Saturday, November 28, 2009

Why So Many Orphans?

In talking with others about our adoption, I have realized that many people have misconceptions about why there are so many orphans in China. The prevailing thought among those I know is that daughters are simply not wanted in China and, thus, because of the country's one-child policy, are abandoned in hopes of having a boy. While that, in essence, is true, there is a whole lot more to the story...

Here is some background ... In the 1950s and 60s, China experienced a huge population growth without a huge growth in food supplies. There were famines and food riots. As a result, in 1979, the Chinese government developed population control regulations. These regulations -- known to most of us as the one-child policy -- limit the number of children each family may have, the age at which people may marry and when they can begin having children. Significant fines and penalties are imposed on families who exceed these regulations. The policy is enforced at the provincial level through fines that are imposed based on the income of the family and other factors. A family can pay a hefty fine in order to have more than one child, however, this is often impossible, especially for rural families. While these regulations have created a very large orphan population, they have accomplished their goal. Family sizes are smaller in China, and there is adequate food for the still growing population. There are exceptions to the one-child policy -- people in rural areas as well as ethnic minorities are often allowed to have two children if the first is a girl.

This may sound paradoxical, but I believe by looking at the number of children in the orphanages, you can see that the Chinese people dearly love their children. Hear me out ... for the sake of their unborn child's life, many women will attempt to conceal pregnancies so that they can give birth to a child, then later abandon him or her, just to give them a chance at life. In a country where a pregnancy can be very easily terminated, I believe it says a lot for a Chinese mother to birth a child, and then abandon him or her so that they will at least have a life ... somewhere. When the infants are abandoned, it is usually in a place where he or she will be quickly found, and it is commonly believed that some birth parents secretly watch from a distance to make sure the baby is quickly helped. A majority of these orphans are born to rural families, which means that the parents must travel to a bigger town to abandon them so that they will be found and cared for. I have also read that a majority of these orphans are probably a second daughter for the biological family. For many families, if the second child is a boy then they could keep it, but if it is a girl, they must abandon her.

So ... why so many girls abandoned? Because of culture and tradition, male children are frequently perceived as more valuable to the survival of the family. Traditionally in China, it is the responsibility of the male child to care for his parents when they are no longer able to work or care for themselves, and to carry on the family name. If a couple were to have a daughter, that daughter would marry and be responsible for her husband's parents, not her own parents. China does not have Social Security or retirement plans. A person's survival is entirely dependent on their offspring. For many, if they have a daughter, it is a death sentence. Thus, if a couple's first baby is a boy, the baby is most likely kept. If the baby is a girl, or a second or third child, a child born outside of marriage, or a child with some physical abnormality, it may be abandoned.

Special needs children are in a different category here. Most of the special needs children are abandoned because of their special needs. Either a Chinese couple does not want the responsibility of taking care of a sick child or, more likely, does not have the money and resources to care for him or her. A vast majority of the special needs children are, interestingly, boys ... like 90% are. Lia Kate is a special needs child due to her heart murmur. She was abandoned in a very public area (so that she would be found) at 12 days of age. I cannot imagine how agonizingly difficult it must have been for her birth mother to make that decision and then follow through with it.

I find it interesting that the abandoned children in China are called orphans because the very definition of an orphan is one whose parents have died. For the vast majority of China's "orphans," their biological parents are alive and well ... living with their decisions day in and day out ... victims of harsh laws and difficult circumstances ... and, perhaps, hoping and praying that their children are somewhere out there ... warm, safe, healthy, happy, loved and adopted.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving

"O give thanks to the Lord for he is good. His steadfast love endures forever." Psalm 118:1

So thankful this day for our many blessings, and especially thankful today for our precious Lia Kate waiting in China!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Care Package

With our LOA coming in on Monday, I had to bust a move to get Lia Kate's care package together so that it would actually make it to China before we do! I got it together and mailed it out today. The care package included a fleece-y outfit, pink socks, a giraffe lovey, a disposable camera (so that her nannies can take pictures of her for us), a photo album with pictures of us and her, a butterfly toy w/ wheels, stacking cups, two little books, and nuts for her nannies. I had to include things that I did not expect to ever see again ... just in case ... but I'm hoping at the very least she'll be able to look through the photo album so that she can recognize our faces on Gotcha Day.

I found a fleece outfit that I'm hoping the orphanage will dress her in . They like to keep them warm and bundled up in the winter. And I couldn't let a plain white shirt make its way out of my house, so Lia Kate's first appliqued shirt went out in her care package.

My favorite part of the care package, though, is this little photo album with pictures of the three of us and her, too.

It was surreal to put pictures of the three of us mixed in with pictures of Lia Kate. This child in a foreign land whom we don't even know is our daughter. Surreal.

