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At-home DNA kits tell 'Who's your daddy?'

Posted: October 25, 2008 8:48 p.m.
Updated: December 27, 2008 5:00 a.m.
After many years of unbridled supermarket spending, I have begun linking scissors with thrifty shoppers across the U.S. of A.

Yes, due to the budget pinch (er, make that deep bruising), I have started clipping store coupons again.

This economical practice generally takes place on Sunday mornings when, coffee mug in hand, I peruse the glut of coupons in my newspaper.

Then it happens. I see all the useful little discounts and my excitement begins.

Yeah! Fifty-five cents off Neosporin! (We ran out last week when I jammed that rose thorn up my nail-bed.)


A dollar off Entenmann's. (Yumm! Like Mom used to say, "You never know when company's gonna' drop in."

Clip. Clip.

Fifty-cents off Yoplait yogurt! (I can almost taste that rich, creamy French vanilla goodness!)

Clip. Clip. Clip

Suddenly last Sunday, I spotted something that took my breath away, but not in a parsimoniously satisfied manner.

I was shocked.

There on a coupon page was an ad for "IDENTIGENE At-Home DNA Paternity Testing."

Hailed as the leading brand in easy and affordable personal DNA testing, these "Who's Your Daddy?" test kits are now available in 15,000 retail stores across the country.

With IDENTIGENE, cheek swabs from the mother, child, and alleged (and willing) father are collected for DNA samples. Once obtained, they're sent off in a conveniently provided postage-paid envelope, en route to the testing lab. Then, voila! Within three to five days the results are available.

Described as "fast, accurate and confidential," IDENTIGENE'S suggested retail price is $29.99 for the DNA Paternity Test Collection Kit, and then $119 for processing fee costs, totaling $148.99 (You've got to wonder how many of those paying the price wouldn't rather have just invested five dollars in a quality condom.)

The product's package label illustrates a mother blissfully holding up a tot, while the newspaper coupon shows the photo of a man joyously doing the same.

Parent-child connections ... brought to us by laboratory technology. (Probably not what Normal Rockwell ever envisioned for his artistic family scenes.)

Whacked-out world
Provincial old me, I have to ask: Whatever happened to young couples keeping track of who they're sleeping with, girls knowing who they've been impregnated by, guys conscionably acknowledging they are the father, and then both parties handling the situation in a mature and supportive fashion?

There's a child involved here, for goodness' sakes, not some outstanding traffic warrant!

Unfortunately, in this spin-the-gonads society, more American females than ever are having babies they didn't want or plan for, and many of the biological fathers who have cavalierly spread their man-seed don't know squat about being a man (more pointedly, a real dad).

Considering these situations, I sometimes feel like Rumpelstiltskin. When exactly did I fall asleep and wake up to this cheapened, whacked-out world?

While admittedly some of the young single moms today do a fine job raising their children (more often than not with extreme support and sacrifice from their parents), some are absolutely horrible - unfit for puppy raising, much less caring for their own progeny.

Each year, millions of children come into the world as unwanted cargo with unclear paternal origins. Our foster care system, welfare offices, and Jerry Springer shows are crammed with them.

But maybe there's a ray of hope here after all...

An IDENTIGENE company press release notes that the DNA paternity test kits "bring relief from lingering emotional questions" (and hopefully shirked responsibilities.) It even lists personal cases of how the product is "answering long-standing parentage questions with greater than 99 percent accuracy."

In that release, a man who had not seen his twins in 14 years (since toddlerhood) said that the DNA test kit was a key to salvation.

Whatever the reasons for his missing out on 14 birthdays, 14 Christmases and 14 Thanksgivings, he wanted back in their lives now, and this test gave him the vehicle for doing so.

According to his statement, he told the twins' mom, "I just believe the children need to know the truth."

Who knows what prevented them from knowing that truth for 14 years? Save for that couple, maybe no one really knows. But there may well be a happy ending for this long-disjointed family, thanks to an IDENTIGENE cheek swab.

"Now I look forward to sharing my life with these two children of mine," the "confirmed" dad stated, adding, "We can't go back in time, but we can go forward. I have plans for them to meet my wife, mother, father, and my son in New Jersey."

I'd bet a hefty sum that not all children desire such DNA revelations. Understandably, not every son or daughter is going to want an "instant dad," especially someone who was AWOL during their growing years.

But a silver lining may prevail for many offspring. If IDENTIGENE can potentially bring positive closure, perhaps it can also re-weave some of the frayed family infrastructures that are so prevalent in our country today.

How wonderful if this product could ultimately help children who have seen themselves as throw-away kids actually feel wanted and of value. Even in the best of single-parent domiciles, the sting of abandonment often lingers, and becomes psychologically transferred into future generations.

Maybe that breakthrough could lead to healthier psyches and stronger families in the long run. Perhaps girls will develop better self-worth and not go looking for love and validation in all the wrong places. Maybe more guys will stop playing the strutting macho rooster and actually think about the consequences of their recreational inseminations.

You never know
And maybe, just maybe, the day will come when DNA paternity test kits are obsolete (or at least not hot sellers on Aisle 9).

Sure, it's a long-shot. But given the excruciating reality of our historically imploded economy, and the fact that folks in Beverly Hills are now clipping coupons for everything from Coffee Mate to denture adhesive, you just never know what can happen.

Diana Sevanian is a Santa Clarita resident. Her column reflects her own opinions and not necessarily those of The Signal.


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