Tuesday, August 23, 2016

We Know Who the In-Country Searchers Are, But Are They Any Good?

UPDATED: September 23, 2016

As the Chinese adoptee population begins to mature, a growing industry is developing around the need for many adoptees and their families to search for birth parents and other information. As a result, people inside China, most of whom used to work as agency guides when adoptions were prolific, have now moved into the search industry. The current main players in this arena are "Xixi," "Tiffany," "Jane,"  and to a lessor extent "Bruce Yu." We have written about our own experiences with these searchers on our subscription blog, but we felt polling a larger pool of families, families that have had direct involvement with these searchers, was warranted.

We created a poll asking adoptive families on our search group if they had paid any in-country searcher to seek out their child's birth family.  Eighty-one families responded (interested families are encouraged to submit their own feedback relative to these searchers for future survey updates, which we hope to conduct monthly). The following is a summary of the experiences of these participants, and their assessment of the services they received.

The dominant searcher in China is Xixi, an ex-agency in-country guide based in Guangxi Province. Fifty-six percent of respondents had utilized her services. Families had Xixi search in a wide area, ranging from Guangxi Province to as far away as Zhejiang Province. Families reported that on average they paid from $300 to over $500 for the research, although 20% of faqmilies paid more than $500.

Survey results indicate that Xixi is well loved by her clients. When asked to rate their satisfaction with her services, the forty-six families rated their overall experience as 3.69 (1 = Wish I hadn't done it, 5 = Completely satisfied). All but sixteen respondents rated her 4 or higher.  Common comments touted her quick communication, flexibility, and honesty.  When asked if they would recommend Xixi to other families, Xixi rated 3.80 (Would recommend).

There were a few non-fans (16/46). One respondent commented that they felt Xixi "applied a 'one-size-fits-all' approach, rather than listening to us and hearing what we wanted. We didn't need photos and souvenirs (we'd already been there) and didn't want to pay for that. We were fairly sure the orphanage was involved in our daughter's 'abandonment' and didn't want them alerted to our search, but she went straight to the orphanage director. We wanted her to discreetly interview other people, but all she did was put up posters (which we told her up front was not a priority for us, given the fact that we didn't think our daughter was truly abandoned)."

Of the forty-six families that had hired Xixi, three reported success in locating their child's birth family.

The second main searcher used by families inside China is Tiffany, an ex-shop owner in Nanchang.  Utilized by 10% of respondents, Tiffany's clients were also very happy, for the most part, with her services.  Like Xixi, Tiffany charges families $300 or more for a search, and she has conducted searches in Jiangxi Province and neighboring areas.  Eight families in our survey had used Tiffany's services, and most (63%) rated her as a good or awesome value.  Happy clients emphasized her doggedness and commitment to follow through on leads, etc.  Tiffany's overall client satisfaction average was 3.38.  When asked if they would recommend her to other families, Tiffany rated 3.13 (Nearly neutral).
None of the families that utilized Tiffany in their searches were successful in locating their child's birth family.

A distant third option utilized by families was Jane, hired by five families. In contrast to Xixi and Tiffany, Jane has an average satisfaction rating of 3.4. Jane's fees appear to be lower, with most families reporting they paid between $100 and $300, and no family having paid more than $500.  Jane appears to search predominantly in Anhui Province.

Respondents cite Jane's lack of organization as the major dissatisfier: "The searcher did not appear to be organized for the search and it was a lot of hit and miss for the day of the search plus information provided turned out to be inaccurate by the searcher.  I didn't trust the translation.  It was not matching the expressions of the people that she was talking to and I had to prompt for a translation and I was told often that it was nothing.  Information about the original orphanage location turned out not to be true.  Told us at one point that someone came forward but we had to return to [the city] to meet the person first which the searcher could have done for a cost.  We met with a TV station the day after the searcher left and a much better response where they found the original orphanage, took us to the police station, had DNA taken, the gov. office.  It was suggested that my daughter is from another city further away so it would have been helpful to help us search there."

