Birth Family Search: Part Five

Click the following links for Parts One, Two, Three and Four.

“Sometimes the light’s all shining on me.  Other times I can barely see.  Lately it occurs to me, what a long, strange trip it’s been.” – The Grateful Dead

There is no use in hesitation here.  I should just come right out and say it- the DNA test did not match.

The person who I thought was my mother, is not.

Strangely enough, the social worker at ESWS thought it was appropriate to have us exchange letters, pictures, and share details with each other about our lives.  Perhaps these things should have come after the DNA test results were back?  A suggestion for refining the process in the future would be to do the DNA test first, every time.

I was expecting to meet my mother the last week of February.  I last corresponded with the social worker at ESWS on February 11, 2015 in which she told me that she sent both my hair sample and my mother’s hair sample to the lab for testing.  She advised that I could expect to meet my mother the last week of February, as we’d have to wait until after Seollal, the Lunar New Year, to receive the test results and setup the meeting.

In hindsight, I knew that this could be a potential outcome- that the DNA test would be negative.  I guess I wasn’t really letting myself fully realize this though, there was just too much evidence to suggest that this person was my mother:

  • the woman listed in my adoption file as my mother was located by KAS
  • the woman listed in my adoption file as my mother responded to a letter from ESWS
  • the woman listed in my adoption file as my mother acknowledged putting her daughter up for adoption through ESWS
  • the woman listed in my adoption file as my mother stated that she thought I looked just like her and had no question I was her daughter
  • ESWS consistently used language that indicated that this woman is my mother
  • ESWS had me write a letter and submit my picture to give to the woman who is listed in my adoption file as my mother
  • ESWS sent me two pictures of the woman who is listed in my adoption file as my mother

All of these things made me think that there was very little chance that the DNA test would come back negative.  I guess I shouldn’t have been so confident.

Seollal came and went.  My 30th birthday came and went.  I had a great time celebrating both events, but each day, I couldn’t help but think about the possibility that my reunion with my Korean mother was right around the corner.

The month of February passed and I still hadn’t heard anything from the social worker at ESWS.  I thought to myself- okay, maybe there was just an extra delay because of the holiday.  As March pressed on, my intuition was telling me something was wrong.

On March 3, 2015, I sent an email to the social worker requesting a status update on the DNA test.  I had also been waiting for the translation of my mother’s letter to me to be finished, so I inquired about that as well.

Three days later, on Friday, March 6, 2015 at 6:45PM, I received the following email from the social worker with ESWS:

Dear Stacy Wilson, I hope you have been doing well.  First of all, I feel sorry for taking a while to contact you.  I’ve been thinking of you and tried to send the e-mail but didn’t know where to start… I received the result of DAN test between you and assumed birth mother, but it says that DNA does not match.   I’ve been trying to figure out when and where was wrong, but it is hard to find out because it has been a long time and there is no one work at Eastern now who was related with your case at the time of intake.  Actually the translation has done but I was hesitant to send this to you.  I feel so bad for making you disappointed.   Please let me know if you have any questions.  Also please know that your birth mother has been praying for your good life and happiness wherever she is.  Thanks for your time and take care.

I’ve been going through a strange grieving process ever since I received this email.  I guess I can apply the Kubler-Ross model here, as I’ve certainly been moving between each of the five stages of grief (denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance).

As I write this, I don’t want to believe that this is true.  I don’t want to accept that I’m even further back than when I started, and that it seems nearly impossible that I’ll ever find my Korean family.  If the person listed in my adoption file as my mother is not my mother, then who is?  This makes me question every detail about myself contained in that file.  Where was I born?  When was I born? What is my true age?  Is the Korean name in my file really my name?  At this time, all of these things remain unknown.

4 thoughts on “Birth Family Search: Part Five

  1. kim

    Thanks for your response to my comment. I am really sorry to hear Part 5. How could that have happened? I didn’t think that could be possible. Perhaps its a lab mix up?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. stacywlsn Post author

      Hi Kim,

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts and asking questions. I too have similar questions. I’m honestly not sure how this happened, and ESWS is not able or willing to help me begin to figure it out. Unfortunately, I’ve read essays and spoken with other adoptees that have had similar experiences. There are adoptees that have been through multiple false reunions and received many negative DNA test results throughout their search process.

      As far as the lab mix up, it would be a relief for me if that were the case. At this point, I’m working hard to compel ESWS to facilitate contact between myself and the woman who is listed as my mother in my file so that we can submit our DNA to another lab. However, at this point, all communication between her and myself is going through ESWS, and I haven’t gotten the sense that they want to help us get a second DNA test.

      Sometimes, I can feel so isolated and powerless when I think about how unlikely it is that I will ever find my family. However, I keep in mind that I’m not alone, that only 3% of the 80,000 Korean adoptees who went looking for their lost families between the years of 1995 and 2005 were successfully reunited. I reflect on the systems of violence and oppression that resulted in over 200,000 of us being separated from our families and dispersed throughout the world, with little to no ability to trace our past. The more I dissect and analyze this situation that I and so many others are in, the more power and control I take back to move in a direction that puts human rights first.

      Thanks again for your comment.


  2. pashelly

    What an emotional journey this has been. You show resilience in framing the past 3 – 4 months as both your own experience and as sharing that of so many of those adopted from Korea so that there is learning as you go forward in the search. You also move toward acceptance of whatever result that might result in down the road – I appreciate being able to read about this journey. Thank you.


  3. Rachel Lattier

    hey stacy! I found your blog through alot of google searches. I am also a korean adoptee who just got an email from KAS that my birth family has been found. I was looking up any article that talked about a false positives. I had a friend recently warn me, so I thought I would start researching other people’s experiences. No words I say or write can understand the sadness you went through. The thing I feel is that KAS and ESWS should be help accountable for this mistake. Reading your story, I am feeling very cautious going into this and knowing not to get my hopes up. I commend you on all the work you have done with and for the Korean adoption community.



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