adoption

The DNA Guide for Adoptees - #1 New Release in Genetics on Amazon

The DNA Guide for Adoptees - #1 New Release in Genetics on Amazon

Exciting news today as The DNA Guide for Adoptees has released in #1 new release for genetics. I’m looking forward to the information and support falling into people’s hands whether their preference is paperback or Kindle.

The book covers a lot of ground and is divided into four sections:

  • Getting Started

  • Bringing Science and Research Together through Genetic Genealogy

  • What to Do After the DNA Testing is Done

  • DNA Tests and the Search for Health Information

The DNA Guide for Adoptees: new book offers information and guidance for adoptive parents as well

The DNA Guide for Adoptees: new book offers information and guidance for adoptive parents as well

The book "The DNA Guide for Adoptees" currently available on Amazon for Kindle preorders is nearing publication! On May 30th, readers can find it on Kindle and in print in a paperback version. My co-author Shannon and I are busily preparing to be ready for reader questions and comments and are planning genealogy and genetics conference booth appearances in the summer and fall.

Announcing the upcoming release of the book "The DNA Guide for Adoptees"

Screen Shot 2019-05-02 at 8.54.36 AM.png

I’m excited to announce the book I have written with my friend Shannon Combs-Bennett is available for preorder on Kindle! The DNA Guide for Adoptees will be available as a Kindle e-book and in print starting May 30th, 2019 on Amazon.com.

Shannon and I met in 2016 while attending a week-long workshop, the Advanced Genetic Genealogy course run by the Genealogical Research Institute of Pittsburgh.

We have both worked with family, friends, and clients using DNA testing in family searches. The melding of our minds as a genetic counselor and a genealogist has led to a book that covers a wide range of DNA topics for the audience of people using DNA for family searches and medical reasons.

Listen to Thomas MacEntee mention it during his discussion of consumer tests on the podcast Not Old, Better (it comes up around minute 16:00). Thomas has helped us prepare and launch our book to the benefit of readers, and we are grateful to him for it!

I will be blogging more about the book in the upcoming weeks to address questions about the sub-topics we cover and how it will benefit readers. I also talk about the book on an upcoming podcast on June 7th with Kira Dineen of DNA Today. Watch for it!

Are you a library, book store, adoption, genetics professional, or genealogy group interested in a visit and book signing with the authors? Reach out to express interest in getting on the schedule for an in-person or virtual book tour visit for your group.

DNA Quest program increases available free DNA tests by 5,000

Nearly a year ago, the genealogy/DNA testing company MyHeritage announced the roll-out of a program they call DNA Quest. They asked me to be part of the volunteer advisory board for this project, a program aimed to take down the barrier of DNA test cost to searching adoptees and the birth family members searching for them. Last week at a genealogy conference called RootsTech, MyHeritage announced an extension of DNA Quest to provide free testing to an additional 5,000 participants. Share the news with family and friends who you think may be interested!

Genetic Sexual Attraction - a couple’s story going viral as a result of a 23andMe test discovery

Genetic Sexual Attraction - a couple’s story going viral as a result of a 23andMe test discovery

A story was posted a few days ago on Reddit by someone claiming to have discovered he and his girlfriend are half-siblings, the discovery coming after both opted in to the DNA Relatives feature for their 23andMe test.

Both reportedly knew they were donor-conceived and were on the hunt for their paternal biological families, but apparently neither was suspecting the possibility they may have come from the same sperm donor. The discovery was reportedly and understandably traumatic, with the relationship being ended same-day and temporary thoughts of suicide mentioned by the writer of the Reddit post.

A DNA Surprise Five Decades in the Making - Part 2

THE STORY OF JUDEY AND GINNA: GINNA’S SIDE OF THE STORY:

Fishing has been something I’ve done nearly my whole life. It was a family affair; we’d pile in the boat and enjoy the relaxation and fun together. My dad and brother taught me to fish when I was three, and it is something I never stopped doing once I learned. Fishing is in my blood.

A DNA Surprise Five Decades in the Making - Part 1

A DNA Surprise Five Decades in the Making - Part 1

The Story of Judey and Ginna: Judey’s Side of the Story:

Birthdays have been bitter-sweet for me since I found out at age 21 that I was adopted as an infant. Since then -- and every year until last year -- the wish I made over my birthday candle was a desire to know who my biological family was.

