Sunday, May 27, 2007

Trends of Abandonments in China

A lot has been made of the recent surge in wait times for families adopting from China. The causes for this increase have been sufficiently addressed on this blog. Recent rumors of changes in the number of orphanages that will participate in the international adoption program require us to take a look at the history of the orphanages from the six main areas that have traditionally provided the majority of children in the International Adoption (IA) program. Those Provinces, in order of declining contribution and with their 2005 IA figures in brackets, are Jiangxi Province (2,900), Guangdong Province (2,600), Hunan Province (2,400), Guangxi Province (1,400), Chongqing Municipality (1,200) and Hubei Province (700). These six areas contributed 11,200 of the approximately 14,000 files submitted for international adoptions in 2005, or 80% of the total.

Jiangxi Province
Jiangxi Province provides more children for international adoption than any other Province in China. Largely rural, Jiangxi's orphanages submit twice as many children for international adoption per capita as the other major adopting Provinces (67.6 children submitted for IA in 2005 per million inhabitants verses around 30 children per million for Guangdong, Hunan, Guangxi and Chongqing Municipality, and 13 per million for Hubei Province).

Submission records are not available for Jiangxi in 2000, so 2003 and 2006 were used. In 2003, the top five adopting orphanages in Jiangxi were Fuzhou, Fengcheng, Xiushui, Hengfeng and Jianxin, each of whom submitted more than 100 children for international adoption, and who collectively submitted nearly 950 children, or a third of the entire Province.

Participating orphanages submitted approximately 2,700 files to the CCAA in 2003, a number that dropped to around 2,450 in 2006. To compensate for the 10% decline in submissions, the CCAA added new orphanages to the IA program, and these five new facilities submitted a little over 300 files in 2006, causing Jiangxi Province’s total submission rate to remain flat over the four years.

In 2003, 37 orphanages were involved in international adoption in Jiangxi. By 2006, nineteen of those orphanages had seen their numbers decrease, four remained constant, and fourteen saw an increase in submission rates. The largest decrease was seen by the Xinyu orphanage, which saw its numbers fall from 96 submissions in 2003 to just 9 in 2006. The largest increase in the Province was in Shanggao, which saw its submissions rise from just eight in 2003 to 63 in 2006, a 687% increase.1The average number of submissions in 2003 was 74 per orphanage, a number that dropped to 66 submissions per orphanage in 2006 as smaller orphanages were brought into the IA program.

Guangdong Province
Second only to Jiangxi Province in IA submissions, Guangdong Province contains large areas of both urban (eastern) and rural (western) populations.

The top five adopting orphanages in Guangdong Province in 2000 were Guangzhou, Huazhou, Lianjiang, Maoming, and Zhanjiang, each of which submitted in excess of 100 files for international adoption. Collectively, these five orphanages submitted 720 children for adoption in 2000, or 40% of the total for the Province.

By 2005, only two of the top five from 2000 remained there – Zhanjiang and Huazhou. Huazhou had experienced a 33% decline in the five years, while Zhanjiang had increased by 28%. Maoming’s place in the top five was replaced by her sister orphanage Maonan, which was created in 2002 as a district of Maoming, and whose geographical boundaries were once part of Maoming City’s. Taken together, Maonan and Maoming City’s submissions for 2005 were 232, the second highest submission for all of Guangdong.

The highest number of children submitted in 2005 were from the Yangxi orphanage. Yangxi joined the IA program in 2002, and submitted 262 files to the CCAA in 2005. The last orphanage in the top five was Gaozhou, which saw a 265% increase in submissions between 2000 and 2005. Thus, by the end of 2005, the top five orphanages in Guangdong Province were the Yangxi, Gaozhou, Huazhou, Zhanjiang, and Maonan orphanages.

Taken collectively the ten orphanages that experienced increases more than offset the twenty-two orphanages in Guangdong that remained the same or decreased. In 2000, all 32 orphanages in the IA program submitted 1,813 children for international adoption. In 2005, those same orphanages submitted 1,908, a 5% increase. Additionally, the CCAA added a total of 21 new orphanages to the program, which submitted nearly 700 children of their own to the CCAA. Thus, for 2005 Guangdong Province submitted a total of 2,603 children for adoption, a 44% increase over 2000.

