Monday, June 16, 2014

"China to Ban Names that Signal 'Orphan' Status" -- But When?

In early February 2012, the China Daily announced that the "Ministry of Civil Affairs plans to issue new regulations set of rules to prohibit orphanages from using naming conventions that make it easy for other Chinese speakers to guess that an individual is an orphan—leading to lifelong stigma."  The move was to prevent orphanages from using surnames that indicated a child was from an orphanage since many orphanages habitually utilized surnames that were not regular surnames inside China.  Going forward, the article indicated, surnames would be chosen from a list of 100 Chinese surnames, and that orphanages "will no longer be allowed to name children in their care in ways that signal their parentless status."

Adoptive families anticipated seeing the name change regulation show up in the new referrals coming from China's orphanage in the Summer of 2012, but it seemed that nothing really changed.  A survey of the finding ads from February 2012 forward shows that in all but a few exceptions, China's orphanages gave a collective yawn and continued on as usual.

As we essayed about in June 2011, orphanages have often used creative ways to name their children.  Some of them use location codes, others chronological markers such as a finding year to assign surnames.  Thus, in order to determine which orphanages responded to the Civil Affairs Bureau's call to use common surnames, one must first determine which orphanages used a frequently-changed surname protocol prior to the announcement.  For example, if an orphanage used a different surname every month prior to 2012, it is hard to determine if the surname announcement really changed anything the orphanage was doing.  Thus, for this study we looked for orphanages that had a consistent surname in use prior to 2012, and who changed that surname contemporaneously with the CAB announcement.

The Guangdong, Jiangxi, Hunan, Guangxi, Anhui, Hubei, Chongqing and Guangxi Provinces provide the vast majority of children for international adoption.  All but two of these Provinces, Anhui and Hubei, include the names of the children submitted for adoption in the orphanage finding ads. 

Guangdong Province had forty-five orphanages that submitted children for international adoption program between 2011 and 2013, and they submitted a collective 936 children for adoption in 2012.  When the surname used in 2011 is compared to the surname used in 2013, one notices that by and large, very few orphanages altered their naming sequences between 2011 (the year prior to the directive being issued)  and 2013 (the year following the announcement).  In fact, of the forty-five total orphanages, only seven saw their assigned surnames change between 2011 and 2013: Dongguan, Guangzhou, Shenzhen, Xinhui, Yangchun, Zengcheng and Zhongshan.  The remaining thirty-eight orphanages retained the same surname used prior to the announcement. 

As we pointed out in our article "The 'Science' of Orphanage Naming," many orphanages utilize a surname drawn from the city or area where the orphanage resides.  Thus, in Guangdong Province the Leizhou orphanages uses "Lei" as the surname, "Qingcheng" uses "Qingcheng," Suixi "Sui," Xuwen "Xu,", etc.  Of the 45 Guangdong orphanages, thirty-one used all or part of the city or county name as the surname for the children adopted by the orphanage.  One would have expected this pool of orphanages to have responded to the surname directive.

But it becomes more complicated when one realizes that the surnames used are in fact also Chinese surnames in China.  For example, when one compares the orphanage surnames used by the thirty-one orphanages in Guangdong Province that used their city names as part of the surname, fourteen of the surnames appear of the list of "100 Chinese Surnames" the CAB indicated should be used (Dianbai, Heyuan, Jiangcheng, Jiangmen, Leizhou, Longgang, Maoming, Panyu, Pingyuan, Shaoguan, Wuchuan, Xuwen, Yangchun, almost all of whom use the first syllable of the city as the orphanage surname).  Thus, although the surnames utilized by these fourteen orphanages in Guangdong are drawn from a child's orphanage of origin, the names themselves are commonly used as surnames in China, and thus would not betray a child's orphanage status to those inside China that didn't already know of a child's "parentless status."

A larger group of orphanages use surnames that, while not on the list of 100 top Chinese surnames, nevertheless are used as surnames inside China, albeit less commonly.  Fifteen orphanages in Guangdong use surnames mostly reflective of the city name, but which surnames are uncommonly used as surnames in China (Bao'An, Foshan, Gaozhou, Guangning, Huazhou, Huidong, Huiyang, Huizhou, Lianjiang, Maogang, Maonan, Shunde, Yangdong, and Zhanjiang).  Thus, while not technically in compliance with the CAB directive of using names from the "list of 100 Chinese surnames," one could argue that the surnames used by these orphanages do not by definition reveal a child's "parentless status."

