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A Most Sacred Search

January 16, 2015

(LEFT) The one and only newborn photo that we have of Haven, as featured in his finding ad.  (RIGHT) Aerial view of the village in Guizhou where Haven was apparently found.

“A child born to another woman calls me Mom.  

The depth of that tragedy and magnitude of that privilege are not lost on me.”  

(Jody Landers)


I think of them often.

It’s impossible for me to avoid thinking about them.  After all, they are the ones who brought two of my children into this world.  They have given me so much.  So, deep down, I guess I simply find myself yearning to give something back to them.

I yearn to give them a glimpse into the lives that their children now lead.

I yearn for Haven and Grace to meet them.

I yearn to meet them myself.

I yearn to know their stories, and what it was that led them to those heart-wrenching decisions that resulted in great loss for them, but great gain for me.

I yearn to ask them questions.

I yearn for Haven and Grace to have the opportunity to ask them questions as well.

I yearn for answers.

I yearn for my children to receive answers from them, too.  Answers that they deserve.

I yearn to study their faces and see what features my children inherited from them.

I yearn to see where their strengths lie, and what talents they possess.

I yearn to discover if Grace’s birth mother starts to hiccup when she laughs too hard….just as Grace does.

I yearn to discover if Haven’s birth father has a killer smile….one that is reminiscent of the smile that I constantly see flashing across Haven’s face.

I yearn to tell them that I don’t judge them.

I yearn to tell them that I am trying to be the best mother that I can be to the children that they brought into this world.

I yearn to tell them that I will do everything in my power to give Haven and Grace the life that they could not.

I yearn to tell them that Haven and Grace are okay.  They are safe.  They are cherished.  They have found the love of a family.

I yearn to thank them…from the bottom of my heart…for the priceless gifts that they have given to me.

I yearn for all of these things.

But, I have come to accept the cold, hard truth that these yearnings – these desires – will probably never be fulfilled.

It is common knowledge among those of us who have adopted children from China that the search to find and connect with the birth parents of our children is next to impossible.


It is next to impossible because when children are given up for adoption in China, they are typically abandoned rather than taken directly to the nearest orphanage.  It is my understanding that they do this because it is considered shameful to give up your child.  So, they give them up in the most secretive way possible.  Usually, they choose to abandon their children in high traffic areas where they can easily be found by someone who can lead them to safety.  Typically, the only possessions these children are left with are the clothes on their backs, and, in some instances, they will also have blankets to keep them warm.  In rare cases, they will have a birth note tucked into their clothes.  (Grace had one.)  But, in most cases, they do not.

Usually, they have nothing.

No information.

No clues about who their birth parents are.

No indication of where they are from.

It’s as if their pasts have been erased, and their stories begin anew once they have been found.

It’s a sad reality.

From the get-go, I have been aware of the reality of Chinese adoptions.

I have accepted the fact that my children may never, ever know the beginning of their stories.  I have accepted the fact that we will have very few details to share with them when those inevitable questions about their birth families someday arise.

Many adoptive parents have searched for their child’s Chinese birth parents.  But, unfortunately, very few of them have had fruitful searches.  Over time, I have heard stories of adoptive families who have been able to find their child’s birth parents.  But, those stories have been few and far between.

Because of that, the idea of searching for Grace’s birth parents and Haven’s birth parents is something that we have never really considered.  In our minds, it hasn’t been something worth pursuing because we have felt – with certainty –  that it would lead us nowhere.  The time, energy, and money that would be required for a search like that would just end up being wasted.

Put simply, we have never actively pursued a birth parent search because we have concluded that it would be a hopeless search.

But, as of this past Monday evening, our conclusion has changed.

It has changed because, on that evening, I was offered a glimmer of hope.  And it came in the form of a message that I saw posted in my Guizhou adoption group on Facebook.

This was the message:

“To those of you that have the name of a finder and a village anywhere in your documents, like a finding ad or abandonment statement or developmental report, there is a chance that this person is findable; villages are usually small enough that they can be searched, even without the name of a finder. In some cases, the person who found the child is a part of the birth family or related to the birth family or knows the birth family.  Again, not always, but sometimes. In these cases, “the finder” could be more than “the finder.” It has happened with several families who adopted from my daughter’s hometown!”

As I read through those words, I nearly gasped.

A Chinese name immediately popped into my mind.

Xiao Dalian.

I had a flashback to the moment when I read through Haven’s abandonment certificate for the first time.  Our guide handed it to me while we were on our way to the Guiyang airport.  As I read through it, I saw that it listed the name of the villager who was responsible not only for finding Haven, but also for housing him and caring for him during his first month of life.  I can remember thinking that it would be really cool to relay that name to Haven someday, and tell him about the kind stranger who took him in and watched over him as the police searched for his birth parents.  I also remember thinking that it was really nice to have another name to include in my prayers.  Though I had no idea who the villager was, I felt a sense of duty to pray for him/her.  After all, he/she had instantly become an integral part of our family’s story.

