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Former Programme Director Cheung Yuk-ching tells of her decades-long journey with ISS-HK

This summer, Cheung Yuk-ching, our former Programme Director of Adoption Service as well as Cross-boundary and Intercountry Casework, is going to start a new chapter of her life in Canada with her family after working for ISS-HK for 21 years. In an interview just before she said goodbye to the first-and-only job in her life, she shared how she grew with the organisation throughout her career. Looking back, she still remembers every single face of the people she helped and walked with through their hard times and significant life events.

PART ONE - Adoption Service

“The first encounter between the parents and child was always emotional. Sometimes the child was sick or reacted in a way the parents didn’t expect.”

ISS-HK has started adoption programme since its establishment in 1958. When Ching joined the team at 1994, much of the service was to collaborate with the mainland orphanages and Lifelink, a working partner in the United States, matching prospective adoptive parents from America and orphans in the mainland.

The service was in great demand on both sides, the parent and children. Ching and her colleagues made at least one adoption trip every month, bringing 4 to 5 pairs of American couples from Hong Kong to mainland, and guiding them through every step of adoption.

In those days, a trip to China was not often at all among American families. If the orphanage was located in a remote area, the journey could be even more exhausting. In additional to challenges such as cultural shock and language barrier, problems might also arise at the first encounter between the parent and child. The adoption caseworkers were there not only to complete procedures but also to provide emotional support and companionship.

“The first encounter between the parents and child was always emotional. Sometimes the child was sick or reacted in a way the parent didn’t expect,” she recalled the unsettling days and nights after parents picked up the children, “On the way back to Hong Kong, a 3-year-old child insisted to follow me and my colleague as she’s old enough to recognize our similar appearances and skin colour. Another baby never stopped crying. The parents were sleepless and tired. My colleague and I took the initiative to take care of the baby for one night.” Her memory was as fresh as it was yesterday. “By that time I wasn’t a mother yet. It was my first time to reconstitute powdered milk and change diapers.”

In late September 1995, Ching experienced the most unforgettable trip for adoption. A typhoon hit the region when the team with 6 families with children adopted were about to return to Hong Kong. Weather and transport were so bad that Ching had to stay with them in a hotel in Shenzhen for nearly another week, making it the longest adoption trip she ever had. 

One of the parents who was in the same trip worked in the media. She shared her adoption experience in local newspapers after she went home. In the two-and-a-half-page article, she made a remark on the caseworkers, “Meeting our ISS caseworkers, Echo Poon and Cheung Yuk Ching, bolstered our confidence that our trip into China would go smoothly.” Echo Poon is another experienced case worker who still works for ISS-HK today.

Long lasting friendship with adoptive families

In many cases, Ching made friends with adoptive families as many of them still keep in touch with her for years. Some may even come again for second adoption. She always remembers an adopted teenage girl with walking difficulty caused by polio. It was quite unusual as most of the orphans were adopted at a very young age.

The story began when the adoptive parents adopted a younger child in the orphanage where the teenage girl stayed. When they met this teenage girl, walking with a limp, they were somehow bonded with her. They always thought of her after the trip so they came again, hoping to bring her home too.

By then the girl was 13 years old. Ching was as enthusiastic as the parent because teenage orphans over 14 years old were not allowed for adoption in mainland China. Fortunately the application was made in time and the girl finally had a new family.

In the years that followed, she went through a couple of orthopaedic surgeries to improve her walking ability and appearance. Ching kept in touch with the family until she went into college.

Compared with those who are adopted when they were children, the girl faced a lot more challenges to get on with her new life. She wrote to Ching in Chinese for some time, sharing ups and downs as a new comer to America, before she picked up the language and wrote in English.

As a caseworker, Ching always went the extra mile for the benefit of the client as she saw each of them as a real person instead of a case file number. Walking with those in need has given her the sense of satisfaction that keeps her going.

Being asked for a comment on her own performance, she didn’t give herself a grade. Instead, she left a humble remark, “I’m thankful for the opportunities given by many supervisors, giving me a free hand to do what I felt necessary.”

About our adoption service

ISS-HK started intercountry adoption programme since it was established in 1958. As one of the three accredited bodies recognized by the Social Welfare Department of the Hong Kong Government for providing intercountry and local adoption services, ISS Hong Kong is also the sole accredited agency in Hong Kong for helping local families adopt from other places, including India, Thailand, Russia and Mainland China.

In addition to providing a root-tracing service for adoptees, ISS Hong Kong also works closely with the Social Welfare Department to help children in need of adoption trace their parents/guardians living outside Hong Kong and obtain their consent for the adoption arrangement of their children.

Published by ISS-HK, Laughter and Tears – Adoption Stories in HK shares the joys and challenges that adoptive families have experienced along the journey with ISS-HK. Click here for more details. 

Many of the adoptive families have still kept in touch with Ching for years.
Many of the adoptive families have still kept in touch with Ching for years.
One of the adoptive parents shared her experience in American local newspapers in 1996.