Saturday, March 3, 2012

Chinese Twins Adopted by Different Families Stay Connected

As reported from Canada, a fascinating tale of twins separated by adoption and their adoptive families' efforts to keep them connected:
The girls were born in China, separated by circumstance and parceled out to two different families.

Whether by fortune or design -- no one will ever know -- the couples who adopted them were both from Ontario. And they figured it out.

Kirk and Allyson MacLeod adopted their daughter, Lily, 12 years ago and brought her home to Keswick, north of Toronto. Mike and Lynette Shaw adopted their daughter, Gillian, 12 years ago and brought her home to Amherstburg, just outside Windsor. When the parents discovered the connection, they vowed to raise them as sisters.

The situation is as rare as it is fascinating: Lily and Gillian are one of only a handful of twin pairs in the world known to be growing up in this way — apart, yet together. They are an accidental experiment, giving researchers a new window into human behaviour by allowing them to study the effects of nature and nurture in real-time. For science, Lily and Gillian are a treasure.

And for the people raising them — strangers thrown together by extraordinary circumstances — the unusual arrangement has made them pioneers of a whole new kind of blended family. They are making up the rules as they go.
The families noticed that their referral pictures seemed to be of the same child and contacted their agency:
The two families contacted the adoption agency and asked coordinators to look into the matter. At first, the parents were concerned the orphanage may have inadvertently assigned one baby to two different families. Adoption documents even gave the girls the same birthday. If there were two of them, could they be twins?

Word came back from the orphanage a few days later: there were indeed two babies. Workers said the girls were found in different locations, brought in separately. They were not twins, just look-alikes.

And so the MacLeods and Shaws found themselves, two months later, at a hotel in China’s Hunan province, waiting outside an elevator with three other couples. When the doors opened, five nannies stepped out with five little girls in their arms, babies bundled into so many layers of clothing they could hardly move. Only their heads peeked out of the hooded zip-up suits they wore.

It was immediately clear to all that two of the babies were identical.

Officially, the orphanage still insisted the girls, then 8 months old, were unrelated and could not be adopted together. If the parents didn’t take the baby assigned to them, they would go back into the adoption pool. And there was no guarantee they would end up together next time.

Maybe workers at the orphanage really didn’t know. Maybe they didn’t care. Or maybe, as the girls’ parents like to think, they couldn’t afford a DNA test and did what they thought was the next best thing: place the twins with families near each other.
These aren't the only twins raised apart that are known to researchers, of course:
Over the past decade, Segal, now a psychology professor at California State University, has found about 15 more sets of adopted twin children being raised by different families, most of them Chinese girls.

Researchers attribute this phenomenon to China’s one-child policy, which led to the abandonment of thousands of female babies. Though China’s official adoption rules state that twins should be placed together, pairs like Lily and Gillian prove things don’t always happen that way.

Twelve pairs are part of Segal’s ongoing research on reared-apart twin children, a project that promises to open a new window into human behaviour. Every few years, for as long as they are willing, the twins and their parents will complete a giant questionnaire packet that tracks their behaviour, attitudes and health as they age.
The article has lots of stories about separated twins, and about commonalities between Lily and Gillian as well as between other separated twins.

1 comment:

Karen said...

I can't wrap my head around this concept. If EVERYONE ELSE knew they were twins, why couldn't the orphanage workers know the same thing? A friend of mine wanted to know what kind of "mutt" she had, so she sent away for a DNA swab kit. It cost her all of $50, and the company came back with results of every breed the dog had in him. It seems a DNA test for people would not be too expensive, and it irks me that an orphanage can't spend money to do that. Is it that they do not make as much on the donation if adopting twins, as adopting separately?
I've seen one other set of identical twins from China. One of the parents was going through the orphanage referral pictures while at work, and a coworker asked if it was a picture of her own daughter, when she researched it further, she found the parents of the second girl, and they connected and did a DNA test, and sure enough, they were identical twins.
Our daughter had another girl in the orphanage that, when I saw the referral picture (a month after ours was done) I had to do a double take. I've kept in touch with this mother, and we are interested in doing DNA tests. We have a couple of pictures with the other girl in the background, while they were in the orphanage. They too, were found at different times, and their paperwork says they are 2 weeks apart in age. They're not identical at all, but they look very similar. If they are not paternal twins, they might be cousins, because their referral pictures look so close...their facial expressions in the referral pictures are very similar and even their hair lines look similar. I can understand why, if they're related, the orphanage did not know so...but in a case where they look identical, IMO there is no excuse for claiming ignorance.
It also puzzles me as to why birth parents would leave them at different times, and different places. Do they think their children have a higher chance of being adopted if adopted separately because they think the one child policy flows over to adoption? Or were they considering keeping one of the twins? I don't get that part. Perhaps it's either?? Or possibly something else???