Saturday, December 08, 2007

Searching For Birthparents -- How Can It Be Done

This blog article is comprised of three segments. The first is an article entitled "Public and Private Finding Locations: The Clues Each Contains." I wrote the article for the current issue of "China Connection: A Journal for New England Families Who Have Adopted Children From China" (December 2007, pp. 21-22).

The second segment is also from the current issue of "China Connection" (p. 23), and describes the legal ramifications for birth parents to come forward in China. Can they be prosecuted? Would fear of prosecution keep them from coming forward if adoptive families searched? This segment addresses those questions.

The third segment are my answers to common questions posed by adoptive families contemplating a search for their child's birth family. Should it be done? Who should do it? How can it be done? The answers to these questions are obviously personal on some level, and I don't advocate a single answer to any of them. 

Update:  Since writing this series of articles, we have compiled the data from almost all of the orphanages in China.  An analysis of this data has proven extremely helpful for families starting to search.  Our "Birth Parent Search Analysis" is a very important overview of what issues one might face in searching for birth parents in each orphanage area, and what the probable hurdles would be.  More information about these reports is available on our website.   


In my six years of researching what happens to children who are abandoned in China, I have been asked many times for help in locating birth parents of adopted children. Many methods have been tried, some successfully and others not. Based on my experiences, I am passing along some information that could be useful in locating members of a child’s birth family in China, if this is something adoptive parents and their child want to pursue.

Finding locations for children can be categorized into two main types: Public and “private” locations. Hospitals, orphanage gates, police stations, and schools fall into the arena of public finding places, and the vast majority of children adopted from China have been found there. Generally, public finding locations provide little guidance in locating birth parents because no direct thread leads from the location to the birth family. Though my research gives me good reason to believe that most babies are left close to where they were born, identifying a birth parent with only this clue is like walking into a Wal-Mart seeking information about your neighbor’s child. The chance of finding someone who knows anything of real value is very, very small – but not impossible.

Some public locations are more likely than others to provide threads of information. For example, when a baby is found at a hospital, a paper trail might exist. A hospital might have birth records detailing the names and address of those who gave birth there.

Sometimes, finding out information about the person who found the baby – and the name of the “finder” is often available in orphanage records – can provide additional clues. Frequently it turns out that children who were reported as being found at a government office or at an orphanage were not actually “left” there but they were “brought” there from another area.

With one child whose “finding place” I researched, this turned out to be the case. In her adoption papers, she was listed as being found at a village Residential Committee office, a not uncommon finding location. When I visited that location and asked people in the village about this child, several remembered her being “found” but told us the child had been found by a family in the village. My wife and I were then taken to talk with that husband and wife, and they confirmed that they knew this child’s birth parents. This is an example of how gathering a few clues and doing a little digging, even in the face of overwhelming odds, can result in birth parents being located.

Another consideration is the population of the area where a child was found. One of my daughters, for example, was found in the middle of the city of Guangzhou. This made a search for her birth parents all but impossible. Another of my daughters was found in the small town of DianBai in western Guangdong Province. In her case, it would be possible to conduct a search for her birth parents by printing a few thousand fliers, and distributing them for a week at the town market. Since nearly every woman in China visits a local market every few days, markets are very good ”search centers.” At such a location, fliers can be distributed in the hopes of locating a birth parent.

Private Finding Locations
Sometimes a child’s finding location is not in a public area but instead happens in a “private” place. These places are owned or controlled by individuals or families, such as residences or farms, family-run stores or restaurants, and they are usually chosen because the birth family knows the owner. Sometimes such a location is selected because the family who lives there is having trouble giving birth to a child and it is felt that giving this family a child will help them to conceive. Other times the “finder” might be chosen because they have a son and it is believed they might also like to have a daughter. Another consideration is whether a family is considered well-off and thus able to afford the fee to register the child with the local government.

At private finding locations, often clues are available to assist in birth parent searches. (Many children who are left at “private” locations do end up being placed in an orphanage and are adopted internationally.) In one Jiangxi orphanage we researched, birth parents were known by three quarters of the finders at the private residences and stores we visited. As we spoke with them, it became obvious that these locations were carefully considered by the birth parents; each “finder” had particular qualities that made them attractive as adoptive parents.

Contacting Birth Families
Adoptive families are cautioned, however, against believing that all birth parents will express an interest in making contact with their abandoned child. In my experience the majority of birth families have shown no interest in revisiting their abandonment history by making contact with adoptive families. Even when I’ve provided photos and phone numbers, a majority of them have refused the information.

What I’ve learned in these encounters makes me wary of the “opportunities” for reunion that DNA matching appears to offer. Although adoptive parents and their children might decide to pursue a search for birth parents by registering with a DNA database, I believe there will be significant cultural and personal hurdles in China that will discourage birth parents from participating. These barriers – which I think will preclude large numbers of birth parents from participating in DNA databases – include the fear of governmental reprisal (though this fear seems largely unfounded), financial considerations, and a cultural proclivity to ”look forward, not backward.”

In summary, locating birth parents in China is possible if the circumstances are right. Private finding locations such as residences and small stores have a high degree of success. Finding locations in small villages also bring a good degree of success. Seeking local hospital records might provide information, but these inquiries must be made quickly before records are archived or destroyed. But adoptive families must also remember that even when the search proves successful, the birth parents might leave the discovered door closed and locked, unwilling to allow the connection to be made.

