Q: What is DNAConnect.Org, and are you setting up another database for DNA?
DNAConnect.Org is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization founded in 2013. It is an all-volunteer organization, meaning that no one is compensated for collecting and matching the DNA collected by volunteers in China or elsewhere. To make this point a bit clearer: No one receives any money for this project. 100% of donations are used to purchase and process DNA collected from birth families in China.
Q: Isn’t it illegal to take DNA outside China?
No. In 1997 China codified parameters to be followed for commercial collection of DNA inside China for pharmaceutical and genetic commercialization, and those rules were implemented in July 2019. "This robust state control is mainly grounded on biosecurity considerations and the desire for national competitiveness. Anxiety over bio-piracy was triggered by media coverage of the Anhui incident in 1997. Two occupational epidemiologists affiliated with Harvard University collected blood samples for a genetic project from over 16,000 Chinese peasants in Anhui Province without appropriate informed consent, and were subsequently disciplined by the university. Prominent Chinese scientists, in particular Chinese geneticists, called for the government to undertake actions to protect the nation’s genetic resources against foreign exploitation. The enactment of the Interim Measures was a prompt response."
While some in the adoption community continue to misinform families about the legality of DNA collection inside China for processing outside China, Familytree DNA, MyHeritage, and other U.S. based lab freely send DNA kits to China. The only lab we are aware of that has a prohibition against accepting DNA from China is 23andMe, who rejects any sample labeled as originating in China. This is due to business considerations on the part of 23andMe, not due to any legal issues, since all other labs will mail kits and process DNA from Chinese residents.
Q: If I financially support DNAConnect.Org, what benefits will I receive?
Primarily, you will be part of a wonderful experiment that will hopefully benefit thousands of Chinese adoptees. As the number of DNA samples submitted to the database increases, sibling and birth parent matches will occur, providing searching adoptees and their families immense benefit. Additionally, by supporting DNAConnect.Org, you will become part of the DNAConnect.Org "family." This will allow you to receive information on any matches made to you or your child's DNA collected by DNAConnect.Org for no cost. This has the potential of saving your family thousands of hours of searching, and thousands of dollars in travel and other search-related expenses.
Q: What if a match is made to my child and I haven't supported DNAConnect.Org in the past? Will there be a charge for me to get the contact information for my child?
Yes. The cost is $100 before a match is made and $399 if a match is made before the fee is paid. The current costs of DNA processing and the matching process is, on average, about $769. Birth families in China are not in a position economically to pay that amount, and would be skeptical of donating if asked. While we would love to be able to provide birth parent information for free, doing so would doom our organization and deprive future adoptees of any chance to locate their birth families, so we ask adoptive families to help cover costs. Since we also receive support from donations, we are able to reduce the cost to families.
Q: I am an adoptee. What test should I do for myself, and for a birth family I locate in China?
Because there is a long history of adoptees testing with 23andMe, we recommend adoptees submit their DNA to that data base since there is the highest probability that a sibling match could occur there. Once the DNA is processed, download the 23andMe genome to your computer, and upload it to GedMatch. DNAConnect.Org uploads all of the birth parent DNA collected to GedMatch for matching. We chose GedMatch because it is free, transparent (you can obtain contact information to any match made), and easy to use. GedMatch should be used by all adoptees and their family so that it becomes a “community data base.” This point must be emphasized: Whatever DNA processing data base is used, results should be uploaded to GedMatch. The fragmentation of the adoptive community regarding testing is the single biggest obstacle to success. If adoptee and birth parent DNA is processed by FamilyTree, MyHeritage, 23andMe, or any other company, and not uploaded to GedMatch, it risks never being matched. Additionally, it increases the burden on adoptees and their families to test on multiple platforms needlessly. If anyone proposes a platform that does not allow uploading to GedMatch, do not participate, as it only results in fragmentation of the DNA pool, resulting in more missed matches.
For birth family testing, it is recognized that families want results as soon as possible. However, it is critical that any birth family tested have the DNA available for uploading to GedMatch. Whether a test in conducted inside China or outside, the testing platform must allow the data to be uploaded to GedMatch. In this way, the birth family’s information will not be lost for future matching. DNAConnect.Org is perfectly situated to collect and process any birth family that is located, but even if our avenue is not taken advantage of, it is crucial that whatever method is employed to test allow uploading to GedMatch. We offer the ability to collect the DNA, process for matching, and staying in contact with the birth family over the next ten years or longer until a match is made. If andown adoptee or their family tests a birth family, it is very important that they commit to remaining in contact so that current information can be provided to an adoptee down the road.
Utilizing an autosomal test like that used by 23andMe is also critical. Not only does this test definitively match a child to its birth parents, but also to a sibling, aunt, uncle, grand-parent, or cousins (both immediate and extended). An allele test, like that used by MyTapRoot, is only effective for matching parent to child, thus reducing significantly the probability of a useful match. Alelle tests are only 13% effective to locating a random match, compared to autosomal testing. Thus, if a birth parent is located, always use an autosomal testing company for testing.
Step 1: Test with 23andMe or similar
Step 2: Upload DNA to GedMatch
Step 3: If a birth family is located, test them with an autosomal test and upload their DNA to GedMatch. Remain in contact with them until a match.Step 3a: If a birth family is located, obtain their WeChat, email, or phone number. Email contact info to DNAConnect.Org, and we will arrange for DNA collection and processing. We will pursue near-relative matches, network with the birth family, and “magnify” the results of the test to maximize matches to adoptees in the search community (uncles, aunts, cousins, etc.).
Q: Will a birth family be able to find me or my child without my permission?
No. DNAConnect.Org will serve as a "firewall" between you/your family and any DNA matches. The choice to make contact will be strictly yours.
Q: Who will maintain the contact information for birth parents and siblings inside China?
DNAConnect.Org will make periodic contact with all individuals from whom DNA is collected, to insure that contact will be able to be made once a match is achieved.
Q: Where do you go to collect DNA? Are you limited to certain areas?
We have no geographical limitations, and can arrange for any birth parent in China to be tested. Since funding is limited, and the movement of children in China like a large river, we are obviously not able to test every birth family that has relinquished a child. We try to determine the probability of a specific child having entered an internationally adopting orphanage through finding ads, etc., but try to test if there is even a small chance that a child ended up in an orphanage. We error on the side of testing too many rather than not enough.
Q: Is DNAConnect.Org trying to control the DNA “market”?
No! Our goal is simply to concentrate all adoptee and birth parent DNA into a centralized data base, so search efforts by adoptees and their families is not wasted. Thus, we use autosomal testing so that not just birth parents are located, but also siblings, aunts/uncles, cousins, and other extended members can be identified. We also network with located birth families to locate other birth parents in the same area, to “magnify” each success into additional successes. If every birth parent that is located by the adoption community has their DNA placed in GedMatch, it will create a single depository where every adoptee can locate a birth relative, rather than having DNA scattered in different places, most of which will be unknown to most adoptees, and thus will prevent a successful match. Rather than trying to control, we are simply seeking to simplify and magnify the work of the entire adoption community, creating a “community data base.”