Our guest, Dayna Foster, had quite the DNA surprise. Dayna and her sister were both adopted, and they knew that. It was a closed adoption, but was opened when Ohio changed a law around adoptees’ information. Dayna did a DNA test with 23 & Me, and discovered she had four half-siblings, and she quickly connected with a half-brother, Michael. The test results said she was 1% African, and she found a second cousin who is African-American. In Florida, where Dayna lives, the Department of Education has rejected an Advanced Placement course covering African American studies. “African-American history is the history of everyone who lives in this country,” Dayna told us. Dayna continues to search for information about her birth mother and extended family.
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Hello and welcome to season three of Family Twist, a podcast about DNA surprises, found family, and amazing adoption stories. I'm Kendall Austin Stulce and my partner is Corey Stulce. We've had fabulous guests during seasons one and two. We're sharing stories of people who identify as NPEs, also called not parent expected, others who found out they were donor conceived and have surprise siblings, and even others with unique family twists. his adoption story and his discovering both sides of his biological family in 2017. So if you're just finding the podcast, we encourage you to start with episode one to learn more about Kendall's journey. Thank you for listening. All right, welcome back to Family Twist. Today we're excited to have our guest, Dana Foster with us. She has a DNA surprise she's going to tell us about. Welcome, Dana. Thank you. Let's just get into it. You had quite a surprise come your way. I had several surprises come my way. I grew up knowing that I was adopted. There was never a time when, my sister and I are both adopted. There was never a time when they sat us down and said, we have something to tell you, you're adopted. We just always grew up knowing that. And really early on, I think when I was old enough to understand this, they told us both, you know, if you ever wanna find your, birth family, your birth parents, it's okay with us. We encourage you to do that. Now, I was born in Ohio, and at the time, adoption records, original birth certificates were closed. So I would not have had the opportunity to do that. But then, a number of years ago, probably 30 years ago, Ohio opened up those records, and my dad sent me a little note, and he said, by the way, if you want more information about your birth parents, here's one place to look. So I didn't act on that for the longest time, partly I think because it's not something that can be undone once it's done. I did not want to insert my life, and it's myself into the life of another person who might not want me there. And I guess there was a little teeny piece of me that says, well, what if I don't like them? So, but I, a couple of years ago, 2021, I decided I'm ready to find out more about my birth family. So I sent off a DNA sample. I did Ancestry and also 23andMe. And of course, it takes a long time to have that come back. But when it did come back, I discovered that I had five half-siblings, two of which have passed on, but four of us were still living. And my half-brother reached out to me first and made contact. And I was absolutely thrilled, absolutely thrilled with that. So, and we've been in the process of establishing a relationship. We've been up to visit them in Wisconsin. We're going back again this summer. But they're talking about the surprise. So in exploring my DNA ancestors, when my profiles ancestry shows you profile, ethnic profile, and there were no surprises there really. There was a lot of European in that. That was not really a surprise because obviously I'm white. So I knew there was lots of European in there. And My parents had told me growing up that, oh, you are one quarter Cherokee, you're, I can't remember if they said my mother or my father, but my biological parents, one of them was half Cherokee, which intrigued me. And so I was hoping that I might see that in my DNA profile, but I didn't. But the surprise came when I looked down the profile at the bottom. 1% North African or 1% African. So this really intrigued me. So I started looking at my matches, my DNA matches, and I found a second cousin who was African American. And I thought this, so this was initially was a surprise for me because I, of course, I had no way of knowing what my DNA. what my DNA relatives were prior to having submitted this sample. And there was certainly no suggestion of that when I was adopted to my parents. But I thought of, and I didn't reach out immediately and make contact. I thought, hmm, I, you know, I don't want to be. I don't want to insert myself someplace I'm not wanted. And I try to be sensitive about white privilege and these little things called microaggressions that sometimes are not perceived by the one that's doing the aggressive or saying the aggressive thing, but it is by the person who's receiving it. So I held off on making any contact. But then I did make contact with this cousin. and connected with his daughter. So, and I've only had limited contact with him up to this point. I've been trying to go forward with that, but it's just really slow. But what kind of led me to this place of contact with him, I thought, you know, Governor DeSantis here in