So, this leaves the orphanages that use surnames that are not known to be either commonly or uncommonly used as surnames inside China.  This is a fairly small list in Guangdong Province, with only six orphanages falling into this category (Dapu, Qingcheng, Sanshui, Shanwei, Suixi and Xinhui).  One would expect that these orphanages would feel pressure to alter their surname designation, since the surnames utilized by these five orphanages are unknown inside China, and thus would clearly signal an orphanage status.  Of these six, only one orphanage, Xinhui, changed the surname used between 2011 and 2013, changing the surname from "Xin" (Xinhui) to "Zhang," a name found on the list of 100 common Chinese surnames.

Perhaps the lack response by orphanages to the CAB directive was minimal because the surnames used by most of these orphanages weren't the "Guo" (Country), "Dang" (Party) and "Fu" (Orphanage) surnames specifically mentioned in the CAB directive as surnames that should no longer be used.  Perhaps orphanages that utilized these obvious orphanage surnames were more responsive to the CAB directive.

While several Guangdong orphanages had used one of these three "orphanage surnames" in previous years, by 2011 no orphanage in Guangdong was still naming their children by either character.  In Jiangxi Province, Fuzhou has consistently used the "Fu" character as the surname, and Guixi has predominantly used the "Guo" character.  In Hunan Province, Hengdong County has historically used the "Guo" character as its surname, and Zhuzhou has used a variety of surnames, including "Guo."  In Chongqing Municipality, only the Fuling orphanage has consistently used "Fu" for its surname.  Guangxi has several orphanages that have occasionally used these three characters: Mother's Love orphanage which utilizes "Guo" for children from Hepu (which utilizes that surname for all of its children), "Dang" for kids from Yulin City, and "Fu" for the few children from Yizhou (which also uses this surname exclusively).  

By far the most common Province using the three "orphanage surnames" is Henan Province.  Of the twenty-one orphanages that submit files for international adoption, fifteen of them use, consistently or occasionally, "Dang" (most common), "Fu" or "Guo".  Other northern Provinces such as neighboring Shaanxi Province also commonly use these surnames.  

The CAB's directive seems, at a minimum, to clearly state and require that orphanages using these three surnames, which clearly label "children who grow up in orphanages," stop using these characters.  So how many of the twenty-four orphanages have changed their surnames since February 2012?  Only one: Hebi orphanage in Henan Province, which finally changed its surname from "Dang" to common surname "Zhao" in February 2013. The remaining orphanages continue to use "Dang," "Guo," and "Fu" to name their children.  Thus, the CAB directive issues to the orphanages in February 2012 has been almost completely ignored by the orphanages in China that participate in the international adoption program.  Zhang Zhirong, a consultant for Half-the-Sky Foundation, suggested that "This move [by the CAB] shows the government is paying more attention to these children's psychological needs, which helps their development."  While the government may be, the orphanages in this case clearly aren't. 

Monday, May 26, 2014

DNAConnect.Org Makes First DNA Match

On May 16, 2014, we received confirmation that a DNA sample collected by DNAConnect.Org had made a match to an adoptee in the United States.  When we were first contacted about the possible birth family, we had already had other research that indicated that Family Planning had been active in that area, and that the story told to the adoptive family was probably true. We offered to send a friend inside China to the birth family, collect the DNA, photos, and their "story," and submit the DNA to a large genetics lab in the U.S.  The adoptee submitted her sample to the same data base, and five weeks later we received word that the samples had been matched.  

The story below, told by the adoptive mother, illustrates how easy searches can sometimes be.  It is posted here to help other families in their searches. 

I was befriended by another member of a China adoption e-mail group I belong to.  She contacted me because we adopted our children, who are close in age, from the same orphanage, and around the same time.  She and her husband had located their daughter's birth family simply by sending a letter to the finder listed in their daughter's paperwork, stating that they wanted to find her birth parents, and would appreciate any relevant knowledge he might have. 

The individual listed as the finder knew the birth family, gave the letter to them, and the birth family in turn wrote to the adoptive parents in the U.S.  They had been searching for their daughter since she had been taken by Family Planning, and they had had no idea she was in the United States.

My friend told her daughter's birth father about our situation, and he offered to help us.  This was a God send, because I would have been unable to pay a searcher.  He requested information about the finder, who turned out to be someone he had known for many years.  He contacted the finder, who advised him that my daughter had not been abandoned.  It turned out that the birth father helping us came from a small village two miles away from the even smaller village where my daughter was "found." He knew the village and its inhabitants well.  Through talking with the "finder," he discovered that my daughter and his were taken to the orphanage by Family Planning officials together.  Small world!

