Let’s Talk About DNA Testing For Adoptees

Thanks to technology and capitalism, we now have the ability to pay $100+ to send out spit to strangers and have them tell us everything about our past and sometimes, future. It’s an invention that can be very helpful to a lot of people like my fellow adoptees. For other it may just be for fun or maybe horrifying like these racists who keep doing them and being shocked to find out they got some black in them (wonder how that happened).

All jokes aside though, it actually has proved to be something very useful for adoptees. As anyone involved with adoption know, getting complete and/or accurate records of pretty much anything in adoption, is laughable. Most of us don’t have proper records of of our family history. Some of us don’t get the luxury of reconnecting with birth families or having a family history lesson from them. A lot of adoptees are out here trying to piece together our family heritage and stories on our own and DNA testing has helped to provide some answers. That being said, there is a concern around the morality of DNA testing adoptees, particularly those who are young. This debate has been happening for some time in the adoption community. The concern lies around if parents should get testing for their adoptees or should they wait until their adoptee is an adult and can choose on their own. I see some pros and cons to both sides of this discussion and wanted to share some thoughts.

Protecting The Adoptee’s Story

As an adoptee myself, I am an advocate of letting adoptees tell their own story. In order to do that, they need to be in control of how they discover themselves as well. I always tell parents to not go behind their adoptee’s back and try to connect with birth families, or establish relationships with birth families without adoptee’s consent. It's not their place, at the end of the day, they aren’t the ones who are going to be hurt if that relationship fails or doesn’t provide the closure needed. I kind of feel the same way about DNA testing. It does feel like an invasion of privacy of an adoptee or really anyone, to just take their DNA and start looking into their past. If the adoptee is not old enough to fully understand the results or what they can dig up, then it could be more hurtful that positive.

Waiting Too Long Could Affect The Results

On the other side of the argument, I can also see how if you wait 18+ years to do the testing, or any other form of searching for information—the results may be harder to find. The one thing positive thing is that the DNA isn’t going anywhere, it’ll always be there to test. However, if you wait too long relatives could have passed or have moved, or whatever else may happen.

What Is The Intent?

There are many reasons you might want a DNA test. I did mine with 23 & Me last year and I didn’t do it to find family. I am already reconnected with my birth family. I was actually more interested in the health profile and a bit curious what the ethnic results would look like. I feel a little more okay with it if you are doing it for health reasons. I think a lot of us would benefit from knowing more about our family health history. I’m 27 and never had a single bit of information about what kind of health issues run in my family. Who knows what may pop up. However at the same time, morally, I just still have a weird feeling about taking someone else’s DNA without true consent.

Privacy Issues

There as been a lot of concern about these DNA testing companies sharing your profiles and information. Recently it was made known that the police are able to access DNA profiles from these sites, and that has spooked some people. They actually caught the Golden State Killer by doing this. There is a concern about children’s (and everyone else’s) DNA information being able to be accessed. I personally, don’t really care. Yes, it can be an invasion of privacy, but also, I’m not planning on murdering anyone and if you want to clone me you’ll be severely disappointed. However, I understand the concern that many have and that is something to think about.

So What Should You Do?

I don’t really have a exact answer for you. I see both sides of the argument, I think there can be some advantages if you can get the information early on but I also think there’s something a bit wrong with taking people’s DNA before they can consent to it and fully understand what comes along with that. So I would tell you to think about what you’re real end goal is here. Are you just curious? Is it for a serious health concern? Are you trying to track down family members? Think about it for a minute before making an impulse decision and at the very least, I would wait until adoptees are old enough to have a coherent conversation about it.


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