Can Our Children Have Family in China?

Many adoptive families try to search for the roots of their children. Most of them feel frustrated and lost during the search. Do their children have "families" in China? Dr. Moreland answers this question in his essay describing how he and his girls have found their "family" in China.

Dr. Moreland, is daddy to Robin (adopted 10/94 at 6 months of age), Summer (adopted 11/95 at 7 months of age), and Willow (adopted 9/98 at 2 years of age). All three of them are from Shanghai. He wrote this article in September of 1998 during his third adoption trip to Shanghai.

  I am sitting in a hotel room in Shanghai once again thinking about this question.  My third daughter adopted from this city is peacefully asleep on the bed taking her afternoon nap, which allows me time to also sleep or, as I am today, think. I am well aware of the facts surrounding adoption from China, that we will never know anything about our children's birthparents, that we have a document called, at least from Shanghai, The Abandonment Certificate, and our children along with us will have to deal with these issues in the very near future.  However, as Suzanne, Robin, Summer, and I (yes we did this third adoption as a family affair, every step of the way) collected the documents for the dossier, contacted officials in Shanghai and simply waited, I came to the realization that my daughters do not have known birthfamily in China, but they most certainly have family.  

  When I think of the relationship between my girls and Shanghai I think of Dr. Han Weicheng, past-director of the Shanghai Children's Welfare Institute.  Dr. Han made that long flight from China to New York carrying 3 foot doll as a present for Robin and, unrequested, met me at the Shanghai airport this last Sunday.  I think of Mrs. Zhou Zhu Qiu, Director of the Shanghai Children's Welfare Institute who told me she makes sure my babies get extra attention, and who put together a care package for me this week of clothes, diapers, and toys when she heard my luggage had not yet arrived in Shanghai (or China for that matter).  I think of Mrs. Chong, the head of the business office of the Shanghai Children's Welfare Institute, who always greets us with a smile and who spent two hours yesterday with me visiting the room where Willow spent the second year of her life getting to know her friends and caregivers.  I think of Mrs. He, interpreter for the Shanghai Adoption Center of Civil Affairs, who does everything with efficiency and warmth, and who also, unrequested, met me at the airport and insisted on taking Willow and me to the Children's Palace to see a music and dance show today even though sight-seeing is not part of her duties.  I think of Mrs. Yang Gu Su, Chief Section Member of the Shanghai Adoption Center, whose smile is always a treat to see, who always answers Christmas cards and sends birthday cards to my girls, and who gave me her home phone number and asked if Robin and Summer would call her 14 year old daughter who wishes to practice her English.  And I think of Wendell Young, General Manager of the Holiday Inn, where almost all of the families adopting from Shanghai stay; Wendell hopes to someday bring all of the children adopted from Shanghai back for a reunion.

  My two oldest daughters are also beginning to understand they have a special relationship with these people.  Both Robin and Summer have spoken to Dr. Han and Mrs. He on the phone several times.  Robin knows that Dr. Han and Mrs. Zhou were taking care of her and Summer and now Willow for us before we traveled to China to adopt each of them.  

  So, the question becomes, if our daughters have "family" in China, how did we initiate and cultivate this relationship. We began this relationship by collecting as many business cards of people we met on our first trip to adopt Robin that we possibly could.  With each stop, we asked the interpreter to ask the person we were meeting with if we could have a business card.  I admit, since we were a single family this was simpler than with a large group, but with a group one card could be copied and distributed and with several families reminding the interpreter for cards, there is less of a chance to miss one during those more emotional times in the trip.  Upon our return home, we sent a picture of Robin and a thank you note to all we met in Shanghai.  We hoped this would initiate a friendship.