Risks -- Perceived and Real for Birth Parents in China
One might wonder if birth parents face any risk by publicly coming forward and looking for their abandoned child – or being contacted by a family searching for them. Although the idea of a five-year statute of limitations has been discussed among the adoption community for abandoning a child, this concept is not specifically found in Chinese criminal law regarding abandonment. The 1992 “Law of the People’s Republic of China on the Protection of Rights and Interests of Women” states that “drowning, abandoning or cruel infanticide in any manner of female babies is prohibited,” but assigns no penalty. Article 261 of the Criminal Code states “A person who refuses his proper duty to support an aged person, minor, sick person or any other person who can not live independently shall be sentenced to fixed-term imprisonment of not more than five years, criminal detention or public surveillance if the circumstance is flagrant.” Thus, infant abandonment might be classified as a criminal act, which could result in a prison term of up to five years if convicted, but it is not clearly stated.

“There are legal provisions requiring parents to rear and educate their children and prohibiting the maltreatment or abandonment of children. Nevertheless, the Penal Code fails to provide clear definitions, so that in practice it is difficult to mete out punishment to parents who dump their babies,” He Jialin of the Sichuan Hetai Law Firm stated in a 2005 article entitled “Facing the Reality: Baby Dumping.” In practical terms, the maximum penalty typically faced by birth parents for abandoning their child is the fine that would have been imposed had they registered their child. In other words, there is rarely an additional penalty for the act of abandonment.

Chinese law discusses statute of limitations in relation to the imprisonment lengths imposed for various crimes. “The law says that the statute of limitation for crimes carrying a maximum penalty of no more than five years’ imprisonment is five years; 10 years for crimes that attract imprisonment of more than five years but less than 10; and 15 years for crimes carrying a maximum penalty of 10 years or more” Since infant abandonment could be classified as a violation of Article 261 of the Criminal Code, it can be assumed that the statute of limitations for abandonment would be five years.

All of this relates only to legal requirements and definitions, which are rarely absorbed by the average Chinese citizen. In practical terms, a family’s fear of government reprisal is perhaps the strongest disincentive for birth parents to come forward at any time. Even if the five-year statute of limitations were widely known and understood (which it isn’t), the vast majority of birth parents would not trust the government to respect those provisions.

What is widely believed by the vast majority of Chinese, however, is that the police are reticent to search for, let alone charge, birth parents with abandoning a child. “When female infants are murdered or abandoned by parents or family relatives, law enforcement and civil services agencies hardly ever conduct any investigation to go after the perpetrators because many of local police and officials still believe that it is parents’ right to decide whatever they want to do with their children and killing one’s newborn child is a family/domestic matter not a crime,” observed Xin Ren, a professor of criminal justice at California State University in Sacramento in an article she wrote, “Protecting Women and Children Against Trafficking in China.”

Given this understanding, children are confidently left in hospitals, in front of a neighbor’s home or police station, or in a park with parents knowing that the risk of detection and prosecution is very low. But few birth families would openly reveal their crime by coming forward in a public way. Thus, infant abandonment is in the vast majority of cases a “don't ask, don't tell” situation in China.

Questions & Answers to Searching for Birth Parents

Q: Isn't searching for birth parents the prerogative of my adopted child? Is it my right to search for her history?

Searching for your child's birth parents doesn't require notifying your child that you have found them. In our case, we intend to keep the information private until the day when our daughter does ask about it. But given the dramatic changes occurring in China, waiting for 15-20 years before searching almost guarantees failure down the road. Control of the contact is as much or as little as you feel comfortable with. You can write yearly letters without letting your child know anything about it.

As parents, it is our responsibility to provide any information we can to assist our children to gain a full understanding of their history and origins. Whether our children ever draw on that information is up to them, but we must be prepared. To avoid or relegate responsibility to search for her birth parents until she is old enough to want to search herself will ultimately mean that information will not be obtainable. Individuals die and families move. How would any of us feel if we were faced with the question, "If you could have found them, why didn't you?" In my mind, it is much better to have information my children never ask for, than to not obtain information that I am one day asked about.

Q: I am afraid of opening a Pandora's box by locating the birth parents for my child. What if they want more contact than I am comfortable giving?

Again, the control will be yours. At first, you might consider all communication take place through an intermediary such as your agency or a family friend. This eliminates any chance the birth family will initiate contact that you are not comfortable with. Additionally, you are under no moral or ethical obligation to provide financial resources to the birth family. What you offer and provide is completely up to you.

Q: Isn't it illegal to put up signs and make searches for birth parents in China? Won't I get in trouble?

In doing birth family searches many times, I have never had any resistance from Chinese Government officials. The Chinese government is not anxious for these contacts to be made, but is fairly powerless to prevent them. If families are misguided into thinking that contact will be possible through official or governmental avenues, they will miss valuable time and opportunities. The Chinese government will never sanction such contact, for the simple reason that they do not want to encourage the knowledge that abandoned children are adopted internationally.

Q: Should I use an organization "registered" in China to make a search?

While organizations that conduct heritage tours and other in-country experiences serve an important service, their ability to gain cooperation from orphanages and the CCAA requires that they don't breach the established rules and requirements of the Chinese government. For that reason, these organizations may discourage families from conducting searches out of fear that it will result in retaliation from the Chinese authorities. The same applies to adoption agencies. Thus, the adoptive family will usually have to act independent of official channels and organizations to conduct birth parent searches.

Q: What are some other methods that can be employed to search for birth parents?

Aside from contacting individuals who might have knowledge of the birth parents (finders, orphanage staff, and foster families), other ideas include distributing leaflets in the neighborhood surrounding the finding location or at local markets. These leaflets should be general in nature, listing no personal information about the adoptive family or the child. Contact information might include an e-mail address or in-country cellphone number. This method will result in many fruitless contacts (birth parents of other adopted children), but reduce the impulse of someone to come forward pretending to be your child's birth parents. This method also has the benefit of keeping control of the communication lines with the adoptive family.

