The Impact of DNA Testing and Adoption
Technology made possible by DNA tests has completely changed the search and reunion frontier in adoption. As at-home test kit sales have soared, the clinicians at BPAR have noticed an increase in referrals related to surprises with genetic testing. Even though Boston Post Adoption Resources does not provide genetic testing or analysis, we've created this resource page on DNA testing and adoption for those of you who are considering these tests as a tool for exploring your personal identity, uncovering your genetic background, understanding your ethnicity, identifying potential health concerns, or connecting with birth family.
Throughout our years of providing clinical services to adoptees, adoptive parents, and birth parents who report using DNA testing tools and openly discuss the process and outcomes, the BPAR team has developed a balanced perspective on the realities of what testing may or may not be capable of revealing, the emotions involved throughout the testing and discovery process, and unexpected impacts on family and personal levels.
Below we share some general thoughts based on our experiences. Our information is just a general guide. What is best for you will depend on your circumstances and personal history. Please consult a medical practitioner or counselor to better understand your exact needs before you decide on a course of action.
Taking a DNA test isn't something anyone should take lightly, whether or not they're touched by adoption. It's so interesting that testing kit sales spike on holidays when well-meaning family members and friends give the kit as a gift, with the same level of breeziness as giving someone a book or a spa certificate. In fact, the experience of undergoing testing can be revelatory in ways that affect emotions, family dynamics, medical outlooks, and more. Alternately, for a significant portion of the world population, DNA testing can lead to a dead end and dashed hopes.
Before You Decide to Take a DNA Test
There are a lot of different reasons why people do pursue DNA testing. We have found that in the post adoption world, the motivation centers around two main goals: 1) searching for medical information; and 2) searching for biological connections. If you have been touched by adoption, the BPAR team encourages you to make an informed decision before you take a DNA test. As word spreads about the possibilities for discovery, you might feel an understandable sense of urgency to act quickly. Though it may be tempting to order the kit and get the answers NOW, hit the pause button! Take a moment to read our blog titled DNA Testing - What to Think About Before You Do a Test. Here we walk you through:
- Clarifying your expectations and hopes before you begin
- Preparing your First Aid Kit
- Allowing yourself to change your mind
After You Receive Your DNA Test Results
BPAR's blog titled What To Do When You Find Out Unexpected Information is packed full of tips and information such as:
- Statistics about the likelihood of actually connecting with birth family
- Types of surprises you might encounter
- Emotions we often see in our clinical practice
- Preparation and coping strategies
- Other resources
The most important tip? Seek out professional guidance and therapeutic support.
BPAR does not provide DNA testing or analysis. Our expertise lies in providing therapeutic support before, during, and after the search process to help you explore what is coming up, develop skills to manage emotions and expectations, and create strategies for managing the stress and demands that the search process and outcomes can put on your daily life. Please visit our Search Support page to learn more about how we specifically might help you or your family. We work with adult adoptees of all ages, adoptive families, and birth parents. Services include:
For those who decide to pursue a reunion, we will work closely with you to create a reunion that is contained, safe, and as predictable as possible. Our Reunions page provides more details.
Sample Feedback from Adult Adoptees After DNA Tests
Interested in hearing feedback from adoptees who have taken the test? Start with this blog describing the process when two BPAR clinicians, Jennifer Eckert and Maya Rogers-Bursen, took a DNA test as part of their personal post adoption journeys. We also share quotes from some of the search and reunion calls we've handled over the years.