 When asked if they would recommend Jane to other families, she rated 3 (Neutral). One of the five families reported locating their child's birth family by using Jane.

Out of the eighty-two families that have taken the survey, only eight have obtained birth family information through their searcher: Three with Xixi, one through Jane, and the rest through local contacts such as "Baby Come Home" and other area residents who the family befriended.

As more families participate in the survey, our sample size, especially for lessor utilized options such as Jane and Bruce Yu, will grow, allowing us to make better characterizations.

If you have utilized an in-country searcher to try and locate birth families, please consider completing our survey.  Your experience will help other families to make informed decisions.

Full comments can be read on our information site under the "More" tab, "Searcher Reviews".  

Searcher Survey

Thursday, June 09, 2016

The Story of Baby Liu Jia Jia

August, 2017: After nearly two years, the adoptive family of "Baby Jia Jia" is now in contact with the birth mother. The birth mother is over the moon happy.  

June 11, 2016: The following message was sent to us by the birth mother, addressed to the adoptive family:

“Please forgive my sudden appearance. I understand you and your family might need time to make a decision, and need time to talk about this with the whole family.
"But I would like to let you know that I am not asking you to return my daughter back to me. I understand my daughter was already became an American citizen, and I believed you love her very much too. I really appreciate your care for her and for adopting her. I hope you and I can make friends, and I just wanted my daughter to know that I never abandoned her or gave her up, and that I love her very much! I hope she is happy!”


The following essay, written by Lan, is a plea to families with children from the Xuzhou, Jiangsu orphanage to try and locate the adoptive family that adopted the child profiled below. Beyond that, there are some important lessons adoptive families generally can take away from the experiences of this family:

1) Many children are transported long distances before being turned into an orphanage.

2) As we have seen in other instances, orphanages almost always work to prevent birth families from locating and retrieving children once they enter an orphanage.

3) This child was abandoned by her paternal family for one simple reason - she was a girl. Gender bias, especially among older citizens of China, still exists.


“I have been looking very hard for my child for three years, and I beg you to share my story to help me make my dreams to find my daughter come true!”

Recently, I received a link to a story posted on-line by a birth mother inside China, “mom of baby Jia Jia,” looking for her missing daughter.

After I got in touch with this birth mother, I was able to learn her story.

The birth mother is 29 years old. She lives in Tengzhou City in Shandong Province. In the first story that she posted on-line on February 17, 2016, she stated “I am an unfortunate woman.”

Below is her unfortunate story:

On December 9, 2012, she was very excited to finally become a mother with the birth of her baby girl, born in the Women & Children’s Health Hospital of Tengzhou City. The next day, her husband and his family came to check her and the baby out of the hospital.  She was with her husband, in her husband’s car, and the grandparents, holding her newborn baby girl, went with the aunt and uncle in another car home. After her husband and she got home, they waited and waited, but the grandparents never showed up with her baby girl. All that night and through the next morning, she waited. Finally she realized her baby girl was gone.

“I started to go crazy, screaming, looking for my baby girl. The next day I found out they had already abandoned my baby girl somewhere secretly, because they wanted a boy, not a girl. They would not say anything, and wouldn’t tell me where they had abandoned my baby girl!” the birth mother told me.

“They did not let me go out of the house to look for my baby girl, and locked me inside the house try to stop me. I started to text any friends that I knew, asking for their help to find my baby girl.”

She searched for her baby girl very hard on her own for a while, but her husband’s family did not cooperate with her in looking for the baby girl. They didn’t provide her the location where they had abandoned the baby. Instead, they did whatever they could to try to stop her, repeatedly threatening her. “That got me very angry,” the birth mother screamed, “Finally, I reported them to the police station for abandoning my baby girl.”

