Monday, May 26, 2014

DNAConnect.Org Makes First DNA Match

On May 16, 2014, we received confirmation that a DNA sample collected by DNAConnect.Org had made a match to an adoptee in the United States.  When we were first contacted about the possible birth family, we had already had other research that indicated that Family Planning had been active in that area, and that the story told to the adoptive family was probably true. We offered to send a friend inside China to the birth family, collect the DNA, photos, and their "story," and submit the DNA to a large genetics lab in the U.S.  The adoptee submitted her sample to the same data base, and five weeks later we received word that the samples had been matched.  

The story below, told by the adoptive mother, illustrates how easy searches can sometimes be.  It is posted here to help other families in their searches. 

I was befriended by another member of a China adoption e-mail group I belong to.  She contacted me because we adopted our children, who are close in age, from the same orphanage, and around the same time.  She and her husband had located their daughter's birth family simply by sending a letter to the finder listed in their daughter's paperwork, stating that they wanted to find her birth parents, and would appreciate any relevant knowledge he might have. 

The individual listed as the finder knew the birth family, gave the letter to them, and the birth family in turn wrote to the adoptive parents in the U.S.  They had been searching for their daughter since she had been taken by Family Planning, and they had had no idea she was in the United States.

My friend told her daughter's birth father about our situation, and he offered to help us.  This was a God send, because I would have been unable to pay a searcher.  He requested information about the finder, who turned out to be someone he had known for many years.  He contacted the finder, who advised him that my daughter had not been abandoned.  It turned out that the birth father helping us came from a small village two miles away from the even smaller village where my daughter was "found." He knew the village and its inhabitants well.  Through talking with the "finder," he discovered that my daughter and his were taken to the orphanage by Family Planning officials together.  Small world!

The "finder" said that he knew my daughter's birth family, and that if he obtained permission from a third party, he would disclose the information re: their identity and location.  When that disclosure was not forthcoming, the birth father began assisting us, with the help of his daughters, by canvassing the village my daughter was taken from.  Eventually, one of the villagers remembered that an older woman in the village had been caring for an infant granddaughter about 15 years ago (the age of my daughter), and told her the story.  She contacted the birth father helping us, and came to his house in a nearby city, where he now lived, to meet with him.  They compared notes and concluded that my daughter was her grand baby.  She had been looking for her ever since she was taken by Family Planning.  My daughter's birth family lives in Guangzhou; the maternal grandmother contacted them, and they made an appointment to meet at our helper's home, about 900 miles away, to be "introduced" via QQ video chat to my daughter and myself.

During our second video chat, we learned that the "finder" was in fact a third cousin, who had seen my daughter during a visit to her maternal grandmother's house, where my daughter had been taken to hide her from Guangzhou Family Planning officials. He had a son, but wanted a daughter, and offered to unofficially adopt her.  With the approval of the birth family, he was allowed to take my daughter to his home.  So the loss of my daughter was not only a tragedy for her birth family, but for her adoptive family as well.  The man listed as my daughter's finder was actually her adoptive father.

This is really the story of how two birth families were found, and in each instance the person listed in the paperwork as the finder knew more than they had disclosed to the government.  In each instance, the family had tried to hide their baby, and were ultimately unsuccessful.  In each instance, our daughters were the third female child born to their birth mothers. Almost everything we had been led to believe about our daughter's being abandoned was false.  Every scenario I speculated about what had really happened was incorrect.  We were very fortunate that our orphanage at least listed accurate information about our daughters' "finders."

In my daughter's case, her birth family traveled from their home to the orphanage she was taken to to ask for her back, once they learned she had been taken from her adoptive family.  They were told that she was already in foster care, and that it was too late.  Not unexpectedly, the orphanage did not share this information with us.

During our second video chat, with an interpreter this time, the family shared that they thought my daughter looked a lot like her 16 year old sister, and QQed photos.  The two girls certainly do resemble each other, right down to minute details, and in fact, could be twins.  Our interpreter, who was my daughter's Mandarin teacher, kind of took matters into her own hands when I asked her to tell the family that I would send photos, and told them that I would send photos AFTER a DNA verification was done.  (I have found that almost without exception, the people we know from mainland China encouraged us not to search, and were very suspicious of the birth family.)  That was not my intention, as I was totally convinced after seeing the photos of her sister, but my daughter had heard of stories where birth families had thought to have been found, only to learn that subsequently there was not a DNA match. She wanted the reassurance of a DNA match, as did I.  Likewise, her birth mother also wanted the reassurance of a DNA verification, and in fact went to the hospital in the local city the next day to get the process started (as it turned out, the hospital did not offer that service).

 I was very relieved to contact Research-China.Org, and learn that their sister project would collect the DNA sample, ship it to the States, and submit it to a lab for analysis and comparison with my daughter's DNA sample, which I submitted. It was very important to me to know that the DNA sample would be collected by a trained third party, as this would ensure that the sample was collected properly, from the right person.  Most importantly, there was no cost to the birth family, and our birth family did not lose face in the process.  Their behavior has made it very clear that they do not want to be perceived as in any way benefiting financially from the discovery of the location of their birth daughter.  They are very good people, obviously poor, with a great deal of pride.  I think that people in mainland China tend to assume that anyone from the U.S. who has adopted a child from China is wealthy (and maybe, comparatively, they are right).  However, in my case, we are also poor by U.S. standards, and it was a huge relief to not have to organize and pay for the collection of a DNA sample in the P.R.C.