Families hold out hope for the return of stolen babies

By Sharon Lafraniere

August 6, 2011 / The Sydney Morning Herald

LONGHUI COUNTY, China: Parents and grandparents have long known to grab their babies and hide whenever family-planning officials show up at the mountainous Longhui region of terraced rice and sweet potato fields. Too many infants have been snatched by officials, never to be seen again, they say.

But Yuan Xinquan was caught by surprise one December morning in 2005. A new father then at 19, Yuan was holding his 52-day-old daughter at a bus stop when six men sprang from a government van and demanded his marriage certificate.

He did not have one. Both he and his daughter's mother were below the legal age for marriage.

Nor did he have 6000 yuan, or about $893, to pay the fine he said the officials demanded if he wanted to keep his child. He was left with a plastic bag holding her baby clothes and some powdered formula.

''They are pirates,'' he said. Six years later, he still hopes to relay a message to his daughter: ''Please come home as soon as possible.''

Yuan's daughter was among at least 16 children seized by family-planning officials between 1999 and late 2006 in Longhui County, an impoverished rural area in the southern province of Hunan, parents, grandparents and other residents have said. The abduction of children is a continuing problem in China, where a lingering preference for boys coupled with strict controls on the number of births have helped create a lucrative black market in children.

Last week, the police announced they had rescued 89 babies from child traffickers, and the deputy director of the Public Security Ministry assailed what he called the practice of ''buying and selling children in this country''.

But parents in Longhui say that in their case, local government officials treated babies as a source of revenue, routinely imposing fines of $US1000 ($958)or more - five times more than an average local family's yearly income. If parents could not pay the fines, the babies were taken and often put up for adoption by foreigners, another big source of revenue.

The practice in Longhui came to an end in 2006, parents said, only after an eight-month-old boy fell from the second-floor balcony of a local family-planning office as officials tried to pull him from his mother's arms.

China's state-controlled media ignored or suppressed the news until May, when Caixin, a magazine known for unusually bold investigations, reported the abductions.

Zeng Dingbao, who leads the Inspection Bureau in Shaoyang, the city that administers Longhui County, has promised a diligent investigation but parents say authorities are punishing those who speak out.

The scandal has renewed questions about whether foreigners have adopted Chinese children who were falsely depicted as abandoned or orphaned. At least one US agency organised adoptions from a government-run Shaoyang orphanage.

Lillian Zhang, director of China Adoption With Love based in Boston, said the agency had found adoptive parents in 2006 for six Shaoyang children - all girls, all renamed Shao, after the city. The Chinese authorities certified that each child was eligible for adoption, she said, and her agency cannot now independently investigate their backgrounds without a specific request backed by evidence.

''I'm an adoption agency, not a policeman,'' Ms Zhang said.

Xiong Chao escaped the fate of many. Villagers say he was the last baby that officials tried to snatch, and one of the few returned home.

Now, six years later, his 63-year-old grandmother, Dai Yulin, patiently scrawls blue and white chalk numerals on her concrete wall, hoping that Chao will learn them. ''He has been to primary school for a whole year and he still cannot recognise one and two.''

Nearby is the tiny, dark room where, she said, she tried and failed, in September 2006, to hide Chao from family-planning officials. He was eight months old and her son's second child. The officials demanded nearly $US1000 ($958), then took him away when she could not pay the money.

His mother, Du Chunhua, rushed to the family-planning office to protest. There, as she struggled with two officials on the second floor balcony, she said, the baby slipped from her grasp and fell more than three metres to the footpath below.

Later, she said, as the baby lay in a coma in the hospital, his forehead permanently misshapen, officials offered a deal: they would forget about the fine as long as the family covered the medical bills for Chao.

Also, they said, the Xiongs could keep him.


A warning for PAP's wanting an "orphan" from China

Many years from now young adoptees will be older, and they will peruse the internet and stumble upon articles like this. 

They will read about the adoption industry and they will see just how common (and easy) it was for paid kidnappers or government officials to

  1. take obtain steal a child from parents with limited funds
  2. send that child away without any keepsake to help remember the family and parents)
  3. put that child in an orphanage that is far far away
  4. have that child's birth facts (name, date of birth... even DNA results), changed
  5. sell that child through an adoption agency that has a business arrangement with a particular orphanage  

The older adoptees will read how government officials continued to do this to poor/young parents because the collected children were sold at a great profit to eager to adopt people in the United States, and other parts of the world.

The older adoptees will read blogs written by Adoptive parents "desperate" and very very anxious to bring home "their child" languishing in an orphanage in China, ASAP.  Who knows, maybe those older adoptees will read pages found on PPL... pages like Adoption Myths, and Realities.

The adoptees born in China will have questions... many questions.  Among those questions will be:  Was I an abandoned orphan or was I stolen?

How many AP's will be well-prepared for that moment of truth?