The increasing submission rates in western Guangdong from 2000 to 2003 drew the attention of the CCAA, and an investigation was launched in early 2004 at several orphanages in Western Guangdong Province. Files were inspected, and finding records verified in Maoming, Gaozhou, Huazhou, DianBai, Wuchuan, and several other orphanages. Apparently no impropriety was found, although record-keeping irregularities were found in Huazhou. Most orphanages reached a submission peak in 2003, and have been declining since then, although submission rates in 2005 were still generally higher than 2000.

Hunan Province
In 2000, Hunan had 23 orphanages participating in the international adoption program. The top five orphanages in adoptions for 2000 were Zhuzhou, Yueyang City, Changde, Yiyang, and Shaoyang, all of whom submitted in excess of 120 children each in 2000. The remaining 18 orphanages ranged from eight (Yuanjiang, Miluo) to 98 (Xiangtan). With 663 submissions, the top five orphanages represented nearly half of the adoptions for all of Hunan Province.

By 2005, only Yiyang remained in the top five, although IA submissions had risen nearly 50%. Zhuzhou’s adoptions for 2005 were 74, a 47% decline from 2000. Yueyang City fell 76% to 33, Shaoyang fell 58% to 51. Although Changde was unchanged over the five-year period, a new group of orphanages rose to push Changde out of the top five.

Taken as a group, Hunan’s orphanages active in the IA program submitted almost 1,400 files to the CCAA in 2000. These same orphanages actually increased their submissions through 2005, but the increase can be mostly attributed to a small number of orphanages. Of the 23 orphanages in the program in 2000, ten of them remained unchanged or decreased the number of submissions made in 2005 when compared with 2000. Changsha First saw its numbers increase over 100% to 142 files submitted in 2005. Yueyang County saw its numbers increase 150% to 75, even while her sister orphanage, Yueyang City, saw its numbers drop 76%, resulting in a net decline for the area. The CCAA invited more orphanages into the IA program, adding Yuanling in 2001, Hengdong and Zhijiang in 2002, Zhishan in 2003, Hengnan, Linxiang, Huaihua and Lanshan in 2004, and Xiangxi, Fengyu, and Ningyuan in 2005. These additions boosted the number of files submitted in 2005 by over 500, for a total of nearly 2,400 submissions in 2005, a 71% increase from 2000.

In looking at Hunan, one might draw the conclusion that this is one Province that is actually increasing their adoption rates, and while it is true that a majority of Hunan’s orphanages increased submissions from 2000 to 2005, a deeper analysis of the numbers shows that the bulk of Hunan’s increase can be attributed to just six orphanages, three of which are the principle orphanages involved in the Hunan trafficking scandal: Qidong, Hengshan and Hengyang County. The two other orphanages involved in the scandal were not in the IA program in 2000, but by 2005 both of these orphanages were submitting in excess of 100 files each, the largest number of any of the new Hunan orphanages that joined after 2000.

Qidong submitted 30 files to the CCAA in 2000, roughly half of the Provincial average of 60. By 2005, however, the trafficking of children had boosted Qidong’s submissions to almost 150, a four-fold increase. Qidong’s partners in the trafficking ring experienced equally impressive increases. Hengshan’s numbers jumped from 40 to over 120, a 200% increase, and Hengyang County, the ringleader of the trafficking ring, saw its numbers skyrocket from 13 submissions in 2000 to over 118 in 2005, an 800% increase. Only one other orphanage in Hunan saw similar increases. Although not implicated in the trafficking story, Yongzhou saw its adoption submissions jump from 35 in 2000 to over 185 in 2005, an increase of 431%. It is perhaps not coincidental that Yongzhou2 lies in the same vicinity as Qidong, Hengyang, and the others. One must also wonder why no alarms went off in Beijing like it had with Guangdong.3

Given the complexities of the baby trafficking case, and its unknown breadth in Hunan, it is difficult to assess if Hunan’s numbers naturally increased or decreased over the 2000 to 2005 time period.