Placing "Birth Family Search" ads in newspapers is also a common strategy, but generally inefficient. There is little certainty that a birth family will read the newspaper chosen for the ad, and the most widely-read newspapers are those covering wide geographical areas. It is, however, another option. One downside to the ads is that most newspapers require the advertiser to submit and pay for the ad in person, requiring a contact in the area.

Ultimately, it is up to each adoptive family to decide if they should search for their child's birth parents. Personally, I am anxious to obtain as much information regarding my child's life-history as possible. I would like to know why they were abandoned, what their birth families look like, are there siblings, etc. I want to know this so that when my children ask these questions, I can provide definitive information, not broad generalities and suppositions.

But any contact made would be on my terms, with my sanction and approval. After having my questions answered, I would find a level of communication that I was comfortable with. I would not tell my children we had located their birth parents unless they asked me to help locate their birth parents. At that point, I would decide if the time was appropriate to tell my daughter that we in fact knew her birth family. In this way, control of her history remains with my daughter.


Anonymous said...

This posting is very informative. One question: at what age would you deem it appropriate to share with your children information of the birth parents? Some children might ask at a young age 10-12 details regarding their birth family and wish to meet them.

Research-China.Org said...

An excellent question. For our family, we don't offer anything to our girls relating to birth family, etc. We freely answer their questions, but never push information. I think families that focus their children on birth families often create questions in their children's minds that wouldn't be asked normally. It is not that I am fearful of letting them know, it is just that some children are naturally inclined not to worry about these matters, while others are naturally inquisitive. I let my girls set the pace.

That said, I think as parents we should answer the questions when they are asked. If my seven-year old asked about her birth family, I would tell them what I knew. I wouldn't tell her I knew who they were unless she asked. For me, my girls are responsible to discover their roots, it is not for me to push it on them.

If my daughter asked to meet her birth parents, I would ask probing questions to determine her reasons. Ultimately, when I felt her interests were well-grounded, I would arrange for a meeting.

It is hard for most of us (as unadopted individuals with well-grounded feelings of where we came from) to relate to the intellectual and emotional void that may develop in our children relating to their origins. As a parent, it is my DUTY to do whatever I can to fill that void, even if doing so makes me uncomfortable or insecure.


Andy said...

Brian, you say it is the adopter's responsibilty to provide as much information as possible regarding birth parents, and to forgo such a search now is to essentially lose valuable information forever.

However, isn't it impractical for the average income parent to expend the required time and resources on such a search that has a low probability of sucsess; when those very same resources and time could be spent on the adoptee in other, perhaps, more productive ways?

Research-China.Org said...

Of course all of this must be done in balance. But if one is presented with an opportunity, it should be acted upon, I believe.

For example, families from the same orphanage group can collectively pool their resources and conduct searches. In this way the financial costs are kept reasonable.


Nora said...

What are the costs for doing such a search to find your child's birth parents? Do you work in all areas of China doing this work?

Research-China.Org said...

I am not directly involved in searching for birth parents, mostly due to the fact that is is an extremely labor intensive process (full time for a week or so in a given area). I do investigations when we do research projects in various areas.


Anonymous said...

Great information Brian! Thanks for sharing your research and views on this sensitive subject.

I think many would be very surprised at how little money it may cost to do searches.

I personally set out to find information about my child’s rural hometown and made some fantastic online contacts. After establishing mutual trust, we all realized that both sides were equally as intrigued.

These contacts have offered me so much priceless information and details about life in her birth area. They may even stand a chance of finding out more about her birthparents than I ever would.
They are familiar with this area, speak the same dialect and have internal connections.

I did not make these connections for a birthparent search in the beginning, however I now recognize how crucial they may be to providing us with answers.

The world is not as big and foreign as many think with the age of the Internet and a whole generation of awesome people in China online!
Google translate is free... type in some key words and start searching. (Just watch not to give details until trust is established!)

I also agree that now is the time to gather any info. The right to know belongs to our children; the China program is designed to hide this information. Finding details out can only empower our children.

One word of caution however, when we begin to search we must be ready to hear the truth. Many times learning the truth is not so easy. It can be painful. This is another great reason why we need to guard our children’s knowledge about the details until they are old enough to absorb and digest it all.

Anonymous said...

In your estimation, how many overseas families have successfully located birth families in China? I have only heard of a very small number, but I can imagine that most families would not publicize this information.

Anonymous said...


Is this really for the kids or is it for the parent’s ego? I seriously doubt any teen even young adult could handle the emotional reality of finding their birth parents.

I feel that time and energy devoted to that effort would be better served by ensuring that our daughters have opportunities/ relationships with Chinese families / mentors in the US.

Let's not dwell on the poverty and very painful situations that forced them to be abandoned.

Research-China.Org said...

I have no idea how many have located birth parents, because, as you say, it is kept pretty confidential.


Research-China.Org said...

I disagree that it is for the parent's ego. In fact, many adoptive parents avoid searching because they feel it undermines their position as parents.

However, you speak from a position on not being adopted, and lacking awareness of what adoptive children go through. There is plenty of literature that describes the need for some adopted children to fill in their personal histories so that they can understand who they are.

I disagree that searching is a waste of time.


Anonymous said...

I have thought about the flier issue for some time. Initially I felt it was a great way to attract the attention needed to gain clues.
Now I see many different downfalls to this form of searching and I do think it is best left for last, if used at all.

It may act against the search.

Rather than gaining information and clues from people who are caught off guard, it allows people time to put their guards up.

It may attract unrelated people who may have negative intentions such as swindlers.

It will circulate details and an image (if one is included) for people who may not be worthy of these details. (What if the parents sold their child? Should they be allowed the opportunity to see precious info when your child gets nothing?)