The "finder" said that he knew my daughter's birth family, and that if he obtained permission from a third party, he would disclose the information re: their identity and location.  When that disclosure was not forthcoming, the birth father began assisting us, with the help of his daughters, by canvassing the village my daughter was taken from.  Eventually, one of the villagers remembered that an older woman in the village had been caring for an infant granddaughter about 15 years ago (the age of my daughter), and told her the story.  She contacted the birth father helping us, and came to his house in a nearby city, where he now lived, to meet with him.  They compared notes and concluded that my daughter was her grand baby.  She had been looking for her ever since she was taken by Family Planning.  My daughter's birth family lives in Guangzhou; the maternal grandmother contacted them, and they made an appointment to meet at our helper's home, about 900 miles away, to be "introduced" via QQ video chat to my daughter and myself.

During our second video chat, we learned that the "finder" was in fact a third cousin, who had seen my daughter during a visit to her maternal grandmother's house, where my daughter had been taken to hide her from Guangzhou Family Planning officials. He had a son, but wanted a daughter, and offered to unofficially adopt her.  With the approval of the birth family, he was allowed to take my daughter to his home.  So the loss of my daughter was not only a tragedy for her birth family, but for her adoptive family as well.  The man listed as my daughter's finder was actually her adoptive father.

This is really the story of how two birth families were found, and in each instance the person listed in the paperwork as the finder knew more than they had disclosed to the government.  In each instance, the family had tried to hide their baby, and were ultimately unsuccessful.  In each instance, our daughters were the third female child born to their birth mothers. Almost everything we had been led to believe about our daughter's being abandoned was false.  Every scenario I speculated about what had really happened was incorrect.  We were very fortunate that our orphanage at least listed accurate information about our daughters' "finders."

In my daughter's case, her birth family traveled from their home to the orphanage she was taken to to ask for her back, once they learned she had been taken from her adoptive family.  They were told that she was already in foster care, and that it was too late.  Not unexpectedly, the orphanage did not share this information with us.

During our second video chat, with an interpreter this time, the family shared that they thought my daughter looked a lot like her 16 year old sister, and QQed photos.  The two girls certainly do resemble each other, right down to minute details, and in fact, could be twins.  Our interpreter, who was my daughter's Mandarin teacher, kind of took matters into her own hands when I asked her to tell the family that I would send photos, and told them that I would send photos AFTER a DNA verification was done.  (I have found that almost without exception, the people we know from mainland China encouraged us not to search, and were very suspicious of the birth family.)  That was not my intention, as I was totally convinced after seeing the photos of her sister, but my daughter had heard of stories where birth families had thought to have been found, only to learn that subsequently there was not a DNA match. She wanted the reassurance of a DNA match, as did I.  Likewise, her birth mother also wanted the reassurance of a DNA verification, and in fact went to the hospital in the local city the next day to get the process started (as it turned out, the hospital did not offer that service).

 I was very relieved to contact Research-China.Org, and learn that their sister project would collect the DNA sample, ship it to the States, and submit it to a lab for analysis and comparison with my daughter's DNA sample, which I submitted. It was very important to me to know that the DNA sample would be collected by a trained third party, as this would ensure that the sample was collected properly, from the right person.  Most importantly, there was no cost to the birth family, and our birth family did not lose face in the process.  Their behavior has made it very clear that they do not want to be perceived as in any way benefiting financially from the discovery of the location of their birth daughter.  They are very good people, obviously poor, with a great deal of pride.  I think that people in mainland China tend to assume that anyone from the U.S. who has adopted a child from China is wealthy (and maybe, comparatively, they are right).  However, in my case, we are also poor by U.S. standards, and it was a huge relief to not have to organize and pay for the collection of a DNA sample in the P.R.C.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Hunan Scandal Orphanage Data Book

We want to alert families with children from the Hengdong, Hengshan and Qidong County orphanages of the most recent data book we have published, containing the finding data of all children adopted from these three orphanages from 1999 through 2012.  In addition to the finding information contained in the orphanage finding ads, we have carefully transcribed the Hunan trial records and noted each name in the data book for whom an orphanage record was submitted.  These records contain very important information that will be very much of interest to adoptees and their families.

The data books contain the data from which an adoptive family can assess the veracity of their child's finding story, or see if possible siblings were found the same day nearby.  The books are a day to day, child by child recounting of over a decade of adoptions.  The are, quite simply, must-haves for adoptive families wanting to provide their children with as much information as possible.  Any adoptive parent considering a search for their child's birth family would be foolish if they didn't first study the data from all of the children from their child's orphanage.

