For the US adoptive families who return to China in search of their children's birth parents, their travels often, and frustratingly, wind their way to dead ends. Adoptions in China remain defiantly closed and shrouded in mystery—the country prohibits the abandoning of children, so most babies are abandoned anonymously, the LA Times reports. One professor who has made several documentaries about such adoptions can cite only about 20 cases in which the adoptive families found their children's birth relatives; more than 60,000 Chinese babies have been adopted by Americans in the last two decades.
Missing and incorrect orphanage records place obstacles in the paths of adoptive families struggling to navigate an unfamiliar language and culture. One delegation of American adoptive parents was allowed to visit a Hunan orphanage only on the condition that they not ask any questions; a Philadelphia adoptive mother of two says that after 13 trips to China she hasn't found either daughter's birth parents: "I did find our older daughter's foster mother. Barring a miracle, that is as close to a Chinese mother that my daughter will find." (Read more adoption stories.)