Transcript: Karin Evans Author "Lost Daughters of China"


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Welcome to the Auditorium with Karin Evans

Author of “The Lost Daughters of China”

April 19, 2005


Karin Evans : Hi, Everybody...It's great to be here, though the chat room is a pretty new experience for me! I'll be happy to answer any questions that I can.

Anna: Karin, do you intend to conduct further research along the lines of which you have done so far? If so, will you continue the research in Anhui (the province of our two daughers)?

Karin Evans : Right now, I'm not doing any formal research, though I collect everything I see and save it. I do go to Anhui Province because I work with Half the Sky and they have a big project in the welfare institution located there. I know of two professors there, too, who are continuing research on families who have relinquished children. Kay Johnson (Wanting a Daughter, Needing a Son) works closely with them.

Linda: Karin, can you speak to the attempts to locate biological siblings in China?

Karin Evans :  Hi Linda, I haven't personally known anyone who has done this, though I do know of a few cases of people within the U.S. who found siblings--some completely accidentally--after they brought their children home. I imagine there are lots of cases, though, where siblings exist. How to find them? If they are in the orphanage system, there may be some routes to try...But again, it's not something I've dealt with.

Lilly : Karin, thank you for coming. I was wondering if you might be able the cost of international adoption from China?

Karin Evans : Hi, I may be a bit out of date--and things also vary from agency to agency, and state to state--but for a range, I would say around $15,000 - $20,000. Broken down, you'd need to allow for home study, agency fees, travel to China, and required donations to China institutions.

Barbara : Karin, I'm concerned about the health of a child I would be assigned. I have heard horror stories of how the Chinese government will try to get you to take the worst health baby that you will accept. And some agencies say you don't even have the right to ask for a different one. Do you have any views on the subject?

Karin Evans : I think the overall care in the institutions has improved and most are doing their best to keep the children healthy and well cared for. Those that deal in international adoption get more funding over time and that, too, improves conditions and care. I can't speak for the intent of the government, but by my observations would say that most of the children have been in good health. That's not to say that there have not been health problems, attachment problems, etc., --some mild, and some not so mild. Some good sources who have studied the health of the children as a whole include several international adoption clinics.

Cher : Karin, can you speak at all about what you may have learned about the birth families.

Karin Evans : Thats a huge, ongoing question. The best information so far has come through Kay Johnson (again, the author of "Wanting a Daughter, Needing a Son.") She interviewed families and profiled some of background reasons for abandonment. The reality is that there's no one, simple answer. And over time, the reasons have shifted, depending on province, enforcement of the policy, migration of rural women to the cities, and all kinds of individual reasons and hardships.

Donna : Karin, why are the babies all about a year old or more. If they are abandoned at childbirth, why doesn't the process work faster?

Karin Evans : Part of the reason is the Chinese government's requirement of waiting three months to post notices to see if birth families step forward. Children must be certified as orphans in order to enter the international adoption process. Additional months' time is probably taken up while papers are drawn up, the child's dossier goes to the ministry in charge of adoption and so forth. You are right, though, the vast majority tend to be about one year old at the time of adoption.

Evelina : I have seen many people talk about what they term "Love Marks" where the birth mother is supposed to "mark" the child as a sign of their love -- is there any documentation on this or is this a myth?

Karin Evans : I have certainly heard talk of this and anecdotal accounts. I have not personally seen such marks, but there are probably people out there who may have a firsthand story.

Julie : Karin, in your first adoption, was there anything that completely took you by surprise? Was there any sort of thing that either isn't explained, or that there's no way to be prepared for? Thanks!

Karin Evans : Well, I think from the emotional standpoint, there's just no way to explain what it's like ahead of time to hold your baby for the first time and have that overwhelming feeling of being responsible for another life. It's an incredible rush of feelings, and I don't think you can know what it's like until you are there. The other surprises just keep revealing themselves as you move through life with these children. So much of what they've experienced before you got together is unknown. There will always be questions, and they come when you may be least expecting them. It's a journey of discovery and requires that you stay open to all the possibilities and try to be as present as possible for your child, a s supportive as possible, though your own childhood may have contained none of the questions or challenges that theirs do...It's a demanding journey, and absolutely wonderful. But sometimes it's easy to feel inadequate to the task, I think. That's why it's great that there is such ac ommunicty of adoptive families to help share the experience.

Jenna : Do you have some suggestions on how best to help integrate Chinese culture and involvement with other Chinese adults

Karin Evans : Someone asked about integrating Chinese culture into children's lives. We've been so lucky in this regard. We have our "Aunt Betty," a Chinese-American woman who has taken us in. She invites us to Chinese New Year and lavishes traditions on our children, who just love the event (firecrackers and all) and love her and her big, extended family. She took it upon herself to provide this for our daughters, saying she thought it was important to them to have some Chinese extended family in their lives. At her last New Year's party she had invited two more, brand new little adopted Chinese "sisters" and their families. So, each year now, we'll see extended family that also includes some other adopted little girls. We've also been lucky to have a lovely music teacher who was born in China, someone helping the girls with Mandarin, and several other people who are very closely entwined with our lives.

Zoey:  When adopting a second time - what do you think about taking the older child toChina with you. I would be afraid the experience may be hard for a child with early childhood trauma -- how might you prepare for this?

