Tim Baker with one of the newly arrived orphans at the "children's village" in Langfang, China.
Tim Baker, lower left, John Bentley, lower right, and some other members of the Langfang children's village team, with newly arrived orphans. View enlargement.
China's one-child policy often means that parents will abandon any child that is not physically perfect. American aid worker Tim Baker is helping build a "children's village" that takes in unwanted babies and gives them a chance at adoption. NPR's Rob Gifford has Baker's story, the latest in an occasional series on Americans living abroad.
Baker, a native of Green Bay, Wis., and his wife moved to China 15 years ago to teach English. The parents of three biological children, the couple became volunteers at a local orphanage. They have since adopted four Chinese children, all of them with special needs.
"We wanted to do more, so we organized a foundation," Baker says.
They named it the Philip Hayden Foundation, after a fellow American teacher and orphanage volunteer who died in China in 1994, at age 28. The following year, Baker and his wife gave up their teaching and began to work with orphans full time. Soon they will have room for 170 children in 10 separate houses — in what they call a Children's Village — in Langfang, just outside Beijing.
Most of the children arriving at Baker's doorstep were abandoned because of physical problems, including cleft palates and spina bifida.
Some of the 8,000 children adopted by U.S. couples every year in China have come from the Children's Village. The aim, Baker says, is to bring in children with special needs, fix them up, as he puts it, then look for people who want to adopt them or become foster parents, either in China or abroad.
Baker says he loves his homeland, but his friends all say that every day he's becoming more and more Chinese.
"I love America," he says. "I think it's the greatest country on Earth, but I really don't have a strong desire to move back there. I love China, and I love the job. I have the best job in the world."