Contact: Gale Sipple, Walton,
Linda Hammer, Sarasota, FL
Walton, KY and Sarasota, FL, June 7, 2004
In one of the most exciting DNA projects endeavored anywhere across the globe, Touched By Adoption, Inc. ("TBA"), a non-profit corporation, www.touchedbyadoption.org, in conjunction with DNA Diagnostic Center, Inc., ("DDC") has put together a voluntary DNA Banking project designed to reunite adoptees, birth parents, and siblings without so much as a name, date of birth, place of birth, or even country of birth - for free.
"There are 80 - 100 million people touched by adoption in the US alone. Currently, in most states, adoptees are not given their original birth certificates, but instead are given "Amended", or - more accurately - altered, birth certificates, with the adoptive parent’s names listed as their birth parents. Because of that, as well as closed files that house legal adoption documents, they have no way to learn their very own heritage or their own medical history," states Linda Hammer, co-founder of TBA, owner of the website and live talk radio show, The Seeker - Reuniting The World, and former private investigator.
"I had a woman on my show call in one time tell me that she spent over $100,000 on medical bills for her daughter because the doctors couldn't find out what was wrong with her - the woman calling in was an adoptee and had no medical history of her own. Unfortunately, her daughter died at 14 years of age. The lady ultimately found her birth mother and learned that her child's death could have been prevented," said Hammer.
Gale Sipple is also co-founder of TBA and Kentucky Coordinator of the Green Ribbon Campaign, an activist organization that helps open adoptees' birth records, and says, "This ‘sealing’ of birth records began in the post World War II era. However, the laws are slowly changing, state by state, that allow adoptees to request and receive their own birth records. While this doesn’t guarantee adoptees that they can find their birth parents, it also doesn’t guarantee birth parents who want to remain anonymous that they will be unable to do so. It is important to note that TBA’s dna program is strictly a voluntary participation program."
Sipple further states, "As the adopted daughter of a woman who died of breast cancer, as well as the adopted niece of a wonderful aunt lost to the same disease, and having cared for my mother for over 7 years until her death, I think I have a very good knowledge about the subject of this hereditary disease. "
Continuing, Sipple says, "My mother was both a survivor and a victim. After her initial diagnosis, she underwent a radical mastectomy. Then came the chemo. My mother volunteered for the initial study for Tamoxifen. She was on this drug continually for 6 1/2 years, cancer free. Her doctor told her that the treatment protocol for the drug called for it to be discontinued after 6 years, as it seemed to be less effective. She was taken off the Tamoxifen. That was in February. "
"In May, my adoptive mother asked me to accompany her to the Doctor, because she was having an extreme amount of pain in her hip. It was a tumor, the breast cancer had returned, this time in/on her bones. My mother decided a year later to discontinue treatment after the cancer won against the chemo. She died 4 months later."
"The AMA did change the protocol of the drug, thanks to this study, and now, it is prescribed as a preventative to many women who have a genetic risk - female members of their immediate family who suffer from the disease. If this would have been my BIRTH mother, I would have been at high risk, and eligible for preventative treatment, but, I would never have known that I was high risk, due to closed adoption records and lack of information about family medical history," Sipple concludes.
"There are many Black Market adoptions that have occurred over the years. Couples who can’t have children because of infertility or because of their own health problems, will also turn to the black market. This occurs, not only in the US, but world wide as well. Selling of illegal babies is a multi billion dollar industry, making it very hard to locate birth parents when the adoptee becomes an adult," states Ms. Hammer.
Susan Stockham is a member of the Board of Directors of TBA, and is an adoption attorney in Sarasota and states, "TBA is the only way to open the door to medical records and reunions for those who placed or were placed under an alias name or through a maternity home or unlicensed entity as was common from 1920-1970; in relative placements; and in black-market adoptions. TBA will also assist those whose adoptions were involuntary such as where they were separated by governmental or military actions as with the Indians in the mid-west and Canada, the aborigine in Australia; the Korean and Vietnam baby air lifts and civil war in Argentina; or by national disasters such as famine in Africa."
The adoptees and/or birth parents will receive a dna kit from TBA with instructions to ‘swab’ the inside of their cheek with a Q-tip type instrument to be mailed back to TBA. The extracted dna will then be placed into TBA’s database at DDC, which would later be ‘matched’ with the other party when the matching sample is provided. The attempted matching will be done on a daily basis and TBA will contact both parties to inform them of the match when it occurs.
The Board of TBA is made up of women who know that most birth mothers will eventually want to find the child she gave up for adoption when that person becomes an adult - and vice versa.
Co-Founders, Hammer and Sipple, have both been involved in helping reunite tens of thousands of adoptees with birth parents over the years. Hammer's website, The Seeker, helps find missing friends and relatives and says "the majority of the people who come to my website, www.the-seeker.com, are looking for the (now adult) child they relinquished or adoptees looking for their birth parents. The want to give answers to, or ask questions about heredity or medical issues."
Sipple adds, "Our program is also designed to provide a tool to verify a suspected biological relationship between birthparent and adoptee. Many times, even when an adoptee or birthparent believe they have located each other, there is just no way to verify it, due to closed records. I have been told of cases where a judge has refused to release identifying records, when both birthparent and adoptee appeared together to request the information!"
Ms. Sipple, a reunited adoptee herself, has experienced DNA testing for this very reason. "When I located my youngest birth sister in 1999, we had no way to know for sure that we were actually siblings. She had no idea that I existed, and our mother was deceased. We utilized DNA testing to confirm our suspicions. We were surprised at the cost, it was very expensive. I am very excited to be a part of a project that will provide this service at absolutely no cost to any birthparent or adoptee who wants or needs to use it!"
"We have very high hopes that we can reunite people from the US and all over the world including Vietnam, Korea, Guatamalla, even the Marshall Islands" says Hammer.
"I hear many birth parents in the US say, ‘I didn’t give you up, they took you from me’ or ‘I was told my daughter was stillborn, when in fact the doctor sold her’, or ‘My father told me not to come home with that ‘bastard’ child, and I was forced to relinquish him,’ and many more stories just like that from women searching for the child they gave up", Hammer said.
According to Sipple, "Many adoptees cannot afford to have DNA testing done, nor should they have to, it wasn’t their decision to have their birth certificates altered or to be denied access to information that could aid in reuniting with their birth families."
Touched By Adoption, Inc. is currently looking for grant funds to aid in this project from local and national foundations including medical companies, genealogy related companies, well as the commercial sector, in order to keep it free for those who were touched by adoption. "Adoptees should not have to pay $450 (the price of a confidential intermediary in many states) up to $4,500 (for private investigators) to obtain their own birth certificates! I can get mine for $10.00!", says Hammer - who is not an adoptee.
Those wishing to participate in this banking project can write to firstname.lastname@example.org or call 859-393-3989 for details.
Touched By Adoption, Inc. is a non-profit Kentucky corporation.
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