It may also set the birthparents mind at ease and not encourage a future connection if they know that their child is adopted abroad and survived.

I have learned to really take my time and listen to many different perspectives when searching.

Adult adoptees have great insight as well. The China program is unfortunately unique in its structure, so many adult adoptees do not relate to the notion that no information is given and when not acted upon in a timely manner, none will ever be found.

It is not about the parents ego to search for answers, it is about our obligation to expect more for our children. I do feel it is quite selfless to enable relationships that may one-day form from gathering crucial information now.
It is about empowering our children as best we can. We as an adoption community should be placing more of a demand on CCAA and the orphanages for truth and real information, not the generic referrals so many of our kids have.
Yet agencies and parents do not feel as though they are entitled to these precious clues.
There is a tone that is set and we all seem to go peacefully along because it works for us. What about our kids? Will they too feel complete with their generic information?

I highly doubt it.

Anonymous said...


I agree to the point regarding the desire to know who they are. I would in no way try to mimimize that inherant need in a adopted child to understand why and how. And yes I am not adopted and cannot speak for a child.

But, in your own words above "

In my experience the majority of birth families have shown no interest in revisiting their abandonment history by making contact with adoptive families. Even when I’ve provided photos and phone numbers, a majority of them have refused the information".

Is that because it opens up a old wound put away a long time ago or that that child in now westernized and they have nothing in common.

Research-China.Org said...

For me, it is as simple as this: When the day comes that my child asks about her birth family, I want to be able to say that I either know who they are, or I tried to find out.


Anonymous said...

An honest question here: What if your child does not ask about info on her birth family until she is age 20, or even 30? I know some adoptees who didn't become curious until much later in life, generally after they'd become parents themselves. If you knew specifics, and didn't share because she didn't ask, do you think she might be a little upset? Seems a bit controlling, in my opinion.

Also, what if contact was made with the birth parents and they decided they did not want any further contact? How would an AP explain this to a child - one who is already dealing with so much in terms of their abandonment and subsequent adoption?

I am seriously considering doing a search for my daughter but I have some serious soul-searching to do before I move forward. This blog entry will help me organize my thoughts on the matter.

Andy said...


I've enjoyed this thought provoking posting, as I very much enjoy and appreciate your entire blog.

This posting brings to my mind the documentary "Daughter from Danang" about a Vietnamese adoptee who was able to find her birth family and visit them. Her reunion started out well, but did not end well because her birth mother, who was very poor, put continous preasure on the girl to financially support the extended family in Vietnam. The girl did help, but it never was enough and she felt burdened with guilt.

Should you find your daughter's birth family, do you see this as a concern?

Research-China.Org said...


Optimally, an adoptive family would have opportunities to communicate long before the adoptive child becomes aware of the contact. But financial obligations are a topic that the adoptive family would need to address before any contact was made with the adoptive child. Personally, I would have little problem assisting ANY family in China who had financial needs that I became aware of, especially if that family was connected to my daughter. But the limits must be established early to avoid emotions from clouding the issue.

Research-China.Org said...

Just today I read a posting on a list-serve where the adoptive mother was concerned that her five-year old daughter wasn't interested in discussing her birth family. Too often I think adoptive families push information and questions upon their children that are unwanted, and that result in problems. One can certainly ask a child if they have any questions about their history, etc., but to sit a child down and say "Today we are going to discuss your birth family in China" is, in my opinion, asking for trouble. And if a child shows a lack of interest, why continue to push her?

For that reason, I wait until my kids ask about a topic before I bring up any information I have. If my daughter waited until she was 30 to ask, I would wait until then. If she asked my why I waited, I would tell her because she never asked. Rather than being controlling, I feel this leaves control entirely in her hands.

Anonymous said...

Kids with knowledge of their bio family's appearance and history still have to sort out identity questions. People with biological children still are faced with kids who ask: "Who am I?"

No amount of good intentions on the part of parents will sort that out for kids. I think it is merely an illusion of control and an anxiety soother for parents who think they can somehow make it easier for their kids.

I blame no one for trying; but I reject any justification other than: "It makes me feel better."

Best wishes,


Jo-Anne Barnes said...

Our SWI yahoo group has been discussing whether your service with using the fliers in China is a good choice or a bad choice.
It sounds like it would be safe yet some people have said Jane Liedtke said it is not a good idea.
That it is illegal in China to post fliers and it can cause problems for the birth family. Also that you may not be allowed to work in China and this may make things harder for future contact with our orphanage.
Is this information true and have you considered any of these problems?
We want more info for our children but we do not want to cause trouble in China. We are Logged in for #2.

Research-China.Org said...

Jane's arguments can be boiled down to one idea: Use her "registered" organization to "walk the village path" and don't rock the boat. She states that one should only use "registered" companies or organizations to do searches or to gain information.

The bottom line is organizations like Jane's operate at the behest of the Chinese government. If Jane is discovered to be doing anything that the Chinese government doesn't like, she will be shut down. It is is simple as that. So of course she is fearful that families will do things that create problems. Her orphanage tours are only successful if the CCAA allows her to do the visits. Any "registered" organization faces the same obstacles. That is why those same organizations will always discourage attempts such as this, because they are afraid their business will be put at risk -- whether it is an agency here in the U.S., or a heritage company like Asia Threads or Jane's company, all work within the narrow constraints dictated by the CCAA.

But those dictations run contrary to the needs and goals of adoptive families. For that reason, families interested in searching for birth parents (or any other information) must search informally, without the assistance of a "registered" organization.

