Wednesday, September 30, 2009

"If you don’t pay any money, how will you find any babies?"


The article below is a substantially redacted version of a more indepth treatment of the subject I have available on our subscription blog. I offer that as an explanation for why this article may seem choppy or incomplete in places. To protect the identities of many of the witnesses to the CCAA conference, orphanage baby-buying programs, etc., I have removed them from this public forum.
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BEIJING, Nov. 24 -- Some orphanages in central China's Hunan Province had been selling babies to make money for many years, a Hunan based newspaper reported today. Police in Qidong County have caught more than 20 people this week, including the heads of some of the orphanages.

In late November 2005 the world was made aware of a relatively small story in Hunan Province detailing baby-buying by orphanages involved in the international adoption program. While the CCAA loudly worked to contain the story by creating a "wall of silence" around the press coverage and limiting the number of orphanages involved, behind the scenes it was quietly dealing with a controversy of its own: How to calm the hundreds of orphanage directors who were involved in the same activities and now were terrified of being caught and made known.

In response to such concerns, the CCAA called a conference to be held on February 16-17, 2006, in Tianjin. Invited were directors from fifteen Provinces, and ironically the meeting was called to formalize China's ratification of the Hague Agreement, which occurred the previous September. The published agenda indicated that sessions would discuss international adoption, baby fostering and domestic adoption. Absent from the official reports is any discussion concerning the Hunan scandal and the CCAA's reaction to the baby-buying trials that were beginning the following week in Qidong, Hunan. The orphanage directors in attendance were understandably concerned. The six directors who were being tried were accused of doing what many in the conference were doing -- offering substantial sums of money for healthy infant girls. The CCAA thus put clarification of "reward" protocols on the agenda.

The Qidong orphanage directors were accused (and convicted) of purchasing babies from traffickers for 2,500 yuan. The CCAA had taken specific steps to limit the fall-out from the Qidong scandal, including protecting its largest player -- the Changsha First orphanage in Hunan's capital. But at this conference of directors, the CCAA wanted to spell out how far the directors could push the line and still be protected by the government.

In response to the growing international concern surrounding the scandal, the CCAA closed Hunan Province from December 2005 through April 2006, requiring the local Civil Affairs Bureaus to hold all files. This had an immediate impact on the number of children available for adoption, since Hunan Province was the second largest Province for adoptions (behind Guangdong Province). As a result, wait times began to increase. While the wait time from when an application was submitted until a child was referred had been stable at 6-8 months from October 2003 through December 2005, in January 2006 it broke out and hit nine months. By the time most of the Hunan orphanages were allowed to resume submissions in April 2006, the wait had reached 12 months. Like a drain with a small obstruction, the backlog began to build as the supply-demand equation was disrupted by the closure of Hunan Province. When adoptions resumed from Hunan in April 2006, most waiting families and other observers (myself included) anticipated a decline in wait times once Hunan Province returned to normal. Instead, the wait has continued to increase every month since the scandal broke, and now stands at forty-one months.

With three years of subsequent data to look at, we can now understand why things never returned to "normal".

Hunan Province
The impact of this conference can be seen in the adoption submissions the following three years. Hunan Province itself saw dramatic changes in adoption rates by individual orphanages, and these changes reveal the extent of the baby-buying programs throughout the Province. It must be remembered that the primary defense of the Qidong directors at trial was the contention that many, if not most, of the area orphanages were involved in similar programs. This is borne out by the changes that occurred following the February 2006 conference.

In 2005, thirty-three orphanages participated in the international adoption program in Hunan Province. When one looks at these orphanages collectively, suspicious changes occurred in eighteen of them. These eighteen orphanage saw submissions decline on average 87% between 2005 and 2007 (adoptions were halted in Hunan for four months in 2006, so a comparison with that year is problematic, although steep declines are apparent).
While the steep decline in submissions is by itself a reason to wonder if an orphanage was buying babies, internal data also presents additional reasons to suspect that baby-buying was occurring. For example, Zhuzhou City orphanage, the whistle-blower in the Hunan scandal, saw submissions fall from 26 children in 2005 to only five children in 2006 and three children in 2007. Additionally, over twenty children were found at the gate of the orphanage each year between 2000 and 2005. Orphanage gate findings collapsed after 2005 to only about five per year, a 75% decline.