Guangxi Province
In 2000, thirteen orphanages were participating in the IA program in Guangxi. The top five orphanages in 2000 were Nanning, Baihai, Wuzhou, Mother’s Love, and Guilin, which together submitted almost 600 files for adoption, or 60% of the nearly 1,000 submitted by the entire Province. Only three orphanages submitted more than 100 children for adoption, Baihai, Wuzhou and Nanning, which was the largest orphanage for adoptions with over 200.

Total adoptions increased slightly from 2000 to 2005, but average submissions fell from 76 per orphanage in 2000 to 53 per orphanage in 2005. The orphanages participating in 2000 collectively submitted a little over 1,000 files to the CCAA in 2005, a 4% increase. As a group, slightly more than half (7) of the orphanages experienced declines, and six increased their submission rates. Additionally, the CCAA added eleven additional orphanages to the IA program, which collectively submitted around 250 files for adoption. With the addition of these eleven orphanages, international adoptions increased 30% in Guangxi from 2000 to 2005.

Several orphanages saw substantial increases over that period, however. Baihai increased its submissions 42% to 142 file submissions in 2005, while Yulin City more than doubled their adoption rate from 40 to 125. Hepu also more than doubled its submissions to 64, while Guiping experienced the largest growth of all of the Guangxi orphanages, increasing 240% from 2000 to 2005. In 2005, the top five orphanages were Baihai, Yulin, Nanning, Guilin and Guiping, three of whom were also in the top five in 2000.

Chongqing Municipality
Prior to 1997, Chongqing Municipality was part of Sichuan Province, and many adoptive families still refer to Chongqing in that way. In 1997, Chongqing City was merged with Fuling, Wanxian and Qianjiang to form Chongqing Municipality in a desire by China’s central government to increase development in the western regions of China.

In 2003, the CCAA began opening orphanages in the various districts around Chongqing, including Qianjiang, Hechuan, Liangping, Wanzhou, and others. The number of orphanages in Chongqing Municipality tripled in 2003 to nine. An additional three orphanages were opened in 2004, one in 2005, and two more in 2006 (although these two have not yet adopted internationally). By the end of 2006, 14 orphanages were adopting, or in the process of adopting, children internationally in Chongqing.

Prior to 2003, the largest adopting orphanage was Fuling District, which submitted 569 files to the CCAA. Chongqing City was the next largest, with 173 submissions in 2003. The rest of the top five were Dianjiang, Qianjiang, and Liangping, each of which submitted over 100 files to the CCAA. In all, 1,367 children were submitted for adoption in 2003.

Like most Provinces, Chongqing Municipality-area orphanages as a whole saw its numbers decrease. In 2006, the total number of files submitted for international adoption had decreased 33% to 910. The change was sporadic and inconsistent: Fuling’s adoptions dropped 76% (to 135), while Xiushan increased over 600% (to 153). In 2006, the top five orphanages were Xiushan, Fuling, Qianjiang, Dianjiang, and Banan, with two of that group submitting less than 100 dossiers to the CCAA. On average, Chongqing's orphanages submitted 136 files in 2003, an average that dropped to 60 in 2006.

Hubei Province
Hubei has the lowest ratio of IA submissions per capita of any of the main Provinces (13 submissions in 2005 per million people). In 2000, the largest submitting orphanage was Huanggang, the only orphanage to submit more than 100 files to the CCAA. The other orphanages in the top five were Wuhan (94), Dawu (44), Daye (44) and Wuxue (43). The top five orphanages submitted in total 327 files in 2000, comprising nearly half of the children internationally adopted in the entire Province (676).

Like Guangxi, Hubei’s adoption rate stayed nearly constant among the orphanages participating in the IA program in 2000. Six orphanages joined the IA program, and these orphanages submitted only 73 files combined in 2005.

