China Babies Adoption Research

China Babies Adoption Research
China Babies Adoption Research

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Finding Zhao Gu

By Jeff Gammage

At about 10 a.m. on June 19, 2003, in the western Chinese city of Wuwei, a man named Ma Guoxing was walking across town, intent on a pending business appointment.

But as he neared the Wei’an Health Center, he noticed a crowd of people at the front gate, and he interrupted his journey to go and see what had so captivated their interest.

On the ground was a newborn baby, a girl, crying loudly.

Ma Guoxing did what no one else would do: He reached down and picked up the child. Then he turned around and began to walk back the way he had come, the baby in his arms.

* * *

Before I knew there was a man named Ma Guoxing, I imagined his existence.

I wondered what he — or she — might look like, whether he was married or single, had children or not. Most of all I yearned to know the secrets that he, alone among millions in China, held within himself.

That sort of longing is common to people like me, the American parents of Chinese children. Some 62,000 kids, almost all of them girls, have been adopted into new homes in this country since the early 1990s. But where American-born children routinely have baby photos and bronzed booties, these girls have blank spots.

Abandoned by Chinese parents barred from having “extra” children, the girls arrive with no record of their family origins. The most basic information about their beginnings – day of birth, hour of birth – is usually unknown and unknowable. So the girls’ American parents long to know the next best thing — the facts of their daughter’s discovery, details beyond the generalities of date and place. They want to be able to tell their children the name of the person who found them. Whether it was on a particular bench inside a train station, or beside a certain statue outside in a park. If it was hot or cold, sunny or raining, day or night.

Yet these details often pass unrecorded, meaningless to administrators running a Chinese welfare system awash in baby girls. For instance, for my eldest daughter, Jin Yu, the official account of her discovery runs six words: Found in Guangxin Alley, Aug. 5, 2000.

That’s all. And that’s typical.

Zhao Gu before her adoption, with a caretaker at her orphanage in Wuwei, Gansu Province.So in 2004, when my wife and I arrived in Gansu Province to adopt our second daughter, Zhao Gu, we were shocked to find two bits of tantalizing information — one a hope, the other a mystery — embedded in the paperwork.

The hope was contained in three Chinese characters: A name. Supposedly that of the man who found our child. It sounded like he worked at the local orphanage, but the translation was rough. Was he truly the person who discovered our baby? Or was he merely the worker sent to retrieve her, after she was discovered by others?

When we returned home, I wrote to officials in China, and I wished — that this man was who he appeared to be, that I could find a way to contact him, somehow pierce the walls of distance and language. That my new daughter could learn the precise circumstances of the most momentous day of her life. That against a backdrop of loss and anonymity, she could grow up knowing there was someone in her homeland who could honestly say, “I remember you.”

Two things happened that felt a lot like fate.

The first was the arrival of an official-looking letter from China. It bore no signature. It said: Yes, the man about whom you inquired, Ma Guoxing, is employed at the Wuwei Social Welfare Institute. And, no, he was not sent to recover the baby. He was the person who found her.

The second was the arrival at my newspaper of a Chinese reporter named Sunny Hu. Sunny was as bright and cheerful as her name, full of enigmatic Eastern idioms, come from the Shanghai Star to study American journalism. When I told her I had confirmed the name and workplace of the man who found my youngest child, she offered a forthright Western response: “Let’s call him up.”

* * *
We wait until night to telephone, because of the 12-hour time difference. The number I have for the orphanage is wrong. We dial again, reaching people who have no idea why we’re calling. Eventually we get through to the orphanage, and Ma Guoxing’s co-workers, who tell us he’s off. Then we reach his wife, who says he’s out. Finally we reach his daughter — who provides his cellphone number.

“It’s ringing,” Sunny says, adjusting the mouthpiece on her headset.
She begins to speak in Mandarin, then turns to me and nods — it’s him.
Sunny laughs, her voice light. I think, This is good. Ma Guoxing is not annoyed that we’ve called his personal line. He does not insist we obtain official permission to speak with him, or refer us to some faceless government functionary. He’s happy to chat.

