Lily Nie, born in Yingkou in northeastern China and raised during the Cultural Revolution, knows first-hand the fragility of life in China. She earned a law degree at Fushun University and became a business law attorney in China. In 1987, she came to the United States to marry her fiancé, Joshua Zhong, who had been allowed to leave China to attend a bible college in South Carolina. She learned English from a couple who were raising four adopted children. They became examples to her of what caring people could do to save abandoned children. She and her husband moved to Colorado in 1988, where both continued their education. They became U.S. citizens in 1999.
In 1992, the law in China changed to allow foreigners to adopt Chinese children. This was the sign that Lily Nie needed to change the fate of China’s abandoned children, most of them girls. She and her husband founded Chinese Children Adoption International. In 1994, they rescued 20 babies from China’s grim orphanages and brought them into Colorado homes. That mission was so successful that in 1995 Nie made nine trips to China and saved 140 babies. To date, Chinese Children Adoption International, the largest China-only adoption agency in the world, has found American homes for more than 8,000 abandoned Chinese children, the vast majority of whom are girls.
Lily Nie created the Chinese Children Charity Fund to raise money to feed and care for the children in Chinese orphanages. The charity opened three model orphanages in China called Lily Orphan Care Centers and established a training program for orphanage care workers. When Chinese policy changed to make foster care possible, the charity pioneered a foster care program to train families and place hundreds of children out of orphanages and into loving foster homes in China.
In 1996, Nie opened the Joyous Chinese Cultural School in Littleton to teach adopted children their native language and culture. The school has become a national model for cultural education. She helped to create the Red Thread Counseling Center, the first in the U.S. to provide emotional support to adopted children and their families. Nie’s ChinaRoots program sponsors heritage tours to China for adoptive families and children. Lily Nie’s groundbreaking work in adoption in Colorado paved the way for a national movement that has brought more than 70,000 adopted Chinese children to new lives in the United States.