Jane also speculates what the "cultural take" will be for birth families when someone comes searching for them. "Do they worry about being in trouble? Do they believe you will be their future link to the 'better life'? etc. There's a full range of possibilities from the divine to the ridiculous. Does Brian's system account for this?" I wonder if Jane factors those same concerns into her heritage visits to remote villages and towns around China. What is the "cultural take" of the Chinese seeing American families walking around with adopted Chinese girls? Does it encourage families in those areas to abandon children, thinking that they will be adopted by Americans?

Who knows?

And that is the point. Jane discounts my ideas without reflecting on those same problems with her program. She speaks of bribes, like I am advocating giving money illegally to obtain information. I'm not sure where she comes up with that idea, but again she should question the impact of the "fees" she pays to visit orphanages, etc. on the integrity of the system she is so determined to protect.

The bottom line is every family must act in the best interests of their child. No great harm will come of a family searching. Jane is presenting her side of the issue, trying to protect her own interests. That is fine. But each and everyone of us must decide for themselves.


But as a parent of an adoptive child, I am not concerned with Jane's business. I am only interested in getting

Melinda said...

How could we arrange for interviews of orphanage staff and/or the person who "found" our child regarding any information about her birth parents? We were told that she was abandoned in front of the SWI. Is this a service that you could provide and what would the approximate cost be?


janet said...

I have a question and a comment.
1/ regarding DNA, I agree that many parents will not be interested in doing this, but a sibling might be - if they know about the sister. When I feel that is better put together, we would do this if our daughter wanted to.
2/ Regarding leaflets, I have a connection with the doctor at the clinic where our daughter was left. we email back and forth. He likes to practice his English and we love the connection. Thus far, our daughter does not know about this. I am unclear about what information we SHOULD put on the leaflets. When we went to the clinic, we put up pictures of our daughter and sign saying that she was fine and living in the US but did not give any identifying information at all because of what a writer earlier said of fear of fraud, etc. Would we just write a general leaflet that we are looking for a child's family?
Thank you so much for all your helpful information.

Research-China.Org said...

We try and do such interviews when we do research projects. In those cases we try to track down the finders involved, and get more information about the events of the finding. We are only able to research a few orphanages a year (8-10), but we will let you know if we head to your child's area by contacting the Yahoo Group, or directly if you have contacted us about the finding ads.


Research-China.Org said...

In teh past, I have put the wording like this:

If you are interested in obtaining information on a baby girl left in this area in 2000, please contact us. All contact will be kept strictly confidential.

I would not provide finding location information, or birth and finding dates. Those will become qualifiers that the potential birth parent must provide. This will discourage "fraud", as they say.

You would also provide an area cell-phone number and e-mail address. If someone does come forward, they would then be asked for the qualifying answers. Just because no match is made doesn't mean they aren't the BP, since sometimes the orphanage miss-estimates the birthdate, or the child was left at another location first, and moved by teh finders. But it is an initial contact that could then be explored.


Anonymous said...

Thank you so much for this current discussion. I find it somewhat amusing to hear people claim that searching is something adoptive parents do for themselves and disheartened to hear adoptive parents discount a search as a "non-issue." In fact, research shows that most search and the feelings of their adoptive parents is what holds them back initially. One of the first things I read before becoming an adoptive parent is the disconnect most adopted children feel. And after further delveing into the world of adult adoptee blogs I have come to further understand the deep need that some (not all) adoptees have to at least once look on a person that is their biological connection. It is my job as a parent to give that oppportunity to my daughter(s) when or if they want it and not to hide behind "it is their search" because of my own insecurities.

Anonymous said...

For those who have a desire to use online searching, there are many options available.
First I need to say that I never intended to search online for anyone in particular. It began as a tool for finding out about my child’s hometown and also to connect and learn about customs and traditions etc.
Many people may want to search and end it at simply learning info about the area. Often there is no desire to ask more questions and I think this is perfectly healthy.
There is still magic when two people connect from such far away areas and both sides have much to offer!

The first step is to search the Pinyin form. Try combining words such as the “province and area”. Then add in the word “blog” or “diary”.
If you do not find any blogs from China this way then move on.

Next try using google translate and type in the words in the box. Translate into characters and then search these characters with google.
You will get many pages now in Chinese and next to the links it may read [translate this page] You can often click on that and it will automatically translate all pages.
The words will read somewhat different that our actual proper English form, however you can read the basics and figure out it’s meaning.
If it fails to translate, try opening the Chinese site and then copy and paste into the google translate box. This will allow for better translation.
I use Chinese simplified to English.
If you luck out and find a blog and the person appears legit and respectful, try emailing them with a non-identifying email. Introduce yourself and enjoy!
I think many people may be surprised at how much you have in common with those in China and the relationships formed can be a lot of fun!
Just be careful not to give out personal information until you truly know and trust eachother.

There are many forums such as MSN, Facebook and other forums in China that have many people who are very excited to have online friends from other countries! It is a great way for you to learn about your childs homeland and also an excellent way for them to practice English.
I wouldn’t place the emphasis on searching for specifics, just relax, go with the flow and if more happens then that is wonderful!

It takes time and patience, but I am hopeful many of you will be as blessed as I have been!
I love my online buddies and I have learned more from them and truly have a whole new outlook on my childs homeland thanks to them! More of an inside perspective :) To me, they are now part of our extended family.

Good Luck and Happy surfing!

Anonymous said...

" to hide behind "it is their search" because of my own insecurities. "

The possibilty of finding birth parents in china is remote at best, and even if you were able to, any expectation of an open or meaningful dialog is even more remote.

I belive you confuse realistic expections / reality with "insecurites" - China ia third world country and these children were abandoned ( left on a door step) due to poverty.

What would you say of you did find someone who claimed to be the birth parent ?

Anonymous said...

