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