Sunny starts into my list of my questions, saying “Oh …” and “Ah …,” listening more than talking, scribbling down every word, the how and when and where of my daughter’s discovery. I feel like I am watching the opening of a lost crypt, that buried secrets are about to be revealed. China has 1.3 billion people, but only one of them found my baby on the street, and now he is on the phone.

I hear Sunny say, “baba,” meaning, “daddy.” She hands me the headset.

I speak only English. Ma Guoxing speaks only Mandarin. But I want to hear his voice, and I want him to hear mine. I need to say the words: Thank you. Thank you for holding my baby close when she was alone, for taking her to a place where she would be safe, for helping her when I was not there to help her.

“Hello?” I say. My mouth has gone dry. “Ni hao?”

“Ni hao,” he answers.

Ma Guoxing’s voice is strong and deep.

I say, “I want to tell you how much I appreciate what you did. I want to tell you how much it means and” — and I am unable to go on.

He says something in Chinese. He must think the line has gone dead. I’m afraid he will hang up, that this man, this ghost, will slip back into the shadows.

“I am so grateful,” I manage.

“Xie xie,” Sunny whispers to me. Thank you.

“Xie xie, xie xie,” I say.

Sunny takes the phone.

Ma Guoxing says the child was swathed in a blanket. Tucked inside the wrap was a baby bottle and some formula. The girl was crying so loud! He remembers that clearly. He says the authorities tried very hard to find her Chinese parents, publicizing her discovery in the newspaper and even on radio and TV. No one came forward.

He tells us about his trek across town, how he noticed the crowd outside the clinic. He answers every question. After nearly half an hour, he has told us all he knows, and Sunny begins to say our goodbyes. But Ma Guoxing is not ready to go. Not yet. It turns out, he has long wondered about the baby he found by the gate. It has nagged at him, how he has been cut off from the story of her future — as fully as I have been blocked from the story of her past.

Now Ma Guoxing has questions of his own: Where is the girl living? Is she well? Is she healthy?

Sunny tells him: The child is well indeed. She is living in the United States, near Philadelphia, and she wants for nothing. Her parents and big sister love her very much.

Ma Guoxing says he would like photos to be sent to him. And if the child should someday travel to China, he would welcome her to visit his home. He will tell her in person about the day their lives intersected on a Wuwei street.

* * *
Ma Guoxing stepped away from the health-center gate, the newborn baby light in his arms.

He carried her to the local orphanage, where she was given a name — the surname of Wu, for the city of Wuwei, and a first name of Zhao Gu, meaning, “New beginning, beautiful girl.” She was laid down to sleep in a crib beside three other baby girls.
Almost exactly a year later, on a sunlit June morning, little Zhao Gu was bathed in a gray metal basin, then dressed in new clothes of blue. She was driven miles out of Wuwei, across central Gansu Province to the capital city of Lanzhou. A hotel elevator lifted her high to an upper-floor conference room, and there she was placed in the arms of her new parents.

If Ma Guoxing had been there, he would have recognized her cry.

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China-Babies Research

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

International Adoption

By Jen Christensen

Celebrities like Angelina Jolie and Madonna have highlighted the need for adopting children overseas, but they're also making it look easy and somewhat glamorous. Many adoptions do end wonderfully, but the journey can be challenging.

Here's what couples really go through when they are called to adopt.

Jami and Clint Kaeb didn't plan on adopting.

Jami said, "I kind of wanted a sign. How do we know for sure we're supposed to adopt?" They already had two beautiful girls, but when they heard of the more than 140 million orphans in the world they opened their hearts.

Andy Lehman works for Life International, a non profit organization that gives matching grants and no interest loans to people looking to adopt overseas.

Andy said, "A lot of people don't know until the day the bills are due how it will be paid, but it works out."

International Adoption can cost between $15 to 30 thousand, but the cost isn't stopping families on a mission.

Andy said, "Adoption is becoming more normative. It creates momentum where hey, if other folks are doing it, then maybe that's something I could consider doing."

According to the Adoption Institute, international adoptions have more than doubled since the 1990's. They have gone from about 9,000 children in 1991 to around 19,000 in 2001.

