Sunday, December 17, 2006

Big Changes in China

The international adoption community has greeted the soon-to-be-announced changes in China’s international adoption program with derision and disdain. Many families are expressing anger and frustration that they will be unable to adopt, or adopt again, from China. While such anger is understandable, and I sympathize greatly with the many families who will be disenfranchised by the new regulations, I think it is helpful if we take the longer view.

The U.S. State Department has issued their fiscal year-end report on the number of immigrant visas that were issued in 2006 to adopting families. They reported that in 2006, 6,493 visas were issued, an 18% decline from 2005's number of 7,906. I believe this decline can be directly attributed to the Hunan stoppage, which still has not completely rectified itself. But is is also interesting to note the number of visas that were issued to other countries.

Russia fell from the number two exporter of children to the U.S. by declining 21% from 4,639 in 2005 to 3,706 in 2006. This continues a decline that began in 2004, and Russia is down almost 40% from its peak. Korea, Ukraine and several other "smaller" countries also saw declines. In fact, of the four main international adoption participants, only Guatemala saw a substantial increase.

Thus, it seems likely that China did see an increase in the number of families applying for adoption in 2006, as families migrated from the Russian and other programs to China. This increase, coupled with the significant decline in available children, resulted in a perfect storm, and increased wait-times have been the result.

China has responded to this by imposing restrictions that will decrease the number of eligible families by 25-30%. Although these restrictions are painful to those made ineligible, it is completely within China's prerogative to do so. From China's point-of-view, these changes will provide better opportunities to her children. One can only ask why these new restrictions were not announced earlier.

But many families wonder if the children that would have been adopted by the International Adoption community will now be prevented from being adopted. "Won't these children," families ask, "be left to live in the orphanages instead of finding loving homes?"

I don't believe so. As I reported earlier this year, the vast majority of orphanages (93%) reported having a waiting list of domestic families willing to adopt children. Many of these families have been deprived of children as a result of the financial and philosophical biases on the part of orphanage directors towards international adoption. With the new regulations and the corresponding decrease in international adoptions, more children will be made available for domestic adoption. This is a good thing.

China is rapidly changing. As economic prosperity spreads among her people, financial pressures and cultural traditions are declining, resulting in a marked decrease in the number of children being abandoned. As a people struggling to be viewed as a "first-world" country, China must balance its need for financial benefits from the International Adoption program against the decrease in stature that same program has on the world stage. Families must recognize China's right to make changes, and respect that the changes that are made are done with a careful eye to the long-term benefit of her children.

34 comments:

Research-China.Org said...

The following outlines the changes most likely to be implimented within the following month by the CCAA (posted on Global Adoption Triad Yahoogroup, December 13, 2006):

These new policies will put into effect for all dossiers
submitted (and logged in) on or after May 1, 2007. The following are CCAA's new policies:

1. MARRIAGE: Only married couples will be allowed to adopt; no
singles dossiers will be accepted. Agencies may continue to submit
single's dossiers for log-in prior to May 1, 2007, but agencies must
stay within the 8% of their total dossiers. No single's dossier may
be submitted after May 1, 2007. This includes the Waiting Child
program.

If this is the first marriage for both the husband and wife, they
must have been married for two years prior to submittal. If the
husband or wife has had a previous divorce or annulment, the couple
must have been married for five years prior to submittal. The total
number of divorces/annulments for the couple can total no more than
two. Therefore, if the husband or wife has had two divorces and other
partner none, the family is acceptable. If the husband and wife each have one divorce, the family is acceptable. Any more divorces are unacceptable.

2. AGE: Each and every parent must be between 30 and 50 years of age.
No parent can be under 30 or over 50. The CCAA will not accept any
parent outside of this range. If the family applies to adopt a
Waiting Child, the upper age limit can be 55 years of age depending
on the age of the child requested.

3. MEDICAL: CCAA will only approve parents who are healthy. They will
not accept any parent with any infectious disease, mental disease,
serious disease, or disability. If either parent is taking medication
for anxiety or depression, they are disqualified. If a parent has
experienced a serious health related problem in the past, he or she must have been free of this problem for 10 years prior to submittal.

4. WEIGHT: Both parents must have body mass indexes (BMI) under 40.

5. FINANCIAL: At least one parent must have a stable job that
provides the majority of the family's income. Families whose income is derived from retirement, disability, or insurance settlement, will no longer
be allowed to adopt. The family's income must exceed $10,000 per
family member (including the to-be-adopted child) and their net worth must exceed $80,000.

