Monday, September 21, 2009

LA Times: The Root of the Problem

Yesterday's Los Angeles Times investigative piece on Family Planning confiscations has brought a wide-spectrum of responses from those both inside and outside the adoption community.

Over on "Resist Racism" the focus was on the comments of Wendy Mailman, the adoptive mother who began the whole scandal in Zhenyuan by actually seeking the truth about her daughter's history. The author of that blog apparently misunderstood the rhetorical questions Wendy has been asking when contemplating her daughter's "official" story -- Born in September and kept until the dead of Winter, only to be abandoned. Wendy's question is why a birth mother would do such a thing? Because she is cruel and heartless? Or because she was forced to give up Wendy's daughter by a cruel and heartless Family Planning official? After the revelations from Zhenyuan, she now suspects the later.

Few adoptive families are willing to face the consequences of searching for their children's birth families, but Wendy has moved fearlessly from one avenue to the other. Rather than being intent on simply "sending a photograph" to her child's birth family, Wendy plans on doing what growing numbers of adoptive families have decided to do: Keep the birth family informed of their child's progress, but leave the decision of forming a relationship with them to her daughter. I agree with that plan. So many adoptive families either disallow their children a choice by avoiding the investigating, or they push their child's birth family upon their children in spirit or fact. Leaving the decision to her daughter is an appropriate decision.

But the article contained a quote that I feel personifies the entire problem in China:

"They're better off with their adoptive parents than their birth parents," argued Wu Benhua, director of Zhenyuan's civil affairs bureau.

To understand the problems found in China's international adoption program, one must understand the racial and economic prejudice that exists in China. Whether it is orphanages offering incentives to buy babies, or Family Planning abusing families by taking unregistered children, the subtext to all of these activities is that most in China's government feel that these birth families are unable to provide a "prosperous and happy future" to their children. A prominent theme in Chinese culture is the belief that if anything can be done to improve a child's future, it should be done. It is this belief that motivates parents to leave their children with grandparents while they work; it is this belief that motivates families to sell their children to orphanages that promise that their child will be adopted by a rich foreign family; and it is this belief that allows a Family Planning official to steal a child from her birth family in order to adopt her internationally.

As long as the principle players in China's IA program, from the director of the CCAA to the foster families and employees used as recruiting tools by the orphanages believe that the children of poor and uneducated birth parents are "better off with their adoptive parents than their birth parents" corruption will continue.


Sharie said...

How can a child possibly be better off raised away from everything she knows? - Even my daughter who I adopted at 9 months longs to visit China, to speak Chinese, to know her Chinese family. She just turned 5 and it breaks my heart to see how much she misses her culture, her language, her family.
If I had any extra money we would be searching for her first family - I want to know who they are, I want to let them know that we remember them - that there isn't a day that goes by that she doesn't tell me she misses them. And when she gets older I want my daughter to have the opportunity to know them, if that is what she still wants.
I know adopted children who don't think about their first families, but I believe there are more like my daughter who desire a chance to meet the families they were meant to grow up with.

Anonymous said...

Sharie, you can search without money. With the internet and availability of connections you actually may get more answers by finding locals from your childs area than if you tried to do it on your own.
There are many routes to use while searching that don't charge a fortune.
Good luck!

Pam said...

So anonymous, what are the avenues that you speak of that would allows us to help search for my daughter's first family? When i google search her home city, I get very little info about it. so, please if you know something share it with the rest of us. while my daughter doesn't long for her other family, i think she would love to know about them. I too hope to someday take her back to her home city.

Anonymous said...

I don't believe that ignorant comments, such as the one made by the civil affairs official named Wu Benhua, have much to do with Chinese cultural beliefs about the welfare of children. They are simply self-serving arguments used to legitimize these individuals', self-interested, criminal behaviour; preying on poor families and their children for the profit that can be made. Follow the money. The root of the problem is corruption and greed.

Anonymous said...

Pam, there are many people within China who are willing to assist with searching. Sometimes if you can't find a local from the exact area your child was adopted from, make connections with people who either live around that location or may have connections there.
Also there are newspaper ad options that some people have used that give a small amount of info and a contact name and email address and ideally a Chinese phone number or QQ.
You can also circulate your childs basic info on Chinese forums and a blog that can be viewed from in China.
Make contact with the director or staff or foster parents.
You can also connect with media in China if you are brave!
The "baby come home" forum offers thousands of volunteers that work to reunite lost children.
Another option is to request information through your agency AND your government that is responsible for overseeing IAs. Request a full copy of your childs file and have it translated by someone you trust.
Some people also use fliers or pamphlets/cards to hand out.
NGOs working in the areas may also offer information or assistance.

Research-China.Org said...


