Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Can the Internet Help China Adoptees Find Birth Family?

Powerful story about how the internet in China reunited a kidnapped child with his family:
A seven year old boy who was kidnapped in Shenzhen in 2008 has been reunited with his father yesterday, in a miracle that could only have happened in this day and age, thanks to the internet.

The emotional reunion was witnessed and live-tweeted by Phoenix Weekly's 《凤凰周刊》 senior correspondent Deng Fei (邓飞), who accompanied Peng Gaofeng to Pizhou, Jiangsu Province following a tip-off that his son was there. Deng had interviewed Peng three years ago, shortly after his son, Peng Wenle (彭文乐), disappeared, and since then has become something of an activist against child trafficking.

* * *

Peng received a call from a university student in Jiangsu Province who said he saw a child in Pizhou that resembled his son. The student had come across his son's picture, circulating on Sina Weibo, after a grassroots campaign led by Professor Yu Jianrong (于建嵘) inspired Chinese internet users nationwide to take pictures of beggar children they come across and put them online.

Initially, Peng was unexcited by the call. Over the last three years, he had received many such calls and each time he was left disappointed and depressed. The student told Peng that he would try to snap a picture of the child and send it to him. On the eve of Chinese New Year, that picture came. When Peng saw the picture, he felt his jaw dropping to the ground. The child was his.

* * *

On the fourth day of the Spring Festival, Peng arrived in Pizhou with Shenzhen police officials. They were told by the local police officials that the child was currently being adopted by the woman he now lives with.

* * *

At the police station, Peng burst into tears the moment he saw his son. The police had to try to calm him down, telling him he was shocking the child. At this point, the child told the policeman, "That man crying is my dad, I remember him." All this while, his adopted mother was watching by the side, with tears in her eyes.

Overjoyed, Peng called his wife, screaming over the phone, "It's our child, it's our child!" Little Wenle then took over the phone, greeting his mom in their hometown's Hubei/Qianjiang dialect.
I've posted before about the potential of the internet in birth family searches by China adoptees:
This is how I always thought it would work for finding families in China -- it would come from siblings. The older sister who remembers when her baby sister disappeared. The younger brother whose birth was permitted because his sister was abandoned. This is the generation that will leave the countryside, the small villages, the farms, and head for the bigcity. They will go to college and trade school, they'll learn about computers, they will learn English, they will have some disposable income. And they will wonder about those family stories of the disappeared. And they'll post on a family searchboard
There have been a slew of stories in Western media about adoptee/birth family reunions made possible by facebook (see here and here and here for examples);  looks like it's a possibility in the developing world as well.

What do you think?

P.S. Brian Stuy of Research-China posts his take on whether the internet holds promise of birth parent searches in China.  Here's a bit of it:
Adoptive families understandably hope for a simple method to locate birth families -- a DNA or other database that will allow them to put in their child's information, push a button, and out would come the birth family information. Certainly if such a service existed that was open and free to use, there would be little to lose by participating. But in reality, given the "complexities" surrounding most children adopted form China, such a program will result in failure in nearly every case. Technological barriers inside China, birth family participation rates, information accuracy, and many other reasons will prevent successful matches except in rare and very specific instances (kidnapping, Family Planning confiscations, etc.)


travelmom and more said...

I think this is a real possibility. Some families from my daughter's orphanage have hired a Private Investigator to talk to the SWI to find the names of finders then to interview the finders to find out if they have any additional news. These searches so far have been very troubled, but I think in the future there are real possibilities of finding families either this way or online. https://www.abrightmoon.com/ This is a fairly new site created by a woman to help families find each other and I imagine in the future there will be more online places to try to unite families.

birthmothertalks said...

Very sweet story. I am so glad that the little boy was reunited with his Dad.

Dee said...

I think there are great possibilities for reunions but only a DNA test would be reliable for verifying a baby, right? Would China allow that?

Mahmee said...

Oh yes. I'm actively trying to track down people on Facebook who live near my daughter's finding location. I've recently began the search for her birth family. I'm hopeful that internet conversations will open up new avenues.

Mei Mei Journal said...

I had trouble following Brian's logic in that post. I don't agree that birthparents of trafficked or incentive program children would necessarily be less apt to look for their children. I am also not convinced that the internet will not be a useful too.

travelmom and more said...

I agree with Mei Mei that Stuy's logic is a little confusing. If a child were trafficked or an over quota child taken by officials, I would assume his or her parents would be just as likely or more likely to look for their child as a family who abandoned their child. The media age is just starting to bloom in China and no one knows what will happen in the future in terms of China's laws or how the internet will be able to help.
I am also curious where Stuy's figure of 80% of children were obtained through an incentive program, came from. Although I suspect that there were a large number of children involved in orphanages with an incentive program 80% seems very high with out some concrete evidence. Additionally, because China is a gift giving culture I am curious to know more about what Stuy constitutes as an incentive. There are allegations of unethical practices at my daughter's orphanage, which I am inclined to believe, but I would still like some concrete evidence instead of just circumstantial evidence that Brian and others have supplied.