Thursday, January 19, 2006

Domestic Adoption in China's Orphanages

There have been several interesting comments to this post, which in many cases I have responded to. I encourage you to peruse the comments at the end of this essay.

As adoptive parents of Chinese children, most of us have wondered what would have happened to our children had we not adopted them. Would they have been adopted by a Chinese family? Would they have lived out their childhood in the orphanage? Perhaps some of us adopted from China because we assumed that they would not have been adopted, and would have remained in an institution unless we provided them with a family.

As I wrote in a previous blog essay, the international adoption program has had a profound effect on the dynamics of orphanage adoption in China (“The Finances of Baby Trafficking, 12/3/05). Recent baby trafficking stories such as those in Guangxi and Hunan Provinces have brought many questions to mind, the forefront of which is how can a country that has so many children in orphanages have a significant baby-trafficking problem.

In that blog essay, I recounted the experience of “Xiao Mei,” a friend of mine in Guangzhou. She and her husband had tried unsuccessfully to adopt a child from the Guangzhou orphanage, only to be told that there was a 3-year wait for a healthy child. I had been told the same thing on a visit to the Guangzhou facility. When I asked orphanage personnel how there could be a waiting list for domestic adoptions at the same time there were international adoptions being performed, I was told that the children that were adopted internationally had been “passed over” by Chinese families. I was given to understand that Chinese families sought only the most beautiful, most intelligent children for adoption, and were willing to wait to obtain such a child.

Xiao Mei’s experience cast doubt on this explanation, so I decided to conduct a more scientific survey of orphanages. Using, I put together a list of 40 orphanages selected randomly from the 248 orphanages that currently participate in the international adoption program (drawn from the listing of orphanage Yahoogroups listed on Raising China's Childen website). This sample size should give us a clear picture of the impact the international adoptions is having on the orphanages that participate in that program.

The interviewer was a female Chinese resident posing as a married woman, 35 years old, with no children. During the course of the interview she would indicate that she was well off. The following orphanages were surveyed between January 10 and 19, 2006:

Bengbu (Anhui) -- Xiangfan (Hubei)
Chaohu (Anhui) -- Loudi (Hunan)
Ma’Anshan (Anhui) -- Qidong (Hunan)
Quanjiao (Anhui) -- Xiangtan (Hunan)
Liangping (Chongqing) -- Yueyang City (Hunan)
Xiamen (Fujian) -- Zhuzhou (Hunan)
Dongguan (Guangdong) -- Lianyungang (Jiangsu)
Foshan (Guangdong) -- Nantong (Jiangsu)
Guangzhou (Guangdong) -- Ji’An (Jiangxi)
Leizhou (Guangdong) -- Nanchang (Jiangxi)
Qingxin (Guangdong) -- Pingxiang (Jiangxi)
Qingyuan (Guangdong) -- Shicheng (Jiangxi)
Shenzhen (Guangdong) -- Xinyu (Jiangxi)
Zhaoqing (Guangdong) -- Yongfeng (Jiangxi)
Guilin (Guangxi) -- Yongxiu (Jiangxi)
Nanning (Guangxi) -- Hanzhong (Shaanxi)
Tianjin (Hebei) -- Xianyang (Shaanxi)
Daye (Hubei) -- Kunming (Yunnan)
Honghu (Hubei) -- Wenzhou (Zhejiang)
Huangmei (Hubei) -- Yiwu (Zhejiang)

During the course of the survey, the following questions were asked of each orphanage representative:

1) Are there any healthy infants (less than one year old) available for adoption?
2) If not, how long is the wait to adopt?
3) What is the adoption fee to adopt?

A total of 32 orphanages responded to these questions, and results are tabulated as follows. The totals are based on the responding 32 orphanages, and in instances where the totals do not total 32, it is due to some orphanages not responding.

Are there any healthy infants (less than one year old) available for adoption?
Yes: 5 (16%)
No: 26 (81%)
No answer: 1 (3%)

Of the five orphanages that indicated that some healthy babies were available, one indicated an adoption could take place only if a substantial donation (30,000 yuan or $3,700) was made. Otherwise no babies were available. Another orphanage, while acknowledging that healthy babies were available, opined that it would be better for the babies to be adopted internationally.

This confirms comments by orphanage directors with whom I have conversed. Many feel that the children in the orphanages will have better opportunities in foreign families. There seems to be a strong bias among some directors to place children internationally. I sincerely believe this bias does not stem solely from the higher adoption fees foreigners provide the orphanages; rather, I think that many sincerely believe that the children will have happier lives with better educational and financial opportunities outside China. This bias surely plays a factor among the 26 orphanages who indicated that their orphanages had no healthy babies as well, a fact that is easily refuted by analyzing the orphanage’s finding ads.

