China Babies Adoption Research

China Babies Adoption Research
China Babies Adoption Research

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Fuling SWI - Orphanage Visit

Alex's Notes: Cool peek into a day of someone visiting China

We arranged for a car and a driver to take us to Fuling today for our revisit with the Fuling Social Welfare Institute. That's the orphanage where Rachael spent the first year of her life. Back on October 28, 2003, we made our first trip to the orphanage just two days after we adopted Rachael. Today was a lot more relaxed, so we were able to enjoy and absorb more both on the ride there and while visiting. We enjoyed the ride, for the scenery was very pretty. There are many small mountain peaks and tunnels through the mountains. It took us about 1 hour 45 minutes to get there. We arrived around lunch time, but our visit wasn't scheduled until 2:30. So, we stopped at a department store where I can assure you we attracted a small audience in the restroom as I was changing Catherine's diaper. One older woman asked Joyce why Catherine still wore diapers since they are so uncomfortable. Another woman had followed us to the bathroom, stood behind Joyce and watched us the whole time. She then walked out and stood behind Randy and Rachael, waiting for us to come out of the bathroom. An interesting cultural difference here to note is how people will ask personal questions very easily. They will ask Joyce things about our family all the time. Are the girls adopted? Are they Chinese citizens? How old am I? Is my husband Chinese? I think they ask because they believe "Wo ting bu dong." (I don't understand their Chinese.) They just don't see many people from other cultures, especially with Chinese children.

After we left the department store, we had lunch at a hotel very close to the orphanage. We arrived at the orphanage at 2:30 where we met both the Director, who is a woman and the Vice Director, a man. We worked with Vice Director Chen when we visited in 2003, and we had some photos to share with both of them from our first visit. We talked with them about our first visit, using Joyce as our translator. As a small token of our thanks, we gave each of them gifts, and we took gifts for 3 older children who are living at the orphanage. At the end of our visit, we had a chance to meet one of the older children. This was a girl, about 6 or 7 years old. She will be adopted by an American family next month! We toured part of the orphanage and met one of the nannies who worked when Rachael was a baby. In fact, we had photos of this same nanny holding Rachael from 4 years ago, and we shared the photos with her. We took new photos of them together! Then we spent over an hour in a room with over 20 babies aged 4 months through one year. They were all playing on a mat or on riding toys or taking baths. We sat with the nannies and held them, wanting to take them home with us. There were 2 boys in the group, and the rest were girls. As usual, the room was very warm, and the babies were bundled up. Suffice it to say that the babies were all absolutely beautiful! What a wonderful way to spend the day. Even though Rachael and Catherine became a bit bored, Randy, Joyce and I were totally enjoying ourselves. Each child was so unique and precious. Some were afraid of us because they did not know us. Others came to us easily. There are about 260 children in the orphanage at this time. When Rachael was living there, the number was near 400!

We are so grateful that we had the chance to visit for the entire afternoon. We stayed until 5:30 PM. Before we left, we took family photos with the Directors, and they took some, too. They were very open to having us visit again, but the orphanage will be moving to a new location in the next year or so. So, we aren't sure how much longer this part of Rachael's past will remain. Today was certainly a rewarding day.

Tomorrow is Catherine's third birthday. Wow!

Love to all,

Friday, September 28, 2007

Family Blogs From China

Monday-Thursday....sorry for the delay

Thursday 9/27
Jason just posted pics....we have not had a minute to breathe since arriving on the island and I am now sick. The White Swan has a 24 hour clinic on the 3rd floor so I saw a doctor this morning and he prescribed me an antibiotic, antihistamine, nose spray, and cough syrup. I asked repeatedly for acupuncture and chinese medicine and he insisted that I needed an antibiotic and Western medicine....I thought that was very funny.

We just received word from our guide that the US consulate approved our paperwork.

As you can see from the pic of Hui Hui screaming in the street she is continues to be a handful. Our friend Kathy in Wuhan witnessed Hui Hui's poor behavior first hand and contacted the Wuhan orphanage on our behalf. We were concerned that maybe she had some additional mental health issues. To our relief she is not mentally ill but rather just has terribly bad behavior.

The orphanage confirmed that her foster family set no limits, boundaries or restrictions on her for 3.5 years!!!! AGH!!!!

Jason and I have thought we were going to lose our minds.
Hui Hui was also not sent to school or taught to speak other than to use yes or no responses to questions. Apparently, the orphanage staff also witnessed the extreme tantrums for nothing other than not getting her way....and oh is it exhausting!

We also know by the way she eats and her size she was pacified with food....again not really helpful for us. The one food she eats regularly which has been a surprise to us is milk (un-refriderated kind) and drinkable yogurt. She does ask for these by name when she wants them.

The White Swan hotel where we are staying is considered the adoption. Almost 400 rooms currently have adopting families occupying them. This was the 1st hotel is China to be rated 5 star but that was 25 years ago and it is now quite "worn". We were lead to believe it was really a great hotel....but I think that it is being compared to our hotel's in general because our hotel in Beijing and Wuhan were both nicer that this one.

However, I was excited to get my "adoption barbie doll". The White Swan has an arrangement with Mattel. Mattel creates a white Barbie with an asian baby just for the White Swan....every adopting family receives one.

