Tuesday, January 24, 2012

DNA Testing Leads Some Adoptees to Family

Interesting article in the New York Times:
Growing up, Khrys Vaughan always believed that she had inherited her looks and mannerisms from her father, and that her appreciation for tradition and old-fashioned gentility stemmed from her parents’ Southern roots. But those facets of her self-image crumbled when she was told, at age 42, that she had been adopted.

She began searching for her origins, only to find out that her adoption records had been sealed, a common practice in the 1960s. Then Mrs. Vaughan stumbled across an ad from a DNA testing company offering to help people who had been adopted find clues to their ancestry and connections to blood relatives.

About five weeks after shipping off two tiny vials of her cells from a swab of her cheek, Mrs. Vaughan received an e-mail informing her that her bloodlines extended to France, Romania and West Africa. She was also given the names and e-mail addresses of a dozen distant cousins. This month, she drove 208 miles from her hometown here to Evansville, Ind., to meet her third cousin, the first relative to respond to her e-mails. Mrs. Vaughan is black and her cousin is white, and they have yet to find their common ancestor. But Mrs. Vaughan says that does not matter.     
“Somebody is related to me in this world,” she said. “Somebody out there has my blood. I can look at her and say, ‘This is my family.’”
The article seems to accept as a given that adoption records are sealed.  If that's an immutable thing, then of course DNA testing -- with its expense and imperfect ability to track relatives -- is a work-around that allows some to find some family.  But doesn't the problem really speak to a different solution -- unsealing the records or not sealing them in the first place? The article provides evidence of that -- DNA tests allowed Khrys Vaughan to find a 3rd cousin, but unsealing her adoption records is what allowed her to find her birth mother.
I rarely agree with Elizabeth Bartholet (as illustrated here), but I do agree with what she had to say in this NYT piece: "Elizabeth Bartholet, an expert on adoption at Harvard Law School, said the proliferation of testing highlights the need for broader access to adoption records."  But no need to worry, the agreement didn't last long -- the next sentence is pretty obnoxious: "In the meantime, she says, adoptees would be better served by nurturing the relationships they already have."  Right, just ignore your roots and concentrate on your adoptive family!


Anonymous said...

from theadoptedones

I found it frustrating that the article spoke of the fact that it was common in the 1960's to seal adoption records. It omitted the fact that it still IS common in most states to seal records. Unless and until more speak up and fight for changes it will still be common decades from now.

EB's second comment: "In the meantime, she says, adoptees would be better served by nurturing the relationships they already have." speaks volumes to me on several fronts - primarily she is speaking the AP desire to be the only family that matters, and secondly that she believes we are so shallow that we only have the capacity to love a set number of people. And who is SHE to tell ALL adoptees to shut up, sit down, be grateful.

Linda said...

LOLOLOLOL@ Bartholet!

"In the meantime, she says, adoptees would be better served by nurturing the relationships they already have."

"Better served"? My current relationships with my adoptive family have nothing to do with my relationships with anyone else. Not only is that statement insulting to me, it is insulting to the people who love me.

It is so sad that people think adoptees need to put a limit on whom they love.

Anonymous said...

Elizabeth Bartholet is fantastic.

what about the fact that this girl wasn't told she was adopted until she was 42? that's the bigger issues in my opinion.