China visit, part three: visiting Claire’s foster mom in Xinyu

I do have more to blog about Zhuhai but I’ll leave that for another time. Right now, it’s time to report on Claire’s hometown visit!

Claire is from a city called Xinyu in Jiangxi province. It has a population of about a million people, which is a small town by Chinese standards. The main industries there are steel manufacturing and the production of solar panels and related items. I had expected quite an industrial-looking place but was wonderfully surprised by the city’s beauty. In fact, after returning home, I read on Wikipedia that Xinyu was named Jiangxi’s Garden City in 2007 and has also been recognised nationally.

Claire’s foster sister, Maeve, had visited their foster mother in Xinyu a few years ago when their family had returned to China to adopt a second child (also from Jiangxi). They really paved the way for us: made contact with the foster mother through their agency, did the trip out there, visited the orphanage, etc. Through their experiences, we decided to forgo a visit at the orphanage and instead focus solely on Foster Mom and her family; after all, Claire had only been at the orphanage a few days as a newborn before going to live with Foster Mom.

It was also through Maeve’s family that we were introduced to Helen who became our guide in Xinyu (Helen had been their guide as well). Before our trip, Helen made all the arrangements for us to meet Foster Mom. Since Xinyu is in a non-touristed part of China, we also asked Helen to arrange for a driver and van to pick us in Nanchang and drive us to Xinyu and stay with us, along with Helen, for the duration of our time there. It wasn’t inexpensive but it was sooo worth it. We are very comfortable on our own in Hong Kong and Beijing but it would definitely be hard for us to manage travelling to and around Xinyu on our own.

We arrived in Xinyu very late the night before we were to meet Foster Mom. We were supposed to have been there many hours earlier but had been delayed leaving Ren’s province due to a severe storm. We were thankful to have arrived safely, though, and were excited about the next day. We were due to meet Helen in our hotel lobby at 10 a.m. From there, I thought we were going to meet Foster Mother but I wasn’t sure where the meeting would occur. However, when we got to the lobby, I didn’t see Helen. I saw Claire’s foster mother instead!

First hug
Caiwen and Foster mama

We were joined by Helen a minute or two later. The first words Helen translated to us were about Claire’s clothing: wasn’t she cold? Shouldn’t she have a jacket?! We asked Helen to explain that where we were from, this weather (in the 20s) was summer weather. We found it very, very warm and didn’t need more bundling. Anyone who has adopted from China will remember how the locals insist on bundling the kids so warmly that their little faces are red and sweaty!

We all drove together in our rented van to Foster Mother’s apartment. Paul and I were stunned – and thrilled – that we were actually going to her home. Foster Mother held Claire’s hand the entire way in the van.

Holding hands

Claire was suitably solemn. She looked happy, though, if not a little shy at the beginning.

We parked in a parking garage across from her apartment. As we crossed the street, “Mei Mei” appeared – Foster Mother’s twin sister, who fostered two of the girls (good friends of us) on our adoption trip. They ladies each took one of Claire’s hands and walked up the steps to the apartment building together.

Walking up steps to the building less drama

At the top of the stairs were a bunch of neighbours who looked on as we made our way to the apartment. I gazed around in awe as I took in the exterior of the building: there was the brick wall I knew so well from the photos we have of baby Claire with her foster mom.

Walking to apartment
Entering the apartment
Up in the apartment, we were introduced to Foster Mother’s daughter and Claire’s “ge ge”(younger brother) and “mei mei” (younger sister). It was cute how they told the kids that Claire was their “jie jie” (older sister), as naturally as can be. The boy is a half year younger than Claire. He is the son of Foster Mother’s son. The little girl was 2 ½ and is the child of Foster Mother’s daughter. Her son was at work so we didn’t get to see him. We did, however, meet his wife later at the restaurant we went to for lunch. She works there and was able to make a quick stop in our private room.

Foster Mother’s apartment was small but very neat and clean. The kitchen was the tiniest part.

Little noodle thief near the kitchen

There were two bedrooms, one of which she had shared with our three babies: Claire and her foster sisters now known as Maeve and Kennedy. In that bedroom, there was a double or queen-sized bed and a single bed next to it.

Bedroom where the girls slept

Foster Mother told us that Claire, Maeve and Kennedy slept on the single bed, and I believe she indicated they slept sideways on the bed. I also think she indicated that she pulled her larger bed right next to it.

For most of the visit in her apartment, we sat in the living room around a coffee table laid out with apples and huge grapes for us.  Foster Mom’s sister peeled apples for us to eat.

Living room
Peeling apples for us

A children’s cartoon was on TV in the background, and that seemed to remind Foster Mom to tell us how she used to line the babies up for snacks in front of the TV and feed them while they watched cartoons. The three baby girls were always together and did everything together she said.

Foster Mother fostered 10 children altogether over the years. Three children are in Canada (our three), three are in the States, and the rest were domestic adoptions. She hears from one of the famlilies in the States about every two years. The sister had fostered 30 children altogether over the years. She started fostering a long time before Claire’s foster mother began. It was actually the sister who got Claire’s foster mother into fostering.

Claire was really cute at the apartment because she kind of looked after the little girl. The little girl had made a game out of dumping candies out of a container and then putting them back in. Claire kept helping her clean them up. And then Claire helped to keep the little girl out of the kitchen because the little girl kept trying to sneak in there to eat noodles. And in the bedroom, Claire kept trying to put back the pillows but the other kids just wanted to throw them around.

