Monday, April 23, 2018

New on our subscription blog:

In November 2017, DNAConnect.Org partnered with some families from Chongqing Municipality to produce a search video. The video was extremely successful, and as a result of the video and follow-up media articles, more than twenty birth families came forward to be tested. One birth parent stands out as a fascinating example of the challenges faced when searching for birthparents. Lan recounts how things transpired, and what secrets were revealed in a random DNA match.

Tuesday, April 03, 2018

A New Data Base for Chinese Adoptee/Birth Parent DNA

Given the large number of DNA companies that are available for families to use for sibling and birth parent matching, one might be forgiven to being confused as to where to test. This article is designed to guide an adoptee or their family to taking advantage of one of the most popular "consolidation" data bases, i.e., a data base that accepts DNA from nearly all processing labs such as 23andMe, FTDNA, MyHeritage, etc.  There is no cost to upload a DNA sample from one of these companies once a sample has been processed. It is hoped that all China-based DNA will be submitted to this consolation data base, so that matches can be made no matter where the sample is originally processed.

After much research and consultation with geneticists and knowledgeable DNA professionals, DNAConnect.Org has selected GedMatch as the best option currently available for collecting and matching adoptee and birth parent DNA from China. is known to many in the adoption community. It is a volunteer-based, no-fee for basic use data base that accepts DNA from nearly every processing company. The first step to uploading your DNA to this data base is to set up an account. You will be asked some very basic information such as your name (they ask that you use your real name, not an alias, and this information will not be available to others), an alias if you wish to have a "handle," and an email for communication. Once you have registered, you are ready to upload your sample.

To do this, you will need to download your genome to your hard-drive. In 23andMe, you do this by logging into your account, hovering over the "Tools" at the top of your screen, and selecting "Browse Raw Data" at the bottom of the drop-down. In the short paragraph at the top of the Raw Data page is a hyper-linked "download" link that you will click on. You may need to order up your download, but this takes only about 10 minutes to prepare. Order the download, get a coffee, and come back and try again and it will allow you to download your sample's entire genome to your hard-drive.

You will now return to and log in. From the main page after log in, you will scroll down to the bottom until you see this box for the "Genesis" data base:

Click on the "Find more about the Genesis Beta." This will take you to an introduction page, and after reading that information you will select "Click Here" at the bottom of the page. On the right side you will see your registration information, and a list of all the samples you have uploaded. On the right are all your options. You will want to select "Generic Uploads" in the second grouping of links to upload your 23andMe, FTDNA, or other sample into the "Genesis" data base.

You will be asked for a name, which will remain hidden if you also indicate an alias. We are using the real names of all our DNA donors, but each person can decide what they prefer. "Genesis" asks that you put in the real name of the DNA donor.  You will select the gender of the donor, the name of the originating processing company (23andMe, FTDNA, etc.), and answer "Yes" to both of the questions relating to authorities and permissions. You will then select the downloaded file (folder) containing your or your child's genome data. Select "upload" and you are done. Upon completion of the upload you will be given a kit code, which you will need ot know if you ever have problems or questions about your sample. Write or otherwise record this number.

That's it!!!  Well, almost. Now that you have successfully made your or your child's DNA matchable to all of DNAConnect's samples and those of all the other families, we ask that you promote GedMatch's "Genesis" data base to every adoptive family you know. Send them this article. The goal it to get everyone to upload their DNA to this data base.

If you have already uploaded your DNA to GedMatch in the past (the main data base), you have two choices: 1) You can wait until the planed merger of the two data bases occurs, and not do anything now; 2) You can re-upload your DNA to the "Genesis" data base and then have two samples when the data bases are merged. You can then go in and delete one of the duplicates. As easy as it is to do, I would probably re-upload.

We are excited about the use of this new "consolidation" data base in the "Genesis" data base, because it allows families to test with the cheapest and most cost-effective processing company, and then upload the DNA to "Genesis" for matching to siblings and birth parents. This is really a win-win for everybody, and eliminates the need to test in multiple processing data bases, at great expense and trouble.