Yiyang City saw a similar pattern. After submitting 101 files for adoption in 2005, Yiyang saw its submissions crash to only eighteen in 2006 and twelve in 2007. Its internal patterns also bore suspicious patterns. Between 2000 and 2008, for example, nearly sixty-five percent of all findings were at the gate of the orphanage, a common tell for trafficking orphanages. Like Zhuzhou, Yiyang's finding patterns changed substantially after 2005, with orphanage gate findings falling from thirty-three in 2005 to only eight in 2006 and three in 2007. Additionally, Yiyang City submitted only four boys for adoption between 2000 and 2008 (about 1%), substantially lower than Hunan Province in general (8% in 2006 for example). Low gender ratios are one of the surest indicators of baby-buying programs, because orphanages specifically target families giving birth to female children.

Collectively, the eighteen orphanages that display characteristics of baby-buying accounted for over 85% of all Hunan adoptions in 2005. Put another way, of the twelve thousand children adopted from Hunan Province between 2000 and 2006, over 9,700 of them came from orphanages with substantial evidence of trafficking.

Jiangxi Province
Patterns of baby-buying aren't seen just in Hunan Province, however. A study of every one of the fifteen Provinces participating in the international adoption program results in similar patterns all over China. Few, however, have as many suspect orphanages as neighboring Jiangxi Province. A study of this Province's orphanages displays patterns that indicate that baby-buying was/is even more widespread there than in Hunan.

The number of orphanages involved in trafficking in Jiangxi is very significant. As was the case in Hunan, a majority of orphanages in Jiangxi were also involved in baby-buying. Of the forty-four orphanages participating in the international adoption program in 2005, thirty-four (77%) show substantial evidence of trafficking. These orphanages supplied nearly 83% of all of the children adopted from Jiangxi in 2005. To put it another way, over 12,500 children adopted from Jiangxi between 2003 and 2008 came from orphanages with probable or confirmed baby-buying programs.

When one looks at the orphanages around China that experienced steep declines in adoptions following the February 2006 CCAA meeting, or that display other signs of trafficking -- dearth of male foundlings, or those with special needs, or that have large finding clusters at the gate of the orphanage or area hospitals -- it becomes clear why the CCAA was terrified in December 2005 that investigations inside China would lead to an explosion of revelations of orphanage baby-buying, and most likely result in the closure of its international adoption program.

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Some orphanages apparently took the CCAA's words of caution seriously, lowered the amount of money they were willing to pay for children and saw their adoption programs collapse as a result. Other orphanages shrugged off the warnings and continued with their programs, and have seen steady adoption programs as a result. Some initially went into hiding, but have since returned to the market place (Changde was shown by ABC News in 2008 to be again openly buying children for 2,500 or more yuan).

The fact that the CCAA openly discussed the issue with all of the directors involved in international adoption shows how wide-spread the problem was, and continues to be. But was the CCAA aware of the number of orphanages buying babies? "Yes," was the response from a Jiangxi orphanage director I interviewed. "I think the CCAA has the same problem as the orphanages. If there are no adoptions, then they will have to close. So the CCAA encourages the orphanages to buy the babies, but they are also afraid that the orphanages will get caught!" And what happens if an orphanage doesn't pay money as a reward for babies? "If you don’t pay any money, how would you find any babies?"

Ultimately, the CCAA and the Chinese government controlled the Hunan story, convinced the world that the problem was isolated to a few orphanages, and that the directors of those orphanages had been punished. "In reference to the incident in Hunan," the CCAA wrote the Dutch Justice Minister in February 2008, "I would like to reaffirm that all of the children involved for inter-country adoption are all abandoned children, who were placed for adoption in accordance with the principle of 'children's interests as the priority' and the whole procedure was legal and in light of the spirits [sic] of Hague Convention. The adoptions are protected by law and will not cause any problems for the adoptive families. It is known that these children are well cared for in the adoptive families and are doing fine. It is better not to pursue, expand or elaborate on this issue further and to keep secret for related families in order not to interrupt the bond established between the adoptive parents and the children and impose any unnecessary pressure on them."

