Tuesday, November 30, 2021
Guest Post by Minyao Wang, Esq.
I highly recommend the Netflix documentary “Found.” It does an outstanding job of raising complex questions about identity, inclusion, representation and tracing one’s roots in the context of transracial adoption. The film opens with a Jewish-American family from Seattle celebrating the bat mitzvah of their daughter. The teenager, Chloe Lipitz, was adopted from China when she was 15 months old. Chloe soon discovers via genetic testing that she has two biological cousins, Sadie Mangelsdorf of Nashville and Lily Bolka of Oklahoma City, who have also been separately adopted by Americans in the mid-2000s. The cousins’ improbable arrivals in the United States can be traced to China’s one-child policy which has been enforced with the brutality that only a totalitarian system can muster. State-sponsored coercion, including the frequent use of physical violence, combined with the country’s deep poverty and traditional preference for boys, has forced many Chinese parents to abandon their newly-born baby girls in public places. The Chinese government scoops up the foundlings and “off-loads” the healthier ones to foreign families in exchange for a “donation.” From 1999 to 2016, almost 300,000 Chinese babies were adopted by parents from the wealthy democracies; about 1/3 of them ended up in the U.S.
With financial and emotional support from their adoptive parents, the three cousins in “Found” launch a journey to learn more about the facts of their birth and subsequent abandonment. They hire an English-speaking researcher based in Beijing, Liu Hao, as their eyes and ears on the ground. Ms. Liu is only a few years older than her clients. It does not take much to locate candidates who could be the cousins’ biological parents, based on when and where they abandoned their baby girls years ago in a town situated 150 miles northwest of Hong Kong. Ms. Liu takes their saliva samples to see if there is a genetic match (no spoilers here!). Adding to the dystopian theme, Ms. Liu discloses on camera that as a baby she too was almost abandoned by her parents. As for Chole, Sadie and Lily, their bewilderment while in China is palpable. For them, visiting China is like walking into a parallel universe--the very different lives that would have been theirs had there been no adoption. Tell-tale signs of a chronic food shortage are everywhere. In the land of their birth, the comfortable American middle-class life that they each enjoy is simply unimaginable.
The adoption of Chinese baby girls by American families is one direct U.S. immigration consequence of China’s draconian family planning program. Another consequence is the amendment by Congress in 1996 of the refugee definition to provide asylum protection to Chinese parents who have been forced by their government to undergo an abortion or sterilization (that is worthy of a separate post in the future!).