More and more international families are prolonging "root-seeking tours" into long-term stays in China for their adopted children
From the four corners of the earth, hopeful couples travel to China, whether to fulfil a longing to become parents or simply to add another child to their family. The bittersweet adoption odyssey is lengthy and packed with emotion -- but ultimately incredibly rewarding.
Since the central government began allowing foreigners to adopt Chinese babies in 1992, international families have been required to finalize the adoption process on the mainland.
These parents come from all over the world, ride buses to remote provinces, wait to settle details at government offices and, ultimately, are united with their new children.
Between 1992 and 2000, more than 70,000 Chinese infants -- primarily female -- were adopted by U.S. parents. Some of these parents return years later with their Chinese-born children on “root-seeking tours.”
Guo Jiaming (郭家明), chief of Beijing-based adoption agency Love of Bridge, says his company began offering "root-seeking" services in 2009. The company has seen a growth in demand.
"Last year, 300-400 [international adoptive] families come to us for this service," says Guo.
For some families, however, a quick trip and tour are not enough. Some families are actually relocating to China, where their children can form balanced cultural identities and parents themselves can satisfy their own wanderlust.
His company chose 'the guy who had been to China'
For some parents, a longstanding fascination with China leads them to adopt and then move here. For others, adoption cracks open the door.
“It’s hard to say what came first,” says Alex Reid, 46, an Ohio native who with his wife adopted three Chinese children. The family now lives in Shanghai's Hongqiao area.
“It was my work [that brought me to China], but that was strangely connected to the adoptions.”
Reid got a break when trips to pick up his first two children fell around the same time that his Ohio-based company was searching for someone to help it expand in Asia.
“I stood out as the guy who had been to China,” Reid says. “The idea of picking up our family, getting on a plane and traveling across the world, well, done that.”
U.S. couple Alex and Elizabeth Reid visit Hong Kong with their children, Hunan-born Justice (left), Beijing-born Tao Tao (middle) and Guangxi-born Keziah (right).