We have completed the data books for the following orphanages, and additional books are being added weekly.  One can read more about these important publications here:


Shangrao (at press)

Hengdong County
Hengshan County
Qidong County
Yongzhou City, including:
   • Dao
   • Jiangyong
   • Lanshan
   • Lingling
   • Ningyuan
   • Qiyang
   • Shuangpai
Yueyang City/County


Monday, December 30, 2013

New Subscription Blog Pricing

 Changes to Our Subscription Blog
Research-China has been around for over ten years, and in that time we have evolved and broadened our offerings to adoptive families.  We thought it might be helpful to present what exactly we have to offer families, and why they should seriously consider contacting us for information about their child.

Subscription Blog (link to subscribe) -- After four years of researching in-depth articles about China's program, we find that it is very difficult to continue our "once a month" page for new essays.  As a result, we are changing the subscription policy for our subscription blog.  Until further notice, the rate for the blog will be $20 for a life-time subscription.  Subscribing now will give you access to the over 50 articles we have already published, as well as any future articles.

Articles we have already published include:

What to Tell – And When (Telling your child their history) -- Some adoptive parents mistakenly think that searching for their child's birth family should be delayed until the child is older, or makes the decision themselves.  Drawing on personal experiences, we present an option that minimizes all of the risks involved.
“Modern” Dying Rooms (Dianjiang Orphanage) -- Press story from inside China detailing problems in this large Chongqing orphanage. 

Police Reports: Why They're Important & Why They Are Not (How reliable are police reports?)
"The Missing Girls of China" -- David Smolin (Discussion of this important article)
Putting the "Quota" Myth to Bed (Are orphanages limited in how many children they can submit?  We disprove this idea one last time.)
When Problems Come Home (A personal reflection on the changing story of my daughter's finder)
One-on-One Interview with an Orphanage Director (What pressures does an orphanage director face, and how does it impact what adoptive families are told?)
Creative Searching Techniques by Chinese Birth Families (Methods employed by those inside China searching for lost children)
"Feeling, Reason & the Law of China are Contradictory"  (Interview with an orphanage director engaged in baby-buying, and how they see the problems facing adoption)
Changing the Birth Dates of Adoptees (How accurate are the birth dates assigned to children?)
Birth Parent Search Results -- LePing, Jiangxi (Summary of our research birth parent search project in one area)
Selective Abortion in China: A Personal Experience (A family friend struggles in dealing with a pregnancy of a girl)
A Research Project Ride-Along (How do we know where to go to see success in birth parent searches?  What do we look at?)
How & Why an Orphanage Joins the IA Program (What must an orphanage do to join the IA program, and why are there so many that haven't joined?)
The Wide Cultural Divide (A Chinese blogger that grew up in an orphanage shares some stories that give prospective to the differences in cultural viewpoints)
Love Without Boundaries & the Demographics of China Adoption (We dissect a recent LWB blog article discussing reasons behind the slowdown in Chinese adoptions)
Lan's Journal of Life & Research (Part I & II) (My wife writes about her personal live stories, and how they influence the way she sees her research experiences, including how our daughter's Chinese birth family see us as adoptive parents)

We have also dug deep into the various Provinces involved in adoption, and discuss finding patterns and other qualities peculiar to each Province and the orphanages found in each: 
A Look at the Provinces I: Chongqing Municipality
A Look at the Provinces II: Jiangxi Province
A Look at the Provinces III: Hunan
A Look at the Provinces IV: Guangxi
A Look at the Provinces V: Guangdong
A Look at the Provinces VI: Jiangsu
A Look at the Provinces VII: Anhui
A Look at the Provinces VIII: Henan

Our subscription blog represents the most comprehensive source of factual information available about China's adoption program, and the histories of the thousands of children that have been adopted. 

At only $20 for unlimited access, it is our best value for this important information. 

Our subscription blog is designed to answer questions of active and engaged adoptive families.  We offer a 100% satisfaction guarantee that your subscription will be worthwhile.  You will learn things you never thought possible.


Other offerings from Research-China.Org include:

Finding Ads --Research-China.Org began with the discovery of Guangdong finding ads in 2002.  After adopting our daughter Meigon that year, I was refused a copy of her finding ad by the orphanage (as were all adoptive families at that time).  We began collecting newspapers, and today have the finding ads for over 100,000 children.  Adoptive families are now often provided copies of their child's finding ads at adoption, a response by the Chinese government to our business, but these are often poor-quality xerox copies.

There are several reasons why families should contact us for their child's finding ad, even if they already have a copy.  First, it allows us to see if we have other information about your child besides the finding ad itself.  In the decade of researching, we have located many foster families, finders, birth families, etc., of many children for whom we don't have contact information.  There is no cost or obligation to requesting your child's finding ad, and you may be surprised at what other opportunities we have for you.

