Editor-in-Chief Shares Experience for Adoption Month

November 18, 2016

Culture, Opinion

November is National Adoption Awareness Month, and The Catalyst’s Editor-in-Chief, Noelle Hoenig, shares her adoption story to bring awareness to the important cause.


Photo courtesy of Noelle Hoenig -- Noelle Hoenig and her father in China, meeting for the first time.

Photo courtesy of Hoenig Family —
Noelle Hoenig and her father in China, meeting for the first time.


I was born on April 10, 2001, with no birth name.

My origin of birth is Anhui province, in the city of Hefei, China (China has provinces like the U.S. has states). In China, it is illegal to abandon your children, so to avoid arrest, my birth parents left no connection of them to me, and thus, I don’t have a birth name.

At the orphanage, the last name I had was the same as the other children that came in during that year, and my first name was related to a physical attribute of myself, and that name was Zhang Zi Nian (last name and then first name). I am far from fluent in Mandarin but I do know that Zi means “graceful, beautiful.” I have never felt like Zi Nian was my true name. My parents have never called me by it because my name is Noelle, and nothing else.

The adoption process for my parents was complicated and took over 10 months. My mom described it as “tons of paperwork and a considerable amount of money” and then referred to a time she sent an envelope that was a foot thick full of paperwork to the Chinese government. Despite the difficult process, my mom told me it was worth the seemingly endless documentation; she got matched with me and when my dad brought me home from China at 18-months, she finally got to hold me in her arms.

When people find out I was adopted, they usually ask about my birth parents. I can’t ever bring myself to be mad at them for abandoning me. I don’t know what their situation was, nor do I know who they were, and I never will. However, I do know that my birth mother cared enough about me to keep me for a month after I was born because I was so small and weak, and she made sure to leave me at a police station to guarantee that I would be found. The decision to give me up couldn’t have been easy and it makes me happy to know she cared enough to make sure I was healthy and found. People also ask me if I ever plan to go back to China to find my birth parents; one day I will venture back to China, but not to find them. Rather, to learn more about the place I was born.

I am not telling my story to get special treatment or to get pity; being adopted isn’t something that makes me strange–it is simply an aspect of my persona. Rather, I tell my story to shed light on National Adoption Awareness Month in the United States, and to celebrate adoption as a positive way to build families, and to promote awareness of children in foster care to help them find their forever families.

November 19 is National Adoption Day. Click here for more information.


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