Jami and Clint flew to Guatemala to meet the little boy they picked several months before they were set to take him home. The Kaebs planned on adopting a little boy that was 4 to 6 months old, but court delays changed that. Jami said, "Our attorney says it took 97 days in that last court, which should take 4 weeks if that. that was hard."

Jami was nervous she wouldn't recognize her son after only seeing him in pictures, but she was overwhelmed with emotion and felt a bond with him immediately when his foster mom brought him into the room. The little boy they had dreaming of became Hudson.

The Kaeb's spent five days with him in Guatemala before they had to hand him back to his foster mom and wait for the courts to let them take Hudson home.

Several months later, at 10 months old, Hudson became an American citizen. His parents flew back to Guatemala to pick him up. His sisters and tons of relatives and friends waited at the airport to greet him.

Jami said, "We were up late that night. The kids typically go to bed around 7:30. We were up until 10:30 that night." Clint said, "He scratched one of the girls and she was like that's O.K. Hudson. The next day it was over. She was like Hudson scratched me, but that night he could do no wrong."

Adding a family member is an adjustment no matter what, but when the child is adopted from another country there is even more planning.

Clint said, “You hear about these cases where the child is 7 years old their parents sat them down and said they're adopted. Wow! And they're hit with this big thing."

Jami and Clint are very open about their adoption. They video taped the entire process, Hudson will be able to see his foster mom Felipa and they have two pictures of his birth mom.

Jami said, "She (birth mom) basically wanted him to know she loves him and wanted a better life for him. So, I'm glad I know that. "

Life International, a company that helps families adopt internationally, gives these tips for adoptive parents:

*Learn a few simple phrases in the native language.

*Create a routine immediately.

*Join a play group with other families who have adopted children from the same country.

* Enjoy food and artifacts from the country.

Andy said, "It's important to highlight and emphasize the positive aspects of that country and make it part of that family."

Hudson is now one year old and is adjusting rather well to his new home. He is attached to his mom and is starting to pick up the English language.

The Kaebs have even joined an adoption pot luck group. Clint jokingly said, "Instead of a kid walking up and saying why do you look different than others in your family? It's why isn't there anyone in your family that looks different?"

Jami and Clint say there will be challenges ahead, but after 10 months of waiting it feels good to be a normal family, to finally be complete.

Jami said, "I tell them I love you three kids. I just get so excited that they're together. It's just is great to see them all home."

Some countries are easier to adopt from than others.

Right now, China sees the most adoptions, then Russia, and Guatemala. In the last few years, Ethiopia has seen a huge surge.

The average age of internationally adopted children is 18 months old.

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China-Babies Research

I just went to visit, I ended up Adopting from China

Trip to China alters lives
Hoosier 'just visiting' brings home a daughter (and later another)

By Abe Aamidor

Beth Nonte Russell went to China in 1999, accompanying a friend who intended to adopt a baby girl. Through a totally unexpected chain of events detailed in Russell's book, "Forever Lily," she ended up adopting the girl herself.

The Jasper native's story was published earlier this year by Simon & Schuster. Russell, 44, an Indiana University graduate, lives in the Washington, D.C., area with her husband, Randy, and their daughters, Lily, 8, and Jaden, 3, both adopted from China.

Question: Why are Chinese adoptions seemingly so popular in America?
Answer: People who have adopted Chinese babies generally find that the Chinese babies are relatively healthy compared to the Russian babies or Romanian babies. Plus, it's pretty well-run. You don't have to go over there and wait around for a long time while the adoption takes place. . . . If you go to South America, you may have to wait for weeks and weeks, and you don't really know how much it's going to cost you.

Q: You wrote a column on adoption in The New York Times in January. Do you speak much on adoption?
A: I really have not. I've done interviews, but not speaking engagements as such. I don't consider myself an adoption expert, though I've had these experiences. I do like to promote the cause, especially international adoptions. It speaks to the best of us, what we're capable of.

