by Robin Munro, Senior Writer
Date of Birth: 8/1/01
Within the first few minutes of meeting Shen Ying*, I can tell: this is the funniest kid in school. A boy most adored by classmates and teachers. A class clown or class president. Maybe both. But definitely, well known by everyone.
Last July, I traveled to China with several Holt staff members. Our goal – to meet the children living in orphanages and foster care so that, upon return to the states, we could better advocate for their adoption. Toward the end of our trip, we journeyed to the far northern province of Jilin. Here, we met Shen Ying.
We enter a room to find four boys in motion, bouncing on giant balls or rolling around in soft tubing, teasing each other and making faces. Two of the boys, dressed in matching striped polos and shorts, look like twins. They are foster brothers, though not related, 8 and 9-years-old – happy, hyper, outgoing boys with telltale scars on their lips from cleft lip surgery. Shen Ying is the older of the two.
To Shen Ying, comedy hour has commenced. Aware of the language barrier, he chooses the comic medium of miming instead. He makes exaggerated movements with his lanky body and silly expressions with his face. His props – a humongous stuffed bear, a scarf, a tube. He poses for the camera. He dances around the room with the bear, also using it to playfully knock down another boy’s foam tube. Yes, he seems to possess the destructive tendencies of a typical 9-year-old boy. He also exudes intelligence, charm and charisma. I imagine him working in some creative field. But as a boy without a family name, his educational and employment opportunities in China are limited. I worry about the obstacles – the social stigmas – he will encounter if he grows to adulthood here.
“He’s very confident,” his foster mother tells us. She says Shen Ying is his teacher’s favorite in his 3rd grade class, and very popular with other children.
“Does he know anyone who’s been adopted?” asks Jessica, Holt’s Waiting Child program manager.
Through translation, he tells us he loves his foster mother very much, but knows he may be adopted someday.
Shen Ying is funny. He’s smart. But he’s also warm and kind, generously throwing his arms around his foster mother, around Sue Liu – the beloved Holt China office manager who often visits from Beijing – and even around Jessica and I as we leave. This boy so deserves a loving family. And I envy the family that gets to adopt him.
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* Name has been changed