Of course the desire for money is the primary motivation for these problems, exemplified by the change in actions when the IA program began in Zhenyuan. However, the reason there is so little outcry from those familiar with these programs is the belief that the children are benefited. The feelings of prejudice allows the programs to continue unchecked inside China.


Anonymous said...

do you know when this practice started? Has it been all along or only during the past few years?
also, I tried to get information about our daughter from a clinic person we keep in touch with but she pretty much shut that door though she was nice about it. It made me feel she knows something she wasn't telling me.

Research-China.Org said...

The more research and investigation that is done, the earlier it goes. For a while it was felt that the origin of these problems lay around 2001, when Chinese adoption law changes allowed families inside China to more easily adopt. It was this increased demand that was viewed as being the catalyst.

However, the more research is done, the more it is becoming clear that it goes further back than that. It seems possible at this point that problems began with the introduction of the IA program, or soon after.


Anonymous said...

I also think the root of the problem is money and greed...

And there isn't, unfortunately, much we can do (unless stopping the NSN program, of course). Just look at what happened to Ina Huts, Director of Wereldkinderen (biggest agency in Holland) last August. She proposed to carry out her own undercover investigation (re:traffic) in China. But Ina Huts said she was approached by Justice Ministry officials who pressurised her to put a stop to the inquiry in the interests of relations with China. In fact, Wereldkinderen falls under Justice Ministry supervision, and the officials allegedly threatened to withdraw the agency's licence if it refused to comply. Ina Huts resigned shortly after this story.
Difficult, indeed...

Anonymous said...

Sometimes a baby is found by someone else who tries to keep them. After a awhile circumstances change and they abandon them again. You canot assume every child abandoned who is not a newborn is stolen from their birth family. Sometimes the family loses their job or a parent or caretaker dies or becomes too sick to care for them. Or the father abandons the mother. Divorce and remarriage. Lots of reasons for abandonment at an older age. Stop scaring people who have adopted older babies and children. Soon no one will want them at all. Everyone will demand children found as newborns and the older ones will be left behind. But I guess an orphanage in their home country is much better than an adoptive family who lives them, right?

Research-China.Org said...

I don't recall anyone stating that every child found at an older age is stolen, so I am not sure why you are stating that. But when an orphanage suddenly produces many older kids, especially if they are healthy, one must ask questions as to why.


Anonymous said...

To Anonymous 9/24/2009 5:23 PM

You seem to be alleging that new borns can not be trafficked. No way ! Very young children CAN be trafficked as well indeed. They can equally have been stolen or sold, or even taken away from families by FP.

I must admit I do not reckon the reason why you say so. Perhaps are you already parent of a child born in China and who has been found as a "new born"? And perhaps, as we all do, you secretely hope (without looking very far into the problem), that your child is not concerned...

I also come back on your statement "families will not want older child anymore". I can not see the point there either : most of the American applicants ask for AYAP babies already anyway.

The problem is not there, for sure.

Shall I suggest you have an in depth read of Brian's different entries on the subject for a better understanding of the story?


Anonymous said...

I'm glad the article came out. What's annoying is that the CCAA director (probably in retaliation for loss of face) has just announced that all non-Hague certified dossier must now transfer to Hague certified agencies...before December 1, 2009. Some 10,000+ applications now will probably need to spend $8000-$10000 to transfer their dossiers. Including us, who were due to be matched in January. Sigh.

What if we started a mass movement to refuse to pay the $5000 orphanage 'donation'? Which is a primary source of all this corruption in the first place.

John Abbott said...

Forgive the digression, but I went to the Resist Racism site referenced in this article, read the commentary there and chose to add my own remarks in response to what I felt were some pretty cheap shots directed at the adoptive community, expressed by one of the participants in particular.

Instead of posting what I actually wrote, which stressed issues of empathy and responding fairly to others' arguments, the moderator actually placed the following statement in my name:

[Hi, I keep forgetting that my kids observe the way I treat people of their same color.]

The point being, of course, to portray me as racist -- and that somehow the purpose of meaningful discussion on these difficult matters is served by labeling me as such.

I realize that the moderation policies of Resist Racism are not your concern, but I would ask that, the next time you reference this site in a posting -- in effect steering people in that direction -- that you provide fair warning that this is a site that chooses not to play with participants -- at least those it considers fair game -- honestly and fairly.

Anonymous said...

If IA stops in Chian will those chidlren be better off? Wont parents still sell them to orphanages or to baby brokers or leave them with grandparents hoping for a better life? HOw will stopping IA help this cultural issue? How can we ask an entire culture to change their way of thinking, to stop wanting a better life for their children? When you have so few recsources you will sacrifice to offer a better future for your child. That is why so many people in this country put their children up for adoption.

Research-China.Org said...

Obviously we can't ask a culture to change their way of thinking, but we can do all we can not to be a part of the problem. I suspect that without IA in the picture, the number of abandoned children would fall to near zero.