  To cultivate this friendship, we sent pictures of Robin and then Robin and Summer every Christmas to all the people we met on our first trip. We also sent pictures of our girls along with a donation to the Shanghai Children's Welfare Institute every spring in honor of their birthdays.  Our pictures and letters were in English but we knew that Mrs. He would translate for everyone. The donations were also sent in English but mailed to an official in Shanghai whom we knew read and spoke excellent English and would ensure the donation would reach the proper source.  The method for the donations takes a small leap of faith peppered with a dose of trust, a personal check payable not to the Shanghai Children's Welfare Institute but to Mrs. Zhou Zhu Qiu.  We were told that any monies donated to the Institute would enter a general Social Affairs account and may or may not be received by the Institute of our choice.  By sending the check payable to the Director, it would indeed benefit the children. We may never precisely know of course that all or some of our donations actually were used to benefit the children, but we receive thank you letters from the director, receipts from the Bank of China for cashing the check, receipts from the Bank of China for money exchange from US$ to Yuan, and a receipt from the Shanghai Children's Welfare Institute.  This week, I received from the head of the Children's Welfare Institute business office, a receipt for this year's donation and an apology that it was not sent earlier; I did not mention that I had received a receipt in August. But, it did verify to me that the donation did indeed reach the children.

  If any wish to initiate and cultivate a relationship with their children's Welfare Institute, I wholeheartedly support the decision, but offer a warning that patience must be in abundant supply. It takes easily 3-6 months for a reply to most of our correspondence. Moreover, I do not readily remember any replies the first year, and it is only now after 4 years of correspondence that I really believe we have many life-long friends and "family" for our girls.  I should add that this relationship does not require 3 adoptions and 3 trips to China.  On this trip I brought many pictures, donations, and gifts to the officials in Shanghai from families across the US who have a child from Shanghai.  In every instance that I was present, the donor family was recognized and a conversation followed between all in the room about the "baby". 

  I hear from many families that they only know the name of the Children's Welfare Institute and not the address nor the director's name. How then does one go about finding this crucial information. The obvious first place to go is your agency.  Many agencies have a long running relationship with specific Welfare Institutes or at the very least have a listing of names and addresses of the Welfare Institutes they have used or the names and addresses of the provincial level Civil Affairs offices.

  Should this avenue not succeed, remember the power of the Internet.  The post-adopt-China (PAC) list, the AOL Adoption Forum, and the AOL ACLU China Adoption folder provide access to some of the most well informed people I have ever met. Beware however, that these areas are also home to people who only think they are well informed; it is your job to differentiate the two! A request for information on a specific Welfare Institute is common on these forums and usually results in numerous replies.  There are numerous city specific directories that have been formed and the folks who have developed these directories almost always will have the information you need.  If you do not have access to a computer, modem, and an on-line service, ask one of your fellow FCC members to post the request for you. A full listing of those members who have e-mail addresses can be found at the end of  your chapter directory.

  The number of families connected to each other through the Internet may exceed 4000, however, FCC membership is probably double this number if not greater.  So, do not forget the option of posting a note in FCC newsletters across the country. Mary Ann Fong has the e-mail addresses of all FCC editors and it is common practice to send out nationwide requests for information or for additions to all chapter newsletters. This note may reach a wider audience than a post on the Internet, although the Internet connected folks may respond quicker as typing on a keyboard is easier and faster than stamping an envelope.

  The last source of information that I am aware of is the letters to the magazine section of Adoptive Families of America magazine.  Many times I have seen requests for information on local events and playgroups, requests for information on city or country specific adoption, or requests for communication with anyone else who has adopted from "fill in the blank" city or country. This magazine has a very large circulation and may therefore be an excellent source of information.

  In closing, I feel very strongly that the relationship we have developed with the people of Shanghai will help our girls have a sense of beginning and background. They will have real faces and real names to associate with the time spent before we became a family. It took us 4 years of persistent letters, pictures, and donations to achieve this feeling of "family." With patience, persistence, and a little luck, I hope many of us can maintain contact with the people who helped us achieve the joy and happiness that adoption from China has added to our lives.

To learn more about Dr. Moreland’s adoptions in China, you can see from the video Good Fortune.