The one concern I have about finding a blood sibling for one of my daughters is how this would affect my other daughter. Would she feel left out?Would this strain my girls' relationship? We already meet with a family who adopted their daughter when we adopted one of ours, and our other daughter feels left out, much as we try to include her.
I would love to make contact with my daughters' birthparents, but the expense gives me pause.

Anonymous said...


Although initially being "relieved" that there were no birth parents in the picture, 3 years down the road my attitude has adjusted greatly... I would do anything to have the most minute of information about who they are and most importantly, what facts or events led to my daughter's abandonment.

However, until now, I didn't really think there was much hope...

It's time to plan my next move so I thank you for your sound advice.

Anonymous said...

Bryan --

I know of quite a few girls who had marks left on their body i.e., a perfect scar which resulted from a tiny, but precise cut on the baby's body.

In our group two girls have "marks." THey are quite intentional. My daughter's has a perfect straight line on her hip. The "cut" or mark must have gone a bit wrong and clearly someone attempted an ametuer stitch. She was said to be found in a Police Station with her umbilical cord still is often said with so many babies.

I have heard the markings are made from parents who hope to be able to identify their child.

Have you heard of this?

THank you as always,

Research-China.Org said...

I have heard rumors of such things since I adopted in 1998. The problem I have with the belief that the children are intentionally scarred by their birth parents is that I have never spoken with anyone in China who has heard of it, no director has ever confirmed it, and every instance I have seen of it was shown to be a scar from an accident or vaccination.

I have my doubts it happens, but can't say for sure it doesn't. If anyone has examples that they would like researched, I would be glad to help prove this one way or the other.


amy said...

My daughter has a scar on her face that I believe was made intentionally. I adopted her in 1999, and she was only 5 months old. I find it hard to believe her scar was the result of an accident. I wish I had more information about her birth circumstances.

Anonymous said...

As regards the "markings," in addition to the perfect mark/ line on my daughter's hip which is about or just less than a half inch, there was another baby in our group, who now at four, has a clear and intentional marking between her first and second toe.

It was in fact her mother that pointed out markings to me.

I touch the mark and truly believe in the "conspiracy of love and/ or caring" that was given to "our" girls.

I have found little information about the markings other than hear say and chatting from other adoptive mothers.


Anonymous said...

We seem to fall in the slim to none chances of making any inroads in the birth parent query. The commenter who posted about finding a DNA sibling, later down the road, seems about our best chance too - maybe her generation in China will take the bold step of doing a DNA sample for this purpose.
As my daughter was abandoned in a subway station in a major city, and the orphanage she was in closed down, was reopened in a different location, is now moving again - all this is in just six years - seemingly mirroring the fast paced changes throughout big cities in China - it does not seem like a fruitful way to direct our money, time, and emotions.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for the information you have provided in this blog posting. My husband and I adopted our one-year old daughter in early 2007. Prior to reading this segment, I was of the opinion that a birth-parent search would have to be driven by my daughter. I anticipated that she would not pursue such a search until she was a teen-ager or young adult. I also anticipated that the likelihood of success would be very slim.
I share the view that as time passes, the retrieval of relevant information will beome more difficult, or perhaps impossible. I too want to be able to tell my daughter that I did everything possible to find her birth family and to fill in the blanks in her personal history. I also agree that she may never ask for, or even desire this information.
In my 'best case scenario' that plays through my mind, my birth-family search is successful and the family wishes to maintain a level of contact with me. At some point, my daughter asks me for information about her birth-family and I am then able to provide accurate information to her. The only thorn in my rosy scenario is that she may not ask for this information for many years. If her birth-family member(s) die in the intervening time, how do I explain to my child that I knew who her birth-parents were, and denied her the opportunity to ever'know them'?

Anonymous said...

I love the thought-provoking discussions on this site. Regarding the comments made by "Anonymous" above - I think you make some very good points. I understand adoptive parents' desire to let their children lead discussions about birth family and also for the child to have a say in their relationship with their birth family. However, I wonder if it is truly fair or whether it even makes sense to keep information about a child's birth family a secret from the child until they ask for it or ask the right questions. Knowing my own children, I am not sure whether they would ask the questions, but I am pretty sure they would be interested in the answers!! I am thinking in particular about the situation with open domestic adoptions, in which the child can have face-to-face contact with their birth mother and/or members of their birth family from the time they are adopted, even if they are adopted as infants. Children in those scenarios have no choice regarding whether or not they have a relationship with their birth family. The decision is made on their behalf because it is considered to be in their best interest. And I can't help thinking that, under most circumstances, it would be in the best interest of an adopted child to have as normal a relationship as possible with their birth mother and/or birth relatives. So why would we go about things differently in an open international adoption? I think that if you are open with your child and share the information you have with them (in a sympathetic and age-appropriate manner, of course), then they will surely take it in their stride like so many other things. Surely better than secrets and surprises.

Anonymous said...

Regarding the comments on an open interational adoption.

Part of IA is that by definition it is closed. I dont understand how one would look for their childs birth parents, find them, then tell them I will keep this information secret until my daughter asks as kind of strange.

If you want to serch out the birth parents by all means do so ( I seriously doubt you will be sucessful) but to try and micro manage the process to your time frame seems counter productive in the long run.

Anonymous said...


I enjoy reading about all your research and find it very interesting. How do you choose who will be in your researches?


Research-China.Org said...

At this point, we find cities that present interesting challenges or unique qualities. We contact the families that have purchased the finding ads from that area, and invite them to join the project. We then visit and try to get as much information as possible on each child.


Anonymous said...


Can I ask what Jiangxi orphanage you are referring to in the below paragraph you wrote?