The policemen came, a reporter came. With the police department and the media involved, the birth mother learned her husband’s family had abandoned the baby girl at the First People’s Hospital in Xuzhou City in Jiangsu Province on the night of December 10, 2012. The hospital is about an hour drive from the city where they lived.

In May 2014, after she had spoken to many people in her research, the birth mother finally found out her baby girl had been sent to the Xuzhou City orphanage after she had been abandoned. She went to the Xuzhou City Orphanage immediately, hoping to find out any information about the baby girl. But the director of the orphanage denied that they have accepted any abandoned baby girl.

Then, she went to the Xuzhou City First People’s Hospital, and tried very hard to find the witness who found the girl in the hospital. She located the police officer who was involved with the girl’s finding and who had sent her into the orphanage. With the witness and evidence, as well as a reporter, she returned to the orphanage. This time Director Chen Li of the Xuzhou orphanage admitted that they had accepted the baby girl into the orphanage that night, but that the baby girl had already been adopted by a couple from the United States.

“In front of the reporter and the camera, this time Director Chen Li’s voice was much softer as she admitted that they had accepted my baby girl into their orphanage from the police station. But she told me that before she could provide any information and pictures of my daughter, she would first need to apply to the government to get state approval to allow her to do that. She also needed to ask for permission from the adoptive family, to see if they agreed to get in touch with me.

“In January 2015, I finally got baby pictures of my daughter from the orphanage.”

In April 2015, she went to the CCAA in Beijing. After she explained her story to the security guard who worked there, and with his help, she was able to speak to the principal of the CCAA and told her the whole story. Three days later, she revisited the CCAA and spoke to the principal there again. The principal told her that the CCAA had contacted the Xuzhou orphanage, they found out her daughter’s orphanage given name was “Yang Yu Shao,” and they were 99% sure that she was her daughter. But, the CCAA principal continued, besides this information they had provided her, she would have to go back to the orphanage and figure out a way to communicate with the orphanage and ask their help if she wanted more information about her daughter.

So, she went back to the Xuzhou orphanage after she left Beijing. This time the director of the orphanage told her to give up when she asked for help again, and told her that her daughter had her new life now. “She said I should just go on with my own life now on.  I told her that I will not rest in peace in death if I don’t get to see my daughter of my life.” The director’s response? “Who lives a life without regrets? Your search should end here now. Stop looking for your child, because the fates that you have with your child is just the way it is.”

The next day after her visit to the Xuzhou orphanage, her mother tried to call the director again, asking for her help. The director suggested to the mother that she needed to take the birth mother to see a psychiatrist. “Am I crazy because I don’t want to give up looking for my daughter?!?”

The birth mother concluded, “My daughter should be three years and six months old now. As I found out, she was about 11 months old when was she was adopted by the American family. I am worried that her adoptive family won’t help her to find me at all, and she will never have a chance to know that I love her as much as I love her younger sister who’s next to me. She will never know that she has a little sister who loves her very much, too!”

After her daughter was abandoned by her husband’s family, she and her husband quarreled constantly. Both struggled and tried hard to keep their marriage together,  hoping to have a complete home for their daughter if they found her. Their second daughter was born in March 2014. “She has brought much joy to me, but did not change the fact that I still miss my missing daughter every minute in my heart.”

About half a year ago, she and her husband divorced.

The birth mother would very much like to have her daughter to meet her younger sister, and hopes to stay in touch with her adoptive family as a family member. She also hopes her daughter grows up happy with her life.

“It has been three years that I have been looking for my daughter, since the day after I gave birth to her and her “missing” took my heart away! If not for my youngest daughter with me to hold on to, my life would not be worth living. Please! Help me to find my daughter!”

If anyone has information about this missing baby, please contact us. She was named Liu Jia Jia by the birth mother and Yang Yu Shao by the Xuzhou City Orphanage. Her estimated birth date by the orphanage was 12/1/2012. She has a hyperpigmentation in both her nasolabial groove and left leg.