Several orphanages had restrictions in place that barred a family from outside the city from adopting. Others gave preferential treatment to locals, while not specifically prohibiting non-locals from adopting. One orphanage indicated that although they had no children available officially, a 3 month old girl could be procured from a family friend, who was contemplating giving up a third daughter.

How long must I wait to adopt a healthy baby from your orphanage?
No wait: 6 (19%)
Less than one year: 2 (6%)
One to two years: 8 (25%)
Over two years: 3 (9%)
No answer: 13 (41%)

The large percentage (41%) of orphanages refused to be pinned down on the time required before a healthy child would become available. Of the orphanages that indicated they had healthy children available for adoption, 80% indicated no wait, and the other orphanage indicated a wait of less than a year. Many of the orphanages indicated that if the family was able to donate a substantial amount to the orphanage, exceptions could be made. Therefore, most of the orphanages seemed flexible on this point, depending on the level of interest of the adoptive family, and their financial situation.

What is the fee for a Chinese family to adopt from your orphanage?

This question was answered by over half of the orphanages (65%), with the rest not willing to disclose the adoption fee. A significant percentage (28%) of orphanages indicated that their adoption fees were income-dependent, and were calculated on the adoptive family’s ability to pay (sliding scale). The fees ranged from a low of no fee (Bengbu, Anhui) to 30,000 yuan. Of the others, many charged fees ranging from 5,000 yuan (15%) to 20,000 yuan to adopt domestically (18%). The highest adoption fee quoted was 30,000 yuan by three of the orphanages.

When one contrasts the answers provided in the survey with the finding ads placed in preparation for international adoption, it becomes clear that almost all of the orphanages surveyed placed a preference for international adoptions. For example, the Guangzhou orphanage in Guangdong claims to have a three-year wait for domestic families, yet this orphanage has adopted internationally at the rate of between 80 and 100 children per year for the last five years. Not all of these children, of course, were healthy young infants, but a high percentage were. Foshan and Qingxin, also in Guangdong, each indicated a wait time of over two years for Chinese families, yet each submits over 25 children annually for international adoption. All of the orphanages in this survey continue to place children internationally, despite the fact that most have families willing to adopt domestically, many with those families waiting several years.

This data supports the contention that the international adoption program is draining adoptable children from the domestic adoption program in China. Some of the bias to international adoptions no doubt springs from the belief that the children will have better quality lives outside China, but there can be little doubt that the financial incentive is also a key player. With most orphanages requiring substantial fees for domestic adoption, or banning them outright, it is easy to understand how baby trafficking problems can develop.

This is not to suggest that these orphanages do no domestic adoptions. Surveys that I have conducted in the course of my researching orphanages (some of whom appeared on this list) indicated that most orphanages do adopt between 15 and 50% of their children domestically. These domestically adopting families no doubt fulfill the qualifications of most of the orphanages we surveyed: local residents with substantial financial wherewithall. But there are no doubt many other families willing to adopt, but not meeting the strict requirements imposed by most orphanages.

Can't these families simply apply at orphanages that don't participate in the international adoption program?

Several orphanages indicated that it is China policy to allow all orphanages to participate in the international adoption program. This will be the subject of our next blog essay.


Anonymous said...

Thank you Brian, fascinating. Do you have any data on how many domestic adoptions are taking place in China?

Anonymous said...

I enjoy your insights so much but..sometimes you make me wonder if we are doing the right thing by going to China or any other country for that matter!*sigh*

There is still time to not submit the dossier but then where would we be?? What is a prospective parent to do??

I don't want to deprive a local family with lots of love from adopting in their own country. But if I backout now, who is to say that will make it better for the locals anyway! The child is just as likely to go to another international family. So what is the solution?


Anonymous said...


Your post is very interesting, but it doesn't make sense to me that international adoptions would lead to there not being "enough" children in the orphanages to be adopted domestically, because all the statistics I have read and heard indicate that there are many more children in the orphanages, as a whole, than are being adopted.

U.S. State Department statistics are that only 5,000 to 7,000 children are adopted to the U.S. from China per year. Approximately another 5,000 per year are adopted to other countries. That adds up to 10 to 12,000 international adoptions a year worldwide from China. But there are many more than 12,000 children each year in Chinese orphanages.

