom and advice that you’ve shared. I really appreciate the time that you’ve spent with us today. Thanks for being here.
Thomas: Thank you.
Tina: And if you are the parent of an estranged adult child, please check out Reconnection Club dot com. We have courses, workshops, expert interviews like this one, and a friendly community of other parents to help you navigate, cope with, and resolve the estrangement from your child. This is Tina Gilbertson. Thanks for listening.
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