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Uncovering a Hidden Need in China

One Expat Family’s Adoption Story

From the series Uncovering a Hidden Need in China, An Adoption Story


I’ve decided to share our journey of adoption, with all its sensitivities, in hope of encouraging others who are considering adoption. I also hope to change how people view the needs concerning adoption, specifically in China. For those wanting to adopt from China it is a long road lined with paperwork and set-backs, but the process is also refining, eye-opening, and faith-growing. In this five-part series I will tell our story and how our path took us into an unseen part of China’s people. Our family tree is forever blessed through the adoption of our daughter and here is our story. Beth

The Call to Adopt

China stole my heart the moment I set foot there in 2001 as a twenty-year-old short-termer. During this same season, God moved my heart through scripture to consider the care of orphans. For me, this fostered a desire to adopt without knowing how it would come to pass. When I did marry two years later, my husband and I felt deeply that somehow our family tree would grow through adoption from China.

Our journey started when we took our first trip as a couple to China in 2006. We visited seven cities with the intent of discerning where and how God would lead us to serve in China long term. With adoption in the back of our minds, we asked about visiting a team working with orphans. One group in central China allowed us to join them during a routine visit to a local orphanage that was being operated by believers within a larger, state-run institution.

Like many others who have heard about Chinese adoption, we thought the orphanages would be teeming with unwanted baby girls.

As we walked up the steps of what looked like a pink, four-story castle, we were definitely not entering a fairy tale. Inside the orphanage we passed rooms filled with infants, toddlers, and mentally disabled children until we reached the floor that was privately operated. Foreigners are not typically allowed in state orphanages, but since this section was run by believers who partnered with a few expats we were given an invitation.

The Scene Inside: Who Are the Unwanted Children?

I’d never been in an orphanage. My heart sank as my mind grappled with the scene before me. Crib after crib was filled, each with a tiny bundle hidden in a mummy-like wrapping of blankets so thick they looked like large Qdoba burritos. Toddlers aimlessly sat on cold tiled floors with minimal toys. All the while, the rooms lay shrouded in an eerie silence. No child cried, not one. Cleanliness, orderliness, and genuine Christian care made this one of the better institutions, but as I have since learned from personal experience, the social and emotional realities of starting life in an institutional setting impact a child in long-term and wide-ranging ways.

As if puppets sitting on a shelf awaiting the puppeteer to bring them to life, the moment we spoke to the children their faces and bodies came to life. In the midst of our play time, I scanned the room looking for the left-behind girls I’d heard about. To my surprise I saw more boys than girls, but what grabbed my attention were the children’s faces. Many were marked by cleft palate.

After talking with staff, I learned most, if not all, of the children, came to the orphanage because of a disability, health condition, or physical blemish. By this time in China most families didn’t mind having a girl, but they did mind having their one and only child being born unable to learn, walk, talk, eat, or go to school. Blood conditions such as Hepatitis C and HIV are reason enough for parents to abandon their children because they would never be able to enter the school system. Even being born completely healthy, yet albino or with a prominent birthmark could be cause for stigma and abandonment. These were, and still are, the children filling China’s orphanages in the 21st century.

My Adoption Perspective Changed

Leaving that day, my perception of adoption in China was altered. My biblical principles still grounded my logical desire to adopt, but being face-to-face with this greater injustice of choosing life based on personal and cultural benefit broke my heart. Our commitment to adopt grew into a desire to love China’s unloveable through adoption. We wanted each child to know their precious created-ness and value in Christ through family.

In early 2010, four years and one birth-child later, we landed in China to start our new life and hopefully grow our family. After waiting two more years until my husband and I turned thirty, the legal age for parents to adopt from China, we put pen to paper to start the process. We were clueless how much more God wanted to reveal to us on the road to adoption. He wasn’t done with our hearts and he was about to add a few more jagged twists and turns.

Coming next: “Deciding to Adopt a Special Needs Child.” The overwhelming process and reality of special needs adoption in China and how we ended up uncovering a hidden need.

Image credit; Beth Forshee
Beth Forshee

Beth Forshee

Beth Forshee studied journalism and public relations at Baylor University in Waco, TX and has been serving in various aspects of ministry to China for over 13 years. Her love for China’s culture and people started on her first short-term trip in 2001. Later Beth and her family served in... View Full Bio


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