So it doesn't seem to make sense to conclude that international adoptions are somehow causing a result of not "enough" children to be available in Chinese orphanages for domestic adoptions.

Anonymous said...


One other thing. Near the end of your post, you stated: "Several orphanages indicated that it is China policy to allow all orphanages to participate in the international adoption program."

This is not correct. The CCAA only allows a small percentage of Chinese SWIs/orphanages to participate in international adoptions.

Research-China.Org said...

Elizabeth's questions are very good, and display assumptions I have long held also. The evidence, however, is causing me to reconsider those assumptions.

I am currently investigating the whole orphanage question, specifically if there are significant numbers of orphanages that are not participating. Evidence suggests that this is not the case, but it is preliminary.

As far as the total number of adoptions outside China is concerned, all of the estimates we have received regarding the number of children found in China each year have been just that -- estimates. It seems highly probable that those estimates have been seriously flawed, and not nearly as many children are found as has been assumed. It is apparent that, at least among those orphanages participating in the international adoption program, there is little desire (or incentive) to adopt domestically. Financial incentives cause orphanages to adopt internationally, as well as the expectation that international families will provide better homes to the children.

Anonymous said...

As a waiting family we too want to know the truth. Your essay only confuses me more. I want to know if there is an overflow of orphans in China that they would be left un-adopted if it were not for the international community. Do you have numbers to show how many are being abandoned and how many are being adopted?

Anonymous said...

Your research seems inconclusive. It is dangerous to make conclusions with incomplete data. I use the word dangerous because you are potentially impacting many lives.


Research-China.Org said...

I don't know what the term "dangerous" means. I am only interpreting the data provided by my own experience and the results of discussions with 32 randomly selected orphanages. If there are other interpretations, I am very happy to hear them.

Certainly, the international adoption program plays a vital role in providing homes to many of China's orphans. If there was no program, many thousands of children would be left unadopted. However, there is also little doubt that the international adoption program is preventing many domestic families from adopting also.

Anonymous said...

You simply do not have the raw numbers to make a sweeping generalization that IA is impacting all domestic adoptions. That is not to say that you have a starting point, a hypothesis. However, a friend of mine who is Chinese and works in domestic adoption told me that there are over 1,000 orphanages in China. Consequently, 248 is only 25%. Even if CCAA tells all orphanages that they can participate in IA, only a small percentage actually do (at this time, of course, this may change.)

Perhaps a more accurate interpretation of your data would be that IA impedes domestic adoption in the few areas (25%?) that orphanages participate in both domestic and overseas adoption... which is troubling because I think a lot of us adoptive parents agree that domestic adoption should be given priority.

Dangerous means that *your* conclusions could lead to potential adoptive parents deciding not to adopt because they see your conclusions as fact.


Anonymous said...


With all due respect, if you are concerned with the international adoption program preventing many domestic families from being able to adopt, then how do you justify adopting 3 chinese girls?

Aren't you too then not part of the "problem?"

Anonymous said...

With most orphanages requiring substantial fees for domestic adoption, or banning them outright, it is easy to understand how baby trafficking problems can develop.

---->> Are you aware that child trafficking in China existed before international adoption? It didn't just recently develop. Even if IA were to close, this problem will most likely continue. I'm not saying that the two are mutually exclusive, but there is no evidence of simplistic causation. Indeed, there are many confounding varibles... You have to look beyond your Western lens to see the big picture.

To the person who wanted to know the "truth": you will not know. That is one of the things you have to decide twhether or not you can live with when adopting from China.

Research-China.Org said...

I am not saying that the international adoption program is causing a problem (baby trafficking), only that it is contributing to it. I am not saying that my study is representative of all orphanages in China. What I am saying is simply:

Most of the orphanages that participate in the international adoption program in China prefer to adopt internationally than domestically. They portray this bias by limiting domestic adoptions by:
a) high adoption fees
b) limiting adoptions to local residents only
c) disallowing the adoption of healthy babies

This bias stems from financial incentives, as well as a belief that international homes offer better life opportunities to the children.

And lastly, I am not saying that families should not adopt from China.


Anonymous said...

Most of the orphanages that participate in the international adoption program in China prefer to adopt internationally than domestically.

----> I realize you are attempting to do research in a very challenging setting. However, you should not make conclusions based on limited, incomplete data. A researcher would not conclude "most" based on this limited data (32 out of 248 with at least one question incomplete- 41%). To do so would be, and is, irresponsible.

Research-China.Org said...

