Genetic Testing Adoption Adoptive Parents

Adoptive parents often have difficulty researching their adopted child’s medical history. Because adopted children come from a different family with distinctive genetic traits, parents may not know what inherited diseases or disorders their child may develop. Even if the birth parents provided a family medical history at the time of adoption, adult-onset diseases or other missing information may eventually have an effect on the child’s health.

For this reason and others, many adoptive parents opt for genetic testing for their child. A DNA test can help give parents a complete picture of their child’s genetic history.

Medical Benefits of Genetic Testing

Many childhood diseases, such as cystic fibrosis and sickle cell anemia, have a genetic link. Genetic testing, which involves a thorough screening of the child’s DNA, can tell parents if their child is at risk for developing a genetically-linked disease.

Birth parents often provide a family medical history at the time of adoption. Adoptive parents should realize, however, that this information is often incomplete. Many times the birth parents may be missing information, or they may learn that they are carriers for a genetic disease only after giving the child up for adoption. In rare cases, birth parents make an effort to find the child or update his or her medical file. Unfortunately, this new information often never reaches the child or the adoptive parents.

Assuming the adoptive parents aren’t in close contact with the birth parents’ entire families, the only way to get a complete genetic picture of their child is through genetic screening. Potential adoptive parents can request that genetic screening be done either pre-adoption or post-adoption.

Screening can also benefit adopted children as they grow older by testing for the likelihood of developing adult-onset disorders. These are disorders that lie dormant until the individual is in his twenties or older. Parents should carefully consider this type of genetic testing, as it’s only beneficial at a young age if the child can receive preventive treatment before reaching adulthood. Adoptees may wish to get tested again for inherited diseases as they reach adulthood.

Other Benefits of Genetic Testing

Genetic testing can provide many non-medical benefits as well. They include:

  • Identifying and reuniting with biological family members: Depending on how much information is available about the adoptee’s biological family, DNA testing may be the only way to locate long-lost siblings and other family members.
  • Meeting international adoption requirements: Genetic testing for birth parent and child is required in many international cases. In some countries, the adoption agency has to confirm that parent and child are related and that the parent is willingly giving the child up for adoption.
  • Peace of mind: Often, adopted children have no desire to actually meet their biological families, but they still have a yearning to know about their roots. DNA testing can provide this information to adoptees without requiring them to actually make contact.
  • Providing information to adoption registries: Registries attempt to match adopted children with their biological families. They store DNA profiles in a database until a match is made with relatives.

Resources

DNA Junction. (n.d.). Uses of DNA testing in adoption cases. Retrieved November 30, 2008, from the DNA Junction Web site: http://www.dnajunction.com/uses/dna-testing-adoption.ph.

Lei, H.H. (2005). DNA tests matching adopted children. Retrieved November 30, 2008, from the Genetics and Health Web site: http://www.geneticsandhealth.com/2005/09/11/dna-tests-matching-adopted-children/.

National Society of Genetic Counselors (2007). Position statements. Retrieved November 30, 2008, from the NSGC Web site: http://www.nsgc.org/about/position.cfm.