B.C. girl hopes DNA drive will help her find birth parents in China

Isabelle Smit, 10, is one of 20 international adoptees from Chongqing looking for DNA samples

For 10-year-old Isabelle Smit, finding new blood relatives through a long-shot DNA drive has been like a game of Connect the Dots.

Smit, who was adopted as an infant from Chongqing, China, and now lives in Esquimalt, B.C., describes a distant cousin she found in Holland.

“Her name is Yaya and she’s the closest relative I’ve found. She’s really tall, she’s older than me. I think she likes Minecraft,” Smit said.

“I don’t know a lot about her, but she looks really, really cool.”

Smit is one of 20 international adoptees from Chongqing who posted a video together to China’s equivalent of Youtube, asking potential biological relatives to submit DNA samples.

The video gained thousands of hits after it was posted in December.

In the video, the adoptees introduce themselves, name the orphanage where they were adopted and where they live now. There are 19 girls and one boy ranging in age one to 16, who live in Canada, the U.S., the Netherlands and Belgium.

The video was picked up by Chinese media and the group’s contact in China received a flurry of responses, Smit’s mother Kristen Lundgren said.

From the initial 15 samples received from Chongqing, two American adoptees who weren’t in the video found close matches. The results are entered into a larger DNA bank, so they aren’t only tested against samples from the kids in the video.

In addition to Yaya, who was also featured in the video, Smit has matched with three other distant relatives, including one from Chongqing. But she’s still holding out hope for her birth mother.

“We’re hoping that maybe because these matches happened, it will get people talking,” Lundgren said.

“Maybe more people will come forward who want to be tested.”

An additional five samples that came in response to the video are still being processed. The group is working on more videos to keep it in China’s public eye.

Lundgren said she was given very little information about Smit’s birth family when she adopted her at 10 months old in 2007. But her guide told her most of the children were placed for adoption by families who couldn’t afford the high fees of keeping a second child under China’s one-child policy.

The one-child policy was phased out in 2015.

That year, almost 3,000 children out of 22,348 placed for adoption went to foreign families.

Lundgren’s adoption agency emphasized the importance of birth family and culture for an adoptee, so Lundgren always wanted to help Smit connect with those parts of her identity, if her daughter expressed interest.

“I really strongly believe that the better you understand your own story, the better off you are. I have my own curiosity and I know I would want the best information possible,” Lundgren said.

She said her daughter has written letters to her birth mother in China for as long as she’s known how to write, but she’s never had a place to send them.

“If she was really hesitant, I wouldn’t do it. But she’s always wanted that.”

Lundgren said it’s been a bit of a rollercoaster for her family, especially with no promise that the search will end with Smit’s birth mom. But each time another family finds a match, it gives them hope.

“It’s kind of incredible that 15 samples came back from China and [two] were matched with their birth families,” Lundgren said.

“For a child, it’s about understanding that it’s a long-term process and our DNA is logged. And at some point, any point in the future, we could find someone who is a match.”

Amy Smart, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

Alberni university zeroes in on disability and poverty

BY MIKE YOUDS SPECIAL TO THE NEWS The road to poverty can… Continue reading

Celebrate cycling in Port Alberni during Bike to Work and School Week

Numerous ‘celebration stations’ are planned for May 28 to June 2

Ahousaht welcomes massive Surfrider Canada conference to Meares Island near Tofino

“It was the first time we’ve all come together.”

Alberni RCMP kept busy with 170 calls over May long weekend

Detachment answers calls from fatal vehicle crash to man with a gun, trailer thefts

Alberni pub owner kicks off new event for car lovers

Car enthusiast Helen Poon debuts Cars and Coffee on May 27

Vancouver Island girl scores with winning song for BC Summer Games

‘Colours’ is a perfect theme for 2018 BC Summer Games

B.C. pipeline goes ahead despite scrapped Pacific Northwest LNG

NEB approves amendment for $1.4-billion natural gas North Montney Mainline Project

Update: Wildfire northwest of Kamloops jumps from 60 to 800 hectares

Ground crews and aircraft are responding to an estimated 50 hectare wildfire approximately 55 kilometers northwest of Kamloops, near the Deadman Vidette Road.

Feds limit chinook fishery to help killer whale recovery

Chinook is main food source for only 76 southern residents killer whales left

B.C. mom who died just before daughter’s wedding wanted family to be happy: twin

Ann Wittenberg was pulled into the ocean while on a surf board in Tofino last weekend

Courtenay-Alberni MP calls for lifeguards at popular surf spot near Tofino

The Pacific Rim National Park Reserve is defending its decision to cancel the surf guard program.

Harvey Weinstein to surrender in sex misconduct probe: officials

Would be first criminal charge against Weinstein since scores of women came forward

Fuel truck crash closes B.C. highway, sends two to hospital

The Trans-Canada Highway on Vancouver Island is expected to be closed until Thursday evening

Media are not an arm of the police, Vice lawyer tells Supreme Court hearing

Ben Makuch challenges Ontario Court of Appeal ruling that he must give materials for stories to RCMP

Most Read