Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Why the Wait?

Having watched the time from DTC (Dossier-to-China) to referral ebb and flow over the eight years since my first adoption, I have not paid too much attention to waiting families' questions regarding when they will get "the call." But lately, I have been getting quite a few e-mails from families asking my opinion as to why the wait times are increasing. What follows is my opinion as to why wait times have been increasing since last fall.

First, it is important to keep the recent fluctuations in wait times in perspective. Thanks to the tireless efforts of Ralph Stirling, we can all see how long families have had to wait in the past.1 What is interesting to note is that the last time families had to wait this long for their referrals was late 2002, when referral wait times were coming down from a peak wait time of over 14 months reached earlier that year. The referral "moving average" hasn't reached that peak yet, so I guess the good news is that things have been worse.

But there are some very important forces at work this time that spell longer wait times, at least in the near term. A lot was made about the controversy over whether Hunan was closed to adoptions following the baby-trafficking story in November 2005. It is interesting to note that the finding ads in Hunan, the first step made by the Civil Affairs offices in each city to place a child in the international adoption pool, stopped completely in December 2005. The CCAA announced the completion of its investigation into the Hunan episode in March 2006, and finding ads again appeared in mid-April.

Hunan, along with Jiangxi and Guangdong Provinces, contributes a majority of the children adopted internationally. It seems likely that although a small number of Hunan referrals have been received in the past few months (all of which had finding ads published prior to December 2005, and thus "in-process" when the story broke) that we will not see significant numbers of Hunan referrals over the Summer. Given the number of children usually assigned from Hunan, this can be a significant factor in the lengthening wait times.

The CCAA has answered questions concerning the increasing wait times with an explanation of the declining number of children being abandoned in China. This is also certainly true, and also will have an effect on the wait times. In fact, as my next blog essay on the availability of adoptable children in China will show, over the long term the decline in abandonments will have a much more significant impact on China's international adoption program than the increasing wait times we have most recently been experiencing.
1. All graphs created by Ralph Stirling, and are used with his permission.


Anonymous said...

This is incredibly disturbing. I do not want to be a party to anything that encourages child kidnapping or trafficking in any way. When the story broke on the Hunan babies, I was reassured because my daughter was in an orphanage so far away from that area. When the CCAA released their findings that none of the children who had been allegedy kidnapped were adopted internationally, I felt even more comfort with our decision to adopt. I also took comfort in the finding ad as a way to assure that children have been left by their families. Now, I am second guessing all of that. It would be wrenching enough to abandon a child, but 100 times worse to have one taken. I feel sick.

Research-China.Org said...

Although there is little convincing evidence that any of the children involved in the Hunan scandal were kidnapped, there is irrefutable evidence that these "trafficked" children were adopted to international families. The China program is not as black & white as it was a few years ago.

Anonymous said...

I thought the trafficked children were likely adopted within China. What makes you think they were adopted internationally?

Research-China.Org said...

The children were trafficked to orphanages that participate in the international adoption program. I have a family that adopted a girl that has the finder listed as the woman arrested for trafficking, and who was supposed to have been found at a bus station. There is no doubt this girl was trafficked.

Anonymous said...

Can you give us your interpretation of trafficked? Are we talking about children being bought by the SWI (or other) from someone who stole them; about money changing hands between accredited and non-accredited SWIs as babies are moved;about children being passed by their parents to a "facilitator" who will, for money, make sure the child finds its way into a SWI..? All of the above? Thanks.

Jenna H. said...

Could you clarify whether the CCAA has actually said there are less children being abandoned, or that there are just are not enough 'paper ready' children to keep up with the demand? The notice I read on the CCAA's website indicates the latter....which is not the same as less children being abandoned, correct? Couldn't the same number of children be abandoned but the number of paper ready children available is still just not enough to meet the current increase in demand? I think with the decreased wait times in the last couple of years, more families were attracted to China as a country to adopt from, thus the increase in demand. But now, with the lengthened wait times, some families will choose other countries, thus decreasing demand and decreasing the wait times again...which in turn will bring more families to the program, and on and on it will go.

What do you think?

Research-China.Org said...

Trafficking is a term of transport, not of origin. It means that a child passed from one person to another for money. Someone paid another person money to obtain the child. It does not imply anything about the origin of the child. A trafficked child could be kidnapped, or willingly relinquished by her birth parents.

In Hunan, it seems that the children were willingly relinquished by birth parents to an individual who then trafficked those children to the orphanage. They were paid to do so.