Although 32 out of 248 might seem like a small sample to someone unfamiliar with sampling, actually if chosen randomly (as mine were) they can predict with great accuracy how the general population will respond.

Anonymous said...

I am familiar with sampling, and that is a small number (with incomplete data) to make such a bold conclusion.

Read Kay Ann Johnson's book. She is a responsible researcher that is very cautious about her conclusions based on avery small sample.

Anonymous said...

"This bias stems from financial incentives, as well as a belief that international homes offer better life opportunities to the children."

I find this an interesting discussion in light of the fact that I have repeatedly read the fee for domestic adoptions in China is around $300 as compared to the donation of $3000 required by those adopting internationally. I naively took this to mean the Chinese government was encouraging more Chinese families to adopt domestically with this lower fee-no doubt still a significant sum for most in China.

Another aspect that has not been discussed pertains to the idea of better opportunities for those children adopted internationally.
That is, for the children adopted domestically, particularly girls, what happens when they are of marriageable age? How will potential mates or perhaps more importantly-potential in-laws-view a girl who was adopted with an unknown family history?

While I think it is wonderful that more families in China are trying to adopt domestically, I think the children they adopt may still face more limited opportunities when they reach adulthood unless the Chinese society overall changes its view of the importance of family background.

That is not to say our children here in the US whom we adopted from China won't
face challenges as they reach adulthood-just that those adopted domestically will also still face challenges and prejudices within their own culture. Perhaps through the Chinese government's "Care For Girls" program these views will change.

The cynic in me would say your findings indicate a bias based on financial incentive but my heart wants to say that the orphanage directors may have witnessed what happens to the children in the orphanages when they are too old for the orphanage and these directors may feel the stigma of having been an orphan will still affect their life opportunities even if they are adopted domestically.

Anonymous said...

In adding to my previous post-I also recently read an article re. domestic adoption in China where the adoptive parents were quoted as saying they were not sure they would tell their daughter she had been adopted. This reminds me of the stance many adoptive families took in our own country until a couple decades ago. Perhaps the family quoted in the piece (and I wish I could give you the source right now Brian-sorry I cannot-I will search for it though) would not want others to know their child had been adopted precisely because they feel she would face discrimination as an adult within her own culture so they planned to tell no one-not even their own child-in order to protect her. I remember really being struck by this when I read this. Now I have to go search for that article!

Anonymous said...

Theresa- not telling a child they were adopted is a cultural norm for many Asian families in both the U.S. and overseas. Some families do tell him/her when they are adults, others do not.

Anonymous said...

You have previously, in China's Missing Daughters written:"I estimate that there are around 400,000 children found every year which end up in China's orphanages (80,000 in orphanages that do international adoptions)." Even if these figures are fiction, there is a big difference between the "80,000" in orphanages that do international adoptions and the "400,000" children in all. What happens to these children?

Research-China.Org said...

The total number of children that are put into orphanages each year is obviously unknown. I collect in the neighborhood of 20,000 finding ads each year, which is a good indicator of how many children are submitted for international adoption, since the Provincial finding ads are published in preparation for international adoption.

One must now factor the total number of international adoptions by the number that are adopted domestically. Some orphanages report a 50-50 ratio, others less (these are healthy children, not special needs). Thus, the total number of children reported to the 258 internationally adopting orphanages probably falls between 30,000 and 40,000.

The vast majority of foundlings, however, probably never reach the orphanages. They are adopted informally by their finders, or birth family friends or relatives. Again how many is completely unknown, but based on the interviews I have made with finders (almost all of whom reporting that they investigated keeping the child they found) that number must be many times the number that are reported to orphanages.

The larger question in all of this is how many non-internationally adopting orphanages there are in China. Some feel it numbers in the hundreds, if not thousands. Although many officially don't participate, many do have arrangements with local orphanages that do international adoptions. Fuzhou 2nd orphanage in Jiangxi is a classic example of this. I have yet see a significant number of orphanages that do no international adoptions. If anyone knows of any specific orphanages, I welcome their input.

Anonymous said...

I don't know whether I'm happy or what....I wanted to know that these orphanages exist not because we americans are "cash cows" and are feeding them. I want to know that I'm doing the right thing, and not feel guilty in the least in adopting one of these beautiful girls. How aweful to think international adoption is perpetuating this cycle. I've been wanting to see these numbers, Brian, but now that I see them (20,000 finding ads each year!) Oh, I don't know if I'm relieved or sickened. But I do thank you for your honest search for the truth as best we can discover it.

Anonymous said...

