Fa Fa finds love with new parents

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 02 October, 1994, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 02 October, 1994, 12:00am

ABANDONED Chinese baby Emma En Hua was last seen by Sunday Morning Post readers staring pitifully from a haunting photograph taken inside China's Nanning Orphanage.

Now almost 20 months old, Fa Fa, as she used to be known, is a chubby cheeked and happy toddler, who bears almost no resemblance to the undernourished little girl last pictured sharing her cot with fellow orphans at their 'home' in Guangxi. Instead, she has found love and security with her adoptive parents in the United States.

But Madeleine and Fred Bretz only recognised Fa Fa's stark stare from the pages of the Sunday Morning Post expose days after settling her in their suburban Californian home, after a heart-wrenching odyssey to bring the baby from China.

'I had seen the article, but it was a bad black-and-white condensed copy of the photograph . . . given to me by someone else who adopted through Nanning.

'I kept looking at this baby thinking, 'God, look at the way she's looking. It's her',' Mrs Bretz said.

'When I got back I took the article out and looked at it and I thought: It is Fa Fa.' Her picture appeared last year as part of the feature - 'The Dying Room' - on the orphanage where frail babies were left unattended until they died.

'It is here that untrained staff shut the door and leave troublesome babies to die,' the Sunday Morning Post reported.

'Babies just a few weeks old with feeding difficulties, anaemia, or other minor ailments can find themselves lying in a wooden cot with several others waiting for starvation, disease or a lack of attention to stop their hearts beating.' Mr and Mrs Bretz were among thousands unable to forget the young faces caught by the camera's flash. The childless couple organised a journey to China and battled suspicion and seemingly endless red tape to raise their baby in the United States.

'She's a very bright-eyed little baby, and she survived 10 months in that orphanage,' Mrs Bretz said.

'I had two photographs of her when she came out. That's all I had: two photographs of a sick little girl with big eyes. All the other babies were so healthy - they'd not been in the orphanage for more than a day.

'She's very slightly anaemic and very small. She has tiny hands and feet, but the doctor says she will catch up. She's eating everything in sight.' Fa Fa was just a few days old when she was abandoned at the orphanage on January 4, 1993, just before the Sunday Morning Post visit. She was plucked from the Nanning orphanage the following October, and Mrs Bretz flew to Hong Kong and on to China to collect her new daughter in March.

She was saved with some other babies by a missionary based in China who moved them to a nearby Mother's Choice adoption home.

'It's a group home where the babies are . . . held. They thrive there,' Mrs Bretz said.

'The missionary from Mother's Choice told me he wasn't going to take her out of the orphanage because she was so sick. It was his 10-year-old daughter who picked her up and pleaded with him to take her out. She named her Angel Grace.

'The missionary went back a week later and his daughter pleaded with him to save Angel Grace. He said: 'I'm sure she's with Jesus.' 'She was in a room with six babies and three of them had died. He said: 'But she gave me that big beautiful smile and I did it. I took her out'.' Mother's Choice had rescued scores of babies, many of them unwanted girls, left at the understaffed and overloaded orphanage and arranged for them to be adopted overseas.

Pre-school teacher Mrs Bretz first heard of the scheme when a neighbour brought a former Nanning baby to her classes in San Geronimo.

'When the mother told me she had adopted her from China, tears welled up in my eyes. And when I found there were 50 to 60 babies abandoned a month, and many of them were dying, it seemed worth pursuing,' she said.

But China clamped down on overseas adoptions from Nanning in the wake of the Sunday Morning Post revelations about the Dying Room, effectively refusing them for a year. So the process was long and difficult.

Mrs Bretz finally flew to Nanning a year after the couple started filing requests. And she found herself stuck there for almost a month dealing with the complex paperwork involving her British citizenship and her husband's American nationality.

The Bretzs are assembling details about Emma's past, and hope to tell their daughter of her early life.

Several other San Geronimo couples adopted from Nanning, giving Emma a common thread with her future schoolmates.

'The orphanage babies take life very well; they're so tough,' Mrs Bretz said.

'She's the one we've been waiting for, for such a long time.'