The White Swan is closing for renovation....note for Laura Beth...they are now not closing until May 2008 to take advantage of one more Trade Fair. you will probably stay here. Request at least a Junior Business suite or you will not all fit. The rooms with double beds have 2 single beds. The only reason we fit is that we requested 2 cribs and the girls are each sleeping in one. Well, to be perfectly honest....Hui Hui screams bloody murder for 1 hour until she passes out!

We wish we were coming home tomorrow but instead we are off to Chengdu to see the Pandas. I know this will be fun for Rou Rou.

We are so happy that Rou Rou found a friend at breakfast this morning. A little 5 year girl whose mom just adopted a baby. They live in Seattle WA. Rou Rou is in their room watching Barbie Princess movies and playing. We are so happy for her because this experience has really taken its toll on her.

Working backwards in my days....yesterday we had the "official medical appointment" The doctor was very sweet and really took to Rou Rou as you can see. Jason took pics of the 1950 like facility. We found the reflector on one of the doctors heads to be quite funny. Hui Hui was not as amused.

When we were at the medical with Rou Rou we felt like they were going to take her from us because of her medical condition but with Hui Hui they acted as if it was no big deal. The doctor did mention that he thought her ears had never been cleaned out and that it would need to be medically done in the states.

I took Rou Rou shopping while jason tried to tame the wild girl in our room. On a recommendation from Maria (hi Begeman family) I went to a store called Susans to get a jacket made...instead I ended having a dress made. I had brought one from the states (it was one I wore at my aufruf) and I wanted it in Chinese silk. As I mentioned to Jason if it turns out nice it will be the best $48 I ever spent and if not I then I wasted $48.

...a note to Maria...Susan loved the pictures and she says HI! She gave me her email for you. Jennifers only had the shoes in red but I am supposed to check back this evening.

I bought Hui Hui Chinese dresses in every size and Rou Rou picked out a very pretty purple one with butterflies. Rou Rou also really enjoyed dancing with Jennifers sister's daughter in the store while I shopped.

Last night we went on a river cruise ....very cheesy but Rou Rou really enjoyed the buildings all lit up along the river. The group from Harrah's out of Portland OR was with us in Wuhan and here in Guangzhou. Their tour guide is very good and very sweet....she invited us to join the group.

She also invited us to join the group Tuesday evening for Thai food. So we celebrated the Chinese Moon Holiday at a Thai restaurant in Guangzhou.

The food was again really good but nothing like Thai. I reflect....who could forget the flight from "h-ll". heard me. Hui Hui does not like to sit down and she does not like to be buckled.
There are no seat belt or car seat laws here so children sit in the front seat and walk along the back seat of cars, buses, taxis etc. Hui Hui threw herself into a major fit and the flight attendants had to come help. We flew the oldest plane I have ever been on...the arm rests were broken and lying on the floor and the dirt, food, crud, germs were everywhere (Shezhen Air) but the attendants were the best I have ever experienced. I am sure this contributed to my illness....along with the 120 degree weather here in Guangzhou. My hair is so curly and frizzy and out of control that Rou Rou and Jason didn't even recognize me.

Our last day in Wuhan was bitter sweet. We needed to say goodbye to Kathy again.

Her and her son brought us dinner and brought Rou Rou the transformer dinosaur toy she liked so much. Kathy told us the next time we come to Wuhan she will have us to her home because she knows we will be friends forever. It was very sweet.

She also was able to get the Orphanage to release an unofficial medical report on Hui Hui. We received the fax today at the hotel. If I have not mentioned this before ...nothing in China is impossible but they may tell you "no" until they tell you "yes".

Jason ran out to the Carfour to buy another suitcase. We needed to do this when we adopted Rou Rou I prepared for it and brought an extra suitcase but this one is with David in Beijing with all the books I purchased. We don't really have more things...but what we have has seemed to expand.

Guangzhou is the place for all the shopping for Chinese dresses....and other "typical" Chinese fare. While Jason and Hui Hui slept Rou Rou and I unched and shopped. She has really wanted a Calabash. A musical flute specifically made by and for one of the hundreds of minority groups in China. I can't recall which group at the moment.

Rou Rou has been asking for a flute since she heard a man in the street playing one the other night. They were surprised that Rou Rou had enough hot air to blow it.

Tonight we are having dinner with our agency representative in China this evening.

More later....

We are unsure of what our internet facilities will be in Chengdu and Xian....if you do not hear from us please assume we are ok, tired, and might not have internet.

Hugs- Shelli
Red Thread Story

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Thursday, September 27, 2007

Love Without Boundaries - Specials Needs Boy Joey

There is a beautiful seven year old boy in Guangdong province who is in need of his own mom and dad to love him. His medical need is that he was burned as a child, but he has not let that stop him from going to kindergarten, making lots of friends, and charming the socks off of everyone who meets him. Right in his adoption file it says that he can make a friend out of anyone in 30 minutes flat. This little boy only has a few days left before his file is due to go back to China.....unchosen. Isn't that a horrible word? Unchosen. It is hard to believe that any child would have to carry that label.

This particular little boy weighs heavy on my heart tonight for a reason I want to explain. You see....his orphanage first contacted us to see if we could help him medically with his burns. But as soon as we heard about how smart he was and how personable, we convinced the orphanage that his real hope was in being adopted. The orphanage wasn't sure. They didn't think anyone would want to adopt an older boy, and one with burns on his body. But we assured them that somewhere there was a family waiting for a little boy just like him. And so the orphanage agreed. But then the province was also unsure, and so we once again said, "we know there will be a family". Finally his file was sent up to Beijing and then on to a US adoption agency. And no family has yet been found.

