Adopted Chinese boy looking for answers

14:22, October 30, 2009      

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Christian Norris, 18, at an emotion-charged reunion with his family in Beijing, after 11 years. He was relieved to know that he had been separated from his parents accidentally and not abandoned.(Photo Source: China Daily/ Wang Xiaoxi)

For eight years, Christian Norris, a Chinese boy adopted by an American woman from Easton, Maryland, was tormented by the thought: "Was I abandoned by my Chinese parents?"

This disturbing idea led to the 18-year-old rejecting all things Chinese.

But his mother Julia Norris knew well that he could not be separated from his past. His rejection only showed it pained him to live with a blanked-out memory. The best way to make peace with his past, she felt, was to go back and face it.

She tried to help in every way possible but it was not until this spring that she saw a ray of hope. She sent an e-mail to Baby Come Home, a non-profit volunteer group based in Tonghua, Jilin province, whose mission is to help reconnect lost children with their birth parents.

Working on clues from Norris' fragmented memory, the Chinese volunteers finally fulfilled a dream of the remorseful parents and their long-lost son. Years ago his parents, both doctors in West China's Ningxia Hui autonomous region where Norris was born, had published a medical paper under their real names. And the young boy had memorized their rough pronounciations.

In late August, accompanied by his adoptive mother, Norris met his biological parents in Beijing after a gap of 11 years. Facing his teary parents, Norris stood with a impassive face for the first few hours, smiling only occasionally at past events mentioned by his birth parents.

It was then that the young man was told of his accidental separation from his father Jin Gaoke at a bus stop in their hometown. Ten months later the boy was identified as an orphan in Luoyang, capital of Central China's Henan province, and joined thousands of Chinese kids adopted by American families since 1980s.

"My heart broke for both Christian and the family," Julia says. "It was just so sad."
Embracing his parents at last, Norris said, "I'm pretty clear that I wasn't abandoned."

He had finally found the answer he had been seeking for so long.

Norris' case was Baby Come Home's first success with establishing contact between Chinese children and their adoptive parents from abroad. In two years, the group's 14,000 registered volunteers have repeated the miracle nearly 70 times.

After the happy reunion with his birth family in Beijing, Norris went on a tour of the Ningxia Hui autonomous region, with Julia.

He then went back to the United States with no clear plans to return, leaving his Chinese parents disappointed and distressed.

According to Zhang Zhiwei, one of the volunteers of Baby Come Home who helped Norris, his father has been calling, e-mailing and sending him short messages, expressing concern for his future and the family's desire to reach him again.

Jin could not be contacted for further comment, but his younger brother Jin Xiaowang, the one who raised Norris for five years before he went missing, says his 73-year-old grandmother misses him very much.

"Every time she hears his name, she cries," Jin Xiaowang says.

Zhang says he understands the family's predicament, but points out the impossibility of fulfilling the Jins' hopes at this stage.

"Christian has been raised as an American kid, and is used to parents respecting his decisions," he says.

He tries to console Jin telling him it will take time for Norris to process all that he has experienced in China, and to feel the connection between him and his Chinese relatives.

Zhang believes the decision of whether or not to return is best left to Norris.

In her latest e-mail to Zhang, Julia Norris says the teenager is receiving counseling and attending a support group for adopted teens, once a week.

"He is talking about pursuing a career in China someday, helping orphans and stopping child trafficking," she says.

Both she and Jin Xiaowang wish to keep in touch and overcome the language barrier.

Julia Norris, who has also adopted a younger Chinese girl, told China Daily by e-mail that "he feels comfortable in his own skin for the first time," and is looking for a scholarship for him to study Chinese in China. They plan to come back to China next summer if everything goes well.

Zhang says he receives a dozen e-mails from parents who have adopted Chinese children, from the United States, Canada, Switzerland and France.

The volunteers at Baby Come Home have recently located the birth family of a Chinese girl adopted by a Swiss family 16 years ago. "We're waiting for the girl to come back and get a DNA test done," says Zhang.

"There are many families with children from China who are now entering the critical teen years and want to learn more about their past", says Julia Norris.

The growing DNA data-base collected by the Ministry of Public Security on the lost children and their parents is expected to show wide applications.

Source: China Daily
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