Life Advice



Ask Amy: Readers respond, correcting assumptions

Amy Dickinson, Tribune Content Agency on

We need to remember that sharing DNA doesn't automatically make us family. In my experience, family are the people that are there for you, whether you share DNA or not.

– Adopted in Ohio

Dear Adopted: DNA discovery stories and “biological family reunification” stories are becoming a regular presence in this column.

Any time secrets are revealed, extreme adjustments are required, and although some of these stories do indeed have surprising and happy endings, I thank you for pointing out that no particular ending is guaranteed for any of us.

A moving essay by writer Steve Inskeep outlined his own complicated story. As an adoptee (and now an adoptive parent) from the state of Indiana, he wrestled with the frustration of that state’s closed adoption records, which meant that he had no access to information about his own beginnings.

As he notes in his essay, (published in the New York Times), “Should adoptees and biological families contact each other, after the law forbade it for so long? Not without mutual consent: It’s an intensely personal decision. But information alone is powerful. When Indiana finally made its records more accessible in 2018, so many people requested documents that state employees were overwhelmed. A 20-week backlog of requests built up and has persisted — a testament to how many human lives were affected.”


More than a dozen states are currently considering legislation to open adoption records (to varying degrees).

As more states open their adoption files, more families will wrestle with the challenges of discovered relationships, and more people will be inspired to define “family” in new ways.

Thank you for sharing your own story.

Dear Amy: I recognize that the use of substitute names in the letters you publish is a necessity.


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