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Visiting Orphanages in China (Adoption Travel FAQ)

By Lotus Travel, Inc.

This Visiting Orphanages in China (Adoption Travel FAQ) provides responses to questions frequently asked by families about orphanage visitations, including appropriate gifts and etiquette, during homeland tours to China.

According to clinical child psychologist Dr. Rebecca Nelson, birth country visits are essential as they are considered to be "prime opportunities for adoptees to learn about themselves and further a positive adoptive identity within a guided and emotionally supportive context." Positive cultural heritage reinforcements often contribute to healthy and happy upbringings of adopted children. Learning and exploring their ethnic backgrounds under the guidance and unconditional supports of their families as they mature often enhance self-confidence and positive adoptive identities.

Visitation Approval for Orphanages in China

Due to the skyrocketing demands for cultural heritage and root-seeking visits, the Bridge of Love Adoption Services (BLAS) has announced orphanage visitation policies in 2006 to ensure successful and memorable birth country visits. These new policies have taken effect in most provinces and families are adhered to charges prior to their visitations. Please note that the fees varied from province to province (usually between $150- $275) and if the charge policy is not in effect upon your trip reservation, it might be at the time of your visitation and you are responsible for any unpaid fees that might incur.

Documentation for Traveling to Orphanages in China

The following documents have to be sent along with your orphanage visit application:

  1. A copy of the adoption certificate or the notarized adoption documents (sample documents can be found at
  2. A copy of each visitor's American passport
  3. An orphanage visit application letter
  4. The name list of all visitors; make sure the relationship between each visitor and the adopted child is also listed.

*All orphanage visits are conducted during weekdays; be sure to avoid weekends and Chinese public holidays visitations.

Appropriate Gifts for Your Orphanage Visit in China

If your family wish to bring along nice gifts to orphanage directors, I highly recommend chocolate if you are uncertain about the gender of the directors. Some appropriate gifts for female directors are: chocolate and perfume, whereas male directors often prefer wine and cigarettes.

Orphanages are usually scarce in toys, books, musical CDs, school supplies, etc; these are certainly great gifts for the children.

Do not expect anyone to open the gifts in front of you, as this is extremely impolite and inappropriate in Chinese culture.

Observing Chinese Customs When You Travel to Orphanages in China

Adoptive parents are suggested to explain the cultural differences between America and China to their children prior to their trips.

For lunch/dinner meeting with orphanage directors, caregivers and staff:

  • Dress code: casual business (best not to wear jeans and T-shirts)
  • It is normal for Chinese to smoke at the dinning table during and/or after a meal.
  • It is not typical for Chinese to use serving spoons while dinning; be prepared that everyone will pick up food from different dishes directly with his/her chopsticks.
  • Most Chinese consume soup directly from bowls instead of using spoons, and it is not considered to be rude.
  • Chinese will hold the rice bowls while eating and may place them on their lips to finish off the rice remaining in the bowls; note that this is customary.

Lotus Travel is a premier tour operator and ticket consolidator specialized in adoption travel and birth country visits to Vietnam, China and Southeast Asia. In China, Lotus Travel works closely with local orphanages, the Provincial Civil Affairs Bureau (CAB) and BLAS to arrange meaningful visits under the recent changes.
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