I think it is important for me to interject a story here, and my apologies to my friend Lisa for not getting her permission first to tell it. I hope she will forgive me. When I was first getting started with my work in China, one of the orphanages we helped did not do many special needs adoptions. They didn't think that the kids would be chosen, and so many of the children were getting older and watching only the healthy babies leave for their new homes. They would hear the aunties say to the babies, "oh today is a lucky will have a family to love you." And the preschoolers and older kids would think to themselves....'it must be wonderful to have a family pick you.'

Well, we were going to do a heart surgery for one little girl in this orphanage, and so I asked for a photo of her so that we could raise funds. This orphanage didn't have a lot of nice clothing, so for this special photograph they wanted the little girl to look nice. Another little girl in the orphanage, named Yan, who was just three years old, had been given a beautiful red coat by a volunteer, and she loved that red coat and wore it all the time. The aunties went and took off her red coat to put on the child with heart disease for her photo, and Yan burst into tears crying. The aunties scolded her and said, "Yan, you must share your red coat...don't be selfish", but Yan kept crying and crying and kept trying to climb over the gate to get out in the hallway where the photo was being taken. Finally one aunty had heard enough, and so she walked over to Yan to take her back into the room. As she got closer, she realized that Yan was NOT crying because the other little girl was wearing her coat. No, not at all. Yan was crying while saying over and over, "take MY picture...please take MY picture. I want a family....take my picture so I can have a family, too. "

You see, at the ripe old age of three, Yan had already learned that the only way a baby got a family was by having her picture taken first. And she wanted a family of her own so badly, that she was crying to her aunties to please take her photo, too.

I wanted to share this story because the reason I am so sad that Joey hasn't found a home yet doesn't have anything to do with the fact that we told his orphanage a family would be found, or that we told provincial that certainly there was a family for him. I am sad thinking about Joey because I know exactly what happened when they prepared his adoption file earlier this year. I have been in orphanages when they do the files, and each and every time the aunties try to make the kids look at cute as possible. They say things like, 'smile pretty so a family will pick you." I am sad when I think about Joey's file, because I know he had probably gotten used to the idea that there would not be a family coming for him because of his burns....and then we went and placed hope back into his heart. I am sure he knew exactly why the orphanage was taking his photos that day, and I am sure the staff told him to look as handsome and clever as possible so that a family would choose him. Tonight I am thinking about this handsome little boy who is probably wondering each day now if his photo was good enough for a family to choose him.

So one has.

If you know anyone who might be open to adding a little boy to their family, please let them know about Joey. More information about him can be found here:

I still want to believe that there is someone out there who is wanting a little boy to love and read stories to. Surely there is someone out there who would want to teach him to fish, show him how to hit a baseball, and who would let him ride on their shoulders feeling like he was the king of the world. Surely somewhere there is a family who can give Joey the unbelievable gift of knowing he is CHOSEN, so that he can finally be home where he belongs.

Love Without Boundaries Blog

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What a lucky baby!

Alex's Notes: Ran across a blog entry with some great thoughts in it.
September 26th, 2007
I’ve gotten over my shyness about sharing LG’s picture! I love showing off his perfect little face. I also love that it gives me yet another opportunity to gaze into those huge brown eyes…(sigh)

Pretty much everyone (Except for this one guy at work who was like “oh, yeah, uh huh.” Dude! WTF!) responds with the usual oohs and aahs. I get the usual questions, like: “When will you travel?” “How old is he?” “Is she from China?” I can usually respond with a fair degree of aplomb; I figure most people are just so taken aback that their initial responses will most likely lack the tact with which they should respond. (Did anybody understand that run-on sentence?) Overall, the majority of people have been excited and so happy for us, and I hate to complain, but I don’t like the whole “Oh, he’s such a lucky baby!” response.
I’ll admit, the first couple of times I heard this, I just let it slide. I figured they meant well, so no harm, no foul. However, yesterday I finally had the opportunity to share our wonderful news with my boss. She was totally psyched for us, and of course she thought LG was a-dor-a-ble! Yet, she still had to throw in the “lucky baby” line. This time I just replied, “Oh, no, I think we’re the lucky ones.” Keeping a big smile on face all the while (This is the woman that approves my work schedule!). I don’t want to get upset, or embarrass people, but I don’t want LG to someday be the recipient of the “you should be so grateful” line of crap.

Most people seem to have this completely skewed view of international adoption. (In my opinion, anyway) They just think that we (the adoptive parents) are saints, out there saving the world one tiny baby at a time. Ick. I get a little nauseous just thinking about it. Anyway, humanitarianism is about the furthest thing from my mind right now. In all honesty, I just want to rock that little bundle of goodness to sleep every night and kiss his tiny toes good morning each day! Yet, those folks outside of the adoption world still seem forget all of the not-so-lucky stuff adopted children go through and ignore the blatantly obvious fact that it is the adoptive parents that are the ones who are making out like bandits!

For the life of me, I can’t seem to figure out what is so lucky about being abandoned or relinquished then spending the beginning of my life in an orphanage only to be carried off to a completely strange place to live with people that do not remotely resemble me! And that is just the beginning. Internationally adopted children lose so much of themselves in the process of being adopted; it is so not lucky.