Pillow fight
Granddaughter 2

Meanwhile, Ren played around on an iPad that Foster Mother’s daughter brought out for the kids to occupy them.

After visiting for quite a long time in the apartment, we headed downstairs for pictures. I, of course, wanted to take photos in the same spot where the babies had their photos taken with Foster Mother while they were still in her care. Here are Claire and Foster Mother back when Claire was still known as Caiwen:


And here they are on April 1 of this year!


Outside the apartment
In the neighbourhood

While outside, we saw other neighbours and again, Foster Mother stopped to visit with them, Claire in her arms.


Helen explained to us that the neighbours remembered the babies Foster Mother had cared for and were excited to see one return for a visit.

We went to a lovely restaurant across from Bao Shi Park. Foster Mother sat next to Claire and fussed over her, going so far as to feed her. It was really sweet.

Feeding Caiwen

While there, Foster Mother’s daughter-in-law came into our private room for a visit. She picked up Claire warmly and hugged her.

With the daughter in law
After lunch, Paul ran to the van to get jackets for the children. We thought we’d better bundle them up a bit more since some of the talk over dinner involved whether they were clothed adequately!
Bundling up 1

Ah, doesn’t Foster Mom look much happier now?!

bundling up 2
We then went for walk in Bao Shi Park (a park in honour of a famous artist from Xinyu). We learned that the ladies sometimes came to this park with the babies. It is a lovely and vast park, with water features, winding paths, playgrounds and a beautiful Pagoda. It was a Sunday and there were a lot of families in the park socializing and playing.
Playing in the sand
park scene
There were a lot of things for sale for children: kites, balloons, whirly things, cotton candy and other treats.
kids stuff 1

There were also some areas set up for games.


kids stuff 2

When we saw a man making cotton candy, I knew our kids would want some. We were going to buy it but Foster Mother insisted that she pay.

cotton candy 3
cotton candy 5
cotton candy2
Cotton candy

Foster mother always held Claire’s hand and sometimes Ren’s too. When Ren wasn’t holding foster mother’s hand, he held the twin sister’s hand although he was quite shy about that. Both women were very natural with the children – always touching them, holding their hands or watching out for them.

Bao she park
On the path
Walking up to the pagoda

At the top of the pagoda, a man started yelling out to us and Helen informed us he thought we should put some pants on Claire to keep her warm! (She just had a skirt on, no leggings.) We could not escape the clothing police!

Funny Ren

I think it was the same guy later who approached us and asked if Claire was my daughter. When told yes, he then turned to a woman and said “Yes, I was right!” He said he knew Claire was my daughter because she looks like me!  It’s a sweet thought but I don’t see it 🙂

We had a lovely walk through the park, which included a stop at the playground which was a complete zoo. Time seemed to pass very quickly and suddenly it was time to say our goodbyes.

Foster Mother picked Claire up for tender hugs and kisses and that is when Claire finally said the words I knew she wanted to say:

“Wo ai ni, Mama”. I love you, Mama.
Goodbyes 2
Goodbyes bw

“Claire’s party”, as we call it,  was very different from “Ren’s party” in Zhuhai but equally special. It too exceeded all of our expectations and hopes, and it seemed to leave Claire very content and happy. It wasn’t long before she said, “I miss Foster Mother”, and “I want to visit her again soon!”.

We felt that Foster mom was a genuinely warm person and very grandmotherly in how she was with our kids those five and a half hours: the way she held their hands or guided them by touch, the treats she offered, the way she fed Claire during lunch, and the way she often smoothed Claire’s hair or tucked some behind her eyes. She even joked as we left the restaurant that if Paul and I wanted to go back to the hotel, she’d look after the kids and return them to us that night! That is exactly what Paul’s parents always offer to do!

We had originally told the kids that our next visit to China may not include their hometowns, as we would like to tour other parts of the country. However, both children are now insisting that their hometowns remain on the itinerary. My heart is full knowing that they feel connected to their hometowns and the people we know there. Till next time, Foster Mom! xoxo

Foster Mom and view










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  • What an amazing experience. To see the home where Claire lived and know she was so loved and well cared for. It must have meant so much for the foster mom to see her again too.ReplyCancel

  • Rae

    I'm once again left (almost) speechless reading your description of such an amazing day. Claire's foster mother obviously loved her dearly. It makes my heart happy to know that…for Claire and her foster sisters and for you and Paul as well.ReplyCancel

  • So glad you could make this connection for all of us. As always, your photos are amazing! xoReplyCancel

  • Okay, I'm totally bawling through this post… so poignant and emotional and absolutely beautiful.
    'Foster Mom' is so full of love… it is written all over her face and actions, truly.

    All the photos are absolutely breathtaking, but the one that strikes me most is the replica you took from some years ago, before you's even met Claire. An incredibly poignant moment in time.

    Again, these memories, they will last a lifetime.


    PS – Gotta love the clothes police! Hehe!ReplyCancel

  • I am also bawling while reading your post. Foster Mom must have felt so happy seeing little Caiwen again. You can absolutely tell she loves her "children" and is connected to them, even when they go to their Forever Families. I am glad Claire got to visit with her Foster Mom and that she wants to go back. I guess you will dress her in snow suit next time. That would make all the locals VERY happy 😉 From Auntie MarleneReplyCancel

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