Translation: Let sleeping dogs lie.

Even as the CCAA was granting approval for orphanage directors to pay money in incentives, telling them they would be protected if they paid no more than 1,000 yuan per child (more than 6 month's income to most Chinese families), but implicitly instigating a "don't ask-don't tell" environment for the orphanages to work in, they were telling the Dutch that they shouldn't do any more investigations into these issues.

But the trials had their effect. Across China many orphanage directors apparently concluded that the risks involved, as well as the ethical problems, were no longer worth the trouble. Many of these orphanages reduced their finders fees below 1,000 yuan.

The decision to increase the adoption donation was a transparent attempt by the CCAA to increase the incentives for the orphanages to adopt children internationally, thus providing additional monies for incentive programs. As the increase came into effect in January 2009, employees in the CCAA expressed confidence that the wait times would soon begin falling as more children were submitted for adoption. Fortunately, this has so far failed to materialize. How long will orphanage directors be able to resist the funding that each internationally adopted child provides? Given the poor public funding for orphanages, and the increasing overhead most directors face, how long can these "reformed" directors hold out before returning, like the Changde orphanage in Hunan, to the available market of black-market children?


34 comments:

Amy said...

Makes you wonder if ANY of the healthy (or apparently healthy/hidden special needs) babies adopted from China were legitimate orphans. How far back in time would we need to go to get to the days when Chinese orphanages were actually crowded with real foundlings? And how will we ever explain to our children that they were likely stolen from their families and sold to feed an international adoption market? I am sad and disgusted.

Anonymous said...

Finders Fees = Black Market ????

Research-China.Org said...

Definitions of black market on the Web:

people who engage in illicit trade

run: deal in illegally, such as arms or liquor

an illegal market in which goods or currencies are bought and sold in violation of rationing or controls

Given that directors were imprisoned for purchasing children for "finder's fees", and given that the Hague Agreement prohibits such payments, therefore offering "finder's fees" is an illegal, and thus black market.

Brian

Lesley said...

Could you detail which jiangxi orphanages or regions have been implicated?
Many thanks
Lesley

Stacy said...

So Brian, how can we find out the statistics of our child's orphanage? My daughter is from Dianbai and was born in 2006.

Anonymous said...

"Likely stolen"? That is quite an assumption to make. Trafficked...yes. Sold to finders or directly to the SWI by birthparents...sure. But a mass conspiracy of abductions...give me more proof.

Research-China.Org said...

The full article, available on our subscription blog, gives a list of which orphanages in Hunan and Jiangxi show the most evidence of having baby-buying programs. As we learn more from different areas, we will add to the list, but right now the list has over 80 orphanages.

Because every child's individual history is unique, I avoid making assessments without looking at the specific details of each child. That is the primary purpose of the Birth Parent reports, which look at many, many different characteristics of a child to determine if it is likely they were trafficked, etc. There have been many times where a report concluded that even though a child came from an orphanage with an baby-buying program, the characteristics of the child and her finding reduce the probability that she was trafficked herself. It really is an individual thing.

Brian

Anonymous said...

"In response to such concerns, the CCAA called a conference to be held on February 16-17, 2006, in Tianjin"
"Even as the CCAA was granting approval for orphanage directors to pay money in incentives, telling them they would be protected if they paid no more than 1,000 yuan per child (more than 6 month's income to most Chinese families"
Brian, that makes perfectly sens to me. However, could you please be more precise about your sources?
How and when have you found out about this Feb. 2006 CCAA meeting? Did you manage to get an agenda, or even better a written status report (which I doubt)?
How do you know about the 1000 yuan per child?

Thanks

Research-China.Org said...

As I stated at the top of the blog, the public version of this article has had the sources removed. I can say that we interviewed in depth a director of a medium-sized orphanage who attended the conference, and he provided us with the details. An audio recording of that interview detailing the conference can be heard on the subscription blog.

Brian

Anonymous said...