Karin Evans : We took out daughter with us when we adopted our younger daughter. Our older daughter was five at the time and we spent a lot of time talking about the entire trip. We took along a dear friend who is very close to our older daughter so Kelly would have a special friend while we were paying attention to the new arrival. I think it went well...Kelly came into the institution with us, visited the babies in their cribs, and asked lots of questions. This provides an opening to discuss about every facet of the adoption process, but I think people should be ready to help the child who might be jolted by the experience. Sometimes unspoken fears can pop up and it's good to monitor the reactions closely, and get some help if you need it. It's a very individual decision, too. Some people may feel it's okay for the returning child, and others may choose not to take the child. Some children may be more sensitive to the experience. So, I don't think there is any one recommendation. Consider the age of your child, temperament, level of anxiety, and ask for some professional help ahead of time if you need it, in making the decision. Not to be taken lightly, I don't think. But in our case, I'd say it worked out, and we're glad we did it. But that's just one experience.

Gerri :  What books would you suggest reading (other than yours of cours ;) in preparation for adopting from China

Karin Evans : My favorite overall books about China include China Wakes, Jonathan Spence's book on Chinese History, and a book of Children's poems from the Tang Dynasty called "Maples in the Mist." This is just the background, to prepare one for the richness of Chinese history and culture. For close-up information on adoption, I think the FCC website has lots of great background. There are some wonderful contemporary Chinese women writers, including Anchee Min and Amy Tan and the book Wild Swans. My approach was just to read everything I could get my hands on, and each book provided yet another point of view on China, either historically, or contemporarily. There is lots of adoptive literature, too.

Kimmy : Karin, have you seen 'China's Lost Girls' and if so, from your perspective did it seem an accurate account of what happens?

Karin Evans : I'm sorry to say I have not yet seen this. I've been promised a tape.

Sara :  When adopting a daughter from China, what reassurance do we have that the birth parents have given up a child voluntarily? Are families coerced by the government or are children ever forcibly removed from their parents and adopted out in China?

Karin Evans : This is a complicated question...I would say that in the usual procedures in the average institution, children have been declared orphans and are legitimately without family able to care for them.

Harriet :  When you did your research - were you allowed into many orphanages - can yo tell us about the structure and how you found them. Did you have to have special permission to visit and did the Chinese know you were writing a book?

Karin Evans : At the time I did the research, I visited my daughter's orphanage, but only for a limited time. Later, I went to some others, particularly those that have Half the Sky programs (since I serve on the Board of Directors). The condition of orphanages in China varies very widely. There are some in remote rural places that have very few resources. There are some that are showcases, including a new institution in Shanghai. As more resources are made available from numerous sources--including foundations like Half the Sky as well as individual donations from families who've adopted from a particular orphanage, as well as donations and projects sponsored by other nonprofits, the care and the surroundings have improved significantly. To answer the part of the question about the Chinese government and permission to visit, I told anyone I interviewed that I was at work on a book.

Gertie : I recently heard that many of the girls available may be second daughters. Do you know if anyone is/has/will study the emotional impact on the daughters who have been kept by their families and all that goes along with this. What about guilt and loss for those touched by this issue?

Karin Evans : That's a profoundly interesting question. At the moment I don't know anyone who has begun to study this. But it would be a valuable area of research. Also, consider the possibilities of some of the adopted daughters eventually making contact with some of the families in China. That could happen in the future and would open an entirely new chapter for families on both sides of the world.

Lizzie :  Can you elaborate on some of the issues for parents in caring for post institutionalized child. I’ve spoken to many who have children severely affected by early childhood trauma -- do you think the government here will ever have more resources for post-institutionalized children and help parents navigate the maze to find appropriate help?

Karin Evans :  I think more of the issues are surfacing and more attention is being paid to them by the adoptive community, certainly, and by therapists and professionals who have come to know these children. I personally don't know enough about possible options of governmental help to feel very optimistic about it, but there may be avenues that people could pursue. Right now, I think parents themselves have to be proactive, first to monitor children for problems, talk to other parents and find what they've experienced, and then find professionals who can help. There are some wonderful people out there who've studied groups of internationally adopted children as a whole--Dana Johnson at the International Adoption Clinic in Minnesota, for instance. So there are resources and there are good people at work, but I wouldn't say it's an area yet of any widespread knowledge or easy availability of help. Just as an side, I know as a parent, it's been hard for me to know when some behavior I see is just the average three-year-old child doing what three-year olds do, and when it might be indicative of a deeper problem. I would need some support in sorting all this out.

Katy :  I know that most of China's orphans are cared for in orphanages. Do you know what per cent are cared for in foster homes? Are attachment disorder problems a huge issue?

Karin Evans : Foster care is becoming more and more common. Agencies that are sending help to China's orphanages often concentrate on foster care as one of the better options for the children there. I think attachment disorder to some degree is part of the institutional experience. Programs that train caregivers to give children personal, one-on-one care are a good step forward. Half the Sky--and I mention this because I work closely with them--trains Nannies to just hold and love the babies, stimulate them, rock them, all those good things that a mother would do naturally. All of these efforts help, but there are so many children still out there who need help and attention.


Karin, Thank you so much for taking time out of your very busy schedule to come and chat with us. I hope we can get you to come back again. We have really enjoyed this evening's chat with you.







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