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Jenna Cook (Facebook)

“Lost” daughter

Adoptee on search for birth parents learns magnitude of China’s grief

April 4, 2016

Jenna Cook’s life changed dramatically in 2012 when she and her adoptive mother left the United States for Wuhan, China, where the then-20-year-old Yale student went to search for her birth parents. In a story for Foreign Policy, Cook describes meeting with over 50 families who abandoned children on the street where she was left as a child in March 1992 and the flood of attention she received after her story was printed in newspapers across China that summer. “I believe my story resonated with the Chinese public because so many have relinquished children,” she wrote, citing estimates that suggest 139,696 Chinese children were adopted by families outside of the nation, on top of 494,616 domestic adoptions from 2000 to 2013. “During my search, I met with over 50 birth families – each of which had left a baby on one single street in Wuhan in March 1992. The implications of this are quite vast. What about other streets in the same month? What about other months? What about other years? What about the families who chose not to come forward?”

“The encounters made me question to what extent birth parents ‘abandoned’ their daughters in the traditional sense of the word,” Cook said. The stories she heard cited China’s one-child policy, the desire to have a son, poverty, and teenage pregnancy as some of the reasons such families abandoned their daughters.

Cook, a Fulbright scholar, discusses the mixed reactions she faced when her story made headlines: some in China who believed she should be grateful for her adoptive mother and discontinue the search, while others — including some of those she met who proved to be unrelated to her — asked her to never stop looking. The full piece is an insightful read from the perspective of an adopted woman who is still searching for her family.

Read the full story at Foreign Policy.