What is not widely known in the U.S. is that this was a systematic program. The Hengyang County orphanage director (Jiang Jian Hua) required all of the orphanage workers to seek unwanted children to be brought to the orphanage. If they turned in 3 or more children in a given year, they received a bonus. Additionally, they began to spread the word that the orphanage was willing to pay birth families to bring their babies to the orphanage. At the start the payment was only 200 yuan, but word got to the other orphanages in the area and competition set in, and it soon rose to 2,000 yuan ("Phonenix Weekly", Hong Kong, March 2005). It was in this environment that the use of the traffickers took place.

I have stated many times that I don't think these children were kidnapped from birth families, but trafficked children WERE adopted to American families through this program. The orphanages involved were Qidong County, Hengyang County, Hengshan County, Hengnan County, Hengdong County, and Hengyang City.

I have seen several statements posted by CCAA representatives indicating that the slowdown is the result of fewer paper-ready children. However, I am wrapping up a study in which a large persentage of orphanage directors indicate that the number of children abandoned has fallen dramatically over the last few years.

Anonymous said...


Why should this trafic be limited to Hengyang ( divided into 5 counties ( Hengyang, Hengnan,
Hengshan, Hengdong, Qidong), two cities ( Changning, Laiyang))?

At the bigining it was written in the newspapers that these workers were also charged with selling the children to other orphanages in Hunan, Changsha, Guangdong, and Guangxi provinces...


Anonymous said...

I don't know if you're familiar with a recent published article that found evidence that abandonment has not diminished, but rather informal adoptions have increased dramatically in rural areas. (Despite the government's regulations against doing this.)


Research-China.Org said...

Well, I'm not sure what article you are referring to, but that conclusion is contrary to all of the evidence. I will be going nto this in much more detail later, but most orphanage directors (and I interviewed over 250 of them in the last two months), the finding ads, and all other indicators convincingly show that abandonments are declining, in some areas dramatically. Informal adoptions are also on the increase.

Anonymous said...

Brian - you've interviewed 250 orphan director? How many orphanages would you say are all over China? What are your estimates for the orphan population now? Also - how many finding ads have been published since October 2005? Can you give us some clear numbers. I appreciate your heart for this business.

Anonymous said...

Think about it for a minute... if informal adoptions are rising these children never make it into the system-- any system. Consequently, they would never be placed in a finding ad or make their way to an SWI. So, it might lead someone from your perspective (the adoption end) to conclude that abandonments are decreasing, when the reality is they are being absorbed through rural families. The sample size for the research was 425 rural families.

p.s. I'll look for the article, as I read it some time ago.

Research-China.Org said...

Mimi is correct in saying that we have no way of knowing what the trend of total abandonments is in China, because the vast majority go unreported and unregistered. But the total is not of interest to the international adoption community, per se. Of primary interest for us is the abandonment numbers that come into the orphanages, and that number is declining.

The article being referred to was published in March 2006 in the "Journal of Family Issues." I will be quoting from that article in my next blog. It showed that a very high percentage of families surveyed indicated that they had obtained their children through "informal" means.

Anonymous said...

But the total is not of interest to the international adoption community, per se. Of primary interest for us is the abandonment numbers that come into the orphanages and that number is declining.

----> Well, as a member of the "international adoption community" it does interest me ( I don't know who you are referring to when you say "us") a great deal. It could be an important piece of the puzzle, so I wouldn't be so quick to rule out the possibility that abandonment is not declining. Hence, the representative data of informal adoptions could reflect a trend why there are fewer children available for adoption including, but not exclusive, to international adoption.


amorisa said...

Hi Brian,

I am a parent in the waiting process now for China. I certainly hope the numbers of abandoned children are declining. But I am curious about the same questions that Katri asked, for some clear numbers on current orphan populations. Do you know?
Thank you for the information and dialog you provide.


Anonymous said...

As the wait time increase over the last two years, it is important to recognize that their were roughly 1000 more children issued US immigration visas in 2005 than in 2004.

Perhaps someday, the international adoption of Chinese girls will be a chapter in history. Probably not, but to assume that it will continue to grow at it’s current level is not realistic – just look at Korea.

In a perfect world, my daughter would still be in China with her birth parents and family regardless of their economic situation - I selfishly am happy that is not the case.

I hope that as may families that want to adopt a child in need of a home and love are able to do so – I also hope that no little girl ever has to cry herself to sleep not understanding why her birth mother left her in basket in front of a dark door - the day she was born.

Anonymous said...

Your research methods--conducting interviews with individuals without informed consent--would be unacceptable in academic circles. In fact, the method of questioning would be considered unethical. Do the same standards not apply in journalistic writing? I'd be curious to know.