6. EDUCATION: Each parent must have at least a high school education.

7. FAMILY SIZE: No family can have more than 5 children in the home,
including the child to be adopted. The youngest child currently in
the home must be over 1 year old. Exceptions to the 5 children in the
home rule might be made for the Waiting Child program.

8. CRIMINAL: Neither parent can have any criminal record. We assume
that this means an arrest record and not a record of traffic tickets.

CCAA is also increasing its dossier submittal fees. As of January 1,
2007, all dossiers for regular children must be accompanied by
payment to CCAA (for registration) of $620 and payment to BLAS (for
translation) of $200, for a total dossier submittal fee of $820. For
families applying to adopt Waiting Children, the dossier submittal
fee will also be raised. The CCAA registration fee will now be $540
and the BLAS translation fee will continue to be waived. All families
whose dossiers are not ready for submittal by our final submittal of
the current year (December 22, 2006) will need to include a check to cover these increases.

Anonymous said...

Brian,
I agree with you totaly about respecting China's right to change their rules for the benefit of their children.
I am the mother to 2 from China - my children are 10 and nearly 7 years old. As they age, I learn that ICA is not an easy or simple issue... and I see them living with it and dealing with the (sometimes) pain it causes.
I truly believe (as the UN Convention on the rights of the child says) that local placement should be the first option for any child and ICA should not be at the expense of children being adopted locally. If there are waiting lists we as ICA Parents are taking babies away from these local A-parents who should be given precedence.
I grive for those ICA prospective parents who now won't be able to adopt from China. Perhaps it could be a (small, I know) comfort to them to know that this is as a result of children being able to be looked after in their own country. Isn't this what we really want, after all? Korea is also making changes - moreso than China - and ICA has pretty much come to a stand-still from there. So, China is not the only one. While I am sad for parents like me who want to adopt, I am very happy that the children can stay in their country and have local parents.
I feel that if we don't see adoption as a needs based 'stop gap' for the children and we feel we have a right to the children, we are doing nothing more than baby buying.

Emily's Parents said...

Come on Brian, how callus can you be? Think before you write.

Your use of the phrase "exporter of children" in paragraph 3 of your essay is offensive and I would ask that you remove it. Children who are adopted should NEVER be referred to in any way as a commodity. They are HUMAN BEINGS.

Sharie said...

Brian,
Thanks for your clarification of the policies. It saddens me that I will be disqualified to adopt from China again as I would love to adopt a brother or sister from China for my daughter...However at the same time I am happy to know that things in China are progressing and more children will be able to be raised in their beautiful country in their own culture.

Anonymous said...

Dear Brian,

There is something I do not understand in China's International adoption policy. If their aim is to decrease the number of eligible families by 25-30%, how can one explain that they have opened Italy to International Adoption and made an agreement with the French Adoption Agency AFA (which has provoked a rush of hundreds of candidates, as this Agency is much more flexible regarding the parents they accept than the other French agencies).

I would like to have your opinion on this. Thanks very much in advance.

Marie-anne (Belgium)

Research-China.Org said...

The additional countries entering the IA program with China has been factored into the equation, I am sure. Time will tell what the actual number of children adopted internationally will be.

Brian

Anonymous said...

My agency swears up, down, and sideways that only one parent has to be under age 50. They also insist that two divorces disqualify a couple.

I hope CCAA publishes something about these new rules so the agencies can apply them correctly to their families and not exclude or include anyone in error.

I'm posting anonymously because I don't want to identify my agency.

For the record, "exporter of children" is pretty offensive but I assumed you meant no harm since you have adopted children yourself. I don't usually get offended about innocent terminology faux pas but that one made me cringe and I struggled briefly to understand if you were quoting another source or using that term on purpose to make a point. I like you so I'm giving you the benefit of the doubt.

Research-China.Org said...

There is no offense intended with "exporter of children". It simply is a way to denote the International Adoption program for a country that sends children abroad.

Brian

Anonymous said...

Brian,

I know a number of single moms who have adopted from Chinaand they are wondeful people. It is a shame this opprotunity is over for these Moms.

Also with the slow down in Russia, Korea backing out, issues with Guatamala and the underlying issues you have discussed with China I do wonder if IA has peaked?

Research-China.Org said...

There are different ways of looking at the changes rather than a judgment on parenting abilities. For example, many of the changes can be seen as "risk management" for the children against repeat orphan status. In other words, it is possible to see the health, marital status, etc. as guarding against a child from losing their parents through accident and illness. Certainly having two parents decreases the chances substantially that the child will be left parentless in the future.

Is it not possible that the risk of having one of their orphans re-orphaned through death of the child's adoptive parents played a role in these restrictions?

Brian

Anonymous said...

