China invites children adopted to US to return to their roots

The Takeaway

Story by The Takeaway. Listen to audio for full report.

Nearly 30 years after China began to allow international adoption of Chinese babies, the People’s Republic began welcoming those children back through a program called “Heritage Tours.”

Recently 90 adopted Chinese children and their American families applied to participate in a Heritage Tour. Danielle Caccamise, 17, from Colorado, was one of the first Chinese babies to be adopted internationally. She and her family had the privilege of going on a Heritage Tour.

“The tour itself was really amazing because we got to go to so many places and see around where me and my sister were adopted,” Caccamise said.

Since 1999, an estimated 80,000 Chinese children have been adopted internationally. The Chinese international adoption program began as a means of controlling the exponential growth of the Chinese population. After the Chinese government instituted the one child policy in 1979, many babies (especially baby girls) were sent to orphanages. 

The tours mark a change of heart by the government, contends Patti Waldmeir, Shanghai correspondent for the Financial Times and mother of two adopted Chinese daughters. Despite the current political climate, the trips have little to do with U.S.-China relations or China’s standing in the world. Rather, the government seems to want to welcome these children home.

“It really has to do with Chinese pride and feeling, frankly, humiliated that they had to export 80,000, maybe 100,000, children all over the world,” Waldmeir said. “And also a general sense, on some part, to make it up to these kids–to show them that their homeland really didn’t just throw them away.”

Here’s what PRI Facebook fan, Lainey Zee, posted about her own experiences as an adoptee:

I moved to white suburban Oregon as a 12-year-old from Hong Kong. I have had many wonderful experiences here as a youngster that helped me develop into the person I love to be, and I thougt that was enough. But echoes of the past, like dreams, haunt me. Things that I experienced but didn’t understand as a child, things that are parts of me. Being able to go back to China to explore those memories and to find out more of who I am helped me become a more well-rounded person. I would also hope that these heritage tourists will have a chance to meet the poor, the peasants along the way. They are part of this all-embodied human experience, too.


“The Takeaway” is a national morning news program, delivering the news and analysis you need to catch up, start your day, and prepare for what’s ahead. The show is a co-production of WNYC and PRI, in editorial collaboration with the BBC, The New York Times Radio, and WGBH.

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