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Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Shangrao Children's Welfare Center

On Thursday, March 7, 2012, we visited Mimi's former home, the only home she had for the first two years of her life, The Shangrao Children's Welfare Center in Shangrao, Jiangxi, China. The drive from Jiangxi to Shangrao was about 3 hours long.  It was a drizzly day.
I'm not sure why I expected Shangrao to be a small town or village.  I had looked it up on Wikipedia and read its statistics.  I knew it had a population of 700,000, a small town by China's standards.  But the visual of the expected village was completely different than what I saw, a modern bustling city.
The orphanage also was quite modern and new and on a large busy street.  It was renovated in 2010 complete with electric gate and scrolling light sign that personally welcomed us.  
Just at the entryway of the door, "Shang Rao City Children's Welfare Institute, Shang Rao City Welfare Center"
In March there were still Christmas decorations.  Not sure if they are year-round decorations, left over from Chinese New Year, or what.  
The lobby was ridiculously clean.  Shiny white tile that made me afraid to walk on it with my grungy wet shoes that had just stepped through puddles.  Two massive chandeliers hung in the foyer and were flanked by huge bright murals. 
These words are on the wall just as you walk in the front doors.  
"Everything for the children.  For the children's everything."
A courtyard was in the middle of the buildings.  Two covered walkways, 4 stories tall, flanked the sides of the courtyards.  There was playground equipment and pathways in the very quiet courtyard and not a child in sight.  
I'm not sure what to call this room, but it was proudly shown to us.  It was the equivalent of a school nurse's office.  Complete with an isolette and an examining table.  

The infant area of the children's welfare center (CWI) is divided into 13 apartments.  Each apartment houses a husband and wife, (who either do not have children or whose children are grown?) who are foster parents for 5 babies.  Each apartment has 2 bedrooms, one for the foster parents and one for the 5 babies, 1 kitchen, 1 bathroom, 1 living area all with the same furniture, and 1 very large playroom.  
We had the privilege to visit 3 of these apartments.  All had these signs hung prominently on the wall of the living area.  I can only assume that they are some kind of orphanage ground rules or policy.  
The playrooms in each apartment were identical with foam mats and colorful built in cupboards. The toys were almost nonexistent   I was shocked by this amazing room that had nothing in it for the children.  Then it occurred to me that perhaps the toys were stored somewhere else.  Or perhaps we could offer to purchase enough toys to fill the place?!  
I asked, Where are the children's toys?  
They're right there! she said as she pointed to the floor with a very few very small toys scattered on the mat. The sterility of this place shocked me and was completely summed up in that one statement.  
This is the exact area she was pointing to as she told me all their toys were right there. 
The babys' colorful bedroom had 5 cribs and a each had a huge pile of blankets.  In our daughter's bedroom, there was a colored heart above each bed with the child's picture, name, and birth date, identifying each child's crib.
Keeping it honest, I'm not sure of the standard for a household kitchen in China.  But these kitchens seemed well stocked with a refrigerator, rice cooker, microwave, sink... and were very very clean.  In two of the kitchens it was the foster fathers who were busy in the kitchen preparing bottles and bustling around.   
If anyone can tell me what the large blue thing on the wall is , I'd love to know.   They were in every kitchen.
As of March 2012, this is the formula the orphanage was using, Nestle Loctogen.  It was easily available in the markets both in and outside of Jiangxi.  
The push chairs (below in green and yellow) were in every apartment and many were occupied with smaller babies.  These chairs are low to the ground and can be pushed similar to a stroller.  The children in this orphanage wear split pants.  There is a separation in the seat of the push chair and a small pail/bowl is placed beneath to catch any waste (pee or poop) from the baby.  I never ever saw small children on the floor anywhere in the orphanage or anywhere in China for that matter.  Not crawling, or creeping, or squirming, or having any kind of "tummy time."  It appeared to us, that until a child could walk, he/she was either carried or contained in something like these chairs or a bouncy seat, a crib, or a walker.
Little potty seats were in each apartment we visited, sometimes in the bathroom, hall or playroom.  Indeed when we visited, our daughter's foster mama stripped off Mimi's diaper and had her sit on the potty seat to show us.  
The bathroom was complete with a squatty potty and a western toilet. 
This is the director of the Shangrao Ling CWI, Mrs. Ye. Two of the 3 families decided to return for a visit to the CWI, and Mrs. Ye asked about the third family.  We could tell she was disappointed not to see the 3rd little girl in our group. She personally escorted our daughter to us in Nanchang, as I think does so for all the children that are adopted from this orphanage.  We delivered 4 letters from families that had previously adopted from this CWI, and she was so eager to open them, look at the photos, and read about how the children were doing.  She smiled so big when she saw the girls with their families and how they had grown.  She proudly showed us photos of adoptees now with their families, that she had blown up, framed, and hung in the hall ways of the orphanage.  She was gracious and proud of her facility, and in my opinion really had the best interest of the children that lived here.  
Director Ye's office.  Here we were given an opportunity to go through our daughter's file and photograph all the documents in it.  Including this precious little foot print.
Director Ye offered us candies, fruits, and munchies in her office.  We ate several tangerines, and unbeknownst to me, the children walked out with their pockets full of candies.  
I'm not sure what these were.  But they were pretty!
This is actually a sweet rice munchy although I know it has an uncanny resemblance to cigarettes in an ashtray.     We tried it 'cause I'm always game for anything new. It is sweet but I had trouble getting past  its appearance.  It must be an acquired taste.  