DNA Testing: Ten Tips for Adoptive Parents

DNA Testing: Ten Tips for Adoptive Parents

I’ve spoken with a few parents of children who were adopted, and DNA testing is clearly on the radar for many of these families. News reports and TV shows that highlight adoption reunions facilitated by DNA and health discoveries from genetic research have piqued the interest of many.

I’ve compiled ten tips for adoptive parents based on common questions and issues. The focus is on parents of children under the age of 18, but these points can apply to other families as well, such as those who included egg, sperm, or embryo donation in building their family.

5 Tips for an Adoption-Related Search

A few months ago, I wrote about the DNA Quest program for adoption-related DNA searches going on at MyHeritage. They have closed the program to new enrollees at this time but may open again in the future as additional resources become available. Here's a guest post I wrote for their blog with my five top tips for an adoption-related search. You might be surprised that some of them are DNA-related and some are not!

MyHeritage announces DNA Quest Program for Adoptees and Birth Families

I am so excited and honored to be part of the advisory board for the newly-announced project to help adoptees and birth family access DNA testing. This program will make DNA kits available for free until April 30, 2018 to a set number of adoptees and birth family members worldwide who want to make use of DNA testing and genetic genealogy to identify one another. The program just announced its expansion beyond the US to worldwide within the past few days. You can read more in the press release below (revised to reflect global availability) and follow links to the site where FAQs about the program are answered. 


MyHeritage Launches DNA QUEST — A Major Pro Bono Initiative for Adoptees and their Biological Families to Find Each Other via DNA Testing

MyHeritage will distribute 15,000 DNA kits, worth over one million dollars, for free in the first phase of this initiative

TEL AVIV, Israel & LEHI, Utah, March 1, 2018 — MyHeritage, the leading global destination for family history and DNA testing, announced today the launch of a new pro bono initiative, DNA Quest, to help adoptees and their birth families reunite through genetic testing. As part of this initiative, MyHeritage will provide 15,000 MyHeritage DNA kits, worth more than one million dollars, for free, with free shipping, to eligible participants. Participation is open to adoptees seeking to find their biological family members, or anyone looking for a family member who was placed for adoption. Preference will be given to people who are not able to afford genetic testing. Application opens today on the project website, www.dnaquest.org, which includes detailed information about the initiative.

Many of the approximately 7 million adoptees living in the USA today (and even more globally) are searching for their biological parents or siblings. The search is time-sensitive, because every year some of the people who are searching pass away, missing the opportunity to reunite. Currently, the main avenues for adoptees and their biological parents to find each other are adoption agencies, registries created for this purpose, and genetic testing. With formal adoption records being unavailable or difficult to obtain in some states, genetic genealogy opens new doors in the search for relatives, and MyHeritage believes everyone should be able to access this valuable technology.

To maximize the potential of this initiative to successfully reunite families, MyHeritage has set up an advisory board of top experts in the fields of genetic genealogy and adoption to guide and support this initiative on a voluntary basis. This alliance ensures the best possible professional support for participants, with each advisory board member bringing unique expertise. The advisory board includes: CeCe Moore, founder of DNA Detectives; Blaine Bettinger, The Genetic Genealogist; Richard Weiss of DNA Adoption; Richard Hill, DNA testing adviser; Katharine Tanya, founder of Adopted.com; Brianne Kirkpatrick, founder of Watershed DNA; Pamela Slaton, investigative genealogist; Leah Larkin, The DNA Geek; and Amy Winn, President of American Adoption Congress.

DNA Quest is an expansion of another one of MyHeritage’s successful pro bono projects to reunite adoptees from the Israeli Yemenite community with their biological families. In that project, MyHeritage facilitated successful reunions between adoptees and their biological siblings, in challenging cases where the protagonists were searching for each other without success for more than 60 years.

“We have a company culture of using our resources and technology for the greater good. In this spirit we’ve initiated several significant pro bono projects, such as returning looted assets from WWII to their rightful owners and documenting family histories and traditions of tribal peoples who lack access to modern technology. DNA Quest is a natural extension of these efforts,” said MyHeritage Founder and CEO Gilad Japhet, who conceived DNA Quest. “There is a great need for a project like this — to help adoptees find their biological families — and we are the right company to take it on. We’ve already successfully reunited many families and are confident that through this initiative, together with a wonderful alliance of top experts, we’ll be able to utilize the power of genetic genealogy to help many more.”