At the time, I only remember thinking that it was nothing more than a really neat piece of information to have.

But, as I read through that post in my Facebook group Monday evening, I realized that that one simple name could end up being so much more than just a really neat piece of information.  That name could end up being the key that unlocks some of the secrets from Haven’s past.

In addition to that name, I also have the name of the village where Haven was found and the date on which he was found.  I also have the name of the village in which Xiao Dalian lives.

My heart started racing.

I immediately messaged the adoptive mother who had posted this message – this glimmer of hope – for me to see.  I shared all of Haven’s information with her (what little we have).  I asked her to read through it all and let me know if she thought a search for his birth parents would be worth pursuing.  And, if so, I asked her if she had any good pointers on how to get the search started.

Shortly after sending her that message, she responded with this:

You definitely have good leads and there is a chance that the “finder” really didn’t find your child but knows more, possibly even relinquished your child. I suspect if you hire a searcher and send them into your son’s village, since it is relatively small, you may get answers. I will send you the information on the searcher who I always recommend to people who happen to have some good leads within their child’s information.  I helped her coordinate 2 large searches in Guizhou for about 25 adoptive families back in 2011 and 2012. I believe she is going back to Guizhou very soon. I don’t know what she charges now, but I have all of her contact info, if you would like it.  I believe she charges between $500-$700 to conduct the search.  She can’t advertise online.  But, several others in the Guizhou adoptive family group have used her, so you can ask their opinions of her as well.  She doesn’t charge anything if you just email her to ask questions. She only charges after she searches for you.  My gut feeling is this…because your son has a noticeable special need and comes from an orphanage that hasn’t overseen very many previous adoptions, I think you might have some truthful info in your documents and you might be able to find some solid info about his birth family by sending a searcher into the village where he was found, and the village where the finder is from.  Even if the finder isn’t able to be located, you could still find information from those who live in the village where he was abandoned because everyone knows everyone else’s business in a small village like that!  I am not so suspicious of the orphanage where your son came from, and I believe that there is truthfulness in your son’s information.  I am suspicious of orphanages that do lots of adoptions of healthy children and therefore make lots of money, which gives them reasons to do corrupt things.  I tend to believe the information that was given to you about your son more than I do my healthy daughter’s information. I wish you luck on your search!  Just so you know, I don’t recommend this searcher to adoptive parents unless they do have a good lead because she does cost a lot of money, and most adoptive parents don’t have a good lead.  Therefore, I feel they are wasting their money. But in your case, I do feel you have a great lead and I think there is a reasonable chance you might learn more info about your son if you send her into your son’s village.  Again, just realize the finder might be birth family. Don’t want you to be surprised if you hear this. I would think that Haven’s Chinese family would want to know what happened to him and how he is doing, ( I would if I became separated from my child) but then again, you never know what will happen. Also be prepared to hear lies from the birth family; it is very common in the Chinese culture, especially when dealing with a stranger. They could be ashamed to admit the truth or scared of being punished, but the searcher I am recommending to you is really good at reading Chinese people and can usually get the truth.  She has been doing this for years, and has probably searched for hundreds of adoptive families by now, so she does have a bunch of experience!”

I couldn’t believe what I was reading.

Could it be?

Could it be that we actually have a shot at finding Xiao Dalian, as well as Haven’s birth parents?

Those of you who know the story of how we were able to get highly nutritional formula over to Haven last year while he was still in the orphanage are well aware of the fact that social media has been very, very good to him.  And it appears as though it continues to be.  Thanks to the power of social media, I may have discovered a window into Haven’s past.

Since my online conversation with this adoptive mother on Monday evening, I have not only contacted the searcher that she recommended, but I have also sent her loads of paperwork, photos, and documentation that she will need to conduct a search for us.

I have learned that the search will probably end up costing us about $700.  We have agreed to pay that at the end of the search….regardless of how much information she is able to retrieve for us.

She and I have been conversing since Tuesday afternoon.  She says that she and her team will be leaving for Guizhou sometime in February.   She travels to that region only once a year, so, I apparently caught her just in time!  Pretty sweet timing, eh?

She told me that she and her team will stay 3-5 days in the village where Haven was found.  During that time, they will post 50-200 full-color posters throughout the village.  The poster will feature several photographs of Haven, his finding information, our contact information, and our searcher’s contact information.  She says that these posters are the best place to start when performing a search of this magnitude.  From what I understand, she will hand over some of the posters to local villagers to put up.  She and her team will also work on putting the posters up in any major parks, schools, or markets.  She says that the key is to get the local people involved in the search as well.  The more villagers that she can get who are willing to help, the better.  She says that she always tries to get out and about during morning exercises, and also during the evening gatherings.  Those are the best times to reach a lot of people at once.  Heart-to-heart conversations are important.  She says that if she can get them to understand what’s going on and join her in the search, the news will spread much more quickly.  Apparently, everyone knows everyone else’s business in these small villages…and juicy, interesting news has the potential to travel very quickly if that news happens to get into the hands of the local gossips.  Sounds a lot like small-town America, doesn’t it?!?!

