China / Society

Mothers search for adopted children's Chinese parents

By ZHU LIXIN in Hefei ( Updated: 2014-06-06 15:34

Mothers search for adopted children's Chinese parents

Erika Olzheim-Smit and her adopted daughter Callista at the Huainan Station before they left for Holland in 2004. Provided to China Daily

Andrea de Baar-Smit and Erika Olzheim-Smit are twin sisters from the Netherlands. They have much in common, including both having adopted Chinese children.

This has brought them to China several times in recent years, including their most recent trip in May, in an attempt to find the biological parents of their adopted children.

Olzheim-Smit, 50 and a mother of four, has an adopted daughter named Callista, who is believed to have been born on Dec 26, 2002. The baby was found by a local man in Huainan, Anhui province, at the local railway station the following day, the man has said, and taken to a welfare home by the local police.

In April 2004, Olzheim-Smit adopted the girl and took her to Holland.

"She is a happy girl who is talkative and has many hobbies, including dancing and singing," Olzheim-Smit told China Daily. "She is very kind-hearted as she always likes to help people whenever they need her."

When Callista was in the first grade in elementary school, a boy told her she did not know who her parents were.

"She was shocked on hearing that, as she had never been confronted like that, although she already knew she was adopted," Olzheim-Smit said.

After that, Callista became more and more curious about her biological parents. In order to satisfy her curiosity and prevent her feeling sadness about her origins, Olzheim-Smit brought her adopted daughter to China in 2008, hoping they could find clues to her biological parents. No evidence was found, but Callista gained a better knowledge of the country she came from.

"We don't think Callista was lost unexpectedly but believe she was abandoned. We told her about the one child policy. Callista — and we also — want to know exactly why. She would also like to know if she looks like her biological parents, brothers or sisters," Olzheim-Smit said.

Similar reasons drive Olzheim-Smit's twin sister, de Baar-Smit, who has five children, the youngest two of whom are boys adopted in China.

Stefan, now 12, was adopted in Harbin, Heilongjiang province, in 2004, and Vincent, 10, was adopted two years later in Yixing, Jiangsu province. De Baar-Smit has brought Stefan to China previously to look for his biological parents, and the entire family toured here in 2008.

Olzheim-Smit said her nephew Stefan believes he was abandoned as a baby and resents his biological parents, although he doesn't know who or where they are. He wants to know very much why his parents abandoned him.

Olzheim-Smit and de Baar-Smit returned to Huainan two weeks ago. The children were unable to accompany their adoptive mothers as they had to attend school. However, the women appeared to be having a little more luck in their search this time.

With the help of Lyu Shunfang, a 63-year-old retired woman in Yixing who established a website to help people find lost family members, Olzheim-Smit and de Baar-Smit were featured on some local Chinese language news portals, and their children's stories became known to more people.

After an article was published on June 4, a man claiming to be the girl's biological father phoned Lyu, but he withdrew his claim shortly after for unknown reasons.

A woman surnamed Kong also claimed she was probably the girl's mother. She said she gave birth to a girl in September 2001, but asked a relative to take her to the welfare home in Huainan. She did not want to raise the child as she wanted a boy, and China's one child policy was very strict at that time.

That relative sent the day-old girl to the welfare home with another person, and claimed the girl was left accidentally in the railway station.

The plots are quite similar, but the very different birthdays raise questions about the woman's story. Kong thinks the welfare home may have made a mistake in their record keeping, but the welfare home denies this.

De Baar-Smit has not received any feedback concerning her two adopted sons.

On the advice of Lyu, the mothers went to a genomics institute in Beijing on Thursday morning to learn how to send back biological samples from their children for DNA testing. They departed China for their home country on Friday.

"There will be much emotion in finding the children's biological parents. There will be good things and bad things, and we are all prepared to face them both," Olzheim-Smit said.

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