Florida has essentially banned AP, advanced placement. African American history in public schools in Florida, which really, really disturbed me. So I responded, the USF, WUSF had called for stories of people and so I said, well, I wanna share this story about myself. And as I said in the story and I told Carrie, I said, you know, the thing is, is that African American history is not just African American history, it is American history, it is our history. It is my history. It is a history of everyone who lives in this country, regardless of where they were born or what their ethnic roots might be. And as more people explore their DNA ancestors, I think more people are going to find that they have some African-American ancestors and maybe even some pretty close relatives, cousins, second cousins, and so forth. So I think this makes it even more important we maintain this access to African American history and in public schools and of course other places too. Absolutely, yeah, it's quite disturbing the, you know, these, what's happening, you know, not just in Florida, but, you know, different parts of the country and it's, yeah, it's kind of scary. You said it's been a little bit slow, you know, getting to know your cousins. What was your approach? What was your initial? Well on ancestry, the answer is there's this ability to leave a message for someone and so I left a message for this cousin. And it was a long time before anybody responded and then when the, well who responded I think as I said was his daughter. And so then we've, I gave her an email address. and she emailed me and I responded to that. So, haven't heard from her and it's probably been a couple of months now since we exchanged emails. And again, I hesitate to, I don't wanna push. So, although I'm eager to know more, I also don't wanna push. So, I've kind of backed off. And I think I'm in a place that I'm gonna reach out to her again and just say, hey, been thinking about you. know what's and I would love to go visit them there in Maryland I would love to go visit them but again I just don't want to push myself someplace that I might not be wanted. Sure, totally understandable. Have you talked to your half-siblings about this discovery? I have, I talked to my half-brother Michael, shared with him pretty much along the way and he agrees with I understand that you don't want to push yourself on that. And he said, and he's pretty sensitive to people. I mean, he really is. And so he said, I think that's the best approach is just not to push too hard. But then every once in a while, maybe a little general reminder, hey, I've been thinking about you, just wondering what's going on with you, or something like that. So he's encouraged me. But he's also said, caution is probably a good thing. Sure, sure. Are these relatives on his side of the family as well? Your brother's side? No, and that's that is interesting. And the way I figured this out was on one of the things I like about 23andMe is the ability to compare DNA profiles. So I compared this cousin's my cousin's my profile to my cousin's profile. And I see that there are matches in the DNA. But when I compare my cousin's profile to my half brother's profile, there are no matches. Michael and I know that we had the same mother, but we had different fathers. So obviously it's on the father's side that where the relationship or the connection comes would be on my biological father's side. And I know nothing about my biological father. So I've not really been able to trace back the steps to him. No. One of the things I did pretty early, maybe even before I sent in a DNA sample, was I wrote off to the state of Florida and got my adoption records, which included a copy of my original birth certificate. I was born in 1954. So on the original birth certificate, it's Baby, and then my birth mother's last name at the time. or infant in my birth mother's last name, where she was, Columbus, Ohio. And I don't know if this is still true of birth certificates or not, but at the time, birth certificates had, well, there was a block for father's name, and then there was nothing in father's name, nothing, no information in father's name. But then there's also a block on the birth certificate which says, legitimate. and yes or no and no is checked. So I know nothing about my birth father, not even anything that the adoption agency told my parents really about him. So he's still unidentified and one of the hopes is that I will be able to connect with one of my relatives from my birth father's side. and then try and say, okay, can we walk that back and find out where the two lines connect? It's problematic, I mean, partly because the ones, the matches that I've found are second and third cousins. So that's pretty far apart in terms of possible relationship. And the other thing is that you know, my birth father might not even know I exist because it could have been a one-night stand, it could have been something very brief, and my birth mother never informed him about me. So even if I'm able to identify a common ancestor, I mean, that my cousin and I, if we're able to track back through my cousin's ancestors, I won't necessarily find anybody that I would be able to trace back to. Right. Wow. Now, did Michael have a relationship with your birth mother? He did not. He was born in 1952, and he was given up for adoption pretty quickly after that. I think