Odd how baby buying and incentives and black market is wrong.

Yet I have to pay money to find out the extent that my daughters SWI may be involved.

I get selling DVDs of an area of China. I get you have access to finding ads. Nope don't begrudge you that.

I get your wanting to track exactly who you want to share that info with.

But for someone who wants to take this public, I have to wonder why it is a big secret. It will never be fixed that way.

The your fee amounts to extortion
of concerned parents. One should have to pay to find out how ethical or unethical a SWI.

If it wrong to baby buy. It is just as wrong to sell information about it.

Mmac, Mom to a Jiangxi Girl

Research-China.Org said...

I am sorry you feel that way. As we speak, we are working nearly 10 hours every day processing the large amount of data necessary to produce a single report. In most cases one must input eight years of finding ads, by name, finding date, birth date, finding location, etc. We search the internet for relevant news reports and blogs. All for $40. Personally, I would pay a lot more if someone else could produce such a report for each of my children.

Additionally, I have forwarded immense amount of data, white papers, and press reports to the governments of the U.S., Netherlands, Canada, Australia, etc. It is no secret.

I am sorry you feel that I am keeping this secret. But it takes immense amounts of time to produce the reports, and we feel they are worth every penny.

Brian

osolomama said...

Mmac, Mom to a Jiangxi Girl, I don't get your reasoning. It is wrong to buy and sell human beings; it is legitimate to pay money for a service that involves many hours of research.

Anonymous said...

I think what she is getting at is the feeling that Brian dangles tidbits of information in front of adoptive parents, and then requires payment to get at the heart of it (the private blog). Personally, I can see her point but I also believe that it's Brian's perogative to receive payment for his services if he so chooses.

Research-China.Org said...

And I certainly get that. I set up the private blog to control who sees the more detailed evidence, the audio tapes, the videos, etc. I really didn't think the $20 would be much, but enough to allow some control. It is not designed to make money, but rather to keep the audience to families sincerely interested in knowing more about the orphanages.

The reality is it takes a huge financial commitment to research in China. Right now the newspaper industry is grappling with the expectation people have to get news for free. Well, it takes money to report, and I pretty much feel you get what you pay for.

Brian

Anonymous said...

I think it is a mistake to demand payment for information on the orphanages. It is creating more ill will among adoptive parents than you need. Why turn off the very people you need as allies? It is making the relationship between yourself and the parents into a very antagonistic one. Most of the parents in my local area just roll their eyes when your name comes up and say "Brian Stuy is a leech making money off the very thing he condemns".
Seriously, I know it takes money, but you would probably do better financially by fundraising in more traditional ways.

Research-China.Org said...

I am all ears.

Brian

Anonymous said...

I have purchased both my daughter's finding ad and the birth parent search from Brian. I can say I didn't resent payting the $75 for a second. The report had wonderful information on how many other children were found at the school where my daughter was, and his data on my daughter's orphanage was priceless. I don't understand why people think information should be free just because it is about their child. Brian charges relatively little for his services, and there are many other people who charge much more for a lot less.

JMTC,

Darci

Anonymous said...

Ironic that people roll their eyes over Brian's very little fees but will pay ENORMOUS fees to China babies that actually break regulations to take pictures in China of children that do not even belong to the parents yet! Or people pay a small fortune for birthday cakes to be delivered to a child they are still waiting to adopt.
THEN we have a large website and forum based on rumors and filled with advertisements to make cash off families desperate for unverified information. Junk information!! And it's justified.
Charge families for some real accurate truth that allows more substance than any of the other services out there (including a fee for lifebook forums) and the whining begins again.
APs roll their eyes and have strong feelings about you Brian because the truth is scary and you represent truth.

Anonymous said...

It is the subscription blog, not the finding ads, that are creating the ill will. And that is precisely the information that needs to be gotten out to as many parents as possible. By charging a fee, you get only the people who like you, and everyone else, people who NEED to hear, just shake their heads and say it is extortion.

Research-China.Org said...

I went back and forth on charging for the blog, but ultimately decided that the security (with a payment I have a lot of control over who see the information) I figured, on balance, it was worth it.

