Monday, March 13, 2006

A Regular Firefight

The Hunan story obviously touches a very raw nerve with families, and I can completely understand all of the emotion around this story. There are several possible responses that most people have when confronted with contradictory information on firmly held beliefs (whether religious, political, or in this case, concerning the adoption of their child): Accept the information and modify a belief; seek to negate the new information by impuning the character and motives of the messenger; test the new information against previously available knowledge, or conduct personal research.

Most adoptive parents (including myself at one time) cling to the following paradigm: China has a large number of abandoned girls due to a collision between a cultural bias and the one-child policy. These children will remain in a Chinese orphanage until they grow up unless adopted. A child that grows up in an orphanage has no social standing, and therefore will probably not get married, may have to resort to prostitution for employment, and therefore will have a miserable life. Thus, by adopting a Chinese girl, one is providing a much-needed home to a person that otherwise would live an unhappy life. It is truly a win-win situation.

Anytime someone attacks this paradigm with contradictory information, adoptive families are forced to reconcile that new information through the processes described above. Some accept the new information gratefully, others strike out and try to impune the writer's motives; others do research to test the veracity of the new information. In the case of the Washington Post article and this blog, one can see all of the methods employed.

But my motives and "credentials" are relevant to any comments or observations I make, so I have no problem describing them. As any "Google" search will clearly show, I have been conducting research for over a decade, including publishing in Utah history, Mormonism (my prior religious belief-system) and most recently China. I conducted my first research project in 2000, and have visited over 60 orphanages since then. While conducting my trips I tenaciously investigate the thoughts and opinions of the directors, caregivers, foster families, taxi drivers, shop-keepers, and anyone else I think may have experience or knowledge about China that is relevant to my families. So, since little is "offically" available concerning these topics, I must say that my experience with the above people is my primary data source. That, and being involved with an opinionated native Chinese woman for two years, and having walked the adoption road three times in various ways.

When I first offered finding ads to families, no one had seen one. The CCAA prevented their distribution to adoptive families, and even though I had just paid my finding ad fee for Meigon's adoption, I was denied a copy by her orphanage. Through the years I have sought out and obtained the ads (over a quarter million ads if one must know) from almost every Province that is involved with international adoption. After I began offering the ads, the CCAA instructed the orphanages to begin giving the families copies of their child's ad in an attempt to destroy my market. In the intervening four years, families have gone from receiving no ads to demanding high-quality reproductions and the actual papers the ads appear in. We have come a long way.

Finding ads are a business for me and my family. I have had families complain that I should offer these ads for free to families, but it appears no one is willing to pay my airfare to China and my expenses to travel to the various Provinces to locate the ads.

I do visit orphanages, and have always attempted to do my projects as cheaply as possible. Other organizations exist that do finding location photographing, but most families have found them to be expensive. I charge the costs of travel to photograph and videotape a finding location, visit with orphanage personel, interview foster families and finders, and basically get as much information as possible about the child I am researching. NO ONE does that service, and NO ONE charges so little. I do offer the orphanage DVD to any family interested for $25, not much considering the cost of small-volume reproduction and shipping.

But my business isn't the core issue here, it is the "adoption paradigm" outlined above. The problem is that the truth lies somewhere in the middle of all this -- yes, adoptive families are providing homes for children that probably wouldn't be adopted if they remained in China. Conversely, not every child adopted internationally would have remained in an orphanage. Many would be adopted domestically. The international adoption program has altered the dynamics of domestic adoption in China. Children adopted internationally would have gone to domestic homes is they had not been adopted by a Western couple. All of them? No. Most of them? Probably not. So, one can't advocate stopping the international adoption program because there is no doubt that would result in many children remaining in the orphanages. But as adoptive families we must realize that our program is impacting adoption by Chinese families. The solution to this problem I believe I have already proposed.

I am an adoptive father of three children that wants simply to know the truth concerning their history, their heritage and their birth families. It is a mission for me. I am programmed to ask "why" in everything. It is a wonderful journey, and I try to present my findings to others. I publish my blog so that others are freely able to comment, criticize or add-to my findings. It is the ultimate democratic tool. Am I a professional? No, I don't think so. Just a person who has "been on the ground" more than probably anyone else. I offer my layman's observations. Of, and just to settle this once and for all, I do not claim to speak for all adoptive families. I'm not even sure I speak for most of them. I speak for myself, but do try to make that voice heard.

