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.

BC Games

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Motor trike crashes into hole in Ellison area

A man was taken to hospital after crashing his trike on Anderson Road

Playgrounds to reopen across the Okanagan on June 1

After nearly two months closure, playgrounds are set to reopen

OK Corral Cabaret owner permanently closes Langley bar

Nightclub showcased local talent, connected friends, and even hosted a wedding during its 34 years

Kelowna’s Rock the Lake officially postponed until 2021

The new dates have been scheduled for August 6-8, 2021

Mission prison COVID-19 outbreak ends, 9 new cases in B.C.

New positive test at Port Coquitlam care home

Drunk man on a dirt bike and prohibited drivers without insurance keep Shuswap RCMP busy

Other calls resulted in excessive speed tickets and the arrests of two prohibited drivers

Summerland amends procedure for virtual council meetings, adding transparency

During COVID-19 pandemic, meetings have been held using online technology

Serious vehicle incident closes Highway 97 near Falkland

DriveBC says an assessment is underway; delays expected

South Okanagan woman to ‘load up the cart’ with toys for local hospital

Pascale-Ann Demers launched a GoFundMe to upgrade the toy supply at Penticton Regional Hospital

$113K boost for North Okanagan charities on COVID-19 frontline

Partnership between United Way and Community Foundation supports organizations from Vernon to Revelstoke

B.C. businesses ‘can’t shoulder burden’ of COVID-19 sick pay

Trudeau’s plan should be tied to federal emergency aid

B.C. teacher reprimanded for sharing homophobic and sexist memes, making racist comments

Klaus Hardy Breslauer was accused of making a laundry list of concerning decisions as a science teacher

Spirit bear possibly spotted in West Kootenay

A local resident spotted the white-coloured bear while on an evening trail run near Castlegar on May 27

Most Read