“Few things are more fulfilling than a life-changing adoptee-family reunion”, said CeCe Moore, founder of DNA Detectives, the largest group on Facebook that brings together volunteers with genetic genealogy and searching experience, and those seeking biological family. “I’m very excited to be a member of the DNA Quest advisory board and look forward to assisting participants find the lost loved ones for whom they are yearning."

There are already more than 1.25 million people in the MyHeritage DNA database — one of the fastest growing among the major DNA companies. Additionally, MyHeritage is unique among the top three DNA companies to offer the option to upload DNA results from other test providers for free. The company is uniquely positioned to reunite families and has indeed facilitated many emotional success stories, with more taking place in every passing day.

Adoptees and family members searching for their biological relatives can apply for a free MyHeritage DNA kit at DNAQuest.org through April 30, 2018. Participants will be selected, and their free DNA kits will be shipped to them by the end of May 2018. Results are expected as early as July 2018.

Those who have already taken a DNA test with another company can upload their DNA data to MyHeritage for free and participate in this initiative as well.

The privacy of all applicants and participants will be strictly enforced. The DNA is owned by the participants and not by MyHeritage. The company has never sold genetic data and has pledged to never do so in the future without users’ explicit consent. DNA Quest is a pro bono project without gotchas or caveats.


About MyHeritage

MyHeritage is the leading global destination for family history and DNA testing. As technology thought leaders, MyHeritage has transformed family history into an activity that is accessible and instantly rewarding. Its global user community enjoys access to a massive database of historical records, the most internationally diverse collection of family trees and groundbreaking search and matching technologies. Launched in November 2016, MyHeritage DNA is a technologically advanced, affordable DNA test that reveals ethnic origins and previously unknown relatives. Trusted by millions of families, MyHeritage provides an easy way to find new family members, discover ethnic origins, and to treasure family stories, past and present, for generations to come. MyHeritage is available in 42 languages. For more detail, visit www.myheritage.com. DNA Quest is available on www.dnaquest.org.

Contact

MyHeritage

Rafi Mendelsohn

Director of PR & Social Media

Phone: 917-725-5018

Email: pr@myheritage.com

This is VUS

Adoption affects access to information about a person's history, most significantly for the person who was adopted. As this post reveals, it can also affect the parents who have adopted a child with complex medical needs and no clear underlying cause. This guest post is written by Michelle Seitzer, a mother whose daughter was adopted from Bulgaria at age 2. Michelle shares of the journey her family has taken to discover the reasons behind their daughter's medical issues and the search for care and treatments. The journey has been long and has included genetic testing that resulted in more questions than answers.

Michelle writes about the dreaded "VUS" (also called VOUS or a variant of uncertain significance) and her resolve to keep searching for answers to help her daughter.

Because the medical genetics community is still trying to understand how individual genetic variations affect health, the more we test the more uncertainty that often arises. Not every difference in DNA is harmful. With more than 7 billion humans alive today -- and each of them with a unique sequence of 3 billion letters of DNA -- the capacity for variation from one person to the next is nearly limitless.

Over time, variants that are at first uncertain can be "reclassified" into the category of clearly disease-causing or clearly harmless.

In the meantime, families like the Seitzers wait while the medical genetics world tries to sort them all out.   

- Brianne


seitzerpic2.png

"This is VUS" by Michelle Seitzer

When we started the international adoption process in 2011, questions became our new normal. Nearly five years later, we still have many unanswered questions—maybe more.

We recently did two rounds of genetic testing on our daughter, who is 7. When we first met her, she was 2. When she joined our family, she was a few months shy of 3. We knew she had some special needs, the main ones being mild cerebral palsy (CP) and extreme prematurity (which can cause a number of delays and deficits). We anticipated developmental delays as a result of her time in the medical-social care home as well.

The medical report we received from our adoption agency was quite extensive, and after meeting and speaking with several medical staff members in her care home, the report seemed fairly reputable and accurate (this is not always the case with international adoptions). In fact, one of the most accurate lines in her medical record—even after being translated from Bulgarian—still holds true today (though it could apply to most children at any point in time): “Reacts to prohibition with displeasure.”

We quickly learned what’s on two-dimensional paper in black and white and what happens when that multidimensional child and all her history—knowns and unknowns—collides with a completely different culture and environment. When that child becomes part of a family. When that child is given opportunities to grow and thrive in ways her care home, as competent and compassionate as its staff seemed to be, could not offer.

