DNA Testing Reunites Families Separated by War

Thousands of children were kidnapped during a civil war in El Salvador in the 1980s, but new DNA procedures are helping reunite parents with their now grown children.

Read the Full Transcript

  • SPENCER MICHELS, NewsHour Correspondent:

    In a tiny village in El Salvador recently, 21-year-old Angela Fillingim met her biological mother for the first time. Angela had left El Salvador with adopted parents 21 years ago, and it has taken DNA testing and the support of organizations and scientists in California and Central America to bring together mother and child.

    ANGELA FILLINGIM, Adopted from El Salvador: There's a really cute one where I'm painting my forehead.


    Born outside the capital of San Salvador, Angela was six months old when she was adopted by Jerry and Greta Fillingim of Berkeley, California.

    GRETA FILLINGIM, Mother of Adopted Daughter: The phone rang. And they said, "A little girl was born yesterday, and she's yours if you want her."


    The Fillingims were told only that Angela was the daughter of an unwed mother who couldn't afford to keep her during perilous times. At the time, in 1985, El Salvador was in the midst of a decade-long civil war between a right-wing junta, supported by the United States, and a coalition of leftist, anti-government groups.

    The war left 75,000 dead and 8,000 missing. Their names are carved into this memorial wall in San Salvador. Thousands of children were kidnapped, and some ended up in Europe and America.