Anna Mae Torn Between Two Families, Two Worlds

PHOTO After a seven year custody battle, Anna Mae starts a new life with her biological family in China.

Anna Mae He, an 11-year-old American citizen, is torn between two families, two cultures and two countries.

Raised by an American couple in Memphis, Tenn., almost since birth, the world Anna Mae knew was turned upside down in July 2007 when a Tennessee Supreme Court ruled she had to leave the only family she'd ever known and be returned to her Chinese birth parents.

After a wrenching, seven-year custody battle, the shock of moving in with her biological parents, Jack and Casey He, was just the beginning for Anna Mae.

Taken
Taken

Along with the new family came a new language -- and even a new country -- when the Hes, who had been granted temporary permission to stay in the U.S. until the custody hearings were completed, decided to leave the country, voluntarily, before facing deportation.

Anna Mae and her biological family moved to China in February 2008, leaving behind Jerry and Louise Baker, who raised her since she was 3 weeks old, and her "little sister" Aimee, born just 13 months after Anna Mae. The two girls -- raised as siblings -- were best friends.

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"I think about Anna every single day, every minute," Aimee said. "I go to sleep. I don't have her beside me. When I walk into school in the mornings, I don't have her standing beside me, walking in together."

Watch the full story on "Nightline" tonight at 11:35 p.m. ET

Eight-thousand miles away in China, Anna Mae is having her own adjustment issues, as ABC News producer Samantha Wender discovered when she visited Anna Mae at her new home in Chongqing, a province in southwest China.

Anna Mae attends a boarding school with her siblings Andy and Avita. But keeping up in a Chinese classroom when she doesn't speak the language has proved difficult for the once straight-A student. Anna Mae told ABC News, "Last time I tested, I didn't do so good."

She also said she misses her classmates in Tennessee.

"When I lived in Memphis, I had lots of friends. Everyone can speak English, and in America, I don't have to worry about other stuff," she said.

Anna Mae Navigates New World

As Anna Mae navigated the busy streets in Chongqing, she seemed a far cry from the self-assured third grader in Memphis, who loved Hannah Montana, retractable roller skate shoes and playing "Game Boy."

She said she considers herself both Chinese and American, but when asked how to say "hello" in Chinese, she demurred, saying, "I'm scared, I don't want to say. I can't say it."

When asked if it's fair that she had to move to China, she answered, "I would say it's fair and it's not fair."

Anna Mae's remarks underscore the enormous challenges facing the pre-teen, who's trying to come into her own and reclaim her identity.

Jack He, the father who fought so hard to get his daughter back, abandoned his family just two months after moving back to China, according to Casey He, amid accusations of abuse.

"He disappeared. I don't know where he is," Casey said. "He don't send us one penny. Right now, it's me and my three kids. I take care of them."

Anna Mae Keeps in Touch with American Family

Anna Mae's American family, the Bakers, regularly call and send tokens of their love, along with cards signed, "From: Mommy, Daddy and Aimee."

Asked what she says if someone wants to know who her mom is, she replied, "I just say the name...It depends what they ask me. In China, I usually say it's Casey."

She said it would be "too hard" to explain her relationship with her former American mother Louise Baker.

Back in Memphis, Jerry Baker said Anna Mae is with them every day.

"You can look around this room and practically every picture in the room is Anna's, including the majority of pictures. She's never out of sight, even though we physically can't see her, she's always in our hearts and in our pictures around us," he said.

After two years, a newly-installed webcam has brought Anna Mae and the Bakers face to face. From a world away, the Bakers learn about her new favorite subjects in school, her health and even celebrated her 11th birthday.

But after 20 minutes, Anna Mae seemed overwhelmed and confused, ending the video chat early.

She later told ABC News that she had more to say to the Bakers, but couldn't. "There's so much, but it is hard to say ... it's bittersweet."

After years of fighting in court, both families have tried to put the bitterness behind them for the love of Anna Mae.

"I believe that both families were trying to do what they thought was best," said Jerry Baker. "I think that Casey's motives were pure. And I know ours were."

"We want to focus on the future, the present. The past is in the past," Louise Baker said. "Just what's best for Anna is what we want to focus on."

"I think she has two families," added Aimee. "And she can love them both."

"I wish I could live in America and I could live with Aimee and everyday we'd, like, play," Anna Mae said. "I want everyone to be happy -- I don't want anybody to be sad."

But Anna Mae's wish may never come true. Casey said she'd like to send Anna Mae back to the U.S. for visits, but she can't; although out of the picture, she says, Jack He has Anna Mae's American passport and refuses to give it to her.

Casey also says all attempts for replacements have been denied by the American consulate. When contacted by ABC News, the State Department said it had no comment.

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