Same applies

to all the cute little babies and toddlers recently adopted from Ethiopia.
Among their questions may be:

Did I/ do I have living family in Ethiopia?
Is the uncle who relinquished me my uncle, or is he my Dad?
Was I found on the steps of a church/ hospital, or is this just a piece of  fiction, since so many of my friends were found on the exact church steps/ hospital steps?
Was I "abandoned" or "relinquished" because someone talked my relatives into doing so?
What was the person who did so payed for doing so?
What about my siblings? Where are they?

Once these  kiddos turn thirteen and start reading, their A.- parents should have some answers ready.


Same story over and over

Very good point Jared. I guess when adoptees get into their tween/teen years and realize that they were "all left under the same bridge story", then maybe their APs might start questioning the relinquishment story or how the child came to be abandoned. Maybe.

Thanks to the internet a simple google will reveal that some kids were kidnapped and their mothers never stopped looking for them. What will the APs tell their child then? Why did they keep a verified kidnapped child? Don't you think that the trust will be broken between the adoptee and the AP when that happens?


and this is why it so incredibly important to insist on valid and clear paperwork, transparency and ethical standards in international adoption.

Niels, you are certainly absolutely right. In discussion, a clear distinction must be made between a regular adoption process based on good faith, and one with a background of trafficking. This is so obvious - and still sometimes even the obvious things deserve an extra reminder

However, the problem within this distinction seems to be that even in an adoption based on good faith, certain issues may occur years later. The question  that might be asked here is what parents with good intentions could have known about potential risks at the time they decided for a country to adopt from.

Additionally, the problem for a considerable number of young people seems to be that they can never be 100 % certain about their personal adoption story, unless provided with all background information for them to verify.


Same applies to all...

Yes, adoptive parents should be prepared for questions like these regardless of the circumstances surrounding their child's adoption.  Younger or older, domestic or foreign - it doesn't really matter.  The questions will come eventually.

Some truths can be released in an age appropriate manner - no matter how ugly.  Nothing short of the whole truth is acceptable upon reaching majority.  Keep everything, share everything, be open to the mother and child reunion.  Offer support and assistance and be prepared to step out of the picture.  There is no other way.


Not every fruit is an apple

While it is certainly true that all adopters should prepare to be asked difficult and painful questions, I see a qualitative difference when it comes to stolen/trafficked children, especially when the adopters have acted in spite of or simply ignored information about the illegality of the adoption.

When we look at the case of Angelyn Lisseth Hernández Rodríguez (aka Dulce Maria or Karen Abigail) daughter of Loira Rodríguez, it is evident that the adopters in question were aware of the fact that the girl they took from Guatemala was illegally obtained.

We added that particular case to our archives in March 2009, now almost two-and-a-half years ago. Guatemalan new papers reported about this particular case as early as March 2008. This was even 9 months before the girl was actually brought to the US.

When adoptees ask question about their heritage, it is important they can trust the adoptive parents. When adopers have willfully ignored all ethic concerns about the adoption, how can there possibly be trust?

This creates a huge qualitative difference between regular (as in no ethical and/or legal irregularities) adoption cases and cases where adopters have not acted in good faith. How can Angelyn Lisseth ever trust the Monahan family to tell her the truth, when the Monahan family has ignored all information about the criminal activities that made that adoption possible?

Shoulda, but here in reality...

Yes, adoptive parents should be prepared for questions like these regardless of the circumstances surrounding their child's adoption.

People in hell should be afforded ice water upon request, imo.

If parents have something to hide they will hide it, especially around child-trafficking, and witting or unwitting usurpation from their parental peers.


If parents have something to hide they will hide it, especially around child-trafficking

I believe the recent case from Guatemala demonstrates how harmful an AP's inaction can be for the adopted child obtained through criminal activity.

For years the adoptive parents in this particular case knew the child they had may be the kidnapped child of another woman.  Rather than immediately agree to deal with the factual DNA test results, the AP's chose to do nothing.  Years passed, and the child grew, bonding to the Afamily, knowing nothing about what really happened to her and her parents/family. 

How is hiding key facts behind a kidnapping and subsequent adoption in a child's best interest?  It's not. 

Hiding from the facts associated with a crime serves the AP and the criminals, no one else.

But in Adoptionland, it is assumed all AP's are wonderful, honest, great people who not only know the difference between right and wrong, but will always choose to do the right thing.  AP's can do no wrong, giving them the benefit of doubt and sympathy when a case is put to question. 

Reality sure paints a different story, as there is enormous evidence in various cases that demonstrate there are many APs who care more about themselves and how they appear to others than the child they obtained, through an adoption lawyer/agency.

I believe a sad consequence has developed, thanks to the constant promotion of Positive Adoption Lanuage as it applies to the reputation given to the ideal stereo-type given to APs.  I think those who DO behave as good APs should, wrongly assume all other AP's are just like them... making messengers of truth and reality  the bad guys... "Debbie Downers" who would" rather moan and complain about how life cannot possibly be good".

Over the years I have learned it's simply in bad-form to ever criticize an AP.  EVER.  (As if not ever criticizing an AP's behavior is in the best interest of any adopted child!)  This is a standard in Adoptionland I'd like to see changed. 

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