Thursday, June 02, 2016

New Blog Site

In an effort to make our various blogs and other offerings more accessible, we have launched a new webpage that will allow families to easily access our more informational offerings. This webpage is designed to give families easy access to our orphanage records, foster family contacts, articles, and other sources of information. 

Check it out.  We think you will like it.  A lot.


Saturday, March 05, 2016

Adoption of "Social Orphans"

The announcement by "Small World Adoption Agency" that the CCCWA has approved a program whereby Small World will now be permitted to adopt "Social Orphans" has rightly created a lot of concern on the part of adoptive parents.  The program's proposed purpose is to adopt "children with special needs being raised by family or others than their parents who can not care for them any longer and desire to surrender their parental rights may be adopted by Small World Families working with civil affairs and CCCWA." "These children all will have had irrevocable surrenders of parental rights or termination of parental rights due to abuse or neglect or other appropriate reasons in accordance with Chinese law and the Hague Adoption  Convention." (See agency website link above)

While many adoptive families may think this is a new program, it actually has been occurring for nearly a decade.  As the number of healthy, young female infants has declined since the Hunan scandal of 2005, orphanages have been seeking creative ways to increase the number of children they can adopt to Western families. Stories of Family Planning confiscations, "education programs", and other birth parent abuses have increased in frequency in recent years.  All of these abuses have been largely met by a lack of response on the part of receiving countries, emboldening China to continue expanding such programs with apparent impunity.  

Our first hint of the current "social orphan" program was detected in early 2011, when we interviewed a director-friend of ours in Jiangxi Province.  She indicated that she had recently become aware that some area orphanages were starting a new program, administered by the CCCWA, that allowed area birth families to bring their child to the orphanage, for any reason, to allow that child to be adopted to a Western family.  There was no criteria that would prevent a birth family from doing this (such as an income threshold, etc.).  Rather, all that was needed was for the birth family to indicate some reason, such as being a single mother, too poor to take care of a child, illness, special need, etc.  There was no follow-up interviews conducted, no investigation made, just the legal signing of a relinquishment agreement surrendering parental rights of the child. 

It is easy to see how such a program could be abused. An orphanage director, eager to adopt additional children, could actively approach birth families, like we have seen in Luoyang and other areas, promising that their child will be taken care of by a Western family, and provided a life much better than the birth family themselves could provide. The birth family might be promised that their child will return to them after the child reaches 18, creating the idea that the adoption may be temporary.  We have seen this kind of coercion occur in our own family's adoption history, with our daughter's birth family wondering when our/their daughter will return to China to live with them.  An orphanage could approach families with children of special needs, as another possibility, and tell them their child will be better off in the U.S. or Europe, where rich families will be able to adequately care for the child.  In truth, there are  hundreds of ways that an orphanage director could unethically recruit children under the "social orphan" program.

And there is no one to stop them.  No one.  Not the agencies, not the CCCWA, and certainly not the orphanages themselves.  We saw clearly in the Hunan scandal that the CCCWA turns a blind eye to the origins of the children submitted by China's orphanages.  In response to adopting a child from Luoyang that ended up having living birth parents after the orphanage itself provided death certificates, the CCAA stated:

It’s not CCCWA’s responsibility to check the truthfulness of a child’s file and CCCWA has no means to decide if the information is accurate or not. Foreign adoption agencies are not authorized to check the truthfulness of information in a child’s file in China" (Letter from Admin. Dept., CCCWA, to Carlo and Kerry Nuss (Mar. 20, 2013) (emphasis added) (on file with author).

The proud announcement by "Small World Adoption Agency" should raise alarm bells in the minds of all adoptive parents.  The lack of oversight on the part of orphanages, the CCCWA, the U.S. State Department, and the agency themselves should be a significant red flag concerning the origin of these children.  Extreme caution is recommended, and families are encouraged to avoid these programs altogether.