By 2005, Huanggang remained in first place, increasing submissions 22% to 124, still the only orphanage in Hubei to submit more than 100 files. Wuhan remained in second place, practically unchanged over the five years. Third place was a relatively unknown orphanage in 2000, Tuanfeng, which saw a dramatic increase of over 240% in the five years, submitting 65 files in 2005. The remaining orphanages in the top five were also newcomers: Qichun (58) and Chongyang (35).

In all, eighteen orphanages had their numbers decrease from 2000 to 2005, while twelve had increases.

From the analysis of the six primary Provinces involved in the International Adoption program in China, one can see that the submission rate is generally trending lower, but with pockets of exceptions (see table below). Taken collectively, two Provinces experienced declines (Chongqing, Jiangxi), two remained essentially flat (Guangxi, Hubei), and one was slightly higher (Guangdong). Hunan was substantially higher, but a large part of that increase was due to trafficked children.

In 2000 (2003 in the case of Chongqing and Jiangxi), nearly 9,000 files were submitted by the six Provinces to the CCAA for international adoption. That number fell to a little over 8,700 (a 4% decline) for those same orphanages in 2005 and 2006 (including the Hunan orphanages), and totaled almost 10,700 when the orphanages added to the program since 2000 are added in. This increase tracks with the increasing numbers of adoptions conducted in China (5,053 by the U.S. in 2000, 7,906 by the U.S. in 2005). One can clearly see that as file submissions decline from participating orphanages, additional orphanages are “invited” into the program. Thus, a delicate supply-demand balance is maintained.

But these orphanages, on average, brought fewer and fewer children into the program. Whereas in 2000 the average number of files submitted by each orphanage was 61, by 2005 that number had decreased to 49. If there were hidden pockets of thousands of children, it seems the CCAA would have drawn on them. Instead, new orphanages are, with a few exceptions, small facilities that bring relatively few children into the program. Additionally, many of the new orphanages are simply district orphanages, drawing children from the larger city and county orphanages. This is the case with such orphanages as Maonan district (taken from Maoming City), Qianjiang District (taken from Chongqing City), and so on.

Unfortunately, several factors prevent us from drawing too many conclusions as to how accurately the submission rates of the individual orphanages reflects trends in abandonment rates, since we are not able to determine the other major component in the equations: Domestic adoption rates from these same orphanages. It is possible, for example, that the abandonment rates might be increasing in some areas, but that domestic adoption rates are increasing faster, thus lowering submissions to the IA program. This would lead one to falsely conclude that abandonment rates were decreasing in that area.

Conversely, if abandonment rates are falling in an orphanage’s jurisdiction, but that orphanage is doing fewer domestic adoptions, naturally their submission rate to the CCAA would increase, falsely leading one to conclude that abandonment rates are increasing in that area.

Therefore, one can not make any firm conclusions on abandonment rates on the basis of IA submissions unless other information can be factored into the equation.

One such additional source of information are the directors of the orphanages themselves. In early 2006 I conducted a survey of all of the directors involved with international adoption at that time. In the course of the conversation, seventeen directors directly spoke about abandonment rates, indicating in every case that abandonment rates were falling.

In a few cases, there are orphanages that do only international adoptions, domestic families being barred from applying. This is the case, for example, in Liangping and Qianjiang orphanages in Chongqing. In these two cases we don’t need to wonder if domestic adoptions are impacting our perception of abandonment rates, for nearly every child found in these areas are submitted to the CCAA for adoption.4 Between 2003 (when these orphanages opened) and 2006, both Liangping and Qianjiang orphanages experienced declines in adoption submissions (68% and 12% respectively). Thus, we can safely conclude that at least in these two areas, abandonment rates are declining.

In the case of one orphanage, we do have the number of domestic adoptions that were performed, and we can thus determine its core abandonment rate. Guangzhou orphanage in Guangdong performed a total of 680 adoptions in 2000. Of these, 547 were domestic and 133 were international. The total number of adoptions fell to 194 in 2005, with 148 of those being domestic adoptions, and 46 being international. Thus, although Guangzhou shows a decline in international adoptions from 2000 to 2005 of 66%, total adoptions fell 71%, showing that the abandonment rate in Guangzhou fell more than the international adoption rate.

