Genetic Testing Adoption

According to adoption statistics, 2 to 4 percent of American families include an adopted child. While most families treat their adopted child with the same love and care as they would their biological children, an adopted child’s personal medical history is often shrouded in secrecy.

“Closed adoptions” respect the privacy of birth parents, but by being cut off from the birth family’s medical history, an adopted child has no knowledge of medical conditions that may develop over his or her life. An adoptee running a birth family search for genealogy is also hampered by adoption privacy laws. Both problems can be solved with DNA profiling.

DNA Profiling and Adoption

Genetic testing and DNA profiling examine an individual’s DNA for genetic markers that either cause or increase the risk of health problems. Every year, medical scientists discover new genetic markers linked to medical conditions.

The presence of genetic markers associated with disease usually indicates that the individual has a higher-than-normal risk of developing the disease. A person may possess a genetic marker for a particular disease, but never develop the actual disease.

DNA profiling may be performed during the adoption process, possibly revealing medical conditions that might otherwise be missed. Early DNA profiling allows prospective adoptive parents the opportunity to plan for their child’s future medical care.

As a general rule, DNA profiling prior to adoption is only performed if testing will benefit the child. Adoption advocates have concerns that adoptive parents could use genetic testing to try and pick out a “perfect child.” As a result, genetic testing of adoptees usually only includes testing for conditions that would impact the early life of the child.

As they grow older, adopted children may opt for DNA testing to check their risk for adult onset diseases. DNA profiling allows adoptees to “fill in the blanks” in their personal medical history without violating the privacy of birth parents.

Birth parents may wish to undergo DNA profiling when giving up a child for adoption. Birth parents can provide adoption agencies with the results of their genetic tests, ensuring that the adoptee has the important family medical history he or she may need in the future.

Adoption and DNA Testing for Ancestry

Adopted children often want to know more about their birth parents and ancestors. Birth parents, however, may not be comfortable meeting adopted children. This is one reason so many adoptions are closed adoptions that guarantee the birth parents’ privacy. An adoptee’s attempts to construct a biological family tree are often sabotaged by privacy laws.

Genetic genealogy can help adoptees learn more about their ancestry. While DNA testing for ancestry won’t reveal exact details about an adoptee’s family tree, it can provide clues to a person’s origins and verify the results of traditional genealogy research.

If an adoptee has discovered possible biological relatives, and both parties want to confirm or deny the relationship, DNA profiling can provide them with answers. A Y-chromosome DNA test can confirm if two men share a common male ancestor, while mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) tests reveal common female ancestors.

Resources

Adoption.com. (n.d.). Numbers and trends. Retrieved December 2, 2008, from the Adoption.com Web site: http://statistics.adoption.com/information/adoption-statistics-numbers-trends.html.

American Journal of Human Genetics. (March 2000). Genetic testing in adoption. Retrieved December 2, 2008, from the PubMed Central Web site: http://www.pubmedcentral.nih.gov/articlerender.fcgi?artid=1288161.

International Society of Genetic Genealogy. (n.d.). Utilizing DNA testing to break through adoption roadblocks. Retrieved December 2, 2008, from the International Society of Genetic Genealogy Web site: http://www.isogg.org/adoption.htm.

Medical News Today. (June, 2008). Debate of tough ethical issues surrounding genetic tests for adoption, adult-onset diseases, tissue banking and newborn screening. Retrieved December 2, 2008, from the Medical News Today Web site: http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/110021.php.