Q: Some people have questioned your book, especially a lot of the dream sequences. What do you say to them?
A: I don't like the criticism, yet I do understand it. What I've come to understand is that in my whole life I've had a very active dream life. It was only after I started seeing this reaction to the book that I thought, "Oh, doesn't everyone have a rich dream life?" I kind of laugh because since then there have been recent cases of memoirs being palmed off as actual truth, and then they turn out as not being absolutely truthful. Yet everything I wrote was absolutely true.

Q: The book does in some ways seem to be more about you than about adoption. Was that intentional?
A: I consider the book to be not about adoption, not about travel, not about someone having an unusual experience. It's about a transformation.

Q: Do you still see your travel companion, identified as Alex in the book, who originally intended to adopt Lily?
A: No, we don't. The four of us -- she and her husband and my husband and myself -- made a decision that we wouldn't stay in touch after the custody hearing. . . . I did send her a copy so she would know the book is being published, but I did not hear from her.

Q: How is Lily doing?
A: She is a very vivacious, active third-grader. She is very social. She has a lot of friends. She loves to do a lot of activities with them. She is very sensitive. She is very aware when other children are in danger. She empathizes deeply with other kids. It could be her experience or it could be her personality. She is a very beautiful soul, and we are just blessed to have her.

Call Star reporter Abe Aamidor at (317) 444-6472.

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China-Babies Research

Monday, November 05, 2007

Adoption Facts

One and a Half Million Adopted Children in the United States
There are 1.5 million adopted children in the United States, over 2% of all U.S. children. [1]

Half a Million Women Seeking to Adopt, While the Percentage of Women Adopting Has Declined
In 1995, about 500,000 women were seeking to adopt a child, and 100,000 had applied with an agency. [2] The same year, an estimated 1.3% of women adopted one or more children, a decline from 2.1% in 1973. [3]

1992 Was the Last Year National Adoption Totals Were Gathered
The total number of adoptions each year has not been comprehensively compiled since 1992. While there are reporting mechanisms for foster care and international adoptions, states are not legally required to record the number of private, domestic adoptions. In 1992, the National Center for State Courts gathered adoption totals from a variety of sources, and estimated that 126,951 children were adopted through international, foster care, private agency, independent and step-parent adoptions. [4] NCSC estimated that stepparent adoptions accounted for 42% of all adoptions and foster care adoptions 15%. [5]

The Number of Adoptions Have Fluctuated Over Time
For a variety of societal and economic reasons, there have been dramatic fluctuations in the annual number of adoptions. For instance, adoptions skyrocketed from a low of 50,000 in 1944 to a high of 175,000 in 1970. [6] In 1992, the last year for which reliable numbers were available, there were almost 127,000 annual adoptions in the U.S. [7]

About 60% of Americans Have a Personal Connection to Adoption
The Adoption Institute�s 1997 Public Opinion Benchmark survey found that 58% of Americans know someone who has been adopted, has adopted a child or has relinquished a child for adoption. [8]

There Are a Variety of Adoption Types
Domestic adoption is the adoption of children who reside in the U.S. either through the public child welfare system or private adoption.

Foster care adoption is the adoption of children in state care for whom reunification with their birth parents is not possible for safety or other reasons. It is arranged by state child welfare agencies or by private agencies under contract with the states. Children may be adopted by their foster parents, relatives (who may or may not have been caring for the child through kinship foster care), or adults to whom they have no prior relationship. Adoption from foster care has increased in the past five years in response to a federal mandate that states take timely action to provide permanent homes for children in state care.

Private adoption can be arranged either through an agency or through independent adoption. In private agency adoption, children are placed through a non-profit or for-profit agency that is licensed by the state. In independent adoption, children are placed directly with adoptive parents by birth parents or with the help of a facilitator or attorney.

International adoption is the adoption of children from other countries by U.S. citizens. International adoptions are usually arranged through adoption agencies. Adoptions are finalized abroad or in the United States, depending on the laws of the country where the child resided.

