It was just on a whim that Sara Blomeling-DeRoo, 46, decided to turn to Facebook.
While working at an adoption agency in Holland, Mich., last year, Blomeling-DeRoo, who was herself adopted, encountered a man who happened to ask her if she'd ever searched for biological family.
She said she'd worked through an adoptee search group about 20 years ago and found her mother and though they met, it was clear her mother did not want to pursue a relationship.
"She really did not want to be found," she said. "She had not told anybody I was born alive."
After she gave up her baby for adoption, Blomeling-DeRoo's mother married the biological father and they went on to have several other children together. But she never told the other children about the adoption and wasn't ready to disclose her secret.
After grieving about the rejection, Blomeling-DeRoo said she moved on and stayed away, refraining from contacting any of the siblings she knew might still live in the area.
Until last April, when the man she calls her "angel" prodded her to seek them out.
She signed in to Facebook, found about 10 people in the Grand Rapids, Mich., area with her biological mother's last name and sent them all messages.
"Related?" she said she wrote. "Are you by any chance related to John or JoAnne Gleason of the Alta, Mich., area?"
Most responses came back with a "no," she said, but one woman wrote back saying that she was related to them and was, in fact, their daughter.
From there, Blomeling-DeRoo said, things moved very fast. Within days of that initial exchange, she said she learned that she not only had several siblings, but was the oldest of nine.
By the end of the week, she had met all but one, as well as her biological father and mother (for the second time).
Her relationships with all of them have blossomed.
"I see a lot of them… we started celebrating holidays," she said. "They have really embraced my family and it's just really been great for me."
But despite her own happy ending, Blomeling-DeRoo doesn't think that Facebook is necessarily the best place for every adoptive family to re-connect.
"I think you really need to be educated and you need a lot of support going through a birth family search. It's a very emotional thing to do. …People need to know that there are always risks," she said. "If I hadn't done the work I had done 20 years ago and if my family hadn't been accepting it could have been extremely different."
Over the past few decades, adoption experts say state laws and the flow of information over the Internet have driven more openness into the adoption process in general. But Facebook and other social networking sites, they add, are pushing it to a new level.
In private messages and on public pages, adopted children and parents of children of given up to adoption are seeking out – and finding – estranged relatives. But experts say that while the phenomenon is moving families toward more transparency about adoption, it is also raises new questions.
"It has the rich promise of opportunity, but also absolutely has potential pitfalls that we as a field have not thought through and figured out how to deal with," said Adam Pertman, executive director of the Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute.