'Black Market Babies' Trying to Find Roots With DNA

New tests try to identify biological parents of off-the-books adoptees
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Jun 22, 2014 9:23 AM CDT
This Monday, June 16, 2014 photo shows Diane Conrad, left to right, Cyndy Stapleton, Bill Palmisano, and Melinda Elkins Dawson posing for a portrait in North Canton, Ohio   (Tony Dejak)
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(Newser) – About 30 people showed up at a Tennessee motel yesterday to give cheek-swab samples, in a last-ditch attempt to locate long-lost biological relatives. In the late 1950s and '60s, a Georgia clinic run by the late Dr. Thomas Hicks facilitated more than 200 off-the-books adoptions, the AP explains. With no records of their birth parents, adoptees are hoping to find them through DNA testing. "I'm very happy with the turnout," says organizer Melinda Elkins Dawson, who is herself one of the adoptees. "This solidified for me that people are ready to embrace the subject and help us in our journey." She estimates that 70% of those who participated could be potential relatives.

Hicks' practice came to light in the late 1990s, and there is an unsettled debate about whether he sold babies on the black-market, charitably helped those in need while merely recouping his expenses, or perhaps did both. Some adoptees got tested when the story first broke, but they're hoping improvements in DNA testing might lead to better results this time. And with the adoptees themselves in their 50s and 60s, many worry they could be running out of time. "This may be our last opportunity to get answers about our heritage and medical information and connect to our birth families," Dawson said. (Read more Georgia stories.)

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