it took a couple of years for the adoption to be finalized. But once our birth mother gave birth to him, she relinquished all... connection to him. She just she gave him up for adoption. And then I was born in 54. So so neither he didn't have any relationship with her, neither did I. The next one to come along also, and it's the first two was a boy and a girl and then Michael in 52, me in 54. And then two more sibs in. 56 maybe and 59. So the only one that I know of that has had a relationship with my birth mother was the youngest. And even though I've reached out to this person on Ancestry, there's never been a response. Wow. Which is, I would like to be able to make that connection because I want to know more about my birth mother. Not so much. why, the circumstances of my conception, that's not, and why did she give me up? But to know something about her. The only thing I know about her is what I've seen in her obituary and maybe in a couple of other sources, like census records. So I'd like to get a better sense for who she was as a person. And the only one who could share that with me has not been open to any kind of contact yet. So it's interesting, I mean, people do these DNA tests for a variety of reasons. And it could just be that maybe she hasn't been logged on in a while and hasn't even seen the connection yet. I think also there's this, even though obviously anyone who's admits a DNA sample is probably going to get some surprises, especially one who knows they're adopted. Right. is potential for surprises. So at some point she must have been curious enough to submit a DNA sample but then there's this potential for oh my god what did I do. Yeah yeah right yeah exactly you can't put the toothpaste back in the tube. Right yes exactly. Has Michael does he know about his biological father? He does, he's been able to figure out some information. In fact, he thinks he knows his birth father's name, because he was able to identify some close relatives who were also related to his birth father. So he's got a good bit of information that's sort of, I would say, I mean, some of it's fact-based, but in terms of, something that documents that this man was in fact his birth father. No. Michael was born in Virginia and at this presently Virginia does not give access to these records unless all living relatives agree to it. And I'll certainly I would give my permission and I think the other at least one of the other sibs probably would too. This fourth sib, the one that's not responded to my attempt to connect, there's no way to contact her. The sister that you grew up with, has she been able to determine her lineage or has she done any kind of research? She has. In fact, she did that even before I did. I think when she was maybe 18, she started trying to find out more about her birth family. And so it's been a process for her. I think at one point she told me she even hired a private investigator of some kind to try to identify who. And I think this was before she did this. She's two and a half years younger than me, so she's 66. Before pre-ancestry, pre-23andMe, pre-all these DNA testing things. And she was, I don't remember exactly what she found out from the. private investigator, but through this DNA testing, she's been able to identify her birth parents. And she does have one full sibling that's still alive and has made contact with this sibling and attempted to make contact with her birth mother who said, no, I really don't wanna have any contact with you, but she does have contact now with her brother. and sort of the extended family through him. That's good. Very cool. Was she excited about your discovery? She was, she was. And I know when she shared what she had done with me, this is prior to my sort of taking off my explanation, I thought, well, that's wonderful. I was really happy and happy for her. And then she shared about her experience kind of encouraged me to go forward and try to reach out. And we shared, I saw recently she and her two youngest came down for a visit to Florida. And we got to talk about a little bit and share a little bit more about our, what the process was and how we felt about it. So yeah, she was, she was excited for me to find out what I found out. Now we do talk about Nature vs. Nurture on the show quite a bit. When you met Michael, what kind of similarities did you notice? And do you kind of look like him? What was that like? So yeah, that's a good story. So let me share that. Let me back up just a little bit. And I'm going to go back to a time when I was in school. And I must have been either junior high or high school, I guess. And I was listening to a conversation between two of my classmates about television, general sitcoms, or whatever. And one of them remarked, don't you think it's funny that in sitcoms, the kids never look like the parents? And I didn't say anything, but I thought to myself, so I don't look like my parents. And so throughout my life, of course I would notice this, that kids look like their parents, whatever. But then when, so I've never had the experience of seeing myself in somebody else's face or somebody else's face in my own. So the first time I saw Michael, it didn't click with me, thinking that he and I looked alike. But then my wife took a picture of us standing side by side. And when I looked at the picture, I had this aha. And it's very clear that we are related. If