Please feel free to help the community by posting your experiences and tips in the comments. 

Sunday, January 14, 2018

A Birth Sister's Experience

The following experience was told to Lan by a twenty-eight year-old married woman living in Qianjiang, Chongqing. She came forward as a result of Lan's efforts with the Chongqing Families Search Video. 

When I was in middle school [in 2003], my family were selling small stuff by the side of the road. One day, I asked my mom for 200 yuan so that I could buy some studying materials. She was embarrassed, and told me she’d try to borrow some. I was very upset because I didn’t understand why our family was always short of money. Around the same time, the municipal police showed up and fined us 300 yuan for ‘dirtying the city’. I was a fearless rebel back then, so I confronted them, asking whether the city can be cleaned if I pay. They didn’t answer me. Instead, they wanted to destroy our little place. I fought with them, throwing all caution away. What else could I do? I couldn’t even afford school. In the end, I was hurt but we didn’t end up having to pay the fine either.

About half a month later, my mom told me I would be having a brother or a sister. I could tell she was happy about this, but she wanted me to keep it secret otherwise we’d be fined. I was the only child in the family and I was lonely, so she wanted me to have a companion. My mom barely stepped out of the door after getting pregnant, but somehow the Family Planning officers somehow knew. They came to our house and gave us two choices: Abortion or pay the fine. My mom didn’t say a word, but I knew she was unwilling to abort the would-be child. I asked the officers whether it was true that a family could have a second child if the first born died. They confirmed that was true. I was kind of relieved after hearing this because I had already been planning for it. 

Only a few days prior to my mom’s delivery, I went to different clinics and bought a bunch of sleeping pills because you are only allowed to buy a small amount at each store. That night I took all the sleeping pills. The only thought that I had at that moment was to do anything that would allow my family to keep my little brother or sister. When my mom tried to wake me up, she found out about it, and called my dad. My Dad rushed me to the hospital, where I had my stomach pumped. 

When I woke up the next day, the doctor told me there might be some damage for what I did, and said not to do such thing again, and that I should communicate with my parents more often. The fact that I didn’t die terrified me, because I feared they may not be able to keep my little brother or sister. After I was discharged, my parents convinced me that the only way to keep this child was to send him/her to the orphanage. Then my mom would try to find a job there, so that we could bring him/her home once we were in better condition. 

The day my sister was sent into the orphanage, it was so hard for my whole family to let her go. She was so little, hadn’t even had a sip of breast milk. I did everything I could to stop them, going crazy, trying to grab her back to stop them from taking her away, but in the end my sister was taken away. 

The next day, my mom told me my sister had been sent into the orphanage. My mom got a job at the orphanage less than a month later, but she could not identify my sister. She cried every day when she saw the babies. My mom was devastated, spent every day in tears, nursing these kids but not hers. One day, my dad couldn’t bear seeing her like this, so he asked her to quit her job and come home. She did, but in doing so we lost the only chance of getting my sister back. 

We have never spoken one word about this ever since, but I know my parents have been suffering too from the first day that we gave her away. Recently, I saw the video that you posted. I feel that this might be our last hope. I want to find her, even though she may hate us. If it weren’t for the Family Planning policy, I would still have her around, and be able to watch her grow up. I wouldn’t let her drift outside all these years. I don’t care if life becomes harder, as long as we are altogether as a family. It’s okay if she doesn’t want to come forward, I just want to know whether she’s happy now.

Monday, December 25, 2017

Search Videos: Another Avenue for Searching

The success of a recent search video organized by some Chongqing adoptive families with children from that area highlights some important lessons on how to produce a "viral" video. 

The Chongqing video was uploaded on November 28, and as of this writing has been viewed over 8,400 times on Youku, as well as an unknown number of views on other uploads of the video (several in-country newspapers, TV and other sites have uploaded the video to their sites). A half dozen newspapers and TV stations have broadcast stories about the search. So far, nearly three dozen birth families have come forward, and activity surrounding this search video is still growing. Some of those that have come forward are from other Provinces, such as Anhui Province. One of the video's participants, "Lilly", is being interviewed for a serial print and web feature promoting the search. As the Global Times exclaimed, the video "has gone viral on the Chinese Internet, prompting calls for a rethink of China's welfare system and gender equality."

