Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Putting the "Quota" Myth To Bed

One would think that the history of the China program over the past five years would dispel any notion of the CCAA trying to control the number of adoptions performed each year, but there is still the belief among many adoptive families that the current wait time is more a function of the CCAA preventing the adoption of children rather than there simply being children to adopt. Some adoption boards speak of "Only a small percentage of the orphans in China have paperwork created that makes them eligible for international adoption" or "China is never going to allow all of the babies to be adopted through IA" are commonly seen.

It is easy to understand why agencies and other adoption "advocates" continue to feed this misconception -- if it is recognized that the decline in adoptions is the result of a decline in findings, then it will be largely recognized that the need for international adoption from China has also decreased. Thus, the misinformation concerning any "quota" program is largely driven by financial, emotional, and other self-interest considerations, not by facts.

One would think that the many stories of baby-trafficking (Hunan, Jiangxi, etc.) would cause any attentive inquirer to ask why orphanages would traffic in children if they were unable to process the children that they purchased. Why would stories such as Zhenyuan occur, where Family Planning worked with the area orphanage to confiscate children solely to submit them for adoption.

In reality, the idea of a "quota" system runs contrary to all evidence and logic, yet some adoptive families continue to use a "quota" system as an explanation for why China's program has seen such dramatic declines.

Two months ago I checked in with two trusted orphanage directors with whom I keep tabs on the China's adoption program from inside China. Although I have had many discussions about the declines in adoptions in the past with many, many orphanage directors, I thought I would address the "quota" idea head-on by asking them direct questions as to how they do their jobs, which files they submit, any limitations they have, etc. I interviewed two directors, one in Guangdong Province and the other in Jiangxi Province. I will pose the question, and then give answers given by both directors.


How long have you worked in the orphanage?
Guangdong: Eleven years.
Jiangxi: I have been the director since we began international adoptions in 1999.

Q: How many kids are in the orphanage now?
Guangdong: Not many. About 20 kids.
Jiangxi: Very few.

Has the CCAA ever had a limit on the number of children the orphanage could submit for adoption in a year?
Guangdong: They don't have the ability to set up a rule like that. However many children we have in the orphanage, that's how many we turn in to the CCAA.
Jiangxi: No, they don’t have any limit. We are free to send as many kids as we can for adoption.

Q: What about submitting a file to the Provincial Civil Affairs or the CCAA. Do you need to pay a fee to send in a child's file for adoption?
Guangdong: No, there is no fee.
Jiangxi: No, I don’t need to pay any fee. When I turn the adoption paperwork into the Provincial Civil Affairs, they need to pay money for postage to send the file to the CCAA. But we don’t have to pay any money. We just need to take some pictures of the child, and bring the pictures and the file to the Provincial Civil Affairs.

Q: Has it always been this way? What about now, is it the same?
Guangdong: I have worked at the orphanage for over ten years. In that time it has always been that way.
Jiangxi: Back to that time (1999), they had a quota of 20 to 30 kids that we could turn in for adoption, but after 2000 there has been no limit anymore. We can turn in as many kids as we can.

Q: OK, it seems that there are fewer and fewer children being sent into the orphanage. Why do you think that is?
Guangdong: That is true. I think it has something to do with our country's Family Planning rules.

Q: Has the CCAA ever told you that you can only submit a certain number of Special Needs children?
Guangdong: No, never happens.
Jiangxi: No, there is no limit either. The kids that have problems with their arms or legs, you can still turn in for adoption. Only the children that are severely mentally disabled are not submitted for adoption. If the child is only slightly mentally disabled, can they still be sent for international adoption.

Q: Are there any local families that adopt from your orphanage?
Guangdong: Very few.

Q: Hey, it seems that fewer and fewer children are coming into your orphanage, which means that there are fewer children being turned into the CCAA. Does the CCAA have a problem with that?
Guangdong: There is nothing we can do about that. If there are no children brought in, there are no files to submit. The number of children is going down across the whole Province.
Jiangxi: No, they just let us know that if we have any kids, we should send the paperwork for IA. If not, that is fine.