we had been total strangers and been standing next to each other and somebody looked at us, they would say, are you all related? because we do look a lot alike. So that was one that was one very sweet thing was to see somebody whose face looked like mine and I looked like them. He's been a real blessing. I remember asking my parents have you ever thought about having another child because it was just my sister and me. And they said, well, at one time we thought about that, but we just decided, my mother was already, she was 27 when I came along. So by the time, and this must have been, I don't know, 10 years after that, she felt like she was really a little old to be taking on another child. But as I was growing up, I was envious of my friends and cousins who had older brothers. I thought it would be so cool to have an older brother. So. When Michael and I found each other, it's like a wish had come true. Very cool. Yeah. Well, I'm glad my brother and sister are here to say how not cool it is. Corey is the oldest. I am the oldest. Yeah. We you know, I kind of took on a little bit of that. Tried to be the dad role, you know, after my parents got divorced. So but we're very, very close now. So you mentioned that you're hoping you're planning to go see Michael. Again this summer? Yes. Okay. What kind of adventures do you think you'll have together? Well, what we've done is my wife and I have reserved a space at a resort in the Dells, which is only about an hour from where Michael lives. He and his wife live outside of Milwaukee in St. Francis, Wisconsin. And so I had reached out to him the last time we talked. I said, hey, we wanna come up and see you guys again, but we wanna go up and spend some time at the Dells because it's only, my sister also lives in Wisconsin, so it's about three hours for her. I said, we're talking about going to the Dells for 10 days or maybe a couple of weeks, and why don't you and Lynn come up, and my brother, Michael, and his wife Lynn, why don't you all come up and visit us for a few days, come hang out, we'll get a two-bedroom place, said the same thing that my sister, so. That's planned for toward the end of the end of August. And Michael's birthday is the first of September. So I don't know that we'll be there for his birthday, but we plan to celebrate his birthday and in mind is the 16th of September. So we're going to probably have a little joint birthday celebration when we do that. Yeah, the Dells are beautiful. It's yeah, very, very nice place to visit. Yeah, I've been there once many, many years ago. but didn't spend much time in the Dells itself. And it was in that area of Wisconsin, but not spent much time in the Dells. So the pictures look gorgeous. Yeah, it's beautiful. Very, very nice. Very cool. So we don't typically get it, this is about a show about politics, obviously, but you mentioned DeSantis and you are living in Florida. And I'm just kind of curious, what is it like today to be gay in Florida? We are blessed to live in a wonderful community. We live. We live, it's not in St. Pete, although St. Pete is very close to us and St. Petersburg is a huge. It's not the game Mecca of Florida. It's probably Fort Wal- or excuse me, Walton, Florida or Wilton, Florida and Fort Lauderdale, but it is very, very progressive, very gay friendly, and we live in a little community just a little bit South and. west of St. Pete called Gulfport. So Gulfport is kind of an artist community. It's got a long history. It was established in I think 19 in the early 1900s. So it's gone, it's transitioned over the years. But now it has come to be the kind of a place where not just two women can walk down the street holding hands and no one looks askance. But I have seen two men walking around Gulfport holding hands and not even get an odd look. It's so cool to be here, to be a part of this community. So I feel in that sense, we are isolated from the rest of Florida because St. Pete is a beautiful place to have and hang out. But on the other hand, so much of what the Santus and the legislature are doing, impacts still impacts us, even though we are isolated here. And that part is scary. Access to reproductive healthcare, banning books from public schools, banning AP history, African-American history classes, all these things that have been put into place since last year, with the election last year, I saw just a couple of days ago, and you may have as well if you're connected with them. We have an organization here called Equality Florida and they have put out a travel warning saying, don't travel to Florida. If you do, you run into, you run the risk of running into these, these issues. If you're thinking about relocating to Florida, you need to be aware of what's going on. And I don't know if that's going to make a difference or not to the Santos and the legislature. I don't see that it does. Not short term anyways. But my hope is that long term, they come to their senses and realize it's going to cost them money, tax money, income. tax income from businesses. If businesses, if organizations stops, stop using places like Orlando and Tampa, which are big convention cities, right? Big, Miami, lots of big cities in Florida that really depend on income from conventions and conferences. And if these, If these organizations say, well, I'm not going to come to Florida if you're going to be like this, that sooner or later they'll