Wednesday, December 29, 2010

DNA Adoption Networking

Here's an interesting post about different types of internet DNA sites relevant to adoption:
With advances in computer technology and DNA science, it seemed likely that a way would be found for the far-flung children of China to find their birth families. That day seemed far off in the future. However that day is here now, and it has arrived 20 years before I expected it. A new kind of internet website provides the means for adopting parents of children adopted from China to discover if their child has a sibling, half-sibling, cousin or other relative adopted anywhere in the world. In addition, birth parents in China will be able to search for their biological child who has been adopted by a family living somewhere in the world. While China adoptions are the largest example of what is now possible, it applies to every adoption in the world today. I don’t think it is an overstatement to say that this is the most startling development in the field of adoption information in the past 25 years.

There are two new kinds of sites in particular that seem useful to the adoption community. They are interesting because both kinds are the first of a new genre of websites. The first are DNA social networking sites; the second are primarily gene-decoding sites.

1. DNA Adoption Networking

DNA Adoption Networking is a part of a new internet service the New York Times has called Zygotic Social Networking. These networking services permit users to build a social network around shared genetic material. Similar to Facebook, users are able to post photos, update their profiles, blog, and send messages to each other. More importantly, for adoptive families they facilitate searches for relatives and allow members to compare genetic makeup.

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2. DNA Gene Decoding Sites

The second type of service now on the web that will impact adoptions is the ability to decode your child’s DNA. Adoptive families will find this site useful for many reasons. Your child’s DNA is decoded, providing you with much valuable information. The experience is simultaneously unsettling, illuminating and empowering.

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A recent survey of adopting parents (by the China Adoptions DNA Project) found that while the adoption community is keenly interested in learning more about how a DNA database could benefit their children and families, the overwhelming majority of parents currently do not know enough about it or are not comfortable enough with what they do know to take the next step and join a database. I encourage adoptive families to spend time on the DNA websites listed at the end of this article.
Read the whole thing for more complete descriptions of the various services, an extensive list of "cautions" to think about, and links to lots of other resources.
Have you used DNA services to try to find birth relatives or more information about an adoptee's background?  Please share your experiences for the benefit of the rest of us!


Linda said...

DNA tests for adoptees can be useful (especially for international adoptees) but advances in science such as this can backfire.

The adoption industry will use these tests against us in the fight for our OBC's. They will (and are) saying that there is no need to unseal OBCs because adoptees will find "everything they need" from these tests.

While they are helpful, not all first families will take tests. They are expensive. As far DNA tests for medical conditions go, not all inherited diseases have genetic markers.

We (adoptees who work with legislators) have already had tests such as these given as a reason as to why OBC's should remain sealed.

Dee said...

I think this is a terrific idea, but as Linda pointed out, I can see where issues could arise. It's such a shame. Even though my son is from Kazakhstan and my daughter from Russia, I know they have half-siblings out there somewhere, but they will likely never know them. It's so sad.

Let's hope the legal and ethical issues can get untangled so this technology can be of use to families torn apart by circumstance...

Anonymous said...

i am a mom of two adopted from china. have attempted searches (posters) for oldest. not sure how to approach second.
am waiting to receive results for both from: familytreedna.- it cost about 500 each. a real luxury, let's hope it is helpful.
why i did it:
-solid company, could be around in future
-did Nat'l geog study, can look at ethnic lineage on mitochondrial dna
-would like to persuade enough people from their yahoo swi groups to also participate, could locate cousins, even bio siblings.
just my 2 cents.

Anonymous said...

This may be productive for domestic adoption family searches, but it is largely pointless for international adoptions.

Take China as a case in point. DNA matching works based on accumulation of a large data base of DNA data. No such accumulation exists for the population of China, nor will it for a number of years. In addition, if you run a DNA profile of any typical Chinese community (not large urban centers, but the typical provincial community), using standard DNA match criteria as applied in the west will result in a large number of false positive matches. Why? because in local communities outside of the large urban centers, there is very little genetic diversity within the community. This is the result of generations of families residing within a 20 mile radius of each other. Of course for the large urban centers this does not apply, but large urban centers is not where China adoptees come from.

So while I think there is future merit in use of DNA, emphasis must be on the word "future" for China and quite frankly for almost every other major foreign country where there are major IA programs. The viability of DNA based family searches in the international segments is more then a decade away at this point.