This example illustrates one problem with drawing conclusions of abandonment rates based on international adoption rates. It seems likely that a director could, upon recording declining numbers of children entering his or her orphanage, shift a greater percentage of those children from the domestic adoption program to the international adoption program. The reason for doing so is obvious: International Adoption provides more funding to the orphanage than domestic adoptions, since few Chinese can match the $3,000 adoption fee required of international families. Thus, even though abandonment rates in a given orphanage district decrease, that orphanage might respond to this decline by submitting a greater percentage of the children to the international adoption program. This would result in our analysis showing an increase over the five year period, falsely leading us to assume abandonment rates are increasing in that area, when in fact the opposite is true.

That this is occurring is supported by the results of our 2006 survey of directors, which revealed that over 90% of the more than 250 orphanages surveyed refused to adopt a child to a domestic family. In fact, the vast majority of orphanages report long waiting lists of domestic families seeking to adopt, even while those same orphanages continue participating in the IA program.

Another component in the equation is the ratio of healthy to special needs children being found in China. This ratio was addressed by many directors in our survey, when they stated that the number of “special” children to healthy children was increasing. Thus, an orphanage may submit 100 files in both 2000 and 2005, but if the number of special needs children is increasing, a declining percentage of those 100 files will be for healthy children.

Files submissions, interviews, anecdotal evidence, and economic and sociological trends in China all point to a reduction in the number of healthy children being abandoned in China. While the number of healthy children being abandoned is decreasing, the number of special needs children being abandoned seems to be increasing. But this trend is not universal. Western Guangdong Province, for example, seems to have experienced increasing abandonment rates in recent years, to the point where investigations were conducted to rule out trafficking.

Thus, it seems that although the CCAA can take limited steps to increase the number of children available for international adoption, trends in China show that the number of healthy children will continue to decline.

For 2006, Guangdong Province orphanages submitted a total of 1,906 files, a decline of 27% from 2005 figures. Interestingly, all of 2005's Top Five orphanages saw significant declines: Gaozhou declined 74%, Huazhou declined 57%, Zhanjiang declined 56%, Yangxi declined 18%, and Maonan-Maoming declined 37%.


1. For the purpose of these calculations, only orphanages that submit more than five files in any given year are considered in high and low classifications. This is to prevent a distortion of trends, such as using an orphanage that submitted one file in 2000 and 4 in 2005. Although the orphanage did increase its submissions by 400%, I felt such an increase is not representative of the true conditions.

2. I have no solid evidence that Yongzhou trafficked children, but I am impressed by the increase this orphanage has experienced. The orphanages implicated in the trafficking were "shut down" for most of 2006, and thus had very few files submitted to the CCAA (they began to submit again in the fourth quarter 2006). Yongzhou, however, submitted children throughout the year, with its numbers falling to 114 in 2006, a 38% decline from 2005.

3. It is, of course, possible that the CCAA was already aware of the trafficking problems in Hunan when the story broke in late 2005.

4. The only children that are not submitted to the CCAA are those with debilitating deformities or severe mental incapacities (see my blog essay "Creating Paper-Ready Babies" on the procedures and constraints for submitting files by the orphanages).

Table of Provinces:
Province 2000/ 2005a/ 2005b
Jiangxi = 2,735 (’03)/2,453(’06)/2,769 (’06)
Guangdong = 1,813/1,908/2,603
Hunan = 1,397/1,875/2,396
Chongqing = 1,367 (’03)/837 (’06)/910 (’06)
Guangxi = 988/1,026/1,288
Hubei = 676/650/723

Total = 8,976/8,749/10,689

a denotes totals for those orphanages that were involved in the IA program in 2000. This column allows a true “apples-to apples” comparison in submission rates between 2000 and 2005.
b denotes totals for the Province, including 2000 orphanages plus orphanages added to the IA program since 2000.