Adoptees and Birth Family Geneology

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As a heavy consumer of NPR radio programming, I heard a segment a week ago on the show “On Point with Tom Ashbrook.”  The segment topic was on this idea that genetics and technology have evolved so much that now many individuals may get tested for particular genetic diseases to see whether or not they will get it in their lifetime.  This one woman called in discussing how she got tested for a degenerative disease and found out that she would get the disease somewhere in her 30s, (she is in her mid 20s).  The implications not only for herself are large since this means that her family, especially her mother could potentially develop the disease as well.  But of course her mother didn’t want to know whether or not she would develop the disease, but the daughter got tested anyways.  It brings up all sorts of questions, the most obvious one being “If I am to get a degenerative disease in my lifetime, would I want to know for sure?”  And there are other questions like “would I change my lifestyle if I found out I would be getting the disease?”

All very interesting questions, none of which I can concretely answer for myself…and that’s when it hit me.  I have no medical history of my birth family.  I hardly even have a clear story about what happened to my birth mother and the reasons she relinquished me for adoption.  When I met with a case-worker last summer and a high ranking official within the Holt International Korean office I was under the impression that they may in fact have some contact information available on my birth mother, but may be withholding the information from me.  Ok, I understand the reasons behind this, but what scared me a little was, what if I get cancer?  What if I need a bone marrow transplant and I need to search for my Korean birth family for potential matches.  Is it within Holt’s jurisdiction to bypass the privacy of my birth parents to get in contact with them?  Or would I be left to slowly develop cancer without any thought as to whether my birth family could help me?  I asked the Holt official, and to my dismay he informed me that Holt would try their best to get in touch with them.  What the hell?!?!  “try your best?!?!”  Sometimes I wonder who’s rights are more respected within this “adoption triad,” the birth family or the adoptee.  I mean technically the agency’s mission is to serve the welfare of the children, and again I understand the political ramifications behind keeping birth parents identities anonymous, but should I get cancer (or any other TRA KAD for that matter), isn’t it within our “welfare” to be in contact with our birth parents to see if they would be potential bone marrow matches?

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2 Comments on “Adoptees and Birth Family Geneology

  1. I know a KAD whose birth family was found by Holt because he became ill – leukemia? I think he did need a transplant or something from a birth relative. I’m obviously ignorant of all the details, but I wanted to let you know that it is possible that Holt will do a search if there is a compelling medical reason. What I do not know is if the KAD’s parents needed to move heaven and earth to get Holt to do it, or if it was simply a matter of letting them know about the situation. Also, this would have been done quite a while ago, so if the KAD had difficulty back then that may not be the case now.

  2. Don’t worry. In Holt’s case, “do their best” really means “do their best” – and nobody can try harder than “their best.” I’ve seen how hard these people work on behalf of adoptees – the full-time researcher works 50 hours a week doing nothing but tracking down leads.

    They don’t mean it sarcastically. They mean exactly what they say: doing their best is trying very, very hard.

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