I agree in general with you comments regarding a second family loss - I understand and do not question the reluctance of China to place children in single / gay homes paticulary when the need is not there.

It is China's right to make restrictions as they belive is in the best interest of their children. IA is hard on kids no matter what we want to believe or minimize in our heads - We as AP think differently on this subject than society as a whole and our kids live the reality of it, no matter how we try to minimize it. These girls won the the "lottery" but their new lives did not come with our some baggage - Some will handle it better than others but it is still there.

That being said the odds of a single female 35-40 years old, who meets the other requirments, dying or becoming incompacitated are very low before the child is out on their own. And if this was to happen, I would venture to say that that child would be well cared for albet a sad situation.

On the flip side, a 40 year couple with a BMI of 40+ with underlying health issues and assets less that 80K is a real and signifantly higher risk of long term health issuse and quality of life with or without a child.

Anonymous said...

re;single parents. While I am saddened by the decision by China to exclude singles from their program because it means my daughter will not have a sister from China, I can understand why they chose to do so.

IMHO ALL children would be better off with two parents that love them then rather than just one. This Assumes the parents are in a good relationship to each other...but hard for the Chinese government to gage that from paper.

When I adopted a few years back, there were many babies and not enough parents. Now, China has many prospective parents, and not enough babies. How wonderful. And if China can place the children within their own country, more power to them.

Sidenote: I read there are 12 million orphans in Africa at this time, and it appears things will get worse before they get better. I wonder, how many families will be willing to adopt from Africa as the Asian and Russian programs tighten their requirements and wait times increase?

Anonymous said...

I don't pretend to know why this is occuring now. Everything is conjecture, no one really knows the truth other than what Chairman Hu is putting forth-- what he thinks is best for the children of China (as well the country he runs).

We, AP's, have been blessed to have the China IA doors open. As Kay Anne Johnson wrote we should be grateful that IA was allowed to begin with.

Sidenote: Guatemala will be interesting... I hope the U.S. stands by the Hague treaty and shuts down IA from this country until they (Guatemala) approve the Hague.

Mimi

Anonymous said...

Children can also lose a parent through divorce. I am amazed at the number of couples in my former DTC group who are going through divorce. Yet another loss for their children.

Drea said...

I also understand that the regulators in the CCAA have every right to make these kinds of judgements, although a lot of the criteria seems to be somewhat superficial. I am just wondering if we can really count on the CCAA still letting us past the review room if we have one of these issues, but are already looged in. I'm wondering if you can answer whether in the past they have stuck to their word in terms of grandfathering and not having the new rules affect dossiers that have already been logged in?

M W said...

Brian,
With a decrease in the number of eligible families by 25-30%, what impact on Wait Time to Referral do you predict?
Martha

Research-China.Org said...

MW:

I don't expect to see any immediate decline until 2008, since there will almost certainly be a bubble in early 2007 as families rush to get their paperwork in before the May 1st deadline. Thus, demand will remain strong into 2008.

After that, I would think that wait-times will decrease to the 12 month timeframe, but a lot can happen between now and then.

Brian

Anonymous said...

This is from WACAPs web page - We did not go though WACAP but find they are very realistic in theor comments.

" More recently, the CCAA reported that it has approximately 24,000 dossiers from families waiting to be matched with Chinese children. Based on this large number of applications and fewer children being abandoned, the CCAA has now informed WACAP and other agencies of likely changes in eligibility. These changes have not been documented formally by the CCAA, but WACAP and other adoption agencies anticipate receiving a formal letter detailing the changes in the near future."

24000 dossiers in the works!!!!- at 8000, a year for US adoption, the wait time can only get worse. Even if you cull through 30% that is still a 2 year back log.

Sadly, IA has become a business and the Supply / Demand model is apparent. With these numbers I would imagine that at some point the CCAA and Agencie are going to have to come "clean" with the real wait times.

Anonymous said...

Hasn't IA always been a supply/demand business just like domestic adoption is now. Don't most transracial internationl adoptions occur because domestic adoption is such a difficult process.

If an Adoptive parent is extremely flexible about what child they will adopt, they will probably find the process quicker and cheaper than if they want a white caucasian new born.

There are two possible explanations for this. Either whites are less fertile than other races or they often have more resources. Its probably a bit of both. Families in richer societies tend to be smaller and much less likely to give up a family member. Infertile women/couples in richer societies have more resources to persue adoption. There is an economic aspect to almost all human behaviour.

There are other influencing factors of course. It used to be socially unacceptable in the west for an unmarried mother to keep her child. Now, people are more likely to be shocked if a mother gives away her child if she has the resources to raise the child. I have heard of a case where the mother gave a way her child and when her parents found out 30 days later, they had her go and retrieve the child from the adoptive parents.

