There are a number of traditions associated with Chinese adoption that we have learned by going through the process. Two of these traditions, the ladybug and the red thread, are things that we have incorporated into this site. We would like to share their meanings with you.


Ladybugs are believed to be good luck in the adoption community. Several years ago, while numerous people waited for their referrals, there was a huge infiltration of ladybugs across the nation. Immediately following the ladybug sightings, a flood of referrals came in for many of the waiting parents. Many people now believe that when a ladybug is seen, a referral is not far behind.

The red thread

An invisible red thread connects those who are destined to meet, regardless of time, place, or circumstance. The thread may stretch or tangle, but will never break. –Stefani Ellison

Many in the adoption community believe this to be an ancient Chinese legend, and that is partially correct. The actual Chinese tradition posits that people who become husband and wife do so because the gods tie an invisible red string around their ankles at birth, and that this red thread will eventually bring the two together.

The cherished adoption quotation above actually only dates back to 1996, and owes itself to Stefani Ellison. At the time, the organization that would become today’s CCAA was in the process of being formed. During the restructuring, many adoptive families found themselves in jeopardy of losing their referrals due to stricter implementation of the adoption rules. It was a precarious and anxious time for adoptive parents. One small online community of adoptive parents, the APC, decided that the only way to survive the uncertainty was to accept that things would all work out as they should in the end, whatever that end should be.

The group started talking about the Chinese belief of an invisible red thread connecting people at their ankles and that no matter what, they would find each other because of that connection. While the ancient tradition was generally in terms of marriage, APC members felt that this was symbolic of adoptive relationships as well and wove that same imagery into their own situation. Stefani Ellison, one of the anxious mothers, sat down and played with the idea, eventually crafting the famous quotation above.

The imagery of Stefani’s idea struck a cord, and has since taken on a life of its own, giving hope to adoptive parents all over the United States.

Bai Jia Bei

To welcome and celebrate a new life, it is a tradition in the northern part of China to make a Bai Jia Bei: a 100 Good-Wishes Quilt. The custom is to invite family and friends to contribute a square of fabric and a wish for the baby. Most of the square is sewn into the quilt, while a smaller piece goes into a creative memory notebook with the wish for the child. The quilt contains the luck, energy, and good wishes from all the families and friends who contributed a square of fabric. The quilt is then passed down from generation to generation.

If you’d like to learn about the Bai Jia Bei we’re creating for our little girl, click here.