Tuesday, August 26, 2008

The "Hidden" Supply of Children

Now that the Olympics are past, waiting families hope that the flow of children will accelerate and wait times will decrease. Hope is often pinned to the large number of non-IA orphanages in China's Social Welfare system. Once some of these orphanages join the international adoption program, the thinking goes, they will submit large numbers of dossiers to the CCAA, and wait times will begin to fall.

There are several problems with this assumption. The CCAA has been adding new orphanages to the program since it began international adoptions in 1992. Each and every year has seen new orphanages join the program. Some of the early orphanages eventually had large adoption programs, but the last orphanage to join with any significant numbers was Suixi County in Guangdong, who joined in 2002. Since that time, I am aware of no new orphanage that has submitted any significant numbers of children.

There is a very good reason for this. In my conversations with directors of non-IA orphanages, all have expressed little desire to become part of the IA program. There are several reasons for this reluctance. First, the CCAA requires orphanages to make substantial investments in the facilities in anticipation of visits by foreigners. Additionally, orphanages are required to hire medical and nanny personnel beyond their current levels. Lastly, the paperwork required for an international adoption is significantly more cumbersome than paperwork for a domestic adoption. All of this obviously adds to the overhead of a facility, and consequently many directors have chosen not to participate.

But what about the financial benefits derived by the international adoption program? Won't that create an incentive for orphanages to join the program?

Many of the orphanages joining the program begin by submitting files for special needs children. For example, Huidong County (Guangdong) joined the IA program in May 2007, submitting five files. Four of the five children had special needs, and the fifth child was over four years old. Thus, the adoption of special needs children can be a motivation for directors to join the program.

But what about the orphanages? Are there not possibly large numbers of untapped children that could be brought into the international adoption program?

Probably not. The problem has several facets. China’s Ministry of Civil Affairs reported in 2001 that there were 1,550 state-run welfare institutions, 160 of which specialized in the care of orphans. These facilities were said to have cared for approximately 41,000 children (Kay Johnson, “Wanting a Daughter, Needing a Son – Abandonment, Adoption and Orphanage Care in China”, Yeong & Yeong Book Company, p. 204). The problem is that in the Chinese, "Social Welfare Institute" (fuliyuan) encompasses not just orphan care but also old people care. A significant portion of the 1,550 State-run "welfare institutions" take care of no children whatsoever. In fact, upwards of 30-40% of the above numbered facilities take care of only old people.

Thus, the pool of potential participants in the IA program realistically stands at around 1,100 facilities, still a large increase over the approximate 450 facilities currently in China's international program. (A 2004 Chinese Government pronouncement states that “Today, China has 192 special welfare institutions for children and 600 comprehensive welfare institutions with a children's department, accommodating a total of 54,000 orphans and disabled children. If accurate, and I have no reason to believe it isn't, that would reduce the number of non-IA orphanages to a little over 300 facilities).

It is difficult to make contact with the 700 non-IA orphanages. There is no centralized listing, and often even local 114 (Information) directory assistance have no phone numbers for the small orphanages scattered around China. Thus, conducting a systematic survey of the non-IA orphanages is practically impossible. However, in July we contacted thirteen non-IA orphanages located in Fujian, Guangdong, Hebei, Hubei, Hunan, Liaoning and Zhejiang Provinces. While not a large survey, the results of our conversations with these directors is nevertheless informative.

Keep in mind that these thirteen orphanages are not direct participants in the international adoption program. Conventional wisdom suggests that these directors should have large numbers of children in their care, and be anxious to cooperate with any family seeking to adopt a child in their care.

Duplicating the protocol of our April 2006 survey of international orphanages, I had a caller pose as a domestic family from the area interested in knowing if there were any children available for adoption. Two of the thirteen (15%) indicated that they did not care for children, and were strictly in charge of old people care. Four of the thirteen (30%) flatly stated that they currently had no children in their care, and that there were waiting families. The number of families waiting averaged about 25. One of the orphanages (Lianzhou, Guangdong) indicated that they transferred all of their foundlings to the Qingxin orphanage for international adoption. Only one orphanage (Xianyou, Fujian) indicated a single available child, adoptable with a 20,000 yuan donation.

The remaining six orphanages reported that they only had special needs children in their care, with waiting lists of families desiring healthy children (in the case of Enmei orphanage in Zhejiang the list has 600 families). One director indicated that his orphanage would not adopt a special needs child domestically because "we don't trust a family to care for the special needs child long-term." Experience has apparently shown this director that domestic families may indicate a willingness to adopt a child with a special need, but that most, if not all, change their minds some time down the road.

I am convinced that none of the non-participating orphanages in China's welfare system has any significant number of healthy children that can be brought into the IA program. Every non-IA orphanage I have ever visited or contacted had no healthy children available, and nearly all of them had waiting lists of families ready to adopt any children that arrived in the orphanage.

Thus, non-IA orphanages don't join the international adoption program for several reasons -- high capital expenditure requirements; few children that need placement in the IA program. In other words, the orphanages not in the IA program already have a working adoption program outside the IA program, programs that don't require the bureaucracy of the CCAA.


The thirteen orphanages contacted were:
Xianyou, Fujian
Doumen, Guangdong
Lainzhou, Guangdong
Xinfeng, Guangdong
Hengshui, Hebei
Hongshan, Hubei
Zigui, Hubei
Ningxiang, Hunan
Hongwei, Liaoning
Rixin-Dalian, Liaoning
Huangnanzhou, Qinghai
Enmei, Zhejiang
Tongxiang, Zhejiang

Monday, August 11, 2008

Wait Time Prognosis for 2009

With the Olympics in full-swing, waiting families are anxiously wondering if referrals will accelerate once the world's attention passes from China. An analysis of orphanage submissions in October 2007 showed that orphanage submissions in 2007 allowed us to predict increasing wait times, as submissions from the largest Provinces participating in the international program saw significant declines from 2006 to 2007.

A comparison of submissions of Chongqing, Guangdong, Guangxi, Hunan, and Jiangsu, and Jiangxi Provinces for the first six months of 2008 shows submission rates continuing a downward trend.

As I have pointed out in a prior analysis, submission rates are higher in the last six months of the year as compared to the first six months. This is a reflection of the higher abandonment rates experienced by most orphanages in October-January of each year. For example, the six Provinces analyzed in this article saw 2,753 submissions from January through June 2007, a number which increased to 2,960 for July through December 2007, a 7.5% increase.

Thus, for purposes of this analysis, we will compare January through June in each year, rather than the previous six months.

Collectively, the six primary Provinces submitted 2,624 files in the first six months of 2008, a decrease of 5% from the first six months of 2007 (2,753). Individually, however, half of the Provinces saw increases: Guangdong, Guangxi and Jiangsu. Taken together, these three Provinces submitted 153 more files in the first six months of 2008 than in the first six months of 2007.

This increase was not enough to offset the declines in the other three Provinces -- Chongqing, Hunan and Jiangxi. Collectively, these three Provinces submitted 224 fewer children in the first six months of 2008 than in the same period in 2007. The greatest decrease was seen in Chongqing, which saw submissions fall 38% in one year.

It is widely believed that China received an increasing number of applications between January 2006 (the current month for which referrals are now being assigned) and May 2007 when the new restrictions were made effective. Thus, with an increasing "demand" and falling "supply" over the next six months, waiting families should not expect any appreciable speed-up in referrals.