Social Context Underwent Changes
A general assumption of the origins of most child abandonment experiences in China, it has been assumed for many years that children adopted from China had likely been placed in an orphanage due to the collision of a traditional preference for males and the strict limits of China’s Family Planning laws. What seems to be more the reality for many adopted children is a wide variety of circumstances and individual stories that present a much more complex and varied set of circumstances leading to child abandonments, and subsequent international adoptions. Another unpleasant factor to consider is that after the international adoption program in China efficiently ramped up to handle the large number of abandoned babies, there actually arose an “incentive” to process international adoptions for the orphanages. This led to a host of unintended consequences. There have been some reports of children being trafficked; or family planning officials becoming overzealous and “seizing” children to be placed in orphanages. While no one can accurately assess what percentage of adoptions might have been affected by these stark scenarios, one must be aware that these realities do exist in some measure within the China program. There are also other considerations to think about before beginning to search. A phrase to consider is: “You cannot “unring” a bell.” One cannot predict the outcome of a search, so consider if you are willing to follow the truth, wherever it might lead.
Communication and Ongoing Plan
Okay, let’s say you’re planning to search. Let’s assume you are successful in locating your birth family. What is your plan? What level of connection do you anticipate you would like? Do you have a language barrier to overcome in order to communicate? What will be the schedule? How often would you like to speak to birth family members? Will you take more return trips if they are located? How often will that be? Will you move to China? What if you are asked to provide monetary support to the Chinese family? This is considered a normal obligation of family members within Chinese culture, as a result of the pervasive influence of the concept of filial piety. If they do approach you, how will you handle? These are a few practical possibilities you will want to think through and make a plan to manage these issues. Be well-versed in the expectations and cultural norms within a Chinese family before you embark on a search. Talk with others who have searched, and specifically try to speak to a few who have been successful in the search. Ask them questions you have, and specifically what they might have been unprepared for, or wish they had done differently. Of course, ask them what they are glad they did to prepare. Learn, listen and prepare yourself for any possibility.
If birth family is located, what will be the ongoing plan for contact and exchange of information? Once per month? Once per week? Once per year? What will be the method of communication? Skype, email, phone, or in-person visit on a semi-regular basis? What is the plan for communication there, now and in the long-term? What limits, financial or otherwise do you wish to establish? How will you communicate those limits so that doing so does not cause irreparable harm to the cross-cultural relationship?
While finding birth parents could answer the “why” question, it can create a number of other more involved questions, such as, “Why me?” and “Why not this or that sibling?” This is just the beginning of the many hundreds of questions that locating a birth family can generate. Realize that locating birth family members may or may not fully answer the questions you wish to have answered, and it may generate an entirely new list you had never imagined. This is not to suggest one should not search, but it is food for thought to prevent unrealistic expectations before you begin.
What to Do?
What is the best thing to do? This can be a question, like many other decisions, cannot be known with full certainty. So, maybe it’ best to consider the issue with this perspective: “What seems the best thing to do now, in this situation, given these circumstances?” You can study this website to gain more understanding and assess the options as you consider these issues. While this site is not intended as an authoritative final word on any of these issues, it has been created to provide a framework of information for exploring birth family searching in China, where we know conducting a search can be highly complex.