9:09 PM

Love without Bounderies - Moves me to action

Adoption does not get the best PR, if I were adoption's agent I would tell it to hire a good PR representative.  There are so many misconceptions about adoption in general and many outdated ideas about adoption from China.  Part of the reason for this is that the face of adoption, international adoption and China adoption are changing at lightning speed, so fast that those of us in the trenches of it can sometimes be left in the dust.  Recently Love Without Bounderies did a very informative series of blog posts about what is happening in orphan care right here and now and how things came to be from a program that mostly had healthy young girls to that of special needs program with a lot of boys.
Here is a link to the series, I urge you to read them as they are truly a fascinating glimpse into a country that is changing faster then any we have ever seen and how their population is being affected
and how the children, the babies, the most fragile of the society are paying the price.

The Changing Face of China's Orphans
Changing Attitudes
The Adoption of Boys
Domestic Adoption on the Rise
Birth Defects
"Birth defects in China have risen 70% in the last decade.  Mr. Jiang Fan, of the National Population and Family Planning Commission stated that birth defects now affect one in ten households in China, with a child being born every 30 seconds with a medical need. Chinese reports place the number of children being born with special needs each year at between 1-3 million (See Source 2), compared to the estimate by the March of Dimes that 120,000 babies are born with birth defects each year in the United States."
New Chalanges
Why International Adoption Still Matters
"Americans adopted just 2,587 children…699 boys and 1,888 girls. (Source 1). That number is just 2% of all the children in government institutional care there, and just 0.4% of the total orphaned children in that country. ZERO POINT FOUR PERCENT."

I have drawn out two quotes that really shook me.  The first regarding the sharp increase in birth defects and how many families that now impacts.  There currently exists in China strong discrimination for people who are differently abled, and very few resources or care options and those that do exist cost a lot of money.  When I read how many people are affected now by birth defects my greatest hope is that these attitudes and government support will be forced to change and improve, simply because it will be too common to ignore.

The second quote about the number of children who are adopted each year amazed me.  I thought that number was much higher, more like at least 25%.  Then I thought about it, thought about the hundreds of thousands of children.  Thought about how my daughter was one of them, about how she could have been overlooked if she had not had advocates putting her forward for adoption.  She was one of 3 albinism babies in her orphanage alone, and they told me they could only choose to invest in one of them, to give one of them the chance to have a family.  I am so lucky that they choose her, but the 2 left alone haunt me.  I met them, stroked their faces, chucked their cheeks, tried to get them to look into my eyes.  They said Elora got picked because she was the most "active" of the three.  The other two did look... well ... depressed, and rightly so.  All I keep thinking is my daughter deserves a family because she is plucky little charmer and a fighter?!?
THEY ALL DESERVE A FAMILY!!!!  A family is a basic human right

Having a family, having something and someone who believes in you would have been all that those other kids needed.  I have witnessed the power of love and family.  I have seen the miracle transformation powers in my own child as well as countless other families I have come to know.

I am scared to admit this but after reading that article all I wanted to do was call my social worker and get my paperwork going again so that I could be back in China ASAP.  Now up until reading that last post I was 99% sure we were not going to pursue adoption again, but would instead wait a long while and then become foster parents.  I think for so long I have been so focused on helping my daughter and adapting to our new family of four that I put the other children, the ones left behind in a place in my mind and heart that was just there but under lock and key.  That place is busted open now and I need to do something.  So I am starting with advocating.  Telling about my experience with adoption, in case you have not heard already it is the best thing I have ever done.  The number one reason I would love to do it again is to just be lucky enough to witness that kind of change and growth and resilience in a child again, it is AWEsome, utterly amazing.  I want to be adoption's PR rep and break down some of the myths and misconceptions.  I want to find ways to raise funds for family unification, orphanage staff training, I want to find a way for Canadians to give and get a tax receipt.  I want to share the stories of the children I hear about, so you can learn who they are, each of them, important people who are worthy of a family.  So ya, things are going to start being less about me around here and more about what I feel passionate about, the amazing power of adoption!

4:16 PM

The search

Our goal has always been to have an open adoption. We feel, and experts agree that it is the best thing for our kids. It was one of the reasons that Thailand won our heart back at the start of this journey, because of the greater possibility for openness. I learned about international adoption birth parent searching before we were even matched. Like many other parents, this possibility was news to me. I was excited by the possibility however remote, and we decided to conduct a search when our match came.