OK, so I’m beginning to rant a bit and that is not my intent. I wholeheartedly hope that LG one day comes to the conclusion that he has lived a great life, despite living far from his homeland. I just want him to decide this for himself; not because he has been told to for as long as he can remember. I guess for now, I’ll just have to stick with the “We’re the lucky ones!” reply in hopes that those around us will someday get it. Right?

Mindful Musings

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Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Journey From a Chinese Orphanage to a Jewish Rite of Passage

James Estrin/The New York Times

Cecelia Nealon-Shapiro, adopted by New York parents 13 years ago, at her bat mitzvah reception last month.

Published: March 8, 2007
Correction Appended

Of the 613 laws in the Torah, the one that appears most often is the directive to welcome strangers. The girl once known as Fu Qian has been thinking about that a lot lately.

Fu Qian, renamed Cecelia Nealon-Shapiro at 3 months, was one of the first Chinese children — most of them girls — taken in by American families after China opened its doors to international adoption in the early 1990s. Now, at 13, she is one of the first to complete the rite of passage into Jewish womanhood known as bat mitzvah.

She will not be the last. Across the country, many Jewish girls like her will be studying their Torah portions, struggling to master the plaintive singsong of Hebrew liturgy and trying to decide whether to wear Ann Taylor or a traditional Chinese outfit to the after-party.

There are plenty of American Jews, of course, who do not “look Jewish.” And grappling with identity is something all adopted children do, not just Chinese Jews.

But seldom is the juxtaposition of homeland and new home, of faith and background, so stark. And nothing brings out the contrasts like a bat mitzvah, as formal a declaration of identity as any 13-year-old can be called upon to make. The contradictions show up in ways both playful — yin-and-yang yarmulkes, kiddush cups disguised as papier-mâché dragons, kosher lo mein and veal ribs at the buffet — and profound.

Yet for Cece, as everyone calls Cecelia, and for many of the girls like her, the odd thing about the whole experience is that it’s not much odder than it is for any 13-year-old.

“I knew that when I came to this age I was going to have to do it, so it was sort of natural,” she said a few days before the ceremony at Congregation Rodeph Sholom, a Reform synagogue on West 83rd Street where she has been a familiar face since her days in the Little Twos program. Besides, she said with a shrug, “Most of my Chinese friends are Jewish.”

As Zoe Kress, an adoptee in Mt. Laurel, N.J., said about her approaching bat mitzvah: “Being Chinese and Jewish is normal for me. Thinking about being Chinese and Jewish is a little strange.”

Olivia Rauss, a girl in Massachusetts who celebrated her bat mitzvah last fall on a day when the Jewish harvest festival of Sukkot coincided with the Chinese autumn moon festival, said she saw no tension between the two facets of her identity either.

“Judaism is a religion, Chinese is my heritage and somewhat my culture, and I’m looking at them in a different way,” she said. “I don’t feel like they conflict with each other at all.”

While no statistics are kept on the number of Chinese children adopted by Jewish families, over all, there were about 1,300 Chinese children adopted into American families from 1991 to 1994, another 17,000 in the second half of the ’90s, and 44,000 since then, according to the State Department.

Cece was born on Jan. 29, 1994, in Jiangxi Province in southeastern China. She was abandoned to an orphanage because of China’s one-child rule, and adopted by a lesbian couple, Mary Nealon and Vivian Shapiro. (The couple later adopted another Chinese girl, Gabie, now 5.) Cece has been drawing double-takes for a while, like when she used to ride on Ms. Shapiro’s lap on a packed crosstown bus and would burst into the Passover standard “Dayenu.”

Ms. Shapiro, an advertising buyer, was brought up by atheistic Jews; Ms. Nealon, a school nurse, was raised a Roman Catholic. But after they met, they were drawn to Judaism and decided to give Cece a relatively traditional upbringing.

“That was my hope when I started her in day school,” Ms. Nealon said, “that when she got up on the bimah” — the lectern where the bat mitzvah girl reads from the Torah — “she would feel like she had the right to be there.”

The countdown to the big day was the typical blur of lessons and studying, sit-downs with cantors and tutors, caterers and party planners. There was a thick dossier of Jewish history to master — history that Cece confessed did not feel like hers. “I just really try to learn it,” she said. “I don’t try to think of whose history it is.”

And, of course, there was shopping to be done.

“In my fantasy,” Ms. Nealon said, “we’d take her to Chinatown and have this incredibly beautiful Westernized Chinese dress made.”

But Ms. Shapiro said: “She wanted no part of it. For her, this has nothing to do with being Chinese.”

Cece set her cantor’s reading of her Torah portion to “repeat” on her iPod. She met with the head rabbi at Rodeph Sholom, Robert N. Levine, an affable, animated man with an office full of books and baseball memorabilia.

Rite of Passage “So, Cece,” Rabbi Levine said, “what do you connect to most about your Judaism?”

Cece had transformed into the archetypal opaque teenager.

“I think I like the holidays, and, um, yeah,” she said, looking down.

The rabbi asked her to recite for him. She did.

“I love it,” Rabbi Levine said. “You have a beautiful voice. Your Hebrew is perfect. The only thing I need you to do, Cece, is project. Just give me a ‘Baruch’ like you’re singing in the shower.”

“Baruch,” Cece said, a bit louder.