I find this very interesting. The CCAA recently said that the rate of placements would be slowing due fewer healthy babies being available. When we were in Chongqing in July '05, our daughter was one of 6 girls adopted from Hechuan SWI. There were at least 30 babies left behind in that room. There have been approximately 4 Hechuan babies placed since then... so what happened to the other 26???

Anonymous said...

We know how many abandoned children have been adopted into the U.S. and other countries through China's foreign adoption program. But after all this time we have demanded little hard data on abandonment itself and China's social welfare system. Brian, you are doing well to ask serious questions about these things and seem to be among a small few.

Personally, I too question the fuzzy estimates but I suspect that in the foreign adoption lottery many children are left behind, especially those with special needs. But the fact is we simply need more fact, from more accurate accounting in China and broader, more ambitious studies than seen to date. Thank you Brian for putting a voice to this.

For waiting families, there are probably better ways to encourage much-needed reform to China's overall adoption system than giving up on foreign adoption. I know with certainty that my two kids wouldn't have been helped at all by this. There are some things that no developing child should have to go through and one of them is to wait in the queue each day for almost everything in a struggling state-run orphanage. Even China's newer experiments with foster care have limitations from a child's point of view.

Anonymous said...

The ONLY reason my wife and I are adopting is to give a home to an orphan, who would not have a family otherwise. If all children had homes, we would not have our own, or adopt. With this information, and a referral one month away, we may decide not to go through with the adoption. I feel very sick right now.

point of no return

Anonymous said...

After just having come home with our daughter in December, for anyone to question whether to continue their adoption from China is heartbreaking.

Of course none of us wants to promote baby traffiking. That being said, there are children who need loving homes, and there are families who want to be blessed with an adopted child. I believe there are serious domestic issues involved with an adoption from any country, including our own.

In addition, after having spent time in China, I was even more assured that we had done the right thing. The thought of our little girl growing up in such poverty and likely with so few opportunities is terribly upsetting.

I must admit that our original intent for adoption was not to rescue an orphan, but to enrich our lives with another child - a very selfish reason, many would think. Now, I truly believe we have seriously enriched each others' lives.

Research or not, I feel adoption from China is fulfilling, admirable, respectable, and worth every penny the (sometimes hypocritical) government collects.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for this essay. A friend of mine, who is Chinese, is attempting to adopt now and has run into roadblocks. She loves my (adopted from China into my caucasian/asian family) and wants what my husband and I have. I was astounded to think that it would be difficult for her. I will send her your story and she can see why it's been difficult for her.


Anonymous said...

One thing someone may not be cosidering is this. What if the only thing between these babies being killed, or being placed with the SWI's is a small monitary gain. It is easy to judge from our American eye's. These people are POOR. Rich people do not have to make these kinds of decisions. There are so many babies killed at birth all over the world usually girls. This is nothing new. I wish we lived in a perfect world, we don't. Some of these babies may owe their lives to corruption, atleast they are alive. The system is better than 10 years ago, and is improving. Just not as quickly as we might like.

Anonymous said...

I was under the impression that in China, if you wanted a girl, it would be handled privately. I have friends who live in China and we were told it is not uncommon for a girl born to be "given" to a family. The child will just appear on the doorstep. Chinese families do not go through agencies. It is hadled hush hush. My friend says there are many unregistered girls living in families who wanted a daughter for whatever reason. Sometimes to be a wife to their sons. This is not that unusual in the one child climate. It seems for every problem they solve, they create two more.

Anonymous said...

Your study is more than a bit flawed. 32 out of 248, even with a 95% confidence interval which most research is done at, would yield a +- 16.2% confidence interval. With such small population subgroups based on the answer, you can really derive no meaningful statistical information from these results. I would suggest you read up on basic sampling theory before publishing misleading information like this again and drawing your conclusions from it. Journalistic ethics should keep you from mis-informing the public couple is now considering not adopting from China at all and instead leaving that little girl within the current orphanage system based on your post. Good job {end sarcasm}.

Anonymous said...

I have two children adopted from China, have lived in China, and have gotten to know three orphanages well, none in Brian's list of those surveyed. All three prefer to place children internationally instead of domestically. Why? One Chinese woman I know who tried to adopt from one of those orphanages (and was turned down) was sure it was about the money. One of the staff people at one of the orphanages said she felt children adopted internationally would have a better future--less stigma and more opportunities. Both are probably "right."

