Many adoptive parents, chose to adopt via China’s program with the understanding that children placed were primarily abandoned due to extreme poverty of the family and/or having a children “over quota” as defined by China’s strict family policy planning program. It made a lot of sense, and initially that was certainly the predominant “cause” of much abandonment during the early part of China’s adoption program in the mid 1990’s. To prevent some tragic deaths of helpless infants, some local laws were passed to provide an “incentive” for finders to bring a child to an orphanage or police instead of allowing an infant to die, because reporting an abandoned baby involved a regular citizen with a formal police report, not something most citizens would want to have happen. It was seen as a way to prevent senseless tragedies of an infant being left alone to die after having been abandoned.
Social Context Underwent Changes
It remains that most children who have been adopted via the China program have likely been placed once their birth family chose to abandon a child, typically due to the collision of a traditional preference for males and the strict limits of China’s Family Planning laws. What has come out as truth in later years is that after the international adoption program in China efficiently ramped up to handle the large number of abandoned babies, there actually arose an “incentive” to process international adoptions for the orphanages. This led to a host of unintended consequences. There have been some reports of children being trafficked; or family planning officials becoming overzealous and “seizing” children to be placed in orphanages. While no one can accurately assess what percentage of adoptions might have been affected by these stark scenarios, one must be aware that these realities do exist in some measure within the China program. There are also other considerations to think about before beginning to search. A phrase to consider is: “You cannot “unring” a bell.”
Communication and Ongoing Plan
Okay, let’s say you’re planning to search. Let’s assume you are successful in locating the birth family. What is your plan? What level of connection do you anticipate you would like? Do you and/or your child have a language barrier to overcome in order to communicate? What will be the schedule? How often would you/your child like to speak to the birth family members? Will you take more return trips if they are located? How often will that be? Will you move to China? What if your family is asked to provide monetary support to the Chinese family? This is considered a normal obligation of family members within Chinese culture, as a result of the pervasive influence of the concept of filial piety. If they do approach you, how will you handle? These are a few practical possibilities you will want to think through and make a plan to manage these issues.
If birth family is located, what will be the ongoing plan for contact and exchange of information? Once per month? Once per week? Once per year? What will be the method of communication? Skype, email, phone, or in-person visit on a semi-regular basis? If we find the birth family, our child’s connection with them may outlive us. Will this create a future, lifelong financial obligation for our children if they meet their natively born siblings? There is a high likelihood of our child having birth siblings in China – what will that relationship look like? What is the plan for communication there, now and in the long-term? What will your child’s filial responsibility be towards their birth siblings? How do we establish the limits of that and communicate it, so that doing so does not cause irreparable harm to the cross cultural relationship?
While finding birth parents could answer the “why” question, it can create a number of other more involved questions, such as, “Why me?” and “Why not this or that sibling?” This is just the beginning of the many hundreds of questions that locating a birth family can generate. According to adoptive families who have successfully located their child’s birth family, it was an important pursuit and worth the effort. However the collective wisdom includes a warning, that being successful in your search also will upset the current family dynamics and equilibrium for a period of time.
What To Do?
What is the best thing to do? This can be a question, like many other parental decisions, cannot be known with full certainty. So, maybe it’ best to consider the issue with this perspective: “What seems the best thing to do now, in this situation, given these circumstances?” And, then listen to your parental “gut instinct”. You can study this website to gain more understanding and assess the options as you consider these issues. While this site is not intended as an authoritative final word on any of these issues, it has been created to provide a framework of information for exploring birth family searching in China, where we know conducting a search can be highly complex.