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Some really interesting conversations, Part II...

Today's highlighted conversation comes courtesy of ChicagoMama.  She came across an article about a pair of girls named Mia, adopted by two separate families, whose families determined via DNA testing that there was a 85% probability that the two are at least half-sisters.  The girls are assumed to be fraternal twins, and were introduced to each other on live TV.

ChicagoMama jumps right into the controversy (that's five links, folks!) about sibling searches amongst the Chinese adoptive community, the question of what constitutes "proof" of such a relationship, the ethics of tossing it all out into the national media as was done, what happens if later testing shows that the putative relationship isn't there, and what it is that makes sibling relationships so important to certain folk.  One of the problems is that Chinese populations can be quite homogenous--in other words, if your child was abandoned in a certain region of, say, Henan, it's quite likely that your child shares a large proportion of genetic material with almost everyone in that area.

I know of one "found" twin pair that seems really, truly the Real McCoy--the two are uncannily alike, and DNA testing said that there was a 97% probability that the two were fraternal twins.  Another pair, written up in Good Housekeeping, were given a 96% probability that the two were fraternal sisters.  The people involved in these groups all seem to have managed to keep up a very good relationship, making sure the girls are in contact via long visits on a regular basis.

There are email lists devoted to the subject--both a list of those who feel they have located siblings of their children, and a list of those who have signed up or are interested in joining a DNA bank in the hopes of locating such a sibling. 

Brian Stuy of ResearchChina has a lot to say about the DNA testing.  Some of the problems are that DNA testing needs parental DNA samples to be able to say much about the kids with real certainty.  Identical twins (I assume) have DNA that matches pretty damned closely--they should be easy to identify.  But otherwise, you start running up against that homogeneity.

Why do some people think their children are related?  Well, if you've been around Asian folk, the old "all look same" ain't true any more.  Out of hundreds and hundreds of pictures of adopted Chinese girls, I have seen one that made me gasp and think, "OMG!  That girl looks so much like OmegaDotter it's amazing!"  I did follow up on it...but the other girl, around the same age, had been abandoned thousands of miles away, in a different province.  But maybe some see resemblances that aren't there, and maybe some see resemblances that are there.

If they do think the children are siblings, why is it important?

It's a good philosophical question.  Aren't we, as adoptive parents, supposed to be trumpeting the "as good as the Real Thing"-ness of adoption?  Yet, when talking to adult adoptees who found out that they had siblings, one finds that many of them feel that they had a special bond with those siblings.  There are some who say that if their parents had known that siblings were around but not pursued some way of keeping contact with them, and not let them know, they would have been extremely hurt.

ChicagoMama's point is that presenting it as a reality, when it's a probability, could be problematic (aside from the other issues, such as parading your kids around in the media for their first meeting as putative twins).

Check the conversation out.

I am following the Steorn story as it continues.  Some people think it's an ALG (alternative life game).  Some people think it's marketing for the Xbox.  Some people think it's a marketing scam. SteornWatch did a live chat with the CEO, Sean McCarthy.  The Guardian published an interview with him.  All very interesting.

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posted by Kate @ 8/25/2006 06:56:00 PM  
  • At 8/27/2006 01:31:00 PM, Anonymous Johnny said…

    I've followed a few cases of "found sisters" as you have. One of the questions I've wondered is if this opens up a can of worms? i.e. Two families are now bound to each other in a way they hadn't originally thought would be possible.

    Now, you have to make sure the girls have time together. But then, where does that leave the other siblings in the family? i.e. (again!) Okay, it's time to go spend our yearly week with the Smith family so the two sisters can have time with each other.

    I don't know how this would work since I've never had to consider it.

    Although....I've seen some girls that look so, so much like our gal.

  • At 9/02/2006 09:55:00 AM, Blogger ursine said…

    I'm the dad of one of the kids in that Good Housekeeping article, and the co-manager of the support group on line called SisterFar that was mentioned in the Mias article.

    If I could, I'd like to address a few of the questions on this.

    (1) Testing on this stuff in regards to DNA is not where it needs to be for absolute proof in all cases. No question about it. Identicals match up in all cases as mirrors of each other, and known fraternals can vary more than you think.

    My feeling is that people shouldn't go *looking* for this, as such, but if it drops in your lap, DNA testing is just one more way to check things out. With no mom or dad to compare the kids against, there's no 100% on fraternals, but a very high (80%+) DNA score is hard to deny, if you add in the times of birth, location, and a lot of other factors (looks, intelligence levels, allergies and whatnot). We assume that ours are fraternals as the simplest explanation that fits the facts, and the older they get, the more likely that is looking to be the case.

    Homogeneity - well, yes and no. If you're talking one village where (until recently) people hadn't moved out of town for hundreds of years, sure. In a city of 3 million, I don't think so.

    (2) Are there people who get the idea that there's a sibling of their kid out there and will beat down the door to find that sibling? Sure. I always say - sure, it's most likely there's a sibling, and maybe more than one, and a bio mom and dad. But you will almost certainly never find them, whether they are here or in China. Needle in the haystack. Not worth deliberately digging.

    In our case, it was a total coincidence all the way through. That includes the names being the same, and that both families were on the internet, let alone the orphanage mailing list, or that one or both would put up websites with kid pictures - and so on. Think of all of the people that you know that are NOT online...or savvy enough to deal with anything other than work email and would never put anything on the web.

    (3) Bonds. In our case, both families had kids who were - well, 'alone', and wanted an 'other' since they could talk. This was so strong that the parents went towards the idea of a little sister, and the thing that triggered the other family to post their web site was - they came home with the little sister and wanted to show the pictures to friends and family.

    In our case, we were about to start the process for Little Sister when all this came up.

    When they got together, they bonded like glue right away, and are terribly bonded to each other. I never believed in twin bonds before I saw them together, and it's just gotten stronger over the years.

  • At 9/02/2006 10:00:00 AM, Blogger ursine said…

    To answer the commenter - does this open up a can of worms in regards to your 'twin laws'? Sure.

    In our case, there's the baby sister of our daughter's 'sissy', but we and our daughter have **always** made a big point to include her in with the gang. The worst problem is that a three-year-old is less able to keep up with two six-year-olds who are very bright, but she tries hard.

    As to visits - the girls pretty much demand it. This year, they came up to Chicago and saw their first snow in February, and my wife and daughter went down for a week in August. Does this eat up vacation time? Sure. But the girls are the ones who miss each other like crazy, and it's their wishes that push this.

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About Me
Name: OmegaMom
Home: Southwest
About Me: Middle-aged mom of a 4-year-old adopted from China. Love science, debate, good SF and fantasy, hiking, music of almost every style. Lousy housekeeper. "Good enough" mom.
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