Monday, December 28, 2009

Adoptive families' quests to trace Chinese roots often meets dead ends

From the L.A. Times, a long article about successes and failures in searching for birth family in China:
My name is Haley. I was adopted in 1995. I now live in America. I enjoy singing and playing the violin and hanging out with my friends. I have a good life, but I would like to find my biological family.

Just minutes after Jeannie Butler and her adopted daughter, Haley, tacked a Chinese-language poster with this message to a wall in the Yangtze River village where she had been abandoned, a woman emerged from a restaurant next door and did a double-take.

The woman stared hard at Haley, 14, then at the baby photo on the poster.

"Oh, my gosh, she looks just like my cousin's daughters!" she blurted out as an interpreter with the Butlers translated.

A flurry of cellphone calls ensued. By that evening, Haley had met her biological father and the eldest of three biological sisters. The reunion in July went so well
that Haley and her parents are spending the Christmas season this year with her
extended biological family in China. They hope to meet the birth mother Tuesday.

Such encounters are rare for the thousands of American families who have adopted Chinese children. But increasingly these families are making the return journey to China, not merely as tourists climbing the Great Wall and steeping their daughters (and they are almost all girls) in Chinese culture, but as detectives trying to unravel the most elusive mystery of all: Who is my child?

Who are her biological parents, and where are they from? Is she Han Chinese or a member of one of the many ethnic minorities? Does she have a biological sibling? And, most important, how did she come to be abandoned and referred for adoption?

The number of Chinese adoptees looking for their birth parents is expected to rise as the girls, most of them still very young, reach adolescence and then adulthood. But in China, the families often confront an entrenched culture of secrecy that clashes with Americans' presumed right to know.


suz said...

I would love to see this defense/excuse go by the way of the dinosaur

"I have a good life, but I would like to find my biological family."

As if only adoptees with BAD adoptive families find their roots? I see this sentiment so often, so defensive of adoptive parents..."my adoptive parents are GREAT but I would like to find my bio" Why isnt it enough to say I would like to find my bio family? Why the constant qualifiers?


Wendy said...

I agree Suz. We did search and find my daughter's first family (China). Trust me, there are a WHOLE lot of excuses out there about why people won't search and a WHOLE lot of running for the hills when they find out you have found your child's parents. It boils down to fear. The issue that children like this girl will face, as mine does, is that her some of her friends (fellow adoptees) will not be allowed to play with her anymore because she may tell them that they could find their family too or become vocal about wanting to do so. It is the saddest and most unexpected thing we have encountered.

By finding her parents we have disspelled the myth, opened up something that many AP's would rather keep closed (or in the tidy box the agencies sold them), and are proof of the lies, half-truths, and wool that is over some AP's eyes.

The biggest thing I worry about is those who will take advantage of these kids looking. It will become an industry (a couple of people are already trying to cash in). Frankly, they won't have much luck that way, it is not the way of Chinese culture to allow for outsiders in--the way we can look and search here in the USA. It takes real relationships, something many AP's are not in the market for and sadly will not allow their children to experience--we see it with the insulated FCC groups around the country. *Of course, there are good ones too, but I dare so not the majority.

I wish ALL of these children (and those adopted anywhere) the truth, regardless of what it is.

Anonymous said...

"In 2007, a delegation of American adoptive parents visiting an orphanage in Hunan province were allowed in only under the condition that they promise in writing not to ask questions." That's exactly what happened to us in 2007 in Hunan. Is there a website that explains how one would go about searching? I can't afford to go back to China anytime soon, but wonder whether it is possible to do any searching from afar (without being taken advantage of). We did not try to search in 2007.
Sue (aka anonymous)

Wendy said...

Yes, there are many ways to begin. I started my search from here and really tapped into her family from here too. It was only when we were in their presence did they open up, although they had dropped many hints before we left. One of the links here to American Family had a recent post about how to begin a search. No one way will work for anyone. All you can do is exhaust every avenue you can think of and invent new ones along the way (that worked for us). Some people do NOT want to be found, but those who have laid it all out there seem to be getting results.