Britton looking through the album and pointing to Lia Kate. ;o)

Monday, November 16, 2009


I am still in shock that we got our LOA today! This is our Letter of Approval from the Chinese government that officially approves us to adopt Lia Kate. We got it only three weeks after first seeing her sweet face. Some people wait months and months for LOA, and here we are flying through the process. Of course, we have been in their system for nearly two years so that does have something to do with it. However, this means we could be leaving in December instead of January to get her! It is exciting and overwhelming all at the same time. Next, we wait on our Travel Approval. Once we have that, we can set our U.S. Consulate Appointment, which takes place in China near the end of our trip. In the meantime, there is tons to do ... shop for winter clothes for Miss Lia Kate since we'll be needing them now, play fruit basket turnover at the house (Britton goes to the guest room, the guest room goes downstairs, etc.), fix the nursery up for a little girl to inhabit it, apply for Visas and do last minute paperwork, read adoption attachment books, make some cute clothes for Lia Kate, make and freeze food, go out of town for Thanksgiving, do some Christmas shopping, take Britton to see Santa, decorate the Christmas tree, pack for China. Wow. The list goes on. I am overwhelmed. And overjoyed. The next two months will be a whirlwind. Stay tuned!

Friday, November 13, 2009

Lia Kate's Finding Ad

Years ago, when I first became interested in adopting from China, I learned that 1 to 2 million baby girls were abandoned in China each year. Most Americans probably believe baby girls are abandoned because Chinese families want a boy to carry on the family name. While that may be true in many cases, there are more complex issues that lead families to abandon their daughters (and sons, too). It is actually against the law there for parents to give their children up for adoption, which means they can't simply bring their child to an orphanage if they can't or don't want to keep them. Instead, many birth parents leave their babies in a well-traveled area where he or she is sure to be safely found. When a baby is found, it is protocol for the police to attempt to find the birth parents and, beginning 10 years ago, it became law that the orphanage place an ad in the local newspaper, with the hopes that birth parents would claim their children. This is called a finding ad. There is a company here in the States that can locate a child's finding ad, and they found Lia Kate's ad for us! Here is our little girl in, perhaps, the earliest picture of her that we'll ever see ...

The ad reads "(Her name), female, was found near the Lian Jiang Nursing School on August 11, 2008. She was 12 days old at the time she was found." This is the first we have learned of her finding place and it helps us piece a little bit more of her early story together. We plan to go to her town when we are in China and visit her finding spot. There is not much we'll be able to tell her one day about her life in China, but we hope to put as many pieces together as we can.

Here is the newspaper page her ad was on. She is the 6th baby from the right on the bottom row.

Lia Kate's finding ad appeared in the newspaper on February 20, 2009; and, per the number at the top of her ad, she was the 176th finding ad since the beginning of the year (so in the time span of a month and half). She was 6 months old when the ad ran, but her picture was probably taken when she was 3-4 months old. In comparison, by the time Britton turned 4 months old, we had already taken 1,881 pictures of him (I know, that's a lot). For our little girl, this is the only one we have ...

... and that is why this fuzzy, tiny, grainy picture is so very, very precious to us.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

More About Lia Kate's Name

I have a good friend named Linling who is Chinese but has lived in the States for years. We met while she was a post-doctoral student in Jackson. She now lives in Boston with her smart Harvard-scientist-inventor husband and precious baby boy.

Here is a pic of me and her on our last trip to Boston. Anyway, I am privileged to know her and am so thankful she was gracious enough to translate Lia Kate's Chinese name so that we know exactly what it means.

Lia Kate's surname (which actually comes first in Chinese) is the name of the city where her orphanage is. All of the children in her orphanage have this same last name. Her 2nd name is her "first" name or given name and it means "family" indicating their wish for her to have a family of her own. And her 3rd name means "capital" or "Beijing" and is pronounced "jing." Lia Kate was found and named just three days after the opening ceremonies of the 2008 Olympics in Beijing! And she was named for it. I love this! Another neat thing is that not only do she and I share a birthday, but we were also both born in the midst of the Olympics -- me the 1976 Olympics and her the 2008 -- and her Chinese name will forever reflect that.

Linling showed me that the Beijing Olympics logo ...

... is the character for Lia Kate's name. The running man is the Chinese character for "jing." I also found out that she is likely known as "Jing Jing" in her orphanage. Our little Olympic baby. I love it.

I remember exactly what we were doing on 8.08.08 ... we had friends over to watch the Opening Ceremonies of the Olympics. We ordered Chinese food and I even made Chinese dumplings just like Linling taught me. It was a fun night and I imagined we would one day have other nights like those once we had our daughter. Danny & I even said we needed to order a DVD of the very impressive Opening Ceremonies for our daughter to see one day. We had no idea that at that very moment, our daughter was out there ... just days old ... living with her birth parents who would soon abandon her in the streets. It's a little overwhelming to think about.

Here is Britton (such a baby he was) on that night watching the Opening Ceremonies:

We definitely need to find a copy of the Opening Ceremonies now. I can't wait to share it with Lia Kate one day ... to celebrate her heritage and tell her the story of her name.