3 Chinese cousins were adopted by different families in the US. They found each other decades later with 23andMe.

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3 Chinese cousins were adopted by different families in the US. They found each other decades later with 23andMe.
Netflix
  • Three cousins were adopted in China separately and moved to the US with their new families.
  • Thanks to 23andMe, the girls were able to reconnect and find out their blood relationship.

In the early 2000s, international adoption in the United States was on the rise, with tens of thousands of children arriving in the United States. Cameras rolled as young children were carried through airports and greeted by new family members holding balloons and welcome signs. The airport scene is an uncomplicated "feel good" story seen from every vantage point but the children's.

In the 17 years since international adoptions peaked in the United States, as numbers from the State Department indicated, our collective understanding of adoption has evolved as adoptees have shared their stories.

In a new Netflix documentary called "Found," which premiered on October 20, three cousins born in China and raised in the US shared the story of how they connected with their past and each other. It's a layered, personal story that filmmaker Amanda Lipitz set out to tell.

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How the film came to be

Chloe and Sadie, both 17 years old, and Lily, 21, were raised in different states and discovered through 23andMe, a genetic-testing service, that they're biological cousins. Lily hadn't considered tracking down her biological family until she received a message from Sadie that changed her perspective and her future.

"My mom would always ask me, 'Do you want to find your birth parents?' and I was like, 'No,'" said Chloe, who added that she hoped the film would give adoptees permission to allow themselves to seek answers.

Lipitz, the director, is Chloe's aunt. She said the inspiration for the film came when Chloe had her bat mitzvah in Jerusalem.

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"The image of Chloe at the Wall in Jerusalem surrounded by our big Jewish family, and everything that had to happen for that moment to happen, is really what inspired me to start filming," she said.

The film follows the women to China as they develop a bond with each other and a deeper understanding of the complexities of international adoption and womanhood.

"I feel like being adopted is just like going through the world with one hand tied behind your back, not knowing who you are," said Sadie, who was surprised when her DNA matches showed cousins so close in age who were also raised in the United States.

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"The chances of that happening, of finding family and them being so close in age to me, it's just so unexpected," she said.

We get to see adoption through the eyes of adoptees

Chloe said she hadn't quite processed how many people the documentary could reach via Netflix, but she hoped viewers would understand that the movie is about connection and love.

"I think from just watching the film a second time, I really saw how many people you can touch in your life, even if you're not with them right now. Just the existence of the idea of you is so big," she said. "For people who think that they're not important or they're not loved - you definitely are, by strangers, by your family."

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Like many stories about adoption, this is a film about connection and family. But it's also about loss and identity. The cousins were abandoned by their biological family, a trend seen in China during the one-child policy that the country had until 2015. Families preferred male children, so girls were left in orphanages.

"Going into this, no one could have anticipated the emotional vastness of what we were getting ourselves into, and I think everyone involved is still processing it," Lily said. "It's just like this entire world that has been opened up to us."

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