On Feb. 17, nearly 200 of Cece’s friends and relatives filed into the vast Romanesque sanctuary of Rodeph Sholom. A box of commemorative yarmulkes with the yin-and-yang pattern sat by the door. Six alumnae of Cece’s orphanage — they call themselves the Fu sisters — had flown in from all over the country.

To the side of the altar, on a red throne, sat Cece, resplendent in a long black patterned dress with a scoop neck.

Ms. Shapiro laid a prayer shawl over Cece’s shoulders, a symbolic transfer of power. Cece and the other bat mitzvah girl that day, Sadie Friedman, lifted their voices and let loose a Hebrew welcome song that Cece had sung with the synagogue choir from the time she was 7.

Rabbi Levine preached from the day’s reading: “ ‘Let the stranger in your midst be to you as the native, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt.’ ”

Cece and Sadie approached the ark, the enclosure, flanked with marble columns and topped by carved lions, where the Torah scrolls are kept. The cantor, Rebecca Garfein, handed them the oversize scrolls, dressed in maroon and gold fabric. The girls held them like bagpipes.

Cece laid her scroll on the bimah and read in Hebrew, in a loud, clear voice, from Chapter 21 of Exodus, a compendium of commandments on the treatment of servants and slaves.

Then she moved to her English speech.

“This long journey to becoming a bat mitzvah today has provided me with so many ways of learning,” she said. “The part that will always stay closest to me is the importance of caring for strangers. Just like Jews were once strangers in the land of Egypt, we have all been, or will be strangers at some point in our lives.”

Cece finished, touched the fringe of her shawl to the Torah and kissed it. She returned to her throne and sat down, cheeks red, looking exhausted and relieved.

That night — the eve of the Chinese year of the pig, as fate would have it — Cece and her guests reconvened at the Faculty House at Columbia University. The outer room was set up like a casino, with Cece-backed playing cards and Cece-faced play money. Inside, the music throbbed, the D.J. yelled, the fog machine billowed. Cece and her friends traded their shoes for white socks and pogoed across the floor.

After dinner — kosher Chinese for the kids, steak for the adults — the D.J. cranked up “Hava Nagila.” Cece, in a chair in the middle of the dance floor, was lifted up, up, up until she bumped her head on the Chinese umbrellas hanging off the chandelier.

Then she was back on the floor, dancing with her mothers and little sister and singing along with the recording: “Hava neranena, venis’mecha,” or: Let us sing and be glad.

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Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Baby Pic Fix Update

Just added two new galleries to the 'Baby Pic Fix' section.

The first is from a family recently feartured in our September Newsletter. You can see the gallery here: Alexander Family Gallery

The second is pictures of Madeline's Foster Mommy's Village.

You can see an index of all the galleries in the 'Baby Pic Fix' section here: Baby Pic Fix

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The Latest Bad News From China

Trying to solve the Mystery
I have had enough people independently send me information that names the American agency in question that I do believe that this agency is getting referrals well before other agencies. Just to clarify, referrals come to this agency with the normal referral batches, but for LID’s ahead of everyone else.

I believe that the European agency with the December referral was just a fluke, I do not see a reason to believe that their early referrals were part of a pattern.

There is also word of a famous person in a European country who is in China adopting right now and they had a 2006 LID. However, they are apparently adopting a four year old so I’m wondering if perhaps they chose to go the SN route and that is why they are traveling now.

I also see no reason to believe that the CCAA is giving preferential treatment to those in their 30’s or those who are childless. For those who are misreading the CCAA’s site - read a bit farther down where it says “Article 8: The adopter may adopt one child only, male or female. Orphans, disabled children or abandoned infants and children, who are raised in the social welfare institutes, and whose biological parents can not be ascertained or found, may be adopted irrespective of the restrictions that the adopter shall be childless and adopt one child only.”

As to the “no way or we’d know about it” argument, it sounds as if the agency in question tells their clients from the very beginning to not go out on the internet or in real life and tell people their LID. And they are also to be discreet about things once they get their referral and once they are home. When they get their referral they do tell their friends and family but they don’t mention their LID. It is a smallish agency so we aren’t talking about a whole lot of referrals, either. The definition of small in the FAQ is “less than 25 per month”. I’m not going to define them further than that.

And, this has already been said but I’ll repeat it - there was another agency before the slowdown who said they got referrals early (and seemed to be a month ahead of other agencies) but it came out that this was just a result of the way they manipulated LID dates and not because of any favors from the CCAA.

In other words, where I’m at right now is that I think I can set aside all of the other reports of early referrals except for the ones from this one American agency. And I am now sure that this agency is getting referrals well before other agencies. Okay, so I’m sure of it. Now what?

I try to make all of my decisions as RQ as if I were still waiting. I know some have expressed a fear that this could be a huge scandal. I don’t really see it as being a scandal. If the CCAA were to be confronted with the information my guess is that they’d just stop doing it and neither confirm nor deny that it had happened in the past. This has nothing to do with impropriety where the babies are concerned, and it’s likely no one will care except for those waiting and the other agencies who are not getting this special favor.

So, again - do we do anything with the information? Do we just acknowledge that it is happening and sit on it? Do we accept that orderly lines aren’t really part of the culture in China and that this was probably a given that it happens? Or do we ask for fairness? I could successfully argue both sides of that one.

I’ve already received a few informed opinions and expect to receive more from people who I have personally asked for their input into the matter. But I’m interested in hearing how the rest of the adoption community feels about it as well.

Rumor Queen

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Monday, September 24, 2007

Has anyone seen our child?