Of course many pregant women in the west who do not wish to be mothers terminate the pregnancy.

Teresa said...

I think it has more to do with abortion rates in this country coupled with the fact that more and more teenagers are in fact trying to raise a baby as a single mother. In non-white communities, abortion and adoption are not as prevalant.

Anonymous said...

In order for China to put a positive spin on their orphan dilemma, they have cleverly orchestrated the situation so well that the western world believes there more foreign families willing to adopt than there are children available. I have a very hard time believing this. I recently read that there are about 750 orphanages throughout China, nearly busting with abandoned children, and only a very small number of them participate in IA. I think there is a shortage of 'paper-ready' children available for adoption which is a far cry from the total number of orphans within China.

China and the CCAA are not concerned with the welfare of children as much as they are with how they are viewed on the world's stage. Very sad for all involved, especially the children needing families.

Research-China.Org said...

I have heard comments like this ad nauseum, as if there is some problem with getting children "paper ready". I don't need to go into all of the evidence that contradicts this assertion, but anyone wishing to become informed need only ready previous essays on this blog. I'm sure the Hunan orphanages were "full" of children, and that is why they resorted to buying trafficked children.

The world has viewed China for so long through this "orphanages full of children" prism that many find it hard to see anything but. But having visited many, many orphanages, I believe that the truth is just as the CCAA states: that in recent years the number of healthy children has decreased to the point where they no longer are able to satisfy all of the demand.

Brian

Anonymous said...

You said, "In recent years the number of healthy children has decreased to the point where they no longer are able to satisfy all of the demand." This is very true, but the orphanages are full...full of "unwanted" kids, "unhealthy" kids. These are the kids we need to be adopting. Things need to change alot in China before locals start adopting these kids. If we really want to make a difference in the lives of these kids, then we need to let the locals adopt the healthy children and adopt the "unhealthy" kids. Thankfully many people are, but there are still so many kids who could have a home if people would be more willing to take a risk with a waiting child. There are more than enough "unhealthy" kids to go around.

Research-China.Org said...

I agree totally!

Brian

Anonymous said...

I tried to navigate the SN process and found it ... murky at best. From what I understood from my agency, my husband and I would fill out a check list of what disabilities we were comfortable with. China would mail packets of available children to the agency, and if we "matched" with any of them, we would be notified. We were not told the number of SN children made available to our agency or how frequently the agency receives packets.

Talk about waiting for lightning to strike!

I would like to see a more clear process for adopting SN children from China, even for those already financially committed to a particular agency.

We went domestic. It isn't that hard after all, though it was, in our case, insanely expensive. There are plenty of caucasian, biracial and African American babies, but like the SN program in China, the process is very difficult to navigate.

Patti

Anonymous said...

I believe there has already been a big leap in the bumber of families applying to the Waiting Child Program, hasn't there? Especially as the wait times for the nsn program have increased.

I also think that the CCAA is trying to change their procedures for adopting a WC- I believe there will be a new "on-line" database available early in 2007 which has the potential to streamline things.

I think the WCP is the future of Chinese adoption- and that's a good thing.

Anonymous said...

I don't think there are plenty of caucasian babies to adopt. An agency near our home accepts applications for international and domestic adoption though out the year but only accepts applications for caucasian adoption about once a year because they don't want to accept more applications than they will be able to match.

Anonymous said...

I am confused on the upper age limit for nsn adoption. Under 2, it says that every parent must be BETWEEN 30 and 50. However, it goes on to say that no parent can be OVER 50. Since DH turns 50 this year, it makes a difference. Does anyone know definitively?

Charles said...

Brian: I very much appreciate your blog. It is not just full of feelgood talk, even though it is obvious that you and everyone involved in these chats is full of good feeling toward the children waiting to be adopted from China. Thank you for your blog, and what feels like more honest information than what I receive from my adoption agency.

Now, a couple of questions:

1) Given that China has 1.3 billion people (some experts say it is closer to 1.6 billion) it seems hard to believe there is a shortage of children for adoption. Can you react to some armchair math.

Say two-thirds of 1.3 billion people are too young or too old or otherwise not a family with children. That leaves around 400 million people. Say the average family size is 4 people (probably too high, but conservative for this calculation), this leaves us with 100 million people eligible for adoption. Then say that 98% of those left are adults or otherwise not available for adoption, so that leaves us with 2 million potential adoptees. Say half of them would only be available through a Waiting Child program (again, probably an over-estimation but I want to be conservative for this purpose.)

