Since the early '90s, Americans have adopted more than 75,000 Chinese children. With thousands of them now at an age to appreciate returning to the homeland, heritage tours have brought adoptees and their families to China, presenting an unequaled opportunity for bonding and sharing identity issues.
"Found in China" follows six Midwestern families as they observe contemporary trends and ancient Asian traditions in both urban and rural contexts.
The 80-minute documentary focuses on the 9- to 13-year-old girls and how they attempt to fit together the puzzle pieces of their pasts.
The impact that this trip makes on the children and their parents cannot be underestimated. It provides a foundation for additional dialogue and emotional development.
Because Chinese adoptions are not "open"--birthparent records are not kept because it is a crime to abandon one's child--few details can be found about an adoptee's background. Occasionally an adoptee can visit with foster parents or the person who discovered the child and took her to an orphanage. But most find little in their orphanage files.
"Found in China" captures the spontaneity of the children seeing China for the first time since leaving the country as infants or toddlers. The documentary reveals their thoughts about their orphanages, caregivers and the foster families.
The possibilities of searching for birthparents is explored by tour participants, with insights from older Korean adoptees and adoption specialists including Sara Dorow, PhD, best known for her book, "When You Were Born in China."
Filmmaker Carolyn Stanek adopted two Chinese daughters in the early 1990s and thus the documentary includes scenes from their orphanage, Jiande, in Zhejiang province. Other stops on the tour included Beijing, Xi'an, Chengdu, Hangzhou, and Shanghai for Stanek's family. Scenes from Nanchang and Changsha were also contributed by another family.
Stanek's background includes being a reporter for the Champaign-Urbana News-Gazette, a journalism instructor, and author of a book about Title IX (Contemporary Books). She then switched careers, becoming a stock market analyst for a couple decades.
"Found in China" was winner of a best documentary award at the East Lansing Film Festivial in 2008 at Michigan State U and was screened at a more than 15 other festivals.