At private finding locations, often clues are available to assist in birth parent searches. (Many children who are left at “private” locations do end up being placed in an orphanage and are adopted internationally.) In one Jiangxi orphanage we researched, birth parents were known by three quarters of the finders at the private residences and stores we visited. As we spoke with them, it became obvious that these locations were carefully considered by the birth parents; each “finder” had particular qualities that made them attractive as adoptive parents.

Research-China.Org said...

LePing City.


Anonymous said...

For those parents "on the fence" in this discussion as to whether or not to search now for your child's birthparents, I'd like to share my experience which may help in this controversial decision. My adopted teen recently went through this tough period of searching for his identity. He was so upset over "not knowing" about his birthfamily that he became severely depressed and attempted suicide. He was hospitalized and when asked what would make him better, his answer was "knowing who his birthparents were and why they abandoned him." I should add that he did not have a history of depression or mental illness. Also, he knew from age 8 that I was open to helping him find his birth parents yet he still felt so hopeless that he almost took his life. Now if I could do things differently I would without a doubt have followed up on some leads on his birth family I received when I first adopted him (he was 8 at adoption). I thought I would wait until he "wanted this information" but sometimes that can be too late.

sweet-P's Mum said...

Thanks for the insight Brian,

I for one am completely passionate about finding out as much as I can about my daughters birthparents. I would work a second job to be able to afford to pay someone to at least 'try' to find out as much as possible.

My first daughter was found in a town where there seems to be few abandonments, only one other child at her SWI was said to be from the same town(8 years apart).

My second daughter(still in China) is a SN child and one of the Ayi's from the SWI found her while on her way home in the same town. She was not called to come and get an abandoned child found by others, rather she 'personally' found the baby.

I want to anything I can to find out as much as I can for the future, it has nothing to do with what I want for myself...but in light of Brians recent blog entries I want my children to know I did everything in my power to find out what I could about their birthparents.

I want my children to know that we tried...and that whatever happens we wont sit in denial of the fact our children will need to know, they WILL ask questions, and I would give anything to be able to at least tell them that we did all we could.

My daughter is spirited, intuative and empathetic...I know that any part of her past that I can give her will be a gift.

proud Mum

Anonymous said...

In response to the comments by "Anonymous" (12/30/08), I don't understand why IA is "by definition closed". If you have adopted internationally and have contact with your child's birth parents or family, the adoption is by definition at least partially open. Even if an adoption is "closed" at the outset, there is no reason why it should not be "opened" if you manage to locate the birth parents/family of your adopted child.

Anonymous said...

I'd like to get more information about searching for my daughter's birthparents. It looks like you provide some search services. Can you give me an idea of how much it would cost, and what would be involved?

Research-China.Org said...

We don't do dedicated BP searches, but do look for BPs when we visit an orphanage city. If you have purchased the finding ad from us, we will notify you when we research in your child's city.



Anonymous said...

As someone who has worked for the oldest and largest international adoption agency in the U.S., the first to pioneer the concept of heritage tours for adoptees, and the agency with the longest history assisting international (adult) adoptees with their search requests, I'd like to just add a simple observation: You make many good points, Brian, and it's of course understandable why an adoptive family would feel driven to find this information while it might be possible to do so. However, comments like, "The bottom line is every family must act in the best interests of their child. No great harm will come of a family searching," ought to also be tempered with a sincere expression of the importance of also acting in the best interests of the birth family. Well-intentioned but inappropriate personal missions by adoptive families to uncover birth family information in other parts of the world with a longer history of adoption than China, have sometimes given birth to tragic results, even a birth mother's suicide. I would strongly suggest that an adoptive family first seek wisdom from an agency with long experience supporting adoptees who have found their birth families, and sincerely consider the potential long term emotional impact on birth families, as well as the adoptee.

Anonymous said...

I have 2 adopted chinese daughters. I am interested in searching for birthparents for the same reasons you stated. One of our girls was left outside a small farming village the other at the orphanage. Likely the parents live nearby from what you said. Yet, by the time we would actually be able to go and do a search in China, too much time may have passed and that information could be gone forever. Are there people to contact, who may be able to do some of things you suggested,(ask around, put out fliers, etc) to check things out now? I was even looking for an agency that might be hired to do such searches but have been unable to locate anything yet. Any advice on how to do a "long distance" search?

Research-China.Org said...

Anyone interested can contact me for some advice on how to approach a BP search.



Anonymous said...

I think it's very amazing how so many parents want to find information for their children. I was adopted from china and I don't think my parents ever tired to find information about my birth parents, now I feel as if I'm suck, alone as a young teenager trying to find out about my history. I think that every parent should do as much as they possibly can to find out their children's herritage before their child even asks about it.

Chang said...

I think it's very amazing how so many parents want to find information for their children. I was adopted from china and I don't think my parents ever tired to find information about my birth parents, now I feel as if I'm suck, alone as a young teenager trying to find out about my history. I think that every parent should do as much as they possibly can to find out their children's herritage before their child even asks about it.

Anonymous said...

