A Chinese Adoptee’s Birth Search

My job affords me the opportunity to bear witness to one of Adoptees’ most intimate and vulnerable experiences: birth search. Over the years, Adoptees have given me an array of reasons behind their motivation to search. Even though each reason is unique and nuanced, I’ve seen general patterns emerge over the years. Some desperately seek another person who looks like them. This yearning is often heightened when living in communities where people bear little physical resemblance to themselves. Others want questions answered: Who am I? Why did you give me up? Are you okay? Should I worry about cancer? Do you think about me? And some aren’t sure why they search; it’s simply something “I’ve gotta do.”

The people I’ve worked with in birth search are no different than anyone else in regards to the desire to understand who we are and why we’re here. For most, answers to these questions are a simple phone call, text or FaceTime conversation away. But Adoptees, specifically international Adoptees, lack the biological connection that most people take for granted. Adoptees are often forced to rely on strangers who work as intermediaries for these questions to be answered, if birth family can be found at all. It’s a challenging place to be.

The following article was written by Jenna Cook, a Chinese Adoptee who poetically describes her arduous process of birth search in China. As critical masses of Chinese Adoptees are reaching adulthood, China birth search is becoming an ever more salient issue for adoption agencies and the People’s Republic of China. There’s much we can learn from people like Jenna and the countless other Adoptees who have embarked on a birth search journey. While there’s still no formal process for China birth search, stories like these help inform Holt and our country partners in the development of future Adoptee services. At the very least, Jenna’s story can work as a jumping-off point for conversations with your family around what can be an awkward topic to deal with.

Click here to read Jenna Cook’s story in Foreign Policy online.

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