Two Voices, One Story

by Elaine Rizzo, Amy Masters

This is the true story of a girl called Amy and the English “mother” who adopted her from an institute in China when she was just a baby.

It’s a story about love, family and identity; and the unbreakable bond between mother and daughter.

Two Voices One Story coverWhen Amy came to be adopted in 1999, China’s then notorious one-child policy had given rise to a generation of missing girls. Amy was one of them, destined to life in an orphanage if she was lucky enough to survive. That is, until she was adopted by a loving British couple who were desperate to give her the home she deserved; Elaine and Lee.

In this moving autobiography, Amy and Elaine chart their own personal experiences of their shared adoption story. Theirs is not a political account, but one which is open about the challenges of adopting a child from a foreign country and the long journey that follows; from China to the UK and from infancy through to adolescence, as Amy and her new family learn and grow together.

Now a bright and ambitious young woman on the eve of her eighteenth birthday, Amy is braced for an exciting journey into adulthood, one which her proud mother is delighted to be able to share.

Two Voices, One Story is a frank but uplifting account of the complex adoption process and the profound relationship between a mother and her adopted child.

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About the authors: Elaine Rizzo (Elaine Masters) works in finance as a licensed insolvency practitioner for ClearDebt a company based in Manchester. Her daughter Amy Masters is now eighteen and at college. She enjoys art and design and her ambition is to become a photographer when she graduates. Both now live near Cardigan in West Wales.

Two Voices, One Story

Elaine Master’s Story

Amy’s Adoption

After I miscarried to only child I was ever to conceive, I went through a period which I can only describe as a very long, dark night of my soul; after sessions of hypno and psycho-therapy, I realized that I wanted to adopt a child.

My ex-husband, Lee, and I then went to a conference on infertility, where I picked up an out of date magazine that someone had meant to throw away. When I got home, I read a letter on Overseas Adoption from a woman who ran a voluntary support agency, which helped couples to adopt from a few countries all over the world.

I wrote away for some information and I wondered if I dared to do this. I rang the womanMasters at her home in the Welsh valleys, to find that she had adopted two children from Thailand over a decade before.

For the first time, someone really seemed to understand how I felt; it was as though, from miles away, she put a metaphorical arm around my shoulders in complete solidarity. She also made me believe that I really did have the courage to go ahead and to try to adopt a child from overseas.

The information we received was for adoption from various countries, but particularly from China, with its one child policy. There were literally thousands of baby girls, barely surviving in the most horrendous conditions imaginable.

I had already seen the documentary “The Dying Rooms” and I was heavily influenced by this, especially as I am a second daughter myself, whose own chances of survival in these same circumstances would have been virtually nil.

In those days, in the UK, we would have had to adopt an older child or children and as neither of us had ever been parents before, we believed that we needed to develop as parents as our child was developing, so, therefore, with a very young child or a baby. Also, no child in the UK dies as a direct result of not being adopted, which was clearly not the case in China.

So we took the decision that if we did nothing else with our lives, we were absolutely determined to adopt one of these girls, which lead to a twenty month process between the authorities in the UK and in China before we were united with our daughter.

The adoption process itself was actually fairly interesting, once I had learned to take a big step back from it and to view it as a unique experience in itself.

We initially had to be interviewed by the head of Social Services from our local authority to assess our basic suitability.

We were told that if we chose the option of adopting from overseas that once the process was over, we would be entirely on our own and that the local Social Services department would not provide us with any help or support, including during the time when our child first returned home to live with us.

Because we had elected to go for overseas adoption, we had to pay for an independent social worker to assess whether we were suitable to adopt. We were extremely lucky here, as Rob, the social worker we were allocated, was easy to talk to and very helpful over potential issues we might encounter if our application was to prove successful.

As well as assessing us, he also assisted us with some ideas of his own over how to deal with some of the challenges facing us.

Our application was approved by our local authority in due course and all our papers were forwarded by the Department of Health to the China Center of Adoption Affairs (CCAA).

There followed a period of about 6 months of complete inactivity when all our papers had gone off to the authorities in China and there was literally nothing we could do to hurry things on.

I was beginning to fear that our application had got lost somewhere along the way, when Lee rang me on 13 April 1999 at about 8.00 am. I had left the house early for a meeting and just as he was due to leave himself, a courier had arrived with papers containing a tiny photograph, with the medical details, written in Chinese of a small child, Tong Fang, currently living in a Welfare Centre in a faraway district in China.

We were on our way to find our baby girl at long, long last.

Two Voices, One Story

Extract from the Book


My mum and I have done some amazing things together – we’ve travelled all over the world together and completely rebuilt our house, which are the most obvious things. And we’ve had some fun.

But the most important thing is that we’ve always been there for each other.

We both know what’s like to have lost members of our family and those we’ve been close to, but this has drawn us closer together over the years.

I don’t think there’s very much chance of me ever finding my Chinese Mum (or Dad either). I’ve realised lately that I don’t even know if I want to look for them now, although Mum and my Step Dad and my Dad and my Step Mum have all told me they will help me, when I’m eighteen, if I want them to.

I just don’t want to build my hopes up again and again, to get let down if I just can’t find any trace of my Chinese parents.

In any case, if I ever even could find either of them, I know that they’ll never come to live in Britain and I’ll never ever go to live in China, so I’d end up just having to leave them all over again. Which I think really would break my heart this time round.

I don’t ever want to live in China again because I’ve lived in Britain and been a British citizen since I was a tiny baby and I’ve grown up here with the only family I’ve ever known.

My home is in Wales, so although I might leave and spend some of my life away from here, I know I’ll always be able to come back to the house that we three (me, my mum and Wayne) rebuilt together. This is where I’m really from now, in my heart.

I think that one of the best things for me is that as well as my parents, my extended family of my grandparents, aunts and uncles and especially my cousins, all made me feel like I belonged with them.

Of course I feel deeply about my Chinese Mother, who gave birth to me and who is out there somewhere on the other side of the world. But I don’t want to ruin my future life by allowing myself to get caught up in being unhappy over something I can never change.

I’d rather focus on the life I have ahead of me – friends, going to concerts, having fun at the beach, college, work, getting married one day and having my own children – rather than looking back at what happened years ago.

I think my English Mum and I are both strong people but then neither of us has ever really had any other choice.

As both mother and daughter together, when it comes to strength, we’ve just awesome. To be honest I don’t think there’s much we couldn’t do together if we just decided to.

The unbreakable bond, yes, that’ll always be there.

So it doesn’t really matter that now I’ve grown up, two voices, one story will start to become two voices, two stories.

I know we’ll still always be there for each other.”

This extract comes from the very, very end of the book, from Amy, on the eve of her eighteenth birthday. She is summing up where we’ve got to in our mother/daughter relationship, The “unbreakable bond” which is referred to is one which has been forged by nurture and by share experience, rather than from birth. She is also looking forward to a bright future as a young woman in modern Britain, rather than facing what might have happened to her if she had remained in China.


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