That now leaves us with 1 million potential adoptees. Now say two-thirds of those still available for adoption are adopted domestically in china, now we have 300,000 available for international adoption, and not part of the Waiting Child program. Say two-thirds of those are put up in foster care in China, leaving us with 100,000. If there are only around 8,000 children made available each year for adoption to US families, and assuming that the same alottment is made for 10 other countries, that means there are still 20,000 Chinese children who cannot find a parent; and given that only some 6-7,000 Chinese children were made available in the last year it seems there might be in excess of 20,000 children not adopted each year. How is there a shortage? I just don't see how the math supports this contention. Did I make a mistake in my math?

2) We provide financial support for a foster child in China who is the same age as the child we would like to adopt. If there is really a shortage of children, why are any being put into foster care, besides those who are being put there becasue they have special needs? We get a report with many details about the child we support in foster care, and there is nothing in there about any kind of health problem, so, again, it seems to me there are still many children in China who are not part of the Waiting Child program, who could be eligible for adoption but aren't being made available. Is there really a shortage?

3)Many orphanages in China are not open for international adoption. Again, if there is a shortage of children, why is this so? Is there really a shortage?

4) I have been inside oprphanages in China, and not the showcase orphanages in the big cities. I saw many children, especially those two years of age and older who were not being made available for adoption. Is there really a shortage of children?

I would very much appreciate your feedback. Thanks. Charles

Research-China.Org said...

Charles:

The problem with your assessment begins in statement 1:

"Say the average family size is 4 people (probably too high, but conservative for this calculation), this leaves us with 100 million people eligible for adoption."

I struggle to understand where this leap of math originates. To assume any number of potential orphans based on the total population of China is falacious.

China has stated that there are 500,000 orphans in-country, of which the vast majority are being cared for by relatives or unrelated families (call these the informally adopted foundlings). There are about 60,000 orphans in China's state-run orphanages.

The foster care program is used because many directors feel that foster care is better for the children than institutionalization. It has no bearing on the number of children available or otherwise. Healthy older children are in the orphanage system, but few of those were found as healthy infants. Rather, they were mostly older foundlings or children who have had special needs corrected.

Brian

Carolyn said...

Brian,
Do you know what percentage of orphanages in China participate in IA? Of those that do not participate, do you know or can you guess as to the reason?

Given the sheer size of the country, I can imagine that the CCAA's job of coordinating adoption is daunting at best. But I've also read somewhere that the CCAA limits the number of children's files that can be sent from some orphanages to the CCAA for matching with a family. Is this true, or just a rumour?

On one hand, it makes some logistic sense- there has to be a ceiling on the number of files the CCAA can process, given their resources and personnel.

Overall, I have to say that I'm quite impressed with the work of the CCAA. I don't think any other country runs as efficient an IA program.

Carolyn
http://china-calling.blogspot.com

Research-China.Org said...

There are about 300 orphanages that participate in the IA program, about 25% of the total. The vast majority of those that don't are very small facilities, with few children. In fact, if anyone knows of a large orphanage that does not participate in the IA program, I would be interested in knowing of it.

There is no limit to the number of files that an orphanage can submit. Quotas were given prior to 2001, but no longer (that may have been where the "rumor" started).

Although officially over the adoption programs all over China, the CCAA is primarily focused on the IA program. Responsibility for the domestic adoptions that take place in China falls primarily on the local Civil Affairs Bureaus.

Brian

Anonymous said...

Re: Domestic adoption of white infants. Not to get too far off topic, but there ARE a lot of pregnant white women interested in adoption. I was stunned to find this out when I started the process. There are, however, also tons of agencies and attorneys looking to match these women with adoptive parents. So no one agency has a lot of birthmothers.

The key to matching quickly is to register with multiple agencies and attorneys. In other words, work the system, don't let the system work you. This "method" worked for me and several of my friends.

I don't want to minimize how hard domestic adoption is. So emotionally draining and expensive. But it's an option. It worked for us. We are still hoping to adopt our daughter's sibling from China. LID 3/06. But if it doesn't work out due to program changes, we'll hop on the domestic roller coaster again.

Patti

Research-China.Org said...

Depriving a family the ability to adopt a child that IS legally consigned to them as policy does create an ethical problem, or should.

Hunan began referring children again in September, but it is difficult to determine the average ages, etc. to determine if some were held or not. It is interesting to note that when we called some of the orphanages in January and February (finding ads began appearing again in April 2006), an unusual number of directors from neighboring Provinces indicated my friend should call Hunan orphanages "because they have available children there". I believe that if we had the real figures from that time, we would see an increase in domestic adoptions during that period.

Brian