In China, 190 children are snatched every day - more than twice the number taken in England and Wales in a year. The Chinese government does not acknowledge the extent of the problem, or the cause. The Single Child Policy has made it essential to have a son, leading to the abortion of more than 40 million girls and setting the price on a boy's head at more than six months' wages.

By Clare Dwyer Hogg
Sunday September 23, 2007
The Observer

The events of this summer mean that every one of us will have considered, for a moment at least, the horror of having a child snatched. The emotions parents must endure aren't hard to imagine: the creeping numbness of realisation; the shock turning to panic as the minutes tick by; the helpless reliance on the goodwill of others, particularly the police. In Europe, the cases of child kidnapping are sporadic. In China, however, they are increasingly common. Around 190 children are snatched every day - stolen from their beds and the streets. This is more than double the average number of abductions recorded in England and Wales over a whole year. If 190 people were dying every day from the same illness, you'd call it an epidemic. And that's exactly what it is, except nobody really wants to talk about it. Especially the Chinese government.

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The government doesn't want to talk about it because it's a short step from fully acknowledging the kidnappings to having to address why they're happening. Which means entering dangerous territory - a root cause of such large numbers of children being snatched is the fact that having a son in China is a necessity. He carries the family name, he is the child who will provide for his parents as they age. A daughter will leave the family to marry into another name, passively obliterating her own family line and leaving her relatives without the assurance of help in old age. The One Child Policy - which Save The Children calls a 'mass, live experiment in family life which is unique in the history of the world' - has resulted in prohibitive family-planning laws in China: prospective parents must have a birth permit before conceiving, and while rural families are allowed a second child if their first is a girl, urban families must pay a fine for flouting the one-child rule. And if you haven't had an abortion to get rid of your female child (although it is now illegal, around 40m girls have been selectively aborted since the One Child Policy was instituted in 1979), how can you be sure to get a son? Sometimes the only choice seems to be to buy a stolen child, gender already determined.
'I did think about suicide,' says Li, a woman in her early twenties. 'I missed my child so much.' It has been a year and a half since her little boy, Chen Jie, was taken. He was five years old, playing at his grandmother's vegetable stall in Sichuan, when Zhang, a trusted neighbour, passed by. Offering to bring Chen Jie back to his mother - and persuading the reluctant boy with the promise of sweets - Zhang left, taking the child with him. This was the last time Chen Jie was seen by his family. Later, when parents and grandmother realised that neither had the little boy, they ran to Zhang's door, desperately hoping he was there. Calmly, Zhang claimed that after giving him money for sweets, he'd left Chen Jie at the apartment block. Their suspicion of his involvement in their son's disappearance could not be translated into evidence - even though when the grandmother confronted him later, she said he yelled, 'I sold the kid, OK?' After police questioning, however, Zhang was free to go about his normal business, unlike the Chens.

'Sometimes I don't want to carry on my life,' Li continues. She has come close to killing herself many times, she says, but is always stopped by the thought of how disappointed her family would be. Culturally, the responsibility for the family weighs heavily: Li and her husband, Lung, already feel they have let their parents down by depriving them of the grandson who would carry on the family name. Once, Li admits, she was ready to jump from the top of a public washroom, but the owner of the building dragged her home. 'She tried to prevent me from thinking that way,' Li says. 'She knew a story in which a mother who lost her child killed herself by jumping off a building. After her death, the father sold the house and lost contact with everyone. Never came back. Later, their friend found the child and brought him home, but the whole family was gone.' Li has thought about this tragic twist many times. 'If you die, and your child comes back one day, he loses his mother forever.'

Li and Lung Chen are determined to do anything to get their son back, but their options are severely limited. The media is too close to the government to be used as a tool, and even joining a parents' support group must be done in secret. They saved up 600RMB - that's £40 - to put Chen Jie's picture on a poker set that features missing children on every card; in their desperation they're gambling on gamblers. Putting up 'missing' posters of Chen Jie, his eyes staring out brightly even from a photocopy, was risky because it's forbidden (the authorities aren't keen to have the reminder of missing children on show), but they did it. Hiring a private detective cost money, but they did that, because the detective has a reputation for successful rescue missions. Speaking to Westerners about their plight was downright dangerous, but they've done that, too.

The production team behind the Emmy Award-winning documentary The Dying Rooms, which in 1995 uncovered the neglect of abandoned children in Chinese state-run orphanages, went back to China this year. The idea behind the first documentary was that China's One Child Policy, the population stabiliser, had led to the abandonment of girls - this, and their subsequent abuse in some cases, was recorded as tragic confirmation. More than 10 years later, the team - this time headed by debut director Jezza Neumann - went back to investigate another consequence of the One Child Policy: the tens of thousands of Chinese children being trafficked every year.

Needless to say, if you're making a documentary about child abduction, looking for the abductors, the need for undercover filming is paramount. Sim cards were changed after every call; the production team met to discuss plans in locations that had plenty of exits; they all arrived and left from different directions. The Chinese word for Westerner is gwailo, a once derogatory term, which can be translated as 'ghost man': Neumann says his mission was to take this phrase literally. It's hard to render yourself unnoticeable as a Westerner with a camera in China, but he and his team tried to move through the country like ghosts, as unseen as the people they were searching for. The Chinese authorities, loath to let such stories out, are also extremely vigilant, and getting people to talk about their experiences of having a child stolen is virtually impossible. The air hangs thick with the threat of official reprisals and punishment. One potential interviewee whose son was stolen was visited by the secret police the day after a researcher had been to ask him questions. He backed out, too scared to commit to camera what he felt, too frightened to enlist the help of outsiders in such a close-knit community, where anything unusual gets back to officials - apart from, it would seem, the identity of child kidnappers.