It is impossible to predict with certainty which videos will be successful, and which ones won't, but several things done by the Chongqing families increased their project's visibility. The Chongqing video contained no Chinese names, no child-specific information at all. The preface of the video states "you may think your child was adopted by a family inside China." The Chongqing video intentionally avoid giving any clues, other than the orphanage of origins, as to which birth parents are being sought.

This is, in my opinion, one of the main reasons why the Chongqing project video garnered so much attention inside China. Rather than focusing on locating the birth parents for specific children, the Chongqing video said, "You are all our parents." The Chongqing video was apparently designed to appeal to everyone. Not only were the children from all parts of the globe, but they represented disparate orphanages within Chongqing itself -- Xiushan, Youyang, Qianjiang, Fuling, etc. This gave it a very broad geographical appeal. Additionally, the children themselves ranged in age from 2 years old to children in their late teens or early twenties, twins, boys, etc.  The project was all-inclusive. It represented, in a literal sense, every child ever relinquished in Chongqing. A viewer in China would be much more inclined to pass on this video because the birth parents being sought could be literally everyone. The Chongqing video, to use a fishing metaphor, is like taking a large net from shore to shore with the design to capture every fish in the river, with the hope that one of those fish is the one sought after.

So, future search videos would do well to learn from this project. A few key takeaways that seem to give a video "legs" are":

1) Rather than focus on locating specific birth parents, make the video to locate every birth parent. The "wide net" model will gain more interest, since it speaks to more people, and thus gets more media attention.

2) Use the video to educate a birth parent that even though they think their child was adopted by someone in a neighboring village, in fact that may not be true. Create a sense of doubt. This is critical to get past the story many, if not most, birth parents were told about the destination of their child after relinquishment. The video must penetrate the significant mental barrier that exists in the mind of many birth parents that the images seen "can't be my child, for she was not adopted internationally." Without accomplishing that goal, the search will fail.

3) Avoid giving specific dates and details that are not known with certainty, as that will only cause potential birth families to not come forward. It must be assumed that the information -- birth dates, finding dates, locations, etc. -- is inaccurate, and thus providing them may cause potential matches from not coming forward since they will feel that the match is not theirs.

4) Try to incorporate something into the video that gets one's attention. The Chongqing project created a very smooth and cute transition technique with the "high fives" that each child did to move the video to the next child. With the disparate ages and physical locals of each child, this was extremely effective. Although separated by time and space, one felt that the kids were actually a unified group.

5) Before launching a search video, do some ground work. Recruit volunteers on the ground and in the area media to promote the video after it is launched. Promote the video to various news outlets. Your goal is to force the video into the public consciousness as soon as it is released.

6) Include as many different children as possible, speaking as many different languages as possible. There is a fine line between too long, too short, and just right. Have friends watch it. Did they remain engaged through the entire video? Was it interesting? Did it make them want to forward it to others? Do some pre-release test marketing to fine-tune the video for maximum impact.

7) Lastly, provide WeChat (preferable) or email contact information at the beginning and end of the video. Many viewers may not watch the entire video, so placing it just at the end of the video risks losing some potential contacts. Do not have the viewer have to go to another website, etc., to get contact information -- most won't cross platforms.

The Chongqing search video, among others, have provided all adoptees and their families with valuable techniques to make a successful search video. If every search video learns from the experience of these groups, more birth families will be successfully located going forward. But the adoption community must recognize as more and more videos are produced that the attention paid to such videos inside China will decrease. Media fatigue may set in, making it harder and harder for future projects to garner the needed attention. Thus, it is important that every project be crafted to produce the greatest success possible.

In the end, a search video should be seen as an absolutely last resort in a search. Other steps can and should be employed prior to publicly announcing a search. But once all of the "discreet" methods have been employed, a search video is a last "hail Mary" option.  The goal then is not to search for a specific birth family, but to search for every birth family.