I’m taking a moment away from the topic at hand (And what is that topic you may wonder? Human nature/statutory rape/teen-pregnancy?) to highlight this story from the NBC website. The underlying story is from Chicago. There’s also an associated Facebook page.
Chester and Dora Fronczak had a child, Paul, in 1964. The child was stolen away from the hospital. A year later the FBI found a child and became convinced it was Paul. (I have to say that the article says that it was a toddler, which makes me think of a slightly older than one-year-old child, but I’m not going to linger on this detail.) The child was returned to the Fronczaks who raised him.
But we now know that the child they raised wasn’t the child taken from the hospital. This is now clear beyond doubt due to DNA tests. And it raises at least two obvious questions—where did the child who was raised as Paul Fronczak come from? And what happened to the baby that was taken from the hospital in 1964?
The FBI has reopened the case to try to answer these questions, although that cannot be an easy thing to do almost fifty years later. And you can certainly see why people–here particularly Paul Fronczak–want answers. And I certainly hope they get them.
But the thing that struck me for my purposes here is the statement Paul Fronczak made. He read from an e-mail he sent his parents–here meaning the Fronczak’s, who raised him and e-mail:
“First, I am your son and always will be,” he said.
But Fronczak said he did not “really know who I am” and that the real Fronczak “might still be out there.”
“I know this is hard for you,” he said. “I love you both and you have been wonderful parents. I am not doing this to hurt you … this is just about finding the truth.”
I think this illuminates the different aspects of parentage. Though the Fronczaks are not Paul’s genetic parents, they are clearly his social parents and I hope would also be recognized as his legal parents. (At least one story refers to them as his adoptive parents, but it is unclear if there has been a formal adoption. It’s certainly not clear to me when it occurred.)
But there is another set of parents–genetic parents–and another family–a genetic family–that Paul also has ties to. And there’s some story–as yet unknown–about how he came to be wandering around on his own and what became of his genetic parents. Equally important, what did happen to the child taken from the hospital?
I know we spend a great deal of time on this blog arguing about the importance of DNA. This is a good place for me to make clear that I don’t deny its importance. I think DNA analysis can help us construct history–it tells us clearly which child is which. And it’s easy to see why Paul Fronczak wants to locate his genetic parents. Learning the truth of his own history is a part of finding out who he really is.
But Paul’s need to find and interest in his genetic family DNA doesn’t deny the depth or importance of the relationship Paul had with the parents who raised him. They are still, as he says, his mom and dad. And as he says, he is their son and always will be.
Our lives our complicated. For many of us the different sorts of parents overlap. Our genetic parents are our social parents are our legal parents. That makes things simpler and neater. But if they don’t overlap–as here–that what does the law do? That’s the question I keep coming back to here.