A Dynamic Duo, Still Waiting

UPDATE: As of April 2012, these two boys have a family!

Shen Ying, 10, and Shen Jia, 9,  grew up in the same foster family. We are seeking a family to adopt both of them. They are this week’s featured waiting children.

DOB: 8/1/01 and 3/3/02, Jilin, China

by Robin Munro, Senior Writer

Shen Ying (left) and Shen Jia (right) grew up together as foster brothers.

Two years ago, in November of 2009, we received the following email from Sue Liu, Holt’s (beloved) office manager in Beijing:

Two weeks ago, I went to Jilin (province) where we have had a foster care program for three years. I met three boys whose files are in the CCAA now… All their information has been released many times online, but, for some reason, they have not been matched. All these boys have very good personalities, they like to help others, like to share, like to go to school and get along well with other kids.

All three of the boys were older, and two of them – Shen Ying* and Shen Jia* – grew up together in the same foster home. About these two boys, Sue wrote:

I saw them at their foster home, and both of their foster parents were at home also. They are very close to their foster parents, especially their foster mom. They told me they just call their foster mom “Mom”, and foster dad “Dad”. Every day, after school, their foster mom stays with them and watches them finish their homework. Then they have dinner together. Then, they go walking. All the people think they are a family. Shen Jia and Shen Ying are very good friends, and they call each other “brother.” They are good at math. Like all the boys, they love to play with cars and so one.

At the end of her email, she wrote that she would visit them again soon. She also asked us to help advocate for their adoption, writing, “I do hope we can find families for them, Please!!!”

In March, she wrote again, inquiring about our progress in finding families for these boys. No luck so far.

The following summer, in July of 2010, I traveled to Jilin province with Sue Liu and Jessica Palmer, Holt’s waiting child program manager. Here, we met Shen Ying and Shen Jia. In the months since Sue first wrote about the boys, she had visited them again several times, and they had grown very fond of each other. Upon seeing her, Shen Ying and Shen Jia – dressed exactly alike in matching striped Polo shirts – ran up to Sue and threw their arms around her. They then ran off to play with the other children in the room.

Shen Ying in December 2011.

It was a sweet, sincere moment.

Although not biological brothers, the two boys resembled each other. A year apart in age – one 8, one 9 – they both had telltale scars on their upper lip from cleft lip and palate surgery. Both abandoned within days after they were born, they came to live at the same social welfare institute before joining the same foster family. They had a lot in common, and they grew up, as Sue said, calling each other “brother.”

During our visit, they showed distinct differences in their personalities as well. Although both friendly and exuberant, the older of the two – Shen Ying – seemed a bit more outgoing and expressive. He took more interest in us, and hammed it up, using the props at his disposal – a humongous stuffed bear, a scarf, a long tube – to make us laugh. The younger brother, Shen Jia, kept more to himself.  In child reports, social workers describe Shen Jia as independent, “inner-directed,” disciplined and athletic. They describe Shen Ying as talkative, polite and “good at imitation.” Both boys are described as intelligent, quick learners and diligent, enthusiastic students.

Their foster mom, a warm, youthful woman with long, shiny black hair, also came along for the visit. She seemed proud of her foster sons, and shared with us that they are both their teachers’ favorites in their 2nd and 3rd grade classes. They are, she said, very popular with the other children, have excellent manners and help at home. They also sometimes fight “as brothers do.”

“Does he know anyone who’s been adopted?” Jessica asked Sue of Shen Ying, standing nearby.

A photo of Shen Jia from Abbie's recent visit, in December 2011.

Sue then turned the question to Shen Ying, who through translation told us that he loves his foster mother very much, but knows he may be adopted someday.

As we were about to leave, the brothers ran up to hug all of us goodbye – including Jessica and I. They seemed like such good-hearted, intelligent boys, and they left a strong impression on both of us.

A week later, we returned to Oregon and immediately stepped up our efforts to advocate for their adoption. We featured them in the Waiting Child photolisting and on the Holt blog.

But again, no luck. No family. A year passed, and the boys turned 9 and 10.

In December, Abbie Smith – Holt Director of Clinical Services – returned from a trip to China. While there, she also had the chance to visit Shen Ying and Shen Jia and assess their potential for adoption. She visited them at home, with their foster mother at their side.

Her impressions of the two boys reinforced our earlier impressions. She describes Shen Jia as more athletic and less emotionally expressive than his brother. “He acknowledged that his brother is better at relationships,” says Abbie. “He’s better at sports.” She says they seemed very close and accepting of each other, and both expressed the desire to join the same adoptive family.

When the topic of adoption came up, Shen Ying would tear up and briefly leave the room. He feels sad about leaving his foster mother. His brother, meanwhile, was less expressive in his feelings about leaving China, and seemed more resigned.

“Their foster mother wants to stay in touch with the boys after their adoption and it was clear that they want to stay in touch with her,” writes Abbie, who recommends finding a family who “can support their love for their foster mother while they are learning to love their forever family.”

I recently asked Jessica what she remembers about them. “I remember they were super sweet boys, active but not overly so, as active as you would guess for an 8-year-old boy,” she said. “I remember they played well with the other younger kids, and were very attached to their foster mom.”

Without a doubt, Shen Ying and Shen Jia have charmed all of us. They are sweethearts who deserve a family to love and support them in all their endeavors, throughout their lives. Two years after Sue first wrote that pleading email, they are “for some reason” — unknown to us — still waiting.

Who wouldn’t love to raise these boys?

Shen Ying and Shen Jia need a family who can  provide them with access to a craniofacial team to follow-up with speech therapy and further surgeries they will most likely need. Their family should also have experience with adoption and parenting past their ages.

To learn more about Shen Ying and Shen Jia, contact Erin Mower at erinm@holtinternational.org.

* names changed

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