Yet Another Story of Misattributed Parentage

Mark Overbay

Story thanks to the Right to Know people.

Every MPE (misattributed paternal event or misattributed parentage) story has a starting point. The discovery comes entirely by surprise for many, whereas it confirms others’ long-held, conscious or subconscious, suspicions. If there truly is one, the typical story involves submitting a direct-to-consumer/recreational DNA test yourself or being contacted out of the blue by someone who has. Mine has a little of each with an added twist.

One afternoon, a friend of mine called me with what he described as “interesting news.” He told me that he and his older sister had taken DNA tests and found something unexpected. He informed me that both had discovered the man they thought their father wasn’t. Their research afterward led them to believe that my father was their BF (birth father). Additionally, they had reached out and somehow convinced my father to submit a DNA test. The results confirmed their research findings. “We,” he informed me, “are half-brothers.” He sent me a screenshot of the DNA evidence to prove it. Because I was already aware of two other half-siblings from my father, this news honestly wasn’t that surprising. I remember laughing with him about the strangeness of our new situation.

What my friend didn’t know, however, is that many years ago, I had also taken a DNA test from the same direct-to-consumer company, primarily because I was ethnicity curious (as both of my own parents were adopted – this was originally my own motivation). When I told him about this, he informed me that I wasn’t on his match list and followed with the question, “You are the adopted one, right?” “Adopted? I was not adopted.” I quickly replied. Confused, he told me that my father had told his sister I was adopted. He must have misunderstood. I was 58 years old and was confident that I wasn’t adopted. My birth certificate listed my father and mother. I had seen it many times. I called his sister to see where this part of the story originated. She repeated her brother’s claim that my father had told her I was adopted. Further, she explained, he had married my mother, knowing she was pregnant with another man’s child.

When I learned the adoption news, I was more than two hours from home and my laptop. I wasn’t laughing anymore. My head was now cloudy and confused. The drive home was a blur. “Could this be possible?” I asked myself, “Was I adopted?” Once I arrived, I quickly checked my DNA matches. Neither my father nor these two new “half-siblings” were there. As I surveyed my 80,000 + matches, none matched my surname. I found that it was 100% confident regarding the connections tied to my mother. However, most of my “close” matches were surnames utterly foreign to me.

It was true then; I had been “adopted” by my BCF (birth certificate father). But, unfortunately, my mother had taken her secret to the grave. My BCF had told a stranger rather than me. I found out I was an NPE from a friend who was a completely unrelated NPE (nonpaternal event, also sometimes nonparental event). My friend was right about the adoption but wrong about the two of us. We were not related. In a nutshell, that’s how my story began.

Life does not prepare you for such moments. As abrupt and shocking as it was, this revelation explained so much. My physical appearance, personality, and temperament differed significantly from my father’s. I was athletic; he was not. We had little to nothing in common and even less to talk about. We have not spoken in many years. Those who knew both my father and me well commonly joked that I must be “the milkman’s child.” My wife has known my father for more than 30 years and never once thought we were related. I laughed these comments off, but I really couldn’t disagree. The differences were problematic to me. I knew enough about genetics to know that much of what defines our identity, the sense of who we are, is inherited. I feared that I would start to see undesirable attributes of my father revealing themselves in me one day.

The realization that I was adopted lifted an incalculable weight from my shoulders. The fear that I would someday become my father was a burden more significant than I had previously appreciated. Yet, strangely perhaps, as the reality set in, this genetic enlightenment was validating and liberating for me. The truth had freed me.

You can read the rest of his happy ending family reunion story here – Mark Overbay.

Aging Out

This is inevitable and it happens to every child who is in foster care until they are 18.  Today’s story of a girl aging out goes this way –

My son’s girlfriend is living with us. She is just aging out of foster care and I would like some help finding supports to put in place. Her mother is deceased and her father is incarcerated (I hate to give too much info but I don’t know if that changes her eligibility). She needs health insurance and is trying to go to college. They are planning to move cross country in a few weeks so I am trying to help her as quickly as possible. Any info on where I can turn for help for her is appreciated. She is a sweet kid.

Sharing some answers that may help someone else with similar circumstances.

For the health insurance, simply aging out of foster care could make her eligible for Medicaid.  This does vary by state.

One recommendation was actually to enlist in the Army – this can be full time, reserves, or National Guard. They offer many college incentives plus a good bonus, stable income, and health care. Many (including the person suggesting this) that joined the military found it was a great opportunity for them.

It was mentioned that she may qualify for SSI due to the death of her mom. Depending on why she went into foster care she may qualify for VOCA (is that The Victims of Crime Act ? – the state may have filed an application or she may not even know that it’s available to her).

This does NOT seem generally known but someone said – If she is under 21 most states offer foster care until 21.   It’s not nearly as invasive as it is for kids under 18. She can get a monthly stipend to put towards housing, Medicaid, and other help as long as she meets the requirements – typically in school or working at least part time.

There is a Preparation for Adult Living program that is part of Child Protective Services agencies that exists to help teens aging out of foster care.  So contacting the coordinator of that program to inquire about benefits could be helpful.

There is The Free Application for Federal Student Aid which may give special consideration to youth aging out of foster care.  There may be other scholarships available – this organization may be able to help Foster Care to Success.  A student like her should qualify for a full Pell grant.  Depending on the state, she might be eligible for reduced or free state college because she was in foster care.

Finally, one more link.  iFoster has programs to assist Transition Age Foster Youth.