Second, the finding ad given to families is sometimes a second or even a third "edition," with previous ads being published with different photos, etc.  We have all of these ads, so you may be surprised to learn that another finding ad was published for your child that was not provided you, with an earlier photo of your child that you didn't know existed. 

Your child's finding ad is the earliest documentation that exists for your child, and aside from the photo is an important artifact of your child's personal history. 

Foster Family Contact Information -- Since 2006 we have been collecting contact information of foster families all across China.  These women are anxious to keep informed on how their foster children are doing, share early photos and anecdotes with the adoptive families, etc.  If your child is on our list, or you know someone whose child is on the list, please contact us for the direct mailing address of the family.  Orphanages habitually work to prevent adoptive families from getting in contact with foster families, so this opportunity is of immense importance to adoptive families. 

Birth Parent Search (BPSA)/Orphanage Reliability Analysis (ORA) --  These two reports are an in-depth look at your child's orphanage, its adoption history, and its demographic make-up.  We believe that by comparing your child's finding circumstances with those of all the other children adopted from the same orphanage, very important conclusions can be drawn that have serious implications for how your child will understand their history.  Both reports provide an important summary of important data trends and characteristics, and both draw on data from Baidu searches of area blogs and media sources, contacts in many areas, finding ad data, and our own research experiences.  These reports concisely present all that is known about your child's orphanage, and how your child may have come into the orphanage. 

Our BPSA is for those adoptive families who are considering a search for their child's birth family, and includes membership in our birth parent search group, the largest group of its kind.  On this group are families ranging from "just learning" to those in contact with their child's birth family.  The depth of experience of our member families is unparallelled anywhere.  Participants in our birth parent search projects are drawn from families that have ordered this report.

The ORA is for families not interested in searching, but wanting more information about their child's orphanage.  This report contains a bit more analysis of finding patterns, etc., but is largely the same as our BPSA.  A family need only order one of the reports to gain all the information about their child and their orphanage.

Orphanage Data Books --  Forming the foundation of our personalized Birth Parent Search Analysis or Orphanage Reliability Analysis, the orphanage data books contain all of the finding data for the children submitted from the orphanage since 1999 or when the orphanage joined the international adoption program.  Arranged chronologically by finding date in table form, the data allows a family to see if other children were found the same day as their child, how many children were found at a child's finding location, how many total children have been adopted, and many other pieces of information.  The data is introduced by an informative introduction that provides keys to interpreting the data and drawing conclusions.  Nicely bound in hardcover 6x9 format with color illustrations and exhibits, the data book is a very important piece of your child's orphanage history.  Most Guangdong orphanages currently available, with Hunan, Jiangxi and Guangxi orphanages coming early 2013.

 DVDs/Photos -- Since 2002, Research-China.Org has researched in over 60 orphanages across China.  The results of each research project is put to a nice video DVD.  Generally, the orphanage itself is profiled, as well as many finding locations and other interesting sites around the city.  The DVDs provide a very nice "time capsule" of the area when many of the children lived there, and thus are very important glimpses into our children's pre-adoption lives.  A large photo archive is also available, where families can order orphanage, finding location, and other photos of interest.

Maps -- As we have wandered around the various cities and towns of China, we have stopped and collected hundreds of area maps.  These are perfect for Life Books, or just to mark with your child's finding location, orphanage, and other important locations.  Priced at only $10, they are an exceptional value.

Coffee Table Books -- A recent addition, our orphanage photo books provide a complementary way of presenting your child's history to our DVDs.  Beautifully produced, our orphanage books provide gorgeous photos of your child's orphanage area, the orphanage itself, area foster families, and other interesting images.  Our books can be customized with your child's finding ad to add that personal touch, making the book "their" book.

Translation Services -- One of the benefits to having a thoroughly experienced native Chinese member on our staff (my wife Lan) is that she is able to provide important translation expertise to our families.  If you have something you need accurately translated (foster family letters, adoption documents, police reports, etc.), Lan can help.  Lan's expertise is one of the primary reasons an adoptive family should contact us, as she is both extremely knowledgeable about China's orphanages, as well as understanding the cultural view points of both sides of the ocean.  She is the heart of the Research-China.Org organization.


By taking advantage of our research opportunities, an adoptive family will not only learn much regarding their child's pre-adoption history, but also come to thoroughly understand the China program itself.  This information will allow an adoptive parent to answer their child's questions with authority, real data and information, allowing the parent to have confidence in their statements to their child.  The questions will come; it is up to us as adoptive families to have the information at hand to answer them.