I am 15 and was adopted from China at the age of 5months. I grew up knowing I was adopted because my parents and I look very different. I am glad my parents told me at a very young age. I've ALWAYS known. I've always wanted to meet my birth parents I believe it was at the age of 5 when I brought up that I wished to meet them. My parents promised they would take me back one day. The information that came with me was extremely limited. My younger brother was also adopted, but from Korea who is more open than China. I feel lucky to have always known that I was adopted, if I was not told until later I feel I would be upset with my parents for keeping something so important, why would you not tell your child a life altering event?! It does not make sense. Even if I never find them, I am happy with the family I am with, and they are willing to take me back this April to visit China and explore with me. We will go to Korea in a few years as well. I hope to adopt a child when I am older. It is harder I believe for people who are not adopted to understand what a difference it makes. Certain things make me tick, and I have dreams about what I think I saw when I was an infant, as none of these can be proven I feel that I took in more information then people give infants credit for. For a message and help to all who are thinking about adopting or who have questions to ask an adoptee who is older than a child, but not quite an adult, your choice to tell your child that they are adopted is up to you, but how I've always seen it is not telling them is no different then lying to them. I rather know the truth from the start, then to find out later that you knew more information then what you had told me. I love my family now and am grateful that my birth parents had placed me for adoption, yet sad that they left no way for me to find them in the future.
Good luck
-a fellow adoptee from China ;)

Anonymous said...

you seem to misunderstand. I am sure you have researched you share on adopted children, but children should know they were adopted from the time they were born, keeping information is the same as lying in the way i see it. if my parents hadn't told me until i asked i would be ticked off with them for not telling me just because i never asked. i'm 15 and 3months now, meaning i have known for 14year and 10months. i rather know the truth. love is made of two equally powerful emotions joy and sorrow. you can't have one without the other. the truth hurts, but it doesn't hurt as much as a lie. trust me i know. I know back in the old days ( in my opinion that was before adoption was so common) I can understand, sorta why parents wouldn't tell their kids, but now a days it should be like the ABC's and 123's you have the obligation to teach them. my parents never said "today we are going to talk about your adoption" instead they had brought me up with it (and are still bringing me up with it) and on my birthday i think about my birth mother. My mom and I talk about what she might be thinking. It's never a painful conversation. It's just part of who i am. no need to be sad or happy or angry. it's just part of life, like you were born with eyes, nose, and a mouth.
-15 still wonderin, but not obsessed with it :)
ps. i am the same girl who wrote about 10mins ago, haha, still had a little more to add :)

Research-China.Org said...

Dear 15:

Thanks for posting your thoughts. I agree with everything you said, and wish you luck in your explorations.

All the best!!!


deb said...

so how many birth families have been found with your help?

Research-China.Org said...

We have searched for 31, and located 24.


Rachel researching finding your birth mother said...

Through my research, I have found that searching for your birth mother can turn out to be difficult or easy. The story is never the same. Thank you for sharing your expertise on this subject.

Becky searching for her birth mother said...

I'm discovering through the internet that there are soooo many ways to search for your birthparents. I enjoyed this post very much. Thank you for sharing.

Anonymous said...

This is intresting information for my children. If my children like us as parents to search for their birthparents, we will assist them in doing so when they are 18 years old in doing so. I found it very mindblowing about the scars on the children. My son has a specific scar in his face that we noticed at once.
If a search of BP would be done in earlier age, a would tell the child about it, or i would not search. I believe that a lack of trust, is the most devestating thing for a human being. Greetings.

Anonymous said...

I was adopted In Nanchang China Was said to be found in a box in the park with my birthday only tagged onto my shirt no other information so the orphanege Gave me the name Zheng Lu Whan. I have a scar on my back which has been there with me before orphanege too

Grace Black said...

Is there any way to locate my birthparents if I don't have any definite information such as my name or birthday? My parents have told me that I was found wandering by a police station when I was two but it's not definite. My parents have shown me some papers but all of them just tell me information that the orphanage gave to me... I'm afraid to ask my parents to help me locate them because my adoption is a touchy subject for them. Is there anything I can do? I feel like I'm missing a big part of who I am...

Anonymous said...

I am looking for my birth parents but I don't know where to start. I don't want to be ungrateful to my adopted parents but I can't help feeling that knowing my birth parents and what their reasons were for giving me away would almost give me a sense of who I am

Anonymous said...

I think you are extraordinarily misguided to believe that it's a parents' right to seek this information and then hold it in secret from their child. You are not a social worker and what you are suggesting flies in the face of every accepted way of dealing with the issue of birth parents.

You make money by assisting with birth parent searches so you are of course going to encourage people to "do it now!" I think your advice is self-serving and extremely dangerous.

Interested adoptive parent said...

In regards to Anonymous, 10/06/14 2:41PM i think each family's situation is unique and parents should decide what's best for their child based on their child's individual situation. I don't think there's any "one" right way or time.

Anonymous said...

I'm an adoptee. The people who adopted from China doesn't have any interest in helping me. So I've been doing so research on my own. I'm confused at this point. It's been 15 + years since I got adopted. Is there a chance I could find out if I have family that are still alive in China ? I want closure and it's been haunting me for too long.

Hisgurl said...

I did a search for our son who started asking questions at the age of 8. He also deals with a lot of trauma and his heart is broken over the idea that he was abandoned. I had hopes that finding his birth family would help his broken heart but the BP did not reciprocate any contact. I believe that searching for as much info as possible when you can is important because when the adoptee's are older and start asking questions for themselves, it will help them to know that you have done all that you could to gain some information, even if it was info that led to disappointment, they will know and be reassured that you did all that you could to help them. As adoptive parents, we feel that it is imperative to maintain as much trust as possible with our adopted children. To assume that it is an ego thing, as someone suggested, for the adoptive parent is a strange idea to me. I did this search completely out of the need for my heartbroken son, and I would have personally preferred to leave well enough alone if I could. But I felt it was my obligation to help my child.

Connie Copeland said...

Is there a way to find someone in China to post the posters and serve as a translator? I would like to screen the replies by email before travelling.

Spreading Glitter said...

I think that I found my Biological family on facebook. But the only hold back is the fact that I would be contacting them via online. What kind of repercussions could they face legal wise if I reached out. Could the Chinese government arrest them for abandoning a child in 1998? Can the Chinese government read and see all of the messages that are sent?

Research-China.Org said...

Spreading: No worries about repercussions. Not sure the government would be able to monitor FB, since FB is blocked inside China, so a VPN would need to be used. Good luck!!!