get the message. But that's going to be slow. It takes a while for that to come to fruition. For sure. Yeah. The impact. Yeah. Well, you know, let's hope it happens sooner than later. Well, I get some pushback from, maybe not from close friends, but pushback from people that I know. And you mentioned Facebook. Some pushback on some Facebook groups that I belong to, lesbians saying, I would not set foot in Florida. And why are you still there kind of thing? And my response is always, well, right now, there's more that keeps me here than pushes me away. And besides that, if I leave, it's like conceding. Yes, very much so. And so I'm gonna stay and vote. Mm-hmm. Yeah. Mm-hmm. It's important. Yeah, right and you're part of a couple too, right? It's like, you know, it's a joint decision, you know Right. My wife has an aunt who lives in Tampa. So we that's part of what keeps us here in Florida is sure is her aunt Sure Well, I think we're definitely gonna be curious to hear how it goes later this summer So if you don't mind us reaching out just to see how your your visit with Michael goes. Yeah. You know, great to catch up on. Certainly. I will say that my initial impression of him was positive from the start. And there was the little thing is when we were trying to figure out, he had reached out to me and he said, we actually met face to face in, I think it was June of 2021. He reached out to me and he said, hey, I'm going to be in Jacksonville for my. high school reunion because he grew up in Jacksonville, Florida. Would you want to get together? And I said, absolutely. Yes. And when I knew he was coming to Jacksonville, I wanted to say, no, Hey, we're not that far. Cause at the time we were living in the, in the center of the state. Uh, would you be open to meeting? But I said, I don't want to insert myself into your plans. He was going to visit his sister. He's had a high school reunion. So I was thrilled when he reached out to me. Um, and wanted to meet. And I said, he suggested meeting for lunch first. I said, OK, good. What do you think? Because he knows the area a little bit better. And he suggested Cracker Barrel. And I said, you know, Michael, I'm sorry. I just don't think I can do Cracker Barrel because. And his immediate response was, of course, I understand. I hadn't even thought about that. So he found another place that was acceptable for both of us. But and you talked about nature versus nurture. I don't know if it's in the DNA, but when it comes to our standpoint on social issues, we are absolutely simpatico. So, oh, yeah, it was it was wonderful. He's and his whole his I've met one of his sons and I've met his wife's daughters and all and their significant others and children. And everyone has been so welcoming of Lisa and me both. It's just been an awesome experience. I couldn't have, if I'd put in an order for an older brother, I couldn't have done any better by, she checks off all the boxes. So he's- Oh, that's wonderful. It's been wonderful. That's great to hear. Yeah, we love hearing stuff like that. Yeah. You know, it's just, yeah, it's very heartening. It is. And you know, it's- It makes me, you know, I think at some point I thought, you know, I would find a clone of myself and one of my half siblings. And of course I didn't, but I am happy that at least with a couple of my half siblings, you know, I feel pretty aligned with those kinds of things. Couple of others, not so much, you know, and that's okay. It takes all kinds, right? But yeah. Yeah, I'm with you with the Cracker Barrel thing though. You have to draw the line somewhere. Right, exactly. Well, it's funny that recently came up with a gay colleague of mine at work. He was talking about, he was going to visit his parents and they always take him. They always make him go to Cracker Barrel. And I was like, you go? You know, like I ridiculed him a bit. I was like, that is not right. You should not, you know, he's like, well, I go because that's where my mom wants to go. And I. To your point, Dana, I was like, there are lots of other places you can eat. You know, it's like, come on. But Cory and I have, uh, we, we really pay attention to like the human rights campaign has the corporate equality index. And we look at, you know, all those things and, you know, our business is good for, for gay people, you know, with benefits and things. And then of course, the businesses that take a strange stance against, you know, that's even even worse. Right. Anywho. Yeah, we try to be good about that. We do also try to be aware of that. Excellent. Well, Dana, thank you so much for sharing your story. And as I said, we're excited to find out what happens next. Yeah, I'll certainly let you all know. And thank you so much for the invitation to share on the I've been listening to the podcast. I've. I listen to the first couple of them, and then I sort of skip forward, and I listen to the last couple as well. And I've got them on my Stitcher feed now. So once a week or so it downloads, and I try to catch the podcast at least weekly. Good. Well, excellent. Thank you so much. We appreciate that. You're very welcome. Very welcome. Thank you so much for listening to Family Twist. We feature original music by Cosmic Afterthoughts. And Family Twist is presented by Saboifaire Marketing Communications. Check out our website at familytwistpodcast.com for blog posts and all of our episodes.