I guess you can say that I have been actively searching in bits and bytes for about a year now. I started shortly after we got our referral package. One thing I have found with searching is that there is info for parents on how to try to do it, BUT it is not easy to find that info or to act on it. Clearly this is virgin territory for everyone in the China adoption community. I understand why this is a topic that is not being talked about openly much, here I am a year in, swamped in emotions and we have not learned one single new thing yet, and yet talking about it, thinking about it even is hard. I want to talk about it, connect with others who are thinking about it, or doing it, but there had not really been anything to say. I guess I will start off by telling you what we have done and where we are heading in the search.

What we did so far:

• Located our daughter’s finding ad on line (pre travel). This gave me the info we needed to visit the spot on our adoption trip

• Made up a poster and placed it at the finding spot, took a photo of the spot. We had intended to do so much more but time limitations gave us less than 10 minutes at the spot and our guide was not keen on me putting up the poster, the whole thing was a weird, scary, rushed vibe.

• Once home we plotted Elora’s finding spot in google maps to see what was nearby. The goal here is to see if any clues can be found by the location. We did get a better understanding for the possible logic of the location using the map tool.

• A well known searcher was planning a visit to our orphanage with another family; we asked if she could get a copy of our daughter’s police report. We were hoping to get the name of her finder as this has not been provided to us. The searcher was not successful, but we were told that if we came in person we could have access to the file, just not through a 3rd party.

• I have been told that our best option is to make contact with someone who lives in Wenzhou who can help us. I have reached out to expat groups, random people on facebook who list Wenzhou as their home town, our guide, people who are blogging from Wenzhou, a friend of a friend whose parents still live there, a China albinism support group. Mostly I have just been ignored, sometimes we get a polite decline.

• I searched the Chinese search engines with various combinations of Chinese characters (white baby, albinism, girl found, date, orphanage name, city name, so on and so on). Scrolling though thousands of images and articles, analyzing every little face to see if it’s maybe a younger version of the child I love.

• We asked our tutor to translate a flyer I made and she helped me to get the addresses of businesses near the finding spot as well as other places of interest I located with the map, and the police station her paperwork states she was taken to. I mailed the flyers with a questionnaire included as well as self addressed envelopes.

I am no further ahead. All that searching resulted in nothing but the finding ad.

So now we have the opportunity to hire the same well respected searcher who helped us earlier to do a search for us in combination with a few other families from the same orphanage. Although some parents feel that an out of towner, even a professional searcher, will not be able to make the needed connections to bring results, we are going to try. I feel like I am at a junction in the road. It has been two years since her finding, although I am sure she will be memorable I feel like time is a huge factor. I have done as much as I can, although I will continue to plug away at it. I need someone, anyone, on the ground asking real live people what they can remember, before there is no one left to remember.

When this search began, back before I was Elora’s mom, I did not know so many things. I did not know how emotional each dip into the search would be. So emotional that each google search required weeks of emotional prep for me. I am not too sure why, I am not really scared of the results. I think it is more a sense of failure I feel each time I try. Each stranger I lay my heart on the line to only to hear nothing. Each time I catch a glimpse of a baby photo in my search my stomach flips, wishing that I have found the most precious jewel, a baby photo of my own child. Along the way the goal of this search has changed. I heard another mother describe it as a puzzle we are trying to solve. We may never get all the pieces of that puzzle but with each additional piece that is found the image becomes clearer, if we get enough pieces we may even be able to confidently identify the image. This is my hope, just one puzzle piece will mean the world to me, will be worth it.

Another thing I did not know is how much it would hurt to not know things about my own child. Having hurt feelings about this is so illogical, so irrational my brain tells me, she was not always here, but she is here now, just the plain old facts. My heart tells me she has always been here, maybe you are just forgetting those early months, how could you forget, why didn’t you take more photos, write more in her baby book. The fact that she is so embedded in my heart and our life makes it near impossible to remember on a gut level that it was not always this way, so I get this sort of shame feeling for not having funny baby stories about her, or medical records. My heart has even tricked my brain; I sometimes think I have memories of nursing her, seeing her first baby toothless smile… I don’t know why this happened. I do wish I was there, I wish I could have spared her all those months without a parent, but my brain is really OK with how it all came to be, so I am not sure why these false memories exist. Do all moms of more than one kid mix up their memories?

I can only imagine these raw emotions of failure, shame, rejection and hurt will be the same ones Elora will experience as she matures. I hope this search will provide me with the empathy and support she will require in the future. I am glad to be the pioneer of her search. I hope at the very least I am chopping my way through the jungle of searching to make her journey a little lighter. I also hope that I am not already too late to get her the gift of a few more puzzle pieces.