The Chens knew the danger, too, but, thirsty for help, they agreed. It's not that the Chinese government doesn't report on child trafficking: there is coverage of rescue successes, or assurances that the government is doing all it can to combat the criminals. The stories are often, however, conspicuously free from statistics or analysis. Save the Children reports that last year Chinese officials from the Ministry of Public Security put overall trafficking figures (for women and children) at 2,500. This is much lower than NGOs estimate, but it's all about semantics, of course. International law - the UN's Palermo Protocol of 2000 - defines trafficking not only by the use of force or manipulation, but also as 'the abuse of power or of a position of vulnerability'. A child is any person under the age of 18. The Chinese government is currently drafting a National Plan of Action against Trafficking but, as it stands, the Chinese definition is much narrower. Article 240 of the Criminal Law of the People's Republic of China makes illegal the abduction of women and children (men are overlooked) for the purpose of selling. There is no clause for abduction without being sold - if you are taken away to be a slave or a sex worker, that doesn't count. And currently, if you are abducted at 14 in China, you are an adult, and not part of the statistics.

Chen Jie is very much part of the statistics - one stolen child in the mass of 70,000 snatched every year. His little life had already been fraught with difficulty. He was born a year after the Chens started seeing each other: the One Child Policy stipulates that children cannot be born without a birth permit, and you cannot have a birth permit if you don't have a marriage certificate. So Li had him in secret, giving birth in her mother's pigsty. Li and Lung hid their little boy for a year until they came to a decision that without a birth permit, without an official existence, Chen Jie's life would be nothing. They confessed to the authorities, and were ordered to pay a fine of 8,000 RMB (£520). They only finished paying that debt last year. Now, the strain of being left without the son for whom they struggled is palpable. 'It has been very difficult,' Li says, via a translator, speaking on a crackling line from their tiny apartment in the migrant workers' ghetto. 'We quarrel from time to time, but every time we think of our child, we remember we share the same goal. I already feel responsible and guilty. We don't want Chen Jie to come back to a broken family.'

The strength to stay together - like the rejection of suicide - is fuelled by the need to believe that they are maintaining a home for their missing boy, having in readiness a place for him to return to, and parents who are loving and at peace. This hope, no matter how tenuous, is some sort of light for the way ahead, even if at times it seems only to emphasise the darkening shadows all around. Depression floors them, guilt for letting their families down punctures their faith, and time has not been a healer. The detective, while active, is not getting any leads. They are - as the Chinese phrase goes - 'looking for a needle in an ocean'.

Part of the Chens' problem, and the problem for many parents like them, is that they are up against a highly organised criminal network which supplies a seemingly never-ending demand. Add to the mix that the moral code is skewed when it comes to 'adopting' (buying) children. If you were caught buying a child in the UK, you would be charged with child trafficking. Yet in China - as incongruous as it may seem - while it is illegal to abandon, steal or sell a child, it is not necessarily illegal to buy one. CCTV, a government-sponsored news outlet, recently reported that: 'Under the current law for families that adopt trafficked children, if they have not abused the children, and have not obstructed the rescue operations, the law enforcement can choose not to press charges, not to pursue further. Many parents of missing children find that unacceptable.' Parents of stolen children are immediately on the back foot; the law is essentially non-punitive, so child traffickers can justify their actions - they are simply supplying a demand that is not, in itself, a crime. Except, of course, it is. People buying a child have no guarantee that the child was willingly given up by his parents. And when the motivator for providing that child is money, reassurances mean nothing. A boy can fetch around 10,000 RMB (£650) which is a lot of money for one 'job', when you consider that a skilled production worker in China earns £1,200 a year.

One trafficker explains how he and his cohorts would identify the suitability of a child through the vulnerability of his mother. They would watch, wait, take a note of her routines, and bide their time for that moment when she would leave her son unattended. One such prize, he says, happened when the child was in bed, and the mother nipped out, unaware of watchful eyes. 'We shoved a hanky into the boy's mouth to shut him up,' the trafficker remembers, calmly plotting the strategy as if there was nothing abnormal in his actions, 'and we bundled him into a sack.' Another trafficker, who specialises in children, and is happy to appear on camera, says, 'I think there must be something wrong with treating children as goods, but I can't figure out what it is.' He likes to think of himself as an agent for parents who need to sell their children and a conduit for those who want to buy one. People do sell their children (if they don't have a birth permit, or are too poor to raise the child), but it is a murky world where a child becomes a missing piece in the commercial chain.

This particular trafficker admits that he used to sell women against their will, luring them first into a false sense of security by pretending to be a loving boyfriend. And although children are now much more lucrative, it is hard to understand why he wouldn't empathise with the families left behind: he has witnessed at first hand the devastation his older son feels since his younger brother went missing. The son, no more than 13, mourns the loss of a brother. 'I miss him,' he says. 'This year he would be nine...' The trafficker's son tries to articulate, pausing between thoughts and memories, shaking his head, and squeezing air out through tiny gaps in his mouth - small and potent sounds of regret that cannot be put into words. The twist, heartbreakingly, is that he later discovered that his own father was to blame for the disappearance. 'My grandmother told me my dad sold my brother,' he says. 'I thought my dad was very bad to do that. I felt very sad. At the time... at the time... I really hated him.'

