When television producer Sibyl Gardner adopted a baby girl in China in 2003, the official story was that the infant had been abandoned on the steps of the salt works in the city of Guangchang, where a worker found the day-old child and took her to a social welfare institution.
But after reading with "utter horror" the latest revelations of child trafficking in China in the Los Angeles Times, Gardner found herself contemplating a trip to back to Jiangxi province to investigate how Zoë, now 7, came up for adoption.
"I don't think I could live with myself for the rest of my life thinking that my desire
to have a child could have caused tragedy in someone else's family," Gardner said. "I'm going to need answers, and for my daughter's sake as well."
China has long been the most popular source for U.S. parents seeking to adopt from overseas. Since the early 1990s, more than 80,000 Chinese children have been adopted by parents from other countries, the United States leading the way.
In the last five years, U.S. parents have adopted nearly 31,000 children from China. The conventional wisdom has been that the children were abandoned because of China's restrictions on family size and the nation's traditional preference for boys, who serve as a form of social security for parents.
But adoptive parents have been unsettled by reports that many children have been seized through coercion, fraud or kidnapping, sometimes by government officials seeking to remove children from families that have exceeded population-planning limits or to reap a portion of the $3,000 that orphanages receive for each adopted child.
Some adoptive parents "looked the other way" when they heard reports about child trafficking in Hunan province year ago, said Jane Liedtke, founder of Our Chinese Daughters Foundation, a nonprofit organization that offers programs and tours for families with children from China. Now that trafficking cases have been documented not just in Hunan but also in Guizhou, Guangxi and other provinces, "people say, 'Oh, I didn't know. My agency didn't tell me. If I'd known, I wouldn't have adopted.' "
To that, Liedtke responds: "Oh, yes, you would have. You wanted a child."
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