Transracial adoption refers to children who are placed with an adoptive family of another race or ethnicity. While it is a subgroup of both domestic and international adoption, it is frequently discussed as a separate category due to the unique cultural issues faced by the new families. A study found that in 1987, 8% of all adoptions included parents and children of different races. [9] An estimated 15% of the 36,000 adoptions from foster care in 1998 were transracial or transcultural. [10]

Children Adopted Internationally Tend To Be Younger Than Children Adopted From Foster Care Almost 90 percent of children adopted internationally are less than five years old, [11] while a majority of those adopted from foster care are more than five years old. [12] Almost half of the children adopted internationally are infants, [13] compared with 2 percent of the children adopted from foster care. [14]

Inability to Have Biological Children Is a Motivating Factor in Private Adoption People decide to adopt for many reasons, but infertility is one of the most common motivating factors. In one study, more than 80% of those adopting independently or through a private agency responded that the inability to have a biological child was the reason they chose to adopt. By contrast, only half of those adopting from foster care cited infertility as the reason for their decision. [15] It is estimated that 11% to 24% of couples who experience difficulty conceiving or carrying a pregnancy to term pursue adoption. [16]


Sources and References
[1] Fields, Jason, Living Arrangements of Children, at pg. 9, Current Population Reports, P70-74, U.S. Census Bureau (Apr. 2001). [Children encompasses the ages 18 and under. The total includes the approximately 500,000 children living with one biological parent and a stepparent who adopted them.]
[2] National Center for Health Statistics, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Fertility, family planning, and women's health: New data from the 1995 National Survey of Family Growth, at pg. 8, Vital Health Statistics 23, No.19 (May 1997).
[3] [The estimate refers to currently or formerly married women age 18-44.] Chandra, Anjani; Abma, Joyce; Maza, Penelope; Bachrach, Christine, Adoption, Adoption Seeking and Relinquishment for Adoption in the United States, at pg. 5, Advance Data, No. 306. National Center for Health Statistics, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (May 1999).
[4] Flango, Victor and Flango, Carol. How Many Children Were Adopted in 1992, at pg. 1022, Child Welfare, Vol. LXXIV, No. 5 (Sept.-Oct. 1995).
[5] Flango, Victor and Flango, Carol, How Many Children Were Adopted in 1992 at pgs. 1018 & 1024, Child Welfare, Vol. LXXIV, No. 5 (Sept.-Oct. 1995).
[6] Maza, Penny, Adoption Trends: 1944-1975, at Table 1, Child Welfare Research Notes, No. 9 (Aug. 1994).
[7] Flango, Victor and Flango, Carol, How Many Children Were Adopted in 1992, at pg. 1022, Child Welfare, Vol. LXXIV, No. 5 (Sept.-Oct.1995).
[8] Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute, Benchmark Survey. 1997.
[9] Bachrach, et al., Adoption in the 1980s, at pg. 6, Advance Data, No. 181, National Center for Health Statistics, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (1989).
[10] National Adoption Information Clearinghouse, Transracial Adoption Fact Sheet, available at
[11] [International adoption data is for 1998.] Immigration and Naturalization Services Statistics Branch, Table 15: Immigrant-Orphans Adopted by U.S. Citizens by Sex, Age, and Region and Selected Country of Birth, Fiscal Year 1998, at pg. 53, 1998 Statistical Yearbook of the Immigration and Naturalization Service, available at
[12] [Foster care data is for 1999.] U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Children�s Bureau, at pg. 5, AFCARS Report, No. 6 (June 2001), available at
[13] [International adoption data is for 1998.] Immigration and Naturalization Services Statistics Branch, Table 15: Immigrant-Orphans Adopted by U.S. Citizens by Sex, Age, and Region and Selected Country of Birth, Fiscal Year 1998, at pg. 53, 1998 Statistical Yearbook of the Immigration and Naturalization Service, available at
[14] [Foster care data is for 1999.] U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Children�s Bureau, at pg. 5, AFCARS Report, No. 6 (June 2001), available at
[15] Berry, et al., Preparation, Support and Satisfaction of Adoptive Families in Agency and Independent Adoptions, at pg. 166, Table 2, Child and Adolescent Social Work Journal, Vol. 13, No. 2 (April 1996).
[16] Mosher, William D. and Bachrach, Christine A, Understanding U.S. Fertility: Continuity and Change in the National Survey of Family Growth, 1988-1995, at pg. 9, Family Planning Perspectives, Vol. 27, No. 1 (Jan.-Feb. 1996).

