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.