7 comments:

Anonymous said...

Brian,

I'm not one to question your motives re your business. My critique of your article yesterday was about the hope that you would be more critical of the unsubstantiated claim Goodman makes linking abduction to adoption. Period. That's what deserves a letter to the Post from you.

The other questions you raise about the financial incentives for China to promote international adoption over domestic are valid and the skimming of the pie that goes on in the system. We should all be pondering them and supporting reforms. But those are different issues than child ABDUCTION. Goodman's article was sloppy, sloppy, sloppy writing and analysis that did not raise the issues of reform that you identify as necessary.

Susan

shochikubailover said...

Brian,

I'm hooked on your blog. I hired you to get our finding ad, and you were so professional. Our agency got us a cheesy copy of the finding ad, which I trashed, since I had your glossy copy and so much more. I recommend your service to everyone, and feel I got my money's worth.

I think your essays are well-written and balanced. I would pay to subscribe if you publish your info for a fee some day.

Janet

Anonymous said...

I enjoy reading your blog and hope that you continue to express your opinions. Each must decide their view and some may challenge your thoughts but keep on writing and sharing.

Anonymous said...

Brian,

I appreciate your insight and the work that you do. This recent article shook me up more than most since my daughter is from Hengyang County SWI but your comments on the article have helped a very worried mom.

I'm well aware that you are just a devoted dad with some added experiences and I use the information you provide, the comments from my agency, and the research I've done on my own to formulate my opinion on this issue. Rather than lash out, my hope is that others use your site as one piece of a bigger puzzle to try and piece together.

joan said...

Brian,

Just a voice of support here. I read and value your blog and point of view. I know it's not the be all an end all, but yours is a much better informed view of what goes on in China on the adoption front than we could otherwise hope to have. I, too, would subscribe to your blog if it were not free, and I think the people here who impugn your motives and your desire to earn an income from your work are off-base. So far, none of them have offered to do a bit of research or anything else for me, free or otherwise.

Thank you and keep up the good work! Got to look for the truth, whether or not it hurts, for the sake of our kids.

Joan

denee said...

Brian,
Bless your heart. I truly believe that you have the best interest of the children of China and the families that have adopted children born in China when you do your research and work. I'm sure you have uncovered much more than many of us can ever imagine. Maybe we don't really want to know everything either. Perhaps we would have too many emotions that we don't want to deal with. They might mess up our happy little families.
I do know that I have used your services when you went to Fuzhou. You gave me a map with locations clearly marked, a priceless DVD with finding location and our foster mother inside her home, and pictures. It was an incredible experience as my 8 year old watched it and we were able to discuss her roots and I was able to realize what was in her head about her beginnings. No amount of money can repay you for the work that you did on our behalf. All I can do is recommend you to others. We weren't even allowed to know what direction the city was when we were in China during our first adoption yet you obtained so much.

Your love for your daughters is what got you involved in trying to find out their past. You have uncovered many things while doing your research. Your stories are always thought provoking and informational and I look forward to them. Many will help my daughters understand issues as they get older. Thank you for everything you do.
Denee

Teresa said...

Brian,
As someone who has been assisting you and Lan since the beginning of Research-China, I can attest that you have gone above and beyond for every child you've researched, including my own girls.

Whether with a visit to their hometown or with locating their finding ad, you have looked for the information about each of these children as if they are your own. You have found pieces of these children’s past that might otherwise have been lost forever. You have created a resource for adopting families hungry for the truth. And you have shown adoptive parents that it is our duty to look outside "the comfort zone" when seeking truth for our children.

It's very easy for people to say you should not charge a fee for your services, but there are costs involved in obtaining the information you locate. If there weren't, we'd all be on a quest to personally locate information about our children. But you have kept your fees as low as possible so that most adopting families can afford to participate in projects to obtain the incredible information you uncover.

So as a friend, I say congratulations on your successes. And as a fellow adoptive parent hungry for the truth, I say thank you for finding truth about and for my daughters.

Teresa