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"To Seek, But Not Find"
Dogs Owner of dog that attacked 5 people including year-old girl in "bloodbath" said animal was 'just protecting his family'. As I read through translated paperwork, I began to see glimpses of an individual who shared my flesh and blood. I read a short and sad account of why I was given up, and it left me feeling more curious than ever. A couple months after I received my first file, the Korean documents followed. Holt Korea stated that a search for my birth mother was deemed possible based on their records.
I had always told myself that it would not be possible to find her. Holt Korea also disclosed that what I had always believed about my birth father had been falsified due to the stigma and culture surrounding unwed mothers during that time. A search for him would not be possible, as there was no identifying information left in my file. I found myself reading the summary over and over, trying to feel my birth parents through the words on my screen.
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It sounds odd, but that was the beginning of my grieving period over the loss of them both. I decided very quickly to initiate the search by the Korean government for my birth mother. In the meantime, an opportunity to work for Holt in Eugene surfaced and I jumped at the chance.
It was the first time in my life that I connected with adult adoptees, including some who were already on staff at Holt, and it transformed my concept of identity and the value of shared life experiences. When I arrived at Holt, I promised myself that I would do everything I could to help sustain and grow an organization devoted to helping children live fruitful and happy lives, so they in turn would have the tools and resources necessary to grow into fulfilled adults.
Four months into my new job, I finally received the news about my search. There was no response, and, over the last 27 years, my birth mother had never attempted to contact Holt Korea to search for me herself. I remember walking to an empty office, collapsing on a chair, and just sobbing. Through social media and the Holt adoptee community, I had heard several adoptee reunion stories at that point. My perception was that adoptees my age were having better luck than ever finding their first families.
But the truth is, those are just the stories I held on to the tightest—hoping I would one day share in their experience. Several high-profile reunions in the PRC that were featured in the mainstream media have also stoked awareness among adoptive families. Although there are no official statistics on the number of individuals pursuing a Chinese birth parent search, one online adoptive parent listserv devoted solely to this topic has over subscribed members.
Few individuals have been willing to openly discuss their reunion experiences. Therefore, our study, which draws from in-depth interviews with children and adoptive parents from seven Western families who located and reunited with Chinese birth parents, represents the first study of its kind. The full article was featured in the journal Adoption Quarterly , Volume 18, Issue 1, Our interviews explored four main themes: First, why did participants choose to search, and which methods did they use?
Second, what was the initial meeting like? Third, after returning home, what kinds of relationships did adoptive and birth families develop? And lastly, what advice would they give to others who are interested in searching? Due to the small sample size and variation in individual stories, these findings are not generalizable across all China adoptive families.
Instead, because so little is known about the challenges and outcomes of this process, this study is attempting to provide a foundation for future research.
When a Birth Mother Search Doesn't End with a Reunion
In-depth interviews revealed two major factors that motivated adoptive families to search for Chinese birth parents: Parents initiated five of the searches, while children initiated the other two. Two sets of adoptive parents decided to search immediately upon or even before adopting their children. These parents both had extensive experience with China and a strong desire to find out why their daughters were relinquished.
One parent described the sense of urgency prompting her to search, as Emma had been born in a rural area that was being rapidly developed:.
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Although he was not adopted, he described struggling with his own identity growing up. It just is integrated into their identity when their identity is forming. One parent described her decision to search on behalf of her child:. She used to get so upset that I Research on adolescent adoptees in the United States has found that most do not actively begin searching until they reached adulthood.
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Perhaps ironically, the closed nature of Chinese adoptions eliminates these restrictions. Thus, with the financial and emotional support of their adoptive parents, two teenage participants made the decision to search prior to the age of One child who had been adopted at age seven initiated her search to resolve emotional loss and uncover the truth about her past. I just wrote everything down with the intent that probably someday she would want to search.
Using her notes, the group was able to locate the birth family soon after. In comparison, one year-old adoptee was the only participant whose decision to search did not emerge from a sense of loss or questions about her past.