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Last Updated: Wednesday, 25 January 2006, 00:34 GMT
Baby Be Mine: Bringing home Kai Ya
Jane and Bill Cowan travelled to China to adopt a baby girl called Kai Ya. Before they set out, they knew only that she was 18 months old and an orphan, abandoned by her mother when she was two days old. In a BBC documentary, Baby Be Mine, Bill Cowan describes their journey to adopt a baby girl they knew only through a handful of photographs.

The Cowan family
Bill and Jane Cowan say Kai Ya has made their life complete

We had spent three years preparing for this moment - organising it all and going through the process.

We thought we had thought of everything but the night before we were due to leave for China, I realised we had overlooked one vital question.

What do you pack for a baby?

I mean, when it came down to the logistics of actually filling a suitcase, you are thinking: "What do I need to pack?

Should we take this? Shall I pack that? What would Kai Ya like? What does she actually need?"

And I remember thinking how weird it all was and how on earth did we get here?

Choosing China

Jane and I chose to adopt from overseas for many reasons, but Jane's primary reason was because she had seen the TV documentary The Dying Rooms about Chinese orphanages.

Programme 1: Wednesday 25 January, 2006
Programme 2: Wednesday 1 February, 2006
2100 GMT, on BBC One
My reasons stem from seeing the Vietnam War and the impact war has on children's lives generally.

These primary reasons motivated us to give a child an opportunity of growing up in a stable and loving family environment.

China was our first choice of country because the system for adoption there has been improving over the last 10 years or so and is better established than in other countries.

And we weren't disappointed.

When we finally arrived in southern China, everything went more or less according to schedule, although no amount of preparation or planning can prepare you for that first meeting.

It took place at the Civil Affairs Department. I had read that your name is called out in alphabetical order and you go and collect your child. But with us, it didn't happen like that.

They just kind of burst in to the waiting room where we were sitting.


I don't think the adoption officials want to deal with all the emotional stuff. That is how it felt, anyway. They just want to hand over the child and have done with it.

The Great Wall of China
The Cowans want Kai Ya to stay in touch with her cultural roots
Kai Ya was clinging on to her nanny for dear life and the orphanage director was pointing at us and saying "mama" and "baba" (which is Chinese for father).

The poor mite must have been so confused and disorientated by it all. I'm sure she was wondering why wasn't she still with her foster mother?

Why had her daily routine been disrupted? And who were these funny-looking people anyway?

And to be honest, we were angry too because we felt this first meeting could have been organised in a better way.

But after that initial shock, Kai Ya slowly - tentatively at first - came to accept us. And in the days that followed, step by step we bonded as a family.

Lengthy process

Intercountry adoption is not something that should be undertaken without a great deal of thought and consideration.

To finally bring her back home was a fantastic feeling, especially as there were times when it felt we would never get her
You will certainly need a great deal of patience and resilience to get through the process.

It's particularly frustrating and lengthy because of a whole host of problems and inconsistencies due to the fact that the UK system is biased in favour of domestic rather than overseas adoption.

The process for intercountry adoption is the same as for domestic adoptions except more personal detail is required and there are costs involved both in the UK, and in our case, China.

It cost Jane and me approximately 10,000 to adopt our daughter Kai Ya.

However, the costs should be placed in context.

For example, many people who cannot conceive by natural means pay for IVF treatment - and that can cost more than overseas adoption if two or more treatments are undergone.

Changed lives

The important message here is not the cost but the desire to have a family.

Kai Ya and Jane Cowan
It is important she maintains connections to her culture and country of origin because one day she may decide that this is where she belongs
Now, as I write this, I wouldn't wish it any other way.

It is bath time and I can hear Kai Ya upstairs with Jane, squealing with glee as she splashes about with her latest toys.

She has changed our lives immeasurably for the better.

When we arrived back from China it was very strange having this little girl running around the house filling our lives with such joy.

To finally bring her back home was a fantastic feeling, because there were times when it felt like we would never succeed.

She has made our lives complete.

She is very funny, intelligent, inquisitive, and very active, but most of all she is a beautiful and loving little girl.

Despite the problems we faced throughout the three long years of form filling and bureaucracy, it has all been worth while.

I would recommend intercountry adoption to anyone who wishes to consider this as a way of starting or extending a family. There are millions of children in the world without a family and they need you.

Cultural roots

It's extremely important for us to ensure that Kai Ya maintains a connection to her past. She has a history, albeit one that she can only go back to a certain time.

She will never know who her biological parents were, but it's important for her psychological well-being when she begins the process of discovering who she is, that she knows there were people who loved and cared for her from the moment she was found, and from when Jane and I adopted her.

It's important she maintains connections to her culture and country of origin because one day she may decide that this is where she belongs.

Jane and I owe it to her to ensure she is equipped to deal with as much of her culture and country as is possible.

Our hopes for Kai Ya are that she grows up happy and develops into an intelligent and compassionate person who is considerate towards others and respects other cultures.

More importantly for us is that she becomes who and whatever she wants to be.

Jane, Bill and Kai Ya's story is told in Baby Be Mine, on Wednesday 25 January 2006 at 2100 GMT on BBC One.


Two-part BBC series investigating the issue of intercountry adoption


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