Chinese Adoptee Betsy Fries ’22 Reconciles Adoption Experience

Fries unpacks adoption system complications, contemplates emotions


Submitted By Betsy Fries

Fries before she was adopted from an orphanage in Guangzhou, China

Betsy Fries, Creative Director

I was adopted from Guangzhou, China on Dec. 3, 2004. While my family took many videos of the experience and I enjoy looking back on them, there are many things that I may never know like where I come from, the day I was born, my birth parents, etc. But does that really matter? My biggest concern would be not knowing any previous health conditions, besides that I’ve constantly found myself at a crossroad: should I look for answers to these questions or do I just move on with the rest of my life?

The orphanage that Fries was adopted from (Submitted by Betsy Fries)

I’ve always known that I was adopted. It was something I took pride in when I was younger. For a lot of my life I thought it made me special, but turns out it really doesn’t, because thousands of kids are adopted, and I honestly I still don’t know how to feel about that. It’s beneficial to know that someone, somewhere can relate to my story and self, but I wondered: what makes me who I am?

Fries pre-adoption (Submitted By Betsy Fries)

All of these years I’ve suppressed my emotions, the anger and confusion that bubbled inside of me because it felt like everyone was telling me what to think and how I should feel about my adoption. I avoided talking about it, in fear that nobody would understand. While that is true, I’ve learned that avoiding the unknown is even worse. I’m opening up about this now because as I’ve grown older I have had ample time for reflection; now I feel that I can share my own understanding and not let others’ comments dictate how I feel about my life. 

Fries post-adoption in the U.S. (Submitted By Betsy Fries)

Throughout my years I’ve found that the reason I’m adopted keeps changing. When I was younger I was told that my parents gave me away because they couldn’t care for me and that’s what was best for everyone. As I grew older I knew the world was more complicated than what I was told. In 2019, I watched a documentary called “One Child Nation” that gave a whole new perspective on China’s one child policy. It forever has me wondering could that have been me. 

Fries at age four in the U.S. (Submitted By Betsy Fries)

In order to control overpopulation China enacted the one child policy in 1979, which ended in 2015. The documentary showcased the Chinese government stripping babies away from their families and throwing them in plastic bags with the words “medical waste” plastered on the front. They would forcefully abort and sterilize  the mothers, and for the lucky babies, they would be sent to orphanages. Through learning all of this I was sent on a rollercoaster of emotions: confusion, pain, and sadness. Could I have been taken, stripped away from my birth family? Do they still think of me? Do they want to meet me? Or are they still alive?