I have a lot of information that I DO feel families should have. For years I've been not publishing it for fear that the CCAA would just tell a specific director I had caught him, and put out the fire piece-meal. That is what happened in the Hunan scandal -- only the orphanage that were caught were "cleaned up" and the rest went on their way.

I'm sorry if someone feels that $20 is "extortion". It was made as small an amount as possible. I have allowed many, many people that I know to be invited for free. It is not designed to be a money maker, just a secure, controlled forum for discussion. If ANY reader doesn't feel that their donation was returned many times over in the year, I will gladly pay twice their payment back.

Brian

Anonymous said...

Please - this thread should stop. Brian provides a service, does research and charges a fee for the service he provides. No one is being forced to participate or purchase the information provided. A good point was made about newspapers - many good papers have gone out of business, been sold due to the economy and people's feeling that information (no matter at what cost obtained) should be free. I also understand Brian's desire to control access to information. The CCAA no doubt follows his actions and comments carefully. For one, I am happy that China still lets him in the door - they have the option to say no to a VISA - the wrong information disclosed publicly could cause a problem. There are many reasons to carefully follow and quietly comment until a way is found to resolve these issues. Its not just about birth parents and children and adoptive parents its about foreign relations. While I am not able to travel to china or conduct the research that Brian does, I am glad to have the opportunity to benefit from it, albeit while paying for the service.

Mom to Willow and Two Dogs said...

I am not convinced (I just don't think any of us know what is happening; "when you think you know, you probably don't"). I have a lot of respect for Mr. Stuy, but I have worked with data, and I have worked in a developing nation.

Let's put our energy into helping orphans, without worrying about "fixing" what "we" think is broken in China; they haven't asked for our opinion or our help. They aren't going to change for us.

We are all putting a lot of negative energy towards this, and painting a lot of shadows.

Keep it simple with your children. Err on the side of positive (some day they will be old enough to research for themselves).

Cheryl said...

My daughter was born in 1998, adopted in 1999. At that time nobody provided Brian's services. I spent hundreds of hours searching the Internet for info and trying to make contacts in China. And I spent thousands of dollars on 2 return trips th China. I learned alot, mainly how hard it is to get reliable info for my daughter! All this to say that the $20 to join the subscription blog and the $50 for a Birth Parent Search Analysis are a real bargain. If you're serious about helping your daughter in a search, prepare to spend much more! You're not going to get far on your own & you're not likely to find anyone that will spend their own time and money doing it for you.

Regards,
Cheryl

Mei-Ling said...

"Let's put our energy into helping orphans, without worrying about "fixing" what "we" think is broken in China; they haven't asked for our opinion or our help. They aren't going to change for us."

I disagree.

If we put all of our energy into helping "orphans" who have been "legally abandoned", what does that do for the ones left behind?

Well, you say. The next generation of prospective parents will adopt them.

And then what? The third generation will adopt? And the fourth? And so on?

All these orphanages will keep doing is "emptying" themselves and refilling.

C said...

Look, people, Stuy has to feed his family somehow! With adoptions from China about half what they were a few years ago, the "finding ad" income must be way down. So he came up with the "birth parent search analysis." Only that seems to be much more labor intensive than he bargained for. How to fill the gap? A subscription-only blog, of course! (Not to mention the private research his company provides for individual and groups of APs.)

Brian, I do have a question about your comment above when you say: "For years I've been not publishing it for fear that the CCAA would just tell a specific director I had caught him, and put out the fire piece-meal. That is what happened in the Hunan scandal -- only the orphanage that were caught were 'cleaned up' and the rest went on their way." Are you actually linking the exposure of the Hunan scandal with your company's research? Was it your company that discovered it? It's not clear from the way you have stated it in the comment above.

Research-China.Org said...

No, I am saying that the Hunan scandal exposed a large and widespread problem, which the CCAA controlled and minimized. They punished only those directors that were widely known, letting other directors such as the Changsha #1 and the Chenzhou orphanages go free (not to mention all the directors who were doing it in the same areas that had not been caught!).

Brian

Anonymous said...