This bias against domestic adoptions by some orphanages is a problem, and it urgently needs to be addressed, but it's very short sighted to simplify what baby trafficking means in China, and to conclude that if you don't adopt a child he or she will be adopted domestically, or that all children arrive at orphanges under suspect conditions. Most are abandoned, and there is no monetary gain to the birth families. Chinese people are not lining up at orphanages pleading to adopt (yet). The $3000 donation orphanages receive most often goes back into helping hundreds of children at that orphanage. This is why orphanages who place children internationally often offer better care for their kids.

These children need families, and Brian's work is admirable and honest in promoting adoption while asking us to continue to try to understand what's really happening in China. If you are to adopt internationally, you must think outside of the box in so many areas, and that includes expecting to ever get concrete numbers on anything involving this issue in China.

It also means not assuming that children adopted domestically will not have lives as good as those in the United States. That may be comforting to say, but if you spend time with Chinese families who foster or adopt children you would revise your assumptions. So many deeply love their fostered/adopted child--and that's true of people everywhere in the world.

Adoption anywhere means unresolved issues and unclear answers, and to go into it unable to live with or sort through that ambiguity means you probably shouldn't do it. If you can handle it, then tough up to (often ill-informed and self-righteous) criticism offered by people who haven't adopted. Give a kid who needs you (and you need) a family. Show your unending gratitude by helping honestly and with humility the children still waiting.

Anonymous said...

While your "research" is interesting...I think the primary question which needs answering is "How many Chinese nationals are actually pursuing domestic adoption?" The impact of International Adoption is moot, if few Chinese are actually seeking to adopt.

Anonymous said...

I've been to one of the SWIs you mention as being part of the survey. My daughter is from there, and I do know a few facts about it that make your survey results appear flawed.

1) they have large billboards out front advertising the process for domestic adoptions, as well as general information on international adoptions.

2) approximately 90%+ of the children there have special needs.

3) they would love for any qualified family - domestic or international - to adopt a child from them.

I'm not sure what the answer is, but I disagree with the approach you've taken by posting this information publicly when it may or may not be 100% correct.

Anonymous said...

yes, very interesting indeed. If not scientific, at the very least, it's wonderful that you've made everyone think. I also have to wonder about the one child policy, isn't that still in effect? Wouldn't international adoption benefit China in order to effect population control?

Anonymous said...

I just returned with from China with our 34 month old son who we
adopted from an orphanage which had never placed a child for international adoption before. I was privileged to be allowed to visit his orphanage which was located in a very rural part of Guangdong Province.

There were only 5 children remaining in the orphanage because all of the children who were abandoned and found were adopted domestically within 1-2 months of being brought to the orphanage. The children who were living there when I visited were 6-8 year old boys who were visibly mentally disabled and one infant girl who had leukemia.

The orphanage director told me that several local families had wanted
to adopt our son, but they couldn't because his paperwork had already
gone to the CCAA - he has a repaired cleft lip, palate and hernia. I was so heartbroken to learn this - our son could have grown up and lived in his motherland, but instead he is now living half a world away with a Caucasian family.

When we first adopted from China 6 years ago, domestic adoptions were not even talked about. I am so heartened that at least some orphanages actively place children domestically.

I wonder how many other small orphanages throughout China are also placing children locally. I hope that the answer is many, many.

Anonymous said...

This is a very interesting article. I have adopted two beautiful girls from China. This definately brings up some questions for me, but I still would not change anything. For all those who have second thoughts about adopting a child after reading this article, all I have to say is - DO NOT ADOPT! you do not deserve such a special event or child. Go back living under your rock hoping that the world becomes a fair and safe place for everyone.

Research-China.Org said...

I can only hope that most people do not have the same attitude as "Anonymous". To continue in a program out of denial of injustice or inequality only perpetuates the problem, and is an indication of extreme selfishness. As members of a global society, we should seek equality for all.

To question is good, and ultimately each family must decide for themselves. I seek only to present the circumstances to allow families to be educated in their decisions. To castigate someone for doubts and concerns shows extreme insensitivity and an unwillingness to contemplate the plight of others.


Anonymous said...

Brian, just an FYI, I adopted my daughter from Hefei in the Anhui Province in the fall of 2002, this orphanage had recently opened up domestic adoption and had good success. They adopted out approximately 30 healthy children and 2 special needs children domestically. At that time they were not open to people outside of Anhui Province, I am not sure if that has changed or not.

Anonymous said...

My Husband and I are just beginning our process to adopt from China. After reading all of this "jumbled research", I still believe in my heart that we are doing the right thing. I believe that Domestic adoptions should be priotiy #1 to China, but at the same time...are all of the domestic adoptions occuring for the right reasons? Or as mentioned above, are families just adopting orphaned girls to be future wives for thier sons? It might sound horrible of me to say, but it has crossed my mind.
All that being said, our only purpose for adoption is to fully enrich the life of a loving child who needs matter what the wait time is.