I have reiterated to her – time and again – that she might want to consider publicizing Haven’s medical condition as she conducts her search.  The reason I find this information to be crucial to her search is because I was recently told that Haven has a 50% chance of passing his disease – Osteogenesis Imperfecta – on to his children someday.  It was a punch in the gut to hear that, of course.  However, that statistic has opened my eyes to the fact that one of Haven’s birth parents could have the same disease.  They could have passed it on to him. And, if so, they would most likely stand out in a small village.  Right???  If it is, indeed, true that everyone knows everyone else’s business in Haven’s village, then one would think that an individual who is afflicted with a rare bone disease should be a bit easier to find than an individual who is completely healthy.

It’s crazy to think that maybe – just maybe – the debilitating disease that afflicts our son could possibly end up being what leads us to his birth parents.  I know that thought might seem incredibly naive, and overly optimistic.  But, for now, I am choosing to hold on to it.

It has been emphasized to me several times that these searches sometimes yield nothing in return for the adoptive families.  Our searcher has made it clear that it is very difficult to locate a child’s birth parents, and she cannot make any promises.  But, she has also told me that it can happen.  And it has happened.  I assured her that I understand all of the possible outcomes, and that I have prepared myself for the fact that this search may not uncover anything for Haven.  But, of course, I’m hoping for the best.

Regardless of whether or not she is able to find any information about Haven’s birth parents, she told us that we will receive the following items in our research package:

1)  Research map.

2)  Finding spot rock (if she is able to learn exactly where Haven was found).

3)  Original child poster.

4)  Post stamp on a postcard from Haven’s hometown.

5)  Small gift from a local shop.

6)  Research photos on CD.

Even if she is unable to discover anything significant regarding Haven’s history, Bryan and I figure that those six items alone will make this search worth our time and our money.  To have photos of the village where Haven was born would be a priceless gift.

As I told Bryan the other night, our decision to hire this searcher will also give us the opportunity to assure Haven someday that we did everything possible to try to locate his birth parents.  That, in and of itself, is reason enough to move forward with this search.

We know this is a long shot.  But, if we don’t pursue it, we feel as though we could possibly be denying God the chance to get to work and do some amazing things.

As my mom said the other day, we have seen Him roll away all the obstacles in front of us many times before.  Who’s to say that He won’t do it again?  Not me.

In a matter of weeks, a woman on the other side of the world who we have never met will set out on a most sacred search.  It seems ludicrous to place a search of this magnitude into the hands of a stranger, doesn’t it?  And, yet, we know that she is our best hope to find what we are looking for.  At this point, we have done everything that we can to help her.  We have given her all of the information and all of the photos that she and her team need to conduct the search.

All we can do now is wait and pray.

And we can also ask all of you to wait and pray with us.

Would you consider doing that for us?  For Haven?

If so, we would be incredibly grateful.

This search is completely out of our hands.  It lies in the hands of a Chinese woman whom we have entrusted to carry it out for us.  But, we know that it ultimately lies in the hands of our Father.  Please pray with us that His hands will guide her hands as she carries out this most sacred search.

4 Comments leave one →
  1. January 16, 2015 4:16 am

    Praying! What a wonderful opportunity and I totally agree with what you said,”we could possibly be denying God the chance to get to work and do some amazing things”. So true! Love reading your blog and having will definitely be praying for your family, this searcher and especially for Haven. The Lord has big plans for your little guy. 🙂

  2. January 16, 2015 4:55 am

    Thank you so much!! I believe He does, too : )

  3. Guiyang Mom permalink
    February 1, 2015 9:14 pm

    I just stumbled upon your blog while googling “Guiyang” “birth parent” “search”, and I recognize you from the fb group! I’m in the same boat as far as thinking about our daughter’s birth parents all the time. It’s been the most difficult part of adoption so far. We’ve also joined the February search in Guizhou and I’m trying not to get our hopes up. Our daughter was found in Guiyang and at this point we only have a partial name for the finder. The odds seem so slim, but I keep reminding myself that God knows who our daughter’s birth parents are and he knows the truth about her abandonment. If he wants to reveal those things, he will…in his own timing and in his own way.

    Even if this search doesn’t bring answers, don’t give up. I see so many Chinese adopted teens searching for their birth families and one of their greatest obstacles seems to be the decade+ that past without anyone searching on their behalf.

    • February 1, 2015 11:47 pm

      I totally agree. If he wants to reveal those things, He can! Hoping that He will – for both of us. But, trusting that even if He doesn’t, our children will be okay. Please keep me updated on how your search goes! I will provide updates on here as soon as I receive them. Thanks for introducing yourself. I always love connecting with others who have walked/are walking a similar path : )

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