Pact Camp East

I had the pleasure of being invited to present The Answers are Inside You: DNA Testing for Adoptees at Pact Camp East last week. In my regular life, people find genetic genealogy pretty boring. Not so at a camp full of adoptees and adoptive parents! I have never felt so much love and interest for the work I do! I was talking about birth searching and genetic genealogy morning, noon and night.

Pact Camp East was such a wonderful opportunity to help educate adoptees and adoptive parents about new opportunities available to them through DNA testing. I presented with my dear friend Susan Ito, who shared the story of how we used DNA to break through a 37-year brick wall to identify her birth parent (watch for her story here in the future!).

Amber and Susan cropped

I feel so fortunate I had the opportunity to attend Pact Camp an transracial adoptive parent. I am always looking to learn from adoptees, first parents and experts to further my adoption education, because I want to be a better parent to my daughter. I attended sessions by some amazing adoption experts including April Dinwoodie, Amanda Baden and Holly van Gulden. I also got to meet Beth Hall, Pact co-founder and author of Inside Transracial Adoption, a book which I wore out in my early years as an adoptive parent. The programming included amazing performances and keynote speakers too.

Between sessions, I had the chance to talk with several adult adoptees who have taken DNA tests. I found they had tried to look at their results, but found them confusing. They shared the common problem of not knowing if their DNA relative matches were “good” matches or not. In the future, I will write more about how searchers use matches to identify biological family lines, but generally speaking I can say I get pretty excited when I see an estimated second cousin match. While every search is different, a second cousin match tends to have a good chance of being traceable.

I have personally had several adoptees say “I don’t have any good matches, only a bunch of second cousins,” so they didn’t bother to investigate DNA relationships. Of course, most adoptees would all hope to find a parent or sibling match, but third (and even fourth!) cousins can lead to a search success in the right circumstances. Even in international adoptions, not-so-close matches can provide clues or connection to biological relatives for adoptees who have very little information about their background to work with. Every clue matters!