Anonymous said...

To Anonymous,

Kudos to you for still planning on adopting. All of the information on this site, as well as others is suspect at best. I am not saying anything bad about anyone or there methods, it's just that China is such a large, diverse, and private/closed society, that I am not sure we will ever know the whole truth. I still believe there is a need for international adoption, although that need appears, at least on the surface, to be dwindling. Just remember that it is all about the child, not to condone spoiling, just providing an understanding home with boundaries. Congratulations and enjoy, they are very special children, that will bring great joy in your life. The wait is long, frustrating, and sometimes seems hopeless, but it will all be worth it when the day finally comes.


Irene's Brainwaves said...


I have a big question which I really would like to ask your opinion about.

We are a family from Holland with two biological children. We want to adopt a third child to offer it a better future. At this moment, we are almost at the moment to choose the country from which we would like to adopt.

China has always been in our hearts, but... after having read your articles and the comments on it, I really wonder if adoption form China is actually a good idea, ethically spoken.

As far as the healthy children in orphanages concerns it seems clear to us that, at this moment, there are enough people on the waiting lists, both foreigners and Chinese people, and that our help is no longer necessary.

We are positive about adopting a child with a special need, but again: should we still choose China? Or is the international adopting program for Special Needs-children in China also preventing domestic adoptions? I am so afraid that foreigners now all will turn to the SN programs and that the problem will shifted from the healthy children towards the disabled ones. That they will be the ones "hot to adopt" and that this won't give any incentive to the Chinese governement to improve domestic adoption of SN children.

I already imagine that children missing one hand (as an example)will be "transported" from one orphanage to aother to be able to offer it to the international adoption program.

What is wisdom? Should we back off while we still can and choose another country, such as Haïti or Ethiopia, where it is much more clear that the future prospectives for abandoned children are not good? Where there is less evidence of corruption and less chance for children to be adopted in their own country? Or is it morally the right choice to stick with China and to welcome an Chinese Special Need orphan into our family?

Corruption and baby trafficking are as old as the world. Where there are abandoned children, there are also "bad people" wating to profit from their misery. No matter which country. But we are now still able to make "the best" decision, not wanting to contribute to suspicious circumstances.

Brian, based on what you know and what you have experienced, what is your advise? Adopt a child from China... or not?

Thank you for your insights,

Research-China.Org said...

Dear Irene:

Domestic adoption in China is largely concentrated in healthy infants. Adoption still carries a bit of a negative social stigma in China. This is especially true for those families that are adopting due to infertility. Because even adopting families are limited to the constraints of the one-child policy, they tend to choose what they feel to be the most attractive children -- healthy, young (less baggage), and physically attractive (large eyes, round faces, light skin, etc.)

Thus, the children in China's SN program have little chance of being afopted domestically. There are simply too many factors against them. For these children, international adoption is the only option.

For that reason, if you are open to adopting a SN child (even one with a repaired cleft lip is SN), I would strongly encourage you to choose China. It will be a long time before you will be competing with a domestic family over a SN child.

Good luck!


Irene's Brainwaves said...


How relieved I am to read your encouraging words! This means I don't have to throw my impressive collction of China-books (which I was already collecting for my future Chinese son or daughter) out of my window right away ;-))))

For an outsider who has never been to China and only has got books and the internet to make a picture of the country and it's people, such difficult questions can only be overcome with the help of insiders like yourself! Thanks!

In Holland, every family who wants to adopt, is obliged to be present at six meetings in which you are told what adoption actually is, whih emotions your adoption child experiences during it's life and what the impact will be on yourself, your child and it's biological mother. Only after having attended all of these meetings, your application will be taken into further consideration. When you are ready to finally choose a country, two years will have passed. The total road to an adoptive child in Holland is very long, four years is avarage. Much time to go over and over all the ethical questions adoption brings along...

I think these lessons are very important, especially because most Dutch parents (97%) see adoption as their last hope on a child in their lives. They just came out of some horrible medical treatment on infertility and have never thought about the deeper meanings of adoption. It is a mean to forfill their needs and if it can be combined with a nice, relaxing and easy holiday in a beautiful country such as China... perfect!