We were at the CWI for about 2-3 hours.  We never saw any children on any of the playground equipment.  It was a drizzly day, but it never actually rained much while we were there.  

There were gardens on the grounds of the CWI.  If anyone knows what they  grow there and what they do with it, let me know.  Notice the Disney murals on the wall.
While we were in one of the apartments of the CWI, we noticed someone dropping a piece of trash out the window.  Surprised by this, I took a peek out the window and was surprised by the amount of trash I saw on the ground underneath the window.  It was very very different than the very sterile clean environment we saw inside.  
The last two pics are of the area across the street from the orphanage.  
These pics are both for our family and my mostly for our daughter to see her first home.  But they are also for anyone who wants to see what Shangrao Children's Welfare Center looks like.  If you are making a life book or would like any of these images for your child, a high res copy of any of these without watermark for your own personal use, just let me know, (include your email address) and I'll gladly forward them to you.  Well maybe not the one of her on the potty.

Up next... her foster family.


  1. Great stuff here - one day hope to return to China to meet our youngests FF - we were not allowed to meet them on our trip. Great you got to see all of this!

    hugs - aus and co.

  2. This was interesting. Hmm, seems to me, China looks a lot like my country, Romania. A land of contradictions. Some places are squeaky clean, some are extremely dirty. :/

    The empty play room made my heart ache though. That was nothing like the Romanian orphanage playrooms. I know because I had the chance to visit a couple and I also saw many of them at the TV. They're full of toys here!! I can't believe that. Poor little ones.

    From what you said though, the director seems to genuinely care for the orphanage and for the children and I'm sure she really does. It's a great responsability for her and most certainly she tries her best.

    Your post brought memories... I remember when I visited an orphanage once and the children didn't even look at our faces, they would just climb in our laps and sit quietly. It was like a race between them; who finds an available lap to sit on. I was only 17 but it was so heart breaking.

    I am just so happy for Mimi. <3

    1. For the reasons you mention, it was a wonderful blessing to take our teens on both trips. They are different, better people because of it.

  3. That is an amazing orphanage. VERY different that our experience in Ethiopia!

    1. It's VERY different than our experience in VN too! I think the "newness" of it is unique. And I think it is unique to many orphanages in China too. This particular orphanage has several sponsors. Our girl was so lucky to be here, have foster parents, love and enough food for her tummy. We will always be grateful that she was in this great loving environment.

  4. I am blown away at the toys.. or lack there of. Your pictures did a great job capturing the orphanage.

  5. Wow. All those shelves... I want to fill them with puzzles and board books and shape sorters and and and...

    I laughed until I snorted at your description of the snack. :)

  6. Wow, just wonderful photos. I'm curious. I thought that Director Ye had retired and a new director had taken over. Not true, huh? Is this a new building that was renovated and they moved into it or is this the same place they were in before? (We adopted in 2006 and have pics from that time frame.)

    I would just love these photos because our daughter's lifebook has room to show how the orphanage has changed over the years. I know she would enjoy these very much and we truly appreciate your offer to send them.

    So grateful for your help.

    Traci Smith
    Mom to Ling Wan Rong - adopted August 29, 2006

    Smithon571 @aol. com (spaces removed)

  7. Hi Nancy - I loved reading this post! What an incredible experience. And your photography is stunning!

  8. nancy, what an incredible visit back to mimi's former home!! i am so in love with your photography and the way your words truly capture your memories. thank you for sharing! happy november to you and your family. <3<3<3

  9. What neat pix ! I wish we had all this for our little one. We have a few but nothing like this. Thanks for sharing

  10. Hello, my husband and I will be traveling to the Ling orphanage in June or July. We are adopting a little girl who is almost 3. Did you see any children while you were there? I would love to have some of these pictures to use. I am eager to read your other posts about your adoption journey and your traveling. Feel free to email me Thanks so much!


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