Anonymous 10/02/2009 8:25 AM

"Ironic that people roll their eyes over Brian's very little fees but will pay ENORMOUS fees to China babies that actually break regulations to take pictures in China of children t... Or people pay a small fortune for birthday cakes to be delivered to a child ... THEN we have a large website and forum based on rumors and filled with advertisements to make cash off families desperate for unverified information. Junk information!! APs roll their eyes and have strong feelings about you Brian because the truth is scary and you represent truth."

I COULD NOT AGREE MORE !!!!!!! There is a kind of ambilance which leads AP + PAP to shut their eyes to what/who is really helpful and what/who is not in order to make the program "cleaner". Just because they are afraid. But we are also afraid. But it is better to look at things straight, isn'it it?
Do open your eyes... 20 USD is just nothing compared to what chinaadopttalk earns in the dark. And for what? Providing dull statistics !
Thanks, Brian for your time and effort !!!!!

Anonymous said...

Adoptive parents are SO CHEAP!!! They won't blink an eye and pay over $20,000 to adopt a child from China, but then they "have a problem" with Brian charging $50 for the Birth Parent Search and $20for the private blog. Give me a break!! I guess they just expect Brian to do this work for free; that they are "entitled" to this information; that some fairy magically pays for Brian's trips to China, etc. Although I don't know anything about Brian's involvement (or lack of) with the Hunan story, I definitely know he was the "spark" behind the Zhenyuan story and the recent LA Times article about stolen children from China, adopted internationally. I know this because it was Brian's Birth Parent Search of my daughter, born in Zhenyuan, which contained a link to a Chinese man, posting on a Chinese forum, about family planning officials seizing over-quota children in Zhenyuan. From that link, I had some Chinese friends contact the man and the rest is history.

Anonymous said...

What I'm wondering is what has happened to all the babies now? If they were being taken to be adopted up to 2005, where did they go in 2006? Kept by the parents? Aborted? Hidden away? Hundreds of baby girls don't just disappear. My daughter's orphanage in Jiangxi fits this profile and they only have a couple of babies in the orphanage now, and only a few adoptions every year. Where are the babies that would otherwise have been there?

Research-China.Org said...

That is a very good question, and one we don't have the answer to. If we had a chance to talk to a large number of the birth families that sold their children to the orphanages in Jiangxi, for example, we could then ask them what they would have done had that option not been available. Would they have kept the child? Given her to a relative or friend? Hopefully with time we will know the answer to that question.

Brian

Mei-Ling said...

What happens to the ones who get trafficked?

How do people keep it hush-hushed up?

Research-China.Org said...

The children that are trafficked are sent for international adoption, as we saw in Hunan. It is not really kept secret. The programs function because everyone in an area knows about them. That is why it is so easy to find out this information.

Brian

Anonymous said...

The reality is that for many Chinese, daily life remains a grim struggle, and their government rapacious, arbitrary and corrupt. Our daughters were born to the family in a shack with dirt floors that is now in the shadow of the new glass building with marble floors.

I agree that outright kidnapping is wrong. However, I have a hard time finding some immoral fault with a foster family system or orphanage worker who helps facilitate a finding to a child in need. “The programs function because everyone in an area knows about them” - If I am a foster parent who is struggling and a girl without means in my village is pregnant and I get a finders fee to the local orphanage that will also pays me $30.00 a month to feed an infant who will be sent to a 4000 ft house in the suburbs and private school who wants to write to me and send pictures really galvanizes the “ They're better off with their adoptive parents than their birth parents,"

gilley said...

You said:
"If I am a foster parent who is struggling and a girl without means in my village is pregnant and I get a finders fee to the local orphanage that will also pay me $30.00 a month to feed an infant who will be sent to a 4000 sqare ft house in the suburbs and private school who wants to write to me and send pictures really galvanizes the “ They're better off with their adoptive parents than their birth parents,"

Good point! And that's what drives me crazy - I don't know if my baby was the latter or the former or something completely different. I'm a bit angry with the whole system. We were fed a fairy tale by China and our adoption community here in America. And It's China's fault, of course, more than the community, but my family and I were duped, and it hurts.