In our adoption-group of eight families, six want to adopt HEALTHY children from... China! The ethical questions and doubts that my husband and I have, are totally not relevant for them and they are willing to overcome the longer waiting lists just to get that cute little China girl. It is about THEIR needs and the best interest of the children is NOT taken into consideration.

What if it is like that everywhere in the world? That just as long as China holds the lines for interntional adoption of healthy infants open for all of those families, there will only be a change if the scandals become too big or... if the waiting times become too long, even for these stubborn want-to-be-parents-at-all-costs?

In that case, the Special Need children will be the only ones available for the Chinese people for the coming years. I can imagine that a cleft palate is difficult for a Chinese family to overcome. But a deformed hand or foot (this is the special need we are actually thinking about) which is not operable and so won't bring extra medical costs for domestic families, might be a Special Need they will be wanting to consider
if those are the only children they are giong to have access to.

And then again I will have the fear to be the to have deprived my Special Needs-child from a loving place in Chinese society.

I know, my imagination is taking a wild leap right now. But it is hard for a "girl form the west" like me to imagine why a deformed limb (or a closed cleft palate) is really a reason NOT to take a child into your home and your heart. Certainly if those kids will be the only ones Chinese people can adopt in the nearcoming future. Maybe their limits will therefore be enlarged and stretched in the next years, when all those stubborn foreign families don't want to recognise what you are trying to make clear to them. And for that reason my husband and I might feel forced to choose a heavier Special Need than we might want to, just to ensure our conscience.

It is soooo hard to imagine how life for a handicapped person in China is like. As the Chinese society changes rapidly, will biases against Special Needs also change? Will life and future chances for a cleft palate patient be just the same as they are in the West about 20 years? Are children with obvious deformities still stared at, as I have read in several books about China? How is it for them? Hav you seen and felt this?

I know, how much reasurance does a person need... but this subject really teases my conscience!

Yours sincerely, Irene

Anonymous said...

Everyone, please be nice to Brian, who has done important groundwork. One may discuss coverage, interpretation, etc. But please respect the hard work he has done.

Several reports on domestic adoption in China have shown that domestic adoption is simply not meeting the needs of available orphans in China, and the government had to relax the no-child requirement to include financially secure Chinese couples who already have one child.

The big picture is that there are plenty of orphans still living in orphanages. Is the adoptive parents' nationality really so important? The bottomline is for them to go to a loving family, anyway other than orphanage.

Research-China.Org said...

The change in domestic adoption law was an important change in the dynamics of China adoption. I would, however, like to see the "Several reports on domestic adoption in China have shown that domestic adoption is simply not meeting the needs of available orphans in China." All available evidence points to the same conclusion -- that there are more families seeking to adopt healthy children in China than there are children. That the supply of healthy children would crash if the CCAA forbade orphanages to pay money for healthy children.


Jim in Florida said...

It is sad that you use resources and an inquisitive mind in such a potentially harmful manner. It seems as if you are looking for recognition and some monetary gain. Why rock the boat? Dealing with the Chinese government is much different than dealing with the government of a republic. These children need love and family. It does not matter whether the family that adopts is Chinese, American or Martian.

Your stated agenda "my entire financial house is built on that program.", is very telling. You are in a money-making business. The rest of us are in the business of raising beloved children no matter their origin.

You are the worst kind of charlatan, hiding behind "bringing out the truth" while making money from loving, trusting people.

Because we are in the land of free speech you are able to practice your "rainmaking".

You should be ashamed.

Anonymous said...

As someone who has lived in China for 12 years and dealt with Chinese orphanages, I don't think Brian could be any more correct.

For those of you who've just been to China on a short-term trip where you picked up your child, you've not seen China.

For those of you who say bad things against Brian, it's just because you want to comfort yourselves that things couldn't really be this way; otherwise, that kind of injustice would need to be acted upon. Cowards!

Just turn a blind eye and comfort yourselves you cowards.

Kim C. said...

Brian - First of all, I have to say a big thank you for all you've researched and done as far as adoptions in China. Secondly, the picture with this foster mom is my daughter, and if you hadn't taken this picture and done all of your research, I wouldn't know anything about her. I read this article right after we came back from China, and have read it several times since, and unfortunately, the reality of things like this are just hard to understand. Also, because of your research, I have a DVD of her early life. Please keep up the good work.

Anonymous said...

I'm doing my application now for intercountry adoption for a child from China I live in Australia and have been given a 7 year wait time. Breaks my heart knowing that there are children in the orphanages who need a loving family and I want nothing more than to open my home and heart to a child who has special needs. I wonder if moving to China and adopting domestically would be a quicker option for our little family?