Over the past five years, we’ve probably seen 20-30 different doctors, specialists, therapists, and more. Some have been expected. We had been advised by the medical director of her care home to follow up with a neurologist and an orthopedic specialist for her CP, and we’ve seen several orthopedists—including a surgeon who performed double hip surgery on her in 2016—and do yearly or as-needed visits with a neurologist. But some have been unexpected. When she was four, we were referred to a sports medicine doctor for a knee condition which showed up on an MRI.

Also since her arrival to the US in 2013, she’s had three sets of ear tubes surgically placed. These are quick and easy surgeries, but her consistently poor results on audiological tests even after having new, clear tubes led our ENT (ear, nose, and throat specialist) to refer us to the genetics department at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP). His hope was that we’d find an underlying cause or condition responsible for her hearing loss, and to determine if that condition is progressive (because she had a comprehensive brain MRI, we were able to look at those images and rule out any nerve damage or other physical “misconnections” responsible). Knowing her complex needs, he also hoped we might find a genetic “diagnosis” that would tie together all her many loose ends. I was hopeful for the same, but if I’ve learned anything as a special needs parent, it’s that things are rarely easily explained, able to be neatly packaged, or simple. There are acronyms for just about everything, and I’m now well-versed in the alphabet soup of the special needs & adoptive parenting parenting world.

When you’re dealing with the mysteries of adoption, in our family’s opinion, some information is better than none at all.

 

We did the first round of genetic testing, a wide genome array, and were then encouraged to take the next step, whole exome sequencing (WES). It involved a blood test, exam, and a consult. Since we don’t have any family medical history or access to it, we believed whatever results were returned, the testing might at least provide some information about her current and future health needs. When you’re dealing with the mysteries of adoption, in our family’s opinion, some information is better than none at all.

We waited eagerly for the results, which came about three months later.

But true to her form of always keeping us and her doctors and therapists guessing, the WES results showed 5 genetic variations, all of which fell under the category of VOUS—variants of unknown significance. In the genetics world, "VOUS" basically means the variant could lead to nothing—it's essentially benign—or it could develop into something pathologic. Good or bad. Something or nothing. At this point, there’s not enough information to know for sure.

In the genetics world, “VOUS” basically means the variant could lead to nothing—it’s essentially benign—or it could develop into something pathologic.

 

The test we hoped might bring one “easy” answer brought us more questions. We’re sort of getting used to that. But we press on. Is it because we want a diagnosis that could mean an even more difficult future for her than the one we already might imagine? Or something that would change the tremendously positive and even independent future we also imagine? No. We don’t want a diagnosis if there’s not one to have, but when you have a child with many unexplained health issues and challenges, you do long for a simple explanation—especially because it might lead to a simpler solution than all the therapies, treatments, and interventions we have and continue to try.

The test we hoped might bring one “easy” answer brought us more questions.

You long for some glimpse of the future: will she be able to have her own children, and if so, would they have similar health issues and challenges? Will any of her current “conditions” get worse? On the flip side, as genetic research improves and advances at light speed, could we also learn of a cure? A treatment that would help her and other kids like her?

Besides learning to “speak” alphabet soup, adoption and special needs parenting has certainly taught us to expect the unexpected. To live in the pain but also the joys of uncertainties. To know her story, and ours, and the stories of all the children and adults who have undergone or will undergo extensive genetic testing, is still unfolding.

If we can get a little more clarity on what we can and can’t change, great. If by doing so we can help others in similar situations, even better. If we don’t learn anything new at all, that’s fine too. We’re grateful for the opportunity to try, grateful for every moment with our daughter, and grateful for the people who have helped us try to understand her better so we can give her the best possible quality of life. And in the end, that’s the most significant and concrete finding of all: I can live with the unanswered questions so long as we’ve done our best to answer the important ones.


SeitzerHeadshot.png

Michelle Seitzer has been writing since she was old enough to hold a pencil, but she’s been a freelance writer since 2008. Before her daughter joined their family, she spent more than a decade volunteering and working in senior living communities, and advocacy for elders continues to be one of her greatest passions. She currently lives with her family in an old stone farmhouse north of Philadelphia and loves traveling, the arts, and following interior design blogs on Instagram. Follow her on Twitter @MichelleSeitzer.