Woman Abandoned In A Store As A Baby Learns The Reason Her Family Gave Her Up 23 Years Later

She has finally found them.

An image of Zoë Halbeisen with her birth parents, Chen Xin Zhong and Wang Xu Mei, next to a photo with her father, Stephen Halbeisen. Facebook

A woman raised by American parents has finally learned the truth about why she was abandoned by her family 23 years after she last saw her birth parents.

Valli and Stephen Halbeisen, adopted Zoë Halbeisen from China when she was three, according to Lansing State Journal. When she was just nine days old, her parents left her at Tian Long Department Store in Changzhou, China. Employees found her wrapped in a blanket on the steps to the store.


She was put in the orphanage, Changzhou Social Children’s Welfare Institute, where the Halbeisen family eventually adopted her. She grew up in Charlotte, Michigan, where she attended Grand Ledge High School. Now, she’s a software engineer living in New York City.

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23 years after being abandoned, she traveled to China to meet her birth family.

For most of her life, she didnt know why her parents gave her up. But in 2019, her birth parents, father Chen Xin Zhong and mother Wang Xu Mei, reconnected with her online. She learned that they gave her up because they could not afford to keep her due to the one-child policy at the time. However, their desperation soon turned to regret, which prompted them to find her. 


China enacted its one-child policy from 1980 to 2015. During that time, if parents had more than one child, the government fined them, leaving many unable to afford the cost of an additional child.

Male children were traditionally more desirable because they carried on the family name and property, and cared for the parents when they got old. So, many parents gave up female babies for adoption. 

After video chats and messaging with them and her two sisters, Chen Lin and Chen Hong, she decided to make the trip to China to meet her family.


In late August 2019, Zoë, her father, Stephen, and boyfriend, Blaine, took a plane to Shanghai. After the 15-hour flight, they boarded a train to her birth city, Changzhou. When they finally arrived, she was greeted by not only her birth parents but numerous of her other relatives.

“I was not expecting that many people,” she said. “When I saw that big group I was just amazed. We were all kind of in shock that it was actually happening.”

In addition to meeting her immediate family for the first time, she visited her grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins. However, they didn’t just see family members.

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They visited the department store where she was left decades prior.

A hotel had replaced the Tian Long Department Store but remarkably, multiple former employees gathered there to welcome her on her arrival. They offered her a meal and showed photos of her as a baby.

“We thought we’d be meeting with a couple [of] people,” she said. “There were over 20 people there. They had an electric sign on the hotel that said, ‘Welcome home Zoe,’ and in English, no less.”

The gathering also made Stephen emotional. “I was overwhelmed,” he said.

They also visited a few more sights, including the property that sat the Changzhou Social Children’s Welfare Institute but a senior living community stood in the orphanage’s place. They then went to Anhui Province, where her birth parents are now living, which she described as “even more emotional.”


Many more of her relatives and birth family’s friends and neighbors greeted her. “It was just incredible,” she said. “There are so many people. It’s such a big family.”

The trip capped off with the entire family exploring Shanghai together.

“I just thought the country was beautiful,” she said. “There’s so much to do and see that you obviously can’t do it in one trip. I have a whole list of things I still want to do yet in China, but this trip was about family.”

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Zoë says she owes the reconnection to her parents.

Her birth parents spent 20 years searching for her after the Halbeisens adopted her. It wasn’t until the help of Lan and Brian Stuy’s nonprofit DNAConnect.Org, which works to connect adopted Chinese children with their birth parents, that they could finally know each other.

“I could have gone my whole life without having met any of them,” she said. “What a shame it would have been if I hadn’t found out, and we hadn’t all connected.”

Stephen also felt his family grew. He described Zoë’s sisters and a cousin as his own children. “I feel like I’ve got seven daughters now instead of four,” he said.

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Ethan Cotler is a writer living in Boston. He writes on entertainment and news.