Monday, December 22, 2014

Looking Back on 2014

As I look back on 2014, I feel this has been one of our most productive years yet.  Not only have we continued to provide finding ads, DVDs, and orphanage reports to thousands of adoptive families, but we have been able to provide important information and data to those families that want to know how their child came into the orphanage, or how China's evolving program has impacted their adoption.

1)  After three years of writing, modifying, editing, fact-checking, etc., Research-China.Org finally had their first article on China's adoption program published in a scholarly law review journal.  "Open Secret" has been the foundation of our adoptive family presentations, and it is very gratifying to finally introduce the records, transcripts, interviews, and orphanage data to those adoptive families seeking to truly understand the China adoption program.  This article is available for free download here.

2)  This past year saw our collection of available data books explode, as we added forty-five orphanage data books to our collection.  It is hard to understate how important these data books are to understanding a child's orphanage program.  By having the finding data for every child internationally adopted from the orphanage since 1999, one can form a very good idea how reliable the information is.  This becomes critically important not just for birth parent or sibling searches, but to simply address questions your child may (and will) have about their abandonment.  By having the hard data behind each child adopted, you can make very good assessments, and provide data-based answers to your child.

3) This past year also saw the launch of DNAConnect.Org, a service dedicated to collecting and matching birth parent DNA to adoptees.  With nineteen birth parents already in the process of being submitted, or having DNA already in the 23andMe database, and two matches already having been made, we believe this program represents the best hope for many adoptees of ever finding their birth parents.

With 2015 visible on the horizon, we are excited about what new discoveries will be made. Lan is conducting a huge birth parent search project early next year, which we are confident will add a lot more birth families to our growing data base.  We also look forward to continuing our assistance of interested adoptive families, those who are strong and interested enough to learn as much as possible about their child's origins.  And we are especially excited about the increasing number of adoptees themselves who are contacting us for help.  As the torch moves from adoptive parents to adoptees, we will do everything we can to help each child understand their history.  Our jobs are satisfying indeed.

All the best for a happy and prosperous 2015!

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Older Child Interviews

Over the past few years, I can't tell you how many times we have heard from an adoptive family that wanted to have us talk to their older adoptive child about some facet of their pre-adoption history, only to learn that the child no longer remembered much.  These interviews usually took place more than a year after the adoption was completed, and after the child had begun to speak in their new language.  Unfortunately, in most cases, the year had brought a decline in both Chinese language abilities and in the quality of their memories.

To reduce the risk of this unfavorable outcome, Lan is now offering to conduct a post-adoption interview as soon as possible after the adoption is completed (even while a family is still in China).  The interview can be conducted by phone or Skype/QQ.  Lan will casually and lovingly talk to your child, and ask in a natural way any questions the adoptive family would like to know information about.  In this way, the adoptive parents can gain valuable insights into the adoption experience from their child's viewpoint, gain information about their time in the orphanage, and learn other important answers that may help the adoptive child and adoptee.

The audio of each conversation will be recorded for later review and archiving (your adoptive child will love hearing their Chinese down the road!).   A debriefing report will be provided by email to the adoptive family recapping all important points discussed. 

Lan will be offering this service for $50 per interview.  Lan brings an intimate familiarity with nearly every orphanage performing adoptions, so she will know what to ask, how to follow-through on the answers.  In other words, she will be able to talk to your child in the best way to get as much information for you as possible. 

Please contact Lan directly as with any questions, or to schedule an interview.  We can promise you will find this opportunity of great worth both now and in the future. 

Thursday, November 06, 2014

Foster Family Listings

If you wish to be informed on what Research-China.Org is up to, like us on FB.  You will then be alerted to posts, announcements, etc. 

Since we have had a spike in foster family inquiries, I thought we would remind families of orphanages for which we have located foster families.  These families almost always have photos and other information for adoptive families, so it is crucially important that adoptive families do everything they can to locate them.

We have foster families located for the following orphanages:

Guangxi Province
Yulin City/First

Guangdong Province

Hubei Province

Hunan Province

Jiangxi Province
Shangrao (Ling/Rao)

To see if we have located your child's foster family, visit our foster family blog here.

Friday, October 24, 2014

"The Orphans of Shao"

The story started as a small notice on a remote Hunan government website detailing a lawsuit filed by families in a small Hunan village against the Family Planning Bureau in their area.  While researching the Hunan scandal, we discovered this story of Family Planning confiscations in Gaoping Village, Shaoyang City.  After writing about the story in 2006 in the context of the Hunan scandal, we were contacted to cooperate on a Dutch documentary in 2008 about twelve families that lost their children to Family Planning officials.  These children were sent to the Shaoyang orphanage, renamed "Shao" and adopted internationally.

Now, the Chinese journalist that first broadcast the story inside China has published an in-depth book on the event, providing valuable background context to a story that has deep and profound implications to China's international adoption program.  "The Orphans of Shao" "consists of case studies that exemplify more than 35-year long-lasting policy in China, the One-Child Policy. Due to the effect that the National Law has created, Mr. Pang exposed the corrupted adoption system in China. The farmers in many villages are forced to fines that they cannot afford to pay so the officials take their children away. The officials then sell the children for a low price to government orphanages. The orphanages then put these children up for international adoptions and collect the high prices fees for these adoptions. The international adoptions are usually in Europe and in the United States. These families that adopted these children truly believe that the children are orphans. After their children were kidnapped by the officials, the parents embarked on a long and draining odyssey to recover them. After searching fruitlessly for many years, the heartbroken and desperate parents were on the verge of losing all hope."

These stories must be heard, as painful as they are for most to read.  Purchase of the book benefits "Women's Rights in China," an NGO dedicated to prevent such stories from happening again.  

Tuesday, October 07, 2014

Publication Notice: "Open Secret: Cash & Coercion in China's IA Program"

After several years of researching and writing, my article "Open Secret" is available for free download.  The article is also available in the current Cumberland Law Review 44.3 (2014): 355-422.  This article presents the most in-depth research that has been done to date on China's adoption program, detailing episodes of ethical and legal breaches by orphanages, international response to these episodes, and the actions taken by the Chinese government to mitigate international fallout.  It is quite simply the most detailed study ever undertaken. 

The article can be accessed here:

We welcome your feedback and comments. 

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