Q: Does the CCAA pressure you to turn in more children?
Guangdong: They won't.

Q: But if the orphanage has no children to submit for adoption, that means the CCAA will one day have to close.
Guangdong: That won't happen.


From the above conversations, it is clear that the CCAA has installed no limit on the number of files an orphanage can submit. In fact, the CCAA seems to be making it easier for orphanages to submit files, especially for SN children.

Q: It seems that there are so many SN children sent for international adoption now. Is that because the rules have been relaxed?
Jiangxi: Yes, it is not hard like before. Now, any SN child that we have can be put on a website with the CCAA for families outside China to look at. If there is a family interested in adopting that child, the CCAA will contact us and have us start doing the paperwork for IA. Now, for the SN adoptions, it is very relaxed.

It is clear from these two directors that there is no quota in place. In fact, it is the opposite -- the CCAA encourages them to submit nearly every child they receive into the orphanage. Not only are there no fees to submit a file to the CCAA, but the finding ad publication fees, postage fees, etc. are borne by the Provincial Civil Affairs Bureau, not the orphanage. Thus, there is no reason for an orphanage to not submit a child for international adoption, as some have speculated.

This topic would not be germane if it didn't go to the root of the China adoption program. People who promote a "quota-driven" paradigm in China suggest that the orphanages in China have large numbers of healthy children that are languishing in the orphanages due to the Chinese government's desire to artificially limit the number of adoptions that occur each year. Under such a scenario there would be no incentive for an orphanage to recruit children, since, according to this model, there are already many children in the orphanages. One would also anticipate that the submissions that were turned in would be for older children, since those children are the most costly to house and care for. Thus, under a quota system, one would expect finding ads to be largely for children found many months or even years earlier, as the orphanages seek to promote the adoption of their most costly children.

But that is not what we see. While there are a few exceptions, in almost every case the finding ads for children are being placed within a few weeks after a finding. The children being submitted are largely newborn infants. Repeatedly we read stories of orphanages seeking ways to increase the number of children coming into the international adoption program, either with money (Hunan, Jiangxi), Family Planning coercion (Hunan, Guizhou) or deception (Henan). The people responsible for submitting children, the orphanage directors, deny that there is any limit on the number of children they can submit.

The myth that China is artificially limiting the number of adoption taking place is without any evidence, and prevents adoptive families from having an accurate idea of the true state of affairs in China. The idea defies logic, experience and evidence. Those who promote it are doing the adoption community a grave disservice, and adoptive families would do well to demand specific reasons (not vague generalities) why the agency or blogger continues to push this idea in the face of overwhelming evidence and testimony to the contrary.


Kate said...

In addition, international adoptions represent such a tiny portion of China's annual births that it really shouldn't be surprising that very minor shifts in policies/attitudes/demographics would result in major changes in the number of adoptions. Even at the programs peak in 2005, the number of international adoptions were about 0.07% of the total number of births, or about 7 out of 10,000. The current rate is about 0.02-0.03%, or 2-3 out of 10,000 babies born. A few less incentive programs, a few more relaxations of the 1 child policy, a little more acceptance of girls, a few more domestic placements, and poof! No more babies for international adoption.

Research-China.Org said...

Actually, since nearly every orphanage has domestic families waiting to adopt, there is no need to make ANY changes except to stop chasing the money.


Anonymous said...

Very interesting indeed... What about the idea that CWI and SWI that used to propose children for IA in the past (even 2-3 years ago) are now empty just because healthy children have been placed purposely elsewhere(newer facilities or foster care), in order for international authorities to believe there are no more children available?


Research-China.Org said...

I've seen no evidence of that. Placing a child in foster care does not take them "off the books". Some people think that the orphanages are empty only because the kids are in foster families. But no one inside China looks at things that way. Whether in foster care or in a facility, the total number of children has fallen dramatically since the Hunan scandal of 2005.


Anonymous said...

Not that I believe in a quota, but 2 directors doesn't make an overwhelming case.


Research-China.Org said...