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Slamming the Door on Adoption

Depriving Children Abroad of Loving Homes

By Elizabeth Bartholet
Sunday, November 4, 2007; Page B07

Last month, Guatemala was effectively shut down as a country from which children can be adopted into the United States. While the shutdown is officially temporary, it is likely that even when new laws are in place, Guatemala will follow the path taken by many South American countries in recent years: eliminating the private agencies and intermediaries that facilitate the placement of children who need homes and substituting government monopoly over adoption, which will reduce to a trickle the number of children escaping life in institutions or on the streets.

In recent years, Guatemala has been a model for those who believe in adoption as a vehicle for providing homeless children with permanent, nurturing parents. It has released significant numbers of children to international adoption, many at young ages, before they suffered the kind of damage that results in attachment disorders and other life-altering limitations. Ironically, these policies are why Guatemala attracted the attention of UNICEF and other human rights organizations that, along with our State Department, have been pushing for adoption "reform." These official "friends of children" have created pressure that has led to the cessation of international adoption in half the countries that in recent decades had been sending the largest number of homeless children abroad. Until recent years, the number of international adoptions into the United States had been steadily increasing, but the numbers are dramatically down.

Why close down international adoption? The real-world alternatives for the children at issue are life -- or death -- on the streets or in the types of institutions that a half-century of research has proved systematically destroy children's ability to grow up capable of functioning normally in society. By contrast, we know that adoption works incredibly well to provide children with nurturing homes and that it works best for those placed early in life.

Critics of international adoption argue that children have heritage rights and "belong" in their countries of birth. But children enjoy little in the way of heritage or other rights in institutions. The critics argue that we should develop foster-care alternatives for children in the countries they are from, and UNICEF's official position favors in-country foster care over out-of-country adoption. But foster care does not exist as a real option in most countries that allow children to be adopted abroad, and the generally dire economic circumstances in these nations make it extremely unlikely that comprehensive foster care programs will soon be developed. Nor is there any reason to think that children would do as well in foster care as in adoptive homes. Indeed, for decades the research in countries that use foster care, such as the United States, has shown that such care does not work nearly as well for children as adoption does.

Critics also condemn adoption abuses such as baby-buying. But there is no hard evidence that payments are systematically used in any country to induce birth parents to surrender their children. In any event, the right response to such abuses is stepped-up enforcement of the overlapping laws prohibiting such payments, which would rightly result in the lawbreakers being penalized. Closing down international adoption, however, wrongly penalizes all those homeless children who could otherwise find nurturing adoptive homes, condemning them to institutions or to the streets.

Policies restricting international adoption replicate the same-race matching policies that used to exist in the United States. In the mid-1990s, Congress passed the Multiethnic Placement Act, rejecting the notion that children should be seen as belonging only within the racial group into which they were born. Our lawmakers recognized the harm children suffered by virtue of being held in foster care rather than being adopted transracially.

Congress, the State Department and the human rights organizations that purport to care for children should similarly reject the notion that children in other countries must at all costs be kept in their communities of birth. Children's most fundamental human rights include the right to be nurtured in their formative years by permanent parents in real families.

Elizabeth Bartholetis a law professor and faculty director of the Child Advocacy Program atHarvard Law School. She is the author of the books "Family Bonds" and "Nobody's Children."

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Love Without Boundaries Videos

One of my favorite groups, Love Without Boundaries, helps many, many children in China. They recently posted a new video about their work on YouTube. You can find it here:

I am most moved by their video about cleft-affected children, though, for obvious reasons. There are so many cleft kids in orphanages in China, mostly because average Chinese families just cannot afford the necessary surgery for a child born with a cleft lip/palate. These families are left with little choice but to leave their child for an orphanage- probably with the hope that the child will get the care and treatment he or she will need. Here, in North America, cleft lip/palate is a medical need that is so easy to correct. It is almost unimaginable that it so often takes children away from their families in China. Eventually, we all hope that this won't need to happen. But, for now, the reality is that it does happen and there is a big need for the work of groups like LWB.

China Calling Blog

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