families' quests to trace Chinese roots often meet dead ends
families are traveling to China to unravel the mystery of where their
adoptive children came from and who their parents are. For the few who
are able to make any headway, luck is a big factor.
Times, December 28, 2009|By Martha Groves and Barbara Demick
from Los Angeles and Beijing — My name is Haley. I was adopted
in 1995. I now live in America. I enjoy singing and playing the violin
and hanging out with my friends. I have a good life, but I would like to
find my biological family.
minutes after Jeannie Butler and her adopted daughter, Haley, tacked a
Chinese-language poster with this message to a wall in the Yangtze River
village where she had been abandoned, a woman emerged from a restaurant
next door and did a double-take.
woman stared hard at Haley, 14, then at the baby photo on the poster.
my gosh, she looks just like my cousin's daughters!" she blurted
out as an interpreter with the Butlers translated.
flurry of cellphone calls ensued. By that evening, Haley had met her
biological father and the eldest of three biological sisters. The
reunion in July went so well that Haley and her parents are spending the
Christmas season this year with her extended biological family in China.
They hope to meet the birth mother Tuesday.
encounters are rare for the thousands of American families who have
adopted Chinese children. But increasingly these families are making the
return journey to China, not merely as tourists climbing the Great Wall
and steeping their daughters (and they are almost all girls) in Chinese
culture, but as detectives trying to unravel the most elusive mystery of
all: Who is my child?
are her biological parents, and where are they from? Is she Han Chinese
or a member of one of the many ethnic minorities? Does she have a
biological sibling? And, most important, how did she come to be
abandoned and referred for adoption?
number of Chinese adoptees looking for their birth parents is expected
to rise as the girls, most of them still very young, reach adolescence
and then adulthood. But in China, the families often confront an
entrenched culture of secrecy that clashes with Americans' presumed
right to know.
were at the right place, at the right time. All the stars were in
alignment for Haley to meet her birth family," said Butler, 49, a
costume designer from Nashville who raises funds to help Chinese
who try to investigate are frustrated by their inability to speak
Chinese and unfamiliarity with the culture, incomplete or erroneous
orphanage records and bureaucratic obstacles. In 2007, a delegation of
American adoptive parents visiting an orphanage in Hunan province were
allowed in only under the condition that they promise in writing not to
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