One could ask ANY directors. That is the point. There is abundant evidence that there is no quota, as I spelled out in the essay. There are statements by the CCAA; there is the continued use of incentive programs; there is statistical evidence; any family adopting in China can ask ANY orphanage worker, director these same questions and find out for themselves. But yet beleivers in a quota system discard all of that to believe the anecdotal stories of "full orphanages" (which do nothing to prove a quota) or some other third-hand comment, or simply because they want to believe. What I post here is what is common knowledge in China. Anyone can find it.


Anonymous said...

We have three sponsored infants in China and they all are in foster care (which we sponsor) and there are not plans to put them to adoption. They are healthy children. I know, that in that SWI, there are only SN children in SWI and all healthy children are in foster families....

Research-China.Org said...

Dear Anon:

If you can privately e-mail me the orphanage these children are in, I can research to see why they are not being submitted. It would be good to put a real situation to the test.


Anonymous said...

I recently visited an orphanage in Hunan and they had approx 200 children there.

Research-China.Org said...

Anecdotal evidence such as that is really of very little use without knowing, for example, how many children the orphanage adopts out each year. 200 may sound like a lot, but if the orphanage adopts out 250 children per year the 200 is really not much use at all.

One would need to ask the director about specific children -- has that one had its file submitted? If not, why not? Only by digging deeper can useful information be obtained. But no director will say, "we can't turn in these children because the CCAA limits how many we can submit."

mrkmommy said...

I know this is a little late but I have a few questions. I never believed the "quota" myth. It simply makes no sense. As you said 5 years ago, when everyone, including agencies where reporting otherwise, China was never going to pick up again. They were simply going to get slower and slower.

My first question is the number of orphanages not certified for international adoption. Most numbers I read have it at a 3-1 the number of orphanages that don't adopted out internationally. How many children are in them and what would be the reasons for not adopting them out?

My second question is special needs adoptions. These are on the increase and easier for the directors to process. From where are these children coming? Are they orphans/abandoned? Coming from other non-registered orphanages? Or becoming another victim in the trafficking cycle?

Research-China.Org said...


The number of orphanages is in constant flux, but generally the TOTAL number of orphanages has increased over the past five years. This is largely the result of China's wanting to establish orphanages down to the county and district levels. But a ballpark number is about 1,6000 total orphanages.

Of that, about 500 are involved in IA, a number that is slowly increasing on a yearly basis. The main reason that non-IA orphanages don't sign up is because they are not interested in adding another bureaucratic level to their adoptions. We visited a non-IA orphanage a few years ago in Guangdong that had no healthy children available (and a long list of interested families) and a half-dozen special needs children. There simply is no "hidden" supply of healthy children, and most of the orphanages joining the IA program now are contributing mostly SN children.

But SN findings have been increasing since 2005. One can speculate as to the reasons why, but the sharp increase does not appear to be tied to a dramatic shift in pollution or attitudes.


Anonymous said...

I started reading this blog with the Hunan scandal, and will go back to that to post my questions as it relates to if the scandal was just relocation of the same children who would be otherwise up for adoption/placement. However my feedback to the "quota" is that Chinese people are loyal and do keep to themselves. As a result, most follow the rule of 1 child. Even once in America, most/many Chinese born, now Americans, have 1 child, my belief is just in case they return to China, they are viewed as good citizens. I have several Chinese-Americans I consider friends, and this is the case (true some have more than 1, but those now in their 30s, 40s, often have 1 or at most 2). Having visited south China 2 years ago for placement with my 2nd daughter (a SN child 4 y.o. at time of placement), I was surprised by billboards and signs that showed loving families holding 1 child, a daughter. My guide also spoke how his one daughter, planned to live separately during the week from her husband to reduce the chance of an unplanned pregnancy, and how she would wait until closer to 30 to have their 1 child (in Guangzhou). The guide was adamant that if you have more than 1 child, then you lose your pension, your free medical, housing subsidy, his wife's teacher pension, etc.. Having not seen this discussed in this excellent blog, I wanted to add this. The Chinese people have a lot of pride and they very much want to keep China available for Chinese. In general they would like to see all Chinese born children, have opportunities and a life in China.