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.