Sister Act
by Lindy Washburn ’75
Photos by Danielle Richards

The Youtz triplets, from left: Alice, Nora, and Anna.

In Tenafly, New Jersey, about 17 miles from New York City, the home of David Youtz is bursting with happy chaos. Identical triplets—three pony-tailed, dark-eyed girls nearing their second birthdays—smile and clap their hands. Toddling from room to room, they point out their noses, lips, eyes, and teeth. When asked “Where’s Daddy?” and “Where’s Mommy?” they point happily to Youtz and his wife, Mary Child.

The story of the triplets began nearly two years ago, on a bridge in the southern Chinese city of Qinzhou. There, in May 2004, a passer-by came upon three tiny bundles wrapped in baby blankets. Pinned to the front of each was a bookmark-sized, red ribbon covered with neat, black calligraphy. Here, the ribbons read, are the eighth, ninth, and 10th daughters of the Wang* clan, “San Bao Tai”—literally, “three treasures of the womb”—the Chinese term for triplets.

“We unfortunately are unable to take care of them,” the notes went on, with rustic formality. “We leave this child here, in hopes that an honorable person will raise her to adulthood.”


Breakfast in the Youtz household is truly a family affair, as David, Sophie, and Mary feed triplets Nora, Alice, and Anna.

Since China has no legal procedure for the relinquishment of a child for adoption, infants instead are often left in a public place or near a public security bureau to be found easily. In this case, the babies were just three or four days old.

The sisters were transported by police to Nanning, the capital of the Guangxi Autonomous Region, where they were placed in an orphanage called Mother’s Love. Funded jointly by the Chinese government and a Hong Kong philanthropy, the orphanage has placed more than 1,000 children with adoptive families.

Staff members there named the three girls after the plum tree, whose blossoms appear in winter as a poetic symbol of survival.

Enchanting Plum was the first.
Gracious Plum was the second.
And Graceful Plum was the third.

David Youtz, after graduating from Oberlin in 1982, traveled to China as a Shansi Fellow to teach English in Taiyuan. He earned a master’s degree in China studies and international relations at The Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies and began a series of jobs related to East Asia, including five years with the Yale-China Association in Hong Kong and three years directing business programs at the Asia Society in New York.

Today, as head of the Asia Desk at the investment bank Morgan Stanley, Youtz speaks Mandarin on a regular basis. He and his wife, whom he met at Johns Hopkins, didn’t think twice about which country to choose when deciding to adopt internationally. “We adopted the country long before we adopted the children,” Child likes to say.

Her own encounter with China began on a study tour to Beijing in 1979, which led to language study in Tianjin a year later at the first Mandarin program to reopen for American students there after the 1949 revolution. More recently, she was an acquisitions editor for the China studies list at Cambridge University Press.

China took on even more personal meaning for the couple with the adoption of their first daughter, Sophie Ming, in 1995. Youtz subsequently became involved with the nonprofit Families with Children from China and is president of FCC of Greater New York. Involving 2,100 families, the organization raises funds for medical care, school fees, and child development at Chinese orphanages and provides cultural resources and adoption support to U.S. families.

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