As soon as the Chens discovered that Chen Jie was missing, they called 110, the emergency services. The police called back instantly for details and a description, but didn't come to their home. After a day of frantic searching, aided by neighbours with a car, the Chens went to the police station. A mix-up had occurred: because the emergency call happened late at night, the local police hadn't been passed the details. Looking around the train station and hotspots of trafficking didn't turn up any clues; they interviewed the neighbour, Zhang - nothing. By then, Chen Jie could have been halfway across China. Zhang has now moved to Mongolia, allowed to melt into another crowd in another country. Suspicion fell on another neighbour, Kong, for whom Lung used to be an apprentice. The Chens think he could have been in partnership with Zhang, picking Chen Jie as an easy target. The police questioned him for a whole day, but did not tell the Chens the result. Desperately, they have asked for Kong to be tested with a lie detector. There is a waiting list though - there are only a few in the whole country - and they don't know if they can afford it, or if it's even worth it.

They are encouraged, however, by a sliver of hope: Lung has heard breaking news that a ring of traffickers has been uncovered. The police have rescued around 40 babies, and families will be reunited with their kidnapped children - this is hope, in his eyes. 'We're both victims of the situation,' Lung says of himself and his wife, yet they are unwilling to criticise the government's policies: the police are working on their case, Lung says. Li comes on the line to explain that it's hard for the police, too: 'Police would go and try to investigate but even they get beaten up at remote townships...' Her equanimity crumbles later in the call, though, as she breaks down, admitting that she's not sure if she can keep living like this: the searching, the guilt, the dwindling figure of her husband, who has lost his appetite and is often unwell. Pregnant again, she worries that she won't know how to treat her new baby, that it will be unfair to Chen Jie to have another child. She doesn't sleep well, she says, dreaming every night of Chen Jie suffering in a poor village. And with a heart wrench Li realises that she has never dreamt he was bought by a rich family and living well, despite the plethora of news stories about children having a 'better life' with new parents. But she forces herself to keep going. 'I always remember what a father said who got his stolen boy back,' she says. 'He said as long as you keep your hope there is a chance; but if you give up hope and stop looking, the child is gone forever.'

Li's mother, the last to see Chen Jie, grief-stricken and carrying her own burden of guilt, often dreams of her missing grandson, too. The word in Chinese for dreaming and wishing is the same, and it is no surprise that her daytime longings spill into her night. 'I had a dream that my grandson came back,' she says. 'I held him in my arms and he asked me, "Grandma, are you tired?" I replied that I was not tired at all when holding my grandson. I was so happy that he finally came back.' And then, with sorrow, back to the terrible reality. 'Then,' she says, 'I woke up.'

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Sunday, September 23, 2007

Thoughts From an Adoptive Mom

Alex's Notes: Ran across this entry on CJ & Donna's Blog. Great couple, great family, great thoughts.


Friday, September 21, 2007
Incredible Educational Evening
Just thought while the evening was fresh on my mind, I would just do a massive brain dump of things I have learned, realized, or thought about this evening at 3rd Friday:

-Frannie is too cute
-Ally has adjusted well and fits in perfectly with her family
-I am very thankful to have such a wonderful adoption resource...3rd Friday
-Being a mom is a hard job
-Being a mom to an adopted daughter is a TOUGH job
-Being an adoptive mother is not for the faint of heart
-Shelby will one day probably tell me that she wishes she was with her China Mommy
-The best thing I should do to help Shelby adjust in life is just to shower her with love
-Adoptees tend to be "people pleasers" and eager to just "fit in"
-Shelby will one day be a teenager with issues
-Most of her "issues" will not be adoption related, but just teenager related
-Expect the issues!
-I need to read more books on adoption issues for the future
-Shelby's birth mother will always be a special part of our lives
-I should never let Shelby feel like she needs to protect me from her feelings about her birth mom
-I am very grateful for Shelby's birth mom and the incredible decision that she had to make
-The adoptees that spoke tonight were very brave for sharing their stories
-Birthdays will probably be the one day that Shelby will think of her birth mother the most
-I will never know her birth mom, for that I am sad
-I will never be able to explain to Shelby the true reason why her birth mom decided to put her up for adoption
-There will be al ot of tough questions that she will one day want an answer for
-Kids can be mean, although not always intentionally
-Shelby will be teased at school
-People will ask nosy questions and not always with good intentions
-Shelby should be the one to decide how much stranger's are told about HER story
-I will need to explain to Shelby that it is OK to have "her story"
-I will not always be with Shelby to protect her from other people's comments
-Shelby will need to feel loved and accepted no matter how she behaves or what she says
-Not all adoptees want to be immersed in their culture and heritage activities
-I should listen to Shelby and let her lead the direction in which she wants to go regarding her being involved in Chinese activities
-I need to "baby" Shelby as long as I can or she will let me when she comes home
-Shelby's birth mom will always have a bond with her that I will never have
-Shelby is the only one who has been able to hear and feel her birth mom's heart from the inside
-Shelby was born to be my daughter, from the minute she was conceived
-She was not an accident, she